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What’s it all about, Bobby?

Back in March 2018, Franklin Foer wrote a piece for the Atlantic called The Plot Against America. You might have skipped right over it, confusing it with a thriller co-written by an ex-president and a famous novelist. But you would be wrong.

Foer’s piece is all about Paul Manafort, how he made his millions, how he lost his millions, his ties to government insiders in former soviet states, and how he eliminated ice from the menu at his daughter’s rehearsal dinner. Oh, and that stuff about how he coerced his wife into group sex? Yeah, there are hints and allegations that it might be true.

And then there’s this:

His work, the source of the status he cherished, had taken a devastating turn. For nearly a decade, he had counted primarily on a single client, albeit an exceedingly lucrative one. He’d been the chief political strategist to the man who became the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, with whom he’d developed a highly personal relationship. Manafort would swim naked with his boss outside his banya, play tennis with him at his palace (“Of course, I let him win,” Manafort made it known), and generally serve as an arbiter of power in a vast country. One of his deputies, Rick Gates, once boasted to a group of Washington lobbyists, “You have to understand, we’ve been working in Ukraine a long time, and Paul has a whole separate shadow government structure … In every ministry, he has a guy.” Only a small handful of Americans—oil executives, Cold War spymasters—could claim to have ever amassed such influence in a foreign regime. The power had helped fill Manafort’s bank accounts; according to his recent indictment, he had tens of millions of dollars stashed in havens like Cyprus and the Grenadines.

Anyway, as I was reading it, I was reminded of Robert Mueller’s “speaking indictments” from earlier in the year. There was one about the Russian trolls. There was one about the ties of some agents of the GRU to the 2016 shenanigans. They were supposed to inform the public that there’s a story here, a narrative, that he is beginning to tell like Homer reciting in front of the fire about the muse singing about the man of twists and turns on a wine dark sea.

We may all be scratching our heads about what Manafort’s current trial regarding fraudulent bank loans have to do with the Trump campaign in 2016 and we may not find out exactly what the tie in is by the end of it. But I think Mueller might be using this case as another chapter in the story, a different kind of speaking indictment. There are connections here that run all over the place from Manafort. It’s vast and sleazy and I doubt that there will be a Penelope at the end of this tale but the destruction of the suitors is going to be riveting.

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