Wednesday, August 1, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He made an interesting historical comparison.

As the second day of Paul Manafort's trial got underway, Trump tweeted out a cautiously sympathetic message for the man who may shortly be facing a choice between cooperating with the Mueller probe or spending the rest of his life in prison.
While Trump is not known as a student of history, he asks an interesting question, because their circumstances are quite similar. Like Capone (and a great many other suspected criminals), Manafort is being detained during his trial because he is a flight risk. Both Capone and Manafort were given unusually lavish "VIP" housing in their respective jails--to use the compliment Manafort himself paid his accommodations.

Trump is wrong about Manafort "serving solitary confinement." Neither Capone nor Manafort awaited trial in solitary confinement: Capone had a bodyguard in his cell and regularly entertained guests, and Manafort had long days in the company of his attorneys preparing for trial.

Like Capone, Manafort is--at the moment--on trial for tax crimes rather than the more notorious and serious crimes he's associated with. (In an interesting coincidence, prosecutors in both cases introduced incredibly expensive suits as evidence of hidden wealth.)

In fact, the most notable difference between the two is one that potentially works to Manafort's advantage. Capone was the undisputed king of Chicago mobsters. Manafort, whose connections to Russia's attempts to set up puppet governments go back decades, can trade his knowledge of Russia's attack on the United States for leniency.

So what?

  • Bringing suspected criminals to trial is what prosecutors are supposed to do.