Vance’s Manafort Moment

Within minutes of D.C. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson imposing a second sentence on Paul Manafort, New York County District Attorney Cy Vance sprung his news.

“No one is beyond the law in New York,” said District Attorney Vance. “Following an investigation commenced by our Office in March 2017, a Manhattan grand jury has charged Mr. Manafort with state criminal violations which strike at the heart of New York’s sovereign interests, including the integrity of our residential mortgage market. I thank our prosecutors for their meticulous investigation, which has yielded serious criminal charges for which the defendant has not been held accountable.”

Manafort, according to the indictment, lied on his residential mortgage application, making him as heinous a criminal as a few million other New Yorkers and other Americans, particularly during the frenzy leading to the bubble bursting in 2007. Somehow, New York’s sovereign interests survived, hyperbole notwithstanding.

This isn’t to say that a crime wasn’t committed. Or was. There is no allegation that anyone, any bank, lost a dime on a mortgage, but just that the mortgage was procured based on false or misleading information. It’s not like anyone else obtained credit on false information in America, then paid back whatever was due and no one ever cared again, since no one was harmed.

But this wasn’t about anyone being harmed. This was about scrutinizing Manafort’s life for every burp, fart and lie that could be found, and then putting the full force of the state to work to guarantee that he would, for the benefit of the angry New York masses, be convicted and punished. As was spewed by the passionate following Judge Jackson’s sentence, “But what if Trump pardons him?” That’s why New York must pile on, to guarantee that this man we despise, connected to this other man we despise, is punished.

To some, the rationalization that there was a crime and some vague sense of justice demands punishment is all that’s needed to forsake the obvious. Cy Vance isn’t prosecuting Paul Manafort because he’s a dangerous criminal. Cy isn’t prosecuting Manafort because his office stumbled on some crime in its overarching review of false applications for residential mortgages.

What is happening here is that the federal government’s two prosecutions of Paul Manafort are exposed to the pardon power of Darth Cheeto, who has shown no reluctance to praise the minion who refused to snitch, and could very well exercise that power as he did with Crazy Joe Arpaio.

Then, Manafort, the 69-year-old man whose future will be perpetually tainted by his life of skirting the laws that constrain good people such that he will live out the balance of his pathetic life in infamy and poverty, stripped of even the ostrich jackets that reflects his finest taste. So what? No one cares about Manafort. He’s a nobody. Absent his connection to Trump, his name would be unknown and no one would lose a minute’s sleep over him.

It’s not that Manafort isn’t a skel, but the world is filled with such people, most of whom never reach the exalted level of having a nation despise them with vehemence. But the reason Cy decided to play this game, to spring his indictment while the front page stories of sentence were still being written, is a far greater threat to our sovereignty than anything this second-string mutt could do.

Manafort may face an indictment for conduct that worthy of prosecution. It may prove to be a bad indictment, in violation of New York’s double jeopardy law, and no doubt his defense lawyers will parse the charges for all factual overlaps to pursue that avenue. Or it may be an entirely separate offense, thus avoiding a double jeopardy dismissal. Either way, it is wrong.

Had the cops stumbled on a dead body outside Manafort’s condo, they might investigate the cause and, if facts suggested, arrest Manafort for the murder. But here, the investigation flowed in the opposite direction, where they poked and probed everything they could find bearing the scent of Manafort in search of a crime. This was not a matter of a crime in need of solving, but a person in need of prosecuting. That person was a political enemy, or more precisely, a proxy for the most hated political enemy imaginable, but who was out of reach.

As Harvey Silverglate posited, we all commit three felonies a day. I personally believe Harvey was being kind by limiting it to three. If the government stuck its proctoscope up any enemy’s arse, it would find shit. Maybe intentional wrongs. Maybe the banal sort of felonies that no one knows exist or thinks about. It doesn’t matter. They’re there. They will be found if they look hard enough. Not you, of course, because you’re pure as the driven snow, but the rest of us are at risk of the government putting our lives under its very special microscope in search of a reason to prosecute and then to punish us.

Sure, this time its Manafort, and you hate him so you can blink a few times and pretend this only happened because he deserves it, plus it’s necessary to prevent the greater injustice of Trump pardoning Manafort and this tacky old man not wearing an orange jumpsuit. What if he comes out to murder again? Or sign a false residential mortgage application?

This is a political prosecution, not because Manafort didn’t commit a crime, but because it  is motivated by government using its prosecutorial powers to guarantee that a political enemy will be punished, no matter what. That’s an abuse far more damaging to our sovereignty than a false mortgage application can ever be. But it gave Cy Vance his Manafort moment, and made the vicious animal in the dark hearts of progressives drool with pleasure.

21 thoughts on “Vance’s Manafort Moment

  1. Michael D McNutt

    Nothing like whipping a dead horse to get ahead in whatever race your running….[Ed. Note: Deleted.]

    1. SHG Post author

      Must the first comment conclusively prove Mencken right by blindly leaping to the most obvious and baseless assumption? Reddit needs your insight. SJ does not.

  2. B. McLeod

    Good ol’ political prosecutions! Maybe Amnesty International or the U.N. will say a word for Manafort.

  3. ShootingHipster

    I saw Vicious Animal in the Dark Hearts of Progressives open for Drool with Pleasure back in ’94. Good times.

  4. Catherine P Clements

    It’s shocking how there are still people (who are intelligent and educated) who don’t understand how a pendulum works. I’ve seen so many efforts to re-write/overturn/just forget about the Constitution since 2016, that there would be nothing left if they succeeded.

    1. SHG Post author

      As has been pointed out many times by many people, the willingness to sacrifice legal doctrine to thwart Trump, or Trumplaw as some of us call it, will haunt us long after he’s gone. The smarter ones know it, but just don’t care. If this is the Apocalypse, then it must be stopped at all costs.

  5. LESLIE KAMINOFF

    That selective enforcement of the law can be used for political ends is dependent upon the existence of non-objective law. Silvergate’s “3 felonies a day” is reminiscent of Ayn Rand’s clearest expression of that principle in Atlas Shrugged:

    “”…Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt…”

    1. SHG Post author

      Yeah, this is a law blog for lawyers and judges. I’m sure reddit would be a far better fit for you.

        1. SHG Post author

          Accommodations are made, but if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.

          1. Bear

            Is that Lenin? (I thought you might appreciate the “bar” so high joke, in all its manifestations).

  6. Casual Lurker

    “…a far greater threat to our sovereignty than anything this second-string mutt could do.”

    Point well taken.

    “…they poked and probed everything they could find bearing the scent of Manafort in search of a crime. This was not a matter of a crime in need of solving, but a person in need of prosecuting.”

    STEM types often refer to this type of thing as “a solution looking for a problem”.

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