Franklin Foer of The Atlantic read Team Mueller's 800-page sentencing memo on Paul Manafort.
Foer does not like Manafort.
"When I first started reporting on Paul Manafort three years ago, I kept looking for a redeeming flicker of humanity. Editors would push me: 'Surely, he started off as an idealist, before taking his moral tumble?' They were aching for what we call in the trade the 'to-be-sure graf,' where a journalist displays all the pieces of contrary evidence in plain view. Reader, let me tell you, I searched hard to find that sliver of goodness, and it eluded me," Foer wrote.
That paragraph revealed two things.
First, if a reporter discovers something, it has already been discovered by someone else. They work off tips, leads, and leaks.
Second, the only reason Foer or anyone else in the media began tracking Manafort three years ago is because he went to work for Donald John Trump.
Here is where the corruption is.
Foer wrote, "Many times it has been remarked: If Manafort hadn’t joined the Trump campaign, he would have gotten away with his long string of misdeeds. But what’s so fascinating about the appendices of today’s recommendation is that they include Justice Department memos from the 1980s, investigating his potential abuse of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, requiring him to inform the government about his lobbying efforts on behalf of foreign governments. (Another memo ponders about how lobbying might have conflicted with his appointment by Ronald Reagan to a directorship at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.)
"In other words, these officials apparently had a sense of Manafort’s misdeeds, and they looked into them. But none of these memos ever turned into a prosecution. This is the problem with the enforcement of anti-corruption laws. Officials rarely have the fortitude to go after big, well-connected targets like Manafort. When there are so few prosecutions under these laws, the odds of winning are highly uncertain, so prosecutors grow ever more cautious about taking them to court. The deep improbability of Donald Trump’s presidency makes this all the more stark: Paul Manafort could have — should have — gotten away with everything he’s alleged to have done."
So we have Manafort, a typical Washington lobbyist/consultant/political appointee, blithely breaking the law without worry about being caught because no one is ever prosecuted.
Laws are for little people.
Foer said so: "In other words, these officials apparently had a sense of Manafort’s misdeeds, and they looked into them. But none of these memos ever turned into a prosecution. This is the problem with the enforcement of anti-corruption laws. Officials rarely have the fortitude to go after big, well-connected targets like Manafort."
That raises a question: why don't they go after "big, well-connected targets like Manafort"?
Foer's answer was circular.
I will cut to the chase. Prosecutors don't go after them because they are big and well-connected, as Foer said, and it is better to have dirt on big, well-connected targets than it is to prosecute them.
And that failure to prosecute is what the real corruption is. The people who should be filtering the swamp are part of the swamp.
Investigating Manafort for not registering under the anti-Nazi Foreign Agents Registration Act is laughable. None of them did. The Ukraine presidential election in 2009 was a mother lode for American political consultants who pocketed millions giving candidates advice on buying polls they ran and ads they made.
And does Foer really believe that Manafort is the only one to use his position on the Overseas Private Investment Corporation for private gain? Nixon and a Democrat Congress set it up in 1971.
I hope Manafort rots in jail. A pardon should be out of the question. He earned his time in Leavenworth or wherever they send him.
But let us not kid ourselves, he is not the only one. And the Department of Justice under presidents from both parties over the years did nothing except file memos and wait.
Manafort's mistake was not in getting caught. His mistake was in working for the Enemy of the Swamp.