Unpacking The Unthinkable: Trump, Manafort, and the Consequences of Unchecked Corruption
Harboring nuclear intelligence. Passing information to the Russians. What we can learn from the supercharged greed of Donald Trump and Paul Manafort.
Just a few days ago Business Insider reported that former convict and chair of the Trump Campaign Paul Manafort admitted to the publication that in 2016 he had shared confidential polling information with alleged Russian intelligence agent Konstantin Kilimnik. It was confirmation of an event that had held considerable sway over the public imagination and had been investigated by the intelligence community as part of the search for proof of foreign collusion. Treating the action with all the importance of dropping off his laundry, Manafort explained it was all in an effort to gain favor with “pro-Russia oligarchs.”
Manafort’s nonchalance is hardly surprising as his career is marked by historic greed. While his resume includes stints with Republican luminaries like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, it also serves as an exhibit of how ambition and avarice easily trump morals. As a member of the consultant group Black, Manafort & Stone (with fellow grifter Roger Stone), Manafort sold his services to the highest bidder and worked to launder the reputations of some of the world’s worst dictators. Crimes against humanity didn’t matter as long as the checks cleared. Later, after his relevance in American politics waned, Manafort took his expertise to Ukraine, where he counseled hardliners and worked to secure covert Russian control over the nation.
Though little has been made of it, there is a direct line, at least spiritually, between Manafort’s damning activities and former president Donald Trump’s, a record that demands investigation now more than ever. Following the search at Mar-a-Lago, all signs now point to an absolutely devastating truth: Trump has been harboring state secrets since he left the White House in January 2021. These documents include material of the highest classified nature, including information about America’s nuclear weapons and signals intelligence. As the picture becomes clearer by the hour, several questions remain.
Most importantly, what was Trump doing with these materials?
This is a developing story, obviously, but the implications are massive and historical. Even the kindest, most generous interpretation is problematic. If Trump simply kept them as a souvenir of some type, to use them as mementos or to impress guests at his resort, that still displays a level of carelessness and crassness that boggles the imagination. If they served…other purposes and, as Russian media is already claiming, they were passed or sold to foreign powers? Well, that’s something else entirely.
So what has happened here? The very possibility we’re now forced to consider is horrific and challenges all conventional wisdom about leadership, government, patriotism, duty, and loyalty. How is it that self-concerned actors like Manafort and Trump could come to positions of power and then, almost reflexively, use them as a means of personal enrichment?
The answer reveals something much larger and much more damning.