Analysis: Manafort deal could wipe out Trump cost complaint

By Philip Bump | Washington Post

WASHINGTON – It’s not just that the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller is, in President Donald Trump’s estimation, a partisan “witch hunt.” No, that’s just one small aspect of why Trump is frustrated by Mueller’s work.

There’s Trump’s worry that the probe “endangers our country,” as he told reporters last week on Air Force One. Why? Because it is “hard for us to deal with other countries” because of it.

And then there’s the cost. On June 1, he took issue with the cost as reported by Mueller’s team, tweeting:

“A.P. has just reported that the Russian Hoax Investigation has now cost our government over $17 million, and going up fast. No Collusion, except by the Democrats!”

That figure came from documents filed by Mueller’s team with the Department of Justice.

When former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was sentenced to two weeks in prison last week for lying to federal investigators, Trump compared his sentence to a figure of $28 million, presumably also a reference to the probe’s cost.

Where that number came from, though, isn’t clear. If we assume the same cost-per-day for the investigation that was reported through March of this year, the probe has so far cost the government about $26 million. That’s the $17 million through March and another $9 million since.

But, as journalist Marcy Wheeler pointed out on her personal site, the Mueller probe may have just paid for itself.

Why? Because part of the plea agreement reached between Mueller and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort includes forfeiture of certain property to the government. While it’s unclear how much value will be extracted from that forfeiture, there’s reason to think it could more than pay for what Mueller’s incurred so far.

For example, five properties are being forfeited: Union Street, Brooklyn, $4.1 million; Howard Street, Manhattan, $3 million; Jobs Lane, Water Mill, $7.3 milllion; Baxter Street, Manhattan, $4.1 million; and Trump Tower, Manhattan, $3.7 million.

(The document filed Friday with the court identified four properties being forfeited. A later document detailing the plea agreement identified the Baxter Street and Trump Tower properties as being substituted in for a property in Arlington, Virginia, and for a Charles Schwab brokerage account.)

The combined value of those properties is about $22.2 million, according to estimates at Zillow.com and assigning the 2006 sale price to his Trump Tower property. If those were sold at the values identified above and the money returned to the government, that alone nearly covers our estimated costs of the investigation to date.

Jennifer Rodgers, executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School, explained in a phone call to The Post that unless Manafort owns the properties outright — that is, without a mortgage or co-owner — there will be an agreement on how to split assets from a sale.

“Sometimes if it’s joint ownership you do have to go through a process with the other owners, with the other parties,” Rodgers said. “The government will do that as part of the forfeiture …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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