Long ago a trusted source told me that the Clinton campaign had very early on come to the conclusion that Trump would be the most dangerous GOP candidate, from a Clinton perspective. That would have meant that the Clinton organization would have mobilized to take Trump down, and the Russia narrative seems to have been decided on at an early date. Thus we see the persistent attempt by Felix Sater to somehow link Trump to the moribund Trump Moscow project, the Trump Tower meeting with Veselnitskaya, etc.
The usual story is that Manafort was introduced into the Trump campaign through the efforts of Tom Barrack, a Syrian born real estate magnate who was friends with both Trump and Manafort. Barrack had been a major help to Ivanka and Jared Kushner in a difficult real estate situation and used that connection to urge the Kushners to get Barrack onto the campaign. Sound familiar? Sound possible? Of course. The question is: Was there an ulterior motive to all this?
I just came across an article by Diana West at Epoch Times which first appeared in February, 2019: Paul Manafort: A Time Bomb? While the article doesn't pretend to offer proof that Manafort was maneuvered onto the Trump campaign by anti-Trump forces, what it does is paint a portrait of Manafort as a troubled and even desperate figure who would be susceptible to pressure. For what it's worth, here is that picture of Manafort, gleaned for articles in The Atlantic and the WaPo:
Foer didn’t tell us when Manafort left the clinic. He backed into Manafort’s departure in the context of the newly discharged patient’s reportedly desperate effort to gain access to Donald Trump.
“’I really need to get to’ Trump, Manafort told an old friend, the real-estate magnate Tom Barrack, in the early months of 2016.”
West's short version:
It’s early 2016. Manafort has debts, he has a Putin-linked-oligarch looking for that $19 million he “invested,” his family life is chaos, and what does he do? He calls up Barrack after Iowa and says: ” ‘I really need to get to’ Trump.”
In other words, he's vulnerable. If someone approached him and suggested he could be helped if he accepted a job on the Trump campaign ...
Or, once again, as West puts it:
To put it another way, after Manafort’s 2014 financial smash and 2015 breakdown, this once high-priced Igor to Global Crookdom was shattered goods—humanly, financially, politically, and legally. He was a walking time bomb for any of Trump’s political enemies to maneuver into the Trump camp and then wait for Manafort’s toxic life story to explode all over Trump.
If this was the case, who set the trap?
OK. That's speculative. However when placed in the following context, as reported by the NYT, Agents Tried to Flip Russian Oligarchs, there's a certain attractiveness to it as a theory. Remember, Deripaska believed that Manafort had cheated him out of $19 million:
Between 2014 and 2016, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department unsuccessfully tried to turn Mr. Deripaska into an informant. They signaled that they might provide help with his trouble in getting visas for the United States or even explore other steps to address his legal problems. In exchange, they were hoping for information on Russian organized crime and, later, on possible Russian aid to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to current and former officials and associates of Mr. Deripaska.
In one dramatic encounter, F.B.I. agents appeared unannounced and uninvited at a home Mr. Deripaska maintains in New York and pressed him on whether Paul Manafort, a former business partner of his who went on to become chairman of Mr. Trump’s campaign, had served as a link between the campaign and the Kremlin.
The attempt to flip Mr. Deripaska was part of a broader, clandestine American effort to gauge the possibility of gaining cooperation from roughly a half-dozen of Russia’s richest men, nearly all of whom, like Mr. Deripaska, depend on President Vladimir V. Putin to maintain their wealth, the officials said.
Two of the players in the effort were Bruce G. Ohr, the Justice Department official who has recently become a target of attacks by Mr. Trump, and Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled a dossier of purported links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The systematic effort to win the cooperation of the oligarchs, which has not previously been revealed, does not appear to have scored any successes. And in Mr. Deripaska’s case, he told the American investigators that he disagreed with their theories about Russian organized crime and Kremlin collusion in the campaign, a person familiar with the exchanges said. The person added that Mr. Deripaska even notified the Kremlin about the American efforts to cultivate him.
Maybe at some point we'll find out. If I were Bill Barr and John Durham I'd want to talk with Paul Manafort, regardless. And it is interesting that Barr intervened on behalf of Manafort when the State of New York wanted to drag the hapless Manafort to NYC and keep him in solitary at Rikers Island.
UPDATE: I failed to fully digest an article at AmThinker yesterday that commenter Cassander pointed out: Ukraine was the Origin of the Trump-Russia Collusion Hoax, by Lawrence Sellin, "a retired US Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control and cyber security subject matter expert ..." The title of the article fails to note that its main focus is precisely on Paul Manafort. Sellin provides quite a bit of detail that suggests that, beginning in January, 2016, Eric Ciaramella at the NSC headed a push to reopen investigations of Paul Manafort.
Relevant questions in this regard include: Who was aware that Roger Stone and Tom Barrack were recommending that Manafort be added to the Trump campaign--beginning in the second half of 2015? Could this information have been gathered use of 702 searches? And, above all, did this include efforts to maneuver Manafort into the campaign?
It appears that Paul Manafort became a vehicle by which the Obama Deep State operatives could link Trump to nefarious activities involving Russians, which eventually evolved into the Trump-Russia collusion hoax. Remember, the key claim of the follow-up Steele dossier, the centerpiece of the Mueller investigation, was that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was the focal point of a "well-developed conspiracy between them [the Trump campaign] and the Russian leadership."
Nellie Ohr, Fusion GPS employee and wife of Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr, not only worked with Christopher Steele on the so-called Trump dossier, but, in May 2016, was the conduit of information to her husband and two Department of Justice prosecutors of the existence of the “black ledger” documents that contributed to Manafort’s prosecution.
Bruce Ohr and Steele attempted to get dirt on Manafort from a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, efforts that eventually led to a September 2016 meeting in which the FBI asked Deripaska if he could provide information to prove that Manafort was helping Trump collude with Russia.
The surveillance and entrapment attempts of Paul Manafort, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and others were designed to collect evidence about Trump without formally documenting that Trump was the target.
After the election, to cover their tracks, James Comey, representing the FBI and the Department of Justice, misleadingly told Trump that the investigation was about Russia and a few stray people in his campaign, but they assured him he personally was not under investigation.
Donald Trump always was, and still is, the target of the Deep State, the left-wing media and their Democrat Party collaborators.