If Trump Is Impeached Over Manafort and Gates, It's His Own Fault

To many who supported Donald Trump in last year's election—especially those who believe that the "swamp" must be drained—the irony is impossible to miss: the two men indicted on Monday for business dealings in Ukraine, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his long time aide de camp, Rick Gates, are the swamp.

Look at the indictment of Manafort, the aging political operative whose first prominent role in national politics came during the Gerald Ford administration. In the intervening four decades, if the indictment is to be believed, Manafort became a high-end, very wealthy political sleazeball.

We've long known that he consulted for—and lobbied on behalf of—former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych—a Russian stooge who fled to Moscow after the Maidan revolution in 2014 brought an opposition government to power in Kiev. And what a lucrative business that was for Manafort and Gates: from 2006 through at least 2016, the indictment alleges, Manafort funneled $75 million in funds from Ukraine through shell companies in tax havens like Cyprus and the Grenadines. He did so, according to the indictment, to evade taxes.

Related: Did Russian operatives use dirt on Clinton as bait for team Trump?

Manafort then went on a riotous shopping spree—the sort only available to the rich and famous—which includes some privileged denizens of the political swamp in the United States. Many of them—and if the indictment is to be believed, certainly in Manafort's case—believe the rules only apply to ordinary schmucks, like the people who brought Trump to office.

The guy spent nearly a million dollars at an antique rug store in Alexandria, Virginia. $655,000 went to a landscaper in the Hamptons. He spent $520,000 on clothes in Beverly Hills. $624,000 on antiques in New York. He spent $62,000 on a Mercedes and $47,000 on a Range Rover. All of this money, according to the indictment, came from an offshore company set-up in Cyprus so that Manafort could dodge the IRS.

The White House says Manafort was brought in to do a job—to make sure the convention went smoothly, that no Trump delegates strayed. He did that and soon afterwards, left the campaign. So Trump used a swamp creature for his own purposes, and then discarded him. End of story, says the White House.

Maybe. But Trump had known Manafort (who owned an apartment in Trump Tower and had worked for him decades ago), and he was hired on the recommendation of long time political adviser Roger Stone, as well as wealthy investor Tom Barrack. This, at minimum, is a really bad look for the billionaire "populist." The latest Gallup poll shows Trump's approval rating is at a new low of 33 percent. Even though his support among Republicans remains very strong, independents have begun to fall away. "I think we could be seeing signs where there's a little bit of fraying of the Trump base," says Democratic pollster Fred Yang.

Trump's unfortunate decision to appoint Manafort his campaign chairman, even if his tenure lasted just five months (Gates stayed on for months after that) has now wounded him politically. The two hires cast doubt on his judgment. A guy does political consulting in Ukraine, becomes immensely wealthy and no one around Trump raised any questions? Even though nothing in the indictment of Manafort and Gates speaks to anything Trump did, the essential sleaziness of his former campaign manager will stick to the president.

Remember, impeachment is a political process, not a legal proceeding. Had Trump never hired Manafort, and never fired former FBI director James Comey (the act which led directly to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller), no one of this would be happening. Trump can tweet all he wants about how the Russia investigation is a witch hunt—and who knows, maybe he'll turn out to be right.

But those closest to the president know the truth: he brought this on himself.