Juror No. 0302 may not have sought fame, but Paula Duncan will long be remembered in connection with Paul Manafort, whom she and 11 others convicted on eight counts of financial crime.
What makes Duncan memorable, besides her being the only juror to speak out since the trial ended, is that she’s a die-hard, MAGA-cap-wearing President Donald Trump supporter. She agrees with Trump’s assessment that the special counsel investigation into Russian collusion is a “witch hunt.” She says she’ll vote for Trump again in 2020.
And she wanted Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, to be innocent, but the evidence and the boxes full of documents convinced her otherwise.
“Finding Mr. Manafort guilty was hard for me,” she said during a recent Fox News interview. “I really wanted him to be innocent, but he wasn’t. That’s the part of a juror; you have to have due diligence and deliberate and look at the evidence and come up with an informed and intelligent decision, which I did.”
But for one hold-out juror, Manafort would have been convicted of 10 other counts, Duncan said. The 12th juror couldn’t get beyond a reasonable doubt on the other counts, according to Duncan, which contributed to four days of tense, emotional deliberations.
In other revelations during various media stops, Duncan was scornful of prosecuting attorneys, who, she said, seemed bored and appeared to catnap during the trial. She was disgusted by the prosecution’s star witness, Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner who entered a plea deal in which he agreed to testify against Manafort. She echoed Trump’s opinion about turncoats, saying that Gates “deserves a special place in hell.” Trump himself recently said that flipping “almost ought to be illegal.”
Duncan said she and the other jurors ignored Gates’s testimony as not credible and focused instead on the paperwork, reading boxes of documents. Pause here for a round of applause for jurors for their hard work and commitment to an unbiased verdict.
Even an ideal juror can be blind to facts beyond the courtroom. In what seemed a reflexive nod to Trumpism, Duncan couldn’t end her media tour without tipping her hand and taking a jab at special counsel Robert Mueller.
“Certainly Mr. Manafort got caught breaking the law, but he wouldn’t have gotten caught if they weren’t after President Trump,” she said.
Translation: This is all Mueller’s fault.
If not for the witch hunt, in other words, everything would have rocked along in its usual fashion. No special counsel, no probe, no trials, juries or guilty verdicts. Nothing but high-fives in Trump world. But, of course, things turned as they did not because of Mueller but because of Trump, who seems to surround himself with people of poor character and criminal minds — notable exceptions notwithstanding.
And why would this be so? Because Trump’s first reflexive inclination in any given situation is to cover up, lie, bully, silence, pay off and deny, deny, deny.
Contrary to Trump’s fleeting moment of compassion, Manafort is not “a very good person.” He’s a crook in a $15,000 suit. So is Gates, who not only conspired with Manafort to rob others but also stole from Manafort. And so is Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who pled guilty Tuesday to violating campaign finance laws when arranging payments to two women (a porn star and a former Playboy model) who claimed to have had an affair with pre-president Trump years ago, so they’d keep quiet during the election.
In court, Cohen, a man who looks like he’s being hunted, told the judge that he made these payments “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office. … I participated in this conduct, which on my part took place in Manhattan, for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”
Mueller, meanwhile, muddles on as one dastardly deed-doer after another flips for immunity.
It would seem, therefore, that the witch-hunt may be nearing a close. Regardless of whether Mueller can establish Russian collusion, he has contributed significantly to the health of the republic by doing what Trump couldn’t. He’s draining the swamp.
Surely, Duncan wouldn’t prefer people like Manafort and Cohen to continue their criminal activities? Or would she prefer the Trump fantasy that all these miscreants attached themselves to Trump’s good name for nefarious purposes and turned tail when the going got rough?
As in the Manafort case, the evidence — of campaign corruption, if not more — is piling up.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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