You can’t help but wonder what political consultant Paul Manafort thought when, during last night’s debate, Donald Trump told Hillary Clinton he would throw her in jail if he wins the White House. Manafort, of course, ran Trump’s campaign until his resignation amid scandal in August. He must’ve noted to himself that, if President Trump did jail Clinton, he would become the second person Manafort helped get elected president that promptly threw his political rival in jail.
Manafort used to work for Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine. Yanukovych served in his role from 2010 until his forced ouster, amid heated political strife, at the hands of Ukraine’s parliament. He earned a reputation as a strong-man with dictatorial tendencies, not least because, in 2011, Yanukovych jailed his political rival, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The European court of human rights reportedly ruled that the imprisonment was “politically motivated” and she was freed as soon as Yanukovych was thrown out.
As Fusion previously reported, Manafort is alleged to have grown incredibly wealthy helping Yanukovych clean up his thuggish image to win the presidency. Up until a few months ago, he was cleaning up Trump’s image—until media scrutiny of his dealings in Ukraine forced him to resign.
Like Trump and Clinton, Yanukovych and Tymoshenko clashed in a racially polarizing presidential campaign that spit the country in half on ideological lines; Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking east was for Yanukovych, while the country’s more western-leaning, mostly non-Russian west backed Tymoshenko.
After Yanukovych narrowly won, he began his campaign to silence his political arch-rival by hook or crook. The state prosecutor’s office brought a number of criminal charges against Tymoshenko, including bribing Supreme Court judges and murdering an oligarch. In 2011, charges of abusing her powers during her stint as prime minister finally stuck.
Trump, for his part, vowed to go after Clinton with no less frivolous charges: He said last night he would instruct a special prosecutor to charge Clinton over the supposed email scandal. How, exactly, that will work is unclear. The FBI already looked into Clinton’s use of a personal server while at the State Department and recommended that she not be charged with any crimes. Maybe some other trumped-up charge awaits if The Donald gets to the Oval Office.
Terrell Jermaine Starr is National Political Correspondent for Fusion. You can follow him on Twitter @Russian_Starr.