Paul Manafort is going to jail, and the screws squeezing him to reveal any damaging information he might know about President Trump just got tighter.

On Friday, a federal judge in Washington ordered the former Trump campaign chairman's detention at the request of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who last week secured another indictment of Manafort on new charges related to witness tampering.

Manafort has had a rough 11 months, beginning with last summer's pre-dawn raid of his Alexandria home, but one of his few comforts since the first indictment against him in October has been the ability to remain in that home, a $2.7 million property in one of the Washington area's poshest neighborhoods.

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It was not immediately clear where Manafort will be held, but any jail cell represents a significant downgrade.

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U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the hearing Friday was “not about the conduct of the office of special counsel. It is about the defendant’s conduct.” In addition to the previous charges against Manafort — which include conspiracy, money laundering and tax and bank fraud related to his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine — Manafort and a business associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, stand accused of trying to sway the testimony of two witnesses.

Still, the motion to revoke Manafort's bail package says something about the special counsel. Viewed narrowly, it says that Mueller takes his case against Manafort very seriously. Manafort faces charges in federal courts in both the District of Columbia and Virginia.

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Viewed broadly, however, it says that Mueller is trying to make Manafort as uncomfortable as possible, in hopes that the former top aide will trade dirt on the president for leniency. That is the view of the judge in the case in Virginia, T.S. Ellis III, who told prosecutors last month: “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment.”

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The existence of such information is far from certain. But as Mueller probes the possibility that Trump's campaign aided Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, Manafort is a key player. I'll repeat what The Fix's Amber Phillips told me last week:

Besides the president or his family, there is perhaps no bigger fish in the Russia investigation than Manafort. It's not clear exactly what Manafort knows, but he does appear to be a linchpin between Trump's campaign and Russia.
He was in that meeting in Trump Tower during the campaign, the one that legal experts said may have crossed the line into conspiracy to collude with Russia. He was leading Trump's campaign as Russian meddling was ramping up. And of all the Trump campaign officials, Manafort has the most known personal and business connections to Russia.

Manafort's election-year meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who advertised compromising information about Hillary Clinton indicates a willingness to coordinate with Russia. Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, also attended.

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In the Trump team's telling, the president did not know about the meeting, and the information provided by the Russian lawyer proved useless.

Is that true? Was the meeting an isolated incident? Manafort is well positioned to answer such questions.

Another person who might have answers is Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime personal lawyer. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Mueller continues to scrutinize Cohen, even after referring an investigation of Cohen's business practices to federal prosecutors in New York. Cohen, like Manafort, was the target of an FBI raid that some legal analysts considered heavy-handed.

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It appears that Mueller, who has threatened to subpoena the president, is playing hardball with people close to Trump.

Trump reacted on Twitter to Manafort's jailing, calling it “very unfair.” Yet the president' defense of Manafort was somewhat inauspicious. Trump referred to a “tough sentence” — as if Manafort already had been convicted.

But Manafort is merely facing charges, and is jailed as he awaits trial.

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