It’s Friday evening and the sun set over three hours ago, which can only mean one thing: the time has arrived for another development in the Robert Mueller probe. This time around, the revelation is the Special Counsel’s recommendation of up to 24-and-a-half years in prison for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Manafort is going down for the crimes of tax fraud, bank fraud and failing to file a foreign bank account report.

The filing says that Manafort ‘acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law, and deprived the federal government of millions of dollars.’

The sentencing recommendation comes after Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Manafort had lied to prosecutors on three different topics, breaching his plea deal. However, the judge also decided that Mueller had failed to prove that Manafort ‘intentionally made false statements concerning [co-defendant Konstantin] Kilimnik’s role in the obstruction of justice conspiracy’ and ‘intentionally made a false statement concerning his contacts with the administration.’

Unlike other Trump acolytes hauled in front of the Special Counsel, Manafort has not been as openly co-operative – or to use the president’s mob vocabulary, he’s not a ‘flipper’, a trait he shares with his old business partner and fellow indictee Roger Stone. This has prompted speculation that the former campaign manager could be angling for a presidential pardon – a prospect discussed on Fox & Friends yesterday. Fox’s judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said, ‘he’s exposed to more than 20 years in jail. That is so much jail time he might very well be a candidate for a pardon, and the public might accept the pardon.’

The president’s tweets about Manafort offer a mixed message, offering sympathy for the ordeal he’s been put through while eager to keep all the crimes at arm’s length.

It’s worth wondering where Mr Manafort might fit into the president’s newly discovered sympathy for the plight of prisoners. It could be an ignominious end to Manafort’s career, which began on the Reagan campaign, unless Trump decides to step in. Stranger things have happened.