Going into Breaking News! mode, the cable nets have elevated the admitted felonies of Richard Gates as disclosed in his cross examination in United States v. Manafort to the news status of the sinking of the Titanic.

Actually, Gates’s crimes are just as self-evident as the old New York Times headline “Crocuses Bloom in Spring.”  He has already pleaded guilty to several felonies. Among the questions raised by this cable net emphasis, replete with “panels” and former prosecutor-bloviators, is what effect it will have on the outcome of Manafort’s trial.

In the preparation of white collar criminal cases prosecutors usually use a “cooperator,” i.e. a snitch, to convict the defendant on trial. This practice is as common as breathing out and breathing in.

In the federal system a cooperator makes a “proffer” of what his/her testimony against the non-cooperating defendant will be. Thereafter, the prosecutor gives the snitch a “5k1” letter, a letter from the United States Attorney to the sentencing judge detailing the extent of the defendant’s cooperation for the judge to consider in imposing a lenient sentence. This is what has happened with Gates.

Aided by the requirement that the government must make available to the defense all of Gates’s out of court statements, the defense clobbers the snitch in cross examination, just as Tuesday follows Monday.

“Isn’t it a fact that you’re a liar [rapist; crook; wife beater; thief; communist; tax evader]?” is the choreographed defense charge hurled at the snitch by defense counsel.

After this courtroom gavotte is concluded,  the next part of the inevitable legal dance is the prosecutor’s “rehabilitation” of the cooperator including corroboration of almost everything he/she said on direct.

Next is summation. Defense counsel calls the snitch everything in the book. My personal favorite, an oldie but a goodie, is Lloyd Paul Stryker, Alger Hiss’s lawyer, calling prosecution witness Whittaker Chambers “a moral leper” and crying out to the jury “Unclean!, Unclean!”

The prosecutor’s summation, time honored, tells the jury, “it’s not whether [the snitch] is a _______ [no goodnik; wife- beater, etc.] but whether he/she is telling the truth” and adding something like “we’d like to get our witnesses from the Archdiocese [Red Cross] but there aren’t any participants in tax evasion or bank fraud there.”

The outcome of snitch testimony is usually (but not invariably) a conviction.

The undue emphasis by cable nets on the courtroom theatrics in the Manafort case, probably known if not seen by the jurors even if they have been told to avoid such accounts, could elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary and lead to a hung jury. The eroded confidence in the Department of Justice caused by the President’s attacks could supplement this jury’s doubts as may be the case in other criminal trials where public confidence in Justice is a necessary part of protection of Americans from crime.

Robert Mueller’s case is largely unassailable because it is based on documents. A hung jury would be a disturbing result and immediately called a “loss” by the President. He would also demand that the Mueller investigation end immediately.

A collateral question raised by Gates’s cooperation is why Manafort did not take that path. If he had cooperated in the Mueller investigation, he would have made a proffer and gotten a 5k1 letter. Perhaps he will go in that direction if and after he is convicted.