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Manafort gets 7.5 years in prison, after additional 43 months in second sentencing

The judge gave Manafort a tongue-lashing for his deception, greed and refusal to accept genuine responsibility for his crimes.
Image: Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentences Paul Manafort on March 13, 2019.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentences Paul Manafort on March 13, 2019.Art Lien

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced Wednesday to 43 additional months in prison by a federal judge in Washington on conspiracy charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Manafort, 69, had faced up to 10 years behind bars after pleading guilty to the two charges related to undisclosed lobbying work he did for pro-Russian political figures in Ukraine. The sentence comes in addition to the nearly four years he received last week from a federal judge in Virginia on tax and bank fraud charges also brought by Mueller, bringing his total sentence to seven-and-a-half years. However, he'll get credit for nine months of time served.

And shortly after Wednesday's sentencing, the Manhattan district attorney announced that Manafort had been indicted by a grand jury in New York on 16 counts related to residential mortgage fraud, ensuring that his legal woes will continue.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson made it clear before handing down her sentence in Washington that her decision does not vindicate or refute the special counsel's investigation, and she excoriated Manafort for his deceptions and what she saw as his unwillingness to accept genuine responsibility for his crimes.

"The defendant isn't public enemy No. 1. But he's not a victim either," Jackson said, adding that it is "hard to overstate the number of lies, the amount of fraud and the extraordinary amount of money involved."

Manafort's fraud wasn't to support his family, but to live a lavish lifestyle, including buying "more suits than one man can wear," she said.

Jackson went on to blast Manafort for his questionable lobbying work, saying it “infects our policymaking.” She also said that by acting as an unregistered foreign agent, Manafort was contradicting American values.

“What you were doing was lying to Congress and the American public,” Jackson said, adding that Manafort has shown a "deliberate effort to obscure the facts."

“If the people don’t have the facts, democracy can't work," she said, adding, "court is one of those places where facts still matter."

Jackson also questioned if Manafort had accepted responsibility for witness tampering.

“The sentencing memorandum has given me concern because he hasn’t really accepted responsibility for this offense,” she said. “While he agreed to plead guilty to this court, he backed away from the facts.”

She added: “All of this appeared to reflect his ongoing contempt for and the belief that he had the right to manipulate these proceedings, and the court order did not apply to him. All of this was a problem for me because court is one of those places where facts still matter."

Manafort appeared before Jackson in a wheelchair and a dark suit. During his statement, Manafort stayed seated and assured the court he had changed and took responsibility for his crimes.

“I am sorry for what I have done and for all the activities that have gotten us here today,” he said. “I stand here today to assure the court that I am a different person who stood before you in October of 2017.”

He added: "I know it was my conduct that brought me here today. For these mistakes, I am remorseful. I will be 70 years old in a few weeks. My wife is 66. She needs me. I need her. I ask you to think of this and our need for each other. Please do not take us away from each other. Please let me and my wife be together."

It was a stark contrast to his brief remarks to the court last week, in which he did not apologize or express regret for his crimes, prompting an admonishment from Judge T.S. Ellis. His relationship with his wife and the matter of his age had also gone unmentioned.

Jackson expressed surprise that Manafort did not write his own letter to her before sentencing and that, until Wednesday, his attitude was one of self pity.

Manafort's sense of remorse and responsibility were "completely absent,” she said, adding that he had a chance to plead for a lighter sentence, but “he squandered it.”

“Saying, ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ is not an inspiring plea for leniency,” she said.

Jackson also chided the defense for using the charges in the case to disprove any collusion between the Trump campaign and the efforts of Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election, which is Muller’s chief mandate.

“The ‘no collusion’ refrain that runs through the entire defense memo is entirely unrelated to the matters at hand,” she said. “The ‘no collusion’ mantra is simply a non sequitur.”

Despite the judge's statement, Manafort's lead attorney, Kevin Downing, afterward made a brief statement outside the courthouse that again referred to a lack of evidence of collusion.

“Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any Russian collusion in this case," Downing said. "So that makes two courts, two courts have ruled no evidence of any collusion, of any Russians. Very sad day for such a callous, harsh sentence that is totally unnecessary.”

Downing was referring to Ellis' statements during the sentencing last week that Manafort's crimes were not connected to Russian election interference or any collusion by the Trump campaign. As Downing spoke to reporters, his remarks were cut short by protesters who jeered and repeatedly shouted “liar!"

President Donald Trump picked up the refrain in remarks to reporters at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, saying, "today, again, no collusion. The other day, no collusion. There was no collusion."

Both judges, however, did not say there was no collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia, but rather that the issue had nothing to do with the charges against Manafort.

Asked whether he would pardon Manafort, Trump told reporters, "I have not even given it a thought, as of this moment." But the president also said he feels "very badly" for his former campaign chairman.

Manafort pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charges in the D.C. courtroom last September, after he was convicted on eight felony fraud counts in his Virginia case.

In that case, he faced one count of participating in a conspiracy against the United States, which involved money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file Foreign Bank Account Reports, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lying and misrepresenting to the Department of Justice. The second count, conspiracy to obstruct justice, is tied to his efforts to guide witness testimony after he was indicted in 2017.

Manafort and his legal team have a contentious relationship with Jackson. She has often scolded his legal counsel for their conduct, enough so that Downing largely handed off arguments to another defense lawyer, Richard Westling. She also revoked Manafort's bail and sent him to jail last June after allegations of witness tampering surfaced.

"I cannot turn a blind eye to this," Jackson said at the time. "This isn't middle school, I can’t take your phone."

Before the judge ruled Wednesday, prosecutors reminded the court of Manafort's post-plea conduct, in which he lied under oath multiple times.

Jackson had previously agreed with the special counsel's assessment that Manafort lied to investigators on three occasions and violated the plea deal that would have made him eligible for a lighter sentence. According to the court, Manafort lied about interactions and communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-Russian associate, he lied about payments made by an unidentified "Firm A" to a law firm and he gave false statements material to another Justice Department investigation.

"The office of special counsel proved beyond a preponderance of evidence that Mr. Manafort intentionally gave false testimony with respect to that matter which was one of several matters in regards to false statements with regard to Mr. Kilimnik," the judge noted.

Neither the government nor Manafort's defense asked for a specific sentence.

Jackson said that while she would not factor in the 47 months Manafort received in his Virginia case, she would take into account his guilty plea, which she said counted as acceptance of responsibility, and his leadership role in the crimes.

“What is happening today is not or cannot be a revision of a sentence that is imposed by another court,” she said.