WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chair, will spend nearly seven more years in prison after a federal judge in Washington, DC, handed down his second sentence out of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Manafort on Wednesday to spend 73 months in prison for conspiring to defraud the US government and tamper with witnesses, but a substantial part of that sentence will overlap with a sentence he previously received in Virginia.
Manafort was sentenced to 60 months in prison for conspiring to defraud the United States, but Jackson said that 30 months of that would run concurrent to the 47-month sentence Manafort already received in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia because the conspiracy involved overlapping criminal activity. She then sentenced him to 13 additional months on the witness tampering count.
Manafort's total sentence will account for the nine months he's already spent in pretrial detention. With that time served, he'll spend approximately 81 months, or 6.75 years, in prison.
Manafort's legal troubles aren't over yet, though. Shortly after Jackson announced her sentence, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced that a grand jury had indicted Manafort on charges related to a residential mortgage scheme. Manafort will be charged in state court in New York. There's long been speculation that Trump may consider a pardon for Manafort, but that would only apply to federal crimes.
Speaking with reporters Wednesday after the hearing, Trump said he had "not thought about" a pardon for Manafort, according to a pool report.
"I feel very badly for Paul Manafort. I think it's a very sad situation. And I saw that just a little while ago. And certainly on a human basis, it's a very sad thing," Trump said.
During Wednesday's sentencing, Jackson slammed Manafort and his lawyers for their focus on the fact that he was not charged in connection with his work on the Trump campaign or accused of colluding with the Russian government. She said that the "noncollusion mantra was a non sequitur," unrelated to what sentence Manafort should receive, and that his lawyers made the "unsubstantiated" claim that Manafort was only charged with financial crimes predating his campaign work because Mueller's office couldn't charge him with anything to do with Russia.
"The defendant's insistence that none of this should be happening to him … that the prosecution is misguided and excessive and invalid, after this court and the court in the Eastern District of Virginia both found he fell squarely within the special counsel's mandate, is just one more thing that is inconsistent with a genuine acceptance of responsibility," Jackson said.
Jackson said that this case was not an "indictment" or "endorsement" of Mueller's work, and her sentence would not resolve the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. She said that arguments in the case had been marked by "passion" and "hyperbole."
"This defendant is not public enemy number one, but he’s not a victim either," she said.
She described Manafort as a repeat and unremorseful offender motivated by greed and a desire to sustain a lifestyle at the most "opulent and extravagant" levels, noting the many homes he bought, and his collection of "more suits than one man can wear." She said his conduct over the course of the case — from inconsistent information he gave about his assets early on to his efforts to tamper with witnesses after he'd been charged — "appeared to reflect his ongoing contempt for and his belief he had the right to manipulate these proceedings, and the court orders and rules didn’t apply to him."
Jackson said that Manafort was trying to downplay the seriousness of what he did, particularly with respect to his failure to report his work on behalf of the Ukrainian government — which included lobbying efforts in the United States — to the US government.
"If the people don't have the facts, democracy can’t work," the judge said.
Manafort had faced a maximum sentence in DC of 10 years, since the two counts he pleaded guilty to each carried five years.
The sentence from Jackson came less than a week after a federal judge in Virginia sentenced Manafort to 47 months for the financial crimes a jury convicted him of last summer.
In remarks to Jackson before she announced her sentence on Wednesday, Manafort said he wanted to make clear that he was sorry for what he had done. At his sentencing last week before US District Judge T.S. Ellis III, Ellis said he was surprised that Manafort didn't express more remorse. Manafort told Jackson that he was apparently "not clear" about saying what was in his "heart" at the time.
"I am sorry for what I've done and for all the activities that have gotten us here today," Manafort told Jackson. He said later: "I stand here today to assure the court that I'm a different person from the one who came before you in October of 2017."
Manafort spoke about the pain the case had caused his family, and said that, "if anything, their suffering will be a major deterrent." He noted that he had been stripped of his financial assets, and asked the judge not to separate him from his wife, Kathleen Manafort, for more than the 47 months imposed by the judge in Virginia.
"She needs me and I need her," he said.
Jackson said she appreciated Manafort's apology, but found it "striking" that for someone who had made his career based on words — he worked for years as a political consultant — he chose not to write her a letter in advance of sentencing, something she said that defendants who hadn't finished high school or who didn't speak English as a first language had done. Furthermore, she said, remorse was "completely absent" from the presentencing submissions from his lawyers.
She did give Manafort credit for cooperating, but said the value of that cooperation was undercut by Manafort's decision to give false information to investigators and a grand jury after he signed his plea deal.
Manafort appeared in court on Wednesday wearing a dark suit, a white shirt, and what appeared to be a purple tie. He sat in a wheelchair for most of the hearing, including when he delivered his remarks to Jackson, but he stood briefly when she returned to the courtroom following a short break to announce her sentence. He did show emotion as she explained her decision.
Neither side advocated for a specific sentence. Manafort's lawyer Kevin Downing asked Jackson to consider the "media frenzy" around the case. He at one point referenced the "political motivation" around the prosecution, and Jackson jumped in to ask what he meant. Downing he clarified that he wasn't addressing that to the prosecutors, but rather the broader media circus.
"That results in a very harsh process for the defendant," Downing said. "That harshness, we would appreciate if the court could consider in sentencing, because it has been real. But for a short stint as a campaign manager in a presidential election, I don't think we’d be here today."
Special counsel prosecutor Andrew Weissmann argued that Manafort's crimes were far-reaching and repeated. He said that Manafort's violations of the federal law that requires people to report their work as agents for a foreign government were "egregious," and that his efforts to tamper with witnesses after he'd already been criminally charged went to the "heart" of the justice system.
"Paul Manafort's upbringing, his education, his means, his opportunities could have led him to ... be a leading example for this country. At each juncture, though, Mr. Manafort chose to take a different path. He engaged in crime again and again. He has not learned a harsh lesson. He served to undermine, not promote, American ideals of honesty, transparency, and playing by the rules," Weissmann said.
Manafort was one of the first people charged out of Mueller's investigation. A grand jury in Washington indicted Manafort and his former right-hand man Rick Gates in late October 2017, charging them with conspiring to defraud the United States and launder money, failing to report foreign bank accounts, failing to disclose their work on behalf of the Ukrainian government to US authorities, and lying to the Justice Department.
Several months later, in February 2018, a grand jury in Virginia indicted Manafort and Gates again, this time for filing false tax returns and bank fraud. The indictment also repeated allegations from the DC case that they failed to report foreign bank accounts. Gates later pleaded guilty, and testified against Manafort at trial; he has not been sentenced yet.
Both cases stemmed largely from Manafort's work as a political consultant for the Ukrainian government between 2006 and 2015. There were no charges related to his work as Trump's campaign chair in the summer of 2016, although prosecutors presented evidence that one bank executive who approved $16 million in loans for Manafort was trying to get a Trump administration job through Manafort. (He was unsuccessful.) After the sentencing in Virginia on March 8, Manafort's lawyers stressed to reporters that there was no evidence that Manafort was involved in colluding with the Russian government during the campaign.
Manafort went to trial in Virginia first and a jury found him guilty of eight counts in August (the court is known as the "rocket docket"). They were hung on the remaining 10 counts, and the judge declared a mistrial for those charges. Although prosecutors didn't win a full conviction, the jury found Manafort guilty of counts across each of the three categories of crimes he was charged with: tax fraud, failing to report foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud.
Manafort was due to go to trial in DC several weeks after the verdict in Virginia, but on the eve of jury selection he signed a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to two counts: conspiring to defraud the United States, a charge that encompassed the broad range of financial crimes he was charged with in both cases, and attempting to interfere with witnesses. Mueller's office first raised allegations that Manafort had tried to influence witnesses in June 2018, and Jackson ordered him jailed pending trial. He has been in custody since then.
As part of the plea deal, Manafort agreed to cooperate with the government. Within a few months that relationship had soured, however, with prosecutors alerting Jackson in November that they believed Manafort had lied to them, the FBI, and the grand jury. Jackson ruled in February that Mueller's office had proven "by a preponderance of the evidence" that Manafort lied about his communications with longtime associate Konstantin Kilimnik, a separate still-unidentified Justice Department investigation, and a payment related to a debt Manafort owed a law firm.
The plea deal breach meant prosecutors were relieved of any obligation to support Manafort in pushing for a lighter sentence. Manafort was still bound by the agreement, however, so he couldn't withdraw his guilty plea at that point. He'll also have to forfeit real estate to the US government valued in the millions.
Leading up to sentencing, neither side took a position about what specific sentence Manafort should get. Prosecutors advocated for significant prison time, writing in a sentencing memo in his DC case that Manafort was a "bold" offender who posed a "grave risk" of committing more crimes in the future. Manafort's lawyers countered that Manafort had been unfairly "vilified" by Mueller's investigation, and they downplayed the seriousness of the crimes he pleaded guilty to.
"This case is not about murder, drug cartels, organized crime, the Madoff Ponzi scheme or the collapse of Enron," they wrote.
Manafort's lawyers have asked that he serve his time at a federal detention facility in Cumberland, Maryland. He has spent most of his detention so far in a local jail in Alexandria, Virginia, where he's been held in solitary confinement, according to his lawyers.