Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort will serve 7.5 years in prison in Mueller case

Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Manafort to an additional 3.5 years in prison on Wednesday

Published March 13, 2019 10:16AM (EDT)

Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Getty/Mandel Ngan)
Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Getty/Mandel Ngan)

Paul Manafort, the longtime Republican consultant who spent five months as President Donald Trump's campaign chairman during the 2016 election, was sentenced to an additional 3.5 years in prison on Wednesday for two charges of conspiracy. That punishment, ordered by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, completed Manafort's second round of sentencing as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into allegations of collusion between the commander-in-chief's presidential campaign and Russia. With Jackson's sentence, Manafort is set to serve 7.5 years in prison.

Manafort was sentenced last week to nearly four years in prison — considerably less than the 19 to 24 years called for under sentencing guidelines — by Judge T.S. Ellis of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. That ruling surprised many legal analysts who expected Manafort to receive a harsher sentence for crimes uncovered by Mueller, which included illegal lobbying on behalf of pro-Russia political forces in Ukraine, hiding the millions of dollars he made in overseas bank accounts, falsifying business records and lying to banks to keep the cash flowing then urging witnesses to lie on his behalf when he was caught. Legal experts were quick to point out the gross inequalities between punishments for white-collar crime like Manafort's and street crime, as well as the disparity between sentences for wealthy offenders versus everyone else.

As he did in the Virginia case, Manafort addressed the court before his sentencing — an opportunity he has been without since Jackson imposed a gag order on his case in November 2017. Manafort suggested he was more remorseful for his crimes Wednesday. During his sentencing last week, Manafort said, "The worst pain that I feel is the pain that I know my family is feeling." He did not apologize for failing to pay more than $6 million in taxes, hiding more than $55 million in foreign bank accounts or defrauding financial institutions of more than $25 million when the money ran out.

"I was surprised that I did not hear you express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct," Ellis, the federal judge in the Virginia case, told Manafort last week. He later added, "That should be your true regret, and you should have remorse for that. And I certainly recommend that you do it in the District of Columbia, because you’ll have that opportunity."

It appears Manafort applied Ellis' advice to his second court appearance.

"I am sorry for what I have done and for all the activities that have gotten us here today," Manafort told the court Wednesday, according to reports from inside the courtroom. He remained seated in his wheelchair. Manafort's lawyers have previously said their client suffers from "significant" health issues.

"Let me be very clear, I accept the responsibility for the acts that caused me to be here today," he said. "While I cannot undo the past, I can assure the future will be very different."

Manafort said he is upset with himself "for these personal failures," adding that his time in jail over the last nine months have encouraged him to reflect. "My behavior in the future will be very different. I have already begun to change," he said.

Manafort asked Berman that he not be apart from his wife "longer than the 47 months imposed last week." He noted that he will be 70 years old in a few weeks and that he is his wife's primary caregiver. Manafort said his wife is 66 years old.

Manafort faced up to 10 years in prison for two conspiracy charges that he pleaded guilty to last year as part of a deal that required his full cooperation with the special counsel's office. That plea agreement, which allowed Manafort to avoid a second criminal trial in Washington, was botched after Jackson determined that Manafort had lied to federal prosecutors, the FBI and a federal grand jury. Under the original plea deal, Mueller had agreed to recommend that Manafort serve his Washington sentence concurrent with his Virginia sentence.

Jackson sent Manafort to jail in the run-up to his trial after he was charged with two charges of witness tampering while out on bail. Manafort has been kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day to "guarantee his safety," according to court documents.

Wednesday's sentencing could offer new insight into speculation that Mueller is winding down his nearly two-year inquiry into election interference. The special counsel is expected to issue his final report to Attorney General William Barr, who will then decide whether to make the findings public. It is unclear if Mueller's final report, should it become public, will reveal whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia — something Trump has long dismissed as a politically-motivated "witch hunt."

But Mueller's charge that Manafort intentionally lied to federal prosecutors about multiple subjects — especially his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian interpreter who worked for his consulting business and is suspected by federal agents of having ties to Russian intelligence — has offered a deep look into the special counsel's inquiry. A poorly-redacted court document filed by Manafort's legal team earlier this year revealed that Mueller suspected Manafort of discussing a Ukraine peace plan and sharing polling data during the 2016 campaign with Kilimnik. In ruling that Manafort deliberately misled investigators, Jackson described Manafort's contacts with Kilimnik as "material" to Mueller's investigation. Still, Mueller has not alleged any conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and Russia.

Manafort joined Trump's presidential campaign in March 2016 and became his campaign chairman that May before he was forced to resign in August 2016 following reports of his Ukraine lobbying. He was previously thought to be a key witness for Mueller as he investigates allegations of collusion between the campaign and the Russia. He was indicted in October 2017 along with his longtime business associate and Trump campaign official Rick Gates, who has since pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Trump has previously defended Manafort in comments to reporters, claiming his former campaign manager "has nothing to do with our campaign, but I will tell you I feel a little badly about it. They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago."

It remains unclear whether a presidential pardon is in the future for Manafort. Trump has not officially ruled it out and continues to express sympathy for his former campaign chairman. After Ellis handed down Manafort's 47-month sentence last week, Trump said he feels "very badly for Paul Manafort."

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, warned Trump that "even dangling a pardon" for Manafort "would fortify a claim or charge of obstruction of justice."

But a presidential pardon would not extend to legal action at other levels of government. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is ready to file tax and other charges against Manafort in the event that he receives a presidential pardon.

By Shira Tarlo

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