WASHINGTON — Once a globetrotting lobbyist and consultant to presidents, Paul Manafort was sentenced Wednesday to federal prison for the second time in seven days, giving him a total sentence of 7 1/2 years.
And soon after he left court in a wheelchair to return to the cell in Alexandria, Va., where he has been held, prosecutors in New York announced a 16-count grand jury indictment charging the former Trump campaign chairman with mortgage fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy. (See story below)
Trump would not be able to pardon Manafort, 69, on the state charges — which separates them from the federal cases for which Manafort was just sentenced.
In court Wednesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson criticized Manafort and his defense attorneys for repeatedly casting his hard fall from power as collateral damage from the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“This defendant is not public enemy number one, but he’s also not a victim either,” Jackson said. “There’s no question this defendant knew better, and he knew exactly what he was doing.”
Outside the courthouse, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing called the sentence “callous, hostile and totally unnecessary.”
He emphasized that the judge, however, had acknowledged that there was “no evidence of any collusion with Russia in this case.”
Downing was repeatedly interrupted by protesters shouting “liar!” and “traitor!”
Jackson herself called the defense’s repeated claims about the lack of collusion with the Russian government “a non-sequitur.”
The question of whether anyone in Donald Trump’s campaign “conspired or colluded with” the Russian government “was not presented in this case.”
She added that the assertion may not even be “accurate,” because Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is not over and she found that Manafort lied to investigators about issues at the heart of the inquiry.
“It’s not appropriate to say investigators haven’t found anything when you lied to the investigators,” she said.
At least 20 people from the special counsel’s office were in the courtroom for sentencing, a sign of the importance of Manafort’s conviction in the investigation.
In contrast to Judge T.S. Ellis, who when sentencing him to 47 months in prison last week in Alexandria said Manafort lived an “otherwise blameless life,” Jackson spent nearly 40 uninterrupted minutes describing the high-flying influence-peddler as a persistent liar who undermined democracy out of personal greed.
His crimes were “not just a failure to comply with some pesky regulations,” she said, but “lying to the American people and the American Congress. . . . It is hard to overstate the number of lies and amount of money involved.”
Manafort’s motivation, she added, was “not to support a family, but to sustain a lifestyle that was ostentatiously opulent and extravagantly lavish — more houses than a family can enjoy, more suits than one man can wear.”
But she agreed with Ellis that sentencing guidelines in the case were excessive, and said his age, the millions he forfeited, and the fact that his finances and career were “in tatters” minimized the chances that he would offend again.
Manafort will receive credit for the nine months he has served. He faced as many as 10 more years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States by illegally lobbying in Ukraine and hiding the proceeds overseas, then encouraging witnesses to lie on his behalf.
He apologized to “all those negatively affected by my actions,” acknowledging that he did not express such regret when he was sentenced in Alexandria for bank and tax fraud.
“Let me be very clear: I accept responsibility for the actions that led me to be here today, and I want to apologize for all I contributed to the impacts on people and institutions. While I cannot change the past, I can work to change the future,” Manafort said from a wheelchair, turning to face Jackson. “I want to say to you now, I am sorry for what I have done and for all of the activities that have gotten us here today.”
He added that nine months in solitary confinement after being jailed on charges of witness tampering gave him “new self-awareness.”
Manafort had been held in protective custody, away from other inmates.
Prosecutors questioned whether Manafort was capable of change, depicting him as a mastermind of a conspiracy in which he was paid $50 million over more than a decade by a Russian-backed politician and party in Ukraine, and Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“His work was corrosive to faith in the political process, both in the United States and abroad,” prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said. “He served to undermine, not promote, American ideals of honesty, transparency and playing by the rules.”
Manafort’s attempt to cover up his crimes by asking witnesses to lie for him, Weissmann said, “is not reflective of somebody who has learned a harsh lesson. It is not a reflection of remorse. It is evidence that something is wrong with sort of a moral compass.”
Manafort led a sophisticated scheme “to avoid a duty all Americans have” to pay their taxes, Weissmann said, hiding wealth in 30 foreign bank accounts containing more than $50 million for his work for the government of Ukraine and Deripaska.
Downing said his client is genuinely remorseful and has endured a “media frenzy” that few other defendants in this country have faced. Downing said all sides have sought to spin Manafort’s predicament to their political advantage, adding, that “but for a short stint as campaign manager in a presidential election, I don’t think we would be here today. I think the court should consider that, too.”
Jackson dismissed that argument, telling Manafort, “Saying ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ is not an inspiring call for leniency.”
The investigation of Manafort predated Mueller’s appointment in 2017, and it wasn’t the special counsel’s office that made Manafort lie to investigators, she said.
Manafort asked for mercy on more personal grounds, telling Jackson that he is the sole caregiver to his 66-year-old wife, who has a brain injury. “She needs me, and I need her. I ask that you think of this and our need for each other as you deliberate today. Please let my wife and I be together,” he said.
Jackson acknowledged Manafort’s generosity and care for his family and other causes, calling them “commendable,” and said she did not discount that she did “not know everything that there is” — or will be — to Paul Manafort.
The judge ruled earlier this year that Manafort breached his plea deal by lying to the FBI, prosecutors and a grand jury during more than 50 hours of interviews.
She found that Manafort’s lies included matters “material” to the Mueller probe, including interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, his longtime Russian aide in Ukraine whom the FBI assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence.
Kilimnik has denied having connections to Russian intelligence and is believed to be in Russia. He was indicted with Manafort on charges of conspiring to tamper with witnesses in Manafort’s D.C. case but is unlikely to be brought to court because Russia does not extradite its citizens.
Those lies, she said, tainted any cooperation he may have genuinely offered.
“So was he spinning the facts before hand to get a good deal, or was he spinning the facts afterward to protect other people?” Jackson asked. “We don’t know.”
The second sentencing follows a legal saga that began in October 2017 when Manafort and his longtime employee and campaign deputy Rick Gates became the first defendants publicly charged in the Mueller investigation. Gates later pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI. He agreed to cooperate with the inquiry and has yet to be sentenced.
Manafort faced two federal trials because he exercised his option to keep the tax and bank fraud charges in the state where he lived.
At trial in Virginia in August, a jury found him guilty on eight counts and deadlocked on 10 others. But Manafort admitted guilt on all charges in his D.C. plea.
Trump has refused to discuss a pardon publicly as Manafort’s case worked its way through the federal court system, but the President has called Manafort brave for fighting prosecution.