Paul Manafort takes a double hit — 7 years in federal prison and a new state indictment
In a day of bitter setbacks for President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort was excoriated by a federal judge, sentenced to another 3 ½ years in prison in the Russia investigation and then swiftly indicted for mortgage fraud in New York.
The rapid-fire developments Wednesday boosted the time Manafort is slated to serve in prison for tax evasion, bank fraud and an illegal lobbying campaign on behalf of Ukraine’s former government, crimes prosecuted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
For the record:
2:45 PM, Mar. 14, 2019An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Manafort had worked on the campaign that elected President Ford. Ford, who became president when Richard Nixon resigned, lost his 1976 election to Jimmy Carter.
But the abrupt announcement of a 16-count indictment by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, less than an hour after Manafort was sentenced in Washington, could pose a bigger danger to the former globetrotting political consultant. A presidential pardon cannot apply to state charges.
Trump briefly weighed in on the fate of the veteran Republican operative who helmed his presidential campaign for several months in the summer of 2016, including the tumult preceding the Republican National Convention.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” Trump told reporters at the White House, calling it “a very sad situation.” The president said he had “not thought about” issuing a pardon, and he once again slammed the Mueller investigation as a “hoax.”
Manafort’s lawyers clearly hoped to appeal to the president, holding a brief news conference outside the federal courthouse after the sentencing. Echoing Trump’s constant denials, Kevin Downing said several times that “there was no collusion” with Russia during the presidential campaign.
Earlier, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson offered a scathing assessment of Manafort’s crimes and career, and she largely dismissed his belated claims of remorse.
During a nearly three-hour hearing, Jackson said “a significant portion” of Manafort’s career appeared “spent gaming the system.” She added 3 ½ years to the nearly four-year prison sentence he was given last week in a related case in Virginia.
Manafort, 69, has been in jail since last June, when Jackson revoked his bail after prosecutors accused him of attempted witness tampering. With credit for nine months served, he now faces nearly seven more years in federal prison.
He was sentenced twice — first by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria, Va., where he was convicted of financial crimes, and then by Jackson in Washington, D.C., where he pleaded guilty to conspiracy — because the cases were prosecuted separately.
Whatever hopes Manafort had to escape prison through a presidential pardon were dampened when Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus Vance announced he was accusing Manafort with a years-long mortgage fraud scheme.
“No one is beyond the law in New York,” Vance said in a statement.
Manafort was indicted on 16 charges of mortgage fraud, attempted fraud, conspiracy, falsifying business records and scheming to defraud. The most serious charges carry a maximum sentence of 25 years if he is convicted.
Although the state indictment involves some of the properties and loans cited in Manafort’s federal trial in Virginia, Vance is pursuing different charges in an attempt to avoid legal prohibitions on double jeopardy, which bars defendants from being put on trial for the same crime twice.
Manafort’s legal team did not have an immediate response to the new indictment.
The latest indictment means Manafort — who worked on campaigns for Presidents Reagan, Ford and George H.W. Bush as well as Trump — will probably remain mired in courtroom battles for the foreseeable future.
Mueller did not charge Manafort with crimes related to his leadership of Trump’s campaign or any coordination with the Kremlin-backed operation during the 2016 campaign, the chief focus of the special counsel inquiry.
But Manafort’s legal problems have worsened since he was first indicted in October 2017.
During his Virginia trial in August, prosecutors convinced a jury that he used offshore banks and phony companies to avoid paying $6 million in federal taxes, and then obtained fraudulent bank loans to support his lavish lifestyle. Manafort was convicted on eight counts.
Manafort then pleaded guilty in September to two counts of conspiracy to avoid a second trial in Washington.
Reading a statement from his wheelchair — his lawyers say he’s suffered gout and other ailments behind bars, although Jackson noted they haven’t provided any proof — he asked the judge for leniency and offered an emotional apology.
“This case has taken everything away from me already,” he said, including his houses, financial assets, life insurance policy and trust fund accounts set aside for his children and grandchildren. He begged to be allowed to return to his 66-year-old wife as soon as possible.
“She needs me, and I need her,” Manafort said.
Chided last week by Ellis for not expressing more profound remorse for his crimes, Manafort sought to remove any doubt when addressing Jackson.
“Let me be very clear, I accept responsibility for the acts that have brought me here today,” he said.
But Jackson was not convinced, noting that he had not shown any regret until he faced sentencing.
She also dismissed Downing’s argument that Manafort probably would not have faced charges but for his “short stint” running Trump’s campaign, suggesting he was a victim.
“Saying ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ is not an inspiring plea for leniency,” the judge said.
While Ellis last week described Manafort as living an “otherwise blameless life” because he had no previous criminal record, Jackson offered a searing appraisal.
She accused him of evading taxes to “sustain a lifestyle at the most opulent and extravagant level possible,” complete with “more houses than a family can enjoy” and “more suits than a man can wear.”
And she said it’s “hard to overstate” the number of Manafort’s lies and frauds.
Jackson reserved her harshest comments for Manafort’s conduct since his original indictment. She noted he had violating a gag order by ghost-writing a column for an English-language newspaper in Ukraine and sought to tamper with witnesses by asking them to lie about his lobbying operation.
His actions showed “ongoing contempt for, and his belief that he had the right to manipulate” the court proceedings, she said.
Jackson also said he “squandered” his shot at a lighter sentence by lying to prosecutors after cutting a plea deal in her court last September.
Manafort lied about, among other topics, an incident in which he shared polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-born business associate, while he was serving as Trump’s campaign chairman. Mueller’s office later said Kilimnik had ties to Russian intelligence services.
Manafort’s two sentences will overlap. Ellis imposed a prison term of nearly four years, while Jackson gave Manafort a little more than seven years.
However, part of Jackson’s sentence will be served concurrently with Ellis’ because they involve some of the same crimes, meaning Manafort’s total sentence is roughly 7½ years.
Manafort will receive credit for the nine months he’s spent behind bars, bringing his prison term to under seven years.
It is the longest sentence issued to anyone yet from Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election. The special counsel’s office has indicted or brought charges against 34 people, including several of Trump’s former top aides.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion, bank fraud, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress. He is scheduled to report to prison on May 6.
Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, has pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. He is continuing to cooperate with Justice Department and has not been sentenced.
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