Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign manager, sentenced to nearly 4 years in prison
Paul Manafort, who managed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for several months in 2016, was sentenced Thursday to 47 months in prison for financial crimes that were prosecuted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III could have sent the 69-year-old veteran Republican operative to federal prison for the rest of his life. But Ellis rejected the recommended sentence of 19 to 24 years, under federal guidelines, calling it “excessive.”
A high-flying lobbyist and consultant before he joined Trump’s campaign, Manafort was brought into court in a wheelchair, wearing a jail-issued green jumpsuit with the words “Alexandria Inmate” stenciled in white letters on the back.
He appeared grayer and more frail than in August, when a federal jury here in northern Virginia convicted him of eight charges of tax evasion and bank fraud after a three-week trial.
Near the end of the roughly three-hour hearing, Manafort appealed to Ellis for compassion and said he felt “humiliated and ashamed” by his conduct. He thanked the judge for “a fair trial.”
“The last two years have been the most difficult that my family and I have experienced,” he said from his wheelchair.
Ellis called Manafort’s crimes “very serious” and said his tax evasion represented “a theft of money from everyone that pays their taxes.”
The judge also said he was surprised that Manafort did not express more regret when he addressed the court. “I hope you reflect on that,” he said.
But Ellis said Manafort “has lived an otherwise blameless life” and had no criminal record before his convictions.
He ordered Manafort to pay a $50,000 fine and restitution that could range from $6 million to $25 million.
Manafort has been in jail for the last nine months, so his sentence means he will serve an additional 38 months behind bars under Ellis’ sentence. Manafort has been held in solitary confinement for his safety, his lawyer, Kevin Downing, told the court.
He was sent to jail last summer when U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing a related case in Washington, D.C., revoked his bail after Manafort contacted potential witnesses.
Jackson is scheduled to sentence Manafort at another hearing next Wednesday. He has pleaded guilty to two related charges of conspiracy in that case.
All the criminal charges against Manafort stemmed from his work on behalf of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government, although some of the crimes continued while he also managed Trump’s campaign for several months in 2016.
During his trial, prosecutors detailed how Manafort used a network of offshore bank accounts and other schemes to avoid paying millions of dollars in federal income taxes.
When his client, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, was overthrown in a popular uprising in 2014, Manafort turned to bank fraud to maintain an opulent lifestyle that included custom tailored clothes, seven homes and luxury cars.
Mueller’s team initially focused on Manafort as part of its investigation into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with a Russian intelligence operation that sought to sway the 2016 election to Trump, using stolen emails and disinformation on social media.
In June 2016, Manafort joined Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, in a meeting in Trump Tower in Manhattan with a woman identified to them as a “Russian government attorney.”
Before the meeting, when an intermediary’s email said the lawyer would present political dirt on rival candidate Hillary Clinton “as part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Trump Jr. replied, “If it’s what you say I love it.”
No charges have been filed in connection with the meeting, and Trump’s allies have said no incriminating information was provided. Trump’s critics have said the campaign should have called the FBI to report the Russian offer.
Two months later, Manafort and Trump’s deputy campaign chairman, Richard Gates, met with Konstantin Kilimnik at a posh New York cigar bar.
Mueller’s prosecutors later disclosed in court papers that Kilimnik “has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016.”
Those lies and others led to the implosion of Manafort’s plea deal, which he reached after he was convicted in northern Virginia. The deal had required him to cooperate truthfully with the special counsel’s office.
Prosecutors had urged the judge to impose a tough sentence.
Greg Andres, a prosecutor from the special counsel’s office, said Manafort “broke the basic civic covenant of citizens in this democracy” by failing to pay his taxes.
“Nobody made up these crimes,” he added. “He made criminal choices.”
Manafort’s lawyers argued in a sentencing memo before Thursday’s hearing that “the special counsel’s attempt to vilify Mr. Manafort as a lifelong and irredeemable felon is beyond the pale and grossly overstates the facts.”
They also suggested that prosecutors pressured Manafort to provide evidence against the president in the Russia investigation, and urged the judge to spare him jail time.
Mueller’s “strategy in bringing charges against Mr. Manafort had nothing to do with the special counsel’s core mandate — Russian collusion — but was instead designed to ‘tighten the screws’ to compel Mr. Manafort to cooperate and provide incriminating information about others,” the lawyers wrote.
Trump has repeatedly said that his former campaign chairman was treated unfairly by prosecutors, and he’s left open the possibility of pardoning him before he leaves office.
As the jury in Virginia was considering a verdict last summer, Trump told reporters at the White House that “it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”
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