Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia may be coming to a close, but the rest of Paul Manafort’s life is entering a new phase. On Friday, Mueller filed a new sentencing memo for Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager, and a redacted version was released by the court on Saturday. Although Mueller did not recommend a specific sentence for Manafort, he harshly criticized the defendant with a penchant for ostrich-leather jackets, writing:
“For over a decade, Manafort repeatedly and brazenly violated the law. His crimes continued up through the time he was first indicted in October 2017 and remarkably went unabated even after indictment. Manafort engaged in witness tampering while on bail and, even after he was caught for engaging in that scheme, Manafort committed the additional crimes of perjury and making false statements… The sentence in this case must take into account the gravity of this conduct, and serve both to specifically deter Manafort and generally deter those who would commit a similar series of crimes.”
The memo is likely the last major court filing in what has been a twisted criminal saga involving multiple cases and a buffet of damning charges, ranging from tax evasion to conspiracy against the United States. Manafort was first indicted by Mueller in the fall of 2017; alongside his protege and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, he was charged with several counts of tax and bank fraud. In August, a federal court in Virginia convicted Manafort on eight counts, and earlier this month Mueller recommended Manafort serve up to 24 years in prison for those crimes. “Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law,” that filing reads. “The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and serve to both deter Manafort and others from engaging in such conduct.”
The sentencing memo filed Friday pertains to additional charges of money laundering, witness tampering and conspiracy against the United States that were brought against Manafort in Washington, D.C., by the special counsel’s office in September 2018. Instead of facing trial, Manafort pleaded guilty, and agreed to “fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly” cooperate with the government. Two months later, Mueller announced that Manafort broke this plea agreement by lying to prosecutors about a “variety of matters.” In January, it was revealed through a redaction gaffe by Manafort’s lawyers that Manafort had lied about sharing internal 2016 polling data with Russian political consultant Konstantin Kilimnik, with whom Manafort had worked in Ukraine.
Facing decades in prison, Manafort may now be angling for a pardon from President Trump. It was reported last year that Trump has at least considered the idea of pardoning his former campaign manager. He has also consistently defended Manafort on Twitter, attributing his legal troubles to a vendetta from a corrupt Justice Department. “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,” Trump wrote after Manafort was convicted in August. “‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”
Trump’s pardon power only applies to federal charges though, and the New York Times reported on Friday that the Manhattan district attorney’s office is preparing to bring state charges against Manafort “to ensure he will still face prison time even if the president pardons him for his federal crimes.”
Manafort is expected to be formally sentenced in his Virginia case on March 8th, followed by sentencing for the charges in today’s memo on March 13th.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.