WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort told the federal courtroom in Washington, D.C., that he had “already begun to change.” He spoke of the “power of prayer.” Judge Amy Berman Jackson didn’t buy it.
On Wednesday morning, in the conclusion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s two-pronged prosecution of the former Trump campaign chairman and Republican uber-consultant, Judge Jackson sentenced the 69-year-old Manafort to more than six years in prison for two counts of conspiracy to violate foreign lobbying law, commit money laundering and obstruct justice. Manafort will serve some of that time concurrently with his sentence from a related case in northern Virginia. In all, he now faces up to seven-and-a-half years in prison.
The hearing was Manafort’s second sentencing in less than a week. He received a lighter-than-expected sentence of just 47 months in prison last Thursday in a Virginia court appearance in connection with a previous bank and tax fraud conviction. The Federal Probation Office had suggested a sentence of between 19 and 25 years for Manafort, but Judge T.S. Ellis III showed leniency, saying apart from his crimes, Manafort had been a “good friend” to others and had lived an “otherwise blameless life.”
During Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Andrew Weissman, a prosecutor working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, argued that Manafort had “undermined our political process” by not disclosing his work representing Ukraine and violating FARA. “That law got in the way of Mr. Manafort,” Weissman said. “Secrecy was integral to what Mr. Manafort wanted to do for Ukraine.” Weissman went on to say that “something is wrong” with Manafort’s moral compass after he allegedly committed more crimes — witness tampering — while out on bail.
“He engaged in crime again and again,” Weissman concluded. “He has not learned a harsh lesson. He served to undermine, not promote, American ideals of honesty, transparency and playing by the rules.”
Last fall, after his conviction in northern Virginia, Manafort pleaded guilty in D.C. federal court rather than stand trial a second time in the second of Mueller’s two cases brought against him. As part of his plea agreement, Manafort agreed to “fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly” cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.
But the deal soon broke down. A few months later, Mueller’s team alleged that Manafort had breached his plea deal by misleading FBI agents and the Special Counsel’s office “on a variety of subject matters.” Manafort’s lawyers contested these claims, but Judge Jackson agreed with the Special Counsel on three of the five alleged instances of Manafort lying to federal investigators. Those lies concerned a payment from Manafort’s consulting firm to an unnamed law firm; an intentional lie Manafort told law enforcement about a separate DOJ investigation (it remains unclear what that probe is about); and Manafort deliberately lying about “his interactions and communications” with Konstantin Kilimnik, who assisted Manafort during his time working in Ukrainian politics.
Kilimnik and his interactions with Manafort appear to be a key piece of the Special Counsel’s investigation. In a hearing last month, Weissman explained that Manafort’s deception about his communications with Kilimnik “goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.”
At the sentencing hearing, Kevin Downing, one of Manafort’s lawyers, sought to minimize the seriousness of Manafort’s failure to register under FARA. Downing also said the “media frenzy” around the case had created a “harsh process” for Manafort. “Everybody’s going nuts over this,” he said.
Addressing the courtroom, Manafort apologized for his crimes and asked for leniency. “I can see that I have behaved in ways that did not always support my personal code of values,” he said. Pointing out that he turns 70 in a few weeks, he said to Judge Jackson: “Please let me and my wife be together.”
Judge Jackson, in her remarks, showed little sympathy for Manafort. She said it was “hard to overstate” the number of lies he had told. She noted Manafort’s “ongoing contempt for and the belief that he had the right to manipulate” the judicial process. “There is no good explanation that would warrant the leniency requested,” she said. Jackson criticized Manafort’s lawyers for including in their sentencing documents that Mueller’s lawyers had found no evidence of Russian collusion in the case, saying that “The ‘no collusion’ mantra is simply a non-sequitur.”