Today, Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, faces federal sentencing for the second time this month. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is pushing for Manafort to receive an additional ten years, which would be added to the 47-month sentence that was issued by Virginia Judge T.S. Ellis less than a week ago. As we wait for the hearing, one of the main questions swirling around everyone’s minds is whether or not Washington, D.C. Judge Amy Berman Jackson will allow Manafort to serve the sentence she gives him concurrently with the 47-month term he has already received.
According to court documents, Mueller hasn’t recommended a specific sentence for Manafort, but he has said that there’s no reason why Jackson shouldn’t throw the book at him. The former political consultant barely passed by Jackson’s desk last year when he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and by pleading guilty to two different felony conspiracy charges that were related to the lobbying work he did out of the country.
In February, Judge Jackson ruled that Manafort “intentionally” broke the plea agreement when he lied to investigators, and thanks to Mueller, Manafort has been painted as a hardened criminal who “repeatedly and brazenly violated the law … for over a decade.” More importantly, Mueller and his team have made allegations against Manafort, saying that he lied about a meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik in August of 2016. Kilimnik is a business associate of Manafort’s and it is believed that he has ties to Russian intelligence. Despite the fact that Mueller’s team believes that they’ve gotten to the “heart” of the Russian probe, Manafort’s lawyers have supported Manafort, claiming that any misstatement that he made was unintentional, and there was no such evidence that proved that he had any illegal interactions with Kilimnik. The meeting in question revolved around a potential plan for peace between Russia and Ukraine, but there were many details about the case that were redacted from the court papers.
According to federal guidelines, Manafort should receive almost 20 years in prison, even though the two charges against Manafort only carry a maximum prison sentence of five years in prison each. In Virginia, Manafort was convicted by a jury on eight charges of bank-and-tax-fraud, but Judge Ellis claimed that the guidelines for sentencing, which were between 19 and 24 years in prison, were too “excessive” for Manafort. Judge Ellis spent last year taunting and tormenting Mueller’s team, while maintaining that the only reason why Manafort was being prosecuted was to get to President Trump. Luckily, Judge Jackson feels differently, especially when it comes to being a bit sympathetic to the government for their case against Manafort.
Judge Jackson hasn’t been taking it easy on Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone, who is also facing criminal charges. In 2013, the judge was responsible for sentencing the former representative of Illinois Jesse Jackson Jr. to 30 months in prison. The sentence was far less than the 46-57 months that the government pushed for, but it was also a lot more than the 18 months the defense attorneys were seeking. At the time, Judge Jackson said “The inescapable fact is that you and Sandra Jackson used campaign funds to sustain a lifestyle that you cannot afford,” in reference to the congressman’s wife. The judge did show a bit of sympathy by allowing the couple to serve their sentence separately as to make sure that there was someone there at all times to take care of their children.
Judge Jackson has the opportunity to allow Manafort to serve both of his sentences at the same time, but will she? According to Manafort’s lawyers, there’s a strong legal basis for her to make this judgment, pointing out that federal guidelines advise judges to make their own decision on whether or not they allow sentences to run concurrently, as long as the two separate cases are relevant to each other. According to sentencing documents, Mueller didn’t share his opinion about whether or not Judge Jackson should allow that to happen. Still, Mueller can take his position on the situation in court on Wednesday.
Manafort’s lawyers still maintain that he was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.”It is fair to say that, but for the appointment of the Special Counsel and his office’s decision to pursue Mr. Manafort for a rarely prosecuted FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Act] violation, Mr. Manafort would not have been indicted in the District of Columbia,” the attorneys wrote to Jackson.
In a filing delivered to Judge Jackson, Manafort’s team included letters from associates and friends of Manafort that argued on his behalf. One of Manafort’s friends wrote that on more than one occasion Manafort cut business trips short or took overnight flights just so he could tend to his family responsibilities, like showing up at his children’s basketball games.
Manafort’s lawyers also argued that the light sentences handed out in other cases prosecuted by Mueller should be a guideline for Judge Jackson. They also provided proof that Mueller hasn’t found anything of significance in his search for Russia collusion by Trump’s team. “The sentences already imposed in other cases that have been investigated and/or prosecuted by the Special Counsel’s Office reflect the fact that courts recognize that these prosecutions bear little to no relation to the Special Counsel’s core mandate of investigating allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election,” wrote Manafort’s attorney. “The Special Counsel’s attempt to portray [Manafort] as a lifelong and irredeemable felon is beyond the pale and grossly overstates the facts before this Court,” wrote Manafort’s attorney, making sure to add that this case has “devastated him personally, professionally, and financially.”
Specifically, the attorneys pointed out the two-week sentence passed down to Trump’s former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous for lying to the FBI. They also pointed out the 36-month sentence that was given to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, who pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, making false statements to Congress, one count of falsifying submissions to a bank, and one count of campaign finance violation. In addition to his sentence, Cohen was also ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution, as well as, a $50,000 fine. He was made to forfeit $500,000.