Ex-Trump aide Manafort hit with three-and-a-half more years in prison

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“Saying ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ is not an inspiring plea for leniency,” Jackson told Manafort, who was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair because of a condition called gout.

Jackson could have given Manafort up to 10 years in prison in the Washington case – five for each of the two conspiracy counts.

“I am sorry for what I have done and for all the activities that have gotten us here today,” Manafort told Jackson.

“This case has taken everything from me already – my properties, my cash, my life insurance, trust accounts for my children and grandchildren, and even more,” Manafort added.

“The defendant’s insistence that none of this should be happening to him … is just one more thing that is inconsistent with the notion of any genuine acceptance of responsibility,” the judge told Manafort.

Jackson said at the outset of the sentencing hearing she would not be influenced by last Thursday’s sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis in Alexandria, Virginia, where Manafort was convicted in August 2018 by a jury for bank fraud, tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

That 47-month sentence was two decades below the upper limit of federal sentencing guidelines, prompting criticism among some legal experts that it was too light.

Kevin Downing, Manafort’s lawyer, criticized Jackson’s sentence as an unjustified punishment of his client.

“It was hostile and it was totally unnecessary,” Downing told reporters outside the courthouse. He did not address the Manhattan charges.

Jackson ruled on Feb. 13 that Manafort had breached his agreement in the Washington case to cooperate with Mueller’s office by lying to prosecutors about three matters pertinent to the Russia probe including his interactions with a business partner they have said has ties to Russian intelligence.

Manafort wore a dark suit and tie to the hearing. At last week’s sentencing, Manafort wore a green prison jumpsuit emblazoned with the words “Alexandria Inmate” on the back.

In the Washington case, Manafort was sentenced for conspiracy against the United States, which included a range of conduct from money laundering to unregistered lobbying, and a second conspiracy count related to witness tampering.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Jackson ruled that Manafort should get a tougher sentence because he acted in a leadership role, directing others to participate in a crime. But Jackson said Manafort should get credit for accepting responsibility because he pleaded guilty to the conduct at issue, though he later breached his cooperation deal with prosecutors.

Jackson suggested that the oft-repeated talking point of Manafort’s attorneys that his crimes did not prove that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia was aimed at winning a presidential pardon.

Ticking clock may save Trump from impeachment

Mueller’s team did not make a specific recommendation on Manafort’s sentencing in the Washington case. But prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said during the hearing that Manafort had engaged in an extensive cover-up that deceived the U.S. government and the American public, and continued to try to undermine the investigation even after he pleaded guilty.

“Paul Manafort’s upbringing, his education, his means, his opportunities could have led him to be a leading example for this country. At each juncture, though, Mr. Manafort chose to take a different path,” Weissmann said.

“He engaged in crime again and again. He has not learned a harsh lesson. He has served to undermine, not promote, American ideals,” Weissmann added.

Jackson’s sentence may mark the end of a two-year-old legal battle between Manafort, who worked for Trump’s campaign for five months in 2016, and Mueller, who made exposing Manafort’s covert lobbying for pro-Kremlin politicians in Ukraine a centrepiece of his Russia probe.

Manafort’s lawyers noted that none of the Mueller’s charges against him related to the special counsel’s core mandate: collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

“But for a short stint as a campaign manager in a presidential election, I don’t think we’d be here today,” Downing told Jackson.

Mueller is preparing to submit to U.S. Attorney General William Barr a report on his investigation into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia and whether Trump has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe. Trump has denied collusion and obstruction and Russia has denied U.S. intelligence findings that it interfered in the 2016 election in an effort to boost Trump.

Manafort is one of the 34 people and three companies charged by Mueller. Several others including former campaign aides Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen have pleaded guilty, while longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone has pleaded not guilty.

The two criminal cases pursued by Mueller case caused a remarkable downfall for Manafort, a prominent figure in Republican Party circles for decades who also worked as a consultant to such international figures as former Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and pro-Russia former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

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