Once a globe-trotting lobbyist and consultant to presidents, Paul Manafort left a Washington courtroom Wednesday a felon twice over, facing down a 7 1 / 2 -year prison sentence.
President Trump would not be able to pardon Manafort, 69, on the separate state case. Under the Constitution, presidents have wide authority to pardon, but that power applies only to federal convictions.
In federal court Wednesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson criticized Manafort and his attorneys for repeatedly casting his hard fall from power as collateral damage from the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“This defendant is not public enemy number one, but he’s also not a victim either,” Jackson said. “There’s no question this defendant knew better, and he knew exactly what he was doing.”
For Manafort’s crimes of illegally lobbying in Ukraine and hiding the proceeds overseas, then encouraging witnesses to lie on his behalf, Jackson’s terms added 43 months to the 47 months he received in Alexandria federal court last week for bank and tax fraud. Her total sentence was 73 months in the D.C. case, but Jackson said 30 of those would overlap with the tally in Virginia.
Outside the courthouse, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing called Jackson’s sentence “callous, hostile and totally unnecessary.”
He emphasized that the judge had acknowledged that there was “no evidence of any collusion with Russia in this case.” As he addressed dozens of reporters, Downing was repeatedly interrupted by protesters shouting, “liar!” and “traitor!”
From the bench, Jackson called the defense’s repeated claims about the lack of collusion with the Russian government “a non sequitur.” Jackson said such assertions were not persuasive to her but perhaps were intended for another “audience.”
The question of whether anyone in Trump’s campaign “conspired or colluded with” the Russian government “was not presented in this case,” she said.
She added that the assertion may not even be accurate because special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe is not over and she found that Manafort had lied to investigators about issues at the heart of that inquiry.
“It’s not appropriate to say investigators haven’t found anything when you lied to the investigators,” she said.
Manafort had faced as much as 10 more years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
At least 20 people from the special counsel’s team were in the courtroom Wednesday, a sign of the importance of Manafort’s conviction to the investigation.
Trump, in remarks to questions from reporters Wednesday after a White House briefing on border security, said “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” and that “certainly on a human basis, it’s a very sad thing.”
Asked if he would pardon Manafort, Trump said, “I have not even given it a thought, as of this moment. It’s not something that’s right now on my mind.” He also said he was not aware of the state charges.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement announcing the indictment that “no one is beyond the law in New York.” The state case emerged out of an investigation that began in March 2017, he said, and addresses “the integrity of our residential mortgage market.”
Jackson’s characterizations of Manafort stood in contrast to those of the sentencing judge in Virginia, T.S. Ellis III, who said Manafort had lived an “otherwise blameless life.”
Jackson spent nearly 40 uninterrupted minutes describing the highflying influence-peddler as a persistent liar who undermined democracy out of personal greed.
His crimes were “not just a failure to comply with some pesky regulations,” she said, but “lying to the American people and the American Congress . . . It is hard to overstate the number of lies and amount of money involved.”
Manafort’s motivation, she added, was “not to support a family, but to sustain a lifestyle that was ostentatiously opulent and extravagantly lavish — more houses than a family can enjoy, more suits than one man can wear.”
But she agreed with Ellis that sentencing guidelines in the case were excessive, and said that Manafort’s age, the millions he forfeited, and the fact that his finances and career are “in tatters” minimized the chances that he would offend again.
Manafort will receive credit for the nine months he already has served in Alexandria since June, when Jackson ordered him detained after he was accused of trying to tamper with witnesses.
He apologized to “all those negatively affected by my actions,” acknowledging that he had not expressed such regret when he was sentenced in Virginia.
“Let me be very clear: I accept responsibility for the actions that led me to be here today, and I want to apologize for all I contributed to the impacts on people and institutions. While I cannot change the past, I can work to change the future,” Manafort said from his wheelchair, turning to face Jackson. “I want to say to you now, I am sorry for what I have done and for all of the activities that have gotten us here today.”
He added that nine months in what he called “solitary confinement” gave him “new self-awareness.” Manafort had been held in protective custody, away from other inmates.
Prosecutors questioned whether Manafort was capable of change, depicting him as a mastermind of a conspiracy in which he was paid $50 million over more than a decade by a Russian-backed politician and party in Ukraine, and by Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin.
“His work was corrosive to faith in the political process, both in the United States and abroad,” prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said. “He served to undermine, not promote, American ideals of honesty, transparency and playing by the rules.”
Manafort’s attempt to cover up his crimes by asking witnesses to lie for him, Weissmann said, “is not reflective of somebody who has learned a harsh lesson. It is not a reflection of remorse. It is evidence that something is wrong with sort of a moral compass.”
Weissmann said Manafort led a sophisticated scheme “to avoid a duty all Americans have” — to pay their taxes. He hid wealth in 30 foreign bank accounts containing more than $50 million for his work for the government of Ukraine and Deripaska, the prosecutor said.
Downing said his client is genuinely remorseful and has endured a “media frenzy.” Downing said all sides have sought to spin Manafort’s predicament to their political advantage, adding that “but for a short stint as campaign manager in a presidential election, I don’t think we would be here today. I think the court should consider that, too.”
Jackson dismissed that argument, telling Manafort, “Saying ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ is not an inspiring call for leniency.”
The investigation of Manafort predated Mueller’s appointment in 2017, and it wasn’t the special counsel’s office that made Manafort lie to investigators, she said.
Manafort asked for mercy on more personal grounds, asking Jackson to weigh the effect on his wife, too. “She needs me, and I need her . . . Please let my wife and I be together,” he said.
The sentencing Wednesday is part of a legal saga that began in October 2017, when Manafort and his longtime employee and campaign deputy Rick Gates became the first defendants publicly charged in the Mueller investigation. Gates later pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI. He agreed to cooperate with the inquiry and has yet to be sentenced.
Manafort faced two federal trials because he exercised his option to keep the tax and bank fraud charges in the state where he lived. After a jury convicted him on eight out of 18 financial crimes in Virginia, Manafort pleaded guilty in D.C. and pledged to cooperate. But Jackson ruled earlier this year that Manafort breached his plea deal by lying to the FBI, prosecutors and a grand jury during more than 50 hours of interviews.
She found that Manafort’s lies included matters “material” to the Mueller investigation, including interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, his longtime Russian aide in Ukraine, whom the FBI assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence.
Kilimnik has denied having such connections and is thought to be in Russia. He was indicted with Manafort on charges of conspiring to tamper with witnesses in Manafort’s D.C. case but is unlikely to be brought to court because Russia does not extradite its citizens.
“So was he spinning the facts beforehand to get a good deal, or was he spinning the facts afterward to protect other people?” Jackson asked. “We don’t know.”
Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.