This post has been updated.
The prevailing reaction to Paul Manafort’s 47-month prison sentence last week was: Is that all!? How could a guy whose crimes merited between 19 and 24 years, according to sentencing guidelines, escape with less than four?
But the real pain could come Wednesday at his second sentencing. And that’s where his lies to prosecutors could really wind up costing him.
To recap: Manafort reached an agreement to cooperate with Mueller ahead of a second federal trial separate from the one he was just sentenced for. But the deal fell apart after the former Trump campaign chairman lied to investigators about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate allegedly tied to Russian intelligence (among other topics). Manafort will be sentenced in that second trial next week, where he could face as many as 10 more years in prison.
Manafort’s attorneys have argued that his sentences should be served concurrently, i.e., at the same time. In that case, the first sentence would likely be all that mattered, practically speaking, given it carried many more potential years in prison.
But while that might have made sense if Manafort had been given a lengthy sentence by the first judge, T.S. Ellis, it might now look less appealing to the second judge, Amy Berman Jackson.
Jackson, after all, is the judge who ruled that Manafort had indeed lied to investigators. In doing so, she officially voided his cooperation agreement. And while Ellis is known to be skeptical of sentencing guidelines for the kinds of white-collar crimes Manafort was convicted of — and suggested he wasn’t all that impressed with Mueller’s investigation — Jackson is known to be tougher. She’s the judge who jailed Manafort for witness-tampering. In ruling Manafort had lied, she said that his “concessions comes in dribs and drabs, only after it’s clear that the Office of Special Counsel already knew the answer” and that he was “withholding facts if he can get away with it.” And she’s also the judge who recently read Roger Stone the riot act for his social media posting featuring her face next to what she deemed to be crosshairs.
Judges have broad latitude when it comes to sentencing. While Jackson is supposed to sentence Manafort according to the severity of his crimes, her decision on whether the sentences should run concurrently is completely up to her. And it seems possible she might now look at his first sentence and decline to do that — or even, if she does run them concurrently, sentence him to more years than Ellis did.
And if that were the case, it would mean that Manafort’s lies to Mueller would have come back to bite him in a big way. It would mean that Manafort could have been out in just a few years if he had played ball with Mueller, but that his decision not to would extend his sentence significantly.
We don’t yet know Manafort’s motivations for continuing to lie to investigators. There is some thought that perhaps he never really intended to cooperate because he was headed to prison for a very long time anyway. Except we’re now learning that wasn’t a given. And Manafort, it turns out, may have done himself a real disservice.
Other Trump associates have admitted to lying to prosecutors as they reached plea deals; today we see what happens when one of them takes on the full consequences.