Fri, 24 May 2019

WASHINGTON -- Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for U.S. President Donald Trump, has been sentenced to an additional 43 months in prison, a ruling that will put the once-influential Washington lobbyist behind bars for 7 1/2 years on charges stemming from his work for Ukrainian politicians.

Less than 30 minutes after the sentence was announced in Washington, D.C. federal court on March 13, one of the top prosecutors in New York City announced more than a dozen new charges against Manafort, on mortgage fraud and other related crimes.

The new sentence, handed down by U.S. Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C. federal court, was the culmination of two separate but overlapping prosecutions against Manafort, stemming from his work on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmakers.

The cases were among the first brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed in May 2017 to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and interactions between Trump associates and Russian officials.

Both Jackson and the judge in the earlier case repeatedly said that Manaforts prosecution was not about any alleged conspiracy to collude with Russian officials.

Rather, Jackson said, it was about Manaforts decade of lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian politicians, and the efforts he made to hide his income and, according to prosecutors, launder money.

It is hard to overstate the number of lies, the amount of fraud involved, Jackson said. There is no question the defendant knew better and knew what he was doing.

'Saying 'I'm sorry I got caught' is not an inspiring plea for leniency,' she said.

In comments to court before his sentencing, Manafort, who was seated in a wheelchair and dressed in a suit and tie, expressed remorse, and asked the judge for leniency.

'I am sorry for what the Ive done and for all the activities that brought us here today,' said Manafort, who is 69. 'This case has already taken everything from me.'

The Washington case stemmed from two conspiracy counts, each punishable by as long as five years in prison.

One directly related to the work Manafort did for a decade for Ukraines pro-Russia Party of Regions.

Funded in part by wealthy and powerful Ukrainian oligarchs, Manaforts political strategies helped resurrect party chief Viktor Yanukovych's political career and propelled him to the presidency in 2010.

In 2014, however, Yanukovych was driven from office after months of massive street protests, and he fled to Russia. After that, Manaforts income dried up, and, prosecutors found, he resorted to lying on mortgage and bank loan applications, and hiding income for tax purposes.

Prosecutors charged him with conspiracy to defraud the United States by, among other things, failing to register as an agent working for a federal government.

'Undermining American Ideals'

The second charge stems from his conspiring with a shadowy Russian operative to influence witness testimony, including that of several prominent European politicians who were being questioned by U.S. prosecutors after Manafort had been charged.

The operative, named Konstantin Kilimnik, has been accused by prosecutors of being a conduit to Russian intelligence agencies. Kiliminik is believed to be in Moscow, and is unlikely to ever face court proceedings in the United States.

Manafort 'served to undermine, not promote, American ideals of honesty, transparency, and playing by the rules,' lead prosecutor Andrew Weissman told the court.

In the earlier sentence, which was issued on March 7 in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, the case more narrowly focused on the tax and bank fraud allegations.

The 47-month sentence he was issued in that case sparked outrage among some Democrats and other legal experts, who accused the judge of being overly lenient with Manafort.

With the exception of the witness tampering, the charges in the two parallel prosecutions predated Manafort's time as Trumps campaign manager, in 2016.

During both trials, Manaforts defense team had sought to raise the question of whether Special Counsel Mueller had been appointed legally, but both judges quashed that effort.

Still, in his closing remarks on March 13, lead defense lawyer Kevin Downing again suggested that Manaforts prosecution was directly tied to his work for the Trump campaign.

'But for a short stint as campaign manager in a national election, I dont think we would be here today,' he said.

After the hearing, Downing told reporters outside the courthouse that Jackson had been 'hostile' toward Manafort.

'I think the judge showed that she is incredibly hostile toward Mr. Manafort and exhibited a level of callousness that I've not seen in a white-collar case in over 15 years of prosecutions,' Downing said.

During the trials, Trump had expressed sympathy for Manafort, and some legal experts have suggested that Manafort might be hoping for a pardon from Trump -- something the U.S. Constitution grants him the authority to do.

The presidents constitutional pardon power, however, only extends to federal crimes, not state offenses.

On March 13, shortly after Manaforts sentencing hearing concluded, Cyrus Vance, the district attorney for Manhattan, announced more than a dozen new criminal charges against Manafort. The charges relate to mortgage fraud and similar fraud in the U.S. state of New York.

The sentences against Manafort come amid growing anticipation of Muellers final report on his nearly two-year investigation.

By law, Mueller is required to submit his report to the attorney general, but its unclear when that might happen and what exactly would be made available, to the public or to Congress.

In all, Mueller has charged 34 people, including Manafort, along with three companies. Others who have pleaded guilty include former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is set to be sentenced in the coming months.

Mike Eckel

Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL based in Washington.

EckelM@rferl.org FOLLOW Subscribe via RSS

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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