Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort “repeatedly and brazenly violated the law” and shows a “hardened adherence to committing crimes,” prosecutors told a Washington federal judge.
They recommended no specific punishment for those crimes, saying that is the practice of the special counsel. Prosecutors noted that federal guidelines call for a sentence of 17 to 22 years, although under Manafort’s guilty plea in his Washington case, the statutory maximum he faces is 10. The special counsel said that they may ask for Judge Amy Berman Jackson to impose a sentence that runs consecutive to whatever punishment Manafort is given for related crimes in Virginia federal court.
Friday’s sealed filing, an unredacted version of which was published Saturday, helps pave the way for his sentencings in Washington and Virginia scheduled for next month, as Robert Mueller begins wrapping up his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
As part of his plea deal in September, Manafort, 69, acknowledged he was guilty of everything he was accused of both in Washington and Virginia: making millions as an unregistered lobbyist for Ukrainian politicians, hiding that money to avoid paying taxes, defrauding banks to pay his debts when his oligarch patrons fell out of power, and lying to cover up his crimes while trying to persuade witnesses to do the same.
But when he appears in front of Jackson on March 13, he will already have been sentenced for related crimes in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, barring any change in the scheduling as now set for those hearings. Jackson could make the sentence she imposes run during or after his Virginia prison term. In Virginia, where Manafort was found guilty of bank and tax fraud at trial, there is no upper limit to his sentence.
In Alexandria, prosecutors have also asked only for a “serious” sentence. Federal guidelines in that case call for him to spend roughly 19 to 24 years in prison.
Mueller’s prosecutors have been handing off other pending legal matters to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington, and the Department of Justice is readying for Mueller to formally conclude his work.
In New York, the Manhattan district attorney is preparing to charge Manafort with violating state tax laws and committing other financial crimes, a move designed to ensure Trump’s former campaign chairman spends time in prison if the president pardons him for the convictions stemming from Mueller’s probe, Bloomberg News and The New York Times reported Friday. Trump has not indicated whether he intends to pardon Manafort, though he repeatedly expressed support for him as his trial played out last year. New York’s double jeopardy law, which protects defendants from being prosecuted twice for the same crimes, could pose a challenge for the district attorney’s office, however.
Attorneys for Manafort are not due to file their sentencing recommendation in Washington until Monday, having told Jackson that this week’s snowstorm made it harder to meet with their client in the Alexandria jail where he has been held, and asking for a delay.
Under his plea agreement in Washington, federal prosecutors had agreed to ask Jackson to give Manafort credit at sentencing for cooperation. But because she found he lied to investigators and breached that agreement, they are no longer bound by it.
Jackson found Manafort lied about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime aide who the FBI assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence. Those contacts, prosecutors said in court, go “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.”
Manafort gave inconsistent accounts of an August 2016 meeting in New York City at which he and Kilimnik discussed a peace plan for Ukraine, a top foreign policy priority for Russia. At the time, Manafort was still leading Trump’s campaign. He also lied about sharing polling data with Kilimnik in 2016, prosecutors said in describing how he broke his deal to cooperate truthfully.
The judge also concluded that Manafort lied about a payment that he claimed was a loan and as part of another Justice Department investigation whose focus has not been described publicly.
Defense attorneys have maintained that Manafort did not intentionally give false information and that any inconsistencies were honest mistakes.
In 2017, Kilimnik denied to The Washington Post having connections to Russian intelligence. He was indicted with Manafort on charges of conspiring to obstruct justice through witness tampering.
Kilimnik is believed to be in Moscow and therefore probably safe from arrest because Russia does not extradite its citizens.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Rachel Weiner