WASHINGTON – Once a globetrotting lobbyist and consultant to presidents, Paul Manafort was sentenced Wednesday to federal prison for the second time in seven days, giving him a total sentence of 71/2 years.
And soon after he left court in a wheelchair to return to the cell in Alexandria, Virginia, where he has been held, prosecutors in New York announced a 16-count grand jury indictment charging the former Trump campaign chairman with mortgage fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy.
Trump would not be able to pardon Manafort, 69, on the state charges – which separates them from the federal cases for which Manafort was just sentenced.
In court Wednesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson criticized Manafort and his defense attorneys for repeatedly casting his hard fall from power as collateral damage from the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“This defendant is not public enemy No. 1, 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.”
Outside the courthouse, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing called the sentence “callous, hostile and totally unnecessary.”
He emphasized that the judge, however, had acknowledged that there was “no evidence of any collusion with Russia in this case.”
Downing was repeatedly interrupted by protesters shouting “liar!” and “traitor!”
Jackson herself called the defense's repeated claims about the lack of collusion with the Russian government “a non-sequitur.”
The question of whether anyone in Donald Trump's campaign “conspired or colluded with” the Russian government “was not presented in this case.”
She added that the assertion may not even be “accurate,” because Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is not over and she found that Manafort lied to investigators about issues at the heart of the inquiry.
“It's not appropriate to say investigators haven't found anything when you lied to the investigators,” she said.
At least 20 people from the special counsel's office were in the courtroom for sentencing, a sign of the importance of Manafort's conviction in the investigation.
In contrast to Judge T.S. Ellis, who when sentencing him to 47 months in prison last week in Alexandria said Manafort lived an “otherwise blameless life,” Jackson spent nearly 40 uninterrupted minutes describing the high-flying 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 his age, the millions of dollars he forfeited and the fact that his finances and career were “in tatters” minimized the chances that he would offend again.
Manafort will receive credit for the nine months he has served. He faced as many as 10 more years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States by illegally lobbying in Ukraine and hiding the proceeds overseas, then encouraging witnesses to lie on his behalf.
He apologized to “all those negatively affected by my actions,” acknowledging that he did not express such regret when he was sentenced in Alexandria for bank and tax fraud.
“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 a 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.”