During the sentencing hearing in which U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort to an additional 43 months in federal prison, she made a point of mentioning how Manafort’s attorneys were continually “playing to another audience.” In other words, she was pointing out how they were fishing for a pardon from Donald Trump by continually bringing up Russian collusion, which was not a part of the case at hand. She admonished both Manafort and his attorneys against how they had been trying to distort what was said in her court and in other courts in trying to dangle pardon-bait in front of Trump.
Then Manafort’s attorneys marched straight out of the courtroom and did it again—and in the process, they lied about what the judge said in the courtroom.
Judge Jackson went out of her way to say that the decision being made in her courtroom said nothing about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and that she was not saying there was no collusion. “Period.” Rather, the fact that the charges being considered weren’t directly about that case meant that whether or not there was collusion “was not resolved, one way or the other, by this case.” She also noted that the attempts by Manafort’s attorneys to play the “no collusion” card were a lot less persuasive because of one big reason: “It’s not particularly persuasive to argue that an investigation hasn’t found anything,” said Jackson, “when you lied to the investigators.”
And Judge Jackson spoke directly to the question of collusion in a way that no other judge has done to date. “The ‘no collusion’ mantra is also not accurate,” she said, “because the investigation is still ongoing.”
Jackson emphasized that not only was Manafort in court for trying to game the system, his entire career had been about gaming the system. She made it clear that he had damaged democracy both in Ukraine and the United States and showed no contrition for those acts. In a series of scathing statements, she came after Manafort for his insincerity, his continual lies, and for doing it all out of personal greed. It was a level of greed, she said that cheated the American people of $6 million and “sustained a lifestyle at the most opulent and extravagant level possible.”
But, despite everything that Judge Jackson said, Manafort’s attorneys popped out of the courthouse, looked into the cameras, and spoke straight to Trump by claiming that Judge Jackson “said there was no evidence of Russian collusion.”
Immediately, the crowd around Manafort’s legal team began to shout “Liar!” But, speaking to an audience of one, attorney Kevin Downing attempted to plow ahead. “… that … that makes two courts have ….” But by that point the sustained shouts of “Liar!” and “That’s not what the judge said,” drowned out his attempt to solicit a pardon from Trump and ruined the only moment of the affair likely to make it onto Fox News. Manafort’s attorneys were forced to admit defeat and hurry away.
Judge Jackson did not say there was “no collusion.” In fact, Jackson, who is involved in several other matters brought by the special counsel and has information on the topic not available to the public, went out of her way to make it clear that the investigation is ongoing and any statement about the investigation from someone who lied during the investigation can’t be trusted.
She also inserted an aside about how Manafort had “brought real skill and structure” to Donald Trump’s campaign. That statement didn’t have anything to do with the sentence at hand today. But then, neither did Russian collusion.
Maybe the two go together.