On Wednesday morning, Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort appeared in U.S. District Court to face Judge Amy Berman Jackson. After a relatively brief sentencing hearing, Manafort received five years for violations of laws against foreign lobbying, and 13 months for witness tampering. On the first charge, 30 months of the sentence will be concurrent with the 47-month sentence from Virginia. The 13 months on the witness tampering is to be served consecutively. In total, the results from the D.C. court add three and a half years to Manafort’s time in federal prison. So Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will spend seven and a half years total in prison.
Jackson made it clear that the case did not speak to Russian collusion, but also did not speak to there not being Russian collusion, and said, “Therefore it was not resolved, one way or the other, by this case.” Jackson also strongly hinted that she did not appreciate statements made by Manafort that amounted to a plea for a pardon by Trump, or statements that he wouldn’t have been prosecuted if he wasn’t connected to Trump. “It’s not particularly persuasive to argue that an investigation hasn’t found anything,” said Judge Jackson, “when you lied to the investigators.”
In addition to the jail time, Manafort will face significant financial penalties. He is expected to surrender the $11 million in properties earlier agreed in his busted deal with the special counsel, and as much as $24 million in restitution to defrauded banks.
During the trial, prosecutors from the special counsel’s office made explicit statements about Manafort’s attempts to “undermine democracy” both in Ukraine and in the United States. They brought up Manafort’s payments from Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, as well as his meetings with go-between Konstantin Kilimnik. Meanwhile, Manafort’s defense attorneys leaned heavily on the idea that Manafort was only charged because of his “short stint as campaign manager in a presidential election,” and that if it hadn’t been for the attention brought on by his connection to Trump, “I don’t think we would be here today.” Judge Jackson slapped down this line of argument in her closing statement, pointing out that the DOJ was investigating Manafort even before he signed on with Trump. She also described the statements about collusion that “ran through the defense” and said that many of Manafort’s statements “may have been intended for some other audience.” In other words, Manafort’s fishing for a pardon did not impress the judge.
Judge Jackson emphasized that, while Manafort received “some credit” for pleading guilty to the charges, she did not believe he had genuinely accepted personal responsibility for his crimes, and his credit was certainly undercut by the way he lied to prosecutors following his plea. Jackson emphasized that Manafort’s ongoing lies and witness tampering were “not reflective of somebody who has learned a harsh lesson. It is not a reflection of remorse,” and that it was “evidence that something is wrong with sort of a moral compass.” Jackson also stated that the witness tampering went to “the heart of the justice system” and was of particular concern.
In his previous sentencing allocation, Manafort never admitted guilt or said he was sorry, but before Judge Jackson he was all contrition. The change from the previous week, in which Manafort wore prison scrubs and appeared to be doing his best to instill anger against the government from a judge who had already demonstrated a dislike for the special counsel law, to this second trial, in which Manafort appeared in a suit and made a lengthy apology, was extreme. In particular, Manafort made an apparently emotional pitch that he is the “primary caregiver” for his 66-year-old wife. Which was a bold statement for someone who used some of his illegally obtained funds to buy a home for his 20-something mistress. Judge Jackson was extremely dismissive of Manafort’s last-minute plea for leniency, saying that being “sorry he got caught” didn’t count.
In her closing, Jackson made several statements about “political points” that Manafort’s attorneys were trying to make. That included the continual use of the term “solitary confinement,” when the actual situation was that Manafort was given a private VIP area and special access to the outside world. And she referred again to the collusion allegations and noted that Manafort brought “skill and structure” to the Trump campaign, which seemed to hint at additional information she might hold. She also hit again the way that Manafort and his attorneys continually brought up collusion in an attempt to appeal to Trump.
Last week, Manafort received an unexpectedly light 47-month sentence from Judge J.T. Ellis in a Virginia district court despite sentencing guidelines that called for 19 to 24 years.
Judge Jackson is involved in several other cases related to the Mueller investigation. It’s not clear to what extent her knowledge of those cases informed her statements or Manafort’s sentence.