A federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia sentenced former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to 47 months in prison for tax and bank fraud on Thursday.
“I know it is my conduct that brought me here,” Manafort said at the lengthy hearing.
Manafort spoke from a wheelchair, wearing a green prison jumpsuit and carrying a cane. The image was a dramatic contrast to the jet-setting political consultant and lobbyist, whose trial highlighted his ostrich- and python-skin coats, bespoke suits, and homes in Virginia and New York.
“The last two years have been the most difficult years for my family and I,” Manafort told U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis as his wife looked on.
Ellis said Manafort had “lived an otherwise blameless life” as he handed down the 47-month sentence — far below the 235- to 293-month range the U.S. Probation Office had proposed, which Ellis called “excessive.”
Thursday was the first of two reckonings for Manafort, 69, who will also be sentenced in a related case in the District of Columbia next week. The D.C. judge will decide whether the two sentences run back-to-back or concurrently.
In handing down the sentence, Ellis was careful to distinguish Manafort’s financial crimes case from the core of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
“He is not before the court for anything having to do with colluding with the Russian government,” Ellis said before reading his sentence.
Manafort’s lavish lifestyle was funded in large part by his work for the pro-Kremlin Party of Regions in Ukraine and his business dealings with Russian oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska. Ultimately, however, his attempts to hide that money from U.S. tax authorities and to fraudulently obtain a loan landed him on the wrong side of the law.
The jury found Manafort guilty last August on five counts of subscribing to a false U.S. individual income tax return, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failing to report a foreign bank account. The jury hung 11 to 1 on 10 other related charges, and the judge vacated them while leaving open the possibility that prosecutors could bring those charges again.
Since his conviction, Manafort has been in protective solitary confinement in Alexandria, where his lawyers say he has been suffering from gout, anxiety, and depression.
Less than a month after his conviction in the Virginia case, Manafort pleaded guilty in D.C. to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of witness tampering.
As part of his plea deal in the D.C. case, Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller. Prosecutors later said Manafort breached that plea deal by lying to them five separate times during interviews. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson agreed, and Manafort will be sentenced in that case next week without the protection of his plea deal.
Manafort was originally scheduled to be sentenced in Virginia last month, but Ellis rescheduled the sentencing until Jackson could rule on the D.C. plea agreement.
The investigation into Russian election meddling cast a long shadow over Manafort’s case. None of the charges against Manafort went to the core of the investigation, but the cases have revealed new information about his possible involvement. The most remarkable came in a court filing in D.C. in January which accidentally revealed that Manafort shared Trump campaign polling data with long-time business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who is believed to have close ties to Russian intelligence.
Ellis noted Manafort’s 50 hours of interview with the special counsel’s office during the sentencing hearing Thursday, but prosecutors said Manafort did not provide significant help to the investigation.
“It wasn’t information we didn’t know,” prosecutor Greg Andres told Ellis.
In their sentencing memo, Manafort’s lawyers argued for leniency because, they said, Mueller only brought the charges against him in order to pressure him to cooperate with the Russia investigation.
“The Special Counsel’s [sic] strategy in bringing charges against Mr. Manafort had nothing to do with the Special Counsel’s core mandate—Russian collusion—but was instead designed to ‘tighten the screws’ in an effort to compel Mr. Manafort to cooperate and provide incriminating information about others,” they said.
Prosecutors with the special counsel’s office pushed back on that forcefully in their response, accusing Manafort of failing to take responsibility for his crimes even after a conviction in one case and a guilty plea in the other.
“Manafort’s effort to shift the blame to others — as he did at trial — is not consistent with acceptance of responsibility or a mitigating factor,” prosecutors said. “Manafort has failed to accept that he is responsible for the criminal choices that bring him to this Court [sic] for sentencing.”
A presidential pardon may now be Manafort’s only hope of ever living outside a prison. After Manafort’s conviction last year, President Donald Trump hinted at the possibility, saying he “never discussed” it but wouldn’t “take it off the table.”
“If you told the truth, you go to jail,” Trump told The New York Post of how he believed Manafort was treated.
Rudolph Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers and most vocal public defenders, was reportedly at the White House on Thursday as Ellis handed down Manafort’s sentence.
Members of Congress, including some in the president’s own party, have spoken out against the idea of pardoning Manafort. A pardon could also open Trump up to new legal exposure, since Manafort would no longer be able to claim Fifth Amendment protections when questioned by Mueller or his grand jury.
A pardon could also strengthen calls among some Democrats in the House to begin drafting articles of impeachment against Trump — calls which grew louder after Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, accused him of a host of crimes in open testimony before the House Oversight Committee last week.
Prosecutors in New York have prepared charges against Manafort in preparation for a possible Trump pardon. The president cannot issue pardons for state crimes.