Mueller faces deadline to file Paul Manafort sentencing memo

Special counsel Robert Mueller faced a Friday deadline to weigh in on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s punishment in the criminal case against him in the District of Columbia. But as of midnight Friday nothing was publicly filed on the Manafort docket. However, it is likely that the redaction process is delaying the documents from appearing on the federal court web site. 

The sentencing recommendation was to come as the 69-year-old Manafort, who led Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for several months, is already facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison in a separate case. 

The former Trump campaign chairman was originally to be tried in two different cases, one in Virginia and one in the District. He was tried in Virginia, but made a plea deal to avoid the second trial. In the District of Columbia, Manafort was charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., failing to register as a foreign agent, money laundering, witness tampering and making false statements. 

Because the District case was never tried, it’s possible the sentencing memo expected Friday could illuminate how it is that Manafort fits into Mueller’s larger Russian investigation, which is nearing an end. Court papers have said Manafort shared polling data related to the Trump campaign with an associate the FBI says has ties to Russian intelligence. A Mueller prosecutor also said earlier this month that an August 2016 meeting between Manafort and the associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, goes to the “heart” of the Russia probe. The meeting involved a discussion of a Ukrainian peace plan, but prosecutors haven’t said exactly what has attracted their attention and whether it factors into the Kremlin’s attempts to help Mr. Trump in the 2016 election.

As is the case with other Americans close to the president who have been charged in the Mueller probe, Manafort has not been accused of being involved in Russian election interference. His criminal case in Washington stems from illegal lobbying he carried out on behalf of Ukrainian interests. As part of a plea deal in the case, Manafort admitted to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Prosecutors aren’t expected to recommend leniency because a judge found earlier this month that Manafort lied to investigators after he had agreed to cooperate. Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the special counsel was “no longer bound by its obligations” under the plea agreement. The special counsel had originally promised to support a reduced sentence for Manafort in exchange for his cooperation.

Each count carries a maximum of five years in prison, a much lower potential punishment than in Manafort’s separate tax and bank fraud case in Virginia. A jury convicted Manafort of eight felony counts last year, and Mueller’s team endorsed a sentence of between 19.5 and 24.5 years in prison in that case.

Manafort, who has been jailed for months and turns 70 in April, will have a chance to file his own sentencing recommendation next week.

Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced March 8 in Virginia and March 13 in Washington.

Clare Hymes and Andres Triay contributed to this report.

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