Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is set to be sentenced Thursday in the Eastern District of Virginia on charges including tax fraud and bank fraud. Manafort was convicted on eight counts last year.
Manafort has requested a “significantly” lower sentence than the 19.5 to 24 years in prison sought by federal prosecutors. Sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of between 17.5 to nearly 22 years.
Manafort was originally to be tried in two different cases, one in Virginia and one in the District of Columbia. He was tried in Virginia, but struck a plea deal to avoid a second trial on conspiracy charges. A federal judge determined in February he had breached his plea agreement by lying to the government, and he is scheduled to be sentenced in the D.C. case next week. Manafort has been behind bars for nine months.
The sentencing hearing was scheduled to begin at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, at 3:30 p.m. ET.
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Manafort’s argument for a reduced sentence
Manafort’s lawyers argued in a sentencing memo filed Friday that the charges are outside the special counsel’s mandate to investigate Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election. They pointed out Manafort was not charged with any crimes related to Russian collusion, and claimed his prosecution was instead meant to pressure him “to provide incriminating information about others.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office submitted a response to Manafort’s sentencing memo this week, arguing Manafort has a history of criminal conduct which should not be overlooked. Mueller’s office also said he should receive no credit for pleading guilty in to avoid a second trial in Washington, D.C.
“He neither pled promptly nor provided complete and honest cooperation. He also has not paid back any of the taxes owed,” the memo said. Manafort, according to the filing, still owes over $6 million.
The memo pushed back against the assertion that Manafort’s cooperation should reduce his sentence, contending that “consideration of his lies to the government and grand jury are aggravating factors and an additional basis for the denial of any reduction for acceptance of responsibility.”
Prosecutors also noted Manafort lied to the government and the grand jury as recently as last year. “Such actions are inconsistent with learning any positive lesson from his criminal conduct and proof that the defendant poses a serious risk of recidivism.”
Reporting by Kathryn Watson.
How Manafort violated his plea deal
A federal judge ruled last month Manafort had breached his plea agreement with Mueller’s office by lying to the FBI, a federal grand jury and the special counsel. “[T]he Office of Special Counsel is no longer bound by its obligations under the plea agreement,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in a ruling after a hearing in Washington.
The ruling means the special counsel was released from its promise to support a reduced sentence for Manafort in exchange for his cooperation. Manafort faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for these two felony conspiracy counts.
Manafort’s attorneys had vehemently opposed the government’s contention that Manafort had lied, filing a memorandum with the court arguing there was “no basis” to determine he had intentionally misled investigators.
In November 2018, Mueller’s office told the court Manafort had lied to investigators while he was supposed to be cooperating about five aspects of the government’s investigation, most notably about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political operative with ties to the Kremlin. Jackson ruled Manafort lied to the government about three of those instances.
Reporting by Clare Hymes and Rob Legare.
The charges against Manafort
In August, Manafort was found guilty on five counts of tax fraud, one count of failing to disclose his foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud.
The jury was unable to reach consensus on 10 of the 18 counts in the bank fraud trial. Judge T.S. Ellis III declared a mistrial on the 10 unresolved counts but accepted the jury’s verdict on the remaining eight counts.
Of the 18 counts, five counts were related to false income tax returns, four counts of failing to file foreign bank account reports, four counts of bank fraud and five counts of bank fraud conspiracy. The government alleged Manafort hid tens of millions of dollars in income and falsified records to enrich himself and live a life of luxury.
The Manafort trial was the first to stem from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and any ties to Trump associates, although the trial did not involve charges related to work on the campaign — something Mr. Trump and his allies have been careful to note.
The president has distanced himself from Manafort, claiming he “came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time,” but hasn’t criticized the former Trump campaign manager publicly and has suggested the situation is unfair.
Emily Tillett and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.