Paul Manafort, the once high-flying, ostrich skin coat-wearing uber lobbyist for despots the world over, is a broken man. Already facing up to 24 years in prison, Donald Trump's former campaign manager now could be sentenced to an additional 10 years, increasing the likelihood he could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
In an arguably anti-climactic sentencing memo filed under seal, a 25-page portion of which was made public on Saturday, prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not recommend a specific punishment, but asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to make sure the 69-year-old never walks free again.
"For over a decade, Manafort repeatedly and brazenly violated the law" and continued to commit crimes even after he was indicted, the prosecutors said in referring to the nearly 800 pages of trial exhibits and appendices appended to the sentencing memo. "Manafort chose repeatedly and knowingly to violate the law," from "garden-variety crimes such as tax fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and bank fraud" to "more esoteric laws" involving foreign lobbying.
Manafort lied, they noted, "to tax preparers, bookkeepers, banks, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice National Security Division, the FBI, the Special Counsel's Office, the grand jury, his own legal counsel, Members of Congress, and members of the executive branch of the United States government."
They said the fact that Manafort lied to prosecutors after agreeing to cooperate "reflects a hardened adherence to committing crimes and lack of remorse."
In the words of one pundit, Manafort seemed to be Mueller's "golden goose" because he was considered the key to unlocking the collusion puzzle for the special counsel as Trump's primary conduit to Russia. That took a giant leap when Manafort, on the eve of his second trial in September, appeared to agree to cooperate with Mueller's Russia scandal investigation, pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and forfeiting $26 million in personal assets.
But Manafort reneged on that agreement in grand style by repeatedly lying to prosecutors -- probably in hopes of a presidential pardon -- while one of his lawyers provided backchannel reports to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani about the scope of the questions prosecutors were asking him to aid in the president's defense against what, despite 37 indictments and 199 criminal charges involving Manafort and a rogues gallery of other perps, Trump still ridiculously calls a "witch hunt."
Manafort's defense attorneys, in struggling to represent a mendacious liar groveling for a pardon from Trump that may not come, have unconvincingly maintained that he did not intentionally lie and that any inconsistencies in were honest mistakes.
Meanwhile, in a related development that further deepens Manafort's legal woes, the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance is preparing state criminal charges against Manafort in an effort to ensure he still will face prison time even if the president pardons him for his federal crimes.
And in another development that further deepens Trump's legal woes, the Justice Department is indicating that Mueller's investigation is not over despite breathless media accounts that he would send his final report to Attorney General William Barr this week. In January, Mueller extended the Washington grand jury that has been hearing testimony for another six months, while aspects of his investigation will continue well past its conclusion.
Manafort's sentencing from his August trial to a potential 24 years in prison on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to disclose a foreign bank account is scheduled for March 8 before U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis.
Jackson is to sentence Manafort on the conspiracy charges on March 13.
That sentence was fixed at 10 years maximum (five years on each conspiracy charge) as a result of the guilty pleas Manafort entered in conjunction with his plea agreement, and Jackson apparently is locked into that although Manafort blew up his agreement.
Jackson has indicated that she may impose her sentence to run consecutively after the first sentence. This effectively means that Manafort -- who turns 70 on April 1 -- is looking at upwards of 34 years in prison if both judges max out the sentences and much more if she uses the 17- to 22-year guideline.
The redacted sentencing memo did not address Manafort's interactions with Russians because of what prosecutors previously stated are either "ongoing law enforcement investigations" or "uncharged individuals," a further indication that Mueller is not quite finished, moving one pundit to call the memo "an exquisitely built nothing burger."
These interactions included at least 14 trips to Moscow by the time Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016, while later that summer, Christopher Steele wrote in a memo that became part of his infamous dossier that a "conspiracy of cooperation" between the campaign and Russia is "well-developed," and is "managed on the Trump side by . . . Manafort."
Prosecutors had previously told Jackson that Manafort's interactions with one Russian in particular -- Konstantin Kilimnik, a suspected GRU-trained spy -- go "very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating." Manafort is believed to have shared inside campaign polling data with Kilimnik at an upscale Manhattan cigar bar on August 2, 2016 possibly vital to the use of targeted social media by Kremlin trolls in the ongoing and far-reaching cyberespionage of Hillary Clinton's campaign. The men also discussed a so-called Ukrainian "peace plan," which was code for relief of crippling Obama administration-imposed Russia sanctions should Trump be elected.
That prosecutors chose to not detail Manafort's interactions with Kilimnik and other Russians in the sentencing memo may be significant because it suggests there may be indictments to come involving individuals whom Manafort tried to protect by lying. Note also that sentencing has been deferred for Rick Gates, Manafort's longtime business partner and co-conspirator, who is cooperating with Mueller.
Trump was one of the first clients retained by Manafort, Roger Stone and Charlie Black when they founded a lobbying business in 1980. Spy magazine later was to name the firm the "sleaziest of all in the Beltway."
In June 2018, Jackson revoked Manafort's bail and jailed him on witness tampering allegations after he and Kilimnik were found to have be communicating with potential witnesses in Eastern Europe since Manafort's October 2017 arrest. He has been incarcerated since then.
The New York state charges would be based on millions of dollars of loans Manafort fraudulently received from two banks. Those loans were also the subject of some of the counts in the federal indictment that led to his conviction after his August 2018 trial, but state prosecutors deferred their inquiry in order not to interfere with Mueller’s investigation.
It should be noted that Trump never gave pause to the sleazy reputations of Manafort and Stone, who is Trump's longest-serving political adviser, as well as others in his inner circle.
In fact, the sleaze probably is what attracted them to him, as well as Michael Cohen, his longtime lawyer and fixer, who is cooperating with prosecutors and is expected to testify before Congress on Wednesday about Trump's hush money payments during the campaign with two women with whom he had affairs before beginning his own prison sentence in May as a result of pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, tax fraud and a campaign finance violation in the hush-money scheme.
Stone was hit with a seven-count indictment by Mueller last month alleging that he sought stolen emails from WikiLeaks to damage Clinton in coordination with senior Trump campaign officials and was in direct communication with Guccifer 2.0, a persona operated by Russia's GRU, 12 intelligence officers of which were indicted by Mueller in July on charges they hacked the computer networks of the Clinton campaign, Democratic National Committee and other Democratic organizations.
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