Paul Manafort, the disgraced ex-chairman of President Trump’s 2016 campaign, was sentenced to more than six years in prison Wednesday, putting him at real risk of having to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Repeatedly stressing the seriousness of his crimes and reluctance to take full responsibility for them, federal Washington Judge Amy Berman Jackson handed down a 73-month sentence for Manafort, part of which will run concurrently with the relatively light 47-month sentence he was slammed with in Virginia on March 7.
But a majority of Jackson’s decree — 43 months — will be added on top of the Virginia sentence, meaning he’ll be locked away for a total of 7.5 years.
Jackson’s sentence was handed down to punish Manafort for confessing to a slew of crimes, including money laundering and obstruction of justice, stemming from his years of lobbying for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.
Manafort, who turns 70 years old on April 1 and spent decades living large while working for authoritarian leaders around the world, appeared in Jackson’s packed courtroom dressed in a dark suit and confined to a wheelchair because of his failing health.
With desperation in his voice, Manafort begged to not be given any more time and promised he has “already begun to change” his ways.
“Please let my wife and I be together. Please do not take away any longer than the 47 months,” Manafort said, his wife seated behind him. “If not for me, then for my family.”
Jackson was not convinced.
“There is no good explanation that would warrant the leniency requested,” Jackson said before announcing the sentence, stressing it’s “hard to overstate” the seriousness of Manafort’s lies and crimes.
Jackson’s stern stance contrasts the sympathy offered by federal Virginia Judge T.S. Ellis in Manafort’s separate case on various fraud charges.
Ellis’s 47-month sentence fell far below the 19 to 24 years recommended by federal guidelines, stirring national debate about the disparities in how rich and poor people are treated by the U.S. justice system. In remarks that prompted widespread backlash, Ellis said Manafort has lived a “blameless life” besides the plethora of crimes he has been convicted of committing over several years.
Manafort’s illicit activities were unearthed by special counsel Robert Mueller over the course of his sweeping investigation into possible collusion between Russians and Trump campaign associates ahead of the 2016 election.
The Manafort sentence is the harshest to come out of Mueller’s probe and comes as the special counsel is nearing the end of his historic inquiry, which has resulted in guilty pleas and charges against six Trump associates and dozens of Russian individuals and companies.
While his crimes did not relate directly to his work for Trump, Manafort has drawn the ire of Jackson and Mueller for tampering with witnesses in the the special counsel probe after being charged and then lying repeatedly to investigators after pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate.
Jackson noted during Wednesday’s hearing that Manafort displayed “contempt” for the court and a “belief he had the right to manipulate these proceedings,” noting it’s thereby difficult for her to give him any credit for his cooperation.
Manafort’s most explosive lies related to his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, a mysterious Russian national with close ties to the Kremlin’s spy agencies, according to the FBI.
Kilimnik and Manafort were business associates and began working together while lobbying for Kremlin-backed ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
But the two men’s relationship extended to the U.S. and, ostensibly, to President Trump’s 2016 campaign as well.
In heavily redacted court filings, Mueller’s prosecutors revealed Manafort gave Kilimnik internal Trump campaign polling data during a meeting at an upscale Manhattan cigar bar a few months before the 2016 election.
Andrew Weissman, one of Mueller’s prosecutors, said at a recent hearing that the suspicious cigar bar sit-down goes “to the heart” of what the special counsel is investigating. It remains unknown why Manafort shared the data or why he lied about the matter.