Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will be sentenced in the District of Columbia on two counts — conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice on Wednesday. Each count carries a maximum of five years.
In Virginia last week, Manafort was sentenced to 47 months for tax and bank fraud, a significantly shorter sentence than prosecutors had sought.
Manafort pleaded guilty to the two conspiracy counts in the District in September in order to avoid a second trial and was required to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But in November, the government accused Manafort of violating the plea agreement in November by lying to the FBI, a federal grand jury and the special counsel. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson agreed and ruled that Manafort had voided the deal.
With reporting by Clare Hymes and Rob Legare. Grace Segers and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.
Follow along with live updates here:
Judge Jackson takes the bench
9:31 a.m.: Judge Amy Berman Jackson has taken the bench. Court is in session.
Manafort team arrives for hearing
9:28 a.m.: Manafort defense attorney Kevin Downing and his team have taken their seats in the DC courthouse.
Before the hearing prosecutors and defense attorneys were mingling. Downing was seen smiling as he spoke to special counsel prosecutor Jeannie Rhee. Manafort is wearing a suit, in a wheelchair and was been wheeled into the courtroom at 9:25 a.m.
Will we hear from Manafort in trial?
Potentially. Manafort, who had never addressed the court on his own behalf, did so in Alexandria last week during his sentencing there.
Manafort’s allocution was brief, and even Judge T.S. Ellis noted that the statement lacked remorse, “I don’t have any doubt that what you said was genuine, but I was surprised that I did not hear you express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct.”
The Judge encouraged Manafort to think about that before speaking before the court in D.C.
— Clare Hymes
What kind of sentence will Judge Amy Berman Jackson hand down against Manafort? One thing to watch is whether Jackson will allow Manafort to serve both the Virginia and the District sentences at the same time or whether he will have to serve them consecutively. Judge T.S. Ellis, who presided over the Virginia case, told Manafort’s attorneys it was up to Jackson.
And then, there’s the sentence itself in the D.C. case. Ellis’ sentence of just under five years was 14 years lower than the minimum sentence of 19 years recommended by the sentencing guidelines. Ellis said that Manafort had led an otherwise “blameless life.”
The two conspiracy counts in the District case carry a maximum of five years each.
Some expressed surprise about Judge Ellis’ assessment that Manafort had lived an otherwise blameless life.
“That was a rather remarkable comment I think, to say the least,” CBS legal analyst Rikki Klieman said following the Virginia ruling. “It’s one thing to look at his age, his health, the fact that he did not have any prior record. It is another thing to see someone engage in a life of crime for at least 10 years and call it unblemished.”
— Clare Hymes and Kathryn Watson
Manafort’s violation of plea agreement
Berman Jackson ruled that Manafort breached his plea agreement in February, meaning that the special counsel was released from its promise to support a reduced sentence for Manafort in exchange for his cooperation.
In August 2018, after being found guilty of financial crimes including bank fraud and lying on his tax returns, Manafort pleaded guilty to two additional felonies and agreed to cooperate with the government.
Then, in November, 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.
But Jackson was unconvinced by the special counsel’s claim that Manafort lied about Kilimnik’s role in the obstruction of justice conspiracy. She also did not find that the government had proven he intentionally lied about his communications with anyone in the Trump administration.
Kilimnik, who has ties to Russian intelligence, was indicted in June. Manafort has admitted he conspired with Kilimnik to obstruct justice.
— Clare Hymes and Rob Legare
Manafort’s Virginia sentencing last week
At his sentencing hearing in Virginia last week, Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in prison, a significantly shorter sentence than prosecutors had sought.
Judge T.S. Ellis said Manafort committed “undeniably serious” crimes and expressed surprise that Manafort did not “express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct.”
“You should have remorse for that,” Ellis said.
Ellis suggested Manafort stole more than $6 million from his fellow tax payers, calling it “theft of money from everyone who pays.”
But Ellis said that Manafort “lived an otherwise blameless life. “Mr. Manafort has engaged in lots of good things,” he said, though he added that that fact “can’t erase his criminal activity.”
Ultimately, Ellis concluded that the guidelines, which called for a sentence of 19.5-24 years, were “excessive.” “It’s far more important, in my view, that this case serve as a beacon to warn others,” Judge Ellis said, just before imposing a sentence of 47 months on Manafort.”