Paul Manafort indicted in New York after federal sentencing

State conviction would forestall presidential pardon for former Trump campaign manager

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, leaves  an arraignment hearing in Alexandria, Virginia last week. Photograph: Al Drago/The New York Times

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, leaves an arraignment hearing in Alexandria, Virginia last week. Photograph: Al Drago/The New York Times

 

Prosecutors in New York state announced fraud charges against Paul Manafort on Wednesday, just minutes after a judge in Washington increased the former Trump campaign manager’s total federal jail time to 7½ years.

The additional charges, brought by the district attorney in Manhattan, Cyrus Vance, could forestall any pardon for Manafort from US president Donald Trump, who can only issue a pardon or commute sentences in federal cases.

Mr Trump has said he has not discussed a potential pardon for Manafort, but has refused to rule it out. On Monday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, said the president would “make a decision when he is ready”.

Mr Vance revealed the indictment which accuses Manafort of mortgage fraud immediately after the 69-year-old Manafort’s final sentencing in a pair of cases brought by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating links between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

On Wednesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Manafort to an additional 43 months in federal prison on top of the 47 months he received from Judge TS Ellis in a parallel case in Virginia last week. With time served taken into account, the longtime Republican lobbyist faces just under seven more years in jail.

Both cases involved financial fraud and were related to Manafort’s lobbying for the Ukraine government, rather than his work for the Trump campaign.

In her sentencing remarks, Judge Jackson made clear that the question of whether there was any co-ordination between the Trump campaign and Russia had not been addressed in the case.

“It has not been resolved one way or another,” she said.

Outside the courthouse, Kevin Downing, an attorney for Manafort, said the judge had “conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any Russian collusion in this case”.

“Two courts have ruled no evidence of any collusion with any Russians,” he added, as a heckler shouted “liar” and “that’s not what she said”.

Guilty plea

The sentence imposed in Washington on Wednesday by Judge Jackson followed Manafort’s guilty plea last year to two conspiracy charges connected to his lobbying for the Ukraine government and his attempt to tamper with witnesses in the case.

Last week, Manafort was sentenced to 47 months over tax and bank fraud also connected to his work in Ukraine. He will serve 30 months of Wednesday’s 73-month sentence concurrently with that, bringing his total prison term to seven and a half years.

Manafort appeared before Judge Jackson in a dark suit, white shirt and purple tie, sitting in a wheelchair. It was a marked contrast to the prison jumpsuit he wore last week, when he also used a wheelchair.

He made a point of apologising more directly than he had in his Virginia court appearance, and made an emotional plea to be with his wife.

“I will be 70 years old in a few weeks,” he said, noting that his wife is 66. “She needs me and I need her.”

“I ask for compassion, if not for me then for my family,” he added.

Even as she acknowledged his love for his family, and their support for him, Judge Jackson excoriated Manafort for his crimes, his lying and his approach to the case.

She said, mockingly, that his Manafort’s pleadings amounted to “look at what they’ve done to me.”

“Saying ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ is not an inspiring plea,” she said. “It is hard to overstate the number of lies, the amount of fraud, and the extraordinary sums of money” in the case, she added.

Manafort faced a maximum 10-year sentence on the two conspiracy charges in Washington. In the Virginia case, the sentencing guidelines called for a jail term of up to 24 years.

The special counsel’s office did not ask for a specific sentence in either case, but had suggested that Judge Jackson consider imposing her sentence to run consecutively to the one given by Judge Ellis in Virginia. Manafort has been in jail since June 2018 after his bail was revoked and he received credit for time served from Mr Ellis also.

Russian intelligence

Neither case directly concerned the core question of Russia’s role in the 2016 election, but in hearings and filings in the Washington case, the special counsel’s office made clear it is investigating Manafort’s contacts with a Russian national the US has alleged has ties to Russian intelligence.

Manafort struck a deal to co-operate with Mr Mueller in 2018 after he was convicted at trial in the Virginia case. The deal involved him pleading guilty to two conspiracy charges instead of going to trial again in Washington, and could have resulted in a reduced sentence.

However, in February, Judge Jackson ruled that Manafort had breached the plea deal by lying to the special counsel’s team in interviews after the plea deal was struck. At a hearing the same month, Andrew Weissmann, a top prosecutor in Mr Mueller’s office, said he may have lied to “augment his chances for a pardon”. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019