Even more jail time for Trump ex-campaign chief as he faces New York charges
WASHINGTON, USA – New York prosecutors filed mortgage fraud and other charges on Wednesday, March 14, against Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chief, just minutes after he was sentenced to an additional 43 months in prison in another case.
Manafort, 69, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, is now facing a total of 7.5 years in jail after going before two federal judges for tax crimes, bank fraud and conspiracy charges.
Trump has previously dangled the possibility of a pardon for Manafort, who headed his White House bid for two months in 2016, but the president said on Wednesday that he has "not even given it a thought."
"I do feel badly for him," Trump added. "I think it's a very sad situation."
Trump could pardon Manafort for the array of federal crimes he has been convicted of, but he would be unable to do anything about a potential conviction in New York state, where the latest charges were brought.
"No one is beyond the law in New York," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in announcing the 16-count indictment of Manafort.
Manafort's prosecution is one of the most high-profile cases stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether any members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
Trump seized upon Manafort's sentencing by Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington to claim it had been "proven again today" that "there was no collusion" between anyone on his election campaign and Moscow.
But Jackson, in sentencing Manafort for conspiracy charges, did not say the case had proven there was no collusion – she merely said the question of collusion was "not presented in this case."
"Therefore it was not resolved in this case either," Jackson said.
"The 'no collusion' refrain," she said, "is unrelated to the matter at hand."
'That argument falls flat'
Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in prison by another judge last week for 5 counts of filing false income tax returns, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to report a foreign bank account.
The charges were related to more than $55 million he earned doing lobbying and consulting for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine and his use of offshore bank accounts to hide the payments from US tax authorities.
The Ukrainian money was used to support a lifestyle which included purchases of luxury homes and cars, antique rugs, and expensive clothes, including an $18,500 python jacket.
Manafort appeared before Jackson for sentencing on two counts of conspiracy he pleaded guilty to – one involving money laundering and failure to register as a foreign agent and the other involving witness tampering.
Jackson could have sentenced Manafort to 5 years in prison on each count, but she opted to tack on a total of 43 months to his previous sentence and give him 9 months off as credit for time served.
"The defendant is not public enemy number one," Jackson said. "But he is not a victim either."
Jackson said Manafort had shown little remorse and it was "hard to overstate the number of lies" he has told.
The judge ridiculed defense arguments that Manafort's prosecution only came about because of the Mueller probe.
"That argument falls flat," Jackson said. "The Department of Justice was already looking into this matter."
Kevin Downing, an attorney for Manafort, had told the judge earlier that "but for a short stint as a campaign manager in a presidential election, I don't think we'd be here today."
'I am sorry'
Manafort, who was in a wheelchair because of gout, pleaded to the judge not to sentence him to more time in prison.
"I am sorry for what I have done and all the activities that have got me here today," Manafort said. "Let me be very clear I accept responsibility.
"For those mistakes, I am remorseful."
Manafort, who worked on the White House bids of Republicans Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, asked the judge to let him be with his wife. "She needs me and I need her," he said.
Speaking to reporters after the sentencing, Downing, Manafort's attorney, called it a "callous, harsh sentence that is totally unnecessary."
His remarks were interrupted by protestors shouting "Liar!"
Manafort is one of a half-dozen former Trump associates charged by Mueller.
Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, is to begin serving a three-year prison sentence on May 6 for fraud, tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and lying to Congress.
Manafort's former deputy Rick Gates reached a plea deal with the special counsel's office and is awaiting sentencing.
Former national security advisor Michael Flynn admitted lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials and is also awaiting sentencing.
George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and spent 12 days in prison.
Another Trump advisor, Roger Stone, awaits trial. – Rappler.com