Paul Manafort emerged from his second criminal sentencing on Wednesday facing nearly twice the time in prison than he did last week, after the judge in his Washington D.C. case tacked three and a half more years onto his earlier four-year sentence in Virginia.
Now Manafort, who turns 70 next month, looks set to spend a big chunk of his retirement in prison — unless President Trump pardons him.
Before the sentence was handed down, Judge Amy Berman Jackson reprimanded Manafort from the bench for telling a series of lies that served to undermine the American democratic system during the years he worked as an unregistered foreign agent for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, before he signed up with Trump.
“If the people don't have the facts, democracy doesn't work,” Judge Jackson told Manafort, according to CNN reporter in the courtroom.
Her remarks appeared in sharp contrast to those made in last week’s hearing by Judge T.S. Ellis, who’d remarked that aside from a few multimillion-dollar financial crimes, Manafort had “lived an otherwise blameless life.”
Manafort was effectively handed 43 months on top of the 47-month sentence he’d already received. To arrive at that total, Judge Jackson gave him a 60-month sentence for the charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States, with half of that to be served concurrently with his Virginia sentence for financial crimes. She also added 13 months for the witness-tampering charge.
When all is said and done, President Trump’s former campaign chairman’s two sentences add up to roughly seven and a half years in prison.
Appearing in the courtroom in a wheelchair and wearing a dark suit and purple tie, Manafort struck a decidedly more remorseful tone than during his previous appearance on March 7 in Virginia before Judge Ellis.
“In my previous allocation, I told Judge Ellis I was ashamed for my conduct,” Manafort told Judge Jackson, according to a reporter for The Atlantic, Natasha Bertrand. “I want to say to you now that I am sorry for what I have done and for all the activities that have gotten me here today.”
Manafort noted that his 70th birthday was weeks away, and proclaimed himself a changed man from the person he was when he was first charged, in October 2017. The past nine months in jail — where Manafort has been since his bail was revoked last June over accusations of witness tampering — gave him time to reflect and grow, he told the court.
“I can see that I did not always act according to my code of personal values,” Manafort said, according to The Washington Post. “Because of this new self-awareness, I can say to you with conviction, my behavior in the future will be very different. I have already begun to change, and I am confident the lessons of the past two years, and particularly the last nine months, will be a guide to the future.”
Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann warned Judge Jackson not to buy what Manafort was selling.
Manafort’s attempt to reach out to potential witnesses against him before his trial “is not reflective of somebody who has learned a harsh lesson. It is not a reflection of remorse,” Weissmann said. “It is evidence that something is wrong with sort of a moral compass.”
Manafort’s previous sentencing hearing exploded in controversy last week after Judge Ellis gave him slightly less than four years — a fraction of the 19-to-24 years called for by the sentencing guidelines over eight counts of financial crimes including tax evasion and bank fraud.
Manafort faced a maximum of 10 more years in his Washington D.C. case on two conspiracy charges, which lumped together a series of original charges over crimes ranging from failure to register his foreign lobbying to obstruction of justice.
That lengthier list of charges was abbreviated to just two last September after Manafort agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators, who have been probing Trump’s links to Russia.
Manafort was caught in Mueller’s web after carrying on a running conversation during the 2016 campaign with a man allegedly tied to Russian intelligence named Konstantin Kilimnik. Mueller’s team accused Manafort of lying about his links to Kilimnik even after he struck a deal to fully cooperate, in a series of accusations that blew up Manafort’s plea deal.
Mueller’s top deputy, Andrew Weissmann, has said that Manafort’s lies about his communications with Kilimnik went to “the heart” of the Russia investigation.
Wednesday’s sentencing returns Manafort to the uncomfortable reality that he may spend his retirement years in prison. His last hope to avoid such an outcome now rests in the hands of his former boss, President Trump, who has publicly signaled a pardon may be coming.
“It was never discussed, but I wouldn't take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?” Trump told the New York Post in November.
But even if Manafort manages to escape his current legal drama through a presidential pardon, he may not be out of the danger zone. Prosecutors in New York State are preparing to file a barrage of tax and other charges against Manafort in the event that he is pardoned, according to Bloomberg News.
A presidential pardon wouldn’t extend to charges filed at the state level, meaning that even a full presidential reprieve might not end Manafort’s legal woes.
Cover: Paul Manafort leaves Federal District Court in Washington, Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, and Manafort's business associate Rick Gates pleaded not guilty to felony charges of conspiracy against the United States and other counts. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)