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Paul Manafort should spend the next two decades in jail, Mueller’s prosecutors say

“In the end, Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law.”

by Greg Walters
Feb 16 2019, 1:28am

Paul Manafort's years of shady dealings and lies should land him in prison for at least the next two decades, special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors said in a court filing released Friday evening.

Mueller’s team didn’t make a specific recommendation, but took no issue with a calculation drawn up by the probation department that calls for a sentencing range between roughly 20 and 24 years in his Virginia case. Manafort is also facing sentencing in another case in Washington D.C.

“In the end, Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law,” Mueller’s team wrote. “The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and serve to both deter Manafort and others from engaging in such conduct.”

The new filing follows months of courtroom battles between prosecutors and Manafort, who served as President Trump’s campaign chairman during the 2016 campaign. This week a judge ruled that Manafort deliberately lied to prosecutors after he pleaded guilty in September, breaching his cooperation deal.

Manafort’s lies during those sessions went to “the heart” of what Mueller’s team is investigating, prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said in court earlier this month — even though the crimes he will soon be sentenced for largely predate the 2016 presidential campaign.

Manafort deliberately misled prosecutors about his interactions with a man the FBI judged to have links to Russian intelligence: Manafort’s longtime sidekick and translator, Konstantin Kilimnik. Mueller’s team has pressed Manafort about a meeting with Kilimnik and another Trump former Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, that took place in August 2016 while Manafort was still chairman of the Trump campaign.

At that meeting in a ritzy cigar bar in New York city, Kilimnik briefed Manafort about a plan to bring peace to war-torn Ukraine, according to court documents filed in the case. Such a diplomatic overture, had it succeeded, could have potentially helped ease the sanctions that placed on Russia after its forces seized the region of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Mueller’s team also accused Manafort of bringing 2016 campaign polling data to that meeting to hand over to Kilimnik, a charge that Manafort’s lawyers have called unsubstantiated.

Manafort’s lawyers insisted their client “did not lie,” but rather had struggled to remember events that took place in the heat of the campaign, and that his recollection had been further strained by sickness and depression while in jail. But Mueller’s team and the judge disagreed. As a result, he’s lost the benefit he would have received from his cooperation deal, and now faces the grim prospect of sentencing before two separate judges in both Washington D.C. and Alexandria, VA, after pleading guilty to charges of bank and tax fraud and conspiracy.

At 69, a lengthy sentence could easily mean Manafort will end his days in prison, if President Trump doesn’t pardon him. Trump said publicly last November that a pardon for Manafort is “not off the table,” though he denied that such a move had ever been explicitly discussed.

According to the text of a partially-redacted transcript of sealed court proceedings, Weissmann appeared to be arguing that one of Manafort’s possible motives for misleading prosecutors could have been to “at least augment his chances for a pardon.”

Cover: Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, departs Federal District Court, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)