A federal judge in Washington sentenced former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to about six years in prison Wednesday on charges connected to his past lobbying work for Ukraine, rejecting his claims of remorse as an uninspiring “plea for leniency.”
The sentence, which elevated Manafort’s total prison term to about seven-and-a-half years, came less than a week after he was sentenced in Alexandria, Virginia, on financial fraud charges.
In the Alexandria proceeding, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis of the Eastern District of Virginia made note of the fact that Manafort had not given a clear apology in his final words in court. “I certainly recommend you do it in the District of Columbia,” Ellis told him.
Manafort, who was also indicted by the Manhattan district attorney Wednesday for mortgage fraud, appeared to take that advice in Washington. As his voice filled Jackson’s courtroom, it didn’t take long for him to utter the word Ellis wanted to hear last week.
“I want to say to you now: I am sorry for what I have done,” Manafort said from his wheelchair. “Let me be very clear, I accept responsibility for the acts that have caused me to be here today.”
Still, Jackson questioned whether Manafort had “really accepted responsibility” for contacting witnesses in an attempt to tamper with their testimony. And she said that while Manafort’s crimes did not make him “public enemy No. 1,” he was not a victim either.
Instead, Jackson described a throughline of dishonesty and “dissembling” by Manafort over the course of his legal saga, including allegations he attempted to tamper with witnesses while on bail and false statements he gave in apparent breach of his September plea agreement.
“Court is one of those places where facts still matter,” Jackson said. “Saying, ‘I’m sorry I got caught,’ is not an inspiring plea for leniency.”
Manafort pleaded guilty in Washington to a pair of conspiracy charges last year after a jury in Alexandria found him guilty of bank and tax fraud. In Washington, he was accused of failing to disclose his past lobbying work for Ukraine as required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and skirting taxes on that lucrative line of business.
Jackson on Wednesday criticized Manafort for hiding his wealth to sustain an opulent lifestyle, saying he had more homes than anyone could enjoy and more suits than any one man could wear. A lead prosecutor for the special counsel’s office, Andrew Weissmann, had painted Manafort as a brazen criminal who broke the law to “fuel an extravagant lifestyle.”
The judge also addressed what wasn’t alleged in the case: collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Evidence of collusion, she said, was “not presented in this case—period.”
Outside court, Manafort’s lead defense lawyer, Kevin Downing, said, “Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of Russian collusion in this case.”
In court, Downing said the special counsel’s involvement in Manafort’s case resulted in disparate treatment. He said the Justice Department has brought only about a half dozen cases over FARA violations since the mid-1960s, saying the government’s priority through the years had been to bring “more folks in and get filed, not bring criminal prosecutions.”
Jackson on Wednesday dismissed the notion that Manafort’s failure to register under FARA was merely a violation of a “pesky regulation.”
In choosing not to register his lobbying work for Ukraine, she said, Manafort was “hiding the truth of who he represented,” effectively lying to members of Congress and the American public.
“When people don’t have the facts, democracy can’t work,” she said.
Weissmann said secrecy underpinned Manafort’s lobbying work for Ukraine, allowing him to enlist foreign leaders to advocate for the country and appear independent when they were, in fact, “handsomely paid.”
“Secrecy was integral to what Mr. Manafort wanted to do for Ukraine,” Weissmann said.
Sitting behind Weissmann was a former Mueller prosecutor, Brandon Van Grack, who was recently appointed to lead the Justice Department unit devoted to enforcing FARA.