President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort will be sentenced by a U.S. judge in Virginia on Thursday for bank and tax fraud uncovered during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis could deliver effectively a life sentence to Manafort, 69, if he follows federal sentencing guidelines cited by prosecutors that call for 19-1/2 to 24 years in prison for the eight charges the veteran Republican political consultant was convicted of by a jury in Alexandria last August.
The sentencing hearing is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. (2030 GMT)
Manafort was convicted after prosecutors accused him of hiding from the U.S. government millions of dollars he earned as a consultant for Ukraine’s former pro-Russia government. After pro-Kremlin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster, prosecutors said, Manafort lied to banks to secure loans and maintain an opulent lifestyle with luxurious homes, designer suits and even a $15,000 ostrich-skin jacket.
Manafort faces sentencing in a separate case in Washington on March 13 on two conspiracy charges to which he pleaded guilty last September. While he faces a statutory maximum of 10 years in the Washington case, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson potentially could stack that on top of whatever prison time Ellis imposes in Virginia, rather than allowing the sentences to run concurrently.
Jackson on Feb. 13 ruled that Manafort had breached his agreement to cooperate with Mueller’s office by lying to prosecutors about three matters pertinent to the Russia probe including his interactions with a business partner they have said has ties to Russian intelligence. Jackson’s ruling could impact the severity of his sentence in both cases.
Mueller is preparing to submit to U.S. Attorney General William Barr a report on his investigation into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia and whether Trump has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe. Trump has denied collusion and obstruction. Russia has denied election interference.
Manafort is the only one of the 34 people and three companies charged by Mueller to have gone to trial. Several others including former campaign aides Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen have pleaded guilty, while longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone has pleaded not guilty.
Gates, a key witness against Manafort, has yet to be sentenced due to his ongoing cooperation with prosecutors.
Mueller’s charges led to the stunning downfall of Manafort, a prominent figure in Republican Party circles for decades who also worked as a consultant to such international figures as former Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and Yanukovych.
Defense lawyers have asked Ellis to sentence Manafort to between 4-1/4 and 5-1/4 years in prison. They are expected to tell the judge Manafort is remorseful and that the sentencing guidelines cited by prosecutors call for a prison term disproportionate to the offenses he committed.
“The Special Counsel’s attempt to vilify Mr. Manafort as a lifelong and irredeemable felon is beyond the pale and grossly overstates the facts before this court,” his lawyers wrote in their sentencing memo.
Prosecutors have not suggested a specific sentence. Mueller’s office, in court filings, said that only Manafort is to blame for his crimes, that he has shown no remorse and that his lies to prosecutors after his guilty plea should be taken into account.
“The defendant blames everyone from the Special Counsel’s Office to his Ukrainian clients for his own criminal choices,” prosecutors wrote.
Manafort will be sentenced by a judge who faced criticism by some in the legal community for making comments during the trial that were widely interpreted as biased against the prosecution. Ellis repeatedly interrupted prosecutors, told them to stop using the word “oligarch” to describe people associated with Manafort because it made him seem “despicable,” and objected to pictures of Manafort’s luxury items they planned to show jurors.
“It isn’t a crime to have a lot of money and be profligate in your spending,” Ellis told prosecutors.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham
Taylor Swift takes on former record label — and #IStandWithTaylor trends on Twitter
Taylor Swift on Thursday publicly reignited her battle with the heads of her former label, saying it is threatening to bar her from going through with an upcoming performance and Netflix documentary over her plans to re-record her early albums.
Earlier this year the superstar began feuding with industry mogul Scooter Braun over his purchase of her former label for more than a decade, the Nashville-based Big Machine, which gave him a majority stake in the master recordings of her first six albums.
Swift said she would begin re-recording her early albums to create copies she owns herself, saying her contract allows her to begin re-doing albums one through five in November 2020, when she plans to be back in the studio doing just that.
Israel launches air and missile strikes in the Gaza Strip despite ceasefire
Israel launched fresh strikes against Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza, the army said early Friday, weakening a ceasefire put in place after fighting this week killed 34 Palestinians in exchanges of fire.
The ceasefire began Thursday morning following two days of deadly violence in the Gaza Strip triggered by an Israeli strike on an Islamic Jihad commander.
But Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in a WhatsApp message to reporters that new overnight strikes were under way on Islamic Jihad, the second most powerful Palestinian militant group in Gaza after Hamas.
"The IDF is currently striking Islamic Jihad terror targets in the Gaza Strip," it said.
CNN’s Don Lemon lists all the facts in Trump’s Ukraine scandal one must ignore to buy the GOP defense
CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday listed all of the evidence one would have to ignore to believe the Republican defense of President Donald Trump.
The CNN anchor listed the "transcript of the president's infamous July 25th Ukraine call" as one piece of evidence that would have to be ignored.
He also listed the sworn testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. And the "bombshell" testimony from Ambassador Bill Taylor and the text messages between Taylor and Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
The necessity of there not just being an investigation of the Biden family, but an announcement of an investigation, is another inconvenient fact that would have to be ignored, he explained.