Lobbyist and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort learned on Thursday that he will serve almost four years in prison — far short of what had been expected and recommended — for financial fraud convictions obtained by special counsel Robert Mueller as he investigated Manafort’s alleged collusion with the Russian government in 2016.
The crimes, though serious among white-collar offenses, did not relate directly to Manafort’s work as Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman.
Reacting to Manafort’s sentencing, President Donald Trump tweeted Friday morning, taking the judge’s remarks slightly out of context, that the judge in the Manafort case and Manafort’s defense lawyer “stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia.”
“But the Witch Hunt Hoax continues,” he added, referring to the special counsel investigation. “As you now add these statements to House & Senate Intelligence & Senator (Richard) Burr. So bad for our Country!”
Manafort, 69, had been facing up to 25 years in prison, a sentence that could have essentially kept him in jail for the rest of his life.
Even at just under four years, the sentence is the longest given yet to any defendant in the Mueller probe.
It nearly concludes a two-year downfall that began when Manafort’s financial ties to Ukraine came under scrutiny while he led Trump’s presidential campaign. Since then, Manafort, previously known for his jet black hair, expensive suits and Republican connections, has turned gray and physically declined.
“The sentence was a lot less than the out of control Angry Democrat prosecutors wanted,” the President’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in a statement Friday provided to CNN, attacking the Mueller team. “They should be ashamed of their horrendous treatment of Paul Manafort who they pressured relentlessly because, unlike Michael Cohen, he wouldn’t lie for them.”
The federal judge who sentenced him on Thursday noted Manafort had committed serious crimes and has suffered in jail. The amount of time he received was “just,” Judge T.S. Ellis said.
However, the sentence fell decades below what the court’s own recommendation had been and what the prosecutors supported. Prosecutors in court said they hoped the sentence would be “substantial.”
Ellis said he thought that 19- to 25-year recommendation was excessive.
“Life is making choices, Mr. Manafort, and living with the choices you make,” Ellis said before he delivered Manafort’s sentence on Thursday at a Virginia courthouse. “You made choices to engage in criminal conduct.”
Manafort was convicted last summer for defrauding banks and the government, and for failing to pay taxes on millions of dollars in income he had earned from Ukrainian political consulting.
He had long been a target of federal investigators and Mueller’s team — and was expected to be a star cooperator in Mueller’s probe when he pleaded guilty last September following a conviction at trial. That cooperation fell apart soon afterward, however, and prosecutors moved Manafort toward learning his two sentences from separate judges.
He’ll receive a sentence from the other federal judge next week, for the two crimes he pleaded guilty to last year — witness tampering and conspiracy related to years of illegal Ukrainian lobbying and money laundering — which could stack on top of the time he received Thursday.
Before he was sentenced Thursday evening, Manafort spoke briefly in court about how prayer and faith helped him. He asked the judge “to be compassionate.”