Robert Mueller’s office recommended on Friday that Paul Manafort get up to 24-and-a-half years in prison for his conviction last summer for financial malfeasance.
The special counsel’s suggestion is the opening move in what will be a two-step sentencing process for the 69-year-old former Trump campaign chairman, who appears to be on track to spend the rest of his life in prison absent a presidential pardon.
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A jury in Northern Virginia convicted Manafort after a three-week trial in August on eight felony counts, including filing false tax documents, failing to register foreign bank accounts and bank fraud. A month later, on the eve of another trial in Washington, D.C., Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in exchange for the special counsel dropping foreign-lobbying and money-laundering charges.
In their 27-page memo filed late Friday, Mueller’s team signaled it would recommend a sentence from 19-and-a-half to 24-and-a-half years in prison for the Virginia case alone. They also recommended a fine between $50,000 and $24.4 million, supervised release of up to five years and forfeitures in the amount of more than $4.4 million.
Manafort’s case is the only one to date from the special counsel’s office to reach trial. Recapping their victory, the Mueller prosecutors described a series of crimes committed “for no other reason than greed, evidencing his belief that the law does not apply to him.”
They also made a clear reference to Manafort’s time atop Trump’s 2016 campaign, noting his “repeated misrepresentations to financial institutions were brazen, at least some of which were made at a time when he was the subject of significant national attention.”
“In the end, Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law, and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars,” the special counsel’s office wrote. “The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and serve to both deter Manafort and others from engaging in such conduct.”
Manafort’s sentencing in Virginia has until now been on hold until attorneys in D.C. could hash out a dispute over whether Manafort violated the terms of his plea deal by intentional lying during cooperation sessions with authorities.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled Manafort had indeed purposefully lied about several important subjects, voiding the plea deal and giving Mueller leeway to suggest a more stringent prison sentence.
The judge overseeing the Virginia case, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, theoretically could order Manafort to spend up to 80 years in prison for the Virginia case, though federal judges often follow guidelines that call for terms well short of the maximum.
Also still to be determined is how Manafort serves his prison times for both the D.C. and Virginia cases. Under the original plea deal, Mueller had agreed to recommend Manafort serve the D.C. case concurrently with the Virginia sentence.
But with the plea deal now in tatters, Mueller is free to suggest Manafort serve the sentences consecutively.
Manafort’s attorneys in a Friday filing urged Ellis to review all of the recent documents in the D.C. case, including the unredacted hearing transcripts. “The information redacted from the public versions of these documents is critical to the consideration of the issues raised during that litigation,” they wrote.
In the Washington case, Jackson is scheduled to sentence Manafort on March 13.
Manafort agreed in his plea deal to waive his right to an appeal, meaning his only option to get out of prison — he’s been incarcerated since last summer on charges of witness tampering — is a presidential pardon.
Both Democrats and Republicans have both warned the president against taking that step.
But President Donald Trump appears to have not ruled the idea out. He asked his legal team to review pardon scenarios last summer during the Manafort trial and told the New York Post in a November interview that he “wouldn’t take it off the table.”
Mueller’s team has suggested that Manafort was trying to bolster his chances for a pardon when he lied during his cooperation sessions about passing polling data to a longtime aide alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence.
Andrew Weissmann, a top Mueller team associate, said during a closed-door hearing earlier this month that telling the truth would have had “negative consequences in terms of the other motive that Mr. Manafort could have, which is to at least augment his chances for a pardon.”