On Friday night, the special counsel investigation recommended that the federal judge responsible for sentencing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort give him 19.5 to 24.5 years in prison for his conviction on eight financial charges dating back well over a decade. Mueller also suggested a fine for Manafort, with an oddly large window of $50,000 to $24.4 million. If the judge complies with Mueller’s request, it will effectively serve as a life sentence for the 69-year-old lobbyist turned political consultant to Ukraine’s oligarch class.
As the sentencing memo states:
The defendant stands convicted of the serious crimes of tax fraud, bank fraud, and failing to file a foreign bank account report. Manafort was the lead perpetrator and a direct beneficiary of each offense. And while some of these offenses are commonly prosecuted, there was nothing ordinary about the millions of dollars involved in the defendant’s crimes, the duration of his criminal conduct, or the sophistication of his schemes.
Together with the relevant criminal conduct, Manafort’s misconduct involved more than $16 million in unreported income resulting in more than $6 million in federal taxes owed, more than $55 million hidden in foreign bank accounts, and more than $25 million secured from financial institutions through lies resulting in a fraud loss of more than $6 million …
His criminal decisions were not momentary or limited in time; they were routine. And Manafort’s 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 …
Manafort did not commit these crimes out of necessity or hardship. He was well educated, professionally successful, and financially well off. He nonetheless cheated the United States Treasury and the public out of more than $6 million in taxes at a time when he had substantial resources. Manafort committed bank fraud to supplement his liquidity because his lavish spending exhausted his substantial cash resources when his overseas income dwindled.
Unfortunately for Manafort’s chances of ever getting out of prison, Mueller’s sentencing recommendation only considers his eight financial convictions in Virginia. It does not include his guilty pleas in a federal court in Washington for one count of conspiracy against the U.S. and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. It’s been a bad week for the former Trump campaign chairman, who’s already been incarcerated for eight months. On Wednesday, the federal judge who will sentence him in Washington determined that Manafort intentionally lied to the special counsel, the FBI, and a grand jury.
Manafort issued false statements regarding his contacts with Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik, to whom Manafort had passed polling data. (According to prosecutors, Manafort lied in the hope of securing a pardon from his former boss.) Because of his intentional false statements, any opportunity for leniency in exchange for his cooperation has been voided; Manafort will be sentenced in Washington on March 13. In the sentencing recommendation on Friday, the special counsel even used Manafort’s recent false statements as evidence that his “age does not eliminate the risk of recidivism he poses.”
In one of the harshest and most prominent sentencing recommendations for financial crimes since the conviction of Bernie Madoff, Manafort’s 20-plus year bid will most likely be the longest of any of the eight Americans indicted or charged by the Mueller investigation — because Manafort has been legally exposed for a decade longer. The former Trump campaign manager’s convictions are for behavior dating back to 2005, when he opened an office in Kiev to lobby for the oligarchs of Ukraine, while the rest of Trump’s indicted are being investigated for potential crimes as early as the beginning of the president’s campaign in 2015.
But that shouldn’t encourage the legal teams of Trump surrogates like Roger Stone. On Friday, as the Moscow Project notes, Mueller’s latest filings relating to Stone’s indictment suggest that he could be indicted as part of the conspiracy against the U.S. charge handed to the “12 Russians.” Those dozen Moscow intelligence assets attempted to hack into the Clinton campaign’s email servers the night of Trump’s increasingly suspect “Russia, if you’re listening” press conference.
For Manafort, now, as ever, his best shot at avoiding consequence for his actions is to hope for a pardon from Trump. As the surrogate who repeatedly lied to protect the president, Manafort may be the most likely candidate to receive a get-out-of-jail-free card, because the president — despite not showing an inkling of loyalty — demands it from those in his circle.