- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Paul Manafort’s two-year legal battle with special counsel Robert Mueller concluded Wednesday with a total of seven and a half years in prison — but a crusading New York district attorney wants to make him serve even more.

Moments after Manafort was sentenced to 43 months of additional prison time on federal charges in Washington, D.C., Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced he’d won a grand jury indictment on state fraud and conspiracy charges against President Trump’s onetime campaign chairman.

Mr. Cyrus’s move appears to be an attempt to make Manafort face some prison time in a jurisdiction outside of federal control — and thus beyond the reach of a presidential pardon.

“No one is beyond the law in New York,” Mr. Vance said.

In Washington, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered Manafort to serve 73 months on charges of illegal foreign lobbying, money laundering a witness tampering. The longtime GOP operative pleaded guilty last year to avoid a trial.

Judge Jackson ordered 30 months of the sentence to be served concurrently with a 47-month term handed down last week by Judge T. S. Ellis III in a separate financial fraud case. Manafort was convicted by a jury in that case.

The seven and a half years of total federal time is far less than Manafort could have faced, but it’s still a victory for special counsel Robert Mueller, who brought the charges out of his probe into the Trump campaign’s activities during the 2016 election.

Most of the charges predate Manafort’s time with the Trump campaign, and Judge Jackson made clear Wednesday’s case has nothing to do with Mr. Mueller’s directive to uncover possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

“It was not resolved one way or the other by this case,” Judge Jackson said.

President Trump on Wednesday said he felt badly for Manafort, rattling off high-profile Republicans who worked alongside him over the decades.

“I think it’s a very sad situation,” he said.

But he said he hasn’t thought about offering a pardon.

“It is not something that is on my mind,” he told reporters.

Manafort delivered a vehement apology to the court on Wednesday, saying he was “ashamed” of his conduct, promising he’s changed, and asking that he be spared more prison time.

“I can see that I behaved in ways that did not always comport to my personal code of values,” he said. “I am upset at myself for these failures.”

The apology did little to sway Judge Jackson, who ticked off his failings including flouting foreign lobbying laws and refusing to disclose that news articles and other supposed “independent” reports were paid propaganda by a Russia-backed Ukrainian political party.

“What you were doing was lying to members of Congress and the American public….if the people don’t have the facts, democracy can’t work,” she said.

She also blasted Manafort for violating his cooperation agreement with the government. That deal was voided after Mr. Mueller accused Manafort of lying to investigators last year.

“It is hard to overstate the number of lies, amount of fraud and extraordinary money involved,” she said. “And there is no good explanation that would warrant the leniency requested.”

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann described Manafort a criminal mastermind who schemed for more than a decade to conceal his foreign lobbying work and launder those funds to cover a lavish lifestyle. He said Manafort’s crime spree continued while on bail when he was caught coaching witnesses.

“It is evidence that something is wrong with sort of a moral compass, that someone in that position would choose to make that decision at that moment,” Mr. Weissmann said.

Manafort joined the Trump campaign as an advisor in March 2016 to manage convention operations. He was made campaign chairman in May, then resigned in August after the first reports surfaced that investigators were probing his past business dealings with pro-Russian figures in Ukraine.

Defense attorney Kevin Downing suggested Manafort was being unfairly targeted for signing up to work for Mr. Trump.

“But for a short stint as a campaign manager in a presidential election, I don’t think we’d be here today,” he said.

After the hearing Mr. Downing blasted the judge for her treatment of Manafort.

“I think the judge showed that she is incredibly hostile toward Mr. Manafort and exhibited a level of callousness that I have not seen in a white-collar case in over 15 years of prosecutions,” he told reporters.

Manafort has been in custody since last summer, when Judge Jackson revoked his bail on the recommendation of Mr. Mueller, who said Manafort was interfering in the case by reaching out to witnesses.

While the federal cases are over, Manafort’s legal woes are just beginning in New York.

The 16-count indictment Mr. Vance won against Manafort includes charges of residential mortgage fraud, attempted residential mortgage fraud, conspiracy, falsifying business records and scheme to defraud.

The penalties for conviction could be severe. Residential mortgage fraud carries a minimum of three years and a maximum of between eight and 25 years.

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