All eyes on judge as Manafort faces second sentence

Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortUkrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Key numbers to know for Mueller's testimony Webb: Questions for Robert Mueller MORE faces his second round of sentencing Wednesday, when all eyes will be on Judge Amy Berman Jackson to see if she throws the book at President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE’s former campaign chairman after he received what many legal experts said was a light punishment in a different case. 

Last week, Manafort was sentenced by Judge T.S. Ellis III, a Reagan appointee, to nearly four years in prison, considerably less than the 19 to 24 years called for under federal guidelines. That punishment, at a federal courthouse in Virginia, came as a surprise to many legal analysts who expected he would receive a stiffer sentence for crimes uncovered during special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThis week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Top Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction MORE’s Russia investigation.

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Manafort, who turns 70 next month, faces up to 10 years in prison for two charges of conspiracy that he pleaded guilty to last year as part of a deal that involved his full cooperation with the special counsel’s office. That agreement, which allowed Manafort to avoid a second criminal trial, imploded after Jackson determined that he lied to prosecutors about a number of subjects related to the investigation.

It’s now up to Jackson, an Obama appointee on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to decide whether to stack her sentence on top of the one Manafort received in Virginia. Ellis gave Manafort nine months off for time already served, meaning his sentence amounted to three years and two months behind bars. 

Shan Wu, a criminal defense attorney who represented Manafort’s associate Richard Gates before he pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to the FBI, isn’t expecting Jackson to be too stern.

“I think she’s going to add a little bit of time to it. I don’t think she’ll crack down and give him 10 years,” he said. “She will definitely run some concurrent, but she’ll have him serve a little additional time for the crimes in her case because she found he lied and breached the plea agreement.”

But white collar criminal defense attorney Eli Honig, a former federal prosecutor, said Jackson will likely impose a harsher sentence on Manafort than Ellis did, noting she dealt more directly with Manafort’s lies and witness tampering.

“I think she is absolutely going to add time on, one way or another,” Honig said. “I think she is going to see that Paul Manafort’s conduct really poses a threat to the integrity of the criminal justice system and law enforcement given how many times he lied and how flagrantly he defied every rule and restriction that was put on him.”

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Jackson ordered Manafort detained while his case played out in court after he was charged with two additional counts of tampering with witnesses. Manafort’s criminal activity stemmed from his foreign lobbying on behalf of pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine.

As he did in the Virginia case, Manafort will have the opportunity to address the court before his sentence is handed down. But it’s anyone’s guess if he will express remorse for his crimes, as Ellis recommended.

During his sentencing last week, Manafort said the worst pain he feels is the pain he has caused his family, but he did not apologize for cheating the public out of $6 million in taxes, hiding $55 million in foreign bank accounts or defrauding banks when the money ran out.

Ellis told Manafort he was surprised he didn’t hear him express any remorse for breaking the law.

“That should be your true regret, and you should have remorse for that, and I certainly recommend that you do it in the District of Columbia, because you'll have that opportunity,” he said.

Wednesday’s sentencing will punctuate what has been rampant speculation that Mueller is close to wrapping up his probe. A final report will eventually be submitted to Attorney General William Barr, who will then decide whether to make the findings public.

Manafort, who served in the the upper echelon of the Trump campaign for five months without compensation before he was forced to resign in August 2016 over revelations of his Ukraine lobbying, was viewed as a key witness for Mueller as he investigates links between the campaign and the Russian government.

However, prosecutors last week said Manafort wasted much of their time with his lies.

“Because he lied, it took longer to show Mr. Manafort what the evidence was to allow him to provide truthful proffers,” Greg Andres, one of Mueller’s prosecutors, told Ellis on Thursday. “It certainly was in the interest of the special counsel's office to have Mr. Manafort provide helpful and meaningful cooperation and he didn't.”

The dance between prosecutors and defense attorneys about Manafort’s lies has offered a glimpse into the special counsel’s nearly two-year inquiry, perhaps most meaningfully Mueller’s accusation that Manafort deliberately misled investigators about his interactions with a Russian translator named Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Manafort’s consulting business and is suspected by federal agents of having ties to Russian intelligence.

A poorly redacted court document filed by Manafort’s legal team earlier this year revealed that Mueller suspected Manafort of sharing polling data with Kilimnik and discussing a Ukraine peace plan with his former associate during the 2016 campaign.

In ruling that Manafort intentionally lied to federal prosecutors on multiple subjects, Jackson described Manafort’s contacts with Kilimnik as “material” to Mueller’s ongoing probe.

At the same time, Mueller has not alleged any conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Many hope that Mueller’s final report — if it becomes public — will address the central question of whether there was collusion between the campaign and Moscow, something Trump has long denied, deriding the investigation as a “witch hunt.”

It’s unclear whether a presidential pardon is in the cards for Manafort. Trump has not officially ruled it out and continues to voice support for his former campaign chairman. After Ellis handed down his sentence last week, Trump said he feels “very badly for Paul Manafort.”

“I think it’s been a very tough time for him,” Trump said.