The Charges Against Paul Manafort

Mar 7, 2019
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're waiting to learn how much time Paul Manafort will spend in prison. Donald Trump's former campaign chairman is in federal court in Virginia right now. He was convicted last year on bank and tax fraud charges. He's facing what could be a very serious punishment. NPR national security editor Phil Ewing has been following this story. He joins us in the studio. Hey there, Phil.

PHIL EWING, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: The sentencing hearing is taking place as we speak. What do we know so far?

EWING: That's right. Manafort is in court even as we're talking. He is appearing before the same judge who presided over his trial last summer, Judge T.S. Ellis III, and he's eligible for sentence of up to 24 years in prison. And he could also need to pay millions of dollars in various financial penalties.

Our reporters are there, Ryan Lucas and Miles Parks. They've been giving us updates, but we don't have a sentence yet. We will have an update later on for our listeners and for you here on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

CORNISH: Let's step back for a moment and remind folks how Manafort got here. What was he convicted of?

EWING: He was convicted on two counts of bank fraud, five counts of tax fraud and one count of failing to declare a foreign bank account. There were 10 more charges in the case, but jurors deadlocked on those. And this all stems from work that Manafort did for powerful clients in Eastern Europe, including the government of Ukraine, before he came to work for Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016.

Prosecutors said Manafort made millions of dollars as a consultant for the old Ukrainian government. And he got used to living a lavish lifestyle because he was making so much money that way. You may remember prosecutors showed the jury an ostrich leather jacket that Manafort bought that was worth $15,000. And he had a closet full of suits that prosecutors said were worth more than a million dollars - just clothes.

But when the regime in Ukraine fell apart, prosecutors said Manafort's income dried up too, and so he began to lie about his income to qualify for loans to sustain that lifestyle that he had gotten used to. Now, Manafort didn't testify in that trial. The star witness was his former protege, Rick Gates, who was also Trump's former vice campaign chairman. And Manafort's attorney tried to blame for any wrongdoing on Gates. They said he was responsible if the law was broken, but the jury didn't buy that. Manafort was convicted.

CORNISH: Now, this case was brought by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller. Will Manafort get any credit for cooperating with Miller's office?

EWING: The short answer is no. The long answer is there was a plea agreement involving Manafort and the Justice Department in connection with another case brought in Washington, D.C., but prosecutors there said Manafort violated that deal because he told them lies. He didn't give them the full cooperation that they say they were owed. And so although the government didn't ask for a specific sentence today ahead of this hearing, it also didn't say to the judge, please go easy on Paul Manafort because of all the help that he gave us.

The special counsel's office said ahead of this hearing that Manafort committed these crimes brazenly and brazenly lied to investigators. And so they said he doesn't deserve any consideration. Manafort's attorney said he's a first-time offender. These are nonviolent crimes, and he's shown how remorseful he is. And so he should get some kind of leniency in terms of the guidelines for the sentence that he's facing.

CORNISH: So his Virginia case is being resolved today - right? - and we're going to learn more. What's coming up for him in his D.C. case?

EWING: He's scheduled to be sentenced there next. And Judge Amy Berman Jackson in that case will hand down a sentence for the conspiracy charges separate from this that Manafort pleaded guilty to. The big question for everyone, especially Manafort, is what kind of punishment he'll get in that case. Will the judge in Washington, D.C., allow him to serve the time that he's going to get today in this Virginia case concurrently or will she add more years onto his prison sentence or potentially additional punishment?

The other question is, what other kind of findings are going to come from special counsel Mueller's office, from the Justice Department, as a part of its ongoing Russian investigation? Right now, we don't know the answer to either of those questions.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Phil Ewing. Phil, thank you.

EWING: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.