Manafort Sentencing Set for March 5 After Plea Deal Uproar
(Bloomberg) -- Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman accused of lying repeatedly to Special Counsel Robert Mueller after pledging to cooperate, is set to be sentenced March 5 on two conspiracy charges.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson set the tentative date Friday after a tumultuous week in which Mueller said Manafort breached a plea agreement through unspecified crimes and lies. The judge gave prosecutors until Dec. 7 to lay out how they say Manafort breached his cooperation agreement since pleading guilty on Sept. 14 in Washington federal court.
Manafort could face additional charges for the lies he told during debriefing sessions with the special counsel’s office, prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told the judge during a half-hour hearing.
“That determination hasn’t been made yet,” Weissmann said.
Manafort, 69, faces as long as 10 years in prison, but the collapse of his plea deal means Mueller’s team will no longer recommend leniency for his cooperation. Prosecutors will also lose Manafort’s perspective as an insider as they investigate whether Trump’s campaign helped Russia interfere in the 2016 election. Manafort, who’s locked up, didn’t attend the hearing after asking to be excused.
At the start of the hearing, Jackson said she wouldn’t ask Weissmann what lies Manafort told and what new crimes he committed. Manafort’s lawyers are aware of “the gravamen of what the concerns are,” Weissmann said.
President Donald Trump told the New York Post this week that a Manafort pardon is “not off the table.’’ Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani also said the president’s lawyers received information from Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing about his secret debriefings by Mueller.
The case took an unexpected turn on Nov. 26, when Mueller filed court papers saying Manafort wrecked his plea deal when he “committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Counsel’s Office on a variety of subject matters.”
In that filing, Manafort’s lawyers said that he met with prosecutors on “numerous occasions’’ to live up to his agreement, and that “he believes he has provided truthful information.’’
Jackson must decide whether Manafort breached the deal, and she said Friday that she’ll hold a hearing on the question after both sides submit written arguments. She said it’s unclear whether Manafort’s lawyers will see supporting evidence in advance of the hearing.
At Friday’s hearing, Downing didn’t address the nature of Manafort’s statements to prosecutors, answering instead a series of questions about scheduling matters. Outside the courthouse, he told reporters that he didn’t know the specifics of Mueller’s complaints about Manafort.
In pleading guilty, Manafort admitted he conspired to launder money, commit tax fraud, violate a foreign lobbying law and lie to the Justice Department. He also admitted to conspiring to commit witness tampering, joining with a longtime associate who prosecutors said has ties to Russian intelligence.
Manafort was separately convicted in August by a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, on tax- and bank-fraud charges. He pleaded guilty in Washington to avoid a second trial, which would have highlighted his secret lobbying campaign on behalf of Ukraine. Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 8 in Virginia, where he could also receive a term as long as 10 years.
Under the plea deal, prosecutors would have recommended that Manafort serve both sentences at the same time. But the collapse of the agreement raises the possibility that he could serve one term and then the next.
Manafort, who’s been jailed since Jackson revoked his bail on June 15 for violating the terms of his pre-trial release, could avoid prison altogether or serve a short term if Trump pardons him or commutes his sentence.
The case is U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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