Trump Says ‘Highly Respected Judge’ Gave Manafort Light Sentence

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump called federal district Judge T.S. Ellis “highly respected” after the longtime jurist was criticized for the relatively light prison sentence he handed former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House on Friday for a trip to review tornado damage in Alabama. He said he hasn’t discussed issuing a pardon for Manafort, who was convicted of tax and bank fraud.

Ellis sentenced Manafort to less than four years in prison on Thursday. Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of as long as 24 years based on federal guidelines, but Ellis called that too extreme, even after observing that Manafort expressed no regret for his crimes.

Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, said on Twitter after Manafort’s sentencing that “people are sometimes sent to prison for longer than 47 months for non violent marijuana offenses.”

Earlier on Friday, Trump said in a tweet that Manafort’s lawyer and the judge “stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia.”

But Ellis didn’t go that far, saying the case before his court wasn’t about “anything having to do with colluding with the Russian government to influence this election.”

Jurors in Alexandria, Virginia, convicted him last year of hiding $55 million in offshore accounts, failing to pay $6 million in taxes, and defrauding banks.

Ellis’s sentence won’t be the only one for Manafort. He’ll be sentenced for additional crimes on March 13 by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, where he pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges and pledged to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

That case involved Manafort’s role in a secret lobbying campaign on behalf of Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine and in joining an associate with alleged ties to Russian intelligence in tampering with witnesses.

Jackson determined in February that Manafort lied to prosecutors and violated his cooperation agreement.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.