President Donald Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort, pictured in 2018, is the highest-profile yet stemming from the Russia collusion probe
Washington (AFP) - US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort, already facing 47 months in prison for tax and bank fraud, was sentenced to an additional 43 months in jail on Wednesday on conspiracy charges.
“The defendant is not public enemy number one,” US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in delivering the sentence in a hushed Washington courtroom.
“But he is not a victim either,” Jackson told the court.
She said the 69-year-old Republican lobbyist and political consultant had shown little remorse and it was “hard to overstate the number of lies” he has told.
Manafort was given credit for the nine months he has already spent in prison, reducing the total term facing him to 81 months – just under seven years.
Manafort’s case is the highest-profile yet stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Jackson emphasized to the court that the case had nothing to do with the 2016 vote but was connected to political consulting and lobbying activities that Manafort performed for over a decade for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians.
She said the question of whether any members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia was “not presented in the case. Period.”
“Therefore it was not resolved in this case either,” Jackson said.
“The ‘no collusion’ refrain,” she said, “is unrelated to the matter at hand.”
She ridiculed defense arguments that Manafort’s prosecution only came about because of the Mueller probe.
“That argument falls flat,” Jackson said. “The Department of Justice was already looking into this matter.”
Kevin Downing, an attorney for Manafort, had told the court earlier that “but for a short stint as a campaign manager in a presidential election I don’t think we’d be here today.”
- ‘I am sorry’ -
Before his sentencing, Manafort, who was wearing a dark suit and was brought into court in a wheelchair, pleaded to the judge not to sentence him to more time other than the 47 months he was given last week in the tax and bank fraud case.
“I am sorry for what I have done and all the activities that have got me here today,” Manafort said.
“Let me be very clear I accept responsibility for the acts that have got me here today,” he went on. “For those mistakes, I am remorseful.”
But Jackson dismissed his plea for no more prison time on the charges of conspiring to launder money and tamper with witnesses.
Manafort is one of a half-dozen former Trump associates and senior aides charged by Mueller, although none of them have been accused so far of direct collusion with Moscow to get Trump elected to the White House.
Manafort was convicted by a jury in August of five counts of filing false income tax returns, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to report a foreign bank account.
His conviction was a stunning downfall for a man who also worked on the White House bids of three Republican presidents – Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush – and party hopeful Bob Dole.
The charges were not connected to Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign, which he headed for two months in 2016, but were related to his lucrative consulting work in Ukraine.
Prosecutors alleged that Manafort used offshore bank accounts to hide more than $55 million he earned working for the Ukrainians.
The money was used to support a lavish lifestyle which included purchases of luxury homes and cars, antique rugs, and expensive clothes, including an $18,500 python jacket.
- New York charges -
Trump has denounced the Mueller probe as a “political witch hunt” and dangled the possibility of pardons for some of those indicted by the special counsel.
Last week, Trump said Manafort has been going through a “very tough time” and that he “feels very badly” for him.
A White House pardon could free Manafort but the State of New York on Wednesday accused him of four counts of mortgage fraud and one count of conspiracy – charges that could not be wiped away by a presidential pardon.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, is to begin serving a three-year prison sentence on May 6 for fraud, tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and lying to Congress.
Manafort’s former deputy Rick Gates reached a plea deal with the special counsel’s office and is awaiting sentencing.
Former national security advisor Michael Flynn admitted lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials and is also awaiting sentencing.
George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and spent 12 days in prison.
Another Trump advisor, Roger Stone, awaits trial.