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And we're underway. #Manafort
Judge ABJ: there are no factual disputes to resolve but several legal issues to determine - whether to apply an adjustment for acceptance of responsibility and an enhancement for a leadership role in the offense.
Judge ABJ says she received lots of letters from Manafort's friends and family. "I want you to know that I appreciate all the letters and I've read them all."
Judge ABJ says she will start by going over the sentencing guidelines. It might take some time, but will only be a small part of the analysis, which she said will not include a rehash of the EDVA sentence.
Judge ABJ notes: the conspiracy charge carries a max sentence of 5 years. He is not facing the sort of maximum sentence in D.C that he faced in Virginia.
On the obstruction of justice charge, ABJ notes again it carries a maximum of 5 years. She also notes, there's no provision that permits exceeding the statutory maximum due to his violations of the plea agreement.
Judge ABJ now questioning attorney Westling about the defense objections to the enhancement for a leadership role and acceptance of responsibility. Now she's getting into the disputed enhancements...math is involved, particularly algebra ABJ notes.
Judge ABJ: If he was the leader of criminal activity involving five or more people, the court can increase the offense level by four levels.
Both sides are resting on their court filings regarding the leadership enhancement.
Judge ABJ is rejecting the defense's argument that the enhancement should not apply. "I believe it's not a valid argument," she said. She's starting at level 40 for that enhancement.
Judge ABJ now exploring whether he will get a level reduction for acceptance of responsibility, but notes that could be outweighed by Manafort's conduct. She's now turning to her ruling that Manafort breached his plea deal by lying.
Judge ABJ says she's reviewed the court transcript, considered new evidence given to the gov. by Gates and still finds that the special counsel proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Manafort gave false testimony about his contact w/Kilimnik.
Judge ABJ thus denies Manafort's motion for reconsideration. Attorney Zehlne is up now arguing that Manafort did accept responsibility.
Zehlne is arguing that in the instance of Manafort and Kilimnik and the issue dealing with witness tampering, the court found that the government had not met its burden to prove that he lied. He says M accepted responsibility for the two counts he pleaded guilty to.
Prosecutor Weissmann is up now, notes that the matter is very much in the court's discretion. He cites a D.C. Circuit case w/ a def. who had challenged a leadership role enhancement. Court said he could not accept responsibility of his conduct while challenging his role.
ABJ interjects, says they were challenging the applicability.
Weissmann says Manafort claimed not to be a leader in his sentencing memo, and cited Gates' testimony and said it was only he and Gates involved in the conspiracy. Weissmann notes that's not what Gates had said.
Weissmann urges ABJ to consider Manafort's conduct outside of that involved in the offense. There are no DC Circuit cases to support that, but there are in other circuits. "And we think that is the correct reading."
ABJ rejects that argument. "I believe the defendant has met his burden." He gets a 2 level reduction for that.
Now they are haggling over whether the conspiracy count contains allegations of loan fraud. The defense says it does.
Weissmann says the statement of offense only addresses bank fraud issues in the other acts portion. In the DC case, none of the bank fraud conduct is dealt with as a matter of description, shouldn't be taken into account for sentencing.
ABJ is inviting the parties to discuss what sentence Manafort should receive. Weissmann will be arguing that for the government.
Weissmann has asked the court to impose an additional financial penalty, in addition to $6 million in restitution to the IRS. Attorney Westling objects to that. "We do not think the $11 million money judgment is appropriate."
Now we're getting to the heart of what's at stake today. Weissmann: "We're here today because of crimes Paul Manafort committed over a decade."... He his his wealth in over 30 offshore accounts to hide his income and avoid paying over $6 million in taxes.
Weismann turns to the Foreign Agent Registration Act and money laundering crimes. Reminds the court that Manafort was well aware of registration requirements for acting as a foreign agent.
Notes that Manafort was audited by the DOJ and knew from that audit what he could and could not do under FARA - in fact he had to give up a presidential appointment and was denied a waiver by the Reagan White House.
Weissmann is recounting Manafort's lobbying work on behalf of a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine to promote the corrupt Yanukovych regime and create fake stories about his political rival, which he says went as far as accusing her of murder for hire.
Weissmann: "It's Hard to imagine a more righteous prosecution of this act." - he was explicitly warned about its requirements but violated it for years, over and over again. And got many other entities to violate FARA as well.
Weissmann: When investigators were onto M he lied repeatedly to the DOJ. He then tampered with 2 witnesses to avoid getting caught for the FARA and money laundering crime. In violating the act, he not only hid it from the American people but also the people that worked for him.
Weissmann: says the only time Manafort filed w/DOJ on March 13, 2013 is because "Company A" had already filed a corrective filing.
Weissmann: In a further subversion of the rule of law while out on bail from two courts, Manafort committed crimes that go to the heart of American justice system: tampering with witnesses.
Weissmann: Manafort chose to tamper w/witnesses, to commit further crimes. That is not reflective of somebody whose learned a harsh lesson. That is not evidence of remorse. It's indicative that something is off w/his moral compass.
Weissmann: "But as the court knows, that doesn't even end the story." After that, he repeatedly lied to FBI agents and face to face w/grand jurors. "He served to undermine, not promote, American ideals of honesty, transparency and playing by the rules."
Now Downing is up to argue on behalf of Manafort. Says Manafort recognizes these are serious crimes, and "he will address the court to show that he truly is sorry for violating the law."
Downing: wants to make a distinction on the FARA part of the case, notes only 6 such cases have been tried since 1966. Money laundering in those cases stemmed from bribing congressman. "We think the nature of that offense is quite different than what we have here."
Downing: M's activities w/respect to Ukraine were well publicized in newspapers. M and Kilimnik regularly dealt w/US officials in the US embassy in Kiev. Info about his activities there was shared at highest level of gov. "The requisite notice of his activities was out there."
Downing: this distinguishes this case from the other FARA cases, where no information about the unlawful activities was in the public sphere.
Downing: Says Manafort was working w/FARA office before OSC took over the matter and was in the process of filing his Ukraine work. ABJ: "Did they make a determination that that was the end of it?"
Downing says Manafort received a letter that he needed to register his Ukraine work. He doesn't have a copy of it today, which he apologizes for, but says M received the letter in the March/April 2017 time frame.
Downing says Manafort directed Gates to cooperate and provide information to the FBI concerning investigation of offshore accounts. This happened 3 years prior to the special counsel, but should indicate that when law enforcement showed up, M cooperated and provided info.
Downning says there's a ton of political motivation around this case, not from prosecutors but from the press, largely. Asks the court to take into account the harshness of that on Manafort and his family.
Downing says that were it not for a short stint as Trump's campaign chair, they wouldn't be here today.
Westling is back up to talk about sentencing guidelines.
Zehlne is up now to address the witness tampering issue. Cases that deal w/ tampering mostly involve bribing witnesses or intimidation. The statute is broad and covers Manafort's conduct, but Zehlne asks the court to consider the distinction.
Zehlne is recounting the sentences in more recent witness tampering cases. Sentences range from 24-6 months, in the latter case a defendant confronted a witnesses cooperating against his brother in a threatening way to get a false statement.
Zehlne: Here Manafort has admitted to the conduct, which dealt with the Hapsburg group. The focus of that group was to get Ukraine into the EU.
Manafort will speak now.
Manafort says he wants to clarify that he is ashamed for his conduct, since that point was apparently lost at his sentencing last week before Judge Ellis. He says he's sorry for what he's done, notes the last two years have been very difficult.
The person he's been described as "is someone I don't recognize." Manafort says he regrets the suffering he's caused his family. "Let me be very clear: I accept responsibility for the acts that caused me to be here today."
Manafort says that while he can't undo the past, he can assure the future will be very different and he's committed to that. The pain he's caused his family will deter any future bad conduct, he says.
Manafort says he's had a lot of time to reflect in solitary confinement the last 9 months. "I can see that I behaved in ways that did not reflect my core personal values." Because of his new self awareness, Manafort says he will behave differenly in the future.
Manafort says he's been uplifted by "the incredible support he's received," not just from friends and family but from complete strangers. The exposure to the goodness of people has energized him and helped him cope with the difficulties of solitary confinement, Manafort said.
Manafort says he's a different person now that he's had time to reflect on his life and choices, and the important of family. He says he wants to turn the notoriety of the past two years into a positive and "show the world who I really am."
Manafort: "I can assure you that I feel the pain from these reflections. And I know it was my conduct that brought me here today." He says with God's help he knows the future can be different, and he apologies to those negatively impacted by his conduct.
Finally, Manafort asks ABJ for compassion. Says he'll be 70 soon and his wife will be 66. "I'm her primary caregiver," he said. "This case has taken everything from me already."
Manafort: "Please let my wife and I be together." He asks ABJ not to impose any more than the 47 months Judge Ellis in EDVA gave him last week. "If not for me, for my family," Manafort said. He adds: "If you do I promise you will not regret it."
We are on a short break now while Judge ABJ considers everything. We should resume about 11:15.
And we're back in session now.
Judge ABJ: Says today's proceedings have been marked by passion, hypberbole on both sides. "This defendant is not public enemy number one. But he's not a victim either."
Judge ABJ: today's sentence will not answer the question of Russian collusion, and it will not be an indictment of the special counsel.
Judge ABJ: "His life is not over. And he's going to have the opportunity to make something positive out of this, as he's suggested he will do."
But Judge ABJ says it's hard to overstate the level of fraud and money involved. "And there is no good explanation that would warrant the leniency requested."
Judge ABJ says Manafort was lying to members of Congress and the American public. "He lied to his own lawyers, and he lied to the Department of Justice."
Judge ABJ says Manafort deserves credit for pleading guilty to witness tampering, but adds: "he isn't being straight about it with me now." So while he agreed to plead guilty, ABJ says "he's backed away from the facts."
Judge ABJ notes that all through the case, Manafort has acted as though "the court order and the rules didn't apply to him."
ABJ says after his plea agreement he began to minimize his conduct and shield others. "It's very problematic to me because court is one of those places where facts still matter."
Judge ABJ critical of Manafort's comments, which she said "seemed to have been prompted in part by comments made after the last sentencing hearing."
Here's how the sentence breaks down: 60 months for count 1, 30 of which will run concurrent to his EDVA sentence. Plus 13 months for count 2, to run consecutively. By my count this adds up to 7.5 years total. But stay tuned, everyone in the media room is trying to do the math!
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