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After Manafort’s 2nd federal sentencing, NY prosecutor announces additional charges

Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was sentenced Wednesday to three-and-a-half more years in prison for federal crimes related to foreign lobbying and witness tampering. After the hearing, a New York prosecutor revealed new state-level charges for Manafort, too. William Brangham, who was in the courthouse, reports, and Amna Nawaz talks to former federal prosecutor Jessica Roth for analysis.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported, President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced today to 3.5 more years in federal prison, bringing his total sentence to 7.5 years.

    Amna Nawaz brings us up to date.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Hi, Judy.

    It was Manafort's second sentencing hearing in as many weeks, both of them in cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. Today's sentence was for crimes Manafort pleaded guilty to last year: hiding his foreign lobbying, evading taxes and witness tampering.

    But once this hearing ended, another legal drama began, with a surprise announcement out of Manhattan, new charges against Manafort brought by the district attorney there.

    Our own William Brangham was in the courthouse today to follow it all. He joins me here now.

    Hey, William. Good to see you.

  • William Brangham:

    Hi.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, the rest of us only get to see the sketches and read the reports. You were in the courthouse. Tell me what it was like in there.

  • William Brangham:

    There was a sense of finality to it all.

    Remember, this is the first defendant to go toe to toe with Robert Mueller's prosecutors, the first one who's actually taken his case to trial.

    And the DOJ, the prosecutors laid out all the evidence that you just described, all the crimes that he pled guilty to. Paul Manafort spoke today. In comparison to last week, when he was sentenced in Virginia, he spoke at much greater length today. He said, I'm sorry for this, I'm ashamed of my actions.

    He noted his age. He said to the judge, I'm turning 70 in a couple of weeks. I'm the primary caretaker for my wife. I need to be there for her and I need her there for me. And he said to the judge, please let us be together.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    How did that go over? Did any of that make a difference, from what we can tell, in what the judge did?

  • William Brangham:

    It's hard to tell. She certainly seemed sympathetic to the human aspect of this.

    But Judge Berman Jackson is very plainspoken. She wants people, when she's speaking from the bench, to be crystal clear about what she's talking about. And she really laid into Manafort about all the crimes that he has pled guilty to. She said he knew what he was doing, he lied about it, he covered it up, and he did this for year after year after year.

    She said — quote — "It's hard to overstate the number of lies and the amount of fraud and the amount of money that was involved here."

    She also said that he perpetuated these crimes to fund a very opulent lifestyle. She said that it was buying him — quote — "more houses than one man can enjoy, more suits than one man can wear."

    You could see his defense lawyers at the time were sort of rolling their eyes, thinking, my God, this is not going very well.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    I want to be clear about this too. This has been a subject of a lot of discussion. This case did come out of the office of the special counsel, of Robert Mueller, leading a separate investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

    Did any of that come up in this case or in what the judge said today?

  • William Brangham:

    The judge — well, this is so true. This is something that the Manafort team and the president have kept harping on, that Manafort's case has nothing to do with collusion with Russia.

    And that is true. The crimes he is charged with are all about crimes that occurred before he joined the Trump campaign. But two different courts have said that Mueller's mandate absolutely allows for these types of crimes, for Manafort's crimes, to be prosecuted.

    The judge was incensed by this idea that Manafort and his defense team and the president keep saying this trial proves that there was no collusion. They said it in many times in the sentencing document that they submitted to the court today. And the judge kept pushing back on that.

    She said, Russian collusion was not addressed in my courtroom and it was not resolved in my courtroom.

    Of course, that didn't stop Manafort's lawyer from then walking right out of the court and saying the exact opposite.

  • Kevin Downing:

    Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any Russian collusion in this case. So that makes two courts. Two courts have ruled no evidence of any collusion with any Russians.

  • Man:

    Liar! That's not what she said.

  • Kevin Downing:

    Court number two.

  • William Brangham:

    I don't know if you can totally hear that, but there's some fairly legally astute hecklers there saying, that's not what the judge said, you're lying, which is true.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, very quickly, William, what is next now for Paul Manafort?

  • William Brangham:

    Paul Manafort is going to go to jail for seven-and-a-half years.

    The looming question over all of this is, of course, the issue of a pardon. We heard the president address that earlier, says he hasn't been thinking about it. But he has never taken that off the table.

    He could absolutely pardon Paul Manafort for all of these crimes. This other case that just popped up in New York, those are crimes that the president could not pardon Manafort for if he was convicted of them. So we will see.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A very important distinction.

    William Brangham explains it all.

    Thanks, William.

  • William Brangham:

    You're welcome.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And now let's bring in Cardozo Law School professor and former Southern District of New York prosecutor Jessica Roth into the conversation.

    Professor Roth, let's start quickly just with the sentencing. Last week, the judge, a different judge in that federal case, got some flak for what was a sentence that was well below the sentencing guidelines. What was your reaction to the sentence that came down today?

  • Jessica Roth, Yeshiva University:

    The sentence that Judge Berman Jackson imposed today was much more in line with what I expected to see in this case, including last week.

    But the net effect of her sentence today is that Manafort will serve seven-and-a-half years, and that's much more consistent with federal sentencing practices generally. And I think that the sentence reflected her different view of Manafort's crimes from how Judge Ellis viewed it.

    As William talked about, she emphasized the extent of the crimes, the extent of the fraud, and the amount of money involved in a way that really wasn't president in Judge Ellis' remarks about his reasons for imposing the sentence.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So these new state charges that came down today, bit of a surprise for a lot of folks too. Walk us through what we know about those charges and what could happen next.

  • Jessica Roth:

    So there are a lot of charges that were filed in New York.

    They were unsealed today, but they were actually filed by a grand jury last week. So it appears that district attorney Vance was waiting until the federal sentencing. Both of them were concluded before he unsealed those charges.

    And there are counts of mortgage fraud, attempt and conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud. They also involve falsifying business records, and also just a general fraud charge.

    What's going to be key going forward is whether or not they are about conduct that is separate from what Manafort has already been convicted of in his two federal cases. And that's because New York's double jeopardy law is actually quite protective of defendants from being prosecuted in New York after they have already been prosecuted for the same conduct in another jurisdiction.

    And so that's going to be the big legal question going forward.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So help us understand now. Obviously, the last two federal cases, as we noted, came out of that office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

    Did we learn anything about that investigation from those two cases? Or could we from the state charges as they move forward?

  • Jessica Roth:

    We didn't learn anything new today with respect to where the special counsel investigation is going, or what might be in the Mueller report someday, from what happened in the District of Columbia today, nor would I say we learned anything new from the unsealing of the charges in New York.

    We learned about the fate of Paul Manafort, is really what we learned today. And I think we're going to see some further developments this week that may shed some more light on the timeline of the special counsel's probe, including a filing that's due on Friday with respect to Rick Gates.

    The government is supposed to tell Judge Berman Jackson, who also has that matter, whether or not they are prepared to move forward with sentencing of Rick Gates. Rick Gates, of course, has been a key cooperator for the special counsel's office. He testified against Paul Manafort, his former boss.

    Gates was the deputy campaign manager. He was also the deputy on the inaugural committee, which we know is the subject of an ongoing investigation in the Southern District of New York. So, we may get some sense at least of the timeline when we get that filing on Friday.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, that will be one to watch, for sure.

    Cardozo Law School Professor Jessica Roth, thanks very much.

  • Jessica Roth:

    My pleasure.

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