Paul Manafort’s lawyers downplayed their client’s criminal history as outlined by Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel’s Office, writing off his actions as unnoteworthy and not worthy of extensive punishment.
“Manafort, who over the decades has served four U.S. presidents and has no prior criminal history, is presented to this Court by the government as a hardened criminal who ‘brazenly’ violated the law and deserves no mercy,” a memo submitted by Manafort’s lawyers Monday says. “But this case is not about murder, drug cartels, organized crime, the Madoff Ponzi scheme or the collapse of Enron.”
“At its core, the charges against the defendant stem from one operable set of facts: Mr. Manafort made a substantial amount of income working as a political consultant in Ukraine, he failed to report to the government the source and total amount of income he made from those activities, and he attempted to conceal his actions from the authorities,” the memo goes on.
But, Manafort’s lawyers say, their client has accepted full responsibility and so, “in light of his age and health concerns, a significant additional period of incarceration will likely amount to a life sentence for a first time offender.”
Manafort could face several decades in jail. In Virginia, he is charged with bank and tax fraud and in Washington he is charged with conspiracy against the U.S and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was investigated and charged by the Special Counsel’s Office as part of its probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Mueller’s team submitted its sentencing memos for the Virginia and Washington, DC cases last week, outlining in great detail the nature of Manafort’s crimes over more than a decade in which he “repeatedly and brazenly violated the law”:
“His criminal actions were bold, some of which were committed while under a spotlight due to his work as the campaign chairman and, later, while he was on bail from this Court,” the sentencing memo says. “And the crimes he engaged in while on bail were not minor; they went to the heart of the criminal justice system, namely, tampering with witnesses so he would not be held accountable for his crimes.”
But Manafort’s lawyers are fighting back against that notion, raising rhetoric at times echoed from within the halls of the White House—that the Mueller investigation is a witch hunt not worthy of attention.
“The defendant has not been charged with any crimes related to the primary focus of the Special Counsel’s investigation,” Manafort’s lawyers said in their filing. The offenses laid out by the Special Counsel’s Office in its sentencing memo “have led to Mr. Manafort being widely vilified in a manner that this country has not experienced in decades,” Manafort’s lawyers say.
Under a plea agreement struck with prosecutors, Manafort agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the U.S. and another count of conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Virginia case against him. In exchange for his cooperation, the Special Counsel’s Office agreed to drop the outstanding money laundering and lobbying charges against him.
However, the judge ruled earlier this month that Manafort lied to the Special Counsel’s Office and as a result Mueller’s team was no longer bound by the terms of the agreement it signed with him.
The back and forth between Manafort’s lawyers and the Special Counsel’s Office comes as Manafort awaits sentencing in both Virginia and Washington. President Trump has at times hinted at a possible pardon for his former campaign chairman. But New York state prosecutors are reportedly putting together a criminal case against Manafort if Trump decides to pardon him.
The bustle of activity on the Manafort dockets this week come at a particularly bad time for the president and his inner circle.
This week Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer and self described fixer, is headed to the Hill to testify about Trump’s business dealings, taxes, and much more.
Meanwhile, Trump, is headed overseas for a summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
His lawyers, whom he has asked to stay on for the foreseeable future given the onslaught of lawsuits he faces, will stay stateside.