Shortly after former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort received a shockingly reduced sentence of 47 months for financial fraud, MSNBC host Chris Matthews wondered aloud Thursday if there was a celebration in Moscow over President Vladimir Putin’s “buddy” getting off “pretty easy.”
Despite sentencing guidelines recommending Manafort receive 19 to 24 years in prison, effectively dealing the 69-year-old political consultant a life sentence, Judge T.S. Ellis gave Manafort just 47 months. Calling the guidelines “excessive,” the judge added that Manafort had lived an “otherwise blameless life,” while the former Trump campaign chief whined that he’d been “shamed and humiliated” during the trial.
Discussing the sharply reduced sentence on MSNBC’s Hardball, Matthews expressed disbelief over the judge’s behavior. Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said Ellis was substituting his own judgment for the sentencing commission that created the guidelines and that he didn’t properly explain why they were excessive for this specific case.
“It seems to me like this judge talks and judges and rules and gives sentences like he’s a sequestered juror,” the MSNBC host declared in response. “Like he doesn’t know this whole matter that we’re talking about! He doesn't seem to understand the business that Manafort's been in all of these years. He's working as a mercenary for Putin's people and he acts like a blameless life—what’s he talking about?!”
NBC News investigations reporter Tom Winter questioned why the judge didn’t take into consideration the “totality of the behavior” that Manafort had exhibited over time, especially when it came to lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Manafort’s interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik.
“How are they viewing this in Moscow do you think today?” Matthews asked MSNBC analyst Malcolm Nance. “Is Putin saying my buddy got off pretty easy today? What do they think of our justice system that a guy that was facing 20 years got off with four—less than four?”
“I think the Kremlin believes that they now have managed to engineer the U.S. justice system by putting their man in the White House,” Nance said, describing Manafort as an “agent of the Kremlin.”
“If I was Robert Mueller, I’d think now is the time to throw a secret haymaker. I would bring [Manafort] up on espionage act charges for his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik,” Nance said.
“This shows that the puppet strings go from Moscow to the White House and now down into the U.S. judiciary.”
Matthews made clear at the end of the broadcast that he thinks the one person who really got off easily is President Trump, who he said has repeatedly obstructed justice and has now watched his former campaign chairman get off with a slap on the wrist.
“He must be having dessert tonight at the White House.”