Special counsel Robert Mueller’s sentencing memo in Paul Manafort’s DC case opens with the observation that he takes no position on the prison term that Judge Amy Berman Jackson should impose. But he also argues that “Manafort presents many aggravating sentencing factors and no warranted mitigating factors” under the federal guidelines. Those guidelines produce a sentencing range of 210 to 262 months; however, although the statutory maximum for the two counts on which he pled guilty is 10 years.
Manafort turns 70 on April 1. If he has been playing fast and loose with the legal system in the hope that Trump will reward him with a pardon, the stakes just got higher.
“Even after he purportedly agreed to cooperate with the government in September 2018,” Mueller says, “Manafort, as this court found, lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), this office, and the grand jury. His deceit, which is a fundamental component of the crimes of conviction and relevant conduct, extended to tax preparers, bookkeepers, banks, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice National Security Division, the FBI, the Special Counsel’s Office, the grand jury, his own legal counsel, Members of Congress, and members of the executive branch of the United States government.”
And that’s just the introduction.
Mueller observes that Manafort’s breach of the plea agreement operates asymmetrically: It leaves his obligations under it intact — including the requirement that “he not would seek or suggest” a downward adjustment in the government’s estimated sentencing guideline range. But the breach relieves the government of its promise to seek leniency on his behalf. Mueller also notes that the court has the discretion to run all or a portion of its sentence consecutively to or concurrently with whatever sentence Manafort receives in Virginia, where federal guidelines on his crimes call for 19 to 24 years in prison.
There’s a forward-looking message to others in Mueller’s brief: “The sentence, in this case must take into account the gravity of [Manafort’s] conduct, and serve both to specifically deter Manafort and generally deter those who would commit a similar series of crimes.”
In response, Manafort’s lawyers will file his sentencing memo on Monday. Mueller’s written tour-de-force will be a tough act to follow.
Steven J. Harper is the creator and curator of the Trump-Russia Timeline appearing at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and at Just Security. He is an attorney, adjunct professor at Northwestern University Law School, and author of four books, including Crossing Hoffa — A Teamster’s Story (Chicago Tribune “Best Book of the Year”) and The Lawyer Bubble — A Profession in Crisis. He blogs at The Belly of the Beast. Follow him on Twitter (@StevenJHarper1).