Trump ex-campaign boss Manafort could get up to 24 years as sentence is handed down in Mueller case

Paul Manafort faces the first of two sentencing hearings Thursday — and special counsel Robert Mueller says that President Donald Trump’s ex-campaign chairman deserves significant prison time.

A federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, could give 69-year-old Manafort a sentence of between 19 and 24 years in prison, along with millions of dollars in fines, as federal guidelines suggest. In a separate case in federal court in Washington, D.C., Manafort could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Manafort’s sentencing dates, scheduled for Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in Virginia, and next Wednesday in Washington, mark the end of a long, steep and very public fall for the formerly high-powered political operative.

Manafort was convicted last year in Virginia federal court on eight criminal counts, including tax fraud, bank fraud and failing to file a foreign bank account report. The charges, lodged by Mueller as part of his probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, mostly related to work Manafort did years earlier as a consultant for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.

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On the eve of his second trial in Washington, D.C., federal court, Manafort cut a plea agreement to cooperate with Mueller’s team. But that deal fell apart months later when Manafort was accused of lying to the prosecutors.

Attorneys for Manafort argued Friday that their client deserved a much lighter sentence than the one calculated by federal sentencing guidelines. Manafort is a first-time offender, they said, and “the Special Counsel’s attempt to vilify Mr. Manafort as a lifelong and irredeemable felon is beyond the pale and grossly overstates the facts.”

Mueller pushed back in a Tuesday night filing in the Virginia court, laying out a multi-pronged argument for why the request for leniency from the former political operative’s attorneys should be ignored at his sentencing.

The special counsel accused Manafort of failing to ever take responsibility for his crimes, and for the additional wrongdoing he is alleged to have done since his initial indictment. Mueller said in that filing that Manafort tampered with witnesses while on bail — a charge that landed him in jail pending trial — and lied to the government and Mueller’s grand jury on a variety of subjects after agreeing to cooperate with its investigations.

Based on this, Mueller, argued, “there is no reason to believe” that Manafort does not pose a risk of committing more crimes in the future.

“Manafort’s effort to shift the blame to others — as he did at trial — is not consistent with acceptance of responsibility or a mitigating factor. Manafort has failed to accept that he is responsible for the criminal choices that bring him to this Court for sentencing,” Mueller wrote.