Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into so-called “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election is coming to a close, but not without some surprises first.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, has been sentenced to just 47 months in prison by federal judge T. S. Ellis — a term significantly shorter than the one pushed by Mueller. Government prosecutors sought a prison term of between 19 and 24 years.
Arguing against any leniency whatsoever, Mueller’s office rattled off a list of reasons in favor of a steep sentence, including “more than $16 million in unreported income” and “more than $55 million hidden in foreign bank accounts” attributed to Manafort.
‘Out of whack’ sentencing guidelines
Before announcing Manafort’s sentence, Judge Ellis signaled his belief that Mueller’s team was asking for too much and recognized, “I don’t expect the sentence I’m about to announce to meet with everyone’s approval.”
He continued: “Clearly the guidelines were way out of whack on this, as the history of the sentences in this area show. It’s a fundamental principle of justice that like cases should be treated alike, and if they’re treated differently, there ought to be a good reason for it.”
Ellis’ pronouncement likely came as a shock to a special counsel that insisted upon following federal guidelines that didn’t match the crime and attempted to build a case against Manafort’s alleged unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation. However, Manafort’s attorneys in turn argued their client was more than helpful, spending a total of 50 hours with prosecutors.
Manafort’s life ‘in shambles’
Speaking prior to Ellis’ decision, Manafort expressed the sorrow of a broken, remorseful person.”Humiliated and shamed would be a gross understatement…my life is personally and professionally in shambles,” he said.”The man I have seen described in public is not a man I recognize.”
The attempt by Mueller’s team to “vilify Mr. Manafort as a lifelong and irredeemable felon” was “beyond the pale and grossly overstated the facts before the Court,” his attorneys argued beforehand, while also recognizing he wasn’t blameless.
“These are serious crimes. I understand that. No one is disputing that […] Tax evasion isn’t jaywalking, but it’s also by no means narcotics trafficking,” they said. Ellis appeared to agree that leniency was in order for a first-time offender and proceeded to sentence Manafort to less than four years in prison on multiple fraud charges.
Questionable prosecutorial motives
It is worth noting why this investigation came into existence in the first place, namely to find some kind of direct, nefarious connection between the Trump campaign and Russia operatives. Ironically, Manafort isn’t going to jail for “collusion” at all, no matter how strenuously liberal pundits might attempt to argue otherwise.
Ellis broke down the situation in simple terms. He said, “The real essence of his violation is he stole from us, from people who paid their taxes.” Of course, this won’t stop the mainstream media or Mueller from declaring victory once the investigation wraps up.
Back during court proceedings in 2018, Ellis expressed concern about the special counsel’s motivation for bringing a case against Manafort in the first place, telling prosecutors, “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. You really care about what information he might give you about Mr. Trump and what might lead to his impeachment or prosecution.”