Paul Manafort added to his burgeoning record of alleged crimes and falsehoods this week with a decision from U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson that he had broken his cooperation agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller by making false statements and withholding information. The result could be devastating for Manafort who will now face sentencing without the benefit of the plea deal that he struck with Mueller. That could mean that, absent a pardon from President Donald Trump, Manafort could die in prison since he is looking at decades of potential jail time.
Jackson ruled that Manafort intentionally misled investigators on at least three matters. This included lying about his communications with Russian businessman Konstantin Kilimnik, a figure closely tied to Russian intelligence who was indicted by Mueller. He also allegedly lied about payments to a law firm and another unspecified matter.
While the ruling found that the Manafort did not lie on other subjects, including his communications with the White House, it leaves him in the worst possible position. He was previously convicted in Virginia on various counts and then pleaded guilty to other crimes in Washington. Those admissions will now be used against him without the benefit of a plea arrangement.
Manafort elected to divide the cases rather than face a single, unified trial. The reason may be that he believed the Virginia jury pool was better for him and he would succeed in defeating some of those counts or even secure a hung jury in his home state.
The problem for Manafort is these trials made it increasingly difficult to portray him as a victim. Indeed, the second trial involved allegations of money laundering and foreign lobbying as well as false statements to the FBI. The government is preparing almost three times the number of documents detailing his transactions and associations with an array of sleazy characters around the world.
Manafort’s dealings in the indictment include his involvement working on behalf of a pro-Russian faction in Ukraine. The prosecutors notably held back much of the evidence of Manafort’s Ukrainian dealings in the Virginia trial. Manafort was working for the interests of one of the most bloodsoaked and sinister figures in Eastern Europe — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych — widely viewed as a Russian stooge who took over the government with the help of Moscow and ultimately did Moscow’s bidding. Yanukovych was accused of not only massive corruption, but also the murder of protesters and the arrest of political opponents. He accumulated an estimated net worth of $12 billion through alleged pilfering of Ukrainian funds. He ultimately fled to Russia.
When he fled into Russian exile, Yanokovych took away not only Manafort’s most important client but also the source of his wealth. Manafort’s opulent lifestyle now faced a serious downgrade. It was then, the government claims, that he began to lie to banks, the IRS and ultimately investigators.
In other words, Manafort is one of the least redeeming characters facing a sentencing and the last defendant who would want to do so without a prior sentencing agreement.
Manafort has been trying to play two-hands in this controversy: preserving a plea bargain will seeking a presidential pardon. He is now left with only a pardon as an escape from what could be a terminal sentence.