Democratic lawmakers on Friday harshly criticized the lighter-than-expected prison sentence handed down to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III Thursday night.
Federal sentencing guidelines recommended that Manafort serve between 19 and 24 years behind bars after being convicted on eight felony counts, including tax and bank fraud. Ellis sentenced him to 47 months, calling the guidelines “excessive.”
“The prosecution was well deserved in trying to seek a longer term. Obviously, the judge demonstrated some hostility before now to Robert Mueller,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. “This sentence, in my view, failed to do justice to the very serious crimes that Manafort has committed, as well as his utter disrespect for the law.”
Manafort, 69, also pled guilty in a separate Washington, D.C. trial in September to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice after he attempted to tamper with witnesses. The plea was part of a deal with prosecutors that hinged on Manafort’s cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, but last month Judge Amy Berman Jackson voided the deal after Mueller’s team contended that Manafort had violated it by lying to investigators. He now faces up to ten years in prison in the case.
Prosecutors have devoted special scrutiny to Manafort’s contacts with Russians and Ukrainians before the campaign. Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign after about five months when those contacts came to light in August, 2016.
Representative Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, accused Manafort’s lawyer of angling for a presidential pardon by noting after the sentencing that Manafort had not been found guilty of collusion.
“The statement by Paul Manafort’s lawyer after an already lenient sentence — repeating the President’s mantra of no collusion — was no accident. It was a deliberate appeal for a pardon,” Schiff wrote on Twitter.
Freshman House democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Veronica Escobar of Texas also excoriated the judge’s decision.
“Paul Manafort getting such little jail time for such serious crimes lays out for the world how it’s almost impossible for rich people to go to jail for the same amount of time as someone who is lower income,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter. “In our current broken system, ‘justice’ isn’t blind. It’s bought.”
“White collar criminals who betray their country can obviously get preferential treatment in Judge Ellis’s courtroom. Disgraceful,” Escobar tweeted.