Manafort faces state charges after drawing more federal time

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced to a total of seven and a half years in prison on federal charges, then was hit almost immediately with fresh state charges in New York that could put him outside the president’s power to pardon.

In Washington on Wednesday, United States (US) District Judge Amy Berman Jackson brushed aside Manafort’s pleas for leniency and rebuked him for misleading the US government about his lucrative foreign lobbying work and for encouraging witnesses to lie on his behalf.

“It is hard to overstate the number of lies and the amount of fraud and the extraordinary amount of money involved” in the crimes, Jackson told Manafort, 69, who sat stone-faced in a wheelchair he has used because of gout. She added three-and-a-half years on top of the nearly four-year sentence Manafort received last week in a separate case in Virginia, though he’ll get credit for nine months already served.

The sentencing hearing was a milestone in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election campaign. Manafort was among the first people charged in the investigation, and though the allegations did not relate to his work for candidate Donald Trump, his foreign entanglements and business relationship with an associate the US says has ties to Russian intelligence have made him a pivotal figure in the probe.

Prosecutors are updating judges this week on the cooperation provided by other key defendants in the case. Mueller is expected to soon conclude his investigation in a confidential report to the Justice Department.

Minutes after Manafort’s federal sentence was imposed, New York prosecutors unsealed a 16-count indictment accusing him of giving false information on mortgage loan applications. The new case appeared designed at least in part to protect against the possibility that Trump could pardon Manafort, who led the celebrity businessman’s 2016 White House bid for months. The president can pardon federal crimes but not state offenses.

New York’s attorney general’s office had looked into whether it could bring state-level crimes against Manafort but faced a possible roadblock because of the state’s double jeopardy law. That statute goes beyond most other states by preventing state-level charges that mirror federal counts that have been resolved — and also prevents prosecutors from pursuing state-level charges when a person has been pardoned for the same federal crimes.

Still, Manhattan prosecutors, who brought the new indictment, contend their case is safe because mortgage fraud and falsifying business records are state but not federal crimes.

This courtroom sketch shows Paul Manafort listening and Judge Amy Berman Jackson in the US District Courtroom during his sentencing hearing in Washington. – AP