Mueller seeks tough sentence for ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from US District Court in Washington, US. (Reuters pic)

WASHINGTON: Prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller urged a federal judge in Virginia on Friday to impose a strict prison sentence for President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, after a jury last year convicted him on eight counts of bank and tax fraud.

In their sentencing memo filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, prosecutors said Manafort, who is 69, deserves between 19.6 and 24.4 years in prison and a fine of between US$50,000 and US$24 million.

Friday’s court filing in Virginia came just days after a federal judge in Washington, DC, ruled that Manafort had breached his plea agreement in a parallel case by lying to investigators despite a pledge to cooperate.

That finding earlier this week by Judge Amy Berman Jackson in US District Court for the District of Columbia could have a direct impact on how Manafort is sentenced in the Virginia case.

Judge T.S. Ellis in Alexandria, Virginia, had planned to sentence Manafort on Feb 8, but he later postponed that until after Jackson’s ruling, saying it “may have some effect on the sentencing decision in this case.”

Manafort was one of the first people in Trump’s orbit to face criminal charges as part of Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 presidential election in his favor.

Trump has denied colluding and called the probe a witch hunt, while Russia has denied meddling in the election.

None of the charges Manafort faced related directly to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

In the Virginia case, prosecutors accused Manafort of hiding from US tax authorities US$16 million he earned as a political consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, money he used to fund an opulent lifestyle.

Later, when his lobbying work started to dry up following the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, prosecutors said Manafort began lying to banks to secure US$20 million in loans to keep his lifestyle afloat.

After almost four days of deliberations, a 12-member jury found Manafort guilty on two counts of bank fraud, five counts of tax fraud and one charge of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.