'I am sorry': Manafort pleads for mercy ahead of second sentencing

Source: Politico | March 13, 2019 | Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein

The punishment will conclude the special counsel’s most public legal battle and cap a spectacular fall for the globetrotting GOP consultant and ex-Trump campaign chairman.

Paul Manafort issued a full-throated and blunt apology on Wednesday shortly before his second — and final — prison sentence was set to be handed out.

“I am sorry for what I have done and for all the activities that have gotten us here today,” said Manafort, contrite and stone-faced.

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Barring a politically loaded pardon from President Donald Trump, Manafort will serve out his prison time for a series of financial fraud crimes, including secretly stashing fortunes in foreign bank accounts and avoiding millions in taxes. He has also pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukraine, as well as witness tampering.

In the courtroom Wednesday, Manafort directly acknowledged chatter that he had yet to fully accept responsibility for his crimes, leading some to suspect he was appealing to Trump for a pardon.

“Let me be very clear,” he said. “I accept the responsibility for the acts that have caused me to be here today.”

Manafort described a “new self-awareness” — achieved since his indictment through reflection and prayer — that has led him to feel “shame” and “embarrassment” for the “suffering” he has caused.

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Manafort made his plea for mercy to U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who can give Manafort up to 10 years for the Ukraine lobbying conspiracy and witness tampering charges brought in Washington, D.C. Manafort, who turns 70 next month, already received nearly four years last week in a separate Virginia case tied to his financial malfeasance.

Jackson stressed that she was not there for “review or revision” of the Virginia sentence, which drew condemnation from some in the legal community who felt the punishment was unfairly brief, given the scope of the crimes and sentencing guidelines that called for Manafort to receive between about 19 and 24 years.

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But Jackson showed little compassion for Manafort’s situation as she spoke before sentencing him. She repeatedly chided the defendant for dissembling and obfuscating the truth.

“This defendant is not public enemy No. 1, but he’s not a victim either,” she said, kicking off her final remarks where she ticked through his crimes in exhaustive detail.

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Trump has repeatedly left open the possibility of giving Manafort clemency. The president’s lawyers maintained a controversial joint defense agreement to share information back and forth with Manafort’s attorneys, even after Manafort pleaded guilty. Last week, the president told reporters he felt “very badly” for Manafort, a longtime GOP operative who helped the Trump campaign in 2016 to beat back an internal party revolt at the Republican nominating convention.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that that the president would make his decision on what to do about Manafort’s sentence “when he’s ready.”

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