Paul Manafort, the former 2016 campaign chairman for President Trump, received a ruling from a federal judge that he intentionally lied to special counsel Robert Mueller’s office after agreeing to cooperate with its investigation into interference by Russia into the last presidential election.
The ruling came from Judge Amy Berman Jackson and it means prosecutors are no longer bound by their plea deal with Manafort. He now faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.
Manafort agreed to plead guilty only days before a trial last year in Washington, D.C., and prosecutors agreed to consider recommending leniency for Manafort based on his cooperation. He had already been convicted of eight felonies in a separate case last year in Alexandria, Va., including tax and bank fraud.
The Justice Department last year presented the falsehoods it said Manafort had told investigators after he agreed to cooperate. They included lies about payments and financial relationships to a law firm and about his dealings with his business associate Konstantin Kilimnik. The Russian associate also was indicted last year and the FBI has linked him to Russian intelligence services.Mueller’s office also said Manafort has been untruthful about his continued contacts with people in the Trump administration and other topics.
Manfort’s attorneys argued that the statements highlighted by the special counsel’s office were simply inadvertent comments and were not part of a pattern or concerted effort to circumvent his agreement, and thus should not negate it.
Judge Jackson agreed with prosecutors, writing in her ruling that the special counsel had “established a preponderance of evidence that defendant intentionally made false statements” to the FBI, Mueller’s team and the grand jury.
Manafort will be sentenced March 13. The order from Jackson notes that she is not addressing “the question of whether the defendant will receive credit for his acceptance of responsibility” when it comes to sentencing guidelines.
The president has not ruled out pardons for Manafort or others within the 2016 campaign who are in legal jeopardy as a result of the Mueller investigation. The president has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and Russia. He has also repeatedly called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and said suggestions there was collusion with Russia are a “hoax.”