Democratic lawmakers rip Manafort’s sentence as inadequate

Democratic lawmakers rip Manafort’s sentence as inadequate
Bill Hennessy via CNN
Paul Manafort in court Thursday.

Congressional Democrats blasted Paul Manafort’s prison sentence on Thursday, alleging that the 47 months of jail time he received failed to address the former Trump campaign chairman’s slew of financial and legal crimes.

Manafort faced up to 25 years in prison for financial fraud and tax evasion stemming from before his time on the 2016 campaign. Prosecutors said he had lied to them despite striking a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller after a jury convicted him last summer.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “Erin Burnett OutFront” that Mueller’s team had been right to seek a stronger sentence proportional to Manafort’s crimes.

“The prosecution was well deserved in trying to seek a longer term. Obviously, the judge demonstrated some hostility before now to Robert Mueller,” the Connecticut Democrat said.

During Manafort’s trial, Judge T.S. Ellis strongly criticized prosecutors in front of the jury, but later apologized.

“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,” Blumenthal added.

Blumenthal implied that Manafort could face a harsher ruling during his second sentencing, next week before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who “has taken very serious note that he has shown no remorse.” Manafort could receive up to another 10 years in prison for additional charges pressed in Washington.

On the House side, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff accused Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing of signaling interest in a pardon to Trump in his parting assertion after Manafort had been sentenced: that there is no evidence Manafort colluded with Russia.

“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,” the California Democrat tweeted. “One injustice must not follow another.”

Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted Manafort’s sentencing as a prime example of sentencing disparities between high- and low-income defendants.

“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,” the New York Democrat tweeted. “In our current broken system, ‘justice’ isn’t blind. It’s bought.”

Other Democrats took aim at Ellis, attacking him as biased in Manafort’s favor.

Rep. Jackie Speier of California accused Ellis of “ignoring sentencing parameters,” being “patently ignorant of the basic facts of the case. And angling for a presidential judicial appointment” in a tweet Thursday. She called Manafort’s term of less than four years in prison “a gross injustice.”

Freshman Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas argued on Twitter that “White collar criminals who betray their country can obviously get preferential treatment in Judge Ellis’s courtroom. Disgraceful.”

Manafort, whose age would effectively make a maximum sentence into life in prison, urged Ellis “to be compassionate” in his sentencing. The judge called the Mueller team’s proposed sentence “excessive,” arguing that Manafort had “lived an otherwise blameless life” outside of his crimes.