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Manafort is sentenced to total of 7 1/2 years in prison for conspiracy and fraud

Paul Manafort.

WASHINGTON - Once a globetrotting lobbyist and consultant to presidents, Paul Manafort on Wednesday, March 13, was ordered to spend a total of 7 1/2 years in prison for his two federal cases after sentencing by a Washington judge.

And soon after he left court in a wheelchair to return to the Alexandria, Virginia, jail cell where he has begun serving his time, prosecutors in New York announced a 16-count grand jury indictment charging the former Trump campaign chairman with mortgage fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy.

Trump would not be able to pardon Manafort, 69, on the state charges - which separates them from the federal cases for which Manafort was just sentenced.

In court Wednesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson criticized Manafort and his defense attorneys for repeatedly casting his hard fall from power as collateral damage from the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Trump campaign.

"This defendant is not public enemy number one, but he's also not a victim either," Jackson said. "There's no question this defendant knew better, and he knew exactly what he was doing."

Outside the courthouse, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing called the sentence "callous, hostile and totally unnecessary."

He emphasized that the judge, however, had acknowledged that there was "no evidence of any collusion with Russia in this case."

Downing was repeatedly interrupted as he addressed dozens of reporters by protesters who shouted, "liar!" and "traitor!"

Jackson herself called the defense's repeated claims about the lack of collusion with the Russian government "a non-sequitur."

The question of whether anyone in Donald Trump's campaign "conspired or colluded with" the Russian government "was not presented in this case."

She added that the assertion may not even be "accurate," because Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is not over and she found that Manafort lied to investigators about issues at the heart of the inquiry.

"It's not appropriate to say investigators haven't found anything when you lied to the investigators," she said.

At least 20 people from the special counsel's office were in the courtroom for sentencing, a sign of the importance of Manafort's conviction in the investigation.

In contrast to Judge T.S. Ellis, who when sentencing him to 47 months in prison last week said Manafort lived an "otherwise blameless life," Jackson spent nearly 40 uninterrupted minutes describing the high-flying influence-peddler as a persistant liar who undermined democracy out of personal greed.

His crimes were "not just a failure to comply with some pesky regulations," she said, but "lying to the American people and the American Congress. . . . It is hard to overstate the number of lies and amount of money involved."

Manafort's motivation, she added, was "not to support a family, but to sustain a lifestyle that was ostentatiously opulent and extravagantly lavish - more houses than a family can enjoy, more suits than one man can wear."

But she agreed with Ellis that sentencing guidelines in the case were excessive, and said his age, the millions he forfeited, and the fact that his finances and career were "in tatters" minimized the chances he would offend again.

Manafort faced as many as 10 more years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States by illegally lobbying in Ukraine and hiding the proceeds overseas, then encouraging witnesses to lie on his behalf.

He apologized to "all those negatively affected by my actions," acknowledging that he did not express such regret when sentenced days ago by Ellis in Virginia for bank and tax fraud.

"Let me be very clear: I accept responsibility for the actions that led me to be here today, and I want to apologize for all I contributed to the impacts on people and institutions. While I cannot change the past, I can work to change the future," Manafort said from a wheelchair, turning to face Jackson. "I want to say to you now, I am sorry for what I have done and for all of the activities that have gotten us here today."

He added that nine months in solitary confinement after being jailed on charges of witness tampering gave him "new self-awareness."

Jackson said Manafort's crimes were "not just a failure to comply with some pesky regulations," but "lying to the American people and the American Congress. . . . It is hard to overstate the number of lies and amount of money involved."

Prosecutors questioned whether Manafort was capable of change, depicting him as a mastermind of a conspiracy in which he was paid $50 million over more than a decade by a Russian-backed politician and party in Ukraine, and Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"His work was corrosive to faith in the political process, both in the United States and abroad," prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said. "He served to undermine, not promote, American ideals of honesty, transparency and playing by the rules."

Manafort's attempt to cover up his crimes by asking witnesses to lie for him, Weissmann said, "is not reflective of somebody who has learned a harsh lesson. It is not a reflection of remorse. It is evidence that something is wrong with sort of a moral compass."

Manafort led a sophisticated scheme "to avoid a duty all Americans have" to pay their taxes, Weissmann said, hiding wealth in 30 foreign bank accounts containing more than $50 million for his work for the government of Ukraine and Deripaska.

Downing said his client is genuinely remorseful and has endured a "media frenzy" that few other defendants in this country have faced. Downing said all sides have sought to spin Manafort's predicament to their political advantage, adding, that "but for a short stint as campaign manager in a presidential election, I don't think we would be here today. I think the court should consider that, too."

Jackson dismissed that argument, telling Manafort, "Saying 'I'm sorry I got caught' is not an inspiring call for leniency."

The investigation of Manafort predated Mueller's appointment in 2017, and it wasn't the special counsel's office that made Manafort lie to investigators, she said.

Manafort asked for mercy on more personal grounds, telling Jackson that he is the sole caregiver to his 66-year-old wife. "She needs me, and I need her. I ask that you think of this and our need for each other as you deliberate today. Please let my wife and I be together," he said.

Jackson acknowledged Manafort's generosity and care for his family and other causes, calling them "commendable," and said she did not discount that she did "not know everything that there is" to Paul Manafort, or will be to him.

The judge ruled earlier this year that Manafort breached his plea deal by lying to the FBI, prosecutors and grand jurors during more than 50 hours of interviews.

Jackson found that Manafort's lies included matters "material" to the Mueller probe, including interactions with his longtime Russian aide in Ukraine, Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the FBI assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence.

Kilimnik has denied having connections to Russian intelligence and is believed to be in Russia. He was indicted with Manafort on charges of conspiring to tamper with witnesses in Manafort's D.C. case but is unlikely to be brought to court because Russia does not extradite its citizens.

Those lies, she said, tainted any cooperation he may have genuinely offered.

"So was he spinning the facts before hand to get a good deal, or was he spinning the facts afterward to protect other people?" Jackson asked. "We don't know."

The second sentencing caps a legal saga which began in October 2017 when he and his longtime employee and campaign deputy Rick Gates became the first defendants publicly charged in Mueller's probe. Gates later pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI. He agreed to cooperate with the investigation and has yet to be sentenced.

Manafort faced two federal trials because he exercised his option to keep the tax and bank fraud charges in the state where he lived.

At trial in Virginia in August, a jury found him guilty on eight counts and deadlocked on 10 others. But Manafort admitted guilt on all charges in his D.C. plea.

Trump has refused to discuss a pardon publicly as Manafort's case worked its way through the federal court system, but the president has called Manafort brave for fighting prosecution.

"No one is beyond the law in New York," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement announcing the indictment. "Following an investigation commenced by our office in March 2017, a Manhattan grand jury has charged Mr. Manafort with state criminal violations which strike at the heart of New York's sovereign interests, including the integrity of our residential mortgage market."

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This article was written by Spencer S. Hsu, Rachel Weiner and Ann E. Marimow, reporters for The Washington Post.

The Washington Post's Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.