Sentence for bank and tax fraud uncovered during Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation falls far short of prosecutors’ recommendation
- Sherrod Brown says he won’t run for president in 2020
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We’re shutting down our live coverage for the day. Thanks for following along on this busy day. Here are the highlights:
A federal judge in Los Angeles has just dismissed a lawsuit brought by porn actor Stormy Daniels to end a hush-money settlement she had with Trump, Reuters reports:
Daniels filed a lawsuit in March 2018 to rescind a nondisclosure agreement that kept her from discussing her alleged 2006 sexual relationship with Trump in the final weeks before the 2016 presidential election.
Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.
Trump beats Stormy Daniels lawsuit over “hush” agreement https://t.co/gWAyazTh9E
There’s a lot of attention right now on Judge TS Ellis, who issued a sentence significantly lower than what prosecutors recommended for Paul Manafort. Some useful context:
In light of Manafort’s sentencing, worth re-reading this great profile of the federal judge who made the call — T.S. Ellis III — by @ChrisMegerian and Eliza Fawcett: https://t.co/l9dEndegdF pic.twitter.com/IQssTHlnN3
Ellis in July 2018 “sentenced Frederick Turner, 37, to a mandatory minimum of 40 years in prison for dealing methamphetamine. ‘I chafe a bit at that, but I follow the law. If I thought it was blatantly immoral, I’d have to resign. It’s wrong, but not immoral.” #ManafortSentencing https://t.co/vqjerksnGt
Representative Ilhan Omar has co-signed a statement praising the anti-hate resolution, noting that this is the first time in US history that Congress has passed a measure condemning anti-Muslim bigotry:
Our nation is having a difficult conversation, but we believe this is great progress. pic.twitter.com/gSua9a8mki
Some reactions to Manafort’s sentencing below. Some are comparing it to the case of Crystal Mason, who was sentenced to five years for casting a ballot in Texas when she didn’t realize she was ineligible.
47 months. That’s all. A federal judge in Virginia gave Paul Manafort less prison time for eight counts of bank fraud, tax fraud, and failing to file a foreign bank account report than Crystal Mason got in Texas for voting once while on probation. America. https://t.co/zUVjV79RWE
For context on Manafort’s 47 months in prison, my client yesterday was offered 36-72 months in prison for stealing $100 worth of quarters from a residential laundry room.
Ex-federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner reacts to the Manafort sentencing: “As a former prosecutor, I’m embarrassed. As an American, I’m upset … I am just as disappointed with Judge Ellis … It’s an outrage and it’s disrespectful of the American people.”
Crystal Mason, a Black woman in Texas, just started serving a sentence of five years for casting an illegal ballot because she didn’t know her felony made her ineligible.
Paul Manafort will finish his sentence before Crystal Mason.
Watch whiteness work.
NEW: Judge sentenced handed Manafort “a sentence that bears no resemblance to the guidelines of 19.5-24 years”
It’s worth noting that the Paul Manafort sentence of just under four years is significantly lower than what prosecutors recommended:
This is 181 months – or 15 years – shorter than what prosecutors recommended. https://t.co/cRwA2olq27
Here’s what Paul Manafort looks like allocating in court today per sketch artist Art Lien pic.twitter.com/HfEHpoYzJF
Paul Manafort has been sentenced to 47 months in prison.
Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman was found guilty of eight felony crimes last August, including filing false tax returns and bank fraud.
Meanwhile, here’s the scene in Denver at the presidential campaign launch of former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, who is competing with several major politics stories for airtime this evening:
DENVER! @NRateliff is ready for tonight, are you? Doors open at 5 PM!
More of Manafort’s comments to the judge, via the Washington Post:
The last two years have been the most difficult years for my family and I. To say that I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement.
Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, asks judge for compassion and does not apologize for his conduct https://t.co/d5uzrlGCu2
Paul Manafort has spoken in court before the judge announces his fate, CNN reports:
“I appreciate the fairness” of this court during the proceedings. “You bent over backwards” to give me a fair trial Manafort told the judge. “Thank you for a fair trial,” Manafort said.
“I know it is my conduct that brought me here.”
Manafort spoke for about 4 minutes and told the judge “I am ready for your decision.”
Read Lauren Gambino’s full report on the anti-hate resolution that passed the House:
Paul Manafort is expected to address the judge before his sentencing, his attorneys have said. Prosecutors have argued that Manafort is still a wealthy man and that he never gave meaningful help, reports CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz, who is providing updates from court:
Manafort is still a rich man, prosecutor Uzo Asonye noted in a discussion with the judge about possible fines and restitution Manafort could pay. He said Manafort still has at least $4 million in assets and properties.
Prosecutors say Manafort never gave meaningful help. That the reason he met with the Mueller team for 50 hours was because he lied.
Bernie Sanders reiterated his defense of Ilhan Omar in a new interview, saying she engaged in “fair criticism” of the Israeli government:
The House has passed the resolution condemning antisemitism, Islamophobia and other hate speech.
All Democrats, including Rep Ilhan Omar, whose comments about Israel inspired the resolution, voted yes, while 23 Republicans opposed the measure, including GOP conference chair Liz Cheney and several members of the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus.
JUST IN: In 407-23 vote, House passes resolution condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hatred. https://t.co/qVeLI3Jjw0
More on the Republican votes:
Updated list: pic.twitter.com/8dREaDZ5CG
.@SteveKingIA voted “Present” on anti-hate resolution.
Key House Republicans are now voting no on the anti-hate bill:
House Republicans — namely conservatives in the freedom caucus — are dashing away from anti-hate bill. GOP leadership split.
Cheney — house gop conference chair
House Democrats have been under pressure for a week on anti-semitism but House Republicans have bailed them out.
No 3 house r Liz Cheney, Lee zeldin and Louie Gohmert vote no. Jeff Duncan present.
An embarrassing moment for house gop.
BIG: No. 3 Republican Liz Cheney is a NO vote on the anti-hate resolution, along with Reps. Louie Gohmert and Lee Zeldin who gave floor speeches lamenting that the resolution was watered down to take the focus away from Omar’s anti-Semitic comments.
It’s a busy afternoon. Here’s what’s still to come:
Sam Levin here, taking over our live coverage. Paul Manafort is due to be sentenced shortly. Court has just adjourned for a 15-minute break, so stay tuned:
We are in a 15 minute recess. Update to come.
Judge is digging into the legal teams’ arguments over whether Manafort sought a $5.5 million loan and admitted lying to the bank to get the money – with the intention to cause harm to the bank.
Judge is now considering Manafort’s acceptance of responsibility.
As we wait for more information on Manafort, news that the Washington Post has petitioned a federal court to open a number of sealed and redacted records from the case against Trump’s former campaign chairman.
From the Post:
At issue are redacted or sealed filings, sentencing memos, hearing transcripts and more than 800 pages of exhibits submitted after the special counsel’s office alleged in November that Manafort voided his cooperation agreement with prosecutors in Washington by lying to them about five subjects over more than 50 hours of interviews before and after his guilty plea.
Prosecutors submitted the materials to substantiate their allegations but did so under seal or with heavy redactions, arguing that information related to uncharged individuals or ongoing criminal investigations, including secret grand jury matters, should not become public.
CNN is reporting that Judge T. S. Ellis has rejected one of Manafort’s requests for a reduced sentence.
Shimon Prokupecz reports that the request “was related to how the judge should view the foreign banking and tax offenses”.
This is from CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz, who is outside court in Virginia. (CNN possibly has reporters inside who are scurrying out with information):
Judge tells the courtroom that Manafort is not being sentenced for anything related to the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russian interference.
Ellis said “He is not before the court for anything having to do with colluding with the Russian government”
Paul Manafort’s sentencing hearing is now under way.
Trump’s former campaign chairman, who has been held in jail since June 2018, arrived in a wheelchair wearing a green jumpsuit, according to CNN.
Deb Haaland, the newly-elected congresswoman from New Mexico, has become the first Native American woman to preside over the House from the Speaker’s chair.
Haaland chaired a floor debate on HR1, a Democratic bill on voting rights and campaign finance, in the House this afternoon.
Paul Manafort will learn his fate shortly, with his sentencing hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, due to begin any moment now. Trump’s former campaign chair, who was found guilty of eight felony crimes last August, could face decades in prison. We’ll have the latest as we get it.
Donald Trump has been meeting with Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis this afternoon.
According to the Associated Press Trump and Melania Trump “welcomed the prime minister and his wife, Monika Babisova, to the White House with smiles and handshakes”.
The two leaders have much in common.
Babis, like Trump, is a wealthy businessman who rode into office on a nationalist-style campaign.
Democrats have released the text of the anti-hate resolution they’ll introduce in the House of Representatives this afternoon. The House is scheduled to debate the sentiment at 3.15pm.
It’s a resolution:
Condemning anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values and aspirations that define the people of the United States and condemning anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contrary to the values and aspirations of the United States.
Rep. Ted Deutch on the House floor: “Why are we unable to singularly condemn anti-Semitism?” pic.twitter.com/zbyVbr9TI9
The Trump administration plans to “expand the net” of sanctions against Venezuela, the US special representative for the country said on Thursday.
Elliott Abrams told a US Senate subcommittee hearing there would be increased focus on banks continuing to deal with President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
The Guardian’s David Smith is at the court where Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, will be sentenced today and sends this:
Two hours before Manafort is due to be sentenced, the scene remains quiet, sunny and chilly outside the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.
Three TV vans with satellite dishes are parked in the square outside. Reporters, producers and camera operators outnumber members of the public.
In the lawsuit – available here – Cohen says the Trump Organization refused to pay $1.9m in legal fees incurred during Robert Mueller’s investigation into him and the subsequent trial.
Cohen says the Trump Org stopped paying his lawyer in June 2018. Cohen says that broke a contractual agreement that attorneys fees accrued in connection with his work representing with the Trump Org would be reimbursed.
Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is suing the Trump Organization for unpaid legal fees.
In a lawsuit filed in a New York court Cohen accuses the Trump Organization of failing to indemnify him for attorney fees and costs he incurred working on the company’s behalf.
Breaking news: Sherrod Brown is NOT running for president.
NEW: Sherrod Brown announces he is NOT running in 2020. pic.twitter.com/POoA4uogl0
The Guardian is going to run a special live blog for International Women’s Day tomorrow, kicking off with our team in Sydney, followed by London, followed by New York.
That will be in addition to our daily politics live blogs covering events in London and Washington, but there may be some cross-fertilisation here and there. The personal is political, after all, and sometimes inescapably gender-political, as we see from the situation just revealed about journalist Jessikka Aro, who is clearly a woman of courage but is no longer invited to be one of the International Women of Courage.
Aro tweeted this immortal post a few days ago in response to a presidential chirrup:
I’m writing a book about Russian trolls and their influence operations around the globe.
Thanks for providing a never-ending flow of inspiration and material for my book Your tweets constantly remind me of the importance of my (and Bob Mueller’s) work.#StopKremlinTrolls
Aro tweets mainly in Finnish but frequently in English. Here’s her succinct thought on the development:
This unbelievable but true story is such a disgrace and violates freedom of speech. Please read and share. https://t.co/5NcQXVBGhf
Just in time for International Women’s Day tomorrow, the print and online magazine Foreign Policy breaks the following story on its website, headlined: “US Cancels Journalist’s Award Over Her Criticism of Trump”, with the sub-head: “Jessikka Aro was to receive a Women of Courage prize. Then officials read her Twitter feed.
According to the magazine, Aro, a Finnish investigative journalist, has faced down death threats and harassment over her work exposing Russia’s propaganda machine – long before the 2016 US presidential elections. In January, the US State Department took notice, telling Aro she would be honored with the prestigious International Women of Courage Award, to be presented in Washington by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The general overseeing US forces in the middle-east has said there is “not pressure” on him to meet a “specific date” on withdrawing troops from Syria – despite Trump claiming nearly three months ago that US forces “are coming back now”.
General Joseph Votel, head of the US Central Command, told the House armed services committee this morning:
What is driving the withdrawal of course is our mission, which is the defeat of ISIS and so that is our principal focus and that is making sure that we protect our forces, that we don’t withdraw in a manner that increases the risk to our forces.
After historic victories against ISIS, it’s time to bring our great young people home! pic.twitter.com/xoNjFzQFTp
The House will vote on a resolution condemning all forms of hatred, not just anti-semitism, Nancy Pelosi said, in response to controversy over Rep Ilhan Omar allegedly using anti-semitic tropes.
There had been conflict in Congress as to whether the resolution should be specific to anti-semitism, which some Democrats said would unfairly single out Omar at a time when Republicans, including the president, have engaged in bigotry.
I thought the resolution should be in large the issue to anti-semitism, anti-Islamopocbia, et cetera. Anti-white supremacist. And that it should not mention her name. And that’s what we are working on — something that is one resolution addressing these forms of hatred, not mentioning her name. Because it’s not about her. It’s about these forms of hatred.
The House just took a recess until noon, so that vote won’t happen for a while. There’s some debate in the Democratic caucus over the text of the bill – whether it should condemn anti-Semitism specifically, or condemn bigotry in general.
Members from both the Congressional Black Caucus and the younger, progressive wing of the party were furious about the leadership’s gambit. They questioned singling out Omar for condemnation. What about bigotry from Republicans, including President Donald Trump? And why were Democrats so focused on a woman of color, one of just two Muslims in Congress? Could the added scrutiny even put Omar in danger?
The House will vote on a measure “opposing hate” today, majority leader Steny Hoyer has said, in an indirect rebuke to Rep Ilhan Omar.
Hoyer made the announcement in a closed-door meeting on Thursday morning, Politico reported. According to Politico the text of the resolution will be published within the hour.
Here’s our man! Trump offers a stout defense of his repeated payments to Michael Cohen, made after the latter paid two women “hush” money to not talk about alleged affairs with Trump.
Cohen has already been convicted of violating campaign finance laws by paying off actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
It was not a campaign contribution, and there were no violations of the campaign finance laws by me. Fake News!
So Michael Cohen could have talked himself into trouble with that very definite “no pardon” statement to the House oversight committee last week.
During the hearing Cohen was asked if he had requested a pardon from Donald Trump.
I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr Trump.
During that time period, he directed his attorney to explore possibilities of a pardon at one point with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as well as other lawyers advising President Trump.
•Paul Manafort will be sentenced this afternoon. Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman was found guilty of eight felony crimes last August, including filing false tax returns and bank fraud. Manafort will discover his fate at 3.30pm, and is likely to face a lengthy prison sentence.
•Michael Cohen told his former lawyer to “explore” a potential presidential pardon last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ reported that Lanny Davis, who currently represents Cohen, admitted Cohen had instructed his then attorney to look into a pardon from Trump. Cohen told Congress last week that he had “never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump”.
Not long after departing the White House, former chief of staff John Kelly is putting some distance between himself and Donald Trump.
At a question and answer session Wednesday night at Duke University, Kelly said he would have worked for Hillary Clinton if she became president, according to audio of the session obtained by ABC News.