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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Paul Manafort Sentenced To 47 Months In Prison; Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) Connecticut Is Interviewed About The 47-Month Sentence Of Paul Manafort; Paul Manafort Sentenced To 47 Months In Prison; Faces Second Sentence Next Week For Two More Crimes; Paul Manafort Sentenced To 47 Months In Prison; Judge Called Mueller Recommendation Of 19-24 Years "Excessive". Aired: 7-8p ET
Aired March 7, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: I wonder if the nine months he's already served will be reduced from the 47 months.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It'll be added in there, absolutely. It'll reduce it.
BLITZER: It will be added it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now we all look to what Judge Jackson is going to do in district court.
BLITZER: Erin Burnett OutFront is going to pick up our extensive coverage right now.
ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, CNN: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, humiliated and shamed, the President's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, just sentenced to 47 months. That is one month shy of four years for running a global scheme to avoid paying millions in taxes, defrauding banks. Now, these are all charges that came from the Mueller team.
Manafort spoke for about four minutes, telling the judge, "I know it is my conduct that brought me here. My life personally and professionally, is in shambles." Now, I just want to emphasize here. This is a remarkable moment in history, right? The campaign chairman of a presidential campaign sentenced to prison going to handcuffs 47 months.
But I want to say this is a big blow for Mueller as well. They had asked for 19 to 25 years. The judge, T.S. Ellis, going against that request from prosecutors and going for only 47 months. So that is a stunning development. Obviously, Manafort is going to be sentenced again in a week in the D.C. court, but this is not what team Mueller had been hoping for.
Now, Manafort is the first person from Trump's inner circle to be sentence. He was, of course, the first person who was indicted by Mueller. I want to go now to Shimon Prokupecz OutFront outside the Virginia courthouse. Shimon, this is not what team Mueller wanted. They wanted up to 25 years, 47 months, that's what they got. SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER, CNN: Way lower than
what really anyone expected, Erin. When you think about it, way lower than what the prosecutors, what the Special Counsel's office wanted here. They wanted up to 25 years, instead they get just under four years.
We're talking about 47-month prison sentence for Paul Manafort, which could reasonably mean that he will not have to spend the rest of his life in prison. Obviously, that was a big concern for him, for his family. As you said he stood up, he sat actually, he didn't stand up, he stayed in his wheelchair. He was brought here in a wheelchair. He spoke to the judge for about four minutes.
He asked the judge for compassion and it's clearly seems that that is what the judge here did, sentencing him to 47 months, well below what anyone had wanted from the for Special Counsel's office, well below what prosecutors had asked for and the judge is really finding, it seems, compassion here, sentencing him to the 47 months.
BURNETT: All right. Shimon, thank you very much. And I just want to actually, Shimon, as a follow, that you've got sentencing, obviously, we're waiting for Manafort's team to leave. As you said he's in a wheelchair. He is in cane, a remarkable downturn in his physical appearance from a man who had colored his hair and surprise his personal appearance with his fancy clothes.
He's going to turn 70 next month, so this is an incredible leniency from this judge. But there is another judge next week sentencing Manafort and that sentence would go on top of this one.
PROKUPECZ: It could go on top of it. It could run concurrent, which would mean that Paul Manafort would serve it together with this. There he's facing a substantial amount of prison time as well, but given the way the judge here treated him, this could affect how the judge sees him in the Washington, D.C. case.
He is facing about 10 years or so in Washington, D.C., but it all depends on what the judge there finds. Certainly, this judge seeing some room for leniency went ahead and gave him the 47 months. The other thing to - for folks to keep in mind is that in the D.C. case, this is where he was going to cooperate.
This is where he pleaded guilty and then decided he was going to cooperate with prosecutors and then he started lying, so that ended - and it's not clear what effect that may have on the sentencing, ultimately. But certainly the fact that he's only getting about four years here I think is going to play a role in what happens now in Washington, D.C.
BURNETT: Look, is it a stunning development. All right, Shimon, as you get more let us know and, obviously, our Evan Perez is inside that courtroom, so as we get more color, the dramatic final words of Manafort saying he's been ashamed, his life is in shambles, making the case to the judge who, obviously, was moved by that and Manafort all the way along the line resulting in this incredibly lenient relative to prosecutor's request sentence. I want to go now as we await them leaving this courtroom and get more
from Evan. I want to go to the Democratic Senator from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also as an Attorney General for Connecticut. Forty-seven months, fair?
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, DEMOCRAT, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, it has to be a disappointment to the prosecution and the prosecution was well deserved in trying to seek of longer term. Obviously, the judge has demonstrated some hostility before now to Robert Mueller.
BLUMENTHAL: But the point is there's going to be another reckoning for Manafort and it will be a reckoning from a judge who has taken very serious note that he has shown no remorse and no respect for the law.
BURNETT: Now, I want to be clear, when he said to the judge, he spoke for about four minutes, he did not say he was sorry, he did not express remorse. We know that he had cooperated and prosecutors said that cooperation was a load of baloney. They spent 50 hours questioning him because he kept lying and misleading and he never really cooperated even though he said he was.
So four minutes he spoke to the judge. He said he felt humiliated and shamed, would be a gross understatement. "The last two years have been the most difficult years for my family and I." Those are the things he talked about. He did not apologize and yet this judge clearly taking his side. This is a judge who, I want to remind everyone, Senator, when this all started said to Mueller's team, "You don't care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud. You really care about what information Manafort can give you that reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment."
BLUMENTHAL: And I'm going to speak as a former prosecutor as well as the Attorney General of the State, a Federal Prosecutor as well as State Attorney General. 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, feeling he is above the law line after his conviction about his giving polling data to the Russians while he was the Trump campaign manager, lying about his other conversations with the Russians, other kinds of untruths after his conviction.
BURNETT: And I want to be clear, jury, a jury of his citizens, his fellow citizens who convicted him after a three-week trial on all of these counts. Evan Perez was in the courtroom. All right, Evan, you've been inside all day, you've been waiting. You saw the four minutes of Manafort addressing the judge. Tell us everything you can.
EVAN PEREZ, SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Erin, you could hear a pin drop inside that courtroom as Manafort finally spoke. And let me tell you, one of the things that the judge raised when he finally announced the sentencing is that nowhere in Manafort statement did he say that he was sorry for violating the law. And he said, the judge said, "I was surprised that I did not hear you
express regret." He says, "I hope you reflect on that and the fact that you did not comply with the law." And I think that's one of the things that the judge was struggling with here today. He said that 19 to 24 years was way too much. He says it was excessive.
He says it was out of whack with the level of the crime that Paul Manafort had committed here. He cited a lot of cases. Some of the cases that he had heard in this very courtroom that he said he gave people probation or just a few months in prison.
So he was struggling with the idea of sentencing Paul Manafort to 19 to 24 years in prison. But he also said that this was, obviously, a very serious crime, and that's why he arrived eventually at 47 months, so just under four years. I think a lot of people were surprised. You could see the look of astonishment on the faces of a couple of the prosecutors at the prosecution table.
PEREZ: I think the defense has to be pretty happy with this result. And look, I think as the defense describe what they said that Paul Manafort had the ability to pay a $25 million fine, $25 million in restitution and an additional fine. You could see Mrs. Manafort sitting in the front row shaking her head no.
One of the prosecutors, Mr. Asonye, mentioned the fact that Paul Manafort still has ownership of two homes, one in Florida and one here in Alexandria. And he says he - the prosecution argued that Mr. Manafort had the ability to pay an additional fine on top of the $25 million that the judge just ordered him to pay.
In the end, the judge decided that he was not going to impose that additional fine, but you can see that Mrs. Manafort was not in agreement with the fact with the idea of paying anything more than the restitution he's already have to pay.
BURNETT: All right, so I just want to go inside that room to that moment. You're saying you could hear a pin drop. There was a look of astonishment on some of the prosecutors' faces. What was the attitude of Paul Manafort in the four minutes that he was speaking? Did he come off to you, Evan, watching him as defiant, as pathetic?
I mean, I know he's sitting there in a wheelchair with a cane. I mean, his hair is now gray. He used to color it. I mean, he looks like a broken man. But what it was like in those four minutes watching him?
PEREZ: Yes. Well, it's a vast difference from the Paul Manafort we saw. He was a certainly a lot cockier when he was showing up with his tailored suits before, nine months ago, when the judge decided to throw him in jail for witness tampering and so he was a different man.
Obviously, he spoke a lot more quietly. The judge asked him to speak more loudly, because he couldn't hear him. And so, eventually, you could hear him in the courtroom. And look, he spoke very emotionally about the impact on his family.
He said that this has been embarrassing and humiliating for his professional and his personal life. He also talked about the impact on his family. His wife was sitting just a few feet behind him.
BURNETT: Is he crying during all of this or just --
PEREZ: And then during the break after he finished his remarks, during those four minutes, he turned and looked at his wife and you could see his eyes were moist. They were little red and she just sat there silently as he spoke. And then, eventually he just sat there quietly with his hands on his chin sort of as his lawyers and everybody else in the courtroom sort of milled about.
And so you could see that this is a moment where everything perhaps was finally hitting Paul Manafort after this two years of this investigation. You can see that this is finally the moment where everything was coming home to him.
BURNETT: Now, I want to ask you, Evan, when you look at the 47 months, obviously, he's been in solitary confinement. He's been in jail since last summer, so I don't know, we're talking about seven, eight months or something. Does that count against? So this is now down to already 39 to 40 months?
PEREZ: Yes. I mean, that will count. That will count, at least, it was our understanding the judge was still finishing up his remarks. This has been a very, very long proceeding as you know and we expect that this will count towards that. And, obviously, Erin, he has another sentencing scheduled for next week with a judge who has shown very little patience for him.
I think Judge Ellis, I will say, has treated him more kindly. I mean, frankly, he has treated the government more roughly. As a matter of fact today he said one of the things that was not going to be under consideration, one of the things that the judge said he was not going to even think about was the allegations of whether Paul Manafort was part of some conspiracy to collude with Russians to interfere in the 2016 election.
That's something that he sort of just freelance and mentioned, interjected in the middle of the proceedings, which is, again, a little bit of a surprise. Because, again, you remember those comments last year where the judge sort of just went off script and scolded the Special Counsel's office. As matter of fact today he brought up when one of the prosecutors was talking about the special counsel, he scolded him and said, "You mean the government? I don't want to hear about the Special Counsel. You mean the government."
So you could tell that he has a little bit of a lack of patience for the idea of the Special Counsel and the idea that this case was handled outside of the normal procedure of the Justice Department.
BURNETT: So, Evan, one more question and I want to go to the White House, just to make it clear to people, we had talked about this being a possible life sense for Paul Manafort because he turns 70 next month. So if he had gotten anywhere in the 19 to 24, 25 year range prosecutors had requested, that would have been a life sentence. Now, he's looking at getting out, counting time serve, right around exactly the age of 73.
When you talk about the look of astonishment on prosecutors' faces, Evan, let me ask you about Andrew Weissmann, I understand that he was in the room. He is sort of the star celebrity prosecutor on team Mueller.
PEREZ: He was in the room.
BURNETT: Could you see his face?
PEREZ: Yes, you can see his face. He showed no emotion. He just sat there sort of stone faced. There were a couple of other the other prosecutors who sort of had the look of astonishment. And, look, I think as the judge spoke and as he said how he felt that these guidelines of 19 to 24 months - 24 years, rather, were out of whack. You could see them chatting with each other and looking at each other.
I think they were starting to brace for what was coming. They knew that this was not going to be anywhere near what they were hoping for. And look, I think one of the things that the prosecution did, the Special Counsel is they didn't argue for the 19 to 24. They just simply cited that as the guidelines and said, "Judge, take a look at that and use that as your guide post."
They didn't argue very strongly for that. So I think they were prepared for a lot less than 19 to 24. I don't know that they were prepared for four years or under four years.
BURNETT: Right, for four years. All right, so Evan, we're going to go back to you in just a moment. I do want to just make sure everyone knows as we're getting more information as people come out of that courtroom. I want to go back to Evan and Shimon.
But in addition to the 47 months, we now know that the judge Ellis has ordered Manafort to pay restitution of as little as $6 million as much as $25 million, I'm not sure exactly how to decide which it is, but that's the range that's been put out there. Fine of $50,000 and three years in supervised release. I want to make it clear, that's in addition to the 47 months he has to serve in prison of which we believe seven will count as time served that he has already served.
And just to remind everybody, it was a jury of Americans, of his peers who convicted him of defrauding taxpayers, not paying taxes on millions and millions of dollars, defrauding banks and other things. I want to go to Kaitlan Collins, who's at the White House. All right, Kaitlan, what's the reaction? Is this seen as a victory by the President?
KAITLAN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, we know the White House has been watching this closely. They've tried for the last several months to distance themselves from Paul Manafort and say that he only spent a little bit of time in the campaign and it wasn't that high-ranking even though he was there for several months and was one of the most senior positions.
And Kellyanne Conway was just actually speaking with reporters outside the White House minutes before this judge sentenced Paul Manafort to 47 months in prison. And we asked her what the White House's reaction to Paul Manafort was and including if the President had ruled out a pardon for him. Because you'll remember last fall, the President said he hadn't thought about a pardon for Paul Manafort, but he wasn't going to take it off the table, telling the New York Post, "Why would I take it off the table?"
Kellyanne Conway said she hadn't discussed it with President Trump, but she did not rule it out. When I said, "Has this been ruled out yet?" But then she did make a point and, Erin, you can expect to hear this over the next several days from White House officials when they are doing interviews and that's that comment that the judge made at the sentencing, first got underway in the first beginning hours they said that this sentencing had nothing to do with Russian collusion and they wanted to make that point clear at the beginning as all of this is unfolding. And that is something Kellyanne Conway pointed to repeatedly.
Though she did say that she believed that the prosecutors were going for that over 19 years of a sentence. They believe that that was harsher than what other people have received for similar cases to Paul Manafort's.
BURNETT: All right, Kaitlan, as you get more, we'll go back to you. I want to come back now to Senator Richard Blumenthal, also with us, Evan Perez, Patrick Healy, Political Editor for The New York Times and former Federal Prosecutor, Jack Weiss, who was a former Democratic Member of the Los Angeles City Council.
Senator, I just want to continue on the conversation we're having now that we have Evan who was in the courtroom all day, talking about the look of astonishment on some of the prosecutors' faces and Paul Manafort making this emotional plea from his wheelchair with his moist eyes, turning to his wife. What's your takeaway now you hear the color in the courtroom of this surprising sentence?
Blumenthal: My takeaway is much the same that the American people would be justified and feeling that there has been some miscarriage of justice here in the leniency of this sentence. Remember, those sentencing guidelines applied to all defendants and the judge really needs a good reason to go below them. The recommendation of 19 to 25 years is an assessment of the severity of these crimes.
And what Paul Manafort did was essentially - potentially threaten our very democracy, the principles of our democracy. That's the reason that he is in that courtroom. That's the reason that he's been convicted of these very serious crimes, tax fraud, and bank fraud and money laundering which involve Ukrainian money used to impact the democracy. BURNETT: What do you think, Jack, is the significance of the judge
going so lenient and surprising so many, going so outside the sentencing guideline range?
JACK WEISS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Look, a lot of us expected a significant downward departure here. This is even more significant than we expected, but it is within the judge's discretion. I think people need to remember that this is just halftime as far as the sentencing of Paul Manafort is concerned.
Judge Jackson is the judge he's going to face next. She revoked his bond. She held an extensive hearing, probing all manner of lies that he told to the Special Counsel. She concluded that he did, in fact, lie to the Special Counsel. She has been very strict and measured in all of her rulings, both in this case and in the Roger Stone case.
And, well, I don't think she's going to take this case into consideration, because I think she's clearly a fine judge. All of us were already expecting a significant sentence out of her. When the game is over, this will be looking a lot closer to 10 years than the five and Paul Manafort won't be high fiving.
BURNETT: So Patrick Healy, the one of the other things the judge said as and we'll get more on this from Evan in a moment, but referenced - the otherwise blameless life in his words that Paul Manafort had led. Does that in any way minimize to the American people what this man did?
Which was a many, many year long life of defrauding the American people, the IRS, lying to prosecutors, defrauding banks that somehow those things are not good but everything else about a person's character would be blameless even if you do those things.
PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. I mean I think that's going to be the tweet that we're going to hear pretty soon from President Trump and you're going to be hearing from the White House for days. The sentence and words like "an otherwise blameless life," the judge talked about how a number of people had written letters of admiration about Paul Manafort.
This all goes to the argument the President Trump is wanting to put out, which is that this is a man who when he brought on was someone who, in the campaign, was someone who was respected and admired, who had no criminal history. There was nothing sort of untoward to worry about and that in the end this sentence again good for Trump in the sense that the sentence is very pretty narrowly focused on the bank fraud.
I mean, on these issues that the President certainly wants to be able to say in sort of a general blurring way don't have anything to do with any wrongdoing in my campaign. But to your central point, Erin, of course, these are very serious charges and the degree to which other people go to jail for much longer terms for issues of even a voter fraud that are - one would think much less severe in the impact on the democracy is surprising.
BURNETT: Right. I mean, Evan, you've got a judge here saying on the one hand that the restitution could be between $6 million and $25 million. It's an incredible amount of money. But on the other choosing to emphasize an otherwise blameless life in his words. What was it like when he said that? Was there anything more along those lines or are we picking up on the right phrase otherwise blameless life?
PEREZ: Right. I think that's exactly what the judge was sort of getting at. He said that - essentially, he felt that while Paul Manafort had many people who had written letters to the judge to sort of say what a wonderful person he was, what a good friend he was, all of the good works that he had done, he also raised that these were very serious crimes.
And so one of the things he talked about was, again, he said, "I hope you reflect on the fact that you did not comply with the law." And, again, he raised the idea that people pay their taxes and Paul Manafort chose not to report those bank accounts that he was hiding his money overseas for and he says that this is you - I'm sorry, let me see, I'm trying to read my own handwriting here. He says, "You chose to engage in criminal conduct."
This was a reminder to Paul Manafort of all of the things that he had done were choices that he had made. Now, Paul Manafort himself went into a little bit of that. He talked about it and he said, "It was my own. I understand that it was my own conduct that brought me here."
And you know what was remarkable about that comment, that was as close as Paul Manafort got to sort of accepting that it was his own criminal behavior that he was sitting at that defendant seat, that was why he was there for. He never actually said, "I regret it," or, "I'm sorry." It was almost a moment where he was sort of saying mistakes were made.
PEREZ: And I think that's what really, I think, came across to the judge, came across certainly to the room while he spoke.
BURNETT: And yet Senator, obviously, it was still - the judge opted for leniency. How much of a role do you think Manafort's appearance played in this sort of a situation, the cane, the wheelchair, the hair that is no longer - the man who while he had been a peacock is now brought so low.
BLUMENTHAL: That's a really good question, Erin, because judges are human beings. I've been through quite a number of sentencings.
BURNETT: You know what I'm going to interrupt you. OK, here's one of the lawyers speaking.
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S LAWYER: ... collusion with any government official from Russia. Thank you, everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think of the sentence?
BURNETT: OK, that was Manafort's defense attorney. I don't know. Evan, did Evan hear that while he was there. We're just watching him walk out. This is Manafort's ...
BURNETT: Yes, go ahead, Evan. We only heard the last thing that he was emphasizing that he was in sentence for collusion.
PEREZ: Right, exactly and I think that's - that was Kevin Downing, the lead attorney for Paul Manafort. And I think, Erin, you have to look at this. I think we've talked about this on your program quite a few times. I think the defense attorney is here. One of their jobs is to sort of telegraph to the audience of one at the White House, right?
PEREZ: Whatever Paul Manafort gets here, the President is going to have a decision to make as to whether or not he believes Paul Manafort deserves a pardon. And I think we're going to hear that it repeatedly from Kevin Downing here today. You're going to hear it next week again in Washington when this judge there gets a chance to sentence Paul Manafort and the gag order is finally lifted from him.
He's going to speak out and he's going to talk about how the fact that the Special Counsel has not proven collusion which was the job that he was given to prove in this two-year investigation. I think that's what the job of the defense attorneys here is to sort of remind the President that Paul Manafort even though he pleaded guilty and he went in for 50 hours of time talking to the Special Counsel, he ended up not giving up anything. And the president, I think, will be able to look at that and think maybe he deserves a pardon.
BURNETT: And that's obviously what this is all about at this point. We have some sketches, Senator, that are just coming in. These are the first sketches coming from inside the courtroom of what exactly happened. You can see Manafort there, Alexandria inmate, is what his jumpsuit said. His hair is now gray. He's sitting there in his wheelchair reading his prepared statement.
You were talking about this sort of a moment. A man that had been although preening, I used the word peacock, a preening person has now been brought so low. Did that influence the judge?
Blumenthal: There's always a human factor, but remember that the judge here had a decision whether in fact he was going to impose a life sentence and he chose not to send Paul Manafort away for the remainder of his life. That was the human factor here. There's another factor which is very important to the prosecution. Paul Manafort had no more cooperation, nothing really left to offer, a heavy sentence was not going to persuade him to cooperate because he'd already been lying to them.
And so it really was a sentence that judged his culpability and this idea that we're at half time now is absolutely right. Another judge with another assessment of Paul Manafort is now going to take into account his lack of remorse, his non-apology, his witness tampering, which is the reason that he's been in prison for all this time and his utter contempt for the law.
BURNETT: But now they've requested I believe, Patrick, just to give the kind of political point of this in that other case, it could be 10 years. But let's just say that judge goes with half of that and it's a concurrent sentence, then you're looking at pretty much what he just got tonight. I mean maybe one more year.
But I understand the halftime point, but on the pure basis of how long Paul Manafort spends in jail, the story could have fundamentally changed.
HEALY: Right. I mean I think there was an expectation certainly given the amount of money, time, attention that the Special Counsel spent on Paul Manafort that the takeaway was going to be a set of very big sentences. Well, this one is sort of narrowly focused on the bank and the tax fraud.
The next one will be big, Erin. I mean, the President is very much hoping to make this look like an enormous amount of energy and time and millions of dollars that spend on a sentence that can be described as months as opposed to many, many years. And that's the takeaway that he wants. A lot of distraction and noise for what he would describe as relatively small results.
BURNETT: And we should say, of course, Jack but I would imagine when you run these numbers, it's not just the Russia investigation overall, but the Paul Manafort case specifically would be in the green when all is said and done by the time he pays the money versus what they put into it when it comes to taxpayers. But I have to ask you to this point that clearly they are making, as Evan says, Kevin Downing, the attorney for Paul Manafort, his lead defense attorneys speaking to the audience of one, the President of the United States. There was no collusion. That's all the President of the United States wants to hear.
Jack, just to be clear, Paul Manafort, sure, I mean it's unbelievable that you have a former campaign chairman going to prison. But it is also unbelievable that in the midst of an investigation into Russian meddling at least according to what he was convicted of, collusion was not on the list. Is that possible that anything could change when it comes to what they accused Paul Manafort of as the Mueller report we anticipate could come out soon?
WEISS: Well, I mean, Paul Manafort knows better than anyone what he talked about with Oleg Deripaska, what he talked about with Konstantin Kilimnik, why he shared that internal polling data with Kilimnik, and so I think Paul Manafort has been playing a game of pardon roulette and he is hoping for a pardon. Now, that pardon is going to come after he served years in federal custody, if at all. Contrast that with Mike Flynn who early on in this investigation
decided that he would cooperate.
He went in. He pled guilty. He received a noncustodial sentence.
Mike Flynn decided that he would not put his life in the hands of Donald Trump and think about it, who of us would actually do that? Paul Manafort has -- he has put his entire life in the hands of Donald Trump, the most capricious person in America right now. It's -- it's kind of nuts, to me, for a 70-year-old to make that decision, but that's what he's done.
BURNETT: Evan, you know, I want to play, again, what Kevin Downing said, because we didn't get to hear it all, because I want to give you a chance afterwards to just talk about this fundamental issue. Is this it for Paul Manafort? Or is it possible that the special counsel has something that they know about that we don't know about after all this time with Manafort on collusion? Here's his defense attorney just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S ATTORNEY: As you heard in court today, Mr. Manafort finally got to speak for himself. He made clear he accepts responsibility for his conduct, and I think most importantly, what you saw today is the same thing that we had said from day one. There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with any collusion with any government official from Russia. Thank you, everybody.
REPORTER: What do you think of the sentence?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Evan, is there? I mean, is that true, there's no absolutely no evidence? I don't know that we know that that's true at this point, do we?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I don't think we know what the Mueller investigators have found. I mean, I think we're expecting, obviously, that the attorney general is going to get the confidential report from the special counsel sometime soon. And then we're going do see what Bill Barr, the attorney general, decides is -- he's able to send over to Congress and make public so the public can see the answer to that question.
We don't know whether they found behavior that they just could not reach the level to bring charges against anybody. We don't know that.
So I think what Kevin Downing is doing, certainly, is speaking for his client because his client was not -- was not charged with collusion or anything that looks like that. So --
BURNETT: Yes. PEREZ: -- I think Kevin Downing feels very, very confident that he
can make that case. Again, as you just talked about, you know, he's speaking to an audience of one here. That is the president of the United States because the president of the United States has Paul Manafort's hands, life in his hands, especially with another sentencing due next week.
BURNETT: Senator, as a former attorney general, is it fair to say, I know we've been discussing this for months, but now here we are with this allegation out there, and we're expecting the Mueller report any day, that if they could have charged Paul Manafort with collusion, they would have. Or is it possible all of a sudden you're waiting on further indictments at this point, even of him?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think we may well see additional indictments. But remember, that prosecutors face a high bar, proof beyond reasonable doubt. They choose the crimes that they can prove meeting that standard. And he may --
BURNETT: So you think they're admitting collusion did not meet that standard for Paul Manafort? That's your reading between the lines?
BLUMENTHAL: And he may well have decided, that is -- the special counsel may well have decided we need to have a conviction here, we're going to charge what we know we can prove refutably, in fact, meeting that standard and there may be a lot more evidence of collusion that hasn't come out.
BURNETT: Right, and Patrick Healy, that's going to be the crucial question here.
PATRICK HEALY, POLITICS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. I think that is. What is ultimately in Robert Mueller's report and findings, there may be a great deal, you know, more evidence, this may be just one step, I mean, for Paul Manafort, certainly, steps in a process.
BURNETT: Let me ask you, Jack, about next week's sentencing as you and the senator have been talking about, this being sort of the middle act. This is obviously significant.
First, actually, Evan, let me just get from you what is the range, right? I know we've been talking about ten years. Is there a range? Is that the top, the bottom? Can you frame it for where we are to Paul Manafort's next sentencing next week?
PEREZ: Yes, in the District of Columbia, the statutory cap under the law is ten years under the two conspiracy crimes he pleaded guilty to. So, that's what the judge can do. She cannot do any more than that. The special counsel, the prosecution, argued that she should stack it on top of whatever Judge Ellis just gave him.
In other words, since he's given just under four years, that she should stack her sentence to run subsequent to that. Not concurrently.
BURNETT: Right. PEREZ: I don't know whether that would be an unusual thing
considering the fact he's a first-time offender but that's what the special counsel was arguing for.
BURNETT: And that's her discretion, right?
PEREZ: We'll see how far -- that is at her discretion. And that's what they were arguing for, for her to do.
BURNETT: Right. So, Jack, we could end up in a situation where he's getting 47 months is the top. She could say less and it's concurrent. Less than the ten years. I'm sorry. She could go. Under four years and say it's concurrent, then that could happen.
WEISS: That's right. So, yes, somewhere between four and 14 years. We don't know where. I mean, if you look -- as the senator said, these judges are human beings.
[19:35:02] BURNETT: Yes.
WEISS: Judge Ellis more than telegraphed his views of this case from the moment the trial began. He was constantly interrupting the prosecutors. Doing things that most of us as prosecutors would find as really difficult for our case.
Judge Jackson has been very, very stern. She's been very, very thorough. So, she -- and she's found that he's a liar and he's substantially wasted the government's time here.
So I don't want to go too far out on a limb here, but I don't believe he's going to walk out of her courtroom next week with this 47-month sentence being the sum total. I think she's going to add to this.
And the earlier comment that this judge didn't want to give a life sentence is true. She could effectively be the imposer of a life sentence here.
BURNETT: Right. She could, right? Because she could say ten years on top of and certainly that puts your overall to 14. That is a very different ball game.
BLUMENTHAL: She has a real sense of not only the human factor but also the impact on the rule of law and respect for the law, which I think she has demonstrated again and again which is very different in terms of mindset than Judge Ellis has evidenced. Judge Jackson clearly regards his witness tampering, his lying, his contempt for the law, feeling that the rules don't apply to him, and frankly, that is the mindset of, many feel, this administration generally.
I'll say one more point, and that is a pardon here would be absolutely reprehensible to reward Paul Manafort for not only his criminal conduct, but also his lying and his failure to cooperate, in fact, his defiance.
BURNETT: How is that different than the pardon system in general? So many Americans seem so awful. Marc Rich, others, you know, people on their way out, pardons. These people have done horrible things. How would Paul Manafort be worse if the president pardoned him?
BLUMENTHAL: Really fundamental point about the pardon power which is near absolute under Article 1, but I would argue, very respectfully, that it ought to be somewhat constrained by Congress at least in requiring some statement of reasons, some kind of transparency, some rules, perhaps, apply to it because you're absolutely right that the president's apparent near absolute pardon power is very troubling to the American people.
BURNETT: So, Patrick, walk us through this pardon issue because the president has -- could pardon really at any point, right? OK. So there could be more indictments coming. We don't know. And maybe the president will wait to see if that is the case or not.
But you have people like Roger Stone out there who are not cooperating. You have -- I mean, he's not at a point where after the sentencing next week, he could choose to pardon Paul Manafort, sending the most loud and clear signal to anyone else who is indicted that that could be coming their way, too, if they similarly do not cooperate and lie.
HEALY: It would be a huge signal that president Trump could send to all of these folks around him who are under investigation or question, but it would be so dangerous politically, Erin, and that's what he's hearing from all of his advisers. I mean, even just the, you know, the reporting today that Michael Cohen sort of -- the lawyers for Michael Cohen kind of felt out the idea of a possible pardon with Rudy Giuliani and others, it just sort of -- it goes to the sense, yes, the president does have this kind of power, but if the president starts, you know, pardoning people who are convicted liars, who have either misled the government or committed real crimes, the president, himself, has tried to say over and over again that, you know, his hands are clean.
You know, he wasn't implicated in anything. If he starts giving like a pardon to a Paul Manafort, you know, it just -- it opens him up to tons of questions. The reality is, Erin, though, this is a president who believes in a sense of absolute power for the presidency. He has a very sort of extra-constitutional view of the presidency.
While he has that presidential power, the notion, the way that he talks so casually sometimes about, well, I could pardon this person, I could do whatever I want with that. It doesn't get into any sense of the checks and balances in this government, of a sense of a court of law or rule of law, you know, that's supposed to hold all of us to the same kind of account.
BURNETT: So, Evan, before we go, where we stand tonight, Paul Manafort goes back to jail, right, and he stays there then he comes back out again for his sentencing next week, but there's no change in any of the situation with his -- where he's serving or anything like that, right?
PEREZ: Right. No, absolutely. You know, that was one of the remarkable things watching him come in today, they wheeled him in. Actually, to be honest, he looked a little better today than on a couple other recent hearings.
[19:40:03] You know, he still had the green jumpsuit that said Alexandria inmate on it. But, you know, he seemed to have, like he was in good spirits when he first came into the courtroom. So, I think that he's going to go back to the same -- to the same jail, no other conditions are going to change, and we're going to see what happens with the D.C. judge next week.
BURNETT: All right. Next, we've got more breaking news with Paul Manafort's very surprising sentence, 47 months in prison. One month shy of a four-year sentence.
Plus, President Trump now seizing on reports that his former fixer, Michael Cohen, directed his lawyer to ask Trump about a pardon, even though Cohen testified under oath to Congress last week that he never asked for a pardon.
BURNETT: Breaking news on another front tonight. President Trump seizing on comments his former lawyer Michael Cohen made under oath to Congress just last week, comments an administration official are now telling CNN that the DOJ may investigate as perjury.
Keep in mind, part of the reason Michael Cohen is going to prison is for perjuring himself in front of Congress so the fact it could happen again is absolutely defies belief.
Trump is citing MSNBC in a tweet tonight.
[19:45:00] Quote: Cohen's lawyer contradicts Cohen's testimony about never seeking a presidential pardon.
Well, let me just lay out exactly what happened. OK? Here's what Cohen said in that testimony last week under oath in front of the entire American public. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Well, he did ask, and that's not just somebody saying so. It's his own lawyer. His current lawyer, Lanny Davis, admits that Cohen did ask his attorney at the time to find out if a pardon was possible from Trump's team. So they reached out to team Trump and asked and a discussion occurred.
Now, Lanny Davis, though, is saying Cohen did not lie when he said what I just played for you because he says that Cohen's team inquired about a pardon when team Cohen and team Trump had a joint defense agreement. So, they were coordinating on their defense. You know, ostensibly once they stopped coordinating, he stopped asking for a pardon. OK. The problem is Cohen didn't say I did not ask after we had a
joint defense agreement. He said that he never asked for a pardon and that is not true.
Kara Scannell is OUTFRONT.
So, Kara, obviously, it's kind of amazing to imagine that you could be in a position a guy is going to prison for lying to Congress, goes in front of Congress to bare his soul and lies to Congress.
The DOJ may now investigate?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. This is such a tangled story here involving Michael Cohen and what he said under oath.
Now, an administration official tells Jim Acosta that the White House, you know, is saying that DOJ may have to look at whether Michael Cohen perjured himself exactly for that scenario that you laid out, because White House officials when Cohen was testifying were completely surprised by what he said because they knew that Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney, was fielding multiple requests from many people under investigation about pardons.
And Lanny Davis has come out trying to clear this up saying that, you know, yes, Michael Cohen did direct his former attorney to have discussions with Giuliani, you know, when they were under this joint defense agreement. But when Cohen was testifying, he wasn't testifying about that period of time. He was testifying only about the period of time that followed that.
Now, whether DOJ picks this up remains to be seen. You know, representative -- the chairman of the House Oversight Committee where Cohen testified publicly, Elijah Cummings, had said that he will hold Cohen accountable to this and he will study the transcript of these other -- of his testimony and then of the House Intelligence Committee where Cohen has testified.
And we learned today that that testimony, that transcript, may be made public within the month. So that is going to get a lot of scrutiny to see if Cohen was able to clear this up when he was still under oath before a different congressional committee, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Kara, thank you very much. To me, you lie once, you go and get to clear it up so the first lie doesn't count. I don't know. The whole thing is rather messy and sordid.
Senator Blumenthal is back with me, Jack Weiss, Kara also staying with me.
Let me ask you, Senator, you're obviously a lawyer, district attorney -- attorney general, I'm sorry. Can I just play, again, what Cohen said under oath to Congress when he was asked about whether he asked the president for a pardon? Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COHEN: I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Except for he did and he didn't in there say I never asked when we had a joint defense agreement, but then, I mean, I'm sorry, I never asked after we had a joint defense agreement, but I did before. I mean, he said never. I'm a regular person. That's a lie. You're a lawyer.
BLUMENTHAL: And a regular person. And I think that statement is problematic in light of what his own lawyer is saying.
A little perspective. It's the Trump White House that is saying the Department of Justice may have to investigate.
BLUMENTHAL: So the Trump White House, obviously, has a dog in this fight.
BLUMENTHAL: And a possible attempt to discredit Michael Cohen.
But keep in mind, also, that the lawyers may have some explaining to do because they are the ones who went to Rudy Giuliani or, perhaps, others, and explored the possibility of a pardon at some point in the past. So --
BURNETT: Right. Although Lanny Davis is saying Cohen directed them to do that. Just to make the point, he's not trying to hide behind, oh, my lawyers did it and I didn't know about it as a lot of people seem to be trying to do in all of this stuff. He's saying Cohen directed it.
BLUMENTAL: And you can parse the words and parse the timeframes. It raises questions. The questions need to be addressed.
He could say I was just asking them to explore whether it would be possible. I'm not asking for it, but that's an explanation that sounds pretty lawyerly. Now, one last point, I think that the, right now, secret testimony that Michael Cohen has given to Robert Mueller and to the House Intelligence Committee, may reflect a lot more on the facts here and what's important is the facts.
[19:50:00] BURNETT: Right. And obviously, Patrick Healy, you have Michael Cohen coming in showing checks about the hush money payments, right? All kinds of information that showed things to be true. When it came to collusion he said I couldn't quite here hear. Things that if you were going to lie you'd lie about that.
But it appears, again, I'm using the layperson word here, that he lied about this. It is a huge blow to his credibility. Why would he do it, Patrick? HEALY: Yes. I mean, this is -- this is a big blow and it plays right
into President Trump's hands. The president's wanted to obliterate Cohen's credibility from the get-go. And like you said, a normal person is pretty clear, sounds like Michael Cohen was at best misleading.
Why he said it? He might have been trying to be cute with the truth. He certainly wanted to go into that testimony and say -- make a very clear, strong, declarative statement to say I never asked President Trump for a pardon, nor would I ever receive one. And I suppose in his mind, he sees himself now as Michael Cohen the truth-teller who is now speaking truth to power about President Trump. But you know, a ways back he was mike the Cohen the guy who would take a bullet for president Trump and would go during the dangling of pardon phase to ask for one. So, the guy's flipped.
BURNETT: I mean, Jack, why would he do this? I mean, this is not true by any reasonable looking at this, right, at best. I think Patrick said it, misleading. And really a lie it would seem to any normal person. And he also said in that testimony that he never wanted a job at the White House.
Many of us journalists know that that's not true. Why would he lie about some things in there? That all-important meeting when by the way he's going to prison for lying to Congress?
WEISS: Yes, it's nuts. But look, Michael Cohen is a grifter. OK? That's who he is.
And that's why the two things that I choose to focus on when it comes to Michael Cohen are his two guilty pleas. He pled guilty in federal court to campaign finance violations, produced evidence, documentary evidence, and in fact the Southern District is convinced that Donald Trump is a part of that crime. That's why Trump is effectively an unindicted co-conspirator in that case. He pled guilty to perjury before Congress.
The truth of the matter was that the Trump Tower Moscow discussions were going on between the Trump team and the Russians throughout the 2016 campaign. When Cohen perjured himself, he said that wasn't a fact. So, those are the things about Michael Cohen that are most salient. And it's interesting to me, everyone who's been calling him a liar and a perjurer, if that's what you're going to call him, and you ought to own the truth of the matter.
The truth of the matter is accepted by the United States court in D.C., and by the U.S. Department of Justice, is that Trump Tower Moscow communications occurred between the Trump team --
WEISS: -- and the Russians in 2016. They have not tried to escape from that fact because it's pretty damning and pretty incontrovertible.
BURNETT: And, of course, even Rudy Giuliani has admitted it. I do love the meeting of Lanny Davis and Rudy Giuliani on this.
Thank you all very much.
And, next, our breaking news continues. What if President Trump decides to pardon Paul Manafort now that he's been sentenced to 47 months? A member of the powerful House Oversight Committee joins me next.
[19:55:50] BURNETT: Back with our breaking news. The president's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort just sentenced to 47 months in prison. That's one month shy of four years. And his seven months or so already served count against it.
It is, though, the longest sentence so far stemming from the Mueller probe and it is a former campaign chairman for a president of the United States being indicted and convicted and admitted and going to prison. But it is so much less than the 19 to 25 years the Mueller team said Manafort deserved. Nineteen to 25 requested, less than four received.
OUTFRONT now, a member of the powerful House Oversight Committee, Democratic delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives for the Virgin Islands, Stacey Plaskett.
Thank you for your time, Congresswoman.
I want to get your reaction to the Manafort sentence. We understand the courtroom prosecutors had a look of astonishment on their faces. What's your reaction?
DEL. STACEY PLASKETT (D), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE, QUESTIONED MICHAEL COHEN LAST WEEK: I think we're all astonished at the low sentence that he received. It's our hope that in the second part of the sentencing in the other court that there will be justice that's done to send a clear message. But you know, at the end of the day, this is a conviction. This is a win in the Mueller probe. And I think that we need to look at that. And the proximity of there individual having been convicted of the crimes he was convicted should also cause consternation with the American people.
BURNETT: So the White House is not commenting tonight. Not saying whether the president will pardon Manafort, which obviously could be hugely significant, right?
You have people out there who haven't been sentenced. You have people out there who are not cooperating -- Roger Stone among them. You have people out there who may end up being indicted we don't know but a pardon for Manafort would send a very powerful signal to them. The president has never closed the door on it.
Do you think he will pardon Manafort?
PLASKETT: Oh, I can't be in the mind of the president and what he will and won't do. I think it's all out there and available to him. It's his constitutional prerogative. Although I don't think in this case it would be appropriate pardoning someone whose crimes may not have implicated you but was so close to you and the involvement under which he was initially investigated did involve his campaign proximity to the president.
BURNETT: I want to ask you about Michael Cohen, obviously. You questioned him last week at his hearing before your committee.
BURNETT: And it was at that committee where he said this under oath about a pardon. I want to play it again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: I have never asked for nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Of course, Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis says Cohen did direct his attorney at the time to reach out about a possible pardon to Trump's lawyers. It certainly appears that was a lie. Do you think he lied?
PLASKETT: Well, I don't know at this point.
You know, I talked with Chairman Cummings about this. He's a very deliberate man. He and staff are going through the transcript. They're reviewing his testimony. They're reviewing what was said by Lanny Davis to make a determination of next steps. And I think that we should allow him to do that.
If you'll recall, during his testimony and during my questioning of him myself and my colleagues on the Democratic staff were really trying to probe the truth and particularly looking at the corroborating evidence that he gave, particularly asking for other witnesses that could corroborate him because we are very well aware that he has lied in the past.
PLASKETT: You know, he came there not as our friend, not as someone who we were there to prop up, but really trying to find the truth of the matter with regard to his involvement with the president and allegations of criminal activity by him and others in that orbit.
BURNETT: So, you're at a point obviously he's produced checks but when he says things like there was insurance fraud, inflation of assets, or he says it seems, you know, very possible that the president knew about the meeting at Trump Tower, those things, you're not trusting him on anything he didn't explicitly provide backup data for?
PLASKETT: No. And I don't think that -- I'm a former prosecutor. And you're always looking beyond a reasonable doubt. Of course that's not the standard in this instance. But I think that it's important for us in oversight to be able to look at those information and to find the witnesses and find evidence that would corroborate it or to refute it.
BURNETT: All right. Delegate Plaskett, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
PLASKETT: Thank you. Take care.
BURNETT: On this night of so much breaking news. Paul Manafort, as we said, astonishing prosecutors with the sentence, incredibly lenient, of 47 months, of which he's already served about seven.
Thanks for joining us. Our breaking news coverage continues with Anderson.