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Manafort in Second Sentencing: "I'm Sorry for What I've Done". Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 13, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here we go. Right now is a key moment in the nearly two-year-long special counsel investigation. This is the moment that the man who was, at one point, in charge of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, the moment that he is facing his final sentence. Paul Manafort is before a judge in Washington, D.C., right now. And he is facing a possible sentence of 10 years in prison for conspiracy against the United States and also witness tampering. This is the second criminal case that Manafort is being sentenced for in a matter of days, quite frankly. Last week, another judge sentenced him to 47 months, just shy of four years, in prison for bank and tax fraud.

So this is the first person that Robert Mueller and his team indicted in the special counsel's Russia investigation. This is also the man that Judge Amy Berman Jackson sent to prison already, revoking his bail after allegations of witness tampering surfaced. It has been a winding road to this moment. But what is Judge Jackson considering at this very moment? Will Paul Manafort's apology in court just now have an impact on his sentence? And what does this mean for the president of the United States?

CNN's Pamela Brown, CNN's Shimon Prokupecz are outside the U.S. district court in Washington and have been following this from the beginning.

Shimon, guys, Pamela, getting updates from inside the court. What is sticking out to you right now, especially hearing from Manafort just a short time ago?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We just heard from Manafort. Now they're in recess. Manafort was a very different person today than what we saw last week. Yes, he showed up in a wheelchair. He was wearing a suit, unlike last week. But he was more contrite and he directly apologized. He said flat-out, I am sorry for what I've done. He tried to make the case that's what he tried to convey last week but it wasn't evident in his heart because he was criticized by the judge for not fully accepting responsibility and not apologizing. He made sure he didn't make the same mistake today, giving this full-throated apology.

He also went onto say he knows it's his conduct that has brought him here today. He talked about being in solitary confinement for nine months and how he is a changed person. He made clear to the judge that he is a different person today than he was a year ago. And he says, look, I am not going to continue on with the same behavior that has landed me here today.

He brought up his age. He says I'm going to be 70 next month. He said his wife is 66 and he says he wants to be together with her. He says he is a primary caregiver and he doesn't want to be apart from her. He pleaded to the judge to take that into account and hoping that the judge had some sympathy toward him and believed that he was heart felt in his apology. But this is his last shot here. Let's not undermine just how important this is, how high the stakes are. It is Manafort's last shot. He faces up to 10 years in prison in addition to the four years he received last week -- Shimon?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: He's using his wife in this case, please let me and my wife be together. Obviously, being in jail, waiting for the sentencing, he's been in jail now for nine months in solitary confinement. You can see that it's taken an effect on him. He's pleading to the judge for some compassion. It worked in the other case. It's going to be interesting to see how Judge Amy Berman Jackson here accepts that. Whether or not this becomes enough for her now to say, I believe you, I do think you have taken responsibility, and you have shown that you're a changed man.

But there are so many factors stacked against him here. Because he lied after he pleaded guilty and began to cooperate with the special counsel's office, the judge now is in a recess. She is going to come back at some point. We expect to hear a lot from her. Then we will hear at any moment what she plans to do in terms of the sentence for him. Remember, he's facing up to 10 years here.

I think the significance of today, you could see it, you could hear it in Paul Manafort's voice. I think he's realizing this dictates whether or not he will spend the rest of his life behind bars, in prison, unable to be with his wife, with his family and live the life that he's used to. I think that's what we saw today in Paul Manafort.

He made it very clear that last week, when he was before Judge Ellis in Virginia, it just didn't become clear to anyone that he was apologizing, that he was remorseful, and he wanted to make that very clear here today that he was sorry. That is a big step here, which may help him in the end.

BROWN: Yes, we'll have to see if the judge, Amy Jackson, believed that he was heart felt and sincere in that apology. She did say that while he has bared the burden, that he did accept responsibility, that that is not a reflection on his character. She also said the fact that he lied, witness tampered after pleading guilty has some relevance. She's going to have to weigh this apology from him, whether she believes it's sincere and the fact that he did lie, that he did witness tamper after pleading guilty to these crimes. We'll have to wait and see what she ultimately decides here today.

[11:05:28] And not only the sentence she'll be handing down is important, but why, what's behind it, and what is in her thinking is all going to be dissected for a long time to come. Guys, stand by. Pamela, Shimon, don't go anywhere. We'll go back to

you guys as things develop over there.

Joining me right now to discuss this CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is here, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu.

Shan, you represented Manafort's deputy for a time, Rick Gates. He's also been before Judge Amy Jackson. We'll be asking you about that in a second, Shan.

And Elie Honig, CNN legal analyst and former assistant attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Elie, let me get your take on what you heard from Paul Manafort, a different, more contrite Paul Manafort, as Pam and Shimon are laying out. What is your take? What's your read and reaction to how Manafort spoke in court this morning?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Kate, it's a starkly different tone from what Manafort put out there last week. There's a reason for that. I think we have a different tone because there's a difference audience. Judge Ellis, who went very soft, unjustifiably soft on Manafort last week, had been skeptical toward the special counsel, toward Mueller's team from the start. On the flip side, now it's a different ball game. Now we've got Judge Amy Berman Jackson, in Washington, D.C., who has shown very little tolerance for Manafort's shenanigans. She is the judge who remanded Paul Manafort, took away his bail and threw him into jail when he tried to tamper with witnesses. She is the judge who specifically held a hearing and found that he had intentionally lied to the prosecutors. I think he's got a very different audience here and I think he's trying to focus his message to that audience.

BOLDUAN: Shan, does a convincing apology, a heartfelt apology in court, do you think it has an impact on any judge in the moments before sentencing, but specifically speaking about this judge who you have been before, Judge Amy Berman Jackson?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it can. I think it's one of the few things in court that can really make a difference because so much of the arguments and analysis is laid out ahead of time in the papers.

To add on to something that Elie is point out, Manafort's in a different posture, right? He went to trial proclaiming innocence in Virginia, lost. He shows up in court in the prison garb, I'm a broken man and I'm bowed, and I admit that. Here, he's saying, I accepted responsibility. I'm here in my suit today. I'm a man of dignity taking responsibility for my actions. He's trying a different tactic here. I think apologizing is important for the judges to hear and I think it may help him a little bit with this judge.

BOLDUAN: Dana, your perspective on the role this man played though Donald Trump and everyone around him has down played the impact Paul Manafort had on the campaign. He was the chairman of the campaign. At a critical point, he was involved with the campaign. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLTICAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: The crimes he is facing do not have to do with the campaign. But the impact of a man of Paul Manafort's stature, in terms of the president's orbit, Donald Trump's orbit, sitting in front of a judge saying he apologizes, he's humiliated, and he has learned his lesson essentially.

BASH: I think your point is important, and that is that these discussions, the investigation, the pleading, everything, with not just Manafort but other characters, have been going on for so long, people might be numb to it. But this is an important point, as the president's former campaign chair is facing his second sentencing in two weeks before a federal judge for multiple federal crimes, of taking a step back and remembering exactly what I just said, that this is the president's former campaign chairman. No, he wasn't there a very long time. But as you said, he was there and hired at a very critical time, to make sure that the then-candidate, presumptive nominee for the Republican Party actually got the delegates. He was crucial. He and his deputy, Rick Gates, who is also in a lot of trouble, cooperating as well, were really crucial at that time. And he was hired obviously without a lot of vetting. I mean, no, he wasn't a convict at the time, but anybody who has been around knew that the rumors were some pretty shady dealings with some pretty shady characters in the Ukraine and Russia. That is an important point to make, even though, as we heard last week from Manafort's lawyer, and it's hard to imagine we won't hear it again today no matter what happens in that courtroom, a very loud and clear message to the president of the United States that there was no collusion, you know, trying to clearly get a pardon.

[11:10:34] BOLDUAN: Very clearly, just so there's no confusion for everybody out there, collusion is not part of this case. Russia collusion was not a question before this judge. That's the same that the judge said last week, that Russia collusion was not a question in the case then.

BASH: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: And that was misconstrued.

To your point, I do think it's important, because with all of that context Manafort's attorneys walked out of the courthouse last week and said this: "I think most importantly what you saw today was the same thing from day one, there's absolutely no evidence Paul Manafort was involved in any collusion with any government official from Russia."


BASH: Those are buzzwords.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. That was right after the sentencing. That had nothing to do with Russia collusion.

BASH: No. BOLDUAN: It had nothing to do with Russia collusion.


BASH: Those are buzzwords. That is the mantra that the president says publicly, that the president says privately and has for two years. And those buzzwords were done, no question, very intentionally to send that message to the one man who has the ability to change Paul Manafort's fate at this point, and that's the president of the United States.

BOLDUAN: There's not much of a reason to talk about something completely unrelated to your case --

BASH: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: -- unless you're trying to send a message to someone else.

Elie, in court just now, Manafort did say, please don't keep them apart, he and his wife, basically asking to sentence him to no longer than the 47 months he's already been sentenced to. Do you think that is a possibility?

HONIG: I think it's a possibility that the judge looks at factors like family and sympathy. That kind of thing matters at sentencing. Sentencing is a wholistic exercise. I know we're following this intensely and wondering what the number is going to be. But being in a courtroom for sentencing -- I've been in for a lot of them -- is a really solemn event. You usually have a courtroom packed with family members, with friends, and it becomes very real. You have a human being in front of you. Not to make excuses but this is a very human exercise. Do I think the judge will give him no extra time? No. I think that's very, very unlikely. I think she's likely to go toward the top of that 10-year range. I do think she will run it concurrently, meaning at the same time.


BOLDUAN: At the same time.

HONIG: Right. As opposed to she has the option of consecutive, which means on top, but that's fairly rare. I don't expect to see that.

BOLDUAN: Shan, do you think -- I know the judge said in court today that I want to make sure I get her words right -- when it comes to the sentence that she is going to be imposing today, that "It cannot be a review or revision of what's happening in another court." I totally understand the judge saying that. But do you think that what happened last week has any kind of impact in terms of his sentence last week, that surprised some that it wasn't longer, do you think it can have an impact on this week?

WU: It can, but I think the only real impact it's going to have on this judge, the way she thinks, is this question that Elie alluded to, what part of it will be concurrent. She -- there's a lot of speculation about what she's going to do, a lot of wishful thinking, too, she is not going to be some sort of avenger who is making up for what happened in the other courtroom. That's not the kind of judge she is at all. She's going to focus on what's in front of her here and she's going to punish him for what he plead guilty to here, as well as the other problems he created for himself. So I agree. She is going to put some more time on it. It's not going to be 100 percent concurrent, but I would be really shocked if she were to go to the max and run it consecutive. I just don't think that's going to happen.

BOLDUAN: Look, an important part of the context here, when it comes to this judge is, when she is done with this sentencing, she is not done with the Russia investigation. She has become kind of the overseeing judge at this district court in Washington for all things that the special counsel is bringing before her when it comes to Roger Stone and others. It still continues in that regard.

But today, we will find out the fate for Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign chairman, and the crimes he has committed.

Everyone, please stay with us.

We're going to keep our eye on that courthouse. Paul Manafort, we're told, has now just come back into the courtroom, which means we are waiting for the judge to come back in, and everyone together, we'll find out very quickly what happens next.

[11:14:55] Stay with us.


BOLDUAN: We are continuing to follow breaking news and keeping our eyes on the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. After about a year and a half year legal battle, the man at the top of President Trump's campaign, at one point, Paul Manafort, will be learning his fate any moment now. Paul Manafort is back in court after making his case and apologizing to the court. This morning, he's back in court. He is sitting down now waiting for the judge to come in to hand down that sentence.

While we wait for that, we'll go back to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown.

Obviously, we focus a lot on what Paul Manafort has said in court, guys. But this is also an important moment, no doubt, for the prosecutors in this case, Andrew Weissmann, the special counsel, and what's on the line for them.

[11:20:10] BROWN: Absolutely. And that could not be emphasized enough. This is really the prosecutor's last shot to make their case on the most high-profile investigation under Robert Mueller. It was a year and a half ago that Mueller filed his first charges against Paul Manafort. Here we sit here today for the final sentencing for Paul Manafort.

And last week, let's be honest, was really a blow to Mueller's team of prosecutors with the judge sentencing Manafort to four years, much less than the 25 years that was recommended. And so today, you've heard the prosecutors in the courtroom layout the case that Paul Manafort undercut the U.S. political process. They made the case that he was serving the interests of foreign governments and not the U.S. government. And they focused a lot on his behavior after he pleaded guilty, the lies, the witness tampering. Andrew Weissmann, the lead prosecutor, says his actions after that are a reflection of someone who does not received a harsh lesson, someone who does not have remorse, someone who does not have a moral compass, someone who could look in the eyes of FBI agents and the grand jury and lie repeatedly. So that is the picture they're trying to paint, going straight to Paul Manafort's character. And then, as we've talked about, Kate, Paul Manafort tried to paint a very different picture of himself, sitting in the wheelchair, showing remorse, saying that he is fully apologetic and accepts responsibility for his actions.

PROKUPECZ: Just to update everyone, we're back in session. The Judge Amy Berman Jackson has taken the bench. She took a brief recess after Paul Manafort finished speaking. She is now back on the bench. We will see what she has to say in terms of Paul Manafort, his conduct, what she thinks he ultimately deserves.

Just to highlight something that Pam said, I think this is not lost on the special counsel's team of what this day means for them. We have seen some emotion from them in court today. The lead prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, speaking softly at times. Our producers inside said he sounded a little nervous. Some of the prosecutors there, after court wrapped up, right after the judge left the bench, the prosecutors were hugging with an FBI agent. So this is not lost on what this day means. This is really their last shot at laying out for us, in the public, for the media, all the attention is on here today of what this investigation has been like for them and what it's been like for Paul Manafort and why he has been so important, Kate, in this entire investigation.

He has been the central figure here, even from the beginning. I remember when I just started covering this, there was so much, the FBI, intelligence officials were centered so much about Paul Manafort and his contacts and the people he was meeting with and the people he was talking about. It's all coming to an end. This is perhaps the last day for the special counsel's office to make their case.

BROWN: Yes, it's a dramatic culmination and really a justification for their work over the last nearly two years in this high-profile case. A lot is at stake here for both sides -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, guys. Remember, this has been going on for some two years, this investigation. Paul Manafort was the first person the special counsel indicted. This has been a year and a half long legal battle. There are many chapters in this Russia investigation as we have discussed. And this is the culmination of one of them, with Paul Manafort, the most high-profile case they have had before the court with regard to the investigation.

Let me bring back in Elie.

One of the things the prosecutors did not do in court this morning, they did not ask the judge for a specific amount of time in terms of punishment, prison time for Paul Manafort. Is that unusual? Does that surprise you?

HONIG: It is fairly unusual. Usually, prosecutors are asking for a sentence within the guidelines range. The wrinkle here is that the guidelines range is significantly higher than the maximum allowable penalty. The most this judge can legally sentence Paul Manafort to is 10 years. So I think in a way, the prosecutors are pretty clear in what they want. Even if they ask for something well below the guidelines range, we'd still be talking about 10 years. I think the prosecutors are sort of saying, Judge, it's in your hands, we trust you. Even a maximum sentence of 10 years here would be below the guidelines range. It's not common for that to happen, but it does happen sometimes.

BOLDUAN: We'll head back to the federal courthouse. We're getting an update from inside the court from the judge.

Pam, Shimon, what are you hearing?

[11:24:59] PROKUPECZ: Yes, Kate, the judge now taking the bench. She is speaking. I'm going to go ahead and read to you what's going on and what she is saying. She's saying that Manafort is not victim number one. She's saying these proceedings will not incriminate anyone in the ongoing investigation. Obviously, a lot having to do with Russia collusion, interference. She then says, and she goes right to it, she says, any conspiracy, collusion was not presented in this case. Therefore, it was not resolved by this case.

And I think that is an important point. We're all looking to see, when is this collusion question going to be resolved, and the judge right there saying it's not resolved and it's not going to be resolved by what takes place here today. Obviously, we're all waiting for the Mueller report and what happens there. But again, here we have the issue of collusion and what this investigation has been centered about. They're saying, as the judge did last week, that's not what today is about. Last week's sentencing was not about collusion. Neither is today.

BROWN: An important point to emphasize, as we saw last week, President Trump distorted the words of the judge and said the judge said no collusion. That is not what the judge said last week or today. They're making the same point. That is not before the court today. These are charges separate from the question of collusion.


BOLDUAN: Their job is to not rule on everything with regards to the investigation. The judge's job is to rule and offer a sentence on exactly the question before the court. On this, it was conspiracy against the United States again.


BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Shimon. PROKUPECZ: I just want to make this point also. Keep in mind, Judge

Jackson has been in all sorts of secret proceedings surrounding this case, but also she's overseeing the Roger Stone case.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

PROKUPECZ: So she has a lot of insight into what the special counsel has. She's very careful because she doesn't want to reveal information that she knows that was filed with her under seal, and also the secret proceedings that she conducted here after Paul Manafort breached the cooperation agreement and prosecutors came in and had this lengthy hearing where everything was sealed, transcripts were eventually released. So she knows a lot about the special counsel's investigation. She understands it probably better than any judge in the district, probably better than any judge in the country. She has a lot of knowledge. But she's not going to let any of us know what that is. I think that is an important point that she made, this is not about collusion today. Will we ever get the answers that we all want and the reason why this investigation was started?

BOLDUAN: Yes, that we don't know.

BROWN: She's continuing to talk right now, Kate. I'm sorry to interrupt you. I just wanted to quickly update. She's continuing to talk. So of course, we're looking at everything, she says, to glean what is she going to do, what is she going to sentence Paul Manafort to. She said very clearly, she laid out the foreign lobbying, not registering under FARA, and so forth. She said, "It's the very conduct underlying some of the convictions in the Virginia case," where he was sentenced last week. And as we know, he cannot be sentenced for the components in Virginia twice. She was clear to make that point earlier saying, look, this is not a review of what happened last week. There were some people who criticized that Manafort was sentenced to four years and not more. She said, look, this is a separate case. These are separate charges. That cannot be taken into consideration today.


PROKUPECZ: I just want to bring out, she's talking. The judge is saying that Manafort's approach in his career -- many of the folks over CNN that dealt with him may have more to say about this -- but she's saying, his approach to his career, it's all about strategy, public relations, spin. She says, "There's something wrong with it if you're not simply advancing a position as part of a P.R. campaign. What you're doing was lying to members of Congress and the American public." She is speaking directly, according to our producers inside court, she is speaking directly to Paul Manafort, now looking at him, talking to him. She's now saying if the people don't have the facts, democracy doesn't work.

BROWN: Important words there for Manafort. That's an important


PROKUPECZ: When you think about the political -- yes, Kate? BOLDUAN: Go ahead.

PROKUPECZ: She's taking the climate into consideration, what this has meant for the country politically, the fact that his conduct, through the years, his lies, his lobbying work, how it was undercut, the American political system, how it undercut our country. And she's going there. She is taking it right to him right now.

BROWN: She is. But we have to be careful here because it's easy to hear this and think, OK, she is really going to throw the book at him. But remember, last week, with Judge Ellis, at one point, he brought up the fact that -