Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR

Judge Jackson About to Sentence Paul Manafort. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 13, 2019 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: 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 pick-pocketers in England, centuries ago, were hung. And so he made comments like that that, that made you think, wow, he's really going to use this to set an example. Then he gave him four years, which was much less than the sentencing guidelines. We really have to wait and see what she is going to do. But clearly, she's really laying into Paul Manafort for his actions.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Yes.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: If people don't have the facts, democracy doesn't work, Kate.

(CROSSTALK)

PROKUPECZ: Significant words. Strong words.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That speaks to exactly what you guys are saying. That speaks to the broader environment, the broader climate, the fact that she is overseeing more than just the Paul Manafort case when it comes to the special counsel's investigation.

Shan Wu, what you're hearing from Judge Jackson right now, as they're laying it out, what strikes you?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think she is very much focusing on the conduct before her and telling Manafort that's what I'm doing. She's setting up, if I punish you in a way you think is harsh, here's why I'm doing it.

To your other point, I think it's really important, she is overseeing these other investigations that are part of the special counsel probe. A lot of times when the judge does that, they internally are keeping track of different defendants, different cases. That's one thing that's factored in here. We can't see it, but she has her own internal sense of proportionately here because she knows a lot.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it also tells me, I'm sure.

What does it tell you? How closely is Roger Stone watching the sentencing here today?

WU: I think he's watching very carefully and preparing what he thinks he can say about it.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

Dana, to our discussion earlier about the prosecutors leaving the courtroom late week -- I'm sorry, not the prosecutors -- Manafort's attorneys leaving the courtroom last week and going directly out and saying this is not about collusion. We hear again from the judge in the case, any collusion was not presented in this case, therefore, it was not resolved by this case.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. As we've been talking about, that is -- even though T.S. Ellis gave a sentence that was surprising to everybody and much more lenient than people thought, he said similar things before he gave that sentence last week in this federal courthouse in Virginia. It's unclear if what we're going to see with the sentence will track with that.

But I think what you're getting at, Kate, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that it doesn't necessarily matter what the judge says, because what the lawyers for Paul Manafort are likely to say and what they said last week is what the president wants to hear, which is this has nothing to do with me, this has nothing to do with collusion, this has nothing to do with the, quote, unquote, "witch hunt" that's been going on, poor Paul Manafort, oh, maybe I'll issue a pardon.

BOLDUAN: And that's -- one message inside the courtroom and then a message outside the courtroom.

BASH: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Maybe the obvious thing, there are two very different audiences they're speaking to in these two different places.

We are continuing to have the judge continuing to speak right now. As happened last week, Elie, you dissect every word. You need to take everything that the judge says, though, in totality. She could be heading one direction in how she's addressing Paul Manafort and speaking directly to him and then adding a big however and take a left turn.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: True. It sounds to me like she's winding up to deliver an upper cut here, giving the things that she's saying, looking at the bigger picture, the broader impact of what Manafort has done here. I think she makes a legitimate point. Yes, you will be treated as an individual but you're not just any individual. You are a high-profile person who was at the highest ranks of the campaign. Your actions here have had a deleterious effect on the broader American public, on confidence in the system. I think she's going to going to hit him pretty hard with that. That's what it sounds like to me right now, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, let's find out some more. Let's go back to the courthouse. Shimon Prokupecz, Pamela Brown, they're there getting updates from inside the courtroom.

What are you guys hearing?

PROKUPECZ: Now, Kate, the judge is addressing the witness-tampering charges and she's basically saying that Paul Manafort immediately began reaching out to witnesses that were involved in this investigation. And then she said, "He did not plead guilty to contacting witnesses. He plead guilty to conspiring with Kilimnik." This is that Russian intelligence official that the FBI and the special counsel's office have said was working for the Russian government. "That Paul Manafort was conspiring with him to reach out to witnesses to get them to shape potentially testimony or their cooperation in this investigation."

The reason why I think that's important is obviously, who Kilimnik is, is important in this entire investigation. He's the person that Paul Manafort shared polling data with, the Trump campaign polling data. The fact that we keep hearing his name today is significant. She also knows a lot more about Kilimnik, the judge does, than any of us do because she has seen all of the sealed documents concerning it.

[11:35:16] So she's just going through character, Paul Manafort's character, his activity after he was charged. I think this is a significant part of this. This is the thing I think worries Paul Manafort's defense lawyers the most, is this is where she can really go at him, is the witness tampering charges, where that is something that is taken so seriously by law enforcement, by judges all across this country. So that is where, for now at least, it would appear that is where his biggest exposure is in terms of sentencing time.

BROWN: As some might expect, in light of your point, we're told from inside the courtroom that Manafort is watching Judge Jackson, no smile, looking at her almost sheepishly. She made the point that I thought was interesting, that there was a DOJ investigation into Paul Manafort before the special counsel, before Mueller was appointed. So she's making that point in that, look, he is not, in her view, facing the sentencing today just because he was a high-profile person in the Trump campaign. He was already someone who was under investigation before.

PROKUPECZ: This helps, I think, the special counsel's team because Manafort's attorneys are making this big deal out of the fact that the government at the highest levels -- they said this in court today -- at the highest levels, knew about his activity, and they knew about it because he was meeting with U.S. officials in the Ukraine, in Kiev, while he was doing this work for the Ukrainians in Kiev. So the defense argument that this was something that the U.S. government knew that Paul Manafort was engaged in for years and did nothing about, that is what she's addressing now. In the end, I don't know what relevancy that's going to have to anything but that is an argument that they tried to make. BROWN: And I just want to say, this -- again, gives you a window into

her thinking. She is now really blasting Manafort, saying he made overblown statements about where he was housed, in solitary confinement in jail, when it was his benefit to do so. She says Manafort has begun to minimize his conduct and shield others. Jackson is clearly not happy with how Manafort has approached the final structure of this case in what she's saying today, Kate. She said court is one of those places where facts still matter, really kind of a final punch there to Paul Manafort as she is speaking before she's going through the counts and the trial.

PROKUPECZ: The thing with the solitary confinement, if you'll require, he was at a local jail. They put him in a private wing, essentially, where he was still making contact with people and still working on his case. But they had taken issue with his conduct while he was in the special wing of this jail. He was getting what most view as preferential treatment. I think the solitary confinement issue, which he addressed when he spoke to the judge, told her how he had been in solitary confinement, we've heard this argument --

BROWN: She's not buying it.

PROKUPECZ: -- she not buying it. We've heard this argument from the president. We've heard this argument from Rudy Giuliani.

BROWN: She's not having any sympathy for him from what she's saying here.

BOLDUAN: Guys, please stick we me. We're going to come right back to you. We are getting updates. This could be coming any moment now.

From what the judge is talking about in court and what she's addressing at this moment, it does make me wonder, Shan, if the sentence is harsh, what do you think it is that sank Manafort?

WU: I think he sank himself. It is the witness tampering which would really be the moral basis for being a harsh sentence. I think that's also a message that she's sending. She also -- there's a history. I've been in that courtroom and she has some friction with his defense counsel. She had taken Kevin Downing to task a few times. She does not like what she's calling hyperbole or over complaints about the situation. Those may factor into a harsher sentence.

BOLDUAN: Elie, this emphasis on getting the facts, the facts in the court, they matter. If the people don't have the facts, democracy doesn't work. I mean, these are big statements, big pronouncements that the judge is making as she's winding up to give her sentence. What's she saying here? What's her message with this?

HONIG: I think there she's addressing the other part of the case. There's the obstruction of justice part of the case, which I think is hugely important here, the witness tampering and the lying to Mueller. But I think when she's talking about the facts and the transparency, she's talking about the other conspiracy that Manafort plead guilty to, which is serving as an agent for a foreign government without registering with the United States government. I think she wants to make the point that this isn't just some paperwork crime or some bureaucratic crime. If our government doesn't know who is working for foreign countries, that posses a real threat to our democracy and to our public confidence in our institutions.

[11:40:07] BOLDUAN: Dana, just handed some reporting that Manu Raju just got from speaking to the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr. He asked him about Paul Manafort, and what Senator Burr says is, "You've got to pay the price for the things you do." No kidding. But it also reminds me, no matter what happens in the next couple minutes, this is long from over in terms of investigations. Just look no further than Congress.

BASH: Absolutely. Senator Burr, obviously, is still the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate, which led the Russia investigation and still is sort of.

But the House is where we're looking and it is what you're referring to because they're just getting started. This is about a man's future that is going on behind those doors in that federal courthouse. This is about the president's campaign chairman. This is about a whole lot of things specific to Paul Manafort and his case. As you mentioned, this is so important. It's just one aspect of the broader investigation dealing with Russia, and then a whole bunch of other issues that Michael Cohen brought up, which has nothing to do with Russia, when he testified both publicly and privately.

BOLDUAN: To one of the points, Shan, that Shimon and Pam are bringing up that Judge Jackson is saying in court right, when it comes to court is one of the places where facts still matter. Jackson's saying from the bench that she believes that Manafort and his legal team are still perpetuating a lie, are still lying, even in his sentencing memo. I mean, I'm no attorney, but that doesn't sound like a good thing.

WU: That's not. And your legal instincts are quite keen on that. That's not happy news for Manafort's team to hear that. That's a little bit of an echo of some of that friction that's been there. Sometimes style matters some in the courtroom. The extent that she's been rubbed the wrong way by their style of advocacy, that does not bode well for Mr. Manafort.

BOLDUAN: No kidding.

Let's go back to the courthouse. I want to bring in Pam and Shimon once again.

It has been fascinating to listen to you guys, to the judge, from you guys, thankfully, in how she is addressing Paul Manafort directly and speaking to all of the aspects of this. I do find it fascinating that she is really -- I mean, taking us all kind of on a -- I don't know if it's a lesson, on a walk and a journey that she is kind of gone in reaching whatever this conclusion will be with the sentence she's going to hand down.

BROWN: Yes, she's using some very, very strong words and really laying it out, saying that Manafort isn't even being straight with her now, that he lied. She said, at one point, were you spinning the facts to get a good deal then or a good deal now? And she brought up the defense argument, that Manafort has done so much for his country, and she said that there was no exhibit, no information or intelligence to back up the argument that, in fact, some of his actions have been for the country.

But she did also say, to balance that out, that she did believe he was sincere when he spoke today in court, when he talked about the suffering of his family and his friend and his wife, of course, who he pleaded to the judge to not let them be apart. She's sort of winding through all of this, talking about the good and the bad but scolding Manafort throughout for the lying after his plea deal and the witness tampering.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. She's noting that he was not remorseful before today. What most of us have picked up on, even last week, he didn't seem remorseful. He was sad about his condition, but he was never really sorry about what he did. Finally today, he did do that. I don't know that she's necessarily buying it. She's having a hard time with everything. It really wasn't until today, she's questioning why he didn't write a letter to her. She's questioning why he did not write a letter on his own behalf, is what our producers are saying, and that before today, he was not remorseful, she notes.

BROWN: This is a really strong statement. She said, saying I'm sorry I got caught is not an inspiring plea for leniency. Because she made the case earlier, Kate, that he knew exactly what he was doing when he was committing the crimes. He was fully aware of it. Basically, she's saying, to Shimon's point, that he is saying I'm sorry today out of convenience that he was caught and now he wants leniency. But she seems to be saying today that she's not really buying his apology today in court, which is pretty significant.

[11:45:17] PROKUPECZ: She did say, though, and I think this is interesting, that he does, though, appear to have brought real skilled structure to the latest campaign. So she's giving him some credit. I would assume that's for his work on the Trump campaign. But it is interesting that she is not buying into really right now. We'll see what happens. The fact that she's saying, I'm sorry, I think it came too late, so far she's saying.

BROWN: Too little, too late.

(CROSSTALK)

PROKUPECZ: He may have had had that kind of credit. She may have given him credit for saying sorry after he pleaded guilty, but because he lied and the whole point of lying to the special counsel's office, I think that's probably weighing heavily on her as well.

Interesting now she's noting that Manafort may be playing two games at the same time head on. That is very, very interesting.

BROWN: Again, if you're Manafort and his defense team right now, you're probably pretty worried.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. BROWN: This is not looking good for them. But, again, you never really know until the judge hands down the sentencing, of course -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Honestly, guys, from one statement to the next, I have kind of gone both directions at the same time in where we're trying to kind of get some kind of idea what direction this is headed from the judge. She is, not intentionally, but with her statements, she's keeping everyone very much on the edge of our seats right now.

Let's try to fit in a quick break.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson speaking from the bench right now in this moment when Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign chairman, will be learning his final sentence and how long he'll be in prison for his crimes.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:51:32] BOLDUAN: All right. Welcome back, everyone, to the breaking news. Judge Amy Berman Jackson in a courtroom, federal courtroom in Washington, D.C., right now in the midst of her sentencing statement with Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign chairman, sitting before her, waiting to learn his final sentence for the crimes he has committed. The first person to have been indicted in the special counsel's investigation.

One thing that was said that I did find fascinating -- Elie, let me bring you in on this -- in the midst of -- I'll say she's gone one way and then gone another in terms of giving him credit with certain things and hitting him with it when it says he is still lying in the sentencing memo. At one point, she says, saying, I'm sorry I got caught is not an inspiring plea for leniency. Yet, at another point, Elie, she says, he does appear to have brought real skill structure -- real skill and structure to the latest campaign, talking about Donald Trump's campaign and giving him credit for that. What's she telling us here?

HONIG: I think the feeling that you're having and all of us are having of being pulled one way another is very normal at federal sentencings. I think people need to understand, federal sentencing proceedings are charged with human drama. And a lot of times, there seems to be this irreconcilable conflict. You see the best of the person. The lawyers will focus on the family and the good deeds, and the prosecutors are focused on the crimes. And the defense lawyers say, don't judge my client based on the worst thing he or she has ever done. And the quotes that you focused on there, Kate, give us insight into this judge's feeling. Look, judges are human beings. They wear a robe, but at bottom, they're human beings. And the law matters and the guidelines matters. And ultimately, sentencing, a lot of times, comes down to feel. And what we're seeing from this judge is she's having a hard time buying a lot of what Manafort is offering up. She said, you're a smart guy, you did a good job on the campaign, but I'm not quite buying that you're truly remorseful here. BOLDUAN: This is fascinating to see play out in real time.

I do want to go back to the courthouse because we are getting new and interesting information, Shimon and Pam, on the question, she's addressing even more directly now, the judge, the question of collusion.

BROWN: Yes. That's right. She called out Manafort's attorneys, actually, saying why would you bring that up in the filings you have made to the court that there's no collusion. She said that is a non sequitur. Because what is before her today has nothing to do with collusion. And so she's basically -- the subtext of that is, you were trying to score political points by saying there's no Russian collusion, but that doesn't make any sense that you would bring that up because it has nothing to do with what he is in court here for today. And that reminds me, Kate, of the thing that happened with Michael Flynn, as you may recall. The judge in that case was also none too pleased by the political points his attorneys were trying to make in the court filings. And what's interesting about this is that it could really come back to the client, that now Manafort, in this case, could pay the price for what his lawyers did.

PROKUPECZ: I think what we're seeing the judge paint this picture of Paul Manafort -- she used the word "spin" (ph) about his work as a P.R. person. I think we're seeing her attack his tactic in this case, trying to get sympathy on the outside.

She's now addressing this whole issue about whether or not he's in solitary confinement. Why this is important, I think, is just because of the public's perception of this. Statements by the president, statements by Rudy Giuliani. She's saying, just because you're in a separate wing -- at one point, she said he really was, he was in a VIP wing of a local jail. She said, I don't know how you could call that solitary confinement.

[11:55:16] She's now addressing the fact that he has access to telephones. He has access to newspapers. So why this is important? Because Paul Manafort stood up in court and said his life is terrible because he's in solitary confinement. And she's finding that to be disingenuous. And she's picking apart both everything that he has done publicly, in court filings, standing up in court today, yes, he is sorry, but there are aspects of what he said that she just is not buying right now.

BROWN: She's basically saying, look, I see through your game, I know what you're up to, and I don't buy it. I think that's really what the underlying message is that we're hearing from this judge so far today -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. I do find this fascinating that she's addressing the issue of collusion in terms of, why have you been bringing up collusion at all, really calling it out in the most plain- spoken way.

Shan, the judge is saying, you brought this up in your sentencing memo. Obviously, we know that Manafort's attorneys have brought it outside the courthouse multiple times. She's saying it's entirely unrelated to the issue at hand. She is -- she's laid this -- I don't know any way of saying it -- offering up a bit of a snap on this issue..

WU: She is. And that's a choice that the jurors have to make. No rule against making a bad argument. They obviously -- they obviously wanted to have something in writing for the president to refer to, and that was a chance they took. They felt they wanted to do that, and you know, it rubbed her the wrong way.

BOLDUAN: Dana, I want to get you in on this, real quick, because this gets to the heart of the issue that we've been talking about all along, this is to the audience of one. And you've been talking to Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, about this issue of a pardon, and that's part of the message of saying no collusion, no collusion, no collusion.

BASH: Yes. Absolutely. Because that is the whole ball game as far as President Trump is concerned. That is what he is telling everybody. And that's why, as Shan said, the Manafort attorney wanted to put that in writing to send a message to the president. But obviously, it didn't go well in the courthouse. What Rudy Giuliani has been saying, you know, all along -- even I had a conversation with him last night about a different character in the saga, not Paul Manafort -- but what he has said to all of the lawyers for all of these people is no pardon right now. He's not discussing the pardon as of now, which is not a no, which they are very well aware of inside the Manafort legal team.

BOLDUAN: And the president's prerogative in this front.

BASH: Sure.

BOLDUAN: Dana, I appreciate it.

We continue to follow the breaking news. Much more from the courthouse. Judge Amy Berman Jackson speaking to Paul Manafort as she's about to hand down his sentence.

Much more breaking news after the break with John King.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)