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Lawyers For Trump Ex-Campaign Chairman Ask For Leniency Ahead Of Sentencing

Lawyers for Paul Manafort (pictured) have asked a judge for leniency ahead of his sentencing next month. (file photo)
Lawyers for Paul Manafort (pictured) have asked a judge for leniency ahead of his sentencing next month. (file photo)

WASHINGTON-- Lawyers for Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, have asked a federal judge for leniency, ahead of Manafort's sentencing on witness-tampering and unregistered-lobbying charges.

Defense lawyers made the arguments in a February 25 court filing, just two days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed his own sentencing memo, which called Manafort a "hardened criminal."

In the filing, Manafort's lawyers portrayed him as merely a wealthy consultant who committed "garden variety" crimes. Those crimes included lobbying for Ukrainian businessmen and political parties and failing to register under U.S. foreign agent laws.

In September, days before his trial was set to begin in a Washington, D.C. federal court, Manafort pleaded guilty.

He faces up to five years in prison on each felony count.

'Bold Criminal Actions'

By contrast with the defense filing, Mueller's prosecutors argued that Manafort "repeatedly and brazenly violated the law" for more than a decade.

"His criminal actions were bold, some of which were committed while under a spotlight due to his work as the campaign chairman and, later, while he was out on bail from this court," prosecutors said in their filing.

Days before the Washington trial was to begin, a federal jury in Virginia convicted Manafort on eight counts of tax and financial fraud, with the possibility that he could spend more than 19 years in prison on those charges alone.

Manafort is 69, meaning a lengthy sentence could mean he would live out his life in prison.

Manafort served briefly as Trump's campaign chairman during the 2016 election campaign. He was fired in August 2016 amid revelations about the extent of his political work for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians, including former President Viktor Yanukovych.

Shadowy Russian-Ukrainian

One of the main focuses of Mueller's investigation of Manafort has been his relationship with a shadowy Russian-Ukrainian named Konstantin Kilimnik. Prosecutors have argued that Kilimnik, who has also been charged, has ties to Russian intelligence.

In earlier court filings, Mueller prosecutors alleged that during the 2016 campaign, Manafort shared political polling data with Kilimnik, and asked that they be relayed to political figures. The New York Times and other media have reported those figures included two powerful Ukrainian businessmen, who helped finance Yanukovych's political party.

The extent of the polling data has not been clear. On February 25, however, a well-known national security blogger named Marcy Wheeler pointed out specific documents in the court docket that suggested Manafort had relayed as much as 75 pages of polling data.

Kilimnik is believed to be in Russia, and is unlikely to ever face a trial in the United States.

A judge will announce the sentence against Manafort on March 13.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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