Two Trajectories: Sleazy Influence Peddler Paul Manafort and Foreign Agent Prosecutor Brandon Van Grack

Like many, while I expected TS Ellis to give Paul Manafort a light sentence, I’m shocked by just how light it was.

Ellis gave Manafort 47 months of prison time for crimes that the sentencing guidelines say should start at a 19 year sentence. Even if Amy Berman Jackson gives Manafort the stiffest sentence she can give him — 10 years — and makes it consecutive, he’ll still be facing less than the what sentencing guidelines recommend. Ellis even declined to fine Manafort beyond the $24 million he’ll have to pay in restitution (Zoe Tillman lays out the money issues here).

There are a number of reasons to be outraged by this.

Ellis explicitly suggested that Manafort’s crimes were less serious than similar organized crime that people of color would commit. In the wake of this sentence, any number of people (especially defense attorneys) have pointed to non-violent criminals facing more prison time than Manafort. That said, I agree with those who suggest we should aim to bring those other sentences down in line with what the civilized world imposes, and not instead bump white collar criminals up to the barbaric levels that come out of the drug war.

Ellis gave this sentence even though Manafort expressed no remorse. Ellis commented that “I was surprised that I did not hear you express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct. In other words, you didn’t say, ‘I really, really regret not doing what the law requires,'” but nevertheless sentenced him as if he had.

Perhaps most infuriating were the backflips Ellis did to spin Paul Manafort as a good man. He emphasized that Manafort was “not before the court for any allegation that he or anybody at his direction colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election,” which is true; but Ellis received the breach determination materials showing that at a time when Manafort was purportedly cooperating, he instead lied about sharing polling data with a suspected Russian asset while discussing a Ukrainian peace deal that he knew amounted to sanctions relief, a quid pro quo. Because those materials go to the issue of whether Manafort took responsibility and was a risk for recidivism, they were fair game for consideration, but Ellis didn’t consider them.

Indeed, because of time served, Ellis effectively sentenced Manafort to an equivalent sentence that Michael Cohen faces having committed an order of magnitude less financial fraud, pled guilty, and provided limited cooperation to the government. Effectively, then, Ellis has sanctioned Manafort’s successful effort to avoid cooperating in the case in chief, on how he and Trump conspired with Russia to exploit our democratic process.

Instead of referring to the materials on Manafort’s refusal to cooperate, Ellis instead just regurgitated defense materials and claimed that aside from stealing millions of dollars from taxpayers and whatever else went on before Amy Berman Jackson, Manafort had “lived an otherwise blameless life.”

And that’s where I step away from a generalized discussion of the barbaric nature of our criminal justice system to look specifically at the barbaric nature of what Paul Manafort has done with his life. I feel much the way Franklin Foer does.

In an otherwise blameless life, Paul Manafort lobbied on behalf of the tobacco industry and wangled millions in tax breaks for corporations.

In an otherwise blameless life, he helped Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos bolster his image in Washington after he assassinated his primary political opponent.

In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa. While Manafort helped portray his client as an anti-communist “freedom fighter,” Savimbi’s army planted millions of land mines in peasant fields, resulting in 15,000 amputees.

[snip]

In an otherwise blameless life, he spent a decade as the chief political adviser to a clique of former gangsters in Ukraine. This clique hoped to capture control of the state so that it could enrich itself with government contracts and privatization agreements. This was a group closely allied with the Kremlin, and Manafort masterminded its rise to power—thereby enabling Ukraine’s slide into Vladimir Putin’s orbit.

[snip]

In an otherwise blameless life, he produced a public-relations campaign to convince Washington that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was acting within his democratic rights and duties when he imprisoned his most compelling rival for power.

In an otherwise blameless life, he stood mute as Yanukovych’s police killed 130 protesters in the Maidan.

Paul Manafort invented the profession of sleazy influence peddler. His own daughter once acknowledged, “Don’t fool yourself. That money we have is blood money.” And our democracy, as well as more corrupt regimes around the globe where Manafort was happy to work, are much less just because of Manafort’s life’s work.

Which is why I take more solace in something that happened the night before Manafort’s sentencing: A CNN report that DOJ has put Brandon Van Grack — a prosecutor who, under Mueller, prosecuted Mike Flynn and his sleazy influence peddler business partners — in charge of a renewed effort to crack down on unregistered sleazy influence peddlers.

The initiative at the Justice Department to pursue violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires that an entity representing a foreign political party or government file public reports detailing the relationship, will be overseen by Brandon Van Grack, who left Mueller’s team in recent months to rejoin the national security division.

Van Grack’s appointment to the newly created position and the Justice Department’s interest in expanding its pursuit of foreign influence cases stemmed largely from the impact of Russian operations on the 2016 presidential election, John Demers, the head of the national security division, said Wednesday at a conference on white-collar crime.

With Van Grack’s new role, the Justice Department will shift “from treating FARA as an administrative obligation and regulatory obligation to one that is increasingly an enforcement priority,” Demers said.

He also pointed to the impact of a recent settlement with one of the country’s highest-profile law firms — Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP — on the department’s decision to escalate its enforcement in that area.

[snip]

Demers added that the Justice Department is considering seeking congressional authorization for administrative subpoena power to enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which it currently lacks.

“That’s something that we’re taking a hard look at,” he said. Referencing Skadden, he added: “Do I think the firm would have behaved differently if they had received a subpoena versus they had just received a letter? Yes.”

This marks a decision to treat FARA violations — sleazy influence peddling that hides the ultimate foreign customer — as a real risk to our country. As I have laid out in my comparison of Manafort’s “otherwise blameless life” and Maria Butina’s efforts to infiltrate right wing politics, a venal insider with an already rich political network will be far more effective (and insidious) than even a beautiful woman backed by a mobbed up foreign government official and abetted by her own washed out Republican insider.

I don’t know what Mueller is doing with all the evidence of a conspiracy that he continues to protect. I don’t know that he’ll be able to deliver a prosecutorial conclusion that will deliver justice for the sleazy things that Trump did to win the election. Prosecuting very powerful people is very difficult, and we shouldn’t forget that.

But one other point of this entire investigative process was to learn lessons, to make it harder for hostile outsiders to hijack our democratic process going forward.

In letting Manafort off with a metaphorical wrist-slap, TS Ellis did nothing to deter others who, like Manafort, will sell out our country for an ostrich skin jacket. Even ABJ will face some difficult challenges in DC when she tries to sentence FARA crimes (particularly those of Sam Patten, who cooperated) without precedents to do so.

But the way to build those precedents — the way to establish a record that causes a Skadden Arps or a Rob Kelner to treat FARA registration as the official declaration to the government that it is — is to pursue more of these cases, against sleazy influence peddlers working for all foreign entities, not just the ones we despise.

So Manafort may get off easy for helping Russia interfere in our election in a bid to line up his next gig white-washing brutal oligarchs.

But along the way, our justice system may be adapting to the certainty that he did not live an otherwise blameless life

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

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127 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As popehat suggests on twttr, judges can bullshit, too. Ellis may have decided Manafort’s sentence first, for his own private reasons, then ginned up a public rationale for it, beginning with his startling, almost tongue-in-cheek, “otherwise blameless life” remark.

    • BobCon says:

      Popehat is promoting too many tweets from people saying that people who are mad about Manafort should be mad about other sentences instead.

      The unspoken assumption is that Ellis bashers don’t also care about guys going to prison for years for minor drug crimes That’s bunk.

      Bashing Ellis on his leniency for a guy committing multiple millions in fraud highlights the injustice of people sent to prison for a hundred bucks of shoplifting, it’s not somehow hiding the injustice.

      • bmaz says:

        No, he is not. This is a real problem in criminal sentencing law, especially in federal court. To point out the incongruities is not to say the Ellis sentence on Manafort was anything less than insufficient. Both postulates are worthy.

        • BobCon says:

          Here’s a couple of tweets he has promoted:

          https://mobile.twitter.com/samstein/status/1103817909569236993

          https://mobile.twitter.com/NotPeoriaMayor/status/1103820138263048192

          There’s a definite viewpoint that people unhappy with Ellis are upset about the *wrong* thing — Not that there is something else they should add to their complaints.

          And what’s aggravating about those tweets is the unspoken assumption that people who are mad about Ellis somehow aren’t also mad about all of the other people in jail and prison for unjust reasons.

          • bmaz says:

            And what is the difference? People who actually do this for a living and people on twitter, like Stein and Not Mayor, that do not.

            • BobCon says:

              What is the difference? I’m not sure what you’re saying. I don’t think Popehat should be promoting their points of view. Are you saying he didn’t? Are you saying he should?

              • bmaz says:

                The difference is professionals that have worked that space for decades, and those who have not. I actually gave input to the Commission on sentencing guidelines a long, long, time ago. A friend of mine was on an early commission and he, I and federal judges we knew at the time used to discuss it at times.

                And, yes, I am saying Ken should promote whatever he wants, and he has the experience and perspective to do just that.

              • Diviz says:

                IMO, it seems like less of a castigation for being upset about the wrong thing but rather a “welcome to the party” feeling the people who practice law for a living are trying to express to IANALs. The gap between laypeople’s outrage versus legal professionals’, “Oh, wow, that’s not what I expected,” is probably the signal in all the tweet noise.

                • Wajim says:

                  While I only pretend to be a lawyer when arguing with my spouse, I think you may have put a finer, clearer point on what bmaz is trying to say, though only he can speak for himself, of course.

                • BobCon says:

                  Disagree that he’s saying welcome to the party. He is not saying *some* people who are mad about Manafort should be mad about everyday sentences. He is leaving out the *some* part. That is, quite frankly, an insulting position.

                  He promotes this tweet, which begins with the absurd statement “But for his connection to Trump, nobody would have cared what sentence Senior EDVA Judge T.S. Ellis imposed on Paul Manafort.”

                  https://twitter.com/ScottGreenfield/status/1104351280284225537

                  That’s nuts. This isn’t some minor league lobbyist nobody has heard of. Manafort is a legendary sleazebag. He was so bad he was profiled as
                  “the torturers lobbyist” over and over. The human rights community has *never* forgiven him. And just in the past few years, he has been in the news for Ukraine monstrosities. *Millions* of Ukranians care.

                  This formulation is toxic. And this is an easy way to look at it —

                  Jury rules corporation is guilty of massive pollution crime. Judge uses discretionary power to give slap on the wrist. People are mad. Pundit says “don’t be mad at the judge, be mad about long sentences to poor people.”

                  Billionaire is convicted of money laundering. Judge uses discretionary power to let him off with minor fine. Pundit says “don’t get mad about the judge, be mad about cash bail.”

                  Senator’s PAC makes tens of millions in illegal contributions. Judge lets PAC off the hook. Pundit says “don’t get mad at the judge, be mad about stop and frisk.”

                  And to circle back to the “welcome to the party” possibility, the reason that is insulting is that there is zero recognition of how much opposition there is to exactly the kind of things that he is complaining about in the community of people who are upset about the Ellis ruling.

                  People who are pissed about Ellis also overwhelmingly want an end to stop and frisk policies. The large majority of people who back decriminalization of pot are liberals. The people who think there is a gross bias against the poor in the criminal justice system are overwhelmingly liberal.

                  Look, it’s easy for some people to pretend that outrage over Manafort is somehow an isolated idea belonging to people who have never, ever thought about the broader injustices of this society. It’s easy to say that this is a case of people who only care because it’s Trump. But that kind of reductionism is garbage. People aren’t opposed to Trump because of something that can be reduced to tribal loyalty. They overwhelmingly hate him because he is the apotheosis of a crooked system.

                  Letting Manafort off so easily for tens of millions of dollars of crime isn’t somehow separate from the injustices of Rikers Island and Three Strikes and all the rest. Ellis letting Manafort off so easy is the natural culmination of that system. People are mad about both, and many of them have had a much bigger stake than people arguing otherwise. They shouldn’t be welcomed to the party. They are the party.

                  • bmaz says:

                    Naw, there are hundreds of thousands of better examples than Manafort. And Scott is right that Manafort would be a pedestrian tax fraud and influence peddling case without the Trump linkage.

                    • BobCon says:

                      He said “But for his connection to Trump, nobody would have cared what sentence Senior EDVA Judge T.S. Ellis imposed on Paul Manafort” and yes, that is garbage. A basic search of news archives makes it clear how well known Manafort was, and how bad his reputation was.

                      I did it, and I filtered for pre-2016 articles to avoid a Trump connection. And the record is so extensive, I’ve pulled just a few.

                      — Newsweek in 2008 noted Manafort was so toxic that McCain shot him down as a campaign advisor specifically because of his human rights controversies. Kelly Vlahos in American Conservative wrote about him at the time “these characters would never enjoy high-level access if Beltway fixers were not obscuring their atrocities.” The Washington Post ran an extensive Page 1 article in 2008 on his connections to Savimbi, Marcos, et al.

                      — The 1990 Richmond Times notes that Manafort’s connections to Bush were a looming issue in the 1992 reelection campaign.

                      — Now on the other hand, Politico did run a soft focus piece on Manafort and Ukraine in 2014, but Maggie Haberman reported for Politico, so that doesn’t exactly point to a likely forgiveness across the board.

                      –In 1986 William Safire referred to Manafort’s activities “I am not one to knock honest greed, but never has rainmaking seen such moneymaking.” The Providence Journal noted that Manafort’s possible presence in the RI governor’s race was controversial due to the connections Safire was warning about.

                      — It was widely reported in 1988 that he was persona non grata at the GOP convention due to his role in a HUD scandal. This was still alive years later, so that Newsday in 1992 ran a piece about him titled “A Den of Sinners Looks to Its Master” — in fact there was so much press on his HUD scandal that I eventually had to filter it out to make searching easier.

                      — In 1992 the LA Times highlighted Manafort under the headline “RIGHTS ABUSERS HIRE LOBBYISTS IN QUEST FOR MORE AID” and has the stark quote “Should the U.S. taxpayer in effect subsidize lobbyists hired by some of the world’s most persistent abusers of human rights?”

                      Look, I can see the cynical argument that nobody cares about anything in DC yada yada. I don’t buy it. Many people will look the other way, but there is no denying that A) Manafort was notorious and B) many people have never forgotten or forgiven.

                      I’ll say it again. Saying “But for his connection to Trump, nobody would have cared what sentence Senior EDVA Judge T.S. Ellis imposed on Paul Manafort” is garbage. It’s truly unfair to the many people who know what he did.

                    • bmaz says:

                      BobCon at 2:21pm – Would a few people have known and commented otherwise as to Manafort other than for the Trump tie in? Sure. Maybe even here because we track that. But would it be the thing it has played out to be currently in national news and discussion absent the Trump link? No, and it is absurd to argue it would have been.

                  • Democritus says:

                    FWIW I’m outraged too, and to say there are better examples is a strawman that doesn’t argue your point but asserts I’m the expert I know better but won’t educate you on what the better examples to prove your point are.

                    Which pffft

                    • bmaz says:

                      Yeah? When you have actually spent one second, let alone decades, doing this in actual trial courts, then get back to me. Until then, indeed “pfffft”.

                    • dg says:

                      In this instance I don’t give credence to the argument, that years of experience advances ones bonafides. I view it as part of the problem. The current system is clearly beyond redemption. Make no mistake, 47 months or 47 minutes in prison is no cakewalk, but this judges own words and record provide the best evidence his ruling was unjust.

    • Mainmata says:

      Apparently, Ellis has a well-developed reputation for eccentric behavior and certainly his actions during the trial, especially towards the prosecution were disgraceful. He really should be forced to retire at this point.

        • e. a. f. says:

          In Canada all federally appointed judges must retire by 75. Some provinces and territories set retirement age at 70. it ensures no one is there for life, unless of course they die young, but it permits for society’s changing attitudes and values.

          When appointments for life was decided upon, people didn’t live that long. Now, its way too long for anyone to remain on the bench. Between elected judges, judges for rent, and judges for life, the American judicial system is in bad shape. Eventually people may revolt over it. Politicians may come and go, but judges are there forever.

          • P J Evans says:

            When appointments for life was decided upon, people didn’t live that long.

            When it was decided, infant mortality was much higher; the people who survived childhood lived about as long as most people do now.

  2. Frank Probst says:

    Question for the lawyers: How much of what Judge Ellis said in court yesterday can ABJ consider when she sentences Manafort? I’m assuming she can consider the sentence to some degree, because she has to decide if the sentence she imposes will be concurrent or consecutive. But can she give an opinion which is essentially a rebuttal of what Ellis said, so long as she doesn’t directly criticize Ellis?

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Reposting this from the “Gaming Intelligence” thread above:

    Judge T.S. Ellis (Princeton, Harvard Law, Magdalen College, Oxford) likes to be considered the smartest guy in the room, a trait as common in DC as the cold. In choosing the phrase, “the otherwise blameless life” of Paul Manafort, the engineering, naval aviator and legal mind of Judge Ellis had to reject competing phrases that were not quite right: short happy life, wonderful life, purpose driven life, double life, corrupt and wasteful life.

    With his choice of words, Ellis identifies with Paulie and his Beltway peers. That strikes me as cultural affinity more than overt bias, a kind of he’s-one-of-us English class snobbery, the kind that condemned the Clintons on their arrival in DC for not kowtowing to the social elite who were there before them.

    Like Trump and Roy Cohn, Ellis may admire those who “get away with it” more than he does their victims. He may feel, like the Good Shepherd, that this is his court, his town and his country, and the rest of us are just visiting. Or, he may simply agree with Poppy Bush, who said of investigations into his Iran-Contra teammates (several of whom he pardoned before leaving the White House) that the prosecutors were attempting to “criminalize politics”.

    Whatever his reasons, Ellis’s phrase, like Bush’s, will keep the not yet retired senior judge in the news for some time, and give him another reason to politely ask his neighbors to get off his lawn.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Figures he was an “Airedale”. We engineers have to put up with them on the carriers, it is remarkable how frat-boy their attitudes were and are. The Tailhook scandal wasn’t unusual except for the fact it was publicized. In a squadron, there are too many officers for the number of jobs so they frequently turn into martinet twits willing to fail a space on a zone inspection for no reason at all. Seriously, the background explains many things.

      You can tell an aviator by his glasses.
      You can tell an aviator by his jacket with “centurion” patches (100 landings).
      You can tell an aviator by how the hands fly in conversation.
      But, you can’t tell them a damn thing.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I’ve heard that about naval aviators. Wiki says Ellis was in the Navy 1961-67, typically a year of flight school, five years flight duty, early in Vietnam, pre-Tet, but well after Johnson’s massive ramp-up. The absence of doubt is another defining characteristic.

        • Rugger9 says:

          While that is good in the air and engaged, it sucks when they are just hanging out. Seriously, squadrons would have popcorn and movie officers (separate jobs), and it was most impressive how many liquor bottles would be cleaned out of their bunk rooms after returning from sea (in a “dry” Navy).

      • Tech Support says:

        This is also how nurses feel about doctors, and how system administrators feel about software developers.

          • rip says:

            I “get it.”
            Doctors are privileged and are given lots of slack for not following rules. Nurses are not.
            SysAdmins need to clean up after the messes that wet-behind-the-ears developers create.
            Someone (me?) has suggested a rule that every wannabe leader needs to do the job that they would lead for at least a year – without patronage.
            Imagine dumpf having to work his way up the political food chain all the way from school board member.

            • Tech Support says:

              Correct, though I’d also add that there’s a culture of imperiousness with physicians, especially in the hospital setting, that leads to chronic verbal abuse of non-doctors by doctors.

              The gradual adoption of High Reliability methods aka “checklist culture” in the healthcare setting is at least partially driven by non-doctors not having sufficient status in the workplace to call physicians out for sloppy behavior.

              (If you are a physician and this generalization does not apply to you, then you have my admiration and my apologies.)

        • Mainmata says:

          Mainly nurses feel that way specifically about surgeons especially thoracic surgeons who really do tend to believe they are gods.

          • Jockobadger says:

            Reading this post and the comments has made me realize that my GP is a woman and both my Urologist and my dentist are women and POC’s. I’ve been seeing them a long time and love all three of them.

            I have come to the conclusion that we would be far better off if most of our political class were women, as well. My Dad, who’s a crusty retired physician agrees with me (he’s actually quite progressive and I’m proud of him.) There are many reasons why I think this is true, but I won’t go into them here. Maybe in one of Rayne’s open posts.

            Speaking of my Dad, he is a retired Nuclear Med physician and Clinical Pathologist. All of his buds are/were docs including 2 surgeons, one of whom was a thoracic guy. I hunted, fished, etc., with them until I left for college. I can assure you that none of them are/were gods – esp the surgeons. One of them shot another one during a drunken hunting adventure. No one died – neither gods nor geniuses. JHC

    • Tech Support says:

      I am reminded of Ellis’s blatant editorializing that was maybe the first thing that the public ever got to really hear out of his mouth, that Manafort was being prosecuted strictly as a way to get leverage over him in the hunt for other targets.

      The sentencing result I think is an expected outcome from someone who is predisposed to see prosecutorial overreach, and for whom the scope of his trial was strictly about white collar crime committed by white insiders.

      ABJ has access to more damning evidence and likely has less identification with the defendant. I would expect her to deliver her sentence consecutively, regardless of actual sentence length.

      • bmaz says:

        No, not necessarily. Ellis has forever been a cranky ass judge. And, no, this severe of a downward departure was not predicted by anybody that knows what they are doing. Also, Ellis could have demanded from Manafort’s attorneys anything filed with ABJ. Do not expect anything from ABJ. We have no idea where she will go. I will bet on concurrent in DC, but consecutive to EDVA, but do not expect anything specific.

    • e.a.f. says:

      or if the judicial system gets real lucky he dies in his sleep, sooner than later. Not to wish death on him or anything unfortunate, but you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

  4. PSWebster says:

    No worries…Manfort will see Judge Amy next plus all the other ways he can be got after. Unfortunately, Ellis is an old white man who someone posted is fine to deal with if he thinks he is the smartest person in court; he didn’t like the pros rolling their eyes at him. haha.

    On that note and since it is Woman’s Day, this girl’s performance “Tricia, this song is for you” deserves praise (the original is good too)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-bvse-sM7Q does that have tracking on it?

      • cat herder says:

        Nope, the ‘L-bvse-sM7Q’ is simply YT’s format for identifying one video from another. Change one character in that string and you’ll get either a 404 page or a different video.

        Using the youtu.be shortener doesn’t affect anything about trackers or referrals, since clicking or copy/paste the short URL auto-redirects to the normal un-short URL page (the ‘/watch?v=’ page).

        If you click a link (any link, from any page to any other page, not just YT), the target site can see what URL you came from. However… if you copy it and paste it into a new tab or window, that chain is broken.

      • Eureka says:

        (adding to cat herder’s reply, but speaking to the broader “?” convo context)

        Rayne has explained that to remove extra* tracking code, whacking the “?-forward” and stuff after the “.html” is generally true, but that for some sites, characters like that are functional, rather than added trackers. She cited yt for having a functional ? mark (and all else cat herder says about garden-variety tracking applies), and some few other sites’ urls as having functional characters that don’t follow these rules.

        You can test by removing characters using those or other heuristics and see if the link still works, to troubleshoot.

        *by ‘extra’ tracking code, I mean that intended for more personal identification beyond referring/destination urls. Like whether the url came from twitter, or someone’s specific FB account, etc. (heavy on the ‘etc.’), and which links past and future users of an url in a more personalized chain or network.

      • Greenhouse says:

        Thanks Cat and Eureka. And here I was thinking I must be some sorta high tech genius. Back to drawing board.

  5. 200Toros says:

    Well put, as usual. Regarding this: “But one other point of this entire investigative process was to learn lessons, to make it harder for hostile outsiders to hijack our democratic process going forward.” – I’d say that another point is to make it harder for hostile INSIDERS to hijack our democratic process going forward, and this wrist-slap of a sentencing didn’t exactly further that cause….

  6. 200Toros says:

    I will also say that my hope for our system of government has taken a beating every since the Helsinki presser, in which a servile US president prostrated himself in obeisance to a hostile foreign power, openly aligned himself with their interests, and placed himself in direct conflict with US best interests, he sold us all out, on live TV, for all the world to see. Greatest threat to national security in my lifetime, 25th should have been invoked that day, yet here we are…

    • Rugger9 says:

      This is because McTurtle and LyinRyan were also in hock to the Russians for the election assistance in 2016 as well, and enabled all of it. For them, the ends justify the means.

  7. P J Evans says:

    Over at Kos, Mark Sumner postulates that it’s Ellis trying to slap down Mueller and his office.

  8. Rugger9 says:

    In other news, when the Palace refused to turn over the clearance information to Schiff, one of the minions leaked it to the committee anyway. One wonders how that could happen given the purges and reign of terror in the Palace due to Kaiser Quisling’s obsession over leaking.

    This of course assumes that Schiff got the real stuff and not red herrings. However, it does highlight the ineffectiveness of the team there (anyone heard from Mickey Mulvaney lately?) and the fact that in a group of self-centered unscrupulous snakes, it’s a cinch that at least one of them will stick shivs in the others’ backs if it can help them get ahead. So, who wants Javanka out of the Palace, probably risking that the wrath of KQ over his favorite?

    • Tech Support says:

      “One wonders how that could happen”

      I don’t. The pathology of bad bosses is well documented. Trump is clearly a bad boss. He gets away with it in the TO because it’s a small, closely held clusterfuck of entities where there are few line staff and they are all expendable.

      But in hierarchical systems where organizational productivity is dependent on unit cohesion? Then bad bosses foster inefficiency, waste, and error. Sometimes that is simply a consequence of workplace stress but it is just as often a function of passive aggressive retaliation by line staff. Whether that is leaking information, or saluting your superior officer in the view of snipers, the outcome is the same.

      • elk_l says:

        There is an outside chance the minion could be a well placed agent in this instance working for Putin or a combination of interests.

        • Rugger9 says:

          If the idea is to sow discord and distractions, that makes some sense, but I’m more likely to believe Putin is perfectly happy with Kaiser Quisling with power to do Vlad’s bidding.

  9. bie phiephus says:

    Thanks for another great article Marcy. It totally seems like there are two justice systems. One for you, me and the rest of the regular people, and a not-so-secret second one for White Old Rich Men, aka WORM justice.

  10. Badger Robert says:

    It appears that there are a whole host of fledgling parasites willing to sow false allegations against Mueller and new political figures. A little FARA compliance enforcement may make RR feel good. The on rush of the new crop of wannabe Stoners does not seem impaired.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Well, that playbook has worked for a long time, i.e. Franken’s resignation but also understand that the GOP doesn’t resign easily (i.e. Farenthold (?) from TX).

  11. orionATL says:

    in my book judge ellis has always been just another rightwing judicial appointment interested in protecting the executive branch (big power) from embarrassing discoveries. this rightwing judge (and a good judge too) cleverly hides this fact behind his frequent courtroom self-evaluations as a curmudgeon, but his true colors show in key cases such as the office of special council case, aka the manafort case :), and in this notable case involving kidnapped and tortured german citizen kahled el-masri:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4996140.stm

    both these cases, the osc (manafort) case and the el-masri case, involve hiding the misbehavior of executive branch mucktymucks, the curent one involving our president.

  12. Wajim says:

    “And our democracy [, as well as more corrupt regimes around the globe where Manafort was happy to work,] are much less just because of Manafort’s life’s work.”

    Pull it over, Lady. Grammar police. Or is that Edit Detective?

    Meanwhile, I am as pissed as you. So, Cohen gets 36 months or so, and Paulie gets 47? WTF? Ellis is unfit, but you could see that coming from your early reporting regarding Manafort’s trial. So, not a surprise, perhaps, but still, a shock, compared to what most kids get for selling drugs, stealing petty cash, and whatnot.

  13. CaliLawyer says:

    I’ve seen a couple commentators remark that the EDVA, and Ellis in particular, are notoriously soft on “gentleman’s crimes.”

    This $200 mil fraudster eventually got a whopping 7 months from Ellis:

    https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2016/11/07/former-ur-business-professor-pays-100-million-penalty-fraud/93424646/

    Maybe he did factor in the blood money?

    I’d be really interested to see a comparison of Ellis’ sentencing decisions in drug crimes and other non-white collar stuff with his white collar record.

  14. Michael says:

    @PS Webster
    “[…] does that [YouTube link] have tracking on it?”

    Good question. The “?” sure looks suspicious, but I don’t know.

    That said, it links to YouTube (giggle video), and giggle is a YUGE tracker.
    Just the act of surfing to YouTube, even if one does so without clicking a link, is a sign-up for tracking.

    • Tech Support says:

      This is hardly an exhaustive way to harden your web usage for privacy purposes, but I would advocate this as a baseline web browser configuration that even your grandma can use without getting frustrated:

      Firefox
      + uBlock Origin
      + Privacy Badger
      + Decentraleyes
      + HTTPS Everywhere
      + Facebook Container (if you FB).

      The performance hit is minimal, the website breakage is minimal.

      Also, for $2/mo, you can point your router’s DNS servers to AdFreeTime to keep your ISP (lookin at you, Comcrass) from profiling your DNS queries. Not as good as a VPN solution but cheaper and less impactful on bandwidth. Again, these are “grandma certified” levels of hardening.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Your recommendations might be useful for the average viewer, though I would have added using an alternative to Giggle, such as duckduckgo or Ixquick.

        If your suggestion is intended for the operators of this site, I suggest you refocus your efforts elsewhere.

        • Tech Support says:

          Right. No disrespect intended for the power users in the room. Per the pseudonym, my normal focus is raising the floor for end-users.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            I think your recommendations are fine for viewers. It wasn’t clear whether you intended them for the site administrator, who would be ahead of that curve.

          • orionATL says:

            so did i.

            thanks tech support. i had no difficulty at all understanding where you were coming from.

            i have no idea how anyone could fail to understand you were talking about ordinary folk (grandmas), not site administrators.

  15. Savage Librarian says:

    Thanks, Marcy. That was very helpful!
    Now, sorry about my complete ignorance about administrative and regulatory guidelines. I don’t understand if they are ubiquitous or whether they are unique to entities involved.

    I ask this because I wonder if Ellis’ sentencing of Manafort could be used as a precedent for the DOJ.
    Could this somehow be used to justify why the internal DOJ rules could be overruled?

    Specifically, could this be used to argue that a sitting POTUS could be indicted, because DOJ rules are merely guidelines?

    Obviously, I am very naive and clueless about how all this works. Please forgive me..

  16. Peterr says:

    Paul Manafort invented the profession of sleazy influence peddler.

    “Objection!”
    /Lanny Davis

  17. James says:

    I’m happy. Cohen and Manafort both convicted. Both going to jail (at least until the pardon for Manafort comes through). I’m not as upset about the leniency. Two more down. On to the next indictment.

  18. Ed Smart says:

    I hate draconian sentencing but however I try to look at this his lack of remorse boomerangs me back.

    His crimes were committed by someone who thought he was exceptionally above the law to an audacious degree. So I find his lawyer’s statement about the exceptional nature of his hardships and sensitivities to be offensive. Mercy is supposed to be extended to convicts who accept that they have made themselves common, not special.

    I’ve seen disadvantaged, uneducated, men for whom English is a second language, have their bids for sentencing relief or parole declined because they used a passive instead of an active verb tense to express remorse in just one sentence of their statement to the judge or board. And sent back to serve another 3 years of 25 to life, before they will be reviewed again.

    Manafort certainly has the language skills to apologize properly. I don’t see how you extend mercy to a proud criminal.

    • e.a.f. says:

      Manafort isn’t sorry for what he did, hence the lack of a show of remorse. He is only sorry he got caught. there will be new clients for his when he gets out. They’ll like that he wasn’t “remorseful”. He may even be able to continue to work while in jail, if he isn’t monitored too closely.

  19. pseudonymous in nc says:

    “In letting Manafort off with a metaphorical wrist-slap, TS Ellis did nothing to deter others who, like Manafort, will sell out our country for an ostrich skin jacket.”

    The venue shopping for EDVA worked at the very end, because large sections of NoVA were built on dirty influence peddling. Judge Ellis probably sees them in social settings. (This isn’t to say he was nobbled or crooked, but that he sees Manafort as a somewhat criminal peer.)

    And I’m inevitably reminded of Peter Cook’s ‘Entirely A Matter For You’.

  20. Kick the darkness says:

    “I don’t know what Mueller is doing with all the evidence of a conspiracy that he continues to protect. I don’t know that he’ll be able to deliver a prosecutorial conclusion that will deliver justice for the sleazy things that Trump did to win the election.”

    In Marcy’s Feb. 23 post on the Manafort sentencing memo, there was some optimism that Mueller’s team would have an additional opportunity to disclose redacted details of the Aug. 2 assistance for sanctions relief meeting in a public form. I guess nothing concrete has happened since the 23rd that would necessarily shake that optimism. Still, the tension builds. I suppose if nothing else congressional testimony from Rick Gates could fill in much of what’s blacked out. Its strange how just two weeks feels like a long time.

  21. bittersweet says:

    So which states which Manafort owns houses in, require that he pay State income taxes? How many states have the obligation to prosecute him for State income tax evasion?

  22. Jenny says:

    Thanks Marcy. “Blood money” is spot on. Manafort, a dictator’s delight.

    Riveting documentary “Active Measures” released in 2018 by Jack Bryan. History of Russia/Putin and Trump connection plus all the characters involved in this political puzzle.

    • Jaycee says:

      Thanks for recommending that documentary , Jenny.
      Sounds very interesting.
      I posted on one thread on this forum before, and was rudely accused of being a sock-puppet for some reason… but that accusation was certainly very revealing, considering the topic that I had posted about. BTW, such accusations won’t stop my posts, and Marcy has the ability to check IPs, correct?

      • bmaz says:

        We do. And can tell exactly who you are and your bad faith sock puppeting. I am serious, do NOT pull this crap here.

      • bmaz says:

        Seriously, it is really hilarious how many trolls think they are going to wander in here and blithely change this blog after a handful of trolly comments. No. That is not going to happen. Stop.

      • Jaycee says:

        Stop what? You’re a lawyer yet you make claims about me without a shred of evidence? Why? As I said earlier, Marcy can check my IP. I invite her to check it. I can 100% guarantee it won’t match any other commenter on this forum.
        Sorry, I was unable to read your reply to me on the other thread, bmaz.
        I really don’t understand what inspired your anger towards me. I wrote a comment, and someone replied to me, and then I replied back. How does that makes me a sock puppet? Sorry, but I’m confused about why you made that assumption about me.

      • Jaycee says:

        Bmaz, I’m thinking about your replies, and considering you can see I’m telling the truth regarding my IP, I’m a bit puzzled.
        I’m going to assume that if you’re working with Marcy, you are not one of the bad guys….
        Perhaps theres another reason you dont want me to post?

        • bmaz says:

          Listen, you have posted from two different IP addresses, and under two different screen names. Mostly “Jaycee” but also “Jaycer”. We ask that people use only one handle. We make that request all the time, nobody is singling you out and nobody is telling you “not to post”. We just ask you to be consistent.

          • Troutwaxer says:

            Both sides might consider a little technical clarification here: First, anyone who carries a laptop or tablet is likely to post from multiple IP Addresses. This is due to something called DHCP, which stands for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. What this means is that if you post from Starbucks, the Starbucks WiFi will use DHCP to assign an IP Address to your laptop. If you post from McDonalds the next day, the McDonalds WiFi will use DHCP to assign a different IP Address to your laptop.

            To make matters more complicated, McDonalds is served by AT&T, while Starbucks is served by Level III, (which was recently absorbed by Centurylink.) I know this because I’ve installed and serviced devices at both restaurants for years. But this means that McDonalds will assign your laptop an IP Address allocated to AT&T, while Starbucks will assign an IP Address to allocated to Level III. Thus where you have lunch can result in a radically different IP Address. The same factors can also result in two different posters having the same IP Address with no malicious intent, because there is a limited pool of DHCP addresses, so the IP Addresses assigned to a particular place are frequently re-used.

            The result of this is that IP Addresses are not usually a useful identifier for most users. (It’s also worth noticing that if you turn your home internet off for a little while the ISP is likely to give your home router a different IP Address, which can also affect how the outside world sees you.) I believe that there are court rulings to the effect that IP Addresses are not sufficiently clear identifiers.

            Second, as to the use of a second similar name (“Jaycee” vs. “Jaycer”) it’s probably worth noting that the “e” key and the “r” key are next to each other. What’s most likely is that the poster made a typo and didn’t notice.

            I think it’s excellent policy to be on the lookout for trolls (and particularly concern-trolls) but one should be careful not to read too much into different IP Addresses. What’s most likely, given laptops, home computers, and tablets is that any given user will have 3-4 different fingerprints. Personally, I know I’ve posted here from at least three devices.

            With regard to trolls, the Necronomicon speaks most profoundly: “As a foulness ye shall know them.”

  23. Mo says:

    T.S. Ellis III is a biased judge who was very UNFAIR to the prosecutors! This is what happens when a guy from Colombia (notorious for corruption) becomes a judge in this country.

  24. sherry says:

    Since this trial was not about collusion why would there be any evidence submitted? Does this judge announce in other cases….there is no evidence of murder, rape, abuse etc? That statement alone made the Judge look like a partisan hack.

  25. Rusharuse says:

    So, did I dream this?
    Feb 8 . .
    ESCOBAR: Did you ever create, direct the creation of, see or become aware of the existence of any documents relating to pardons of any individual?

    WHITAKER: I am aware of documents relating to pardons of individuals, yes.

  26. klynn says:

    OT:
    EW saw your retweet of David Corn’s Yang piece…
    Wonder if Y was close to the DC Madame?

  27. Badger Robert says:

    I don’t see the change in trajectory to prevent an outright criminal election cycle. I would anticipate paid liars making salacious accusations, and many forms of intimidation directed at state and local election supervisors.
    It really takes the process back to 19th century when both parties had hired cheaters who knew how to rig the system. And Trump has pre-occupied the ground of accusing the other side of cheating.
    So ordinary politics of getting voter approval is only going to part of the process, unless Mueller gets a comprehensive report into the public arena.

  28. BroD says:

    Well the judge himself has said it–
    and it’s greatly to his credit–
    that he’s lived a blameless life
    yes, he’s li-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-lived a blameless life.

  29. Willis Warren says:

    Personally, I don’t want ABJ to consider Ellis during her sentencing. I’d prefer she does what she sees to be justice without outside considerations. The full ten years, concurrently, would be justice for me.

    We shouldn’t politicize the judiciary. that’s what the Kochs are doing and fuck them.

  30. Daldart says:

    So who is this Andre Mate? Been following the Russia story – and your excellent posts- very carefully, but have never heard of him.

  31. Andrew Dabrowski says:

    “I agree with those who suggest we should aim to bring those other sentences down in line with what the civilized world imposes, and not instead bump white collar criminals up to the barbaric levels that come out of the drug war.”

    I also agree with that, in principle; but in practice the surest route to the former is through the latter.

  32. e.a.f. says:

    on one level I was shocked and then I remember our Mother telling us when we were young, there was law for the rich and another for the poor. If you were middle class where we lived, it depended upon who your parents knew.

    If anyone thought Manafort was going to prison with all those bad people, think again. “An almost blameless life” almost fell of the chair laughing. Only in America you say? thankfully. Even in Canada a judge sentenced a former Cabinet Minister to jail.

    American prison sentences are disgustingly long, but that I’ve always believed was the intent to imprison as many people of colour as possible. One could say, the judge verified my opinion.

    When you sit back and think about it, who did more to destroy society/the U.S.A. the meth dealer who got 40 years or Manafort who got 47 months? Meth dealers usually have issues. Manafort may have had “issues”, but he knew what he was doing and certainly knew the consequences. A meth head, not so much. Now the “almost blameless” life, omg. Remember seeing a picture of Manafort, Lee Atwater, and Roger Stone, perhaps on this blog. Would appear the term “ratfucker” was created for them. That’s not living an “almost blameless” life.

    The message was loud and clear from the judge, you can do this again and the guy will get less than 4 years, so its worth it. When the judicial system goes for a shit, you know your country is in trouble. Wonder how some of those “criminals” feel about there having to do real time, while Manafort gets just this side of a walk?

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