What's Next For Manafort NPR's Scott Simon talks with former federal prosecutor Shan Wu about Paul Manafort's recent sentencing as well as an upcoming sentencing hearing.


What's Next For Manafort

What's Next For Manafort

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NPR's Scott Simon talks with former federal prosecutor Shan Wu about Paul Manafort's recent sentencing as well as an upcoming sentencing hearing.


Paul Manafort was sentenced to not quite four years in prison for tax and bank fraud related to his work in Ukraine advising politicians there. Sentencing guidelines called for between 20 and 24 years. He will be sentenced in a second separate federal trial this week. For more, we turn to Shan Wu, former federal prosecutor, criminal defense attorney who represented Mr. Manafort's, I guess we say, now former business associate, Richard Gates, before he pled guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to the FBI. Mr. Wu, thanks so much for being back with us.

SHANLON WU: Oh, happy to be here.

SIMON: A number of public figures have already said this is - this seems to be a textbook example of unfair sentencing. What do you say?

WU: Well, I think we can look to Roy Cohn's famous statement that, don't tell me about the law, tell me about the judge. And this was a strategic choice on Manafort's team to bifurcate these two cases. They've got the D.C. one still coming up for sentencing, and they chose to fight on two fronts. When I did represent Gates - saying nothing confidential here - looking ahead, I'm not sure I would've made that same decision. It defies conventional wisdom to open up two fronts. But in this case, their strategy paid off. And in Virginia, they drew Judge Ellis, which has worked out well for him so far.

SIMON: The argument, as I read it, Judge Ellis seemed to make is, look; this case wouldn't even be here if the government hadn't been looking into charges of Russia's intervention in the last elections and therefore he seemed to discount - he didn't say that the charges didn't exist, but he seemed to discount their importance. How do you feel about that?

WU: I think that was his perspective, which he telegraphed kind of early. I was alone among legal analysts predicting something in the single digits because of that. Ellis is very experienced. I think he was swayed by the argument that you have to look to other similarly situated defendants charged with these issues. He did seem to have some hostility towards the special counsel lawyers, though, during the trial, so I think that did factor in.

SIMON: How do you read that? Did they play a bad hand?

WU: I don't know that they played a bad hand. They played the hand that they had. Judge Ellis - I've been before him, and he is a little bit territorial - doesn't necessarily like outsiders coming into the Eastern District of Virginia and doing their cases that way. So there may have been a little bit of a sense that these were carpetbaggers coming in, but I don't know that Manafort's attorneys looked like local Virginia attorneys either.

SIMON: Have you been before Judge Amy Berman Jackson? She gets the end.

WU: I have indeed.

SIMON: She's been - she's had choice words for Mr. Manafort.

WU: She has. I was before her when I represented Rick Gates. We were in front of her during that time. She runs a very tight courtroom, and I think that if I were defending Manafort right now, I would be pretty worried about what's coming up this week. She's obviously not as friendly towards him. They have a history. She is the one that took away his bail and put him in jail where he still is.

SIMON: Contending that he continued to be, essentially, doing business from jail - right? - or at least protecting the administration.

WU: Exactly and also finding that he had lied during his cooperation agreement as the prosecutors had implied. You know, those situations are kind of deck is stacked against the defendants because it's the prosecutor's word for the most part, but she has made that finding against him. And actually there he - in a odd sense, he's lucky he faces a statutory cap of 10 years. The guidelines that she has available actually go beyond that but at worst they're 10 years. A lot of speculation on will she go concurrent or consecutive.

SIMON: Would - 30 seconds we have left. Do his attorneys have to play for a pardon?

WU: I don't know that they have to play for the pardon but they have been and they've got to concentrate on what's ahead of them. They have to concentrate on Judge Jackson. But unquestionably, their public statements are sending a message loud and clear that they are still hoping for the pardon.

SIMON: Former federal prosecutor Shan Wu, always a pleasure to have you here. Thanks, sir.

WU: Thank you.

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