A federal judge ruled in favor of Robert Mueller on Wednesday that Paul Manafort intentionally violated the terms of his guilty plea by lying to federal prosecutors and a grand jury, clearing the way for the special counsel to push for a harsher sentence.
The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson confirms some of Mueller’s latest set of charges against the former Donald Trump campaign chairman that he lied during guilty-plea-stipulated cooperation sessions about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime aide alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence.
But Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, didn’t side with Mueller on all of the alleged lies the special counsel asserted. For one, she ruled that Mueller had “failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence” that Manafort intentionally made a false statement about his contacts with the Trump administration.
Despite the split opinion, the judge’s four-page ruling against Manafort means the 69-year-old political operative will likely get an even stiffer penalty at his March 13 sentencing hearing in D.C. federal court. She said Mueller’s office was “no longer bound by its obligations under the plea agreement” terms he’d reached with Manafort in September, including the special counsel’s pledge to recommend a less-stringent sentence.
Even with the plea deal voided, Jackson can give Manafort a maximum of only 10 years on the two charges he pleaded guilty to in Washington — conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice — in exchange for Mueller’s dropping foreign-lobbying and money-laundering charges.