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FMR. Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort sentenced. TRANSCRIPT: 3/7/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Josh Gerstein, David Cicilline, Dan Rather

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Yes, if we get our act together and invest now, it`s a better future in both directions. 

David Wallace Wells, thank you for your time. 

If you want to hear more about his book, "The Uninhabitable Earth", or about this subject, you can check out our discussion on my podcast, "Why Is This Happening", which is available wherever you get your podcast.

That is ALL IN this evening.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks my friend. 

HAYES:  You bet.

MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 

Nothing like this has ever happened before.  Almost.  Ish.  There was that one other time. 


REPORTER:  Today, a limousine brought former Attorney General John Mitchell to court.  They caused to call him the "big enchilada" at the White House.  He came to be sentenced as a convicted felon. 

For 64 days, this man sat in Judge Sirica`s courtroom.  When the time came for a final statement, Mitchell and his lawyer had nothing to say.  All eyes were on the man who is known as Maximum John. 

The judge wasted no time on a speech.  Mitchell, Haldeman and Ehrlichman must serve at least 2 1/2 years in prison, maybe as long as eight years. 

Judge Sirica would not comment on the case as he left the courthouse.  John Mitchell left, growling, it could have been worse.  He could have sentenced me to spend the rest of my life with Martha Mitchell.


MADDOW:  It could have been worse.  He could have sentenced me to spend the rest of my life with Martha Mitchell, my wife -- my ex-wife. 

John Mitchell was Richard Nixon`s presidential campaign manager.  When Nixon won the presidency in `68, John Mitchell`s marriage to Martha Mitchell had broken up in 1973 in the midst of the Watergate scandal.  And the year after that, of course, 1974, Nixon resigned in scandal.  He at least was pardoned for his own Watergate-related crimes. 

But the following year, 1975, when Nixon campaign manager and ex-U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell was sentenced for his own crimes in the Watergate scandal, when he was sentenced for conspiracy and obstruction of justice and perjury and lying to investigators, his only comment to the press upon getting his federal prison sentence handed down was that at least we wouldn`t have to spend any more time with his darn wife.  Sure, I`m going to prison, but could be worse. 

You know, every generation thinks it invents the newest and worst kinds of scoundrels and scumbags in public life.  Honestly, history gives us some good ones, too.  Do not give history short shrift even on historic days like this.  Today for the very first time, it was the sitting president of the United States whose campaign chair was sentenced to federal prison. 

John Mitchell at least didn`t get his sentence until Nixon was out of office and was a former president.  John Mitchell was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison back in 1975.  Mitchell ended up getting released from prison after serving 19 months because of poor health.  Today, it was President Trump`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort and he`d beat Mitchell`s record today because he was given a much longer sentence that Mitchell was. 

Manafort today was sentenced to 47 months, just shy of four years in federal prison.  Now, there is no parole in the federal prison system anymore, so even though we don`t know exactly how long Manafort will serve on this sentence, you can sort of do a little bit of the math in your head.  You can start at 47 months, which is what he got today.  You should then subtract nine months credit, they`re apparently giving him credit for the time he`s already served in the Alexandria Federal Detention Center while he`s been on trial and awaiting this sentencing today.  Then maybe I think you can subtract a little good time credit for that. 

If you do that math, again, back of the envelope and you never know how these things will go, but it`s maybe a ballpark figure of three years of real time that he will serve on this sentence.  Ish.  We will get some expert advice on that later on this hour. 

But this is a remarkable thing.  I mean, this is history.  It`s the campaign chairman for the sitting president of the United States going to federal prison for years, for multiple felonies, only halfway through that president`s term in office.  Paul Manafort was the first indictment announced by special counsel Robert Mueller back in 2017. 

Manafort was originally charge add long side his deputy campaign chair from the Trump campaign Rick Gates.  The two of them appeared from the outset to have linked fates, both in terms oh what they were charged with and in terms of how their cases would proceed through the criminal justice system.  They appeared to be peas in a pod until Gates bailed. 

Gates decided to plead guilty and become a cooperating witness, working with the prosecution in their case against his former boss Paul Manafort and working with them on other ongoing investigations as well.  And now Manafort`s case is coming to an end.  Manafort is learning how much time he will spend in prison.  Meanwhile, Rick Gates` cooperation with prosecutors continues.  Gates doesn`t yet have his own sentencing date. 

But his life is very different than Paul Manafort`s since he pled guilty.  I mean, unlike Manafort, Rick Gates has been at home all of this time.  He hasn`t been in jail even for a day, although there is still the prospect that that`s where he`s heading when his cooperation is fully over and he`s finally sentenced. 

The convictions for which Paul Manafort was sentenced today were the only jury verdicts thus far in any case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller or in any derivative prosecution that`s related to any of these scandals.  It`s the only jury verdict.  Everybody else has pled and is either awaiting sentencing or they`ve already been sentenced by a judge.  Nobody else has yet faced a trial other than Paul Manafort. 

And at his trial this summer, you will recall that Paul Manafort didn`t take the stand in his own defense.  There was tons of testimony against him from, among others, Rick Gates, his former deputy.  Also from accountants and bookkeepers who testified on Manafort`s crimes.  In the end, that jury in Virginia convicted Manafort on five felony counts of tax fraud, two felony counts of bank fraud and one felony count related to him not reporting his foreign bank accounts. 

And the best news that Manafort got that day was that despite the fact that that jury in Virginia convicted him of eight felonies, as John Mitchell might say, it could have been worse that day.  Because Paul Manafort that day was actually facing 18 felony charges at that trial.  Remember, of the 12 jurors in the Manafort trial, there was just one holdout.  Eleven jurors wanted to convict him on all 18 felonies, but one juror held out and said no on ten of them. 

And that`s -- it`s been a little weird to figure that out ever since.  I mean, that one juror went along with his or her fellow jurors on the other eight counts.  There did not seem to be any difference in the amount of evidence put forward on those ten counts where the juror held out versus the eight counts where the juror went along. 

Nevertheless, that`s how it went.  Juries are juries.  They can do what they want.  And so, Paul Manafort came out of that trial, lucky guy, with eight felony convictions to his name. 

And when a jury can`t come to an unanimous decision, that`s called a hung jury.  So he got a hung jury on those ten felony counts where there was a hung jury, the prosecutors from Mueller`s office, they initially reserved the right to try Paul Manafort again for those ten charges.  You can do that in the case of a hung jury. 

It`s very interesting to me, and I`ve never quite understood the strategy behind this.  Mueller`s prosecutors initially reserved the right to bring Manafort up on those ten charges where he had the hung jury again, if they decided they wanted to.  But they never went through with that decision. 

They never tried him again on those ten felonies, those ten felonies on which there was a hung jury, but they did make sure that when Manafort later pled guilty in a different federal court in D.C., his guilty plea in that other court included him explicitly confessing that, yes, maybe he wasn`t convicted on those ten other felony charges where there was that one juror who was the holdout.  Yes, maybe he hadn`t been convicted on those 10 felonies, but Manafort confessed in his plea deal that actually he was guilty of those ten felony charges, too. 

Why didn`t they charge him with those again?  Why have him admit that he committed those crimes later on in a different proceeding while also giving up your right to bring him up on those charges again?  That was just one of those amazing curve balls in this case. 

So, Manafort pleads not guilty to 18 felonies in Virginia.  He goes to trial.  The jury squashes him.  Guilty, eight felony counts.  The other ten are floating out there for awhile until on the eve of his next trial, where he was going to be tried for another seven felonies, this time in D.C., he surprises everybody, right? 

He does what appears at the outset to be this U-turn and he admits guilt to those ten charges on which there had been a hung jury in Virginia.  He pleads guilty to two conspiracy charges.  Prosecutors agree to drop all of the other felony charges against him and he says he is going to become a cooperating witness, right? 

And that, you know, part of that play -- so he pleads guilty, he says he`s going to become a Cooperator.  They drop all the other charges.  He admits that he was guilty in those ten felonies.  They didn`t bring him up on trial again for, right?  And they could potentially -- they could have potentially been brought against him in trial again. 

That was supposed to be the start of a whole new Paul Manafort, right?  Coming clean, pleading guilty, admitting guilt to the ten charges on which they didn`t retry him, right?  At that moment when he decided to plead and become a cooperator, that was him as the prosecutors say, that was him joining team USA. 

That first trial, yeah, guilty on eight counts, but before he even got to that second trial, no, it`s a whole new Paul Manafort.  He`s joining Team USA, joining with prosecutors, admitting his guilt. 

It turns out it didn`t work out that way, right?  The cooperation aspect of Manafort`s case is another fascinating curveball.  I mean, before tonight, prosecutors had never given any substantive public account as to what Manafort might have given them as a cooperator, as to how helpful he was as a cooperating witness. 

Today in court, the special counsel`s office was as blunt as they have been on that subject ever.  Tonight in federal court, they told the judge in Virginia that Manafort, quote, did not provide valuable information to the special counsel.  After Manafort`s defense team tried to raise in court this issue of him having spent tons of hours in meetings with the special counsel, they were trying to get him credit for that from the judge.  Prosecutors told the judge tonight that the number of hours Paul Manafort spent with the special counsel, quote, that number is not reflective of the value of the information we received. 

Quote, he told us 50 hours of things we already knew.  He did not provide us information that was useful. 

So, that`s important from the prosecutors` perspective, right?  Because it means they didn`t want this judge to give Manafort any credit for cooperating, his cooperation was useless.  He gave them information they already had and lied to them.  No matter how much time his defense team can say he spent with the prosecutors, the prosecutors found him worse than useless. 

So, that`s interesting in terms of informing the judge`s decision tonight in terms of how much time to give Manafort.  But for us watching from the outside trying to figure out how the Manafort case fits into the larger scandal here and into potential other cases against other people, that was also a signal from the special counsel`s office that there was no way they`d be relying on Paul Manafort as any kind of witness against anyone. 

I mean, once you`re telling the judge bluntly, hey, this guy repeatedly lies, even to prosecutors who he is supposed to be helping, that makes him useless as a potential witness against anyone else in any other case.  And you`ll remember, during Manafort`s trial in Virginia, the judge there, the sort of famously cantankerous judge -- he basically yelled at the prosecutors in court, right?  It was this big dramatic moment in court in a hearing before the trial started.  The judge said in open court, you don`t really care about Mr. Manafort`s bank fraud.  You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment. 

The judge had said that in open court.  You don`t care about Manafort.  You`re only using him to get his testimony to get evidence and information he can give you to get bigger fish, to go get the president, and he sort of reamed the prosecutors out for that, scolded them, almost sort of mocked them in the court because he could tell that was their real intent. 

Well, the prosecutors fundamentally rebutted that, right?  They rebutted that outburst from the judge tonight when they came to him at Paul Manafort`s sentencing and said, nah, this guy, we can`t use him for anything.  We can`t use him against anyone.  We can`t use him for any other case. 

All he does is lie.  He`s pointless as a witness.  He`s of no help.  This case is just about his crimes and that`s it. 

This judge, though, Judge T.S. Ellis in Virginia, he was super aggressive with the prosecutors throughout the Manafort proceedings.  Today when it came time to sentence Manafort, the ball was completely in that judge`s court.  Judges have freedom when it comes to sentencing in federal court. 

The sentencing guidelines spelled out that Manafort should get 19 to 24 years in prison, but those guidelines are merely a guide.  Judges are free to depart from those guidelines in either direction, as far as they want to.  The only thing a judge can`t do is exceed the statutory minimum sentence defined by law for the crimes for which Manafort was convicted. 

When it came time to decide tonight how much time Manafort would actually spend in prison, the judge went way below that sentencing guidelines range.  He didn`t go 19 to 24 years, he gave him a little less than four years and he took time to criticize the sentencing guidelines in open court. 

The judge said tonight, quote: these guidelines are quite high.  He said, quote, I think this sentencing range is excessive. 

Paul Manafort has already spent nine months in that federal lockup in Virginia.  You`ll remember, he ended up in jail when he had his bail revoked because prosecutors said they caught him witness tampering while he was out on bail, so he had to go to a federal lockup awaiting trial, and then during his trial and until today awaiting sentencing. 

Since he`s been in jail all this time, all these nine months, his defense team told the court today that he`s really fallen apart physically.  Manafort`s defense team told the court today that Manafort now has severe gout, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, psoriasis, arthritis, unspecified thyroid trouble, anxiety, panic attacks and claustrophobia. 

And he will apparently get credit against his sentence, this four-year sentence that he got, he`ll get credit for the nine months he`s already served in that federal lockup, but his fate at this point really is still an open question.  Manafort`s next stop will be the federal courthouse in D.C.  He is due to be sentenced in D.C. next Wednesday for more felonies, for those two felonies that he pled guilty to, and that will be a whole different judge who has been through a whole different proceeding with or him.  For that sentencing next week, the maximum sentence that D.C. judge would be allowed to hand down would be ten years. 

But that judge next week now has the benefit of knowing what Manafort`s sentence was in this other court tonight.  So that D.C.  judge next week, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, she`ll not only be deciding on her own terms on the basis of the felony charges before her how much time in prison Paul Manafort should get, she will also be deciding whether the time she gives should run concurrently with this other sentence he got tonight or whether it will be consecutive. 

She can give him up to ten years.  Let`s say she gives him five years.  If they run concurrently, he`ll run both of those sentences at the same time, right?  Start day one, he`ll end up serving a total of five years in prison because the four-year sentence and the five-year sentence will run at the same time.  But judges, if they want to be harsher, they have the ability to sentence you to serve your other sentence first, right? 

Then when you`re done with that one, you can start this next sentence that I`m going to give you.  You can start this next sentence thereafter.  If that happened, theoretically with the four years he got in Virginia tonight, let`s say he got five years next week in D.C., that would mean that he`d be looking at nine-year sentence in total. 

If the judge next week completely throws the book at Manafort, that would be a ten-year sentence from that D.C. judge next week.  If she gives him the maximum that she could give him, ten years and she has it run consecutively not concurrently, that means the total maximum Manafort could be looking at would be just under 14 years in federal prison. 

Now, to be clear, he could get anything under that, including no additional time beyond the sentence he got tonight, but the max prison time he could be looking at, again, just shy of 14 years. 

So, historic day.  We`ve got this -- this one bottom line, right?  The presidential campaign chairman for the sitting president of the United States just got a four-year federal prison sentence.  But another shoe is about to drop for that campaign chair in the next few days that will make all the difference in terms of his ultimate fate. 

When Manafort`s defense lawyer was asked outside the courthouse tonight if he thought this four-year prison sentence was fair for his client, Manafort`s lawyer wouldn`t even answer that.  He said he wouldn`t know the answer to that until they get the other sentence, too. 


REPORTER:  How are you feeling about the sentencing next week in Washington?


REPORTER:  Do you think the sentence today was fair for Paul Manafort? 

DOWNING:  I`ll let him speak to that after we`re done in D.C. 

REPORTER:  Sir, do you have any comment on the sentence that was handed down? 



MADDOW:  Have any sentence -- any comment on the sentence that was handed down?  No. 

So, for Paul Manafort, one sentence down, another to come in less than a week.  I have lots of questions about all of these things, including what it was like in the court while all of this was happening today. 

But before we bring in some folks to answer those questions, let me just interject one last thing into this conversation and story before we bring in people who actually know these things and can give us some perspective here.  Here is one last thing.  It`s actually the other thing that Paul Manafort`s defense lawyer said tonight on the courthouse steps after this sentencing. 

And it was -- I guess it shouldn`t be a surprise to me at this point, but it was a surprise when he got up there and said, no collusion, no collusion, no collusion. 


DOWNING:  Good evening, everyone.  As you heard in court today, Mr. Manafort finally got to speak for himself.  He made clear he accepts responsibility for his conduct and I think most importantly what you saw today is the same thing that we had said from day one. 

There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with any collusion, with any government official from Russia.  Thank you, everybody. 

REPORTER:  What do you think of the sentence? 


MADDOW:  Was he involved with collusion with anybody else in Russia who wasn`t a government official? 

Also, why even bring that up and why is that the most important thing?  I think most important what you saw today -- is that the most important thing?  I mean, not only was Manafort not charged with anything having to do with Russia in this case, in this case for which he was just sentenced, this was the trial where Judge Ellis actually banned any discussion of Russia collusion at all in his courtroom.  So, nobody could have tried to prove anything like that against Manafort in this trial in Virginia, even if they had wanted to. 

And these no collusion, no collusion public arguments from the Manafort defense team which we have seen increasingly from them in public filings and now today on the courthouse steps as Manafort has come to the end of his rope, these no collusion arguments -- they are absolutely outside the four corners of this case in Virginia, so why do they keep bringing that up and why would that be the most important part about this case where the judge ruled that that could never be discussed in this case?  Why keep going back to that issue?  Especially when there are, in fact, collusion questions that remained about Paul Manafort`s case. 

You might remember, there was an accidentally un-redacted filing that Paul Manafort`s defense team submitted in D.C. a few weeks ago, and in that accidentally un-redacted filing, we learned one of the things that Manafort lied to prosecutors about when he was supposed to be cooperating with them was the number of meetings he`d had with a Russian guy who prosecutors say is linked to Russian intelligence.  Specifically, Manafort also lied to prosecutors about providing Trump campaign polling data to that Russian guy who prosecutors say is linked to Russian intelligence, right?  That was all supposed to be under seal, but it accidentally peeked out because they screwed up one of their redactions. 

And even though we have never seen charges on that subject, right, we`ve never seen any criminal charges about the Trump campaign giving internal secret polling data to Russian intelligence as, you know, as personally related to Russian intelligence interfering in the election, I mean, that reference in Manafort`s case and the fact that it was supposed to stay redacted, it does raise questions about Manafort`s involvement with Russian intelligence during the campaign.  As "The New York Times" knotted it up today, quote: The special counsel`s office had wanted that information kept out of the public eye to protect an open investigation. 

What open investigation? 

Quote: It remains unclear why Mr. Kilimnik would want such polling data.  Also, it remains unclear what exactly he did with it and whether the data transfer might have helped inform the Russian government`s covert operation to interfere with the American election. 

So that`s -- I mean, Manafort`s fate still to be settled in terms of next week`s sentence, but in terms of the story here, and in terms of the scandal and in terms of how Manafort fits into all of this, the one big dangling thread here is not what can Manafort tell prosecutors about the president or about anybody else?  They`re not interested in anything he has to say.  They think he`s a liar.  They don`t think he`s useful. 

The big dangling thread here with Manafort now learning his fate, right, next time we`ll know if he will be spending even more time in prison than he was just sentenced to tonight.  With Manafort`s case becoming clear and his case ending, there is this thread, there are uncharged allegations described in the Manafort case about alleged contacts and the provision of secret data from the highest ranks of the Trump campaign to Russian intelligence while Russian intelligence was interfering in the election to try to help Trump win. 

Prosecutors told the judge in Manafort`s case in D.C. that that allegation is -- that thing that he lied to prosecutors about, it goes to the heart of what the special counsel is investigating.  But those charges are clearly not being adjudicated against Paul Manafort.  We know that now.  His case is coming to an end in two federal jurisdictions.  So, why is the government redacting that allegation in his case?  Why is the government trying to keep all references to those allegations under seal in his case? 

The government says they wanted those redactions from those documents in order to protect ongoing investigations.  What ongoing investigations?  If they`re not using those allegations in their case against Paul Manafort, where are they using those allegations, in what case, against who? 

Joining us now is Josh Gerstein, senior legal affairs contributor for  He had a long day in the courtroom today.

Mr. Gerstein, thank you very much for being here tonight. 


MADDOW:  Let me just ask big picture what did you think of this sentencing hearing today and the behavior of the judge, the behavior of the defendant, Mr. Manafort.  What was your biggest impression? 

GERSTEIN:  Well, the top line, of course, is the takeaway of it being just a 47-month sentence.  I would say the consensus of most of the people I was sitting amongst in the room, lawyers, observers, journalists, would be we would see a sentence between 7 to 10 or 12 years.  Maybe not up in the guidelines of 20 to 24 years, but a substantial sentence nonetheless.  Four is a lot lighter than many people were expecting. 

Another thing that struck me was the lack of any public contrition from Paul Manafort.  His statement was very brief.  We were in the courtroom for about three hours altogether today, and his statement amounted to four minutes. 

The strongest thing he said was that he recognizes that it`s his conduct that has brought him here.  But there was no regret, really, certainly no remorse and no kind of granular description of any of the things he had done wrong or that he intended to break the law or recognized the severity of what he`d done.  So it was mostly a statement, you know, thanking his family, praising the judge, he must have done that on I think three different occasions, and sort of apologizing for the trauma that his friends and loved ones had experienced, but very little introspection beyond that. 

The final thing I really took away, Rachel, was that this judge continues to have deep reservations about Mueller`s operation.  You know, he said at one point -- he sort of snapped, we all know why we`re here.  One prosecutors at one point said the government`s position on this is that we don`t recommend -- I`m sorry, he said the special counsel`s position on this is we don`t recommend specific sentences for specific defendants and the judge snapped, don`t say special counsel`s office, say the government`s position.  You`re talking about the government. 

So it seemed like Judge Ellis still has an issue with special counsels generally and maybe Mueller specifically, and the degree to which that may have colored the sentence that he delivered today, I don`t know.  He insisted that it didn`t, but it`s obviously a lighter sentence than many people expected. 

MADDOW:  Well, to that point insisting it wasn`t a factor for him, a whole bunch of people who have argued trials in this courtroom, who have observed this judge over the course of his three decades on the bench told us to expect that any allocution today from Manafort today would be important.  That it`s very important to this judge that people do accept responsibility, that they do express regret, that they do appear to be sincerely remorseful.  That`s like the notes that we were taking into today`s hearing, watching that for Manafort. 

For Manafort to then not provide that, to not give the judge any of that and judge to nevertheless give him this big downward departure from the guidelines, did the judge give any indication of why he was giving such a lighter sentence than the guidelines would have suggested he might have? 

GERSTEIN:  Well, the judge did say he was surprised that Manafort didn`t make a more remorseful statement or more regretful statement or even acknowledge that he was wrong to have broken the law, but then the very next thing that the judge said was that`s not going affect my decision here today. 

The best explanation he gave about why he was going way below the guidelines was that he felt that they`re out of whack compared with the way people are generally sentenced in cases that involve primarily tax evasion and not reporting your foreign bank accounts.  He said a typical sentence in cases such as that is usually somewhere in the range of six months to a year.  Many of them result in probation only. 

This particular judge had a case about a year or two ago where somebody had hidden $220 million overseas and stashed I think -- avoided about $18 million in taxes and got something only on the order of a seven-month prison sentence.  So, it seemed like the judge, Judge Ellis, felt that Manafort`s case was maybe a little more severe than a garden variety tax evasion case, but he wasn`t buying the notion that this was an incredibly dangerous scheme that really needed to be punished with an extraordinarily long sentence. 

MADDOW:  Josh Gerstein, senior legal affairs contributor for "Politico" -- Josh, can I book you right now to go to the D.C. sentencing next week?  Are you busy? 

GERSTEIN:  I`m planning to be there with bells on. 

MADDOW:  All right, all right.  I`ll talk to you, if not before then.  I`ll talk to you then.  Thanks, Josh. 


MADDOW:  Former U.S. Attorney Barb McQuade was in the courtroom for most of the Manafort trial.  She`s going to join us next. 

We got lots more to get to tonight.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  The president`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort has received a sentence of 47 months in federal prison for tax crimes and bank fraud, just under four years in federal prison is what he`s looking at.  But that is also well below the sentencing guidelines that were spelled out for Paul Manafort`s crimes. 

Before the sentencing today, it`s interesting, we contacted former senior FBI and Justice Department official Chuck Rosenberg to ask Chuck, because he used to be the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia.  We asked him what we should watch for today at this sentencing, basically what we should expect.  And Chuck told us, quote, if he goes low, don`t be shocked. 

I don`t know if I`m shocked by the amount of time that Paul Manafort is getting.  I think I still remain the capacity just to be shocked by the fact that the campaign chairman for the sitting president of the United States is going to prison at all. 

But for some perspective, now that we`ve got these numbers, joining us now is Barb McQuade, former U.S. attorney in Michigan.  She was in the courtroom for much of Manafort`s trial in Virginia. 

Barb, thanks very much for being here.  It`s good to have you here. 


MADDOW:  So having seen a lot of that trial, knowing what you know about Judge Ellis, knowing the sentencing guidelines, the overall context of Manafort`s case, what is your reaction to the sentence that Manafort got tonight? 

MCQUADE:  Well, I still think this is an absurdly low sentence in light of the sentencing guidelines.  I did observe Judge Ellis to be kind of quirky and also to have expressed some hostility about this case, and the special counsel and Manafort`s connection to President Trump. 

I don`t know that those things informed his decision.  One of the things that you often see in cases is judges who impose very lenient sentences against white collar defendants.  And, you know, the sentencing guidelines are based on real data that the U.S. Sentencing Commission collects from around the country.  It`s based on real cases. 

And the idea behind it is we don`t want unwarranted disparities between sentences.  If you commit a crime in Washington, D.C. or New York or Texas, you`re likely to get the same sentence regardless of where the judge is who sentences you.  And so, that`s what the guidelines are there to serve, to give you that baseline so that equal crime is being punished equally. 

To drop down from 19 years to 24 years all the way down to four years, I think suggests that the wealthy and the powerful do better in court than many other defendants do, and I think it is a -- an attack on the legitimacy of the criminal justice system.  If you are someone who is indigent or lacking in power, I think you look at a sentence like this and it causes people to have less trust in the criminal justice system. 

MADDOW:  Barb, separate and apart from what Paul Manafort will face next week in D.C., just imaging that`s not going to happen, just with this sentence that he got tonight, which, again, you`re describing as absurdly low, absurdly life given the sentencing guidelines here.  How long should we expect he will actually serve?  I keep hearing that there is no parole in federal prison but people can get time off for good behavior, can`t they? 

MCQUADE:  Yes, that`s right.  Since 1987, when the sentencing guidelines went into effect, Sentencing Reform Act, there has been no parole in the federal system.  So, unlike what you might see in the state system, where after somebody serves a portion of the sentence, they`re eligible to go before the parole board and be able to be released after that. 

That does not exist in the federal system.  But there is something called good time where defendants can earn up to 54 days per year to provide an incentive for them to behave themselves while they`re in prison.  So, if you do the math, roughly four years, 54 days per year, remove from that, it adds up to, what, 216 days.  About seven months. 

So seven months off of the 47, is 40.  You mentioned the nine months for credit -- time served off of the 40 gets him to 31 months. 

So, I think that`s the actually time he will serve starting today. 

MADDOW:  Provided he gets all the good time to which he is potentially entitled. 

MCQUADE:  Well, that`s a good point.  If he doesn`t behave himself, he wouldn`t.  And, of course, Judge Jackson sits there next week and has the ability to impose up to ten years and could make every bit of that consecutive so he could see an additional ten years added on to that. 

MADDOW:  Well, when Judge Jackson makes that decision next week, obviously, that`s going to be fascinating to watch.  She`s a totally different judge.  It`s a different jurisdiction.  She`s looking at a totally different set of felonies. 

There is a big difference in the set of circumstances that brought him before her in terms of his guilty plea, his botched cooperation deal.  She`s the judge who I think revoked his bail in the first place so he had to serve time in jail while he was awaiting trial in the first place.  There`s a whole different narrative that goes into explaining what Judge Jackson`s going to decide next week. 

Specifically, though, in terms of how judges make their decisions, is she allowed to take into consideration the length of time that he was sentenced for this week?  Is she essentially allowed to pass a little bit of judgment on what Judge Ellis did tonight and factor that in to what she gives Manafort next week? 

MCQUADE:  No, not necessarily, but she can decide whether it is concurrent or consecutive.  Judge Ellis was looking at the case just before him, final fraud, failure to declare foreign bank accounts and tax counts and that`s his case.  She`s going to look at a very different case, as you mentioned, that involves obstruction of justice, the failed cooperation agreement.  She knows a lot about this case, too, because of the hearings that she`s had to hold to have fact finding on his failure to cooperate in the breach of that cooperation agreement. 

So, she`s looking at a very different case, and so, no, I don`t think she should be considering what Judge Ellis did in this case, but I do think she can decide that ten years is an appropriate sentence in her case and that it is appropriate to make that consecutive to the sentence that Judge Ellis imposed. 

MADDOW:  One last quick question for you, Barb.  Manafort, as I was just discussing with Gerstein, didn`t really express remorse and didn`t take responsibility for his crimes the way a lot of defendants do when it comes to their allocution at sentencing.  We don`t have a transcript from hearing because it went so late.  But Gerstein told us the judge basically expressed surprise that Manafort didn`t express remorse when he had the opportunity to in court before Ellis handed down this sentence. 

Should we think of that in terms of Manafort angling for a pardon, do you think?  I mean, him not saying I did any -- not still -- even at that point not saying I did anything wrong, not saying that he`s sorry for what he did, not saying that he feels bad about it or there was anything wrong about his behavior, is that -- should we think about that behavior in court when we think about the prospect of a presidential pardon for Manafort? 

MCQUADE:  I don`t think so.  I don`t think it matters.  Remember, he pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia to all of the remaining counts in the Eastern District of Virginia case as well as that case.  And I don`t think so. 

In fact, a pardon doesn`t mean -- it`s not the same as an appeal.  It doesn`t mean that you are innocent.  What it says is we are expressing mercy and forgiveness for you for committing this crime.  In fact, ordinarily, part of the pardon is an acceptance of responsibility and remorse. 

What I think this is, instead, is arrogance.  You see it very frequently in white collar cases where the defendant comes in and says, I feel so much shame, your honor.  I have been punished enough already.  Why I can`t go into my country club without feeling shame and getting letters from prominent people to write letters of support for a lenient sentence. 

Tell that to the indigent defendant who doesn`t have the opportunity to make those arguments.  I think it is the arrogance that goes with being wealthy and powerful. 

MADDOW:  Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Michigan -- it is an honor to have you as a colleague always, but especially on nights like this.  Barb, thank you. 

MCQUADE:  Thanks very much, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  All right.  A lot more to get to tonight.  So, stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Now that we know Paul Manafort`s prison sentence in this federal case in Virginia.  Now that we`ve seen the Virginia judge depart downward from the federal sentencing guidelines to give Manafort 47 months instead of a possible 24 years under those guidelines, as I mentioned earlier, there remains some interesting and potentially important dangling threads when it comes to the special counsel`s case against Paul Manafort.  One of them is about Konstantin Kilimnik, this longtime Manafort employee who is Russian, who is assessed by the FBI to have active ties to Russian military intelligence. 

As part of their case against Manafort in D.C., prosecutors said in court that Manafort shared Trump polling data with Kilimnik that was related to the 2016 campaign while the campaign was going on.  And, no, Paul Manafort was not charged with colluding with Russia in their attack on our election. 

But this thing that looks like potential Russia collusion really is sitting there in the middle of his case.  If we don`t hear anything more about that in court because the Manafort case is wrapping up, what happens to that?  Does that part of the story become sort of breadcrumbs for other investigators for potentially congressional investigators to pick up?  Who runs with that? 

I mean, Manafort didn`t get charged for it.  It only accidentally got spelled out in a publicly-facing filing because of a botched redaction.  We only learned about it because lawyers for Manafort failed to redact one of their filings properly. 

But that allegation is now out there for us to read because of that mistake.  The Trump campaign provided Trump polling data to a guy assessed to be part of Russian intelligence while Russian intelligence was mounting a campaign to help Trump during the campaign.  Does somebody else, does Congress now take up that question?  That`s one. 

Here`s another one, though.  As you know, Manafort is due to be sentenced in D.C. Wednesday of next week.  When prosecutors filed their sentencing memo for D.C., they said they needed to redact parts of that sentencing memo because, quote, the redactions relate to ongoing law enforcement investigations or uncharged individuals and public disclosure of certain information in the submission could unduly risk harming those efforts. 

And then in the sentencing memo itself, they refer to this -- Manafort having his lobbying firms contact numerous members of Congress, engaging in backroom lobbying, using personal contacts and confidential congressional information obtained secretly by, redacted, from congressional staff. 

This is one of these other dangling threads of the Manafort case that is driving me a little bit nuts.  What name is redacted there in in the part about Manafort lobbying Congress?  Again, what they`re saying here -- they`ve said there need to be redactions in this filing because of ongoing law enforcement investigations and uncharged individuals.  And then they say as part of one of Manafort`s criminal schemes, somebody obtained personal contacts and confidential congressional information from congressional staff.

  Well, who has access to congressional staff from whom they can secretly obtain confidential congressional information?  I mean, doesn`t have to be -- who has access to congressional staff and congressional information?  Is that a member of Congress?  Is that a congressional staffer? 

That`s left dangling in the Manafort filings as well.  Is there somebody else out there who takes up with that question?  I mean, we now know what Paul Manafort`s sentence is, at least from his first trial.  Next week, we`ll learn his fate from his next trial. 

When it comes to the loose and dangling threads from this case, when it comes to questions raised and unanswered questions about the involvement of other people or the handover of polling data to Russia while Russia was interfering in our election, I mean, what happens to those things?  And if there aren`t other investigations at least that we can see in which those breadcrumbs are being used, does Congress take those up?  Make a snack of them. 

Joining us now is Congressman David Cicilline.  He`s Democrat of Rhode Island.  He`s a member of the Judiciary Committee. 

Congressman, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  It`s nice to have you here. 


MADDOW:  It is a historic day.  We`ve never before had a sitting president have his campaign chair be sentenced to federal prison.  I want to get your reaction to that top line reaction to that big news today. 

CICILLINE:  Well, obviously, this is a big event.  This is a serious conviction and sentence.  There are 199 criminal charges, 37 indictments or pleas and now five individual sentenced to prison. 

So this is significant, but I agree with your earlier guest, it`s pretty extraordinary that for the breadth of these offenses, squirreling away $55 million outside of the IRS and avoiding taxes on that, fraud and bank fraud and the like, that he would receive a sentence so different from the sentencing guidelines.  Those guidelines are provided to prevent disparity in sentencing because that disparity brings incredible disrespect for the judicial system and that`s why they were created. 

So, the idea that the court would depart from the guidelines which were 19 to 24 years, so significantly and give Mr. Manafort only a four-year sentence seems pretty extraordinary and I think is very much a response to white collar criminals that we too often see in our criminal justice system.  Our prisons are filled with people who are serving much longer sentences for small drug offenses. 

So I`m disappointed.  I don`t think it did justice.  But it`s only the first part of his sentencing.  He has another one next week and I am -- I am hopeful that the judge will sentence him appropriately next week and send a strong message about this kind of corruption and this sort of conduct and impose a sentence consistent with that. 

MADDOW:  One of the things that I`ve found interesting -- I initially found it unusual.  I now find it interesting, that in public-facing filings in the Manafort case and now increasingly just speaking out loud, his defense team is mounting a very Trumpian defense for Mr. Manafort. 

He`s not -- Mr. Manafort is not charged with Russian collusion.  He`s not charged with having, you know, interacted with Russian government or intelligence officials at the time that in any way facilitated their attack on our election to benefit Mr. Trump.  Nevertheless, despite the fact he`s not charged with that, they`re making this public-facing defense, that is no collusion, no collusion, no collusion.  You would think it was beside the point for Mr. Manafort`s case, but they are making this case publicly. 

And to me one way that may make sense is if they are trying to make the case that the president should pardon Mr. Manafort and it shouldn`t reflect on the Russia case at all if the president does that because Mr. Manafort`s case is totally separate from the Russia scandal.  I wonder on the judiciary committee if it is a matter of concern or potential investigation on your committee the prospect of the president discussing pardons with people, including Michael Cohen, including Mr. Manafort, including Mr. Flynn and others as a way to try to protect himself in these various investigations. 

CICILLINE:  Absolutely.  I think there is tremendous interest in that, and we will certainly continue to conduct oversight on that very issue.  I thought it was very strange to see his lawyers come to the podium and say oh, by the way, no collusion.  It was as if President Trump wrote his lines.  It was very bizarre.  Sort of unrelated to the case in Virginia. 

But I think, you know, the idea that conversations were had or pardons were dangled in an effort to perhaps persuade people not to cooperate or not be truthful is of considerable concern to the judiciary committee and is something I know we will investigate as part of our overall investigation.  I think the other thing that`s really ironic is on the very week we`re about to pass this enormous democracy referral cracking down on corruption, raising ethical standards, getting money out of our political system, there are these serious convictions that continue in this administration for corruption that undermine the rule of law in our country and it`s kind of an interesting contrast. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  To have the president`s campaign chair sentenced to years in prison for various kinds of fraud and next week he`ll face sentencing on his unregistered lobbying stuff, to have that happen while the House tomorrow is likely to pass this huge Democratic reform anti-corruption bill.  It`s as if it is -- well, it sort of seems scripted. 


MADDOW:  Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island of the Judiciary Committee -- sir, thank you for your time tonight.  It`s nice to have you here. 

CICILLINE:  It`s my pleasure.  Thanks.

MADDOW:  All right.  More ahead, actually, the great Dan Rather, we have tracked him down in Texas because we wanted to get his reaction to this historic news today.  I am told we have found Dan Rather in Texas.  He`ll join us ahead.  Stay with us.



REPORTER:  Today, a limousine brought former Attorney General John Mitchell to court.  They used to call him the "Big Enchilada" at the White House.  He came to be sentenced as a convicted felon. 


MADDOW:  Only once before in U.S. history has a president`s campaign chair ended up going to federal prison.  But at least when John Mitchell did it in 1975, Nixon was already gone.  This time he`s going to federal prison while the presidential candidate he worked for is still in his first term as president of the United States. 

Joining us now on the phone is veteran journalist Dan Rather. 

Mr. Rather, thank you so much for joining us on short notice tonight.  I realize we had to track you down. 

DAN RATHER, VETERAN JOURNALIST (via telephone):  Thank you, Rachel.  It`s always a pleasure to be with you. 

MADDOW:  I want to ask your reaction today to what feels to me like historic news, this sentencing tonight for Paul Manafort. 

RATHER:  Well, I think it was historic and you pointed it out, that the campaign manager for what is now a sitting president going to prison, there is no precedent for that. 

MADDOW:  Dan, in terms of -- I know you covered not only Watergate, the Iran-Contra affair, fallout from those scandals.  In terms of how this fits into the larger Russia scandal and the other scandals around the Trump presidency, do you see this as sort of the end?  Do you see this as the culmination, the worst it`s going to get or sort of the start? 

RATHER:  No, I`m afraid for those who think we`re going to a long national nightmare that there is no end in sight that I can see.  You know, in this confusing, chaotic and, yes, dangers time for our country, this decision by the judge today is a stutter and law students are going to be studying the case for years to come say nothing of historians.

  MADDOW:  In terms of the judge`s decision today, obviously this was a big downward departure from the sentencing guidelines.  The guidelines are not binding on the judge.  The judge can do whatever he or she wants.

In this case, it was a 19 to 24-year guideline.  We had a former U.S. attorney, Barb McQuade, here earlier say that this was an absurdly low departure from those guidelines.  That`s how it certainly feels today.  It was the initial reaction to it. 

I wonder if you feel historically that will be the story of this day or whether the story of this day will be president`s campaign chair goes to prison. 

RATHER:  No, I think it will be about the lightness sentence.  Look, this sentence is a straight up rebuke to Robert Mueller and his team.  It`s an in your face, shame on you statement from the judge to Mueller.  And the system is just a slap on the wrist to, you know, a big time criminal for another elite well-connected Washington big shot. 

MADDOW:  Hmm.  In terms of the follow-up here, we`re going to have a second act fairly soon, in less than a week, that same defendant Mr. Manafort is going to be in a different courtroom before Judge Amy Berman Jackson who will have the benefit of knowing what Manafort just got sentenced to in Virginia when she makes her decision about how much time she wants to give Manafort, if any, about whether or not that time will be consecutive versus concurrent. 

If she decides he needs to spend a lot more time in prison, what you just described, would that be remedied or is essentially that rebuke of the special counsel now permanent from Judge Ellis? 

RATHER:  Well, we`ll have to see how that goes, but I will say that, you know, a lot of black kids in the projects routinely get worse sentences than Manafort has gotten, and a lot of white kids or drug charges do the same.  But we`ll see how it goes.  You know, as always, time to stay steady. 

MADDOW:  Dan Rather, veteran journalist and a kind soul for letting us track him down tonight in Texas on zero notice -- sir, thank you for being with us.  I really wanted to talk to you tonight. 

RATHER:  Always an honor.  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  My pleasure. 

All right.  That does it for us tonight.  Of course, the other thing we didn`t get to tonight because of the time the sentence broke is the fact that the president`s long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen filed a lawsuit against the president`s business tonight saying that the president through his business had agreed to essentially pay Mr. Cohen`s legal fees through the Russia scandal and they stopped doing that once he became a cooperator with prosecutors.  That lawsuit, again, filed -- a civil lawsuit filed today by Mr. Cohen, becomes yet another wrinkle in that part of this ongoing scandal. 

And tomorrow`s Friday.  And you know how Fridays tend to go these days. 

We`ll see you again tomorrow. 


Good evening, Lawrence.

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