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Mueller argues Manafort has not accepted responsibility

The Hill logo The Hill 3/5/2019 Lydia Wheeler
Robert Mueller wearing a suit and tie: Mueller argues Manafort has not accepted responsibility © The Hill Mueller argues Manafort has not accepted responsibility

Special counsel Robert Mueller is pushing back on Paul Manafort's claim that he has accepted responsibility for his crimes and deserves a lighter sentence.

"The defendant blames everyone from the Special Counsel's Office to his Ukrainian clients for his own criminal choices," Mueller said in a response Tuesday to the former Trump campaign chairman's sentencing memo.

"Manafort suggests, for example, that but for the appointment of the Special Counsel's Office, he would not have been charged in connection with hiding more than $55 million abroad, failing to pay more than $6 million in taxes, and defrauding three financial institutions of more than $25 million dollars," he continued.

Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday afternoon in his criminal case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The former Trump campaign chairman was convicted over the summer of eight criminal charges, including five counts of filing false tax returns, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to report foreign bank accounts.

He could face more than 24 years in prison for his crimes under the sentencing guidelines. Manafort's attorneys have asked the judge presiding over his case to issue a sentence that's significantly less than that maximum.

They have urged Judge T.S. Ellis III to consider Manafort's cooperation with the special counsel's investigation as well as his age, failing health and low risk of recidivism in issuing a sentence.

But Mueller said the government opposes Manafort earning any credit for his alleged cooperation since he violated his promise to fully work with Mueller's office by lying to prosecutors, the FBI and a federal grand jury. The cooperation agreement had been part of the plea deal he reached with prosecutors to avoid a second criminal trial on separate charges in D.C.

Mueller said Manafort's lies are aggravating factors and an additional basis for the court to deny any sentence reduction Manafort otherwise may have received for accepting responsibility.

"Here, a court has already found Manafort lied to the government and the grand jury," Mueller said. "That is not a basis for a lower sentence, but rather a more severe one."

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