Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and a longtime Republican operative, was sentenced to less than four years in prison on Thursday as part of the special counsel’s broad investigation into the 2016 election.
Prosecutors had argued that under sentencing guidelines, Manafort, 69, should serve between 19 to 24 years in prison after he was convicted in August on eight counts of tax and bank fraud. “Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law, and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars,” they wrote, stressing that “the sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes.”
But Judge T.S. Ellis called a decades-long term in prison “excessive” on Thursday, saying Manafort had “lived an otherwise blameless life.”
“Let me be clear: the guidelines would suggest sentencing is a calculation. It is not,” Ellis declared. “It is a judgment.”
But as many media outlets have reported, Manafort led a long and storied career as a lobbyist for some of the planet’s most notorious dictators. Some legal experts expressed surprise at the relatively short term, although Ellis noted that Manafort had “earned the admiration of a number of people” before he handed down his verdict.
Here are some of Manafort’s former clients:
His firm was paid $950,000 a year to consult for Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
In the 1980s, Manafort’s firm represented the dictatorship of the Philippines’ leader Ferdinand Marcos as he struggled to hold on to power. Marcos had been accused of rampant human rights violations and pilfering an estimated $10 billion from his country. According to a 2016 report from Politico, Manafort helped the Marcos family craft an electoral strategy at home in Manila while using his Washington connections to minimize any concern brewing in America.
Marcos fled his country in 1986 and lived the remained of his life in exile.
He made millions working for a Ukrainian oligarch.
Manafort worked for the pro-Russian leader of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, for nearly a decade, making more than $17 million. Yanukovych hired Manafort to improve his image following an election in 2004 that was marred by accusations of rigged voting. Yanukovych ultimately lost a new election ordered by the local Supreme Court, but retained Manafort to help rebuild his image.
He was elected once more in 2010, but forced to flee to Russia in 2014 amid protests over a trade deal with the European Union. Manafort, however, kept working in Ukraine and the U.S. on behalf of Yanukovych’s old pro-Russian party.
Manafort did all of this without registering as a foreign agent in the United States, even though he helped funnel money into two Washington lobbying firms.
He helped defend notorious kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko.
Mobutu Sese Seko led then-Zaire (now known as the Congo) as a military dictator for more than 30 years until political unrest forced him from power in 1997. His fleecing of the country’s coffers was so extreme, it sparked widespread use of the term “kleptocracy” and over the course of his leadership, Mobutu accumulated an estimated $5 billion in wealth. He was once described as a “walking bank vault with a leopard-skin cap.”
Manafort was hired to help Mobutu boost his image in the late 1980s.
“He keeps coming back to Washington with his hand out, and Congress keeps filling that hand, in spite of the human rights abuses in Zaire and the inexplicable lack of progress by the country under his reign,” The Washington Post wrote in 1989. “Mobutu lives in style while his people starve.”
His firm was the go-to hire for the “Torturer’s Lobby.”
Manafort’s firm made millions advising a who’s who of despotic rulers across Africa and Asia, including Angolan military leader Jonas Savimbi, who Manafort successfully lobbied into appearances on “60 Minutes” and “Nightline.” The firm also worked for the Kenyan government at a time when the country’s leadership was being accused of human rights abuses. Manafort’s team helped ensure Kenya didn’t lose U.S. aid funding, according to a report by The Daily Beast.
The Center for Public Integrity documented a more complete list of clients in a 1992 report, labeling the group the “Torturer’s Lobby,” while noting Manafort’s firm was often paid fees of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more from such clients.
He worked for many other leaders charged with human rights abuses and stealing money from their own people.
Other kleptocratic leaders, including Nigerian ruler Sani Abacha, regularly turned to Manafort’s firm to help recast their authoritarian rule as an effort at Democracy. Abacha was ultimately accused of hiding more than $450 million in offshore accounts.
Manafort will be sentenced in a separate case by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Wednesday for two conspiracy charges. He could face up to 10 additional years in prison.
The White House has continued to float the possibility of a pardon for the former campaign chairman. Manafort’s legal team has maintained an unusual arrangement with the president’s own attorneys to give Trump an insight into the lines of questioning probed by Mueller’s team.