Manafort saga will continue
U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III let America down Thursday when he mused about Paul Manafort's "otherwise blameless life" and sentenced him to just 47 months — less than four years — in prison for bank fraud and tax cheating.
This is Paul Manafort, former campaign manager of Donald Trump. This is Paul Manafort, who last year was found guilty by a jury on eight charges: two counts of bank fraud, five counts of tax fraud and one count of failing to declare a foreign bank account.
In the bank fraud charges, we're talking tens of millions of dollars over many, many years. As for cheating on his taxes? We're talking about a man who defrauded the IRS out of at least $6 million.
"Otherwise blameless life?"
And, no, that doesn't even begin to encompass any potentially treasonous activity that may yet be in the offing, nor does it touch the witness tampering and lying that prosecutors allege in another and separate set of cases.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Manafort should have faced 19 to 24 years in prison for the bank fraud and for cheating on his taxes, but Judge Ellis said that calculation was "excessive."
Manafort's crimes were "very serious," Ellis acknowledged, but he didn't think they warrant a punishment that could keep the 69-year-old imprisoned into his 90s.
There's still hope. Manafort will receive another sentence from another federal judge this week in Washington for two additional crimes he pleaded guilty to last year — witness tampering and conspiracy related to years of illegal Ukrainian lobbying and money laundering. This week's sentence could add to the time he received last week.
And don't forget that we've recently learned Manafort not only lied to prosecutors but he lied about things at "the heart" of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Trump/Russia probe. Specifically and among other things, he lied about interactions with an associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who Mueller's team says is tied to Russian intelligence. And what did he lie about? Sharing 2016 election polling information.
It isn't over until it's over.
Watch Nielsen struggle with truth
If you didn't see Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tie herself in knots to avoid simple yes and no questions from the House Homeland Security Committee hearing last week, you should find the session online and watch it.
Nothing will help you lose your appetite and lose weight faster.
"Sir, they are not cages," she told the committee chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), when he asked about children separated from their parents and detained at our southern border. "They are areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection of those who remain there while they're being processed."
The whole hearing goes like that. And within hours of her telling members of Congress that, "to the best of my knowledge," no parent who was separated from their child at the U.S.-Mexico border was deported without being given the option of being reunited with them first, Justice Department lawyers contradicted her.
But they didn't just contradict her. They signed on to a court filing in the ongoing class action lawsuit over family separation that directly contradicted Nielsen. The DOJ lawyers said there were 471 "possible class members" who were deported "without their children, and without being given the opportunity to elect or waive reunification in accordance with the preliminary injunction."
Sadly, these are not just misjudgments. They should not even be considered just lies. They should be considered criminal. They should be considered child abuse.
Side with Trump, or else
The White House last week issued an us-vs.-them type challenge to car makers: back an administration plan to roll back fuel-economy standards or risk President Trump's wrath by siding with California's stringent emissions requirements, according to Bloomberg News.
Bloomberg writes that the message was delivered "during a tense conference call between Trump administration officials and auto executives in late February, according to five people familiar with the call who spoke on the condition they not be identified discussing the private conversation."
When Bloomberg sought comment from White House representatives and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the opportunity to weigh in was declined.
The Trump administration last August recommended capping tailpipe carbon emissions standards and fuel economy requirements at 37 miles per gallon after 2020, instead of about 47 mpg under rules adopted by the Obama administration.
Gee, we wouldn't want to help consumers and the planet when we can instead help big oil, now would we?