The first Manafort sentencing

Paul Manafort was sentenced on eight counts including tax and bank fraud in the US yesterday. He received a much lighter sentence than prosecutors had asked for, which was seen by some as some sort of victory, or a defeat for the Mueller inquiry, but it was still substantial. It included:

  • 47 months imprisonment
  • $50,000 fine
  • Must pay $25 million in restitution
  • 3 years of supervised release after his prison term

The Monetary penalties may not be a big deal if Manafort can afford to pay them, but I think the prison sentence is actually substantial and onerous. Especially for someone who has never been in trouble with the law before, nearly four years in prison is a very big deal.

Prison sentence numbers get thrown around these days as if years don’t matter. For someone who has never been there before months in prison would be a big deal, let alone years.

CBS News: Manafort sentenced to under 4 years in prison, far less than prosecutors sought

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis handed down the sentence in federal court in Virginia Thursday afternoon. He said Manafort committed “undeniably serious” crimes and expressed surprise that he did not “express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct.”

But Ellis also said the government’s recommendation of 19.5 to 24 years behind bars was “unwarranted” and “excessive,” adding that Manafort has “lived an otherwise blameless life.”

Perhaps ‘an otherwise uncaught life’ would be closer to the mark.

An attorney from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office told the court Manafort “failed to accept responsibility and is not remorseful.” In recent weeks Manafort’s legal team had requested a “significantly” lower sentence than the length recommended by prosecutors.

Before learning his fate, Manafort addressed the court, telling Ellis his life is in “shambles” and asking for leniency.

“The last two years have been the most difficult of my lif. To say I am humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement.”

After his conviction in Virginia, Manafort struck a plea deal to avoid a second trial on conspiracy charges in Washington, D.C. A federal judge determined in Februaryhe had breached his plea agreement by lying to the government.

Judge T.S. Ellis said Manafort committed “undeniably serious” crimes and expressed surprise that Manafort did not “express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct.”

“You should have remorse for that,” Ellis said.

Some seem to think that celebrations are in order for a relatively light sentence, but while I think Manafort may be relieved, he won’t have much to celebrate about for quite a while. Time already in custody will come off the time left to serve, but it will still be a tough time ahead for him.

Another indictment in Mueller inquiry

The Mueller inquiry into possible Russian interference in the 2016 US election continues to proceed slowly, with another indictment added to the list.

Bloomberg: Mueller Indicts Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort’s Ukraine Fixer

Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a U.S. lobbying effort on Ukraine’s behalf, was indicted on federal charges Friday by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The indictment comes as part of an existing money-laundering case against Manafort, and charges him and Kilimnik with obstructing justice. On June 5, Mueller accused Manafort of attempting to tamper with witnesses in his case, saying Manafort and another person tried to contact witnesses to secure false testimony about work done for Ukraine.

The new charges identify that person as Kilimnik, charging him with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Kilimnik is a Ukraine-born Russian speaker who has been tied in previous court filings to Russian intelligence, including one citing an FBI assessment that his ties to Russian intelligence continued into the 2016 election. Kilimnik’s whereabouts are unknown.

Kilimnik worked for Manafort’s longtime business partner, Rick Gates, when they served as political consultants in Ukraine. Prosecutors have previously said Manafort and Gates secretly coordinated an extensive lobbying campaign in the U.S. to benefit former President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine before he fled to Moscow. Gates is cooperating with prosecutors in the case against Manafort.

It’s likely to be some time yet before it will be known what come worms out of the woodwork.

While Mueller and his investigation team are drip feeding progress via legal processes Donald Trump and his lawyers keep trying to play public opinion – it’s hard to know why they are doing this as it shouldn’t effect law and facts, and it has some risks.

And it doesn’t seem to be moving public opinion in their favour (but it could be stemming leakage of support).

Guccifer 2.0 – false flag DNC hacker or Russian intelligence agent?

More claims in the murky world of intellegence, hacking and election interference.

“Working off the IP address, U.S. investigators identified Guccifer 2.0 as a particular GRU officer working out of the agency’s headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow.”

The Daily Beast – EXCLUSIVE: ‘Lone DNC Hacker’ Guccifer 2.0 Slipped Up and Revealed He Was a Russian Intelligence Officer

Today the most popular counter-narrative surrounding Guccifer 2.0 concedes that the account was a fake persona but posits that it was created by the DNC to support a false-flag operation implicating Russia. In this theory, advanced in two widely cited anonymous blogs, Guccifer 2.0 was the DNC posing as Russia posing as a Romanian hacker.

DNC = Democratic National Committee. There has been a lot of blaming and counter blaming on \email hacking and election interference.

But…

Guccifer 2.0, the “lone hacker” who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU), The Daily Beast has learned. It’s an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft.

That forensic determination has substantial implications for the criminal probe into potential collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia. The Daily Beast has learned that the special counsel in that investigation, Robert Mueller, has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI agents who worked to track the persona onto his team.

While it’s unclear what Mueller plans to do with Guccifer, his last round of indictments charged 13 Russians tied to the Internet Research Agency troll farm with a conspiracy “for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.” It was Mueller’s first move establishing Russian interference in the election within a criminal context, but it stopped short of directly implicating the Putin regime.

Mueller’s office declined to comment for this story. But the attribution of Guccifer 2.0 as an officer of Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency would cross the Kremlin threshold—and move the investigation closer to Trump himself.

Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone admitted being in touch with Guccifer over Twitter’s direct messaging service. And in August 2016, Stone published an article on the pro-Trump-friendly Breitbart News calling on his political opponents to “Stop Blaming Russia” for the hack. “I have some news for Hillary and Democrats—I think I’ve got the real culprit,” he wrote. “It doesn’t seem to be the Russians that hacked the DNC, but instead a hacker who goes by the name of Guccifer 2.0.”

Five months later, in January 2017, the CIA, NSA, and FBI assessed “with high confidence” that “Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data.” But the assessment did not directly call Guccifer a Russian intelligence officer. Nor did it provide any evidence for its assertions.

It turns out there is a powerful reason to connect Guccifer to the GRU.

Guccifer famously pretended to be a “lone hacker” who perpetrated the digital DNC break-in. From the outset, few believed it.

 

The alleged slip up was that Guccifer 2.0 once accidentally logged in to a US social media site without disguising their IP address.

But on one occasion, The Daily Beast has learned, Guccifer failed to activate the VPN client before logging on. As a result, he left a real, Moscow-based Internet Protocol address in the server logs of an American social media company, according to a source familiar with the government’s Guccifer investigation.

Working off the IP address, U.S. investigators identified Guccifer 2.0 as a particular GRU officer working out of the agency’s headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow.

Security firms and declassified U.S. intelligence findings previously identified the GRU as the agency running “Fancy Bear,” the ten-year-old hacking organization behind the DNC email theft, as well as breaches at NATO, Obama’s White House, a French television station, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and countless NGOs, and militaries and civilian agencies in Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.

There will no doubt be more on this, in support and against.

What is not known publicly is how much evidence the Mueller inquiry has to work on. What is certain is that they will have been or be carefully checking this link out.