In the span of just two years, Paul Manafort has gone from one of Washington’s most sought-after Republican lobbyists to a political pariah with a shattered family.
‘My life – personally and professionally – is in shambles,’ he told Judge T.S. Ellis III, in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia on March 7.
‘The last two years have been the most difficult years for my family. Humiliated and would be a gross understatement.’
He laid it on thicker to the next sentencing judge, Amy Berman Jackson, in Washington D.C. on March 13: ‘I will be 70 years old in a few weeks. My wife is 66. She needs me. I need her. Please let me and my wife be together.’
Self-pitying certainly, but hardly wrong. Sitting in a wheelchair and contemplating the real prospect of dying behind bars, Manafort was diminished in every way, the extravagantly-tailored and immaculately connected powerbroker who could ask for millions for his counsel now wearing prison green as he asked not for money but compassion.
Typically though, the whole story was not on display; in recent years, Manafort had betrayed his wife with a mistress 30 years his junior who he put up in a New York apartment and handed an unlimited credit card.
That infidelity was only another staging post on the long and spectacular fall from grace for the 69-year-old former Trump campaign manager, the son of a small-town mayor who went on to work for four U.S. presidents and made his fortune as the Washington mouthpiece for some of the world’s most notorious dictators.
Today Manafort has few defenders in the nation’s capital, after being convicted of tax fraud and money laundering by special counsel Robert Mueller – who first secured a guilty verdict from a jury then a plea deal on the eve of a second trial.
Even Manafort’s former boss, President Trump, claimed he never would have hired the former lobbyist if he had known about the allegations.
‘Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time (he represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole & many others over the years), but we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!’ wrote Trump in a Twitter post in June 2018.
The president had faced Manafort co-operating with Robert Mueller ‘fully and truthfully.’
But even that was beyond the ability of Manafort, who Mueller’s prosecutors charge lied to them after his agreement to cooperate.
The power brokers: Paul Manafort, his future business partners Roger Stone and Lee Atwater, were photographed as young Republican operatives. Stone, a Trump confidante and notorious political dirty trickster is now fighting off the Mueller probe himself; Atwater died in 1991, a former RNC chairman with a reputation for dirty campaigns. All three cashed in on their political work by lobbying those they got elected
Manafort, the grandson of an Italian immigrant, was raised in a staunch Republican home in New Britain, Connecticut.
When he was 16, his father Paul John Manafort Sr. was elected mayor of New Britain and served for three terms.
In 1981, Manafort Sr. was indicted – but later acquitted – on perjury charges in a sweeping city corruption and bribery scandal that also ensnared the police and fire chiefs.
After Catholic parochial schools and graduating from Georgetown University Law School, Manafort went on to work as an advisor for Republican Presidents Gerald Ford. It is unclear why he was not drafted for Vietnam.
He went on to serve as an advisor to Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole’s presidential campaign.
But he worked out how to turn political advising into a gusher of cash: by lobbying the very politicians they had helped elect.
He co-founded a prominent lobbying firm with ex-Nixon aide Roger Stone, and Lee Atwater, another notorious figure, which shopped their access to top Republicans to U.S. businesses, state and city governments, and anyone who would pay.
The lobbying would be punctuated by periods of working for campaigns – guaranteeing the access on which they depended if their candidates won (which by and large they did).
That came to embrace the wider world too; the Manafort lobbying roster included brutal regimes willing to pay high fees for his services – including Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Zaire military leader Mobutu Sese Seko.
Betrayed: Kathleen Manafort stood by her husband despite his family finding proof of his mistress on Instagram; she attended every minute of his trial and was there when he said he was flipping
Manafort went on to found his own political consulting firm in 2005, bringing on his former intern Rick Gates as his trusted deputy.
He also continued to take on controversial clients. In 2010, Manafort helped elect Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, head of Ukraine’s Putin-allied Party of Regions.
The victory paid off – between 2010 and 2014, federal investigators said Manafort’s firm earned ‘a cash spigot’: $60 million in fees from the Party of Regions’ political patrons.
According to prosecutors, Manafort stashed the funds away in a series of offshore bank accounts and shell companies, and failed to disclose the income in his tax returns. In total, they claim he dodged taxes on $15 million.
But after Yanukovych was voted out of power by Ukraine’s parliament in 2014, Manafort’s fortunes suddenly changed. He stopped getting payments from Yanukovych’s wealthy oligarch supporters, and started to have trouble paying his bills.
This is when prosecutors claim Manafort started applying for loans using phony financial information. In total, they said he scammed banks out of $20 million.
Manafort’s then-alleged crimes were uncovered during the course of a special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller, who has been investigating potential Russian interference in the 2016 election and collusion with the Trump campaign.
Even before the charges were filed against him, Manafort’s personal life had been unravelling, according to years of hacked text messages between his daughters Andrea, 32, and Jessica, 36, that were posted online.
According to the messages, Manafort’s family had caught him having an affair with a woman who was around the same age as his daughters, renting a pricey house for her in the Hamptons and paying her credit card bill.
They discovered the affair after seeing the woman’s posts boasting about her expensive travel and dinners on Instagram.
Manafort, who was undergoing an emotional breakdown according to the messages, committed himself to a psychiatric clinic in Arizona in 2015.
Texts: Manafort’s daughters Jessica (left, with now ex-husband Jeff Yohai, who flipped) and Andrea (right with husband Christopher Shand) exchanged text messages which were hacked revealing his affairs and calling him a psychopath. Jessica has changed her name to Bond, her mother’s maiden name
Fruits of lobbying: This is the condo overlooking the Potomac where the FBI raided Manafort on orders from Mueller. He bought it for $2.75 million, part of a property empire worth conservatively $15 million
After he was released in 2016 – claiming he had ‘new insight’ into himself – he linked up with the Trump campaign and became the candidate’s campaign manager during the crucial months surrounding the Republican National Convention.
His daughter Andrea took a different view of that. She wrote in a leaked text to a friend, who was not named in the leak: ‘Trump probably has more morals than my dad. Which is really just saying something about my dad. My dad is a psycho!!! At least trump let his wives leave him. Plus, Trump has been a good father.’
And she also texted: ‘Trump waited a little too long in my opinion, but I can attest to the fact that he has now hired one of the world’s greatest manipulators. I hope my dad pulls it off. Then I can sell my memoir with all his dirty secrets for a pretty penny.’
But getting in tow with Trump in June 2016, his neighbor in Trump Tower, was to prove catastrophic.
Trump in fact fired him in August 2017 when questions about Manafort’s dealings with Russians in Ukraine started to surface.
Manafort returned to his shadowy lobbying life, but then he was caught up in the Mueller probe.
In July 2017 his home in Alexandria was raided before dawn; in October he and his loyal deputy Gates were indicted, with charges of tax fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, failing to register as foreign agents and conspiracy against the United States.
Manafort’s legal strategy was to split the cases in two, meaning two separate trials – one for the monetary charges, the second conspiracy and failing to register as a foreign agent.
But before they began, Gates took a plea bargain, turning on his boss, agreeing to cooperate fully and truthfully with Mueller. From there Manafort’s path was consistently downhill.
In Washington D.C. Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee, proved tough; she had him locked up before trial when Mueller accused him of witness tampering.
Turned: Rick Gates
That meant he attended his first trial, in Virginia, from jail, walking in every day with federal marshals and walking out in handcuffs.
In Virginia, Ronald Reagan-appointee T.S. Ellis III presided over the first trial in August 2018. Manafort and his supporters might have been cheered by his apparent toughness on the Mueller prosecutors, including berating them in front of the jury, and repeated demands for them to hurry up.
But when the jury returned its guilty verdicts on eight of the 18 counts, other legal observers said Ellis was making sure the case could not be appealed. Ellis declared a mistrial on the remaining 10 counts, which meant that Mueller could keep them in reserve for a second trial.
And if there were any lingering thoughts that the judge had sympathy for the felon, Ellis told Manafort that he would be wearing prison, not regular, clothing for subsequent hearings.
The next month his second trial was due to begin but Manafort then decided, finally, to seek a deal with Mueller, and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and witness tampering.
He also admitted to most of the 10 charges which the jury could not reach a verdict on the previous month, and – crucially – agreed to cooperate fully and truthfully with Mueller.
But he could not even manage that; by November, Mueller filed a court document accusing him of lying in breach of the plea deal.
The next month they revealed Manafort’s attorney had briefed the White House on his dealings with Mueller.
Then in January came a moment which showed Manafort still had the power to shock: Mueller revealed in a court filing that he had passed Trump campaign polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, his one-time aide who has been named as a suspected Russian intelligence asset.
In a February hearing Mueller’s prosecutors went further, suggesting Manafort might have lied about passing on the polling data to boost his chances of a presidential pardon.
Judge Berman Jackson ruled he had lied and set his sentencing for March; his sentencing in Virginia will come after that.
If he were to get a pardon, the peril is hardly over; New York state’s attorney general is investigating his tax fraud to see if he could be prosecuted for evading state taxes. Presidential pardons do not apply in state courts.
Left in tatters is a reputation, a fortune, and a family.
His elder daughter, Jessica Manafort filed to change her name to Jessica Bond in August 2018, after his conviction, telling the Los Angeles Times: ‘I am a passionate liberal and a registered Democrat and this has been difficult for me.’
Despite the clearly unhappy family, Manafort’s wife Kathleen stood by him in the face of his infidelity.
She loyally attended each day of his tax fraud trial, always sitting in the row directly behind his defense table.
Tarnished legacy: Paul Manafort Sr. was three-term mayor of New Britain, CT
Since June 2018, Manafort has been incarcerated in a county jail in Alexandria.
Largely held in solitary confinement for his own safety, his health has clearly suffered. He attended some hearings in a wheelchair and his legal team disclosed he had been diagnosed with gout.
Perhaps more stinging to his vanity, in a mug shot, the fashion-conscious Manafort sported a jailhouse jumpsuit and shadowy stubble. His brown hair, which he previously dyed, is now tinged with grey.
The former lobbyist, who once spent $18,000 on a python skin jacket, has also been forced to attend his trial without socks – because he reportedly balked at the white ones he is required to wear as an inmate.
He has depression and anxiety and his lawyers complained he had little contact with his family. In letters submitted ahead of his sentence family members pleaded for leniency.
But there were no letters from the rich, powerful Republicans who Manafort had counted as his friends.
Manafort’s conviction even impacted the legacy of his father, the popular three-term mayor in New Britain, Connecticut, from 1965 to 1971.
In August 2018 the city changed a street named after the former mayor from ‘Paul Manafort Drive’ to ‘Paul Manafort Sr. Drive.’