President Trump offered his first reaction Friday morning to a lighter-than-expected four-year prison sentence delivered to his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, stating the judge felt there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia.
“Both the Judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “But the Witch Hunt Hoax continues as you now add these statements to House & Senate Intelligence & Senator Burr. So bad for our Country!”
Both the Judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia. But the Witch Hunt Hoax continues as you now add these statements to House & Senate Intelligence & Senator Burr. So bad for our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2019
The judge, T.S. Ellis III, did not actually state that there was no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia, merely instead telling prosecutors and other assembled onlookers at Manafort’s hearing Thursday that the businessman did not face any charges related to collusion.
“He is not before the court for anything having to do with colluding with the Russian government to influence the election,” Ellis told the court.
That sentiment was reiterated by Manafort’s attorneys following the hearing, who told reporters that the former Trump associate was innocent of such claims.
“I think most importantly what you saw today is the same thing we had said from day one: There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with any collusion with any government official from Russia,” said lead defense attorney Kevin Downing.
Under the sentencing guidelines, Manafort could have been sentenced to between 19 and 24 years in prison, but Ellis decided that would have been too harsh.
The decision was a disappointment for prosecutors, who had advocated for a longer sentence.
It isn’t the end of the road for Manafort, however, as he faces another sentencing hearing next week in a separate trial.
Manafort had been convicted in the Virginia federal court of eight felonies.
Manafort now awaits a prison sentence based on the charges, which stem from his lobbying work for pro-Russia politicians and parties in Ukraine prior to the 2016 presidential election as well as his efforts to hide money he made while lobbying overseas from investigators.