For the first time since the unexpectedly light sentence was announced for Paul Manafort on Thursday, Donald Trump is weighing in on the news. On Friday, the president tweeted that the light sentence is proof that 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!”
On Thursday, Judge T.S. Ellis III gave Manafort 47 months in federal prison. Some people expected Trump’s former campaign chairman to spend up to 24 years behind bars, so many were shocked at the relatively light punishment.
One former prosecutor said that the sentence was an outrage, according to NBC News.
“As a former prosecutor, I’m embarrassed,” said Glenn Kirschner. “As an American, I’m upset… I am just as disappointed with Judge Ellis. It’s an outrage and it’s disrespectful of the American people.”
But Ellis determined that the traditional sentencing would be too harsh for the frail Manafort. The president saw this as proof that the court didn’t see any evidence of collusion. However, Ellis never said that this case made any determination on the Russia investigation. Before sentencing, the judge reminded the court that the crimes being reviewed on Thursday had no bearing on the Mueller investigation.
“He is not before the court for anything having to do with colluding with the Russian government to influence the election,” Ellis said, according to The Hill.
While nothing took place on Thursday that reduced Trump’s potential threat from the Mueller investigation, the light sentencing is a rare break for those in Trump’s orbit.
Even still, Manafort’s lawyers reiterated that there was no evidence that Manafort colluded with government leaders in Russia.
While "many judges do sentence leniently in white-collar cases, dropping all the way from 19 years to four years is absurd," said Barbara McQuade, a former United States attorney who teaches law at the University of Michigan https://t.co/E1H5z1vQZK
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 8, 2019
Trump also doubled down on his attack of the press and the investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 election on Friday morning.
“I cannot believe the level of dishonesty in the media. It is totally out of control, but we are winning,” he wrote.
He followed that up with an all-caps tweet decrying presidential harassment.
Manafort isn’t off the hook entirely, however. He was convicted in a Virginia court of eight felonies and he is heading into sentencing for those charges, which involve lobbying work for Russian politicians and hiding money that he made overseas.