- Paul Manafort is playing a high-stakes game of poker as his second criminal trial draws nearer.
- Manafort’s lawyers are reportedly in talks with the special counsel Robert Mueller about a possible plea deal to stop the second trial from going forward.
- Manafort has several options on how best to maximize his chances against Mueller. But Justice Department veterans say that no matter what he picks, “there are no good choices, there are just differing levels of bad choices.”
Sign up for the latest Russia investigation updates here»
As Paul Manafort’s second criminal trial looms, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign is reportedly in talks with the special counsel Robert Mueller about a possible plea deal before things kick off.
But regardless of what Manafort ultimately chooses, Justice Department veterans say it’s a high-risk gamble that could very well end with him spending the rest of his life in jail.
Mueller’s office charged Manafort in two separate indictments as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Manafort pleaded not guilty in both, and he was convicted in his first trial earlier this summer on eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud, and failure to report foreign bank accounts. He faces a possible decade in prison.
In the second case, brought in Washington, DC, Manafort has been charged with illegal lobbying, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and money laundering.
Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted the Gambino family boss John Gotti, said Manafort has “great incentive” to consider a plea deal to save himself the expense and minimize the additional years he would face in prison if he’s convicted in the second trial.
Legal experts say the best option for Manafort would be for him to plead guilty to some charges and agree to cooperate with prosecutors. That way, he would be guaranteed a more lenient sentence.
But based on his aggressive defense strategy so far, as well as his lawyers’ public comments, it’s unlikely Manafort would agree to such a deal.
Earlier this summer, for instance, Manafort’s lead defense attorney Kevin Downing said there was “no chance” his client would flip on the president. The comment suggests Manafort is betting hard on getting a pardon from Trump, who has repeatedly complained about how unfairly Manafort is being treated.
If Manafort agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, it would likely throw a wrench into any possibility of securing a pardon.
That leaves three options.
Door number one: Plead guilty, but don’t cooperate
Manafort could potentially pursue a plea deal that allows him to admit to some charges, but without an agreement to cooperate. That option, crucially, would leave the door open to a presidential pardon.
He would also likely get some time knocked off his sentence if he chose this option. Federal sentencing guidelines state that defendants get one point off their sentencing calculation — which results in a reduced sentence — if they plead guilty in time to save the government the effort of preparing for a case and trying it.
The problem in Manafort’s case, however, is that the trial will begin in a few days. Jury selection is set to begin on Monday, and opening arguments are scheduled for September 24. That means prosecutors have already spent all the time and money they were going to in order to prepare for the case.
“If the government agrees to a plea deal without cooperation now, they save nothing in terms of time, money, or resources,” Cotter said. “The only way they’d agree to a deal that involves dismissing some charges and asking for a lesser sentence is if it involves a cooperation agreement.”
If Manafort had decided to pursue a plea deal as recently as last month, immediately after he was convicted in the first trial, experts say he would have had a realistic shot at securing a deal without having to cooperate. Now, they say it’s too late.
That leaves two other options, neither of which bode well for the former Trump campaign chairman.
Door number two: ‘Eat the indictment’
If Manafort chooses to go to trial, he could go one of two paths. The first would involve him pleading guilty to all the charges against him as soon as the trial begins, a tactic known as “eating the indictment.”
In that case, Manafort would “throw himself to the mercy of the court,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor in Chicago. “Then, prosecutors can argue all they want for Manafort’s sentence, but it’s ultimately up to the judge to weigh two opposing views on what that sentence should be.”
If Manafort chose that route, it would send a clear message to the White House that he was still in Trump’s corner. The judge overseeing the case would also likely show him some leniency because he would have admitted his guilt.
“And hopefully, the sentence Manafort would get would run concurrent to the sentence from his first trial,” meaning that both sentences would be carried out at the same time, Cramer said. “If they run consecutive, however, now Manafort goes from looking at 10 years to maybe 15 or 16 years in prison.”
If Manafort were to choose this route, it would also force him to detail the specifics of his alleged criminal activity. That possibility would likely rattle the White House, because the Washington, DC, case against Manafort is more deeply linked to collusion and Manafort’s time on the Trump campaign than the first case against him, which primarily centered around Manafort’s financial crimes before he joined the campaign.
Door number three: Tough it out and go to trial
The last option is for Manafort to stick it out and go to trial.
This is the riskiest path for the former Trump campaign chairman for a few reasons.
The first speaks to Mueller’s track record so far in the Russia investigation. Out of the seven US persons charged in the probe, six have pleaded guilty, and one — Manafort — was convicted following a trial.
“The evidence is there,” Cramer said. “These are not bogus charges. If Manafort goes to trial, that would likely be like a slow, drawn out guilty plea, given the evidence Mueller has and the way Manafort’s first trial went.”
“From everything I can tell about this case and what’s been made public, as well as what we saw in his first trial, the government has very, very little chance of not getting a conviction if this second trial goes forward,” he said.
A second trial would also put a bigger dent in Manafort’s finances, which likely took a significant hit when he decided to move forward with the first trial instead of striking a plea deal, like his former business associate Rick Gates did.
That said, there are two potential upsides to Manafort going to trial.
The first is that if Manafort is convicted, he may not be convicted on all the charges. In his first trial, for instance, Manafort was charged with 18 counts but convicted on just eight because one juror held out on the other ten charges.
“The best thing for Manafort to do is plead guilty and cooperate,” Cotter said, “but if he doesn’t do that, he should shoot his shot and take this thing to trial. He might get lucky like he did in the Virginia case. So his lawyer may tell him to roll the dice and fight it.”
The second upside is that, like the previous two options, Manafort would be leaving the door to a presidential pardon wide open if he goes to trial. He may even up his chances in this case, experts said, because the stress of going through the whole process would elicit a stronger response from the president, who frequently accuses the special counsel of going on a politically motivated fishing expedition to undermine his presidency.
“Manafort has to hope and pray — and make no mistake, that’s what it is, a hope and a prayer — that the president pardons him at some point,” Cramer said. “And boy, Manafort’s got to be rally comfortable in his belief that that’s going to happen if he’s going to bet his freedom on it.”
Cotter echoed that view and noted, “The one thing I’d say to him if I were his lawyer is that you don’t have any good choices left. There are no good choices, there are just differing levels of bad choices at this point in his life.”
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153
With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.