Judge while sentencing Trump campaign aide: ‘If people don’t have the facts, democracy doesn’t work’

Posted at 10:17 PM, Dec 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-17 22:17:22-05

Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson took several minutes during her sentencing of top Mueller cooperator Rick Gates on Tuesday to comment on the Russia investigation, the significance of Gates’ choice to cooperate and the gravity of the facts that investigators found regarding Gates’ and Paul Manafort’s crimes and Russian’s interaction with the Trump campaign.

At times, Jackson appeared to be commenting implicitly on Attorney General William Barr and the President’s criticism of the early Russian investigation, and especially the President’s broadsides against the facts of the matter.

Outside of the executive branch, Jackson is one of the few people to have seen more details about Mueller’s investigation, especially regarding Manafort, than the general public and witnesses themselves.

In addition to Gates, she has presided over Manafort’s case and Roger Stone’s, among others resulting from Mueller’s investigation.

Here are top quotes from Tuesday’s hearing:

On the need for a Justice Department investigation

“Gates’ debriefings, his multiple incriminatory bits of evidence on matters of grave and international importance are a reminder that there was an ample basis for the decision makers at the highest level of the United States Department of Justice — the United States Department of Justice of this administration — to authorize and pursue a law enforcement investigation into whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the known foreign interference in the election, as well as into whether there had been any attempt to obstruct that investigation, and to leave no stone unturned, no matter what the prosecutors determined they had evidence to prove at the end of that investigation.”

“For these reasons, Gates’ decision to be honest about what he did know and at the same time to decline to guess or make assumptions about what he didn’t know, even if he thought someone might want to hear it, was an important public service under difficult circumstances.”

On bias

Jackson seemed annoyed with those who have disputed, without reason, the media’s reporting on factual events. This could be read as tacit commentary on the President.

“In total, more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts. Manafort laundered more than $18 million, which was used by him to buy property goods and services in the United States, income that he concealed from the United States Treasury, the Department of Justice and others. Gates transferred more than $3 million from the offshore accounts to other accounts that he controlled.

“Those are facts. Those are not alleged facts, those are not alternative facts, or a narrative created by the media.

“They are established by the bank records themselves. And it’s worth saying that they are not disputed facts. Rick Gates pled guilty and admitted them all. And Paul Manafort pled guilty and admitted them all.”

On lying about lobbying

“What Gates and Manafort were doing was lying to the members of Congress and the American public, saying, Look at this nice American P.R. firm, look at this nice U.S.-based law firm, look at this nice group of prominent European officials. Isn’t it great how they voluntarily stepped forward to stand up for the new Ukrainian administration, when all along they were hiding that they and the Ukrainians actually had all those people on their payroll.

“This deliberate effort to obscure the facts, this disregard for the truth undermines our political discourse and it affects our policymaking. If people don’t have the facts, democracy doesn’t work.”

On the swamp

Referring to a letter supporting Gates’ request for leniency, Jackson said, “People corrupt politics.”

“One of the letter writers said that he got caught up in D.C. political drama. But I reject that. It’s perfectly possible to conduct yourself with ethics, integrity, and no hint of scandal, even in politics, even in D.C., even in Ukraine. Politics don’t corrupt people, people corrupt politics.

“And what Gates got caught up in was Paul Manafort and the plain old-fashioned greed that was entirely independent of politics.”

On the importance of what Gates told Mueller

“Mr. Gates provided information — not hearsay, but information — based on his personal knowledge, meetings he attended, conversations in which he was a participant and information that was verified with contemporaneous records of numerous, undeniable contacts and communications between individuals associated with the presidential campaign, primarily but not only Manafort, and individuals associated with Russia and Ukraine.”

“One cannot possibly maintain that this was all exculpatory information. It included firsthand information about confidential campaign polling data being transmitted at the direction of the head of the campaign to one of those individuals to be shared with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.

“It included firsthand information about a meeting within the campaign concerning attending a meeting with Russians for the sole stated purpose of providing information that could be used against Hillary Clinton. And it included firsthand information about claims made by an individual close to the campaign to be in contact with WikiLeaks concerning the release of emails obtained when the DNC computers were hacked.”

On Gates being critical for election security

“Gates’ information alone warranted, indeed demanded, further investigation from the standpoint of our national security, the integrity of our elections and the enforcement of our criminal laws.

“Not all witnesses with knowledge did cooperate and not everyone who cooperated testified truthfully. And many communications were lost to investigators because they were deleted or they were conducted on an encrypted platform and not saved.