Kellyanne Conway Criticizes Paul Manafort Sentence but Not for the Reason Almost Everyone Else Did

After President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in prison on March 7, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said the sentence was "maybe much more" than what others have received for more serious offenses.

"It did seem that the sentence maybe was much more than perhaps other people get for bigger crimes," Conway told reporters.

She added that she "never knew anything about his tax fraud or bank fraud, which is as I understand, is the genesis of today."

When a reporter asked if Trump was considering a pardon for Manafort, Conway replied, "I haven't discussed that it with the president. I haven't heard him say that."

Manafort's less than four-year prison sentence by Judge T.S. Ellis III was substantially under the 19 1/2 to 24 years recommended for him by the sentencing guidelines. Ellis said the guideline recommendation was "not at all appropriate" despite the "very serious" nature of the crimes Manafort committed. Ellis also referred to similar cases that resulted in more lenient sentences.

Attorneys representing Manafort asked that Ellis give their client a more lenient sentence in light of his age (he will be 70 in April), bad health, and his cooperation in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Manafort expressed appreciation to Ellis for presiding over his case in what he felt was a fair way.

"I was surprised that I did not hear you express regret," Ellis told Manafort. "That doesn't make any difference on the judgment that I am about to make … but I hope you reflect on that."

Lawmakers and legal experts, including former Department of Justice official Matthew Miller, slammed the sentence as representing a double standard in the criminal justice system.

A jury in August 2018 convicted Manafort of eight criminal counts of tax and bank fraud that were not related to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians in the 2016 presidential election.

"He is not before the court for anything having to do with colluding with the Russian government to influence the election," Ellis said Thursday.

Conway echoed Ellis's comment.

"I did work briefly with Paul Manafort, and I know the president has weighed in on this previously. I would note that as Judge T.S. Ellis remarked today, there is no sentencing today that has anything to do with Russia in the campaign," she said.

Conway, who joined the Trump campaign in July 2016 as a senior adviser, has not been accused of wrongdoing in Mueller's investigation. But advertising and communications expert David Measer said in January that Manafort's contacts with an alleged Russian spy could lead Conway, who assumed the campaign manager position after Manafort resigned, to be scrutinized in Mueller's probe.

"You know who knows a lot about this?" Measer said, referring to polling data Manafort apparently shared with a Ukrainian associate with alleged Russian ties. "@KellyannePolls — someone should ask her."