Republican Senator Blasts Manafort as 'Grifter' and 'Sleazoid,' Questions Short Prison Sentence

Republican Senator John Kennedy expressed surprise over President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort's lenient sentence, which was handed down by a Virginia judge on March 7.

"Number one, I was surprised in the sentence. I thought it would be longer," Kennedy, of Louisiana, said on the CBS News show Face the Nation with host Margaret Brennan on March 10.

"Number two, as I've said in the past, Mr. Manafort is a grifter. He used to be a partner with Roger Stone," the senator continued. "I'm sorry, Margaret, he's just a sleazoid. He's always played at the margins."

.@SenJohnKennedy says he was surprised by former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort’s 47-month sentence and thought it would be longer: “He’s just a sleazoid” pic.twitter.com/BqTpMUzChk

— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) March 10, 2019

But Kennedy also suggested that Judge T. S. Ellis III should be given the benefit of the doubt.

"Judge Ellis has been on the bench 30 years," said Kennedy. "He obviously believed four years was enough. I might disagree with him, bud I'd have to read the sentencing memos."

Ellis, a federal judge appointed by former President Ronald Reagan, handed down a 47-month sentence for Manafort, 69, for tax and bank fraud and hiding money in foreign bank accounts.

Prosecutors, led by special counsel Robert Mueller, had asked for a significantly longer sentence: 19.5 to 24.5 years. Ellis defended his sentence, saying that Trump's former campaign chairman had "lived an otherwise blameless life."

Many have criticized the judge's decision, with progressive activists and politicians pointing to the disparity between the judge's sentence compared to harsher penalties often imposed on minorities for similar or lesser offenses.

"Paul Manafort getting such little jail time for such serious crimes lays out for the world how it's almost impossible for rich people to go to jail for the same amount of time as someone who is lower income," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) wrote on Twitter after the news broke. "In our current broken system, 'justice' isn't blind. It's bought."

Paul Manafort:
-$55 million in bank and tax fraud.
-given 47 months.
Fate Vincent Winslow:
-sold $20 of marijuana.
-given LIFE IN PRISON.
Marijuana charges regularly net longer sentences than Manafort—we need #MarijuanaJustice to fix our broken system. https://t.co/q64uRKTWSP

— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) March 8, 2019

In a tweet, Representative Barbara Lee from California compared Manafort's crimes and sentence to a black man named Vincent Winslow. Lee wrote that the former Trump aide had committed "$55 million in bank and tax fraud" and was "given 47 months" in prison. Conversely, Winslow "sold $20 of marijuana" and was "given LIFE IN PRISON [sic]."

"Marijuana charges regularly net longer sentences than Manafort," Lee wrote.

Manafort will also be sentenced this week in a separate criminal case in Washington, D.C. He could be handed down an additional sentence of to up to 10 years for witness tampering and conspiracy charges.