Politics

Here's what to expect from the Mueller probe this week

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, could receive more than a decade in cumulative prison time after his second and final sentencing hearing.
  • Lawyers for Manafort's former partner, Rick Gates, and Trump's former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, will give status updates on their respective cases.
  • Roger Stone's attorneys are ordered to explain his efforts to comply with a strict gag order in his case, as well as shed light on "unexplained inconsistencies" regarding some statements made to the court.
Robert Mueller
Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

New developments due this week in a handful of criminal cases connected to special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe could help sketch a more detailed picture of the high-profile, yet highly secretive, investigation.

President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, could receive more than a decade in cumulative prison time after his second and final sentencing hearing. Another Trump campaign leader, Manafort's former longtime aide Rick Gates, will reveal whether he is still providing information to the probe. And Trump's first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, will give a status update to the judge who had previously accused him of arguably selling out his own country.

Two deadlines are also set this week for Republican political operative Roger Stone, among the most recent of Trump's associates to be hit with charges in Mueller's probe of Russian meddling, and possible Trump campaign collusion, during the 2016 election. Before new details about his upcoming trial can be hashed out, Stone's attorneys will have to explain how the rerelease of his book, "The Myth of Russian Collusion," squares with his strict gag order in the case.

Mueller's busy week arrives amid persistent speculation that the investigation may be nearing its conclusion. Lawmakers of both parties on Capitol Hill have called for the summary findings of the investigation to be made public without redactions.

Since the start of the investigation, Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has decried the probe as a "witch hunt."

Here's what's coming up this week:

Paul Manafort

Manafort, 69, was already sentenced last week to less than four years in prison in a case brought by Mueller's prosecutors in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. But he will be sentenced by another judge Wednesday in Washington, D.C., district court.

Some legal experts predict that that judge, Amy Berman Jackson, will be more likely to give Manafort a harsher sentence than the judge in the Virginia case, T.S. Ellis, who had previously expressed his displeasure with the special counsel's legal tactics.

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So-called statutory maximum rules set a 10-year cap on the prison sentence Jackson can impose in Manafort's case. Mueller's prosecutors, who suffered a bruising defeat after failing to secure a lengthy prison term for Manafort in Virginia, may argue in D.C. that Manafort's two sentences should be served consecutively, rather than simultaneously.

Many legal experts were shocked by Manafort's relatively light first prison sentence of 47 months — a length of time significantly below the 19-to-24 years suggested by federal guidelines. Manafort was convicted on eight criminal counts including bank fraud and tax fraud, which mostly related to work he had done for a pro-Russia political party years before he joined Trump's campaign.

Ellis had previously accused Mueller of levying the finance charges against Manafort in order to pressure him into cooperating with the Russian interference probe. The judge had also taken a hostile tone toward Mueller's team before and during the trial.

Jackson, in contrast, had ordered Manafort jailed pending trial after Mueller accused him of tampering with potential witnesses. Manafort has been detained in an Alexandria jail since June.

"I don't believe Judge Berman Jackson will make any of the statements Judge Ellis did regarding the special counsel's motivations," former federal prosecutor Anthony Capozzolo told CNBC. "I thought Judge Ellis' comments were perplexing and confounding."

Richard Gates

Gates, who testified against his former business partner Manafort at trial last summer and has cooperated extensively with the special counsel, will file a joint status report with Mueller on Friday.

Gates, 46, has had his sentencing on charges of lying to investigators and conspiracy delayed multiple times since he pleaded guilty in early 2018.

In January, Mueller told the judge that Gates "continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations, and accordingly the parties do not believe it is appropriate to commence the sentencing process at this time."

Michael Flynn

Prosecutors and Flynn's attorneys are set to update Judge Emmet Sullivan in a status report Wednesday, where they might decide on whether Flynn is set to be sentenced.

Flynn's initial sentencing date in December was pushed off during a dramatic hearing in D.C. federal court, where Sullivan blasted the 60-year-old retired lieutenant general for his crime of lying to investigators about his communications with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump took office.

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"Arguably, you sold your country out," Sullivan said at the hearing. The judge had suggested that Flynn could get a lighter sentence if the decision was delayed until after he finished cooperating with Mueller.

"The court likes to be in a position to say there is nothing else this defendant can to do help the United States of America," Sullivan said.

The status of Gates' and Flynn's cases could provide one of the strongest indications yet about how near the Russia probe is to completion.

If their sentencing hearings continue to be adjourned, or if the special counsel says that they are still providing information about ongoing investigations, then "It's likely that Mueller's investigation will be continuing for some time," Capozzolo said.

Roger Stone

Lawyers for Stone, 66, were ordered by Jackson in D.C. to explain by Monday Stone's efforts to comply with his gag order, as well as shed light on "unexplained inconsistencies" regarding some statements made to the court.

The gag order on Stone, a self-described political dirty trickster, had been strengthened after he posted an image on Instagram showing Jackson's face next to the cross hair of a rifle's scope.

Following that action, Jackson learned that Stone was rereleasing his book, "The Myth of Russian Collusion," which criticizes Mueller.

Jackson also asked the defense attorneys to provide a list of other information, including records related to Stone's book deal.

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If Jackson decides that Stone has disobeyed her gag order, she could revoke his $250,000 signature release bond and order him held without bail until his trial on charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

That all precedes a status conference on Thursday morning, where the parties in the case are expected to hash out details related to Stone's trial, which is yet to be scheduled.

"I think Stone's been playing with fire for a while," said Carl Tobias, a law professor and federal courts expert at the University of Richmond.

Jackson "has plenty of discretion to do whatever she thinks is necessary" to keep the trial from being tainted, Tobias said — which could theoretically involve revoking Stone's bail and sending him to jail pending trial.

But that "does seem fairly drastic," Tobias added.