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Recapping The Busy Week In The Russia Investigation


To the Russia investigation now and where we are after a week of developments. Carrie Johnson is NPR's national justice correspondent, and she is just the person to sum it all up for us. Good morning, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Melissa.

BLOCK: And let's start with Paul Manafort. The former chairman of the Trump campaign was sentenced to prison this week again. We'll recall that he was sentenced in a different case last week. And all told, he's now looking at 7 1/2 years in prison. And it's a total that's been met with quite a bit of criticism as being just too light.

JOHNSON: That's true. You know, Melissa, it's not for me to say what punishment that Paul Manafort deserves on these D.C. charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, but a lot of lawyers and former prosecutors I've talked to over the last few days think 7 1/2 years might be about right. Paul Manafort was not a spy. He was not public enemy No. 1, as Judge Amy Jackson said, but he's not a victim either. This judge said he spent his entire career spinning and gaming the system, and that spin actually came to a stop in her courtroom. This judge said very bluntly that court is a place where facts still matter in this world. And the fact is that Paul Manafort, who's about to turn 70 years old, will be in prison for a long time.

BLOCK: You know, right after that second sentencing this week the Manhattan district attorney unveiled a new indictment - 16-count indictment - against Paul Manafort. What for?

JOHNSON: Yeah, Cyrus Vance, the elected district attorney in Manhattan, says Paul Manafort committed residential mortgage fraud and phonied up business records. But there's a big question about whether this state case violates the principle of double jeopardy, which is you can't charge and convict someone of the same crime twice. There's going to be a big part of Paul Manafort's defense in this case claiming double jeopardy. The real reason, Melissa, that New York authorities may have brought this case now is that the worry the - that President Trump will pardon Paul Manafort for these federal crimes. And, of course, presidential pardons do not apply for state crimes like these.

BLOCK: I want to get, Carrie, to the story that you broke this week, which is that one of the most prominent prosecutors who's been working on the Russia investigation is leaving.

JOHNSON: Yes, Andrew Weissmann helped build this case against Paul Manafort. He's been the target of a lot of criticism from conservative talk radio hosts. And former Trump advisor Steve Bannon once called Weissmann the LeBron James of money laundering investigations. My sources tell me Weissmann's departure is a signal the investigation is at an end. In fact, earlier this month, the lead FBI agent on this matter took a new job in Virginia. And Robert Mueller's been handing off strands of this investigation to prosecutors in D.C., Virginia and New York. The attorney general may make an announcement in the next two or three weeks about the end of this investigation.

BLOCK: The special counsel, though, has also requested to delay sentencing for Paul Manafort's former deputy - that's Rick Gates. Would that push back the timing of the report's release?

JOHNSON: On Friday, the special counsel team filed court papers with the judge, saying Rick Gates continues to cooperate in several ongoing investigations. The issue is, Melissa, he may be cooperating with these prosecutors in New York and D.C. and Virginia as opposed to the heart of the special counsel investigation itself. And, of course, this week we found out that Roger Stone, Paul Manafort's former business partner, is going to trial November 5, Election Day. So some strains of this investigation will continue even though Mueller may close up shop before then.

BLOCK: OK, NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thanks so much.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.