At WP, Aaron Blake reports on Judge Amy Berman Jackson's sentencing of Paul Manafort:
Manafort’s legal team had suggested repeatedly in its sentencing memo that the fact that he hadn’t been found to have colluded with Russia should be a mitigating factor when it came to how much time he would serve in prison. But Jackson not only rejected that argument in sentencing him to 43 additional months in prison, she also rejected the entire argument behind it.
“The ‘no collusion’ refrain that runs through the entire defense memorandum is unrelated to matters at hand,” she said. “The ‘no collusion’ mantra is simply a non sequitur.”
Then she added: “The ‘no collusion’ mantra is also not accurate, because the investigation is still ongoing.”
Claiming something like there was “no collusion” as a defense is within any defendant’s right. It’s basically saying, “There was no crime.” The problem with Trump and his allies — and Manafort’s legal team, in this case — was that they have tried to stretch it much further. They have argued that the lack of proof of collusion thus far is somehow dispositive. They are suggesting that, because it hasn’t been proved, it never happened.
Trump has tried this trick repeatedly for months, misrepresenting statements by key players in the Russia probe. When Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein last year announced indictments of Russians suspected of influencing the 2016 election, he emphasized that those specific indictments included no allegations of collusion. The president and the White House suggested that Rosenstein had essentially just exonerated the Trump campaign, when, in fact, the case simply wasn’t about collusion.