WASHINGTON — Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced to a total of seven and a half years in prison on federal charges Wednesday, then was hit almost immediately with fresh state charges in New York that could put him outside the president’s power to pardon.
In Washington, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson brushed aside Manafort’s pleas for leniency and rebuked him for misleading the U.S. government about his lucrative foreign lobbying work and for encouraging witnesses to lie on his behalf.
“It is hard to overstate the number of lies and the amount of fraud and the extraordinary amount of money involved” in the crimes, Jackson told Manafort, 69, who sat stone-faced in a wheelchair he has used because of gout. She added three-and-a-half years on top of the nearly four-year sentence Manafort received last week in a separate case in Virginia, though he’ll get credit for nine months already served.
The sentencing hearing was a milestone in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election campaign. Manafort was among the first people charged in the investigation, and though the allegations did not relate to his work for candidate Donald Trump, his foreign entanglements and business relationship with an associate the U.S. says has ties to Russian intelligence have made him a pivotal figure in the probe.
Prosecutors are updating judges this week on the cooperation provided by other key defendants in the case. Mueller is expected to soon conclude his investigation in a confidential report to the Justice Department.
Minutes after Manafort’s federal sentence was imposed, New York prosecutors unsealed a 16-count indictment accusing him of giving false information on mortgage loan applications. The new case appeared designed at least in part to protect against the possibility that Trump could pardon Manafort, who led the celebrity businessman’s 2016 White House bid for months. The president can pardon federal crimes but not state offenses.
New York’s attorney general’s office had looked into whether it could bring state-level crimes against Manafort but faced a possible roadblock because of the state’s double jeopardy law. That statute goes beyond most other states by preventing state-level charges that mirror federal counts that have been resolved — and also prevents prosecutors from pursuing state-level charges when a person has been pardoned for the same federal crimes.
Still, Manhattan prosecutors, who brought the new indictment, contend their case is safe because mortgage fraud and falsifying business records are state but not federal crimes.
At the White House, Trump said he felt “very badly” for Manafort but hadn’t given any thought to a pardon. “No collusion,” the president added.
On Wednesday, Judge Jackson made clear the case against Manafort had nothing to do with Russian election interference and she scolded Manafort’s lawyers for asserting that their client was charged only because prosecutors couldn’t get him on crimes related to potential collusion with the Trump campaign.
“The no-collusion mantra is simply a non sequitur,” she said, suggesting that those arguments were meant for an audience outside the courtroom — presumably the president.
The judge said conspiracy charges concerning Manafort’s unregistered foreign lobbying work and witness tampering were “not just some failure to comply with some pesky regulations” as his attorneys argued.
Instead, she said they were evidence that Manafort had spent a considerable portion of his career “gaming the system.” He undermined the American political process by concealing from the public and Congress that he was working on behalf of Ukraine— and earning millions of dollars that he never reported to the IRS, she said.
“Court is one of those places where facts still matter,” she said.
Reading from a three-page statement, Manafort asked for mercy and said the criminal charges against him had “taken everything from me already.” He pleaded with the judge not to impose any additional time beyond the sentence he had received last week in a separate case in Virginia.
“I am sorry for what I have done and all the activities that have gotten us here today,” he said in a steady voice. “While I cannot undo the past, I will ensure that the future will be very different.”
Manafort said he was the primary caregiver for his wife and wanted the chance for them to resume their life together.
“She needs me and I need her. I ask you to think of this and our need for each other as you deliberate,” he said. “This case has taken everything from me already — my properties, my cash, my life insurance, my trust accounts for my children and my grandchildren, and more.”
His plea for leniency followed prosecutor Andrew Weissmann’s scathing characterization of crimes that the government said spanned more than a decade and continued even while Manafort was awaiting trial. The prosecutor said Manafort took steps to conceal his foreign lobbying work, laundered millions of dollars to fund a lavish lifestyle and then, while under house arrest, coached other witnesses to lie on his behalf.
MILNER — Farmers and ranchers who’ve ridden out countless drought years in the Idaho desert are delighted to go into spring again with above-average levels of irrigation water stored in mountain snowpacks and reservoirs.
Recent changes in water management policies are restoring the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, raising groundwater levels that had been depleted for decades by groundwater irrigators, domestic wells and municipal water systems.
And abundant streamflows over Shoshone Falls are wowing visitors at the “Niagara of the West.”
In a week or two, the Twin Falls Canal Co. will send water from the Snake River — for the 115th time — into the 110-mile canal system to irrigate some 202,000 acres of farmland south of the river.
Since the end of the 2018 growing season, Twin Falls has received 5.74 inches of precipitation, 1.23 inches more than last year and nearly a half-inch more than average, according to the National Weather Service.
From Feb. 1 to March 1, the Little Wood River snowpack went from 78 percent of normal to 159 percent. Water managers called that a “spectacular increase” and they expect runoff to be 160 percent of average, said Steve Stuebner, spokesman for Idaho Water Resource Board.
Upper Snake reservoirs are at 87 percent of capacity — and 128 percent of normal to date — the second highest since 1977, Stuebner said. The Bureau of Reclamation has begun releasing water from Palisades Reservoir for flood control.
“Irrigators should have a full allotment of water this year in all basins,” he said. “Pretty unusual for all basins to share in the bounty of snow and water.”
Bureau of Reclamation “officials said this should be a good spring to go see Shoshone Falls at good flows,” Stuebner said. “They are expecting to continue releases below Milner through May.”
About 6,000 cubic feet per second is passing below Milner and 1,500 cfs is being used for Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer recharge, he said. Snowpack levels to date are two to three times the norm in some locations.
“A lot of low-elevation snow is still in place in Idaho because it’s been a cold winter, and low-elevation snow has yet to melt in many locations,” Stuebner said. “So the actual snowpack at lower elevations tends to be 160 to 200 percent of normal ... but snowpack above 5,000-6,000 feet is more 100-120 percent of normal in general.”
More than a century ago, Twin Falls South Side Canal officials began a tradition of celebrating the start of the irrigation season by breaking a bottle of champagne over the main gates at Milner Dam.
Today, annual opening ceremonies are mostly symbolic because water for aquifer recharge flows through many canal systems throughout the winter.
But that doesn’t minimize the significance of the Snake River and the numerous irrigation districts and canal companies that divert water from the Milner Reservoir. Besides the Twin Falls Canal Co. and Milner Irrigation District on the south side, both North Side Canal Co. and Milner-Gooding Canal also divert water from the reservoir.
The 13,000-acre Milner Irrigation District “is in excellent shape,” said district board member Greg Sievers of Murtaugh. “We have good water rights from American Falls and Palisades.”
The average farm used to be the size of what one man could irrigate by himself. At one time the average farmer fed 15 people annually.
But with technological advances, farms are larger and the average farmer now feeds 155 people.
Idaho producers today raise 185 commodities, according to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. The state is the nation’s No. 1 producer of potatoes and trout and the No. 2 producer of peppermint, sugar beets and alfalfa hay. Idaho ranks third in the production of milk, cheese and hops.
Farmers today irrigate 2.8 million acres in Idaho.
WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order Wednesday grounding all Boeing 737 Max aircraft in the wake of a crash of an Ethiopian airliner that killed 157 people, a reversal for the U.S. after federal aviation regulators had maintained it had no data to show the jets are unsafe.
The decision came hours after Canada joined about 40 other countries in barring the Max 8 from its airspace, saying satellite tracking data showed possible but unproven similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and a previous crash involving the model five months ago.
The U.S., one of the last holdouts, also grounded a larger version of the plane, the Max 9.
Daniel Elwell, acting head of the FAA, said enhanced satellite images and new evidence gathered on the ground led his agency to order the jets out of the air.
The data, he said, linked the behavior and flight path of the Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 to data from the crash of a Lion Air jet that plunged into the Java Sea and killed 187 people in October.
“Evidence we found on the ground made it even more likely that the flight path was very close to Lion Air’s,” Elwell told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.
Satellite data right after the crash wasn’t refined enough to give the FAA what it needed to make the decision to ground planes, Elwell said. But on Wednesday, global air traffic surveillance company Aireon and Boeing were able to enhance the initial data to make it more precise “to create a description of the flight that made it similar enough to Lion Air,” Elwell said.
The Ethiopian plane’s flight data and voice recorders will be sent to France for analysis, Elwell said. Some aviation experts have warned that finding answers in the crash could take months.
Officials at Lion Air in Indonesia have said sensors on their plane produced erroneous information on its last four flights, triggering an automatic nose-down command that the pilots were unable to overcome.
President Donald Trump, who announced the grounding, was briefed Wednesday on new developments in the investigation by Elwell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and they determined the planes should be grounded, the White House said. Trump spoke afterward with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg and Boeing signed on.
“At the end of the day, it is a decision that has the full support of the secretary, the president and the FAA as an agency,” Elwell said.
Airlines, mainly Southwest, American and United, should be able to swap out planes pretty quickly, and passengers shouldn’t be terribly inconvenienced, said Paul Hudson, president of flyersrights.org, which represents passengers. The Max, he said, makes up only a small percentage of the U.S. passenger jet fleet, he said.
“I think any disruptions will be very minor,” he said. “The first quarter of the year is the slow quarter, generally for air travel,”adding that the airlines have planes on the ground that aren’t being used on trans-Atlantic flights that could be diverted to domestic routes.
Boeing issued a statement saying it supported the FAA’s decision even though it “continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX.” The company also said it had itself recommended the suspension of the Max fleet after consultations with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.
“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution,” Boeing said.
The groundings will have a far-reaching financial impact on Boeing, at least in the short term, said John Cox, a veteran pilot and CEO of Safety Operating Systems.
In addition to those that have already been grounded, there are more than 4,600 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes on backlog that are not yet delivered to airlines.
“There are delivery dates that aren’t being met, there’s usage of the aircraft that’s not being met, and all the supply chain things that Boeing so carefully crafted,” Cox said. “If they can’t deliver the airplanes, where do they put the extra engines and the extra fuselage and the extra electrical components”
Even so, Cox thinks Boeing will recover, because the planes typically fly for 30 to 40 years, and any needed fix will be made quickly, he said.
Boeing’s shares have plummeted almost 11 percent since Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash. On Wednesday, the stock sank to $363.36 after the FAA announcement but then recovered to close at $377.14, up 0.5 percent for the day. It rose slightly in after-hours trading to $378.
In making the decision to ground the Max 8s in Canada, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said a comparison of vertical fluctuations found a “similar profile” between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash.
Canada lost 18 of its citizens in Sunday’s crash, the second highest number after Kenya. A Canadian family of six were among the dead.
Lebanon and Kosovo also barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from their airspace Wednesday, and Norwegian Air Shuttles said it would seek compensation from Boeing after grounding its fleet. Egypt banned the operation of the aircraft. Thailand ordered budget airline Thai Lion Air to suspend flying the planes for risk assessments. Lion Air confirmed reports it has put on hold the scheduled delivery of four of the jets.
If you do one thing: A community dance will feature music by the Shadows Band from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Snake River Elks Lodge, 412 E. 200 S., Jerome. Admission is $5.
TWIN FALLS — Only one in 10 registered Twin Falls County voters cast a ballot in the March 12 election.
South-central Idaho’s other five counties with an election saw a similar voter turnout rates. For this election, school district bonds or supplemental levy renewals were the only item on ballots.
Historically, elections with only school measures tend to have a lower turnout than May primary or November general elections. Voter turnout Tuesday was fairly typical for a school election, county officials said Wednesday.
“It’s usually not a good turnout, sad to say, for these school levies when they’re just by themselves,” Gooding County deputy clerk Jackie Fuqua said.
Voter turnout for Tuesday’s election ranged from 7.1 percent in Jerome County to 20 percent in Minidoka County. Cassia County turnout numbers weren’t available Wednesday.
School districts have four election dates to choose from each year. On Tuesday, ballot measures were: Cassia County School District’s $56.7 million bond (failed), Minidoka County School District’s $21 million bond (failed), Filer School District’s $9.9 million bond (failed), Twin Falls School District’s two-year, $5 million annual supplemental levy (passed), Murtaugh School District’s $2 million bond (passed), Jerome School District’s two-year, $800,000 annual supplemental levy (passed), Gooding School District’s two-year, $650,000 annual supplemental levy (passed), Camas County School District’s two-year $300,000 annual measures — a $250,000 annual supplemental levy and a $50,000 annual levy for music programs (passed), and Hansen School District’s two-year, $290,000 supplemental levy (passed).
On Tuesday, 10.54 percent of Twin Falls County’s registered voters cast a ballot — 2,901 participating voters out of 27,534 registered.
“It was about what we were expecting,” Twin Falls County elections director Valerie Varadi said.
By comparison, Twin Falls County voter turnout was 9.8 percent during the March 2018 election and 10.6 percent in March 2017. There’s some variation in the turnout for different communities and individual polling places.
Gooding County had a 12.61 percent voter turnout rate, with 344 ballots cast out of 2,729 registered voters.
County officials always look at turnout numbers from past elections to determine how many ballots to order, Fuqua said.
Two years ago when the Gooding County School District was also seeking supplemental levy renewal, “the numbers were pretty similar,” she said.
Voter turnout information wasn’t yet available Wednesday in Cassia County. Election results will be canvassed Monday by Cassia County Commissioners and voter turnout information will be available after that, Cassia County elections director Susan Keck said.
Minidoka County had the highest voter turnout in the Magic Valley — 20 percent. Of 7,689 registered voters, 1,535 cast a ballot.
Camas County’s turnout was 19 percent — 136 voters participated out of 722 who are registered.
Jerome County had the lowest turnout — 7.1 percent for the Jerome School District supplemental levy election.