Special counsel Robert Mueller reveals federal guidelines call for ex-Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort to be imprisoned for up to 24 years

Special counsel Robert Mueller said Friday that federal sentencing guidelines suggest that a judge in Virginia to send ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort to prison for between about 19 years to 24 years for crimes that include tax fraud and bank fraud.

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Mueller, in a court filing, also revealed that the guidelines suggest that Judge T.S. Ellis fine Manafort between $50,000 to $24 million, order the longtime Republican operative to pay restitution of more than $24 million, and make him forfeit more than $4 million.

The special counsel’s filing says that Mueller agrees with how the guidelines for Manafort’s sentence were calculated for a pre-sentence investigation report prepared by federal probation officials.

But Mueller added that “the government does not take a position as to the specific sentence to be imposed here” in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

However, the special counsel also said that “Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law, and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars. The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and serve to both deter Manafort and others from engaging in such conduct.”

Federal sentencing guidelines are calculated by formulas that take into account the seriousness of a defendant’s crimes, the amount of money involved in the crimes, their acceptance of responsibility, criminal history and other factors. The guidelines are not binding on a judge, but are often used as a reference point for determining a criminal sentence.

Mueller’s filing came hours after he asked Ellis, to set a sentencing date for Manafort“as soon as practicable.”

Manafort was convicted at trial last Aug. 21 in the Virginia court of eight felony counts, which included tax fraud, failure to file a report of a foreign bank and financial accounts, and bank fraud. A jury deadlocked on 10 other counts.

The case was related to income Manafort earned while doing consulting work for pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine. That work predated his tenure of leading the Trump campaign for several months in 2016.

Manafort already is due to be sentenced March 13 in a related criminal case in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. He pleaded guilty in that court in September, days before a scheduled trial, to two counts of conspiracy.

Mueller’s filing says, “Neither the Probation Department nor the government is aware of any mitigating factors” in Manafort’s case.

“Manafort did not commit these crimes out of necessity or hardship. He was well educated, professionally successful, and financially well off. He nonetheless cheated the United States Treasury and the public out of more than $6 million in taxes at a time when he had substantial resources,” Mueller said.

“Manafort committed bank fraud to supplement his liquidity because his lavish spending exhausted his substantial cash resources when his overseas income dwindled.”

“Manafort chose to do this for no other reason than greed, evidencing his belief that the law does not apply to him,” the special counsel said.

As part of his guilty plea in Washington, Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and possible efforts by members of Trump’s campaign to aid that interference.

However, in November, Mueller accused Manafort of breaking that plea deal by lying to federal authorities about multiple subjects.

Earlier this week, the judge in the Washington case, Amy Berman Jackson, said that Manafort had lied several times to the FBI, the special counsel’s office and a grand jury. But she also said Mueller had failed to provide enough evidence to prove Manafort had lied about several other issues.

Jackson’s finding means that the special counsel is no longer bound to recommend any leniency for Manafort when he is sentenced.

Manafort’s legal team had disputed Mueller’s claim that he broke the plea deal.

Earlier Friday, Trump’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said she has been interviewed by Mueller’s team.

Manafort, 69, has been in jail without bail since last June, when Mueller asked him and a former business associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, of trying to tamper with witnesses in what was at the time his upcoming criminal trials.

Mueller has accused Kilimnik of being a Russian spy. Kiliminik has denied that claim, but he remains abroad, and out of reach of American authorities.

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Earnings recession threat rises, putting equity bulls on notice

Profits swelled a year ago as the global economy expanded – albeit briefly in sync – and after the US corporate tax rate was slashed to 21 per cent from 35 per cent.

Since then of course, global growth has hit more than a few speed bumps –including the Trump administration’s trade war with China.

“We cut our S&P 500 earnings growth outlook for this year from the high- to the low-single-digit percentages because earnings were so strong last year,” New York market strategist Ed Yardeni said last week, noting that the S&P 500’s profit margin had soared to a new record high during 2018’s September quarter. “Now we are thinking of dropping our outlook for earnings growth closer to zero, Mr Yardeni said. “So technically speaking, a ‘growth recession’ in earnings is possible this year. We don’t expect an outright recession for earnings. We are waiting for the Q4-2018 earnings reporting season to finish before making up our minds on whether to lower 2019 expectations.”

Earnings-equities disconnect

Mr Yardeni might not have much longer to wait.

To date, 79 per cent of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported actual results for the fourth quarter, according to FactSet.

In terms of earnings, the percentage of companies reporting actual earnings per share above estimates, or 70 per cent, is below the five-year average, the firm’s analysis showed. In aggregate, companies are reporting earnings that are 3.5 per cent above the estimates, which is also below the five-year average.

In terms of revenues, the percentage of companies reporting actual revenues above estimates, or 62 per cent, is above the five-year average. In aggregate, companies are reporting revenues that are 1.1 per cent above the estimates, which is also above the five-year average.

This week 49 members of the S&P 500 are set to report results, and one member of the Dow. US markets are closed on Monday for Presidents Day.

There appears to be a widening disconnect between the outlook for profits and US equity markets.

The red-flag waving by companies has yet to dent the year-to-date rally in US equities.

The S&P 500, for example, rose 1.1 per cent on Friday, extending its year-to-date rise to 10.7 per cent. It’s been an even better start to the year for the Dow, which advanced 1.7 per cent on Friday, extending its rise so far this year to 11 per cent. The Nasdaq edged 0.6 per cent higher ahead of the weekend, putting its 2019 gain at 12.6 per cent.

In comparison, the S&P/ASX 200 has risen “just” 7.4 per cent this year.

‘Not gonna happen’ hopes

Investors though may be starting to show some wariness.

The latest survey by the American Association of Individual Investors found that “neutral” sentiment is now higher than both bullish and bearish sentiment. In addition, neutral sentiment is now at a seven-month high, and more than 8 percentage point higher than its historical average.

Tematica Research chief macro strategist Lenore Hawkins said the mood in the markets currently is being drive primarily by “not gonna happen” news flow hopes.

“Rate hike? Not gonna happen. Government shutdown repeat? Not gonna happen. China trade war escalation? Not gonna happen. The question is, just how long can the ‘not gonna happen’ hopes keep pumping hot air into a market when we are staring down a likely earnings recession amidst a global economic slowdown?”

In a February 13 post, Bespoke Investment Group said its guidance spread reading was at negative 6.59, which meant a lot more companies lowered guidance than raised guidance over the past three months. “Similar to EPS and revenue beat rates, our guidance spread reading peaked in mid-2018 at a very high level of 10+.

“At its peak, companies were as bullish on the future as they had been in nearly a decade going back to the early days of the post-Financial Crisis bull market,” Bespoke said. “Now the picture looks much different as companies can’t seem to lower guidance quickly enough.”

Bank of America Merrill Lynch on Friday said its latest data pointed to a $US600 million outflow from US equities in the week ending February 13 – the 11th week in a row of outflows. The one consolation perhaps, BAML said, was that the latest week marked the second biggest outflow ever of money from European equities.

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Sri Lanka beat South Africa: Kusal Perera hits 153 not out in one-wicket win

Kusal Perera had made only one century in his previous 27 Test innings
First Test, Durban, South Africa (day four of five)
South Africa 235 (De Kock 80, Fernando 4-68) & 259 (Du Plessis 90, Embuldeniya 5-66)
Sri Lanka 191 (Perera 51, Steyn 4-48) & 304 (Perera 153*)
Sri Lanka won by one wicket
Scorecard

Kusal Perera hit an unbeaten 153 as Sri Lanka chased 304 to claim a stunning one-wicket win over South Africa in the first Test in Durban.

He and Vishwa Fernando, who made six not out, added an unbroken 78 to rescue Sri Lanka from 229-9 on the fourth day.

It was the highest last-wicket stand in a successful fourth-innings chase in first-class cricket.

“It was a superman effort,” said South Africa captain Faf du Plessis. “He (Perera) deserves all the accolades.”

Perera said: “I’m a little tired now. I don’t know what to say.”

“I knew we couldn’t win this match by just scoring singles. When the time felt right for me, I took my chances.

“Vishwa told me, ‘I’ll hit the ball with my body, if nothing else. You do what you can.’ I took a lot of strength from that. He did a huge job.”

A Sri Lanka defeat appeared the most likely prospect for much of the day, which began with the tourists 88-3 and left-handed Perera on 12.

Dhananjaya de Silva made 48 from number seven, adding 96 for the sixth wicket with Perera before a collapse of four wickets for 20 runs.

Perera was on 86 when he was joined by number 11 Fernando, who had returned match figures of 8-123 with the ball.

Fernando batted for more than an hour and faced 27 deliveries as Perera marshalled a brilliant partnership that spanned almost 16 overs.

The previous highest last-wicket stand to win a Test was 57 by Pakistan’s Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed against Australia in Karachi in 1994.

Perera’s innings, which occupied 200 balls and contained 12 fours and five sixes, was his highest score in 15 Tests.

Victory was only Sri Lanka’s second in 14 Tests in South Africa.

The second and final Test in Port Elizabeth starts on Thursday.

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Haydock Park: Mass brawl among 50 spectators

Racing has been trying to crack down on fighting at racecourses

Haydock Park officials are investigating after a mass brawl broke out among spectators at the racecourse.

About 50 people were involved in the fight before and during the eighth and final race of the day. A woman and toddler were caught up in the disturbance.

A spokesman said Haydock took a “zero tolerance position” on fighting and that those involved were “ejected”.

One man was arrested over a public order offence.

Racing has been on high alert over on-track fighting after incidents at Goodwood, Ascot and Hexham in 2018.

The spokesman said Haydock was “continuing to work with the police on this matter”.

Merseyside Police said: “A 26-year old male was arrested on suspicion of affray and possession of a controlled drug.

“No complaints were made and there have been no reports of any injuries at this time.”

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Southwest Airlines declares ‘operational emergency’ after number out-of-service aircraft doubles

Southwest Airlines Co. planes stand on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. Southwest Airlines Co. is scheduled to release earnings on January 25. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines Co. planes stand on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. Southwest Airlines Co. is scheduled to release earnings on January 25. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Southwest Airlines told its mechanics on Friday that it is experiencing an “operational emergency” due to an unusually high number of grounded jets — and demanded they show up for work or risk termination, according to a company memo issued on Friday and seen by CNBC.

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On Friday, 100 Southwest flights were cancelled, more than any other U.S. airline, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware, and more than 1,000 were delayed.The airline usually plans for having as many as 20 aircraft removed from service for unexpected maintenance issues every day.

However, each day this week, the percentage of out-of-service aircraft among its available fleet of about 750 Boeing 737s has been double the daily average, “with no common theme among the reported items,” the airline said in statement.

“To take care of our customers, we are requiring all hands on deck to address maintenance items so that we may promptly return aircraft to service,” Southwest’s statement said. “At the same time, our operational planners have been working in the background to minimize the impact to our Customers.”

The airline — which has been in contract talks with its mechanics since 2012 — told mechanics that if they are “alleging illness” they must provide a doctor’s note when they return to work or risk losing their jobs, according to the memo.

“The uptick in maintenance items we experienced over the last few days have resulted in a slight increase” in cancellations, a Southwest spokeswoman told CNBC, but declined to provide a breakdown between disruptions caused by either maintenance or weather. On Saturday, 39 Southwest flights were canceled, more than other airlines, according to FlightAware.

Southwest told the mechanics it would assign them overtime, and would only honor vacation or shift trade requests that had already been approved, according to the memo, which was first reported by the Chicago Business Journal.

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Rebecca Ferguson: ‘We were on set, a hand slipped onto my arse, and I said, “Don’t ever f***ing touch me again”’

Rebecca Ferguson is tucking into a plate of bacon and eggs in a London hotel room, her diamante-studded heels discarded on the floor beside her. “Have you had breakfast?” she asks as I arrive, pointing to the bowl of yoghurt and granola she’s lined up for dessert. “I tried to not eat breakfast until lunchtime, but when I know that I shouldn’t, I just want it.” She takes a mouthful. “But I’m really ready, I can speak and eat.”

She’s right. Somehow the Swedish actor, star of the Mission: Impossible franchise and the 2017 musical phenomenon The Greatest Showman, manages to speak, eat and maintain such powerful eye contact I can hardly bear to glance down at my questions. Ferguson is here to promote her new film, The Kid Who Would Be King, in which she plays a tree-dwelling sorceress who sets out to murder a child and enslave all of England. Or, as she puts it with a note of fondness, a “b***h”. “I can say that,” she adds, “you can’t.”

The 35-year-old is self-assured and forthcoming; she doesn’t do reticence. Nor is she easily fazed. When she played MI6 agent Ilsa Faust in 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, she was practically the only woman on set, either behind the camera or in front of it. “It doesn’t matter, I’m there for the challenge,” she says. “I train with them, I do the stunts with them, we hang out together. We’re just family.”

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Have there been times when that wasn’t the case? “God yeah, definitely,” she says. “I have definitely, no shadow of a doubt, been treated unfairly. I’ve walked off a set with a male director once. I thought, ‘I’d rather fly home, and be sued for not continuing, than go through this s**t again.’ But confronting that was the most scary thing I’d ever done – walking off the set and saying, ‘I’m not shooting until you and I have had a conversation outside.’” 

Rebecca Ferguson in ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ (20th Century Fox)

That conversation didn’t go the way Ferguson planned. “I realised he was very manipulative,” she says. “I think it’s called gaslighting. He made me think that I was going crazy. And I thought, ‘How the f*** did this happen? God, you’re good. You’re either very brilliant, or very dangerous.’ And I had to retrack and think, ‘No, no, what am I actually saying? I need to say something. I’m making a point, and I need to get to the end of it.’”

Did she manage to resolve it? “I did,” she says brightly. “We walked onto set, a hand slipped onto my arse, I hit it off, and I said, ‘Don’t ever f***ing touch me again.’ And he never did. That was it.”

Some actors seem somehow smaller in the flesh, a little less impressive – but Ferguson emits the same slow-burning magnetism that carried her from a breakout role in BBC‘s The White Queen in 2013 to that star-making turn as agent Faust (whom she’s confirmed she’ll be playing for a third time in the series’ next instalment). She doesn’t say what she was filming when that unpleasant experience took place, but it would have been their loss if she had not returned to set.

As Morgana in The Kid Who Would Be King, in which a modern-day schoolboy stumbles upon King Arthur’s sword and must embark upon a quest to save the land, she spends much of her time tethered to a tree, her own veins indistinguishable from the roots that crawl over her body. Morgana is a grotesque figure, inside and out – but Ferguson leaps to her defence.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Trailer 2

“She’s a woman who was born with magic, and was seen as something disgusting and horrendous,” she says, “because no one understood it. She was cast out from her family. Of course she’s dark. Of course she’s lonely. Of course she’s self-centred. Because she was never loved! Just like some politicians in the world.”

Political analogies crop up throughout the film – “A land is only as good as its leaders,” says Patrick Stewart’s Merlin – but that wasn’t on Ferguson’s mind when she read the script. “I wasn’t sitting there going, ‘Ooh, that’s Europe today, isn’t it? That’s America.’ But it’s hard not to make those comparisons, and it’s beautiful how it works. I remember when we did The White Queen, we talked about women fighting for the throne, and I realised we’re still fighting the same battles. It never ends. It never stops.”

That’s why she thinks the #MeToo movement is “so bloody brilliant” – it’s given women the courage to fight those battles. “And yes,” she says, “some people are gonna have to stand in the line of the bullet for change to happen. C’est la vie. It happens. And you’re not there for no reason. There’s no smoke without bloody fire.”

She admires the women who have revealed experiences of assault or harassment recently – even if they did so some years after the incident took place, or after another victim had come forward. “It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking, ‘Oh, that made that path easier, didn’t it? You followed someone else’,” she says, “when it should be, ‘Bloody well done. I wish you could have done it when it happened, so you wouldn’t have had to have years of s***. But at least you did it.”

“To come back to [my experience],” she continues, “I don’t know why, but I will call it out, and I did that time. And it did make a difference, and that was enough for me. But that was an easy one. That was in the open, on set, among hundreds of extras. That was not me alone in a corner somewhere.” Besides, she adds, “it probably has happened to me without realising other times, [and I’ve thought], ‘This is OK, this is just how it happens, this is the business’.” She hopes her baby daughter, with whom she was pregnant while filming Mission: Impossible – Fallout, grows up to never think the same. “I want my daughter, whenever she feels unjustly treated, whenever she feels uncomfortable, whenever her gut says ‘no’, to speak up.”

Rebecca Ferguson and Tom Cruise in ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ (Rex)

Ferguson has two children – baby Saga, with her husband Rory, and 12-year-old son Isac from a previous relationship. “He’s the new man for the new society,” she says. “When he asks things, I’m very honest. We had lots of conversations about sexuality when he was younger. He would say, ‘How do Olaf and his boyfriend have children?’ And you have to sit down and go, ‘These are the options: you have surrogacy, you have this…’ So at the age of five, my kid knew all about bees and bees, or flowers and flowers, or flowers and bees. We have a lot of discussions about trafficking, prostitution, rape, all of it.” Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me.

She’s also determined to never tell him he can’t cry. “When people say that to their children, I’m not kidding, I want to slap the parents over the face. There’s nothing that makes me more pissed off than unfairly treated children. Religion as well, when you force that upon your children…” Her publicist interrupts. We have a few minutes left. “So The Kid Who Would Be King then!” she cries. “We’ve done #MeToo, we’ve done gender, we’ve done politics…”

She wasn’t planning on venturing into these areas – particularly not #MeToo. “It’s such a sensitive subject,” she says. “It’s our trust in your writing. That’s the issue. The more fairly and justly it’s portrayed… that’s how you help equality.” She smiles, and points a finger at me. “That’s your job, love.”

The Kid Who Would Be King is out in UK cinemas now  

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