Making Manafort Pardon-Proof

News  |  Feb 22, 2019

Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance is pursuing state criminal charges against Paul Manafort in connection with two suspicious bank loans, setting up a scenario where Manafort could serve time even if President Trump pardons him. 

New York Times

Mr. Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced next month for convictions in two federal cases brought by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. He faces up to 25 years in prison for tax and bank fraud and additional time for conspiracy counts in a related case. It could effectively be a life sentence for Mr. Manafort, who turns 70 in April.

The president has broad power to issue pardons for federal crimes, but no such authority in state cases. And while there has been no clear indication that Mr. Trump intends to pardon Mr. Manafort, the president has spoken repeatedly of his pardon power and defended his former campaign chairman on a number of occasions, calling him a “brave man.”

Vance's office had paused its 2017 investigation so as not to conflict with the special counsel's probe.

They resumed their investigation in recent months, and a state grand jury began hearing evidence in the case, several people with knowledge of the matter said. The panel is expected to wrap up its work in the coming weeks, several of the people said, and prosecutors likely will ask the grand jurors to vote on charges shortly thereafter.

Bloomberg Politics:

At the state level, Vance is preparing an array of criminal charges. While their full extent isn’t clear, they would include evasion of New York taxes and violations of state laws requiring companies to keep accurate books and records ... 

Much of the evidence against Manafort has emerged through Mueller’s prosecutions. But Vance’s office can’t cut and paste Mueller’s charges into a state indictment. It must avoid New York’s double jeopardy law, which provides protections for defendants even stronger than those guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.

Former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman anticipated this concern last year when he urged Albany lawmakers to tweak the state’s robust double jeopardy protections to allow local prosecutors to charge individuals convicted of federal crimes but pardoned by the president. The state legislature didn’t follow through on his request.

Nevertheless, Vance’s office has identified several areas where it believes Manafort can be charged with state offenses without triggering double jeopardy protections ... 


For example, New York law allows defendants who have already been convicted of evading federal taxes to be charged with the same conduct as it applies to state taxes. As a part-time resident of New York, Manafort has some exposure.

Mueller’s court filings also contain evidence of Manafort’s manipulation of his business records as part of efforts to secure bank loans. While Mueller charged bank fraud based on this conduct, Vance could hit Manafort with state charges of falsifying books and records ... 


Along with commuting some sentences, Trump has issued seven pardons, several of them to staunch political allies including Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona and conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza ... 

Matthew Whitaker, who was acting attorney general until last week, told lawmakers on February 8 that he hadn’t had discussions about potential pardons. But asked by U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar, a Texas Democrat, what he knew of any pardon documents that had been prepared, Whitaker responded: “I am aware of documents relating to pardons of individuals, yes.”

Escobar’s time then expired, and no follow-up question was asked.

New York Prosecutors Expected to Charge Manafort, Guarding Against Trump Pardon (NYT)

New York Has Prepared Paul Manafort Charges If Trump Pardons Him (Bloomberg Politics)