Barr’s DOJ Intervenes to Keep Manafort Out of Notorious NYC Jail, Report Says

June 19, 2019 Updated: June 20, 2019

Paul Manafort, former campaign manager of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, will not wait for his state trial in the scandal-ridden Rikers Island jail in New York City due to intervention from the Department of Justice, a media report said.

Manafort is already serving 7 1/2 years in a federal prison in Pennsylvania for money laundering, tax evasion, bank fraud, unregistered lobbying, and attempted witness tampering.

In March, the Manhattan district attorney unveiled a separate indictment of Manafort charging him with 17 state crimes, including residential mortgage fraud, conspiracy to commit said crime, falsifying records, and a “scheme to defraud.”

Manafort and others stand accused of falsifying business records to fraudulently obtain millions of dollars in mortgages. The allegations mirror some of the federal charges.

Manafort was expected to await his state trial at the Rikers Island complex, which has struggled through reports of violence and poor conditions. Federal prison authorities, however, informed the Manhattan district attorney on June 17 that Manafort will await his trial at the Pennsylvania prison or a federal detention facility in Manhattan, unidentified sources told The New York Times.

The report said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen previously sent a letter to the Manhattan district attorney that “indicated that he was monitoring where Mr. Manafort would be held in New York.”

Several unnamed “former and current prosecutors” told the paper that the decision to keep Manafort out of a state facility was unusual. But Manafort’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, said his client’s case was unusual to begin with.

“You’ll find no example of someone like Mr. Manafort being prosecuted by the feds and then by the district attorney for exactly the same conduct,” he said.

The practice of charging the same behavior twice—once at the federal level and once on the state level—was recently examined by the Supreme Court. It ruled on June 17 that the practice is permissible and doesn’t violate the Constitution’s double jeopardy ban, which prohibits charging the same crime repeatedly. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

Manafort’s Story

Manafort had a short-lived job as campaign manager for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid from June to August of that year, after which he stepped down amid reports of his political work in Ukraine.

His convictions stem from indictments by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed in mid-2017 to probe Russian interference in the U.S. elections as well as allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with such interference. Mueller indicted dozens of Russians, Manafort, and several others, but didn’t substantiate the collusion allegations.

Mueller made Manafort’s covert lobbying for pro-Kremlin politicians in Ukraine a centerpiece of his probe, even though the lobbying took place years before Manafort joined the Trump campaign. In fact, the FBI had looked into Manafort’s Ukraine dealings before, but dropped the case in 2014 without charging him.

One of Manafort’s lawyers previously suggested the charges against his client were politically motivated.

Ukraine Interference

Evidence has emerged this year that the government of Ukraine might have colluded with the Democratic Party to help the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 opponent, by providing dirt on Manafort.

Alexandra Chalupa, an operative paid by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), asked the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington for dirt on Manafort in 2016, the embassy confirmed in a statement to The Hill.

The embassy denied having helped the operative. But a former embassy worker told The Hill’s John Solomon that it did help Chalupa, knowing that she was working to help elect Clinton.

In late 2018, a Ukrainian court ruled that two Ukrainian officials broke the law and interfered in the U.S. election by releasing confidential information on Manafort’s financial dealings. One of the two officials, Serhiy Leshchenko, is known to have provided information to Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm behind the Clinton-funded Steele dossier. The FBI used the dossier, a collection of unsubstantiated claims about Trump–Russia ties, as evidence to secure a warrant to spy on another Trump-campaign associate, Carter Page.

Trump can pardon Manafort’s federal criminal convictions, but not the state charges.

The Justice Department, the Manhattan district attorney’s office, and Blanche didn’t respond to requests for comments.

Ivan Pentchoukov and Reuters contributed to this report.

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab
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