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Reports: NYC prosecutors preparing case against Manafort

Paul Manafort Photo: AP. Paul Manafort

February 22, 2019 06:52 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors in New York City are building a potential criminal case against President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as he awaits sentencing on federal conspiracy and fraud convictions, according to reports published Friday.

If the Manhattan district attorney's office brings state-level charges, Manafort could face prosecution even if Trump pardons him for his federal convictions, as some have suggested the president might do. The district attorney's case would be significant because Trump's pardon power doesn't extend to state-level charges.

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Bloomberg was first to report the developments, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Friday's reports say it isn't clear what charges Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr.'s office is considering.

Spokespeople for Vance and Manafort declined to comment. Vance is a Democrat.

Manafort, a longtime Republican political operative who had homes in New York, chaired Trump's 2016 campaign for several crucial months, including during the GOP national convention.

Vance's office began looking into Manafort in 2017, before special counsel Robert Mueller brought conspiracy and other charges stemming from Manafort's lobbying work on behalf of pro-Russian political interests in Ukraine, according to the news reports.

Manafort pleaded guilty in that case to conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Then he was convicted in August of felony tax and bank fraud charges, also a product of Mueller's investigation.

Prosecutors said Manafort engaged in an elaborate scheme to keep tax authorities in the dark about the millions of dollars he made from the Ukraine work, and that he lied to get millions in loans after his consulting income dried up.

Manafort's lawyers said he didn't willfully violate the law and left the particulars of his finances to other people.

Manafort, 69, is facing sentencing next month in both federal cases. Federal probation officials calculated that his convictions in the fraud case alone warrant 19½ to 24½ years behind bars.

The verdict in that case raised immediate questions of whether Trump would seek to pardon Manafort. The president has spoken sympathetically of his former campaign chairman and has said a pardon isn't off the table.

Manafort's lawyers might seek to challenge any New York charges as violating laws against double jeopardy, or repeatedly prosecuting people for the same alleged crimes.

New York state's double jeopardy law has several exceptions, including one for cases against people accused of dodging both state and federal taxes.

The law doesn't specifically list an exception allowing state prosecutors to move ahead with charges when a person has been pardoned for similar federal crimes. There's been some talk in recent months of adding such an exception.

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(Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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