Prosecutors are making sure that Paul Manafort will stay behind bars — even if Trump pardons him.
Trump has often suggested that he might pardon his ally and former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, for a slew of federal crimes.
But if he does, New York state prosecutors have come up with a way to keep Manafort behind bars no matter what.
Bloomberg reports that New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has prepared an "insurance policy" of criminal charges set to be filed against Manafort should Trump make good on his previous pardon threats.
The district attorney's office reportedly has evidence to prosecute Manafort on evasion of New York taxes and violations of state laws requiring companies to keep accurate books and records. The charges are being designed so they would not overlap with the federal charges and convictions already hanging over Manafort.
Because they are state and not federal charges, Trump's pardon powers would be useless. And if Manafort were convicted of those crimes, Bloomberg notes he would "face confinement in notoriously tough prisons."
As Trump's campaign chairman, Manafort shepherded Trump through earning the Republican nomination and rolling out his general election campaign at the GOP's 2016 convention.
In August 2018, Manafort was convicted on eight felony counts — five counts of tax fraud, one count of failing to file a foreign bank account report, and two counts of bank fraud — that stemmed from work he did on behalf of several pro-Russian strongmen, with a heavy focus on Ukrainian politics.
Manafort later pleaded guilty to two other felonies, conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice, in a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign's involvement with related Russian operatives.
But the plea deal was revoked, and even more charges were filed, because Mueller's team discovered Manafort had lied to federal officials.
There are also indications that after his conviction and subsequent guilty pleas, Manafort was feeding information back to Trump. During this time period Trump baselessly claimed to have inside information on the investigation, and wildly alleged that investigators were treating people "horribly and viciously."
Even before the convictions, Trump had been making noise about pardoning Manafort. He has characterized his friend's prosecution as part of a "witch hunt" and wrote, "I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family."
A Trump pardon would have been an escape hatch for Manafort to pull himself out of the complicated knot he has tied himself up in thanks to his criminal behavior.
But the district attorney of New York County has thrown a wrench in that plan — and now even if Manafort's man in the White House intervenes on his behalf, the consummate Trump insider will continue to be in very big legal trouble.
Published with permission of The American Independent.