Wary of Manafort Pardon, Prosecutors Ready Plan B

New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., right, arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

MANHATTAN (CN) – If President Donald Trump pardons his former campaign manager Paul Manafort for a financial crime spree, prosecutors in Manhattan have readied criminal charges against him in another jurisdiction.

That is what “people familiar with the matter” told both Bloomberg and the New York Times on Friday, one day after a federal judge set Manafort’s sentencing date for March 8. 

Rapidly approaching two separate reckonings, Manafort stands convicted of federal offenses in Virginia and Washington.

At the Virginia sentencing, two weeks from now, Manafort faces up to 24 ½ years imprisonment following his convictions last summer on eight bank and tax fraud charges connected to his political lobbying in Ukraine. That could amount to an effective life sentence for Manafort, who turns 70 in April.

Five days later on March 13, Manafort faces a second round in Washington where he pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy charges.

Should Trump pardon Manafort, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance reportedly has been conducting his own investigation since 2017. Vance has a personal stake in bringing such charges, following reputational damage over his failure to prosecute wealthy and politically connected targets, including Harvey Weinstein and Ivanka Trump.

While the president has the power to pardon for federal charges, state charges would typically be beyond his control. Former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in the past has raised alarm about what he calls the state’s “double jeopardy loophole.” 

Under this statute, state prosecution for crimes heard by a federal jury “based upon the same act or criminal transaction” cannot proceed.

The Times reported that Vance’s office expressed confidence that they would win any double-jeopardy challenge by Manafort’s attorneys.

The District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

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