President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort may soon face New York state criminal charges, multiple outlets reported on Friday. Although Manafort has already been convicted of multiple federal crimes, state criminal cases are not subject to presidential pardons and Trump would not be able to use his executive power to free Manafort if he’s found guilty.
Manafort is currently facing the prospect of decades in prison as he awaits his sentencing next month for an array of crimes including bank fraud and conspiracy. After initially agreeing to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation last year as part of a plea deal, he broke his agreement when he repeatedly lied to federal investigators and is now almost certain to receive a lengthy sentence.
But there has always been hope for Manafort in the form of a presidential pardon, which Trump could use to effectively wipe the slate clean and save his former campaign chief from jail time. Trump has so far refused to take pardoning Manafort off the table and routinely criticizes the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and “McCarthyism,” leading experts to speculate that Manafort may have been remaining loyal to the president in hopes of a pardon.
If state prosecutors in New York bring charges against Manafort, however, it would provide a bulwark against a pardon. But the charges would have to be different from those the special counsel brought against Manafort in order to avoid New York’s double jeopardy laws. The New York County district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., has declined to comment on the reported charges being prepared against Manafort.
New York state prosecutors launching a case against Manafort would fit with a broader shift in the investigations into Trump and his allies. The Mueller investigation is expected to wrap up in the coming weeks, but federal and state prosecutors are likely to continue pursuing a number of cases related to the probe. Already, Southern District of New York federal prosecutors are looking into potential illegal contributions and fraud related to Trump’s campaign, and they’re reportedly investigating Trump Organization executives.
Among the state criminal charges that Manafort could face are tax evasion and violating laws related to proper records of accounting, according to Bloomberg, which cited an unnamed source familiar with the investigation. State prosecutors had begun investigating Manafort as early as 2017, The New York Times reported, but put their work on hold until recent months in order not to interfere with Mueller’s probe.
Manafort will appear in a Virginia courtroom on March 8 in the first of two sentencing hearings, where the 69-year-old political consultant and Trump ally could face up to 25 years in prison.