New York prosecutors attempted to revive criminal charges against Paul Manafort in an ongoing effort by the state to persecute President Trump’s allies.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office filed documents on August 13, 2020, to reinstate fraud charges against Manafort, the President’s former campaign chair.
Prosecutors, led by Democratic District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., filed charges against Manafort on March 13, 2019, for allegedly falsifying financial records as part of a scheme to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans.
New York Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley dismissed those charges in December 2019, ruling that they violated New York’s double-jeopardy statute since Special Counsel Robert Mueller already federally charged Manafort.
However, Vance’s office argued in its appeal that the charges filed by his office focused on “different elements” of the crime and “were designed” to prevent “different kinds of harm” than the federal charges filed against Manafort.
New York Stacks the Deck Against President Trump
A federal jury in Virginia convicted Manafort in August 2018, and he pled guilty in the District of Columbia a month later.
At about the same time this was happening, Governor Andrew Cuomo initiated an effort to close a loophole in the state’s double jeopardy statute protecting Manafort and other Trump allies from criminal charges. At the time, New York could not criminally charge anyone who had received a presidential pardon, reprieve, or clemency.
That effort eventually paid off when Democrats in New York’s Senate and Assembly introduced a bill in March 2019 to amend the state’s law, making it easier to prosecute individuals pardoned by the President. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed that legislation into law in October 2019.
Democratic Senator Todd Kaminsky, a sponsor of the bill, defended the bill’s passage telling NPR that it was necessary to prevent Trump from using pardons to protect family members and friends.
New York’s Democratic Attorney General Letitia James used similar language, stating that the bill was necessary to prevent a president from “unfairly granting a pardon” to help an associate or family member “evade justice altogether.”
However, New York may regret its efforts to undermine the President. The law is a two-way street, and the federal government could turn around and use Cuomo’s rationale to prosecute New York citizens who received a state-level pardon.
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