The New York District Attorney Cy Vance is preparing criminal charges against Donald Trump's former 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, to ensure that he will serve time if the president pardons him for his federal crimes. The move is, according to Bloomberg, a sort of "insurance policy" that could see Manafort punished even if the president exercises his pardon power.
Manafort faces sentencing on March 8 for eight felony counts that include tax fraud and bank fraud. He is facing up to 25 years in prison, which, for a 69-year-old, could effectively be a life sentence.
But the president has the authority to pardon people convicted of federal crimes, and many expect Trump to offer Manafort such a pardon. Trump has said that he is leaving the door open for a pardon for his former campaign manager.
"It was never discussed, but I wouldn't take it off the table," the president told The New York Post. "Why would I take it off the table?"
Adam Schiff warned the president against such a move, according to The Conversation.
"The President should understand that even dangling a pardon in front of a witness like Manafort is dangerously close to obstruction of justice and would just fortify a claim or a charge of obstruction of justice against the President," he said.If Trump does pardon Manafort, the New York District Attorney's Office can file criminal charges for violation of state laws, including tax evasion. The president doesn't have the power to pardon people for state charges, which would mean that Manafort may still be forced to serve time for any crimes he is convicted of.The challenge for Vance is to secure charges that won't hit up against the state's double jeopardy laws. It appears that the District Attorney has identified areas where he can charge Manafort without triggering those protections.
John Moscow, a lawyer at Lewis Baach LLC, has prosecuted bank fraud and money laundering for the former New York district attorney. He says that the state's laws have been a problem in the past, and that the law should be changed.
"My suggestion is to change the double jeopardy statute in New York to permit prosecutions with this kind of conduct in mind," said Moscow. "As interpreted, the statute is too broad and needs to be rethought."
According to Bloomberg, Vance intends to file charges against Manafort -- whether Trump pardons him or not.