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Prosecutors preparing to charge Manafort if Trump pardons him: report



State prosecutors in New York are preparing a criminal case against Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign, in the event that Trump pardons him for federal crimes, Bloomberg News reported.

According to the report, Cyrus Vance Jr., the New York district attorney, is gearing up to file tax and accounting charges against Manafort if Trump exercises his pardon power.

The Constitution grants the president authority to pardon federal crimes but not state crimes. Manhattan prosecutors have been investigating Manafort since 2017, months before the special counsel Robert Mueller charged the former Trump campaign chairman with failure to register as a foreign agent, failure to report foreign bank accounts, and conspiracy.

Mueller later slapped Manafort and his associate, Rick Gates, with a second indictment charging them with tax and bank fraud, as well as money laundering.

After being convicted on eight counts in his first trial last year, Manafort struck a plea deal with Mueller and pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction. But earlier this month, a federal judge voided Manafort’s plea deal when it was found that he lied to prosecutors after agreeing to cooperate with them. Manafort also angered Mueller’s team when they learned that his lawyers were briefing Trump’s legal team on everything prosecutors were asking Manafort.

Read more:Paul Manafort just made his riskiest gamble yet

His decision to lie to prosecutors and maintain a cozy relationship with the president flummoxed legal scholars, who said Manafort had a good chance at getting a reduced prison sentence given his elevated rank on the Trump campaign and admission of guilt. Most said there were only a handful of reasons Manafort would risk his freedom, chief among them being that Manafort was angling for a pardon.

Trump and his allies have embarked on a months-long public relations campaign aimed at discrediting the Russia probe and Mueller, whom they accuse of going on a politically motivated “witch hunt” against the president and his associates.

Though Trump initially backed his former campaign advisers and administration officials against prosecutors, the White House later distanced itself from them as the special counsel secured more indictments and guilty pleas.

Manafort and the former US national security adviser, Michael Flynn, are the only two people in Trump’s inner circle embroiled in the Russia probe who have not been public targets of his anger. Last year, The New York Times reported that Trump’s former defense lawyer, John Dowd, floated potential pardons to both men in the summer of 2017 in what appeared to be a quid pro quo offer in exchange for their silence.

Trump has also publicly defended Manafort in recent months, praising his refusal to “break.”

But Justice Department veterans have long warned that a pardon may not be the end of Manafort’s legal troubles.

If his gamble pays off and Trump grants him a pardon, “the stopwatch starts on various state prosecutors in New York, Virginia, Washington, DC, and anyone else who might have the jurisdiction,” Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor, told INSIDER last week, after Manafort’s plea deal was nullified.

Following Bloomberg’s report that New York state prosecutors’ reported contingency plans on Friday, a former senior Justice Department official who worked closely with Mueller put it bluntly, telling INSIDER, “Manafort may be rethinking his decision to violate his plea deal right about now.”

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