Can President Trump Pardon Manafort on State Charges?

paul manafort

Getty Paul Manafort.

Paul Manafort has been formally indicted on more than a dozen new charges in New York State. The announcement came immediately after Manafort was sentenced to an additional 43 months in federal prison on conspiracy charges, which brought his total federal sentence to 7.5 years.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in court on March 13 that she questioned Manafort’s truthfulness and that he did not deserve leniency in the case. Manafort has been behind bars since June of 2018. Judge Jackson revoked his bail after prosecutors presented evidence of alleged witness tampering.

President Trump has the authority to issue a pardon in Manafort’s federal cases. But the executive branch does not have the same authority over state cases.

Here’s what you need to know.


Manafort is Charged on 16 Counts in New York Including Mortgage Fraud & Conspiracy

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The new indictment against Paul Manafort was filed in the Supreme Court of New York by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. He wrote in the announcement that “No one is beyond the law in New York.” The charges include:

• Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree (3 counts)
• Attempt to Commit Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree
• Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (3 counts)
• Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (8 counts)
• Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree

The prosecution listed three time periods for which Manafort is accused of applying for mortgage loans with documents that contained false information: December 22, 2015 to on or about March 7, 2016; October 19, 2016 to on or about November 18, 2016; and November 1, 2016 to on or about January 17, 2017.

The indictment states that Manafort “concealed, for the purpose of misleading, information concerning a fact material thereto and thereby received proceeds and any other funds in the aggregate in excess of one million dollars.”

The Attempt to Commit Residential Mortgage Fraud charge, two of the Conspiracy charges and the Scheme to Defraud charge are listed as having occurred while Manafort was serving as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. He was promoted to campaign chairman on May 19, 2016, and resigned in August.


The President Has the Power to Pardon Federal Crimes, But Not State Crimes, According to the Department of Justice

paul manafort verdict

GettyThen-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump , Ivanka Trump and campaign manager Paul Manafort on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016.

The power of the pardon only applies to federal crimes. The Justice Department explains on its website:

“Under the Constitution, only federal criminal convictions, such as those adjudicated in the United States District Courts, may be pardoned by the President. In addition, the President’s pardon power extends to convictions adjudicated in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and military court-martial proceedings. However, the President cannot pardon a state criminal offense.”

The issue of pardons is laid out in Article II, Section 2, Clause 1, of the Constitution, under the Pardon Clause.

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”


Judge Jackson Slammed Manafort’s Legal Team For Repeatedly Talking About Alleged Russian Collusion; This Federal Case Did Not Address That Issue at All

One of the issues Judge Jackson brought up was that Manafort’s defense team kept stressing that Manafort had not colluded with the Russians in the 2016 campaign. But Manafort was not on trial for alleged collusion. Judge Jackson hinted during the sentencing that Manafort’s legal team may have been using this language as a way to appeal to President Trump for a pardon.

His defense attorney, Kevin Downing, was shouted at as he addressed reporters following the sentencing in federal court. He claimed that Judge Jackson had ruled there was no evidence of Russian collusion. As already pointed out, Judge Jackson stated during her remarks that this case was not focused on that question at all.

As to whether Paul Manafort will receive a pardon from President Trump, that remains to be seen. President Trump has the power to issue pardons in federal cases. However, the executive branch does not have the same authority in state cases. That is why the timing of the announcement of charges in New York state is interesting.

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