Manafort set to be arraigned on mortgage fraud charges

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NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is set to be arraigned in New York City Thursday on state mortgage fraud charges seen as a ploy to keep him locked up if he is pardoned for federal crimes uncovered during the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Manafort, 70, is already serving a 7½-year prison sentence for misleading the U.S. government about his lucrative foreign lobbying work, hiding millions of dollars from tax authorities and encouraging witnesses to lie on his behalf.

He was transferred last week to a federal prison in New York for his scheduled 2:15 p.m. arraignment before Judge Maxwell Wiley.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. announced the state charges in March, just minutes after Manafort was sentenced in the second of his two federal cases, saying in a statement at the time: “No one is beyond the law in New York.”

Manafort’s federal cases were byproducts of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian influence on the 2016 election, but a judge who presided over one of them made clear that they had nothing to do with Russian election interference, but rather Manafort’s years of “gaming the system.”

The 16-count New York indictment alleges Manafort gave false and misleading information in applying for residential mortgage loans, starting in 2015 and continuing until three days before Trump’s inauguration in 2017. He is also charged with falsifying business records and conspiracy.

Some of the alleged conduct described in the New York indictment echoes the charges and testimony in Manafort’s federal tax fraud case, and his lawyers are expected to challenge the case on double jeopardy grounds.

Manhattan prosecutors contend their case is safe from a double-jeopardy challenge because mortgage fraud and falsifying business records are state crimes, but not federal crimes.

The president can pardon federal crimes, but not state offenses.

Trump has said he feels “very badly” for Manafort but hadn’t given any thought to a pardon.

New York currently has strong double jeopardy protections, but in May state lawmakers passed a bill meant to ensure that state prosecutors could pursue charges against anyone granted a presidential pardon for similar federal crimes. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo supported the legislation but has yet to sign it.

Manafort was sent to a federal prison in Pennsylvania after his last federal sentencing in March.

He was expected to be moved to New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex for the state case, but his lawyers complained to federal prison officials that his health and safety could be threatened there. Manafort used a wheelchair at his last federal sentencing because of gout.

In conjunction with Manafort’s federal convictions, the U.S. government seized two of his Manhattan properties and put them up for sale. His Trump Tower apartment, a one-bedroom with sweeping views of Central Park, is listed at $3.6 million.

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