Paul Manafort has been charged with 16 felonies by the state of New York, meaning that he could be convicted and jailed for crimes that Donald Trump is powerless to pardon.
Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was indicted by a grand jury on charges of mortgage fraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records, the Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance said on Wednesday.
The new charges were announced by Vance just minutes after Manafort received a second prison sentence in Washington DC for his convictions on federal charges stemming from Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation.
Trump has the authority as US president to pardon Manafort for all his federal convictions, meaning he could be freed from his combined seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence. But Trump has no power to intervene in Vance’s state prosecution.
“No one is beyond the law in New York,” Vance said in a statement. He said that Manafort’s alleged crimes “strike at the heart of New York’s sovereign interests, including the integrity of our residential mortgage market”.
Trump has not said publicly if he intends to pardon Manafort, a veteran Republican operative who worked for brutal dictators overseas. But the president has hailed Manafort as a “brave man” in contrast to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former legal fixer, whose cooperation with federal prosecutors has imperilled the president.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,” Trump said on Twitter last August.
Manafort, 69, is accused in New York of fraudulently obtaining home loans worth millions of dollars between 2015 and 2017. He has been jailed in Virginia since June last year, when his bail was revoked after he was caught witness tampering.
According to the indictment, Manafort repeatedly submitted false information to lenders to obtain multi-million-dollar mortgages. Quoting from emails that Manafort sent, prosecutors said he turned this scheme into a conspiracy by recruiting family members to take part.
Some of the transactions for which Manafort was charged also arose in his prosecution in Virginia last year on federal fraud charges. Following a trial there, a jury found Manafort guilty on eight counts but could not reach a verdict on 10 others.
Manafort was charged in New York with conspiracy for allegedly having Rick Gates, his deputy in business and on the Trump campaign, sign a letter falsely saying that Manafort had allowed Gates to use his American Express card to buy baseball season tickets.
Prosecutors from Mueller’s office told the jury in Virginia that Manafort used the letter to explain the scale of his American Express bill to a bank from which he was seeking a loan. Gates, who separately pleaded guilty to lying to investigators, testified that Manafort needed the letter because he could not afford to pay his bill.
Manafort’s attorneys are likely to challenge at least some of the new charges on the basis of double jeopardy, which holds that Americans may not be prosecuted twice for the same crime.
In the New York indictment announced on Wednesday, Manafort was charged with eight counts of falsifying business records, three counts of mortgage fraud, three counts of conspiracy, one count of attempted mortgage fraud and one count of scheming to defraud.
None of the charges brought against Manafort by Mueller’s team have related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election, which is the focus of their investigation.
Mueller, who is widely thought to be concluding his inquiry after almost two years, has alleged that Manafort shared polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime business associate and alleged Russian intelligence operative.