Whoa. Manafort can't be prosecuted in New York State

Back when Donald Trump pardoned Paul Manafort (along with several other former associates of the President) following his convictions on mortgage fraud and other financial irregularities, he was almost immediately back in legal trouble in New York State. Seeking to make sure that any and all Trump associates who had ever set foot in the Big Apple were “punished” as much as possible, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance charged Manafort with more than a dozen crimes covering the same offenses. But despite trying to draw a distinction between federal and state prosecutorial efforts, the courts weren’t buying it. After Vance lost a challenge by Manafort’s attorneys at the local level, the state Court of Appeals has now confirmed the lower court’s ruling and ended Vance’s efforts to put the Trump associate back behind bars. (Reuters)

New York state’s highest court has rejected the Manhattan district attorney’s effort to prosecute Paul Manafort, the onetime campaign chairman for former U.S. President Donald Trump, on state fraud charges.

The decision by the Court of Appeals was confirmed on Monday by a court spokesman.

It ends Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s attempt to prosecute Manafort on 16 felony counts, including mortgage fraud, that were similar to charges for which Manafort had been convicted in federal court and had been pardoned by Trump.

Vance is part of the same team that’s backing up New York Attorney General Letitia James in her efforts to RESIST Donald Trump, even after he’s left office. She’s spent more time going after Trump’s tax returns and business dealings than she’s invested in solving any of the state’s serious crime problems. Of course, that’s what she promised to do when running for office, so we shouldn’t be too shocked. As part of that larger effort, anyone who was ever associated with Trump must be similarly badgered.

It appears that Vance ran into the predicted barrier of the Double Jeopardy Clause in the Fifth Amendment. The crimes in question were ones that Manafort had already been convicted of in federal court so he can’t be put on trial for those same offenses again. It’s true that the states can file separate charges for violations of state law related to other actions where the feds decided not to prosecute, but that apparently wasn’t the case here. Vance’s fraud charges were, in the end, the same ones that the feds had nailed Manafort on.

We’ll have to wait and see if this ruling winds up impacting any other Trump associates. For many, it won’t apply because they are not yet facing new, state-level charges. For example, Charles Kushner (Jared’s father) was pardoned on the same day as Manafort. But his conviction – one which Chris Christie once called “one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes I’ve ever prosecuted” – was decades old. He finished serving his sentence in 2006 and has kept his nose clean since then by all accounts.

Roger Stone is another matter. He was pardoned on the same day as Manafort and Kushner, but the media in New York City has been howling for a New York prosecution of Stone since the day of the pardon. But that effort could very likely end up the way Manafort’s did unless prosecutors can dredge up something significantly different to charge him with.

In any event, Manafort is now officially off the hook. Those in New York looking to punish Donald Trump and his associates will have to live to fight another day.