It looked like former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was headed to the notorious Rikers Island “during the pendency of his state proceedings” in Manhattan, but President Donald Trump‘s Department of Justice (DOJ) is putting a stop to that.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr‘s Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen sent a letter on Monday to Manhattan prosecutors, informing them that the DOJ was monitoring the situation. A DOJ official told Reuters on Tuesday why they are concerned.
“In light of New York’s position, and Mr. Manafort’s unique health and safety needs, the department determined to err on the side of caution by keeping Mr. Manafort in federal custody during the pendency of his state proceedings,” the anonymous individual “familiar with the matter” said. “This arrangement will not have any impact on his state proceedings.”
According to this official, Manhattan prosecutors are not objecting to the move. Manafort, records show, was being held at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center as of Tuesday.
The reaction from former federal prosecutors to the news was swift, with one saying this was “not a normal call” and another calling it “perhaps entirely unprecedented.”
This is not a remotely normal call or intervention for the Deputy Attorney General to make. Defts awaiting state trial are housed at Rikers; DOJ says without further explanation that would not be "appropriate" for Manafort. Where did that originate and why? The whole thing stinks https://t.co/uhP9ORBx5i
— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) June 18, 2019
This is one of those things that all former feds & defense attorneys are like 😱😱😱 because it’s just so unusual. So unusual that I think it warrants inquiry from @HouseJudiciary even though it may not seem like the most consequential act of corruption. https://t.co/kR0Pp1cG1c
— Mimi Rocah (@Mimirocah1) June 18, 2019
It is very unusual – perhaps entirely unprecedented – for such a high-ranking DOJ official to be involved in the specific prison designation for a particular inmate. Anyone else in this situation goes to Rikers and that’s that.https://t.co/wtHrP66hCp
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) June 18, 2019
A New York State judge previously ordered that Manafort–twice convicted and serving out the beginnings of 7-plus years worth of federal prison time–be transferred to Rikers Island at the request of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
You may remember that after Manafort was convicted in Washington, D.C. back in March, Vance indicted Manafort on state charges, including: three counts of residential mortgage fraud in the first degree; one count of attempted first-degree residential mortgage fraud; three counts of conspiracy in the fourth degree; eight counts of falsifying business records in the first degree; and one count of scheme to defraud in the first degree.
The move was seen as a back-up plan in the event that President Trump decided to pardon Manafort (presidential pardon power does not extend to state crimes). Although concerns have been raised about double jeopardy, a Monday U.S. Supreme Court decision appears to have resolved the issue.
[Image via Alexandria Detention Center]