Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. filed state charges against former Donald Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort that were kept under wraps as an insurance policy against a presidential pardon, former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade explained on MSNBC on Saturday.
Anchor Kendis Gibson played a clip of Trump learning about the new state charges against Manafort from a reporter’s question.
“President Trump right there caught off-guard as he realizes that state crimes are exempt from presidential pardons,” Gibson noted. “Thirty-four minutes after Paul Manafort faced his final federal sentencing, New York prosecutors announced sixteen state charges against him, ranging from everything from residential mortgage fraud to conspiracy charges — that Trump will not be able to pardon if Manafort is convicted and found guilty.”
“How unusual was it for the state prosecutors to announce these charges less than an hour after Manafort’s federal sentencing?” he asked.
“Very unusual, especially since they do seem to go to a lot of the same conduct that was already charged in the federal case,” McQuade noted.
“The timing, the duplication of the charges I think clearly suggests that this was something that was kept under wraps so the sentencing judges weren’t aware of it until after it was filed and then filed I think as an insurance policy against a pardon to ensure that Paul Manafort is ultimately held accountable for these charges,” she explained.
“Some questions about double jeopardy are lurking out there, but I think this is clearly an effort to avoid Paul Manafort escaping accountability for his crimes through a pardon,” she added.
McQuade also believes that state prosecutors may be more successful at flipping Manafort than special counsel Robert Mueller.
Writing in The Daily Beast, McQuade said, “state charges against Manafort can work as a backstop.”
“Is Vance’s goal simply to ensure that Manafort is held accountable by facing prison time for his crimes? That alone would be a worthy goal for a defendant whose crimes were as pervasive and sophisticated as Manafort’s,” she explained.
“Or is Vance instead thinking that by applying more pressure on Manafort, he can do what Mueller could not—convince him to cooperate by neutralizing President Trump’s pardon power. Checkmate?” McQuade concluded.