On Wednesday, amidst a flurry of presidential pardons from outgoing President Donald Trump — who might have been spurred to act by a realization of the reality that he’ll soon be out of office, whether he likes it or not — the president pardoned Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager who faced a 7 and a half year prison sentence on charges including tax fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy. After Trump’s latest round of brazenly self-serving pardons — in which Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s father, also received presidential reprieves — Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance pledged to keep fighting. Vance is currently attempting to get the New York judiciary to allow his office to bring its own case against Manafort.
Vance commented as follows, in reference to Manafort’s pardon:
‘This action underscores the urgent need to hold Mr. Manafort accountable for his crimes against the People of New York as alleged in our indictment, and we will continue to pursue our appellate remedies.’
Manhattan DA Cy Vance's office: "This action underscores the urgent need to hold Mr. Manafort accountable for his crimes against the People of New York as alleged in our indictment, and we will continue to pursue our appellate remedies."
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 24, 2020
Last month, Vance’s office “sent a letter… to the state’s chief judge asking permission to challenge an intermediate appeals court’s ruling last month, which upheld a judge’s decision to dismiss the case on double jeopardy grounds,” the Associated Press reported. Vance has filed state charges of mortgage fraud against Manafort, but two lower-level courts have dismissed the case on account of its perceived correlation with the federal criminal case against Trump’s former campaign manager. New York state law protects defendants from so-called double jeopardy, or facing two sets of court proceedings for the same alleged criminal activity.
Theoretically, the dismissal of the federal case against Manafort via Trump’s pardon could — maybe — change the equation for Vance’s case. Vance is also pursuing a criminal investigation of the Trump Organization over alleged financial misconduct, although the future of that investigation — including whether high-profile targets, like Trump, will face criminal charges — remains an open question.
Besides Trump’s Manafort, Stone, and (Charles) Kushner pardons, Trump also recently pardoned four ex-Blackwater contractors who’d been convicted of murdering civilians in Iraq. One of the ex-contractors, Nicholas Slatten, was facing life in prison, and all four of the individuals “ambushed the civilians unprovoked, firing on Baghdad’s Nisour Square with heavy gunfire and grenade launchers,” according to witnesses, NPR reports. After the four then-contractors’ violent attack on Nisour Square, 14 Iraqi civilians died and 17 were wounded.