Immediately after Paul Manafort was convicted in federal court, New York State brought essentially the same charges against him, as a backup in case Trump pardoned Manafort at the federal level. Today an appeals court ruled that those state charges were in violation of New York’s double jeopardy law. Multiple media outlets are presenting this as meaning that Manafort is off the legal hook – but that’s not what the facts say.
First, this double jeopardy ruling only applies to identical or substantively similar charges. The Mueller team has already publicly confirmed that it held back from charging Paul Manafort for some of his crimes, just for this reason. So New York State simply has to charge Manafort for different crimes than the ones he was pardoned for.
In addition, legal experts have stated that Trump’s federal pardon of Manafort was so poorly crafted, the door is still wide open for the DOJ to bring additional federal charges against Manafort. So Manafort isn’t even off the federal hook, let alone the state hook.
Finally, after Manafort was charged by New York State in early 2019, the state amended its double jeopardy law in late 2019. So while this court ruling strikes down those charges against Manafort, it may not apply to state charges brought after the law went into effect. So this doesn’t even necessarily set a precedent against New York bringing identical charges against the other people Trump pardoned.
The bottom line: if you’re rooting for the likes of Paul Manafort to go to prison, this court ruling wasn’t exactly what you were hoping for. But in no way does it get mean that Manafort, or anyone else pardoned by Trump, is off the legal hook.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report