Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, was released to home confinement on Wednesday from the minimum security federal prison in Pennsylvania where he had served close to two years of a seven and a half year sentence. His lawyers had argued he was at risk of contracting COVID-19 because of his age and history of health problems.
Manafort, 71, was convicted of an array of crimes stemming from his earlier consulting work for another politician: former Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych. In 2018, Manafort was found guilty of filing false tax returns, bank fraud, illegal lobbying, and witness tampering.
Donald Trump has long held that Manafort is “a brave man” and the victim of overzealous prosecutors.
At trial, prosecutors assembled voluminous evidence to show that Manafort made big money in Ukraine, and spent it lavishly in the United States, while concealing his earnings from the Internal Revenue Service. There was an infamous $15,000 ostrich jacket, a Mercedes sports car, and a house in the Hamptons. Manafort also used his Ukrainian earnings to buy two properties in New York City - an apartment in downtown Manhattan, and a townhouse in Brooklyn.
Later, after Manafort’s Ukrainian income dried up following Yanukovych’s ouster in the 2014 Ukrainian “Revolution of Dignity,” Manafort made false representations to banks to get loans on the New York properties. One email showed Manafort urging his then-son-in-law to deceive a real estate appraiser reviewing a mortgage for what he believed to be a primary residence. In fact, it was an Airbnb. Manafort wrote: “remember, he believes that you and Jessica [Manafort’s daughter] are living there.”
Not long after that, Manafort submitted a memo to then-candidate Trump, offering to work for him for free. In March of 2016, he joined the campaign, helping to smooth Trump’s transition from unlikely frontrunner to major-party nominee. In August of that year, he was forced to resign as campaign chairman after it emerged that he had taken tens of millions of dollars in secret payments from Yanukovych and his allies. The following year, he was indicted in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference. Manafort’s longtime deputy, Rick Gates, was also indicted, and cooperated with prosecutors, offering evidence at trial against his former boss.
Last year, a grand jury in New York indicted Manafort on state charges including mortgage fraud and falsifying business records. The move was seen as an effort to ensure that Manafort faces justice, should President Trump decide to pardon him. The President cannot make pardons for state-level crimes.
But in December, a judge dismissed Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr.’s case against Manafort, reasoning that it would violate a state law prohibiting double-jeopardy for criminal defendants.
Ukrainian prosecutors also considered bringing a case against Manafort, for embezzlement of state funds, according to Buzzfeed. But he was never charged.
In an email, Manafort’s attorney, Todd Blanche, confirmed reports of Manafort’s release from Loretto Federal Correctional Institution near Altoona, but did not say where Manafort will pass his home confinement.
“Mr. Manafort is 71 years old and suffers from several preexisting health conditions, including high blood pressure, liver disease, and respiratory ailments,” his lawyers wrote in an April motion arguing for Manafort’s early release.
In a court filing in April, prosecutors said some inmates may be eligible for home confinement, and that the Bureau of Prisons is “prioritizing for consideration those inmates who either (1) have served 50% or more of their sentences, or (2) have 18 months or less remaining in their sentences and have served 25% or more of their sentences." Under those terms, Manafort would not be a top candidate to finish his sentence at home.
The Bureau of Prisons did not respond to a question about the decision to release Manafort, or the precise conditions of his home confinement.