President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort may not be headed to Rikers Island after the Trump administration’s new deputy attorney general fielded a request from his defense lawyers to keep him in a federal prison.
Manafort was moved by the federal prison system to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan on Monday morning after Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen wrote to the Manhattan district attorney about what to do with him while the federal inmate awaits state court proceedings.
“Before rendering a decision on this matter, the Department would like to know if your office has a response to the May 17 letter or would otherwise like to comment,” Rosen wrote. “In order to resolve this question in a timely way, we would appreciate any response by June 18, 2019.”
Manafort’s move to New York comes because of a case against him from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, which was made public minutes after Manafort was sentenced by a federal judge in March in Washington, DC, for crimes uncovered by the Mueller investigation. Prosecutors asked for Manafort to be moved to Rikers Island while he faced the state charges.
He has not yet appeared before a judge in Manhattan to face his charges there. He won’t be arraigned Tuesday, a person familiar with his case said, but Manafort could appear in court in the coming days.
Manafort’s move to a federal prison in Manhattan comes after Vance received an unusual request last week from the deputy attorney general.
Rosen passed along a letter from Manafort’s attorney to the Bureau of Prisons seeking to keep Manafort in federal custody in light of health and other concerns, according to a source familiar with the letter. Manafort’s defense team specifically cites concerns about incarceration at Rikers Island as part of the rationale to allow Manafort to remain at the Loretto prison facility.
The move by Rosen to intervene in the case of a single federal inmate is the latest in an unusual series of circumstances. Manafort’s case is also unusual because individuals who are prosecuted federally are not usually then prosecuted by a state for similar crimes.
In his letter to Vance, Rosen asks him to weigh in on where Manafort should be held in light of the letter from Manafort’s attorney.
It’s still possible Manafort could be moved to Rikers Island or another jail in the city as the New York case plays out – but at the moment, he’s still in the custody of federal authorities.
A senior Justice Department official said the department decided to “err on the side of caution” and keep Manafort in federal custody during state proceedings because New York prosecutors did not object to a proposal by Manafort’s attorney to make him “available to the state when necessary.” The Justice Department checked with NY prosecutors after Manafort’s defense team contacted the Bureau of Prisons with concerns about him being moved to state custody, citing health and safety concerns, the official said.
Manafort, the Trump campaign’s former chairman, had been serving his federal sentence at a prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania. He has been behind bars for one full year as of this week.
He was sentenced in March to seven-and-a-half years in prison for federal tax fraud, bank fraud and foreign lobbying violations stemming from two cases investigated by Mueller.
Less than an hour later, Vance announced a 16-count criminal indictment charging Manafort with state crimes, including residential mortgage fraud and falsifying business records.
While Trump has authority as President to pardon Manafort for federal crimes, his authority doesn’t extend to state charges.
CNN’s Laura Jarrett contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to identify Paul Manafort as Trump’s campaign chairman.