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Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort pleads not guilty in New York case

Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort pleads not guilty in New York case

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Paul Manafort arrives in court, Thursday, June 27, 2019 in New York. President Trump’s former campaign manager is to be arraigned on state mortgage fraud charges.

Seth Wenig | AP

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon to mortgage fraud charges filed by New York state authorities.

Manafort, dressed in a blue jailhouse jumpsuit and a brown belt, was arraigned before a packed courtroom in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Judge Maxwell Wiley ordered him kept  in the nearby federal jail in lower Manhattan, where he has been since last week.

The 70-year-old Manafort already is serving a federal prison sentence of seven-and-a-half years.

The New York state charges were announced minutes after he was sentenced for the second of two federal cases in March.

A 16-count indictment charged him with three counts of residential mortgage fraud, a single count of attempted residential mortgage fraud, three counts of conspiracy, eight counts of falsifying business records, and one count of a scheme to defraud.

“No one is beyond the law in New York,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Vance said in a statement issued in March.

Manafort’s alleged actions “strike at the heart of New York’s sovereign interests, including the integrity of our residential mortgage market,” Vance added.

Manafort is next scheduled to appear in court for the case on October 9.

After Manafort said “not guilty” to three counts of mortgage fraud, his lawyer and prosecutors discussed whether he could waive appearing in court for future hearings before any trial.

The judge said he would advise Manafort that there are some proceedings he thinks Manafort should attend.

The case is related to loans that Manafort received or applied for from late December 2017 through the beginning of 2017, and were for real estate in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island.

Manafort’s lawyer told Reuters that he plans to challenge the charges by arguing that Vance is barred by double jeopardy from prosecuting Manafort since the charges relate to mortgage applications that were also a subject of Manafort’s federal trial last year.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to change a rule that says putting a person on trial for the same crime in federal and state courts does not violate the constitutional protection against double jeopardy. That ruling could harm Manafort’s challenge to his New York state case.

Manafort was brought in handcuffs to the Criminal Court building in lower Manhattan earlier Thursday.

Manafort, who had been doing his federal sentence in a prison in Pennsylvania, will be kept in federal custody as his New York case heads toward trial.

He originally had been expected to be held in the notorious Rikers Island jail in New York.

But that option was scuttled after Manafort’s lawyers told the federal Bureau of Prison that they were worried about his health and safety if he were held in the city jail. Manafort now will be held in a federal facility as the state case proceeds.

Manafort “will be made available to the state whenever needed for his state case,” a Justice Department spokesman said earlier this month. “This arrangement will not have any impact on his state proceedings.”

Manfort was convicted last August at his first trial in federal court in Virginia of eight felony counts, including tax fraud, failure to file a report of foreign bank and financial accounts, and bank fraud. Jurors deadlocked on 10 other counts.

A month later, the longtime Republican operative pleaded two counts of conspiracy on the eve of his second trial, which was due to take place in Washington, D.C., federal court.

Both cases, which were lodged by special counsel Robert Mueller, related to income earned from consulting work he performed in Ukraine for a pro-Russia political party before Manafort joined Trump’s campaign.

President Donald Trump last August said he feels “very badly” for Manafort, and praise him for refusing to make up what the president claimed would be “fake” stories to get leniency from prosecutors.

Trump’s tweet referenced his former person lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who last year pleaded guilty to multiple financial crimes, and violating campaign finance lawyers by facilitating payments to women who claim to have had sex with Trump.

Cohen, who did cooperate with prosecutors, is now serving a three-year federal prison sentence.

Trump does have the power to pardon Manafort for his federal cases, but not for the state case in New York.

New York’s charges have been viewed as a means to ensure that Manafort gets prison time even if he obtains a pardon.

When asked in March whether he planned to pardon Manafort, Trump said he had “not even given it a thought as of this moment.”

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