The Trial of Paul Manafort: What to Expect


Professor Jed Shugerman was mentioned in a Just Security article regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation.

The trial of former Trump campaign director Paul Manafort is scheduled to begin today in Virginia before Judge T.S. Ellis. Manafort is facing myriad charges, including tax fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.
Manafort, 69, is facing 32 federal criminal charges in Virginia on top of 12 charges in Washington, DC.

Both prosecutions against Manafort were brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and any individuals associated with the Trump campaign, and any matters that arise directly from the investigation. Manafort has had dealings with Donald Trump since the 1980s, but Manafort’s most recent connection to Trump was through his work on the presidential campaign, which he joined in March of 2016. In May 2016, the campaign promoted Manafort to campaign chairman and chief strategist. He later became de facto campaign manager when Corey Lewandowksi was fired in June 2016.

Some of the charges against Manafort strongly suggest that he may have committed additional state crimes in New York as well, but New York has a double jeopardy statute analogous to Virginia’s. So, unless the law is changed in Virginia, Manafort will be largely shielded from Virginia state prosecution for the same acts once the jury is selected and sworn in, which could happen as early as today or Wednesday.

But, that’s not the whole story.

A subsequent state prosecution is not completely out of the question if Manafort is acquitted or pardoned. There are three possibilities to consider. First, the federal charges against Manafort in Virginia (and DC) have almost certainly not included the full scope of criminal activity that could be prosecuted in federal or state court. In fact, as Jed Shugerman has argued, Mueller may be strategically declining to bring certain federal charges in order to insulate them from a presidential pardon. Second, states could bring charges for crimes that are related to those included in the current federal cases, but distinct enough to avoid double jeopardy problems.

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