Ex-Trump aide Manafort charged with mortgage fraud in New York

Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for U.S. President Donald Trump, has been indicted in New York on residential mortgage fraud and other charges, as state lawmakers move to insulate the case from a possible presidential pardon.

The indictment was announced by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Wednesday, less than an hour after a federal judge sentenced Manafort to about 3-1/2 extra years in prison on charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

That sentence came after a Virginia judge last week sentenced Manafort, 69, to nearly four years in prison following his conviction for tax evasion and bank fraud, making his total federal sentence 7-1/2 years.

Vance said the charges in the 16-count indictment relate to a year-long scheme in which Manafort and others falsified business records to illegally obtain millions of dollars.

“No one is beyond the law in New York,” Vance said in a statement. He said Manafort’s state crimes “strike at the heart of New York’s sovereign interests, including the integrity of our residential mortgage market.”

The indictment may be a bid to guard against the possibility of a Trump pardon for Manafort.

Trump has not ruled out a pardon, saying in November: “I wouldn’t take it off the table.”

During Manafort’s trial in Virginia, Trump called him a “very good person” and labeled the tax and bank fraud case against him “very sad.”

The Kremlin and Trump have denied there was interference in the 2016 election.

Trump has power, as the U.S. president, to issue pardons for federal crimes.

But New York state law contains a loophole shielding recipients of pardons from state prosecution as well.

Last April, former state attorney general Eric Schneiderman proposed legislation to close that loophole.

The bill died in New York’s last legislative session, when control of the state legislature was effectively divided between Democrats and Republicans, but is expected to get new life after Democrats won full control in the November election.

A spokeswoman for Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, who chairs the Assembly Codes Committee, said joint legislation is expected to be introduced this week in Albany to allow Vance to pursue his case against Manafort, and other prosecutors to pursue similar cases.