Paul Manafort Wants Out Of Federal Prison To Avoid COVID-19

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, exiting his arraignment in New York County Criminal Court, plead not guilty to state mortgage fraud charges on June 27, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort leaves his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court, on June 27, 2019 in New York City. Manafort pleaded not guilty to mortgage fraud and other crim... NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort leaves his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court, on June 27, 2019 in New York City. Manafort pleaded not guilty to mortgage fraud and other criminal charges filed by New York state authorities. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images) MORE LESS

The President’s former campaign manager on Monday joined the ranks of federal prisoners asking for release in order to avoid the threat of COVID-19.

Paul Manafort, currently serving seven years for financial crimes, unregistered lobbying and witness tampering, is at a “high risk” for contracting the novel coronavirus in prison due to his age and preexisting health conditions, his lawyer argued in a letter to the Bureau of Prisons.

“[I]t is imperative that Mr. Manafort be transferred to home confinement immediately in order to minimize the likelihood of Mr. Manafort contracting or spreading the potentially fatal disease,” Manafort attorney Kevin Downing wrote. (Read his full letter below.)

While Downing acknowledged that there aren’t any confirmed COVID-19 cases at the Federal Correctional Institution Loretto, where Manafort is stuck behind bars, he wrote that “given the growing number of cases in Pennsylvania and increasing challenges in testing inmates and staff potentially exposed to COVID-19, it is only a matter of time before the infection spreads to staff and inmates” there.

Manafort attorney Todd Blanche told TPM Tuesday morning that the political operative’s legal team hadn’t heard back from prison officials about the request for home confinement. CBS News first reported the request Monday evening.

Manafort is one of scores of high-profile accused or convicted criminals seeking a way out of detention amid the pandemic. Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen asked for a similar reprieve last month.

Around the country, local jail and prison systems as well as the Federal Bureau of Prisons are emptying cells, though with varying degrees of urgency, to lower the risk of spreading the disease.

Penitentiaries like Rikers Island in New York — in which Manafort avoided incarceration thanks to an unusual intervention by the Justice Department — are some of the sickest places on Earth.

In Manafort’s case, his lawyer pointed to the risk posed by pre-existing health conditions — “high blood pressure, liver disease, and respiratory ailments” — as well as a December hospitalization for an unspecified cardiac event. Downing also said Manafort contracted the flu and bronchitis in February.

Manafort has been under quarantine at FCI Loretto since March 30, Downing said, “thus making him eligible to be transferred immediately.”

Read Downing’s letter below:

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

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