Paul Manafort Seemed Headed to Rikers. Then the Justice Department Intervened.


The question of Mr. Manafort’s detention was one of the first high-profile matters to be undertaken by Mr. Rosen, who was confirmed as the deputy attorney general on May 16, one day before Mr. Manafort’s attorney asked the Bureau of Prisons to keep his client out of Rikers.

In the weeks after his client was charged, Mr. Blanche objected to Mr. Manafort being held at Rikers. In a May 17 letter, he asked the warden at the federal prison in Pennsylvania not to approve New York’s request that Mr. Manafort be transferred to state custody, citing his age and health issues.

In the letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times, Mr. Blanche also criticized the charges against his client, arguing that they were “a blatant violation” of New York’s double jeopardy laws and calling the case “politics at its worst.” The district attorney’s office has said it is confident the charges will stand.

Mr. Blanche also said in his letter that the New York prosecutors were “insisting that Mr. Manafort remain on Rikers Island, likely in solitary confinement, pending trial.”

While Mr. Blanche’s letter indicated that copies were sent to Mr. Vance by email and registered mail, other correspondence and people with knowledge of the matter indicated Mr. Vance’s office did not receive the letter.

Instead, Mr. Rosen wrote to Mr. Vance last week, asking whether his office was going to respond.

A senior Justice Department official said that the Bureau of Prisons had been keeping the Justice Department apprised of Mr. Manafort’s situation, given the high-profile nature of his case. Mr. Rosen sought Mr. Vance’s response largely because of these briefings, the official said.

Mr. Vance replied on Friday, dismissing what he called Mr. Blanche’s “gratuitous claims” that the prosecution was politically motivated and violated double jeopardy protections. He said those arguments were irrelevant to a routine discussion about where Mr. Manafort would be held.

In his letter, Mr. Vance said New York prosecutors took no position on whether Mr. Manafort should be held at Rikers, but that keeping him in Pennsylvania did not appear to be a legitimate option under the law and was not consistent with how other inmates had been treated.



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