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WASHINGTON — President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been released from prison to home confinement over fears about the coronavirus.
The move marks a new twist in one of the most high-profile cases of the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia, which sent Manafort and others in Trump’s inner circle to prison.
Manafort was charged with financial crimes and failing to register as a foreign agent in relation to his work as a consultant for the Russia-friendly former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, but he wasn’t accused of any criminal wrongdoing in direct connection with his role with the Trump campaign.
Manafort, 71, was released from FCI Loretto in central Pennsylvania early Wednesday morning, a person familiar with his situation confirmed to VICE News, following a report from ABC News citing two sources.
Manafort and his lawyers have repeatedly complained of his failing health during his trial, sentencing and incarceration. Manafort appeared in court in a wheelchair during the latter days of his 2018 trial, and his attorneys said he suffered from gout and severe depression.
Manafort’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, said in December that Manafort had been hospitalized for reasons that weren’t entirely clear, and that neither his attorney nor family had been able to get updates about what was going on.
His attorneys sent a letter to the Bureau of Prisons last month asking that he be moved to home confinement because he’s at high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to his age and pre-existing conditions. His attorneys have said those include high blood pressure, liver disease and respiratory ailments.
Manafort had been due for release in 2024. He’d been incarcerated since the judge in his case revoked his bail in the summer of 2018 over accusations that he tried to reach out to witnesses in the case against him.
U.S. authorities have been releasing some people from incarceration as the virus ravages American prisons. Attorney General William Barr has encouraged the director of the Bureau of Prisons to “prioritize the use of your various statutory authorities to grant home confinement for inmates seeking transfer in connection with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
Naturally, however, as more people are released, there’s been growing drama and controversy about how those decisions are made, about who gets sent home and who must stay behind.
Manafort’s former longtime deputy, Rick Gates, has also received leniency from his criminal sentence due to the pandemic.
Gates, who cooperated with prosecutors against his former mentor Manafort in a drama-packed courtroom appearance, was given a much lighter sentence than his former boss and was asked to serve 45 days in jail during intermittent stints on weekends.
But in April, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that sentence would be “hereby suspended indefinitely.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen is also supposed to be let out of jail soon, but his release has been mysteriously delayed, according to Cohen’s friend, advisor and former lawyer Lanny Davis.
Cohen was led to believe that he’d be let out on May 1. But as of May 2, he was “in effect in solitary confinement, under quarantine, rather than under home confinement as he was led to believe would occur yesterday,” Davis said in a statement to VICE News.
Cohen pleaded guilty to financial crimes, and to lying to Congress about his discussions with the Kremlin about the possibility of building a new Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign.
Cover: In this June 27, 2019 file photo, Paul Manafort arrives in a New York court. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)