Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman, was released to home confinement for the rest of his sentence Wednesday amid concerns that he could contract the coronavirus in federal prison, his attorney Todd Blanche confirmed to NBC News.
Manafort’s release follows a request from his attorneys to the Federal Bureau of Prisons that he be allowed to leave prison because of underlying health concerns and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Manafort, 71, met all of the criteria for home confinement except for length of sentence served, but because of his age and vulnerability due to health issues, the Bureau of Prisons used its discretion to move him home, a person familiar with the situation said.
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Senior officials at Justice Department headquarters in Washington played no role in the decision, the source said.
The Bureau of Prisons says there are no known cases of coronavirus at the Loretto prison in Pennsylvania. So far, about 2,500 inmates have been released to home confinement since Attorney General William Barr’s March 26 memo instructing the Bureau of Prisons to prioritize home confinement because of the pandemic.
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After Barr’s memo, the bureau made several updates to its criteria to consider home confinement to include inmates who have served less than half of their sentences, according to a late-April internal agency memo obtained by NBC News. But the guidelines give priority to those who have served more time and are relatively close to completing their sentences. Inmates who have served more than a quarter of their sentences and have 18 months or less remaining also would get priority, the memo said. Officials could deviate from the guidelines at their own discretion, it said.
Manafort, a veteran GOP operative, had been in the Loretto prison since he was sentenced to 7½ years in March 2019. He was hospitalized in December while in prison, and his lawyer has previously said he suffered from severe gout.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office charged Manafort with tax evasion and violating federal lobbying laws, among other crimes, for concealing millions of dollars he earned representing pro-Russian political figures in Ukraine.
Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Michael Kosnar is a Justice Department producer for the NBC News Washington Bureau.