Paul Manafort released from prison due to virus concerns

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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE- In this Nov. 6, 2017 file photo, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, leaves the federal courthouse in Washington. Manafort has been released from federal prison to serve the rest of his sentence in home confinement over concerns about the coronavirus, his lawyer said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTONPaul Manafort, Donald Trump's onetime presidential campaign chairman who was convicted as part of the special counsel's Russia investigation, has been released from federal prison to serve the rest of his sentence in home confinement due to concerns about the coronavirus, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Manafort, 71, was let out Wednesday morning from FCI Loretto, a low-security prison in Pennsylvania, according to his attorney, Todd Blanche. Manafort, jailed since June 2018, had been serving more than seven years in prison following his conviction.

His release comes as prison advocates and congressional leaders have been pressing the Justice Department for weeks to release at-risk inmates before a potential outbreak in the system. They argue that the public health guidance to stay 6 feet (1.8 meters) away from other people is nearly impossible behind bars.

But Manafort did not meet qualifications set by the Bureau of Prisons for potential release in the pandemic.

Under the bureau’s guidelines, priority is supposed to be given to those inmates who have served half of their sentence or inmates with 18 months or less left and who served at least 25% of their time. The bureau has discretion about who can be released.

His lawyers had asked the Bureau of Prisons to release him to home confinement, arguing that he was at high risk for coronavirus because of his age and preexisting medical conditions. Manafort was hospitalized in December with a heart-related condition, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press at the time. They were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Other high-profile inmates such as Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and lawyer Michael Avenatti, who rose to fame representing porn star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against Trump, have been told they are getting out.

Kathy Hawk Sawyer, a senior adviser at the Bureau of Prisons who formerly led the agency, said in an interview in late April that to “suggest that we are only identifying high profile white collar inmates for home confinement, is absurd.”