The Strange Case of Paul Manafort’s Multiple U.S. Passports

Among the revelations this week about President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, indicted Monday on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, was the fact that he held multiple passports and had apparently applied for many more over the last decade.

A memorandum filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Oct. 31 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia regarding United States of America v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr. and Richard W. Gates III, noted that "the defendants pose a risk of flight based on the serious nature of the charges, their history of deceptive and misleading conduct, the potentially significant sentences the defendants face, the strong evidence of guilt, their significant financial resources, and their foreign connections.”

A footnote on p. 12 of the memo states:

“In a little more than the last ten years, Manafort has submitted ten United States passport applications on ten different occasions, indicative of his travel schedule. He currently has three United States passports with different numbers.”

How unusual is that? State Department officials declined to discuss the specifics of Manafort's situation, but department policy dictates "that no person shall bear or be in possession of more than one valid or potentially valid passport of the same type (regular, official, diplomatic, no-fee regular, or passport card) at any time, unless authorized by the Department of State." Requests for exceptions are "reviewed on a case-by-case basis." 

According to a former career diplomat familiar with passport controls, frequent travelers sometimes require a second passport, which would be issued for a limited time if their primary passport is being held by an embassy awaiting a visa. Government employees often hold diplomatic passports in addition to their personal passports. Additionally, all passports have unique numbers, the former diplomat said.

Nonetheless, it is unusual for a private citizen to hold three passports. And it’s “very unusual” for an individual to apply for 10 passports over a 10-year period. “Anybody’s who’s doing that is going to be flagged” for potential fraud, the former diplomat said.  

Besides a heavy travel schedule, another reason an individual may require a second passport is that some Middle Eastern countries won’t accept visitors whose passports contain stamps or visas from Israel, although Israel is aware of this issue and offers visitors the option of not having their passports stamped.

It’s not clear if this would have been an issue for Manafort. According to the memo filed with the court, “Within the last year, Manafort has traveled to Dubai, Cancun, Panama City, Havana, Shanghai, Madrid, Tokyo and Grand Cayman Island.”

This story was updated with information from the State Department.

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