FORMER TRUMP AIDE’S HOME RAIDED
FBI seizure of Paul Manafort’s records suggests a focus on financial wrongdoing in Russia inquiry.
WASHINGTON — An FBI raid last month at one of the homes of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, provides the clearest evidence so far that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is aggressively pursuing the investigation into the campaign’s dealings with Russia and that his inquiry includes possible financial wrongdoing by Manafort.
Agents served a warrant early in the morning on July 26 at the Alexandria, Va., home of Manafort, according to Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, a lobbyist with a long background of ties to pro-Russia politicians.
“Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well,” Maloni said in a statement about the raid, first reported Wednesday morning by the Washington Post.
The search, conducted by FBI agents working on the case supervised by Mueller, sought records related to foreign bank accounts and foreign registrations, according to a person familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity to comment on the inquiry.
The federal Bank Secrecy Act requires Americans to file disclosure forms with the government if they have foreign bank accounts valued at more than certain threshold amounts. Penalties for
violation can run as high as 10 years in prison if the offense is especially serious.
The search showed that Mueller, who is working with a grand jury in Washington, has amassed enough evidence to justify a warrant seeking records. Unlike subpoenas, which a grand jury can issue, a warrant requires prosecutors to persuade a judge that probable cause exists to believe a crime may have been committed.
The search provides the first clear public confirmation that Mueller’s investigation includes questions about Manafort’s finances. Manafort has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The specific allegations that Mueller’s prosecutors are pursuing are not known, but in major investigations involving multiple potential subjects, a standard technique is to use charges against some possible perpetrators to persuade them to testify against others.
The raid came on July 26, when Manafort was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is also investigating the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election. That appearance was called off after Manafort agreed to provide the committee with records. The previous day, he answered questions from Senate Intelligence Committee staff behind closed doors.
Manafort has continued to cooperate with the judiciary panel’s investigation, according to committee spokesman George Hartmann. Manafort’s lawyers turned over 400 pages of documents, including his foreign agent filing, on Aug. 2, and are still discussing the terms for a closed-door interview with committee investigators.
The committee also received 20,000 pages of records from the Trump campaign last week, along with 250 pages from Donald Trump Jr., Hartmann said. The committee is still seeking records from the Trump Organization.
People close to Manafort said the raid was unnecessary because he had agreed to turn over his records.
A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to answer questions about the search, referring queries to Manafort’s attorneys.
Manafort ran Trump’s campaign during the pivotal period leading up to the Republican National Convention last summer. In June 2016, he attended a meeting at Trump Tower in New York that was set up by Donald Trump Jr. in an effort to get research on Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton, which he had been told was provided by the Russian government. “Russia-Clinton-private and confidential,” read the subject line in a emailed invitation to the meeting that Trump Jr. forwarded to Manafort.
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended the meeting, along with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and four others, including a lobbyist who once worked with Soviet army intelligence and a longtime aide to an influential Russian oligarch.
Manafort has agreed to turn over notes of that meeting to congressional investigators.
During the Republican convention in Cleveland, the Trump campaign worked to soften a plank in the party platform that originally called for the U.S. to provide weapons to Ukraine to fight pro-Russia forces.
Manafort was forced to leave the campaign after investigators in Ukraine said they were looking into allegations that he had been secretly paid more than $12 million by a political party connected to former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich, a pro-Kremlin figure who was driven from office by a popular uprising in 2014.
Manafort, who worked for Yanukovich for more than a decade, announced in April that he was belatedly registering as a foreign agent.
In addition to allegations related to the campaign and transactions involving Manafort’s work overseas, the FBI has been investigating real estate deals involving Manafort and son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai, including Los Angeles ventures involving actor Dustin Hoffman and his son Jacob.
The FBI has spoken to Yohai in hopes he will cooperate and testify against Manafort, said Maloni, Manafort’s spokesman. But he said the son-in-law had no information about Manafort’s other business dealings. A lawyer for Yohai declined to comment.
PAUL MANAFORT led Trump’s campaign until foreign ties came to light.
PAUL MANAFORT at the Republican convention in Cleveland last summer. He had to leave the Trump campaign amid allegations that the pro-Kremlin former president of Ukraine had secretly paid him millions.
THE FBI reportedly seized documents and other items from property belonging to Manafort in Alexandria, Va., possibly his condominium in this building.