FBI raided, seized files from Manafort’s home
FBI agents raided the Alexandria, Va., home of President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager late last month, using a warrant to search for tax documents and foreign banking records, according to people familiar with the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Federal agents appeared at Paul Manafort’s home without warning in the predawn hours of July 26, the day after he met voluntarily with the Senate Intelligence Committee staff.
The search warrant was wide-ranging, and FBI agents working with special counsel Robert Mueller left the home with various records.
The use of a search warrant indicates that law enforcement officials have convinced a judge that there is probable cause to believe a crime may have been committed. The raid, which comes as Manafort has been cooperating with congressional investigators and has
turned over hundreds of pages of documents, could indicate that law enforcement authorities were looking for records beyond what Manafort has provided, according to some analysts.
Investigators in the Russia inquiry have previously sought documents with subpoenas, which are less intrusive and confrontational than a search warrant. With a warrant, agents can inspect a physical location and seize any useful information.
Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, confirmed that FBI agents executed a warrant at one of the political consultant’s homes. He also reiterated that Manafort has “consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well.”
Josh Stueve, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment, as did Reginald Brown, an attorney for Manafort.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former U.S. attorney, called the search “a significant and even stunning development,” noting that such raids are generally reserved for “the most serious criminal investigations dealing with uncooperative or untrusted potential targets.”
Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor, said the raid “adds a shock and awe enforcement component to what until now has followed a natural path for a white-collar
“More so than anything else we’ve seen so far, it really does send a powerful law enforcement message when the search warrant is used. … That message is that the special counsel team will use all criminal investigative tools available to advance the investigation as quickly and as comprehensively as possible,” Frenkel said.
Word of the raid is the latest revelation about Mueller’s investigation, which had been operating in relative secrecy compared with numerous congressional probes looking at the election.
In recent days, it’s become clear that in his investigation, former FBI Director Mueller is using a grand jury in Washington in addition to one in the Eastern District of Virginia, where investigators also have been looking into former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Manafort, a longtime political operative who was once a business partner of Trump confidante Roger Stone, was hired to professionalize the Trump campaign at the recommendation of another Trump friend, Tom Barrack, an international real estate investor.
As a political consultant, Manafort traveled the world, at times offering advice to despots and dictators.
Until now, it was known only that Manafort was under investigation for business dealings with Trump’s son-inlaw, his role in a 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and the Russians, and whether his work for the Ukrainian government violated
the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
But the search warrant for the tax and foreign banking records suggests that investigators are looking at criminal charges related to the federal Bank Secrecy Act, which requires Americans to report their foreign banking accounts. The FBI typically seeks such records when investigating such violations.
Manafort’s allies have said they fear that Mueller hopes to build a case against Manafort unrelated to the 2016 campaign, in hopes that the former campaign operative will provide information against others in Trump’s inner circle in exchange for lessening his own legal exposure.
Manafort has been a subject of a longstanding FBI investigation into his dealings in Ukraine and work for the country’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych. That investigation has been incorporated into the Russia probe.
The government rarely prosecutes cases related to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and Manafort’s consulting firm retroactively filed forms with the Justice Department last month to be in compliance with the act.
The June 2016 meeting — which Manafort attended with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. — is a key focus of the probes into Russian meddling. The meeting, held at Trump Tower in New York, was described to Trump Jr. in emails as part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign by passing along information that could be used against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Manafort
was named Trump’s campaign manager a few days after the meeting.
During his Senate Intelligence Committee interview, Manafort provided his recollection of the meeting and turned over contemporaneous notes he took during the gathering. The interview was confined to that meeting.
Manafort has turned over other documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as about 400 pages of records to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Meanwhile, the judiciary committee said it recently received about 250 pages of documents from Trump Jr. and about 20,000 pages from Manafort and the Trump campaign.
The content of those documents was not immediately clear. Committee spokesman George Hartmann said Tuesday that it received the Manafort and Trump campaign documents on Aug. 2 and the records from Trump Jr. on Friday.
Fusion GPS, a company the judiciary committee says has been linked to an unverified dossier detailing unsubstantiated allegations regarding Trump’s activities in Russia, and the company’s chief executive officer, Glenn Simpson, have yet to turn over any requested documents, Hartmann said.
The committee has said it wants to investigate Fusion GPS’ role in the creation of the dossier. Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters last week that he wants to know if Russians paid for the dossier.
The committee had asked
for all records regarding any attempts or interest in obtaining information about Clinton from Russian government or affiliated sources, including the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower.
Judiciary committee leaders have also been in talks with Trump Jr. and Manafort about private interviews. The committee initially called for them to testify publicly, but lawmakers have since said they were negotiating the terms of their appearances.
As part of the FBI probe, agents also have been asking witnesses since the spring about $530,000 worth of lobbying and investigative work carried out by Flynn’s firm, Flynn Intel Group, according to a person familiar with the investigation. That work sought the extradition of an exiled Turkish cleric living in the U.S. Through his attorney, Flynn has declined to comment on the investigation.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive details of the investigation, said FBI agents have also been asking about Flynn’s business partner, Bijan Kian, who served during the Trump presidential transition. Kian has not responded to multiple attempts to contact him over several months.