Manafort aims to sup­press ev­i­dence seized by FBI

At­tor­neys ar­gue that doc­u­ments were taken in vi­o­la­tion of 4th Amend­ment

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Erin Kelly

WASH­ING­TON – At­tor­neys for for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort filed a mo­tion late Fri­day to sup­press ev­i­dence seized from a stor­age unit by FBI agents as part of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The mo­tion, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, al­leges that the FBI ini­tially searched the Alexan­dria, Va., stor­age locker last May with­out a war­rant in vi­o­la­tion of Manafort’s con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tions against un­rea­son­able searches and seizures.

An FBI agent re­ceived per­mis­sion to en­ter the stor­age unit from a man that Manafort’s at­tor­neys de­scribed as “a for­mer low-level em­ployee” of Manafort’s com­pany, Davis Manafort Part­ners Inc., which owned the stor­age unit. Manafort’s at­tor­neys ar­gue that the em­ployee, who had a key to the stor­age unit and was named on the lease, did not have the au­thor­ity to con­sent to the search.

The agent did not open any boxes or fil­ing cab­i­nets, but he used his knowl­edge of their ex­is­tence as the ba­sis to ob­tain a search war­rant the next day, the mo­tion says. FBI agents then en­tered the stor­age unit and seized “vir­tu­ally ev­ery doc­u­ment” in­side, the mo­tion says.

The mo­tion al­leges that the search war­rant granted by the court “was an over­broad gen­eral war­rant that im­prop­erly gave fed­eral agents carte blanche to

in­dis­crim­i­nately seize prop­erty con­tained within the stor­age unit in vi­o­la­tion of Mr. Manafort’s Fourth Amend­ment rights.” It also al­leges that the FBI search went beyond what agents were au­tho­rized to do.

“The Search War­rant should have never been is­sued, and all ev­i­dence that the gov­ern­ment ob­tained from the FBI’s sec­ond search of the premises, and the fruits thereof, should be sup­pressed,” at­tor­neys Kevin Down­ing and Thomas Zehnle wrote.

The spe­cial coun­sel’s of­fice could not be reached for com­ment Sat­ur­day.

Manafort is fac­ing a July 10 trial in Virginia on charges of fraud­u­lently ob­tain­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in bank loans. Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege he fun­neled mil­lions in in­come from his work in Ukraine into foreign bank ac­counts, which he then con­cealed from the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He also faces a Sept. 17 trial in Wash­ing­ton for money laun­der­ing and fraud re­lated to his work for a pro-Rus­sia po­lit­i­cal fac­tion in Ukraine. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to those charges too.

The charges against Manafort grew out of Mueller’s on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial election. Mueller and his team of pros­e­cu­tors also are in­ves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and the Krem­lin and pos­si­ble ob­struc­tion of jus­tice by Pres­i­dent Trump.

Trump and his 2016 cam­paign re­main un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion over pos­si­ble links to Rus­sia, but the pres­i­dent’s le­gal team has been told that Trump is not a target, of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

Trump has re­peat­edly dis­missed the in­ves­ti­ga­tion as a “witch hunt.”

An FBI agent re­ceived per­mis­sion to en­ter the stor­age unit from a man Manafort’s at­tor­neys de­scribed as “a for­mer low-level em­ployee.” They ar­gue that the em­ployee, who had a key to the unit and was named on the lease, did not have the au­thor­ity to con­sent to the search.

AN­DREW HARNIK/AP

Paul Manafort, Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, has been in­dicted for money laun­der­ing and fraud.

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