Manafort aims to suppress evidence seized by FBI
Attorneys argue that documents were taken in violation of 4th Amendment
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.
Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been indicted for money laundering and fraud.