New court filings by Special Counsel Robert Mueller give more insight into just why the FBI conducted the now famous raid on the home and office of Donald Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.
Manafort’s legal team is contending that the now famous early morning raid on Manafort’s home constituted an illegal search. In particular, the claim is that taking the longtime Republican strategist’s computer and other electronic gear violated Fourth Amendment protections around probable cause. Manafort is asking the judge to exclude any evidence resulting from that raid.
In response, Mueller has produced a memorandum to the court that shows that not only was the search done properly, but gives some sense of the reasons the FBI felt it was necessary to pay an unexpected visit on Manafort. Not only had “an associate”—presumably Rick Gates—noted that Manafort made wide use of a computer and had “a drawer full of phones” that he used in business dealings, Mueller laid out some specific things that he was looking into when it came to peeking into Manafort’s gadgets.
d. Records relating to efforts by Manafort, Gates, or their affiliated entities to conduct activities on behalf of, for the benefit of, or at the direction of any foreign government, foreign officials, foreign entities, foreign persons, or foreign principals, including but not limited to the Party of Regions and Viktor Yanukovych;
e. Communications, records, documents, and other files involving any of the attendees of the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump tower, as well as Aras and Amin Agalorov.
The mention of the Trump Tower meeting is particularly interesting. Recent court documents concerning Manafort, Gates and convicted Dutch attorney Alex van Der Swaan have indicated that Manafort was regularly communicating with at least one Russian operative during the time he was working for the Trump campaign. Based on this latest filing, it appears Mueller also suspected that Manafort might have done more at that Trump Tower meeting than just “play with his phone.”
Testimony of those present at the Trump Tower meeting—including Manafort, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr.—has changed almost every time the afternoon meeting is discussed. From Donald Trump’s Air Force One missive stating that the meeting was about “adoptions” to more recent statements from Kushner and Trump Jr., attempts have been made to dismiss the importance of the meeting.
“We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow-up,” Trump Jr. said in the statement. “I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”
Kushner has claimed to have left the meeting early. And during an interview with Sean Hannity, Trump Jr. indicated that Manafort had not taken the meeting seriously and was “on the phone” throughout.
Manafort’s current list of indictments runs to more than thirty counts. His attorneys have been systematically running through every means of having the charges thrown out. Previous efforts to attack the standing of the special counsel investigation, or to free Manafort on the basis that Mueller had overreached the bounds of his instructions, were shot down when Mueller’s team revealed an expansion of the investigation that including specific instructions from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to look into Manafort’s activities related to Ukraine.
The responses that Mueller has provided in explaining actions surrounding Manafort have given some of the best insight for the public when it comes to both the inner workings and the intentions of the investigation.
One thing of particular note in the latest filing—significant sections are redacted.
On July 25, 2017, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (“Affiant”) submitted an application for a warrant to search Manafort’s condominium in Alexandria, Virginia.The application was based on a 41-page affidavit, submitted by the Affiant, describing potential violations of approximately ten criminal statutes arising from three sets of activities (“the Subject Offenses”).
First, the Affidavit (redacted)
In particular, (redacted)
Second, the Affidavit (redacted)
Third, the Affidavit (redacted)
Considering the information that has already been made public, it’s strange that the activities leading to the raid on Manafort’s home are redacted here—unless those activities are connected to events and potential charges not yet known to the public.