Thomas Gallatin / August 10, 2017

The Manafort ‘Raid’?

It may not have been a SWAT team invasion, but it does suggest that there’s more to Manafort’s role.

On July 26, FBI agents under instruction from special counsel Robert Mueller raided the Alexandria, Virginia, home of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. The raid was a non-violent affair — no doors were broken down nor machine guns drawn nor flash grenades used. It was a raid in that it was before dawn and an unannounced enforcement of a search warrant as part of the investigation into Russian election meddling, and Manafort was reportedly fully cooperative. According to The Washington Post, the FBI warrant covered “documents related to tax, banking and other matters.”

The day before the FBI searched his house, Manafort voluntarily met with Senate Intelligence Committee staff members, and he was scheduled to meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee two days later. And he also willingly turned over requested files and documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee. In other words, it seems rather strange that the FBI deemed it necessary to execute an unannounced search warrant in such a manner — unless Manafort wasn’t nearly so cooperative as he seems.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy muses, “There are two possible rationales for a search warrant under the circumstances. First, the legitimate rationale: Investigators in good faith believed Manafort, who is either a subject of or witness in their investigation, was likely to destroy rather than surrender relevant evidence. Second, the brass-knuckles rationale: The prosecutor is attempting to intimidate the witness or subject — to say nothing of others who are similarly situated — into volunteering everything he may know of an incriminating nature about people the prosecutor is targeting.” McCarthy also notes, “A search warrant is issued in a criminal investigation only if a judge finds probable cause that a crime has been committed and that evidence of this crime will be found in the place to be searched.”

Recall back in August 2016, Trump removed Manafort as his campaign manager. The reasons suggested for this change were that Trump felt “boxed in” and “controlled” by Manafort. Trump needed to be Trump. It was also reported that the Trump team was uncomfortable with news of Manafort’s involvement with Russia. As Politico reported at the time, Trump family members “felt [Manafort] hadn’t been entirely forthright about his activities overseas. … Family members were also unhappy about changes made to the GOP platform that were seen as beneficial to Russia, which they felt Manafort played a role in.”

Back to the current investigation. Is there an investigative competition between Mueller’s squad and the Senate Judiciary Committee, as both are looking into Russian election meddling? Could this explain the motive behind the FBI’s pre-dawn search warrant? Did Mueller’s team want to get its hands on documents and files before the Senate Judiciary Committee? Certainly don’t forget that there are essentially no limits on Mueller’s investigation. What we have are a lot of questions, but few answers.

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