On the Manafort Raid

This morning, the WaPo reported that Paul Manafort’s Alexandria home was searched in a pre-dawn raid on July 26.

There are several notable details about WaPo’s report.

First, as Julian Sanchez notes, it makes no mention of the fact that to get a search warrant, you have to convince a judge you’ll find evidence of a crime.

Note, too, that WaPo talked to someone who has seen the warrant, which is almost certainly otherwise still sealed.

The search warrant was wide-ranging and FBI agents working with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departed the home with various records.

[snip]

The search warrant indicates investigators may have argued to a federal judge they had reason to believe Manafort could not be trusted to turn over all records in response to a grand jury subpoena.

Having neglected to mention the probable cause bit and reviewed the warrant, WaPo goes to some lengths to suggest the seized documents are ones Manafort would have gladly given over had Robert Mueller’s inquiry just asked nicely.

The raid came as Manafort has been voluntarily producing documents to congressional committees investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

[snip]

The documents included materials Manafort had already provided to Congress, said people familiar with the search.

“If the FBI wanted the documents, they could just ask [Manafort] and he would have turned them over,” said one adviser close to the White House.

And it specifically points to documents pertaining to the June 9, 2016 meeting that Manafort and everyone else failed to disclose in timely fashion.

Manafort has provided documents to both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate and House intelligence committees. The documents are said to include notes Manafort took while attending a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016.

So the seized documents include documents Manafort turned over willingly, which in turn includes details on that June 9 meeting. But that doesn’t mean (contrary to some shitty derivative reporting on this) that the set of documents seized matches the set of documents provided to Congress. It may also include other things.

Manafort’s attorney is not the source for the story, but Manafort’s allies may be.

Josh Stueve, spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment, as did Reginald Brown, an attorney for Manafort.

[snip]

Manafort’s allies fear that Mueller hopes to build a case against Manafort unrelated to the 2016 campaign, in hopes that the former campaign operative would provide information against others in Trump’s inner circle in exchange for lessening his own legal exposure.

Now consider a detail included in the NYT version of this story but not (as far as I’ve seen) in any of the other coverage: the documents seized include tax documents and foreign banking records.

Investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, recently searched a home of President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, for tax documents and foreign banking records, according to a person briefed on the matter.

These are money laundering documents, not campaign documents.

The NYT, curiously, doesn’t report where the raid was, which suggests it was not just a response to WaPo’s reporting, which clearly identified the raid as taking place in Alexandria.

Remember: when high powered people are being investigated, the safest way they can communicate to each other is via leaks to the press. Moreover, such leaks can help spin the story away from one area (perhaps, here, away from the financial documents) and towards another (that June 9 meeting about which Manafort spoke with Congress). Given the Manafort allies’ spin that Mueller may be investigating stuff unrelated to the election campaign, it suggests this may be as much about money laundering (which FBI has been investigating for over a year) that all involved worry will be used to flip Manafort to testify about Trump.

Update: One other interesting question about this story is why it is coming out now. Why did it take two weeks for this story to come out?

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

42 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    Been thinking about this (after duped by one of those shitty derivative reports for a few minutes) and I am not even sure about this part as summarized from WaPo piece:

    So the seized documents include documents Manafort turned over willingly, which in turn includes details on that June 9 meeting.

    They would have been very careful with this warrant app, and only things related to the crime specified as there being probable cause for would have been authorized for seizure. The tax and banking records would not seem to be consistent with a crime that would support seizure of June 9 meeting docs and records.

    But if June 9 records were indeed seized pursuant to the warrant, then that is one whopper of a warrant as far as what the court found probable cause on.

    • emptywheel says:

      With Manafort it’s worth remembering he has Ukranian corruption and a bunch of other corruption. Plus, a mistress he couldn’t afford that may have ties to Russia.

      I could see him getting bribed pretty easily, in which case the June 9 meeting might take on a different feel.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Manafort’s lawyers should read up on Profumo.  And Al Capone.  As I understand it, the way to the kingpin’s prosecution is by flipping aides over their own, often more minor crimes.

        Manafort, like Trump, has multiple potential exposures, many of them financial.  And if Mueller finds evidence of crimes arguably outside his broad jurisdiction, one would think he would deliver it up to Rosenstein who would assign other counsel to follow them up.  That suggests all the Trumpian hoopla about “fishing expeditions” is a distraction.  Comme d’habitude.

      • bmaz says:

        Maybe, and the bribery/extortion issue has been hanging in the air for a while. But my inclination is this is just language that the WaPo got ahead of themselves with.

        But, if those documents were indeed seized, the crime, and probable cause attribution for it, they were seized pursuant to will have to be specified. That is gonna be one hell of a warrant app.

    • maybe ryan says:

      I don’t think it’s a natural inference from the Post article that the seized documents included notes on the June 9th meeting.  The reference is specifically to documents turned over to the committee.

  2. Charles says:

    “when high powered people are being investigated, the safest way they can communicate to each other is via leaks to the press. ”

    And amazingly the media goes along with it. You’d almost think we had a media controlled exclusively by high-powered people.

    Thanks for parsing this one, Marcy. So much slips by those of us who don’t have your attention span.

    • Avattoir says:

      It’s possible a key source was in a position to require that the spin be reported ‘as spun’.

      Indeed, such appears more than merely consistent with emptywheel on the physics of leaking investigation info via the press.

      • Charles says:

        Yeah, I understand; hence the phrase “goes along with.” But reporting things that are at best misleading and at worst false as the price of printing information is worse than not reporting it. And her phrase “shitty derivative reporting” carries the strong implication “will be spun into right-wing crapstorm by the usual suspects.”  The right-wing distortion machine needs to be unplugged.

  3. lefty665 says:

    FBI executing a search warrant on someone’s home is one way to hurt them, to make them pay a price for not rolling over.

    will be used to flip Manafort to testify about Trump.” Exactly, and Manafort’s use of foreign income for real estate investments are at issue too.  Mueller seems likely to get Trump on real estate/corruption rather than RUSSIA. Sort of like getting Clinton for lying about sex when Whitewater fizzled. Sucked then and it sucks now.

    • P J Evans says:

      Money-laundering is a very real possibility. All that Russian/Ukrainian/Chinese money goes through foreign banks and into real estate, then to Trump and Manafort and Kushner…and maybe to various Republicans in Congress through PACs.

    • Charles says:

      Manafort’s use of foreign income for real estate investments are at issue too

      Should read: Manafort’s use of payoffs obtained via money laundering for the purpose of subverting the presidential election is at issue too

       

      It’s not the fact that Manafort got money from foreign sources for real estate deals. That’s entirely legal. But he didn’t render services equivalent in value for that money. Hence, the money is dirty and worth less than face value and/or the money is being used for an illegal purpose and worth less than face value.

  4. SpaceLifeForm says:

    If NY GJ exists, then maybe separate warrants with separate raids? Then the NYT and WAPO stories may actually have no conflicts.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/amp/trump-aide-manafort-bought-new-york-homes-cash-n739796

    Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, made millions through his work over the years for Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs.

    Manafort also bought New York City real estate, some of it in what appeared to be all-cash deals. And in a series of complex transactions involving various companies, Manafort took out more than $13 million in loans on several of those properties — including $6.5 million borrowed this year from a bank run by an economic advisor to the Trump campaign.

  5. Swift Loris says:

    “The NYT, curiously, doesn’t report where the raid was, which suggests it was not just a response to WaPo’s reporting, which clearly identified the raid as taking place in Alexandria.”

    FWIW, per Newsdiffs.org, the NYT added that the raid was at Manafort’s home in Northern Virginia about 45 minutes after its first story went up (10:57 am-11:41 am EDT).

    http://newsdiffs.org/diff/1454847/1454888/https%3A/www.nytimes.com/2017/08/09/us/politics/paul-manafort-home-search-mueller.html

  6. Peterr says:

    The timing question in your update is one that I’ve been wondering about, too.

    Option 1: It’s pushback v. Trump & Co over their “it’s a fishing expedition!” blather: if so, it would be coming from someone on the FBI/Mueller side of things, though not necessarily Mueller or anyone authorized to quietly get this out. Whoever it was kept quiet at the time, but the “fishing expedition” chorus kept increasing over the last week and they said “Let’s push back a little bit.” The key here is what you pointed out about the warrant: getting one means you’ve convinced a judge that (a) there was a crime, and (b) this guy has some evidence about it that we’d like to see.

    Option 2: It’s putting the screws to Manafort. Again, this scenario would mean someone from the Mueller side is putting this out. If this is aimed at Manafort, it’s telling him that his time is getting shorter for cooperating. Yes, he knows about the warrant already, but making it public and watching the press take it (and him) apart gives him a taste of what being in the public spotlight for illegal activity might be like. “How far down that road do you want to go, Paul?” It also reminds him that they could get another subpoena for something else they have asked for but not yet received, and that too could end up being story #1 of the day (though any tweets of “fire and fury” comments from POTUS could push it out of the lead spot).

    Option 3: It’s aimed at others besides Manafort that Mueller’s team wants to flip. “Time’s running out on offers of cooperation. We’re on the trail, and you could be next . . .”

    Note that all three of these options could be completely unsanctioned by Mueller and his team. For example, if one of the folks who carried out the warrant search is of the opinion that Manafort and the others need to be leaned on, or Trump needs to shut up about the fishing expedition, that person could have freelanced on this leak.

    Option 4: Someone in TrumpCo is trying to attack Manafort. Is it possible that Manafort still has some kind of influence with Trump, and someone else is trying to make him toxic with the boss? Yes, it certainly would be possible, and this is what the pushback would look like. If Manafort has been talking to Trump in the last two weeks and winning arguments that someone else inside does not support, leaking this out would be one way of trying to shut him out of future arguments.

    Option 5: Manafort is sending a message to those on whom he might flip, that they better take care of him. “See this warrant? The FBI is serious in going after me for what’s in writing in my files, but it’s what is in my head that YOU should be worried about. How are you going to help me want to keep my mouth shut?”

    Options 6-n: The intelligence community is sending a message to Putin and his kleptocratic allies in Russia, Crimea, and elsewhere in the territory of the old USSR. “We’re getting closer, and you better back the hell off of our elections.” [I’m assuming that a warrant application that is based in part on IC information would have to go to the IC to get their signoff before going to the judge. Thus, someone at CIA/DOD/NSA/etc. would have seen the warrant, even though they aren’t in DOJ, Mueller’s operation, or Manafort’s side of the fight.] Not sure what specifically would have happened in the last 2 weeks that would have prompted someone in the IC to do this, but if we’re speculating on things that are out of public view in DC, the least we can do is speculate on things in Moscow as well.

    My 6+ cents.

  7. bloopie2 says:

    Picky, picky time:  “Now consider a detail included in the NYT version of this story but not (as far as I’ve seen) in any of the other coverage: the documents seized include tax documents and foreign banking records.”  Actually, the NYT story does not say that they seized such documents and records–only that they searched for them.  In fact, the NYT story doesn’t say that they seized anything at all.  And the WaPo article doesn’t say that they seized such tax/foreign thinks, either.  So maybe the dope was smart enough to incinerate that stuff ahead of time?

  8. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Compare: WAPO ‘people familiar’ (plural) vs NYT ‘person briefed’ (singular)

    Different sources likely. Almost certainly.

    All may be totally accurate without conflict. Both the WAPO story and the NYT story may be correct.

  9. Bay State Librul says:

    Lefty,

    What the fuck is your hang up with Clinton?

    You make no sense, open your fucking eyes, Trump is dirty.

    I can’t believe that you are coned by Don.

     

     

     

    • lefty665 says:

      Dear BS, Suggest you go back and read what I said again. Briefly, I said I did NOT like what was done to Bill then and I don’t like it any more being done to Trump now.

      If you want to talk about dirt, the Clintons are as dirty as Trump, Manafort et al.  The Clinton Foundation and Global Initiative are huge, corrupt, money laundering and influence peddling operations.  I don’t like either the Trumpistas or the Clintons. If we want special prosecutors, lets go after them all and put them all in the slammer together.

  10. cynthia kouril says:

    Manafort search warrant is July 26.

    August 6 we find out that Mueller has a DC GJ.

    If it was ot a huge haul of docs, 10 days would be enough time to go through them.

    But why would you use a DC GJ to look into the June 2016 meeting which occurred in SDNY? I have a feeling we will be hearing more about movie night at the Newseum.

    • Rayne says:

      Oh, thanks for that data point on the DC GJ, Cynthia. I wonder how it fits into my tick-tock? There’s two other bits hanging out by themselves which must have been driven by *something*.

      ??-JUL-2017 unknownGOP congressional staffers travel to UK in July to “track down” opposition research dossier author Christopher Steele and/or his lawyers. They find him at his lawyer’s office though they do not speak with him; they were sent by Rep. Devin Nunes who recused himself from the House Intel Committee’s Trump-Russia investigation. None of the House Intel Committee Dems nor GOP committee alt chair Mike Conaway, Senate Intel Committee members, nor Robert Mueller and team knew about the trip.

      25-JUL-2017 TuesdayManafort meets with Senate Intel Committee behind closed doors. “[O]ne person familiar with Tuesday’s discussion” said Manafort gave the investigators notes he had taken during the 09-JUN-2016 meeting at Trump Tower.

      26-JUL-2017 WednesdayFBI conducts a pre-dawn raid on Manafort’s Alexandria residence.

      ??-JUL/AUG-2017 unknownTrump sends Mueller private messages of “appreciation” to Robert Mueller through his chief counsel John Dowd. Trump’s legal team “cast the communications as a sign that the president is willing to cooperate with Mueller” though the messages are at extreme odds with other public statements disparaging Mueller’s investigation.

      Leaves me to wonder:

      — When exactly did Nunes send those two staffers to look for Steele?

      — Did Mueller’s office know from the Senate Intel Committee closed door session that Manafort wasn’t cooperating fully?

      — When exactly did Trump start sending conciliatory messages to Mueller through his attorneys?

      The latter one I have to wonder if it was driven by the raid on Manafort’s house OR by the impaneling of another grand jury, now that you mention it.

  11. Dc says:

    I would guess that there were specific questions asked by the congressional committees that manafort responded to with specific answers. When the FBI compared the hearing notes with what they must know from surveillance, they had probably cause to search and seize, enough to convince a judge at least. I think mama fort is up a creek.

  12. Dc says:

    Why now. Because it is painful for Trump and Korea is hot enough to dilute attention. Trump enacted the transgender ban an hour after the raid, perhaps to dilute attention had the neighbors called the press. They have free dilution cover in the 24/7 Korea panic so this will pass from our attention.

  13. orionATL says:

    [email protected]:25 (hp – can never get reply button to work for me!)

    thanks.

    lanny davis – whenever you want sound and fury with nothing to back it up, you want lanny davis.

    i’ve got to meet simyon mogilevitch some day – the devil in person by reputation (or the joker, or sauron). what a story this this guy’s life will make.

    in the end, i think the whole story, and i mean the part about trump’s election too, will be the story of our election process corrupted by organized crime married to rusdian government power.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      To reply and get it threaded:

      Right click or long press and open in new tab.

      Goto bottom of new tab where form box will be.

      Enter stuff and submit.

      It will properly thread.

      You will get more tabs open, so close the older ones then.

      The key is ‘open in new tab’.

  14. bmaz says:

    Jim Sciutto at CNN, usually a solid reporter, says has confirmed it was a no knock. That is absolutely fucking crazy, can’t wait to have the affidavit leaked to see what possibly justified a no knock warrant on this search. Absolutely insane.

  15. Willis Warren says:

    My question is what kind of contact Manafort has with the President.  It seems to me that this story was basically to update the President’s people.  He mentioned four days before this raid that he has Pardon power… so, that factors into the raid somehow.

    • bmaz says:

      Again, if you are Trump, the LAST person you want to preemptively pardon is Manafort (Flynn too) because that removes their ability to ever plead the Fifth. This would be the solution of an idiot. Trump may be that kind of idiot, but Ty Cobb is not.

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