FBI raid on Manafort bad news for Trump
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is in the crosshairs of the Russia investigation after the FBI conducted a surprise raid on his home. Special counsel Robert Mueller, the man tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, is doing his work quietly and behind the scenes, but there was little subtlety in the…
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is in the crosshairs of the Russia investigation after the FBI conducted a surprise raid on his home.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, the man tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, is doing his work quietly and behind the scenes, but there was little subtlety in the way financial documents were seized from Manafort’s house in Alexandria, Virginia on July 26th.
The no-knock warrant for the search saw a dozen FBI agents arrive at the house without warning shortly before dawn. That Mueller obtained the documents this way, rather than by request, shows two things: First, he was able to convince a judge that a crime had been committed and evidence could be found in Manafort’s home. Second, Mueller is sending a message to Manafort, saying that he doesn’t trust him not to destroy or hide evidence, and he is willing to be heavy-handed in his pursuit.
This is bad news for President Trump. Mueller’s investigation was always going to start with more peripheral figures, gathering information and testimony before tightening around those more central to his campaign. Manafort is one of those.
Team Trump have been trying to distance themselves from their former campaign chairman. “I know Mr. Manafort,” Trump said. “Haven’t spoken to him for a long time, but I know him.” Meanwhile, Trump attorney John Dowd called the search warrant an “extraordinary invasion of privacy”.
But Manafort was Trump’s top aide on the campaign trail, and was there, along with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and son Donald Jr., at that famous Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer and her assorted entourage.
Unfortunately for Manafort, he has a decades-long history of shady lobbying for people like Angolan guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi and, more recently, pro-Kremlin Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Mueller is now in possession of all his financial records, and will undoubtedly be able to find something that will make Manafort uncomfortable.
Unfortunately for Trump, Mueller could cut a deal with Manafort by getting him to turn on the president. When he is called to give testimony under oath to a grand jury, Manafort could be in a position where the only way to save himself will be to offer up a bigger fish. And Mueller is only interested in frying the biggest fish in Washington.