Washington Post — By Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman August 9, 2017 at 7:15 PM
Photo: William B. Plowman/NBaCU/Getty Images
FBI agents raided the home in Alexandria, Va., of President Trump’s former campaign chairman, arriving in the pre-dawn hours late last month and seizing documents and other materials related to the special counsel investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The raid, which occurred without warning on July 26, signaled an aggressive new approach by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team in dealing with a key figure in the Russia inquiry. Manafort has been under increasing pressure as the Mueller team looked into his personal finances and his professional career as a highly paid foreign political consultant.
Using a search warrant, agents appeared the day Manafort was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and a day after he met voluntarily with Senate Intelligence Committee staff members.
The search warrant requested documents related to tax, banking and other matters. People familiar with the search said agents departed the Manafort residence with a trove of material, including binders prepared ahead of Manafort’s congressional testimony.
Investigators in the Russia inquiry have previously sought documents with subpoenas, which are less intrusive and confrontational than a search warrant. With a warrant, agents can inspect a physical location and seize any useful information. To get a judge to sign off on a search warrant, prosecutors must show that there is probable cause that a crime has been committed.
“I think it adds a shock and awe enforcement component to what until now has followed a natural path for a white-collar investigation,” said Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor. “More so than anything else we’ve seen so far, it really does send a powerful law enforcement message when the search warrant is used. . . . That message is that the special counsel team will use all criminal investigative tools available to advance the investigation as quickly and as comprehensively as possible.”
Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, confirmed that agents executed a warrant at one of the political consultant’s homes and that Manafort cooperated with the search.
Manafort has been voluntarily providing documents to congressional committees investigating Russia’s election interference. The search warrant indicates that investigators may have argued to a federal judge that they had reason to think Manafort could not be trusted to turn over all records in response to a grand jury subpoena.