- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has escalated his investigation of Trump campaign figures with the FBI’s recent raid on the home of Paul Manafort, a former campaign chairman.

Mr. Manafort’s spokesman confirmed the raid, which reportedly secured tax documents and foreign banking records.

“FBI agents executed a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort’s residences,” said spokesman Jason Maloni. “Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well.”

The Washington Post first reported the July 26 raid, saying that FBI agents working with Mr. Mueller made a predawn visit to Mr. Manafort’s Alexandria, Virginia, home.

The New York Times then reported that “tax documents and foreign banking records” were seized, sparking speculation that the FBI is investigating violations of the federal Bank Secrecy Act. Under the law, Americans are required to report foreign financial accounts.

Mr. Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election and any possible coordination with members of the Trump campaign. The significance of the documents seized under the search warrant to the larger probe is unclear.

But law enforcement experts say the fact the raid took place at all appears to be a significant development in the special counsel’s investigation of Mr. Manafort — far more telling than reports last week that Mr. Mueller had impaneled a grand jury in the case.

“In order to get a search warrant, you have to establish probable cause a crime has been committed and that evidence of that crime exists in the place you want to search,” said Charlie Price, a retired FBI special agent who specialized in fraud investigations. “A federal judge has looked at this and found probable cause. That is significant. They don’t find probable cause in a witch hunt.”

Mr. Manafort was involved with the Trump campaign at a critical juncture, leading it for three months during the run-up to the Republican convention last summer. The position was short-lived however, as he resigned from the campaign in August amid questions about his lobbying work on behalf of pro-Russia groups in Ukraine.

The FBI raid at Mr. Manafort’s home came the day after he met behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a former prosecutor and current member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the raid appears to be a signal that Mr. Manafort has not been as cooperative with investigators as he’s claimed.

“A federal judge signing this warrant would demand persuasive evidence of probable cause that a serious crime has been committed and that less intrusive and dramatic investigative means would be ineffective,” the Connecticut Democrat said. “This kind of raid — in the early morning hours with no advanced notice — shows an astonishing and alarming distrust for the president’s former campaign chairman.”

News of the raid comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee, one of several congressional committees also investigating Moscow’s interference, disclosed that it had received more than 20,000 pages of documents requested as part of its probe — including more than 400 pages from Mr. Manafort.

The committee had sought a broad range of documents related to Trump campaign efforts to obtain information about then-Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, and any coordination with Russian associates. The committee request singled out the need for documents related to a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Mr. Manafort also attended.

The committee also sought communications between Mr. Manafort and specific Russian and Ukrainian officials.

Mr. Manafort has already had to retroactively file forms to belatedly comply with the Foreign Agent Registration Act, based on his work on behalf of a Ukrainian political party.

The new filing, among the documents provided to the judiciary committee, showed Mr. Manafort’s consulting firm received $17 million between 2012 and 2014 for work on behalf of the political party.

The committee also received 20,000 pages of records from the Trump campaign, and 250 pages of records from the president’s eldest son, said panel spokesman George Hartmann.

The committee plans to interview Mr. Manafort later this summer behind closed doors, the spokesman said.

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