At 5am FBI raids the home of former lobbyist for Russian billionaire and Trump campaign chairman

The FBI conducted a predawn raid of Paul Manafort’s home as part of its Russia investigation

Natasha Bertrand

The FBI conducted a predawn July raid on the home of President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as part of its ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

FBI agents working with Robert Mueller, who was appointed special counsel to lead the investigation after James Comey was fired as FBI director in May, left Manafort’s home in Washington’s northern Virginia suburbs “with various records,” according to The Post.

The New York Times reported shortly afterward that investigators were looking for tax documents and foreign banking records, documents “typically sought when investigating violations of Bank Secrecy Act,” Times reporter Adam Goldman noted.

The Bank Secrecy Act was passed “to deter and detect money laundering, terrorist financing, and other criminal acts and the misuse of our nation’s financial institutions,” according to the Treasury Department.

Manafort has been cooperating with investigators’ requests for relevant documents. But the search warrant obtained by the FBI in July indicates that Mueller managed to convince a federal judge that Manafort would try to conceal or destroy documents subpoenaed by a grand jury.

“The only reason to do a search warrant on a target who is ostensibly cooperating with the investigation is a lack of trust,” said Kenneth Julian, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips who served for more than 11 years as a federal prosecutor in the Central and Eastern districts of California.

Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, confirmed in a statement that “FBI agents executed a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort’s residences” and said Manafort had “cooperated.”

The raid happened one day after Manafort met privately with the Senate Intelligence Committee and provided notes about his meeting with two Russian lobbyists at Trump Tower in June 2016. Trump’s son Donald Jr. and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended the meeting, which was not disclosed by the campaign at the time.

An adviser close to the White House told The Post that the documents obtained by the FBI included material Manafort had already given to congressional investigators.

But Jack Sharman, a white-collar lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama, who was appointed special counsel to the House Banking Committee for the Whitewater investigation of President Bill Clinton, said a search warrant like this “is designed to send a message.”‘

“One purpose of such a raid is to bring home to the target the fact that the federal prosecution team is moving forward and is not going to defer to or rely on Congress,” added Sharman, who also recently served as special counsel to the Alabama House Judiciary Committee for the impeachment of Gov. Robert Bentley.

‘They don’t believe he is fully cooperating’

A former Department of Justice spokesman, Matthew Miller, said a raid coming months into an investigation when the subject’s attorneys had been speaking with, and presumably cooperating with, the DOJ “suggests something serious.”

“Manafort’s representatives have been insisting for months that he is cooperating with these investigations, and if you are really cooperating, DOJ typically doesn’t need to raid your house — they’ll trust you to respond fully to a subpoena,” Miller said.

“The fact they cut any cooperation short and raided his house suggests they don’t believe he is fully cooperating and that there are documents or electronic files, possibly contained on computers at his house, in his possession that they did not trust him to turn over.”

A former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti, explained on Twitter that to obtain a search warrant, the FBI must work with a federal prosecutor to lay out evidence in an affidavit showing probable cause that a search of the suspect’s home will uncover evidence of a crime.

“Why would the FBI want to search the home of a subject like Manafort? Because there may be documents, ledgers, and other records,” Mariotti said. “More importantly, there may be computers and other digital media that contain communications.”

Also chiming in on Twitter was Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent who noted that, in obtaining a warrant, the FBI evidently convinced a judge that there was probable cause a crime had been committed — and “that there was some risk that Manafort may try to remove conceal evidence despite cooperation.”

“In order to get a search warrant, FBI agents had to swear to their belief that fruits of a crime would be found in Manafort’s home,” said Julian, the former California-based federal prosecutor.

Rangappa noted that when she was at the FBI, raids were often conducted at 5 a.m. “to catch target unawares, so they cannot destroy or remove evidence.” She added that anything the government finds “can be used to leverage Manafort,” especially if it shows “that he had been lying” to the government or Congress.

Manafort’s ties to Russia came under scrutiny last August, when The New York Times discovered that a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine designated him $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments. Manafort, a longtime Republican operative, had advised the party and its former leader Viktor Yanukovych for nearly a decade.

The ledger, and Manafort’s activities in Ukraine more broadly, were examined more closely following Yanukovych’s ouster on corruption charges in 2014. Manafort has been associated with at least 15 bank accounts and 10 companies in Cyprus, dating back to 2007, NBC reported in March.

On March 22, the Associated Press reported that Manafort was paid $10 million from 2006 to 2009 to lobby on behalf of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, using a strategic “model” that the AP said Manafort wrote would “greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success.”

Manafort has insisted that he has never received any illicit cash payments. But he has a “pattern” of using shell companies to purchase homes “in all-cash deals,” as WNYC has reported, and then transferring those properties into his own name for no money and taking out large mortgages against them.

Manafort’s tendency to form shell companies to purchase real estate is not illegal. But it has raised questions about how much Manafort has been paid throughout the decades he’s spent as a political consultant, and by whom.



Trump is your biggest supporter…..until he’s not

Falling out of favor with Donny

Don’t piss this guy off

Trump is not known for the consistency of his views. In the six months since he became president, Trump has changed his mind on China, on Nato and on military intervention in Syria. On healthcare, he seems to change his mind twice before lunch.

But it’s not just the issues that have fallen victim to Trump’s caprices. It’s his colleagues and allies, too. This week it was attorney general Jeff Sessions who faced Trump’s ire.

But Sessions wasn’t the first to fall out of favor with the president. Here are some others.

Trump on Jeff Sessions Then:
“Jeff has been a highly respected member of the US Senate for 20 years,” Trump said in a statement. “He is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great attorney general and US attorney in the state of Alabama. Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him.”

Sessions, the first senator to endorse Trump, was one of the president elect’s first cabinet nominees. Trump was happy with his choice. He was less happy after Sessions recused himself from any investigation into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Sessions had earlier admitted to meeting with the Russian ambassador during Trump’s campaign.
Trump on Jeff Sessions Now:
“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else [Session’s actions were] “extremely unfair – and that’s a mild word – to the president”

Trump on Steve Bannon Then:
“I want to win. That’s why I’m bringing on fantastic people who know how to win and love to win.”
Trump’s campaign was ailing when he decided to bring in Bannon, then Breitbart News’s executive chair. The pair swept to an unlikely victory that November. But as Bannon’s profile grew – he was sometimes portrayed as pulling the strings in the White House and was featured on the cover of Time magazine in February – Trump grew resentful. Then came the public smackdown.

Trump on Steve Bannon Now:
“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late […] had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”

Trump on James Comey Then:
“It took guts for director Comey to make the move that he made, in light of the kind of opposition he had where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution. You know that. It took a lot of guts.”

James Comey had just announced that the FBI would be reviewing new emails in relation to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. It pleased Trump. But when Comey used those same guts to investigate alleged ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, the president was less pleased.

Trump on James Comey Now:
“He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told Russian officials, according to a summary of the meeting acquired by the New York Times. In June, after Comey had testified at a Senate hearing about Trump allegedly interfering with the Russia investigation, Trump accused the former FBI director of making “so many false statements and lies”.

Trump on House Republican health care bill Then:

“This is a great plan […] What we have is something very, very incredibly well crafted.”

House Republicans had just managed to pass a healthcare bill with one vote to spare. But the bill proved deeply unpopular with the general public, with one poll suggesting 48% of Americans thought it was a bad idea. Trump swiftly changed his mind on the legislation.

Trump on House Republican health care bill Now:

The bill is a “son of a bitch”, CNN reported the president as saying. Trump also described it as “mean”.

Trump on Paul Manafort Then:
“Paul is a great asset and an important addition as we consolidate the tremendous support we have received in the primaries and caucuses, garnering millions more votes than any other candidate. Paul Manafort, and the team I am building, bring the needed skill sets to ensure that the will of the Republican voters, not the Washington political establishment, determines who will be the nominee for the Republican Party.”

Trump had just announced that Manafort would serve as his convention manager, and later promoted him to campaign manager and chief strategist. But Manafort was forced to resign in August as he increasingly came under scrutiny for his work representing Ukraine’s ruling political party. When Manafort became a focus for the special council and congressional committees, Trump changed his views on his former ally.

Trump on Paul Manafort Now:
This time it was Trump mouthpiece Sean Spicer who criticized a former ally. Manafort played a “very limited” role for a “very limited amount of time”, Spicer said. He later added, incorrectly: “Paul was brought on sometime in June and by the middle of August he was no longer with the campaign, meaning for the final stretch of the general election, he was not involved.”

Trump on Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein Then:

“He’s highly respected – very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him. The Republicans like him.”

The president was speaking after Rosenstein wrote a memo recommending he fire then FBI director James Comey. Trump said he was going to fire Comey “regardless of the recommendation”, but praised Rosenstein’s character in writing the initial note. Trump had nominated Rosenstein for deputy attorney general on 31 January. By July, however, Trump had soured on his choice.

Trump on Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein Now:
The New York Times said Trump was angry with the attorney general during an interview in July: “When Mr. Sessions recused himself, the president said he was irritated to learn where his deputy was from. ‘There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,’ he said of the predominantly Democratic city. He complained that Mr Rosenstein had in effect been on both sides when it came to Mr Comey. The deputy attorney general recommended Mr Comey be fired but then appointed Mr Mueller, who may be investigating whether the dismissal was an obstruction of justice. ‘Well, that’s a conflict of interest,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are?'”

Trump, Manafort, Konstantin Kilimnik and the Republican-Russian election interference web

Donald Trump’s campaign chairman met in August — as controversy swirled over possible Russian interference in the election — with a business associate who may have ties to Russian intelligence.

Paul Manafort met twice during the presidential campaign with Konstantin Kilimnik, who helped run the Ukraine office for his political consulting operation for 10 years — including a previously undisclosed dinner shortly before his own Russian ties forced him out of the Trump campaign, reported the Washington Post.

Konstantin Klimnik

Kilimnik learned fluent English and Swedish at a Soviet military school, and his later work as a translator earned him a reputation as an operative for Russia’s GRU intelligence service — although he denies those connections and U.S. officials have not made that allegation.

He began working for Manafort, whose own ties to the Kremlin are under investigation by Congress and the FBI, in 2005, and he stayed with the consulting group through its work for pro-Russian hardliner Viktor Yanukovych, who became president of Ukraine and later fled to Russia.

Kilimnik admits to meeting twice with Manafort in the U.S. during the presidential campaign.

The first meeting came in early May 2016, about two weeks before Manafort was promoted to campaign chairman, and the second was in August — about two weeks before he resigned under pressure related to his political work in Ukraine.

The business associates met at the Grand Havana Room in New York City, where they talked about which clients owed them money, the overall situation in Ukraine and the U.S. presidential campaign.

Manafort admits to discussing with Kilimnik the hacks of the Democratic National Committee, but simply as part of a conversation about current events at that time.

“It would be neither surprising nor suspicious that two political consultants would chat about the political news of the day, including the DNC hack, which was in the news,” Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, told the Post. “We’re confident that serious officials will come to the conclusion that Paul’s campaign conduct and interaction with Konstantin during that time was perfectly permissible and not in furtherance of some conspiracy.”

Kilimnik’s late-summer visit to the U.S. drew the attention of U.S. authorities, and he later told associates that he played a role in softening the Republican platform toward Russian interests in Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities formally investigated Kilmnik’s alleged ties to Russian intelligence last year, and he was cleared, although some lawmakers there questioned whether the probe deliberately avoided findings that could have affected the U.S. presidential race.

Kilimnik’s name appeared this spring on a subpoena issued in Virginia by a federal grand jury in connection with Manafort’s work in Ukraine and his business connections.