FBI raid on ex-Trump aide's home shows
Russia probe intensifies
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[August 10, 2017]
By Sarah N. Lynch and Karen Freifeld
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A raid on the
Virginia home of President Donald Trump's former 2016 election campaign
manager showed an investigation of possible ties between the campaign
and Russia is intensifying and focused on the financial dealings of
Trump associates, sources familiar with the probe said.
Longtime political consultant and lobbyist Paul Manafort is being
investigated for possible money laundering and has been targeted as
someone who might testify against former colleagues, said two people
familiar with the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Manafort's spokesman Jason Maloni confirmed on Wednesday that the FBI
executed a search warrant at one of Manafort's homes.
"Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other
serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well," Maloni said in
Manafort's house in Alexandria, near Washington, was raided in the early
morning of July 26, the Washington Post reported. The previous day
Manafort had met with Senate Intelligence Committee staff, the
Washington Post reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the
Tax documents and financial records were sought by agents for Mueller in
the raid, the New York Times reported, citing a person familiar with the
Mueller's team is poring over Manafort's financial and real estate
records in New York and his involvement in Ukrainian politics, the two
sources told Reuters last month.
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal called the raid a "highly
significant step" and said it was "typical of the most serious criminal
investigations dealing with uncooperative or untrusted potential
The FBI did not immediately return a request for comment. Joshua Stueve,
a spokesman for Mueller's office, declined to confirm the raid.
Trump has been attacking Blumenthal on Twitter this week after the
senator urged Mueller to press his inquiry forward.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the
presidential race, in part by hacking and releasing emails embarrassing
to Trump's opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, to help him get elected
Trump has called Mueller's investigation a "witch hunt." Allegations of
collusion between Trump associates and Moscow have hounded the
Republican president since he took office in January, presenting a major
distraction from his policy agenda.
Russia has repeatedly denied meddling in the U.S. election.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been trying to track money
that Manafort used to buy properties in New York, and looking into
millions of dollars of loans later taken out on the properties,
according to a person familiar with the matter.
The prosecutor issued a subpoena to Federal Savings Bank, a small
Chicago bank founded by a former Trump campaign adviser, and is
interested in the loan paperwork, the person said.
It is unclear when the subpoena went out, but the first subpoenas in the
probe went out months ago, the person said.
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Paul Manafort, senior advisor to Republican U.S. presidential
candidate Donald Trump, exits following a meeting of Donald Trump's
national finance team at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City,
U.S., June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
Joan Vollero, a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus
Vance Jr., declined to comment.
Steve Calk, the bank’s chairman and CEO, who was named to Trump’s
economic advisory council during the campaign, declined to comment
through a spokeswoman for the bank.
"Mr. Manafort's real estate loans are all arm's length transactions
at or above market rates,” said Maloni. “There is nothing unusual
about buying real estate through an LLC."
The New York Attorney General’s office also is looking into
Manafort’s real estate transactions, another person said.
One question for investigators was whether Manafort had knowledge of
any Trump campaign dealings with Russia, including meetings with
Russians with government ties, said one source familiar with
The same question was relevant to investigators in regard to Trump's
fired former national security adviser, retired Army Lieutenant
General Michael Flynn, the source said.
"Financial matters have paper trails that can be easy to pick up and
follow, so that's a logical place to start," the source added.
Congressional committees are looking at a June 2016 meeting in New
York with a Russian lawyer organized by Trump's eldest son, Donald
Trump Jr. Trump Jr. released emails last month that showed he
welcomed the prospect of receiving damaging information about
Clinton. Manafort attended the meeting.
Legal experts noted that the FBI had enough evidence to get approval
for a search warrant concerning Manafort.
"Somewhere, there now exists under seal what is likely a very
detailed affidavit laying out criminal allegations involving Paul
Manafort, and specifically, there is probable cause to believe he
has committed a crime or there is evidence of a crime at his home,"
said Alex Little, a former federal prosecutor now with the law firm
Bone McAllester Norton.
A Senate Judiciary Committee aide said the panel has received more
than 20,000 pages of documents from Trump's presidential campaign,
Manafort and Trump Jr.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Patricia Zengerle, Richard Cowan and
John Walcott; Writing by Doina Chiacu, Julia Edwards Ainsley;
Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Will Dunham, Grant McCool)
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