Paul Manafort accuses federal prosecutors of illegal property search

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has accused federal prosecutors of carrying out an illegal search of his...

Posted: Apr 7, 2018 11:55 PM
Updated: Apr 7, 2018 11:55 PM

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has accused federal prosecutors of carrying out an illegal search of his property, according to a court filing late Friday night.

Manafort asked the judge overseeing his case in DC to suppress evidence FBI agents collected from his Alexandria, Virginia, storage unit last May, which was only 10 days after Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to look into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges related to his foreign lobbying work and other financial decisions before he became Trump campaign chair. Even so, prosecutors have made it clear they are still pursuing other angles of the investigation that involve Manafort, and have fought his team at every step of the case.

The aggressive investigation into Manafort included the sweep last year of the storage unit that took mere minutes, and that Manafort now alleges may have violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

Manafort's attorneys say an investigator looked around the unit with the help of a former low-level employee of Manafort's who wasn't authorized to give them that permission. A day later, investigators used a warrant to collect the business documents within it. Both the initial visit and the raid violated Manafort's constitutional protections, his attorneys argued Friday.

During the search, FBI agents grabbed boxes of Manafort's business records, which covered his work for Ukrainian politicians and in a movie production business, according to the filing. An FBI agent said in an affidavit it believed Manafort might also have records in the boxes of his business relationship and legal tangle with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who was sanctioned by the Trump administration Friday.

Prosecutors have said they've shielded Manafort and public from seeing descriptions in the warrant documentation that could reveal their ongoing investigation. In line with that approach, prosecutors had redacted several pages of an FBI agent's affidavit used to obtain the storage unit warrant, Friday's filing showed.

Manafort and associates had paid a little more than $300 a month since 2015 to rent the large metal-walled room to hold his business records, on Holland Lane in Alexandria, according to the filing. It held 21 boxes of paperwork and a metal filing cabinet that appeared to be filled with documents dating back decades, investigators said, according to the filing. In addition to records about Manafort and Gates and their Ukrainian clients, investigators were looking for documents related to the now-defunct lobbying firm Podesta Group, which also did international lobbying and was run by the brother of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman.

They emptied the storage unit in the search, Manafort's lawyers said.

Earlier Friday night, Manafort's attorneys said they needed a deadline extension until Monday to file a similar request to suppress evidence collected in a raid of his Alexandria, Virginia, home in late July. The judge hasn't responded to that request, which came in about an hour and a half before the filing deadline.

Manafort's attorneys are also trying to convince the judge to dismiss the case or dismiss some of the charges against Manafort in DC, and have also asked for more details from prosecutors about the indictment.

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