Manafort moves to suppress evidence seized from his home






Paul Manafort is pictured. | AP Photo

On Friday, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s attorneys filed a similar motion seeking to suppress evidence seized in May from a storage locker. | Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo

Lawyers for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pressed on Monday with their drive to knock out key evidence against their client, asking a federal judge to declare that a warrant used to search Manafort’s condo in Alexandria, Virginia, last July was invalid due to its sweeping nature.

Manafort’s defense team said the fact that modern communications are stored on computers exacerbated the excessive scope of the search warrant, issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan at the request of prosecutors working for Special Counel Robert Mueller.

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“Once inside, the agents seized or imaged every electronic device and storage device in the home,” defense attorneys Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle complained in their motion filed Monday night. “The Fourth Amendment does not permit the warrant that was issued in this case, which was essentially a general warrant for ‘any and all’ financial documents and electronic devices.”

Manafort’s defense team said the only meaningful constraint in the warrant was a limitation to records from 2006 on. They also faulted elastic language in the warrant, including a provision allowing agents to confiscate evidence about Manafort’s “state of mind” with respect to a slew of crimes the FBI was investigating.

“A warrant directing agents to seize all evidence of the subject’s ‘state of mind’ does not restrict the agent’s discretion at all,” the defense attorneys wrote. “While seizing agents naturally look for evidence of the subject’s guilt, the role of the warrant is to limit their discretion to determine what constitutes such evidence. This warrant did no such thing.”

The warrant provides no startling disclosures about Mueller’s investigation, but it does confirm some facts long suspected or reported about the probe. The warrant shows that in addition to the charges Manafort faces of bank and tax fraud as well as money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent in connection with his Ukraine-related work, investigators were examining allegations of illegal foreign contributions to U.S. political campaigns.

The search warrant issued last year also provides incontrovertible proof that Mueller is looking into the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting at which Trump campaign officials expected to receive damaging information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

The materials the FBI was authorized to seize from Manafort’s home included “communications, records, documents and other files involving any of the attendees of the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower, as well as Aras and Amin Agalarov.” Read literally, that provision gave the FBI the OK to take any emails or information Manafort had from or referring to Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump’s son Donald Jr., both of whom attended the meeting.

While it was reported that FBI agents picked the lock to enter Manafort’s condo in a luxury building overlooking the Potomac River, there is no indication of such tactics in the papers made public with the defense motion Monday. The warrant says the FBI was approved to carry out the search anytime between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. They reported entering just after 6 a.m.

The court filing also confirms the identities of some of the vendors Manafort reportedly patronized as he spent chunks of the $30 million prosecutors contend he laundered from his Ukraine-related work. The store Manafort allegedly dropped nearly $1 million at for oriental rugs: J & J Oriental Rug Gallery on King Street. About half of the $1.4 million Manafort is alleged to have spent on clothing was laid out at two stores: House of Bijan in Beverly Hills and Alan Couture in New York.

The new documents also indicate that suspicions about Manafort ran high in some financial quarters well before the Trump campaign in 2016. Two years earlier, “anti-money-laundering concerns” led Chicago-based First Republic Bank to close accounts linked to Manafort.

As they prepared for the search of Manafort’s home last July, investigators also spent at least a month reading the outside of his mail through a so-called “mail cover” obtained from the Postal Service. That helped the FBI determine what banks were sending statements to Manafort.

On Friday, Manafort’s attorneys filed a similar motion seeking to suppress evidence seized in May from a storage locker a couple of miles from Manafort’s home.

Both motions were directed to U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing the Washington-based indictment charging Manafort with money laundering and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. She’s set trial in that case for Sept. 17.

A federal judge in Alexandria, T.S. Ellis III, is overseeing a separate indictment accusing Manafort of bank fraud, tax evasion and failing to report foreign bank accounts. Manafort’s defense team is expected to file parallel suppression motions in that case. Trial on those charges is set for July 10.



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