Picture this: It’s not even light out in a tony suburb of Washington, D.C., on a typically steamy summer morning. Definitely not asleep: A team of FBI agents, who show up at the waterfront condominium of Trump’s former campaign chairman, search warrant in hand, and raid Paul Manafort’s house, totally unannounced. They leave with documents and “other materials.”
Why? What did they take? We’re not sure. All we know is it likely has to do with the expanding, not-fake-news independent investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and whether Trump obstructed justice. The Post reports that some of the seized documents include notes that Manafort took in *that* meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.
What else they took and why they showed up at all — just a day after Manafort had provided many of the materials to Congress — is a big question mark.
A few theories:
- Manafort knows something they want to know. He was Trump’s campaign chairman during a pivotal five months last summer, as Trump won the nomination and as speculation about Russia interference in the election was starting to really worry U.S. security officials.
- The FBI wanted to send a message to everyone else in Washington: Don’t mess with us. “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, “said Jack Sharman, a white-collar lawyer in Alabama and former special counsel for Congress during the Bill Clinton Whitewater investigation.
- Investigators want to use him as leverage: Manafort is actually under investigation for a series of financial misdoings, including money laundering allegations. If they can’t persuade Manafort to cooperate on the Russia investigation — and this search warrant is evidence that they feel they couldn’t — they could force him to cooperate by threatening him with unrelated legal trouble.
To be continued …