I'll soon have more to say about the Orange Oaf's spectacularly stupid handling of the North Korean situation -- although we must note, ominously, that the Oaf's current Twitter picture shows him in conference with FEMA. Heckuva job, Orangey: That's precisely
the image likely to calm the nerves of a jittery nation.
Right now, let us note another bit of recent spectacle
FBI agents raided the Alexandria home of President Trump’s former campaign chairman late last month, using a search warrant to seize documents and other materials, according to people familiar with the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Federal agents appeared at Paul Manafort’s home without advance warning in the predawn hours of July 26, the day after he met voluntarily with the staff for the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The search warrant was wide-ranging and FBI agents working with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departed the home with various records. Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, confirmed that agents executed a warrant at one of the political consultant’s homes and that Manafort cooperated with the search.
Additional reporting from the NYT indicates that "Mueller was seeking Manafort's tax documents and foreign banking records." Adam Goldman of the NYT says that it is likely that they are probing a violation of the Banking Secrecy Act
. Translation: Money laundering.
We've been told that Manafort has been ever-so-cooperative with the Mueller probe. I guess they had reason to mistrust him. I posit that he said something misleading when he met with the Senate Committee.
Shortly after that raid on July 26, Trump tweeted the following
Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got....big dollars ($700,000) for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!
He had no other pressing reason to be thinking of McCabe at 6:52 A.M. on that particular morning. The raid must
have prompted Trump to emit those words. McCabe presumably gave the go-ahead for the pre-dawn operation, so Trump laid the groundwork for a possible retaliatory strike against McCabe.
(Incidentally, Trump's allegation was factually wrong
: Clinton had no part in any donations to McCabe's wife. I wonder who helped Trump at that time of morning? It's not as though Trump is capable of doing his own oppo research -- even bad
research. Perhaps he has access to a "dirt file" on potential enemies.)
Here's another development
that should worry you:
Even as he has publicly criticized the special counsel in charge of the government’s investigation into Russia, President Donald Trump has used his lawyers to send more friendly private messages to the counsel's office, USA Today reported Tuesday.
Trump’s chief counsel John Dowd told the paper that Trump’s team has passed along messages of “appreciation and greetings” to special counsel Robert Mueller. Such overtures are seen as not very common.
While I was writing this post, the WP published an analysis
which lists several likely rationales for the raid, including this:
Investigators could use him as leverage. Manafort's role in the Trump campaign isn't the only aspect of his life under federal investigation. The Wall Street Journal has reported the special counsel is investigating him for money laundering allegations. NBC has reported federal investigators have subpoenaed records related to a $3.5 million mortgage Manafort took out on his home in the Hamptons. And The Post reports that Justice Department officials are also looking into whether he violated any laws by not fully disclosing his work as a foreign agent in Ukraine. (Manafort retroactively filed as one in June, which is how we know how much money he got paid by Ukrainian politicians.)
Much of that is now under Mueller's umbrella. That's significant leverage investigators have on Manafort. If they can't convince Manafort to cooperate on the Russia investigation — and this search warrant is evidence that they feel they couldn't — they could potentially force him to cooperate by threatening him with unrelated legal trouble. (Manafort has not been, nor do we have any indication he will be, charged with a crime.)
Snagging a big fish with an unrelated crime is a common tactic used by investigators, Jacobovitz said.
From another analysis
, also published a short while ago in the WP:
Manafort's contemporaneous notes from that meeting, the existence of which The Post previously reported, seem to be one of the few windows we have into what exactly transpired.
Keep in mind that Congress now has copies of those notes.
Also, in a little-noticed report last week, CNN linked Manafort to possible collusion. Here's the paragraph at issue:
CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that U.S. intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for three months, to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton's election prospects, the U.S. officials say. The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.
It's not clear that this report, which was anonymously sourced and which The Post hasn't confirmed, has anything to do with the search warrant. But it only adds to the mystery surrounding Manafort.