Manafort Spokesman: Raid and Leaks ‘Certainly’ Seem like Political Persecution
Criminal justice expert says Trump's former campaign chairman should sue FBI for excessive force
Seven weeks after the FBI raided Paul Manafort’s apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, no charges have been filed and there has been no response to Manafort’s request that the transcripts of conversations he had while he was being surveilled be released.
“Paul said, ‘Please release these,’ because he’s so confident there’s nothing there,” Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni told LifeZette on Friday.
There has also been nothing to indicate that the government is investigating the source of the leaks last week to CNN that two FISA warrants had been issued, allowing the government to spy on Manafort — one beginning in 2014, and then concluding for lack of evidence, and the second beginning after the election of President Donald Trump when Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was in contact with the president-elect during the transition.
The FBI picked the lock on the front door of Manafort's apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, at about 5 a.m. on July 26 and kicked down his bedroom door with guns drawn while he was sleeping in bed with his wife. The apartment is not Manafort's primary residence; he was in the Washington, D.C., area because he'd met behind closed doors with Senate Intelligence Committee staffers the day before, and had been scheduled to meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 26. During the raid, FBI agents detained both Manafort and his wife, Kathleen, for several hours, subjected Kathleen to a search, and in the end, said Maloni, only took documents that were "the prep materials that his lawyer prepared for him for the Senate Intelligence Committee the day before."
When asked if the treatment of Manafort by the FBI amounts to political persecution of a close associate of the president's, Maloni responded: "That's certainly what it seems to be."
Maloni says CNN told him that their FBI sources said that neither FISA warrant had turned up anything on Manafort that was "worthy of a case," and that CNN employees had mentioned a particular memo they had seen that contained these words.
The leak of information about the FISA warrants has cast a pall of suspicion over Manafort, a top-tier Republican political consultant who has worked on presidential campaigns going back to President Gerald Ford's 1976 re-election campaign and continuing with President Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign, for which Manafort served as southern coordinator for Reagan.
Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March of 2016 to serve as convention manager — not to manage the Republican National Convention, but to ensure that Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination at the convention. Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, a lifelong friend of Manafort's, said at the time that Manafort was one of only a small handful of people working in American politics who had the experience and the knowledge to do the job — and that he was quite literally, among that small group, "the best."
Manafort ensured that Trump won on the first ballot at the convention, avoiding a floor fight, which could have ended with another candidate's winning the nomination. After campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was fired in June, Manafort had become the de facto campaign manager and continued in that role into August when he resigned, saying that the stories about his political consulting work for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had become too much of a distraction for the campaign.
The revelations last week that Manafort has been under surveillance have stunned political observers, as they seem to partially vindicate Trump's tweets that President Barack Obama had his "wires tapped" in Trump Tower.
It was also reported that investigations of Manafort have been consolidated under special counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the counterintelligence investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
"We don't normally comment on the details of the Mueller investigation, but I'm sure any American would be jarred," said Maloni, speaking of the raid and leaks about the FISA warrants.
"What is clear is there has been a disturbing pattern of leaks to a variety of news outlets that paint Paul in a very unfavorable light," he said.
Gregory Gilberton, an expert witness on the use of force by police, told LifeZette he considers the FBI's treatment of Manafort "a horrible abuse of power."
"There's no evidence this man has done anything to betray his country," he said.
He calls the FBI raid on Manafort's home "one of the most reprehensible acts of law enforcement abusing Americans that I've ever seen," saying agents should have knocked on the door and handed Manafort the search warrant.
"Quite honestly, I think Mr. Manafort has a lawsuit," he said. "I'd sue the sh** out of them, I really would ... I'd sue the FBI and every agent that was there, for excessive force. You bet I would. It's unconscionable. They had no evidence he would resist."