Former prosecutors: The FBI's raid of Paul Manafort's home was a clear sign they don't trust him

The FBI conducted a predawn July raid on the home of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as part of its ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

But why didn't the bureau simply issue subpoenas to Manafort — who has been cooperating with the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the election — for the documents it was seeking?

Former Department of Justice officials, FBI agents, and federal prosecutors say there are a couple reasons, including the need to move quickly and avoid any Fifth Amendment objections. But they said the most likely reason the FBI sought, and was granted, the "no-knock warrant" is that federal officials didn't think Manafort could be trusted.

Images of Paul Manafort through the years:

13 PHOTOS
Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort through the years
See Gallery
Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort through the years
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort speaks at a press conference at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as his campaign manager Paul Manafort (C) and daughter Ivanka (R) look on during Trump's walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort appears at a press conference at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort talks to the media from the Trump family box on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Paul Manafort, senior advisor to Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, smiles as he talks with other Trump campaign staff after Trump spoke to supporters following the results of the Indiana state primary, at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's senior campaign adviser Paul Manafort (L) walks into a reception with former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, at the Republican National Committee Spring Meeting at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida, April 21, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort listens to Ivanka Trump speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 21, 2016. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 20: A man with a security credential takes a selfie at the podium as Donald Trump, flanked by campaign manager Paul Manafort and daughter Ivanka, checks the podium early Thursday afternoon in preparation for accepting the GOP nomination to be President at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday July 20, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 19: Paul Manafort, advisor to Donald Trump, is seen on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 19, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Paul Manafort., Convention Manager, Trump Campaign, appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday April 10, 2016. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NA.R.DoleMicCk1.081596.RG.Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole looks up from podium at balloons and television cameras as convention center manager Paul Manafort, at right, points out preparations for tonight's acceptance speech in San Diego, 08/15/96. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Lee Atwater, young Republicans political operatives who have set up lobbying firms. (Photo by Harry Naltchayan/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"Mueller and his staff may have decided that, despite the claims of cooperation from Manafort's lawyer, Manafort could not be trusted to provide all of the documents requested by subpoena," wrote Alex Whitting, who served for a decade as a federal prosecutor at the Department of Justice and the US Attorney's office in Boston.

"If Mueller's team thought that there was any risk that Manafort would hide or destroy documents, that would be a strong reason to proceed with a search warrant," he added.

Kenneth Julian, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips who served for more than 11 years as a federal prosecutor in California, echoed Whitting's sentiments.

"The only reason to do a search warrant on a target who is ostensibly cooperating with the investigation is a lack of trust," he said. "And in order to get a search warrant, FBI agents had to swear to their belief that fruits of a crime would be found in Manafort's home."

TheNew York Times reported that investigators were looking for tax documents and foreign banking records, documents "typically sought when investigating violations of Bank Secrecy Act," Times reporter Adam Goldman noted.

The Bank Secrecy Act was passed "to deter and detect money laundering, terrorist financing and other criminal acts and the misuse of our nation's financial institutions," according to the Treasury Department.

Manafort has insisted that he has never received any illicit cash payments from the pro-Russia political party he advised for nearly a decade in Ukraine. The New York Times reported last August that the party had designated him $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments.

But Manafort has a "pattern" of using shell companies to purchase homes "in all-cash deals," as WNYC has reported, and then transferring those properties into his own name for no money and taking out large mortgages against them.

"Manafort's representatives have been insisting for months that he is cooperating with these investigations, and if you are really cooperating, DOJ typically doesn't need to raid your house — they'll trust you to respond fully to a subpoena," said Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman under President Barack Obama.

"The fact they cut any cooperation short and raided his house suggests they don't believe he is fully cooperating and that there are documents or electronic files, possibly contained on computers at his house, in his possession that they did not trust him to turn over," Miller added.

Former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa wrote on Twitter that, in obtaining a warrant, the FBI likely convinced a judge that there was probable cause a crime had been committed — and "that there was some risk that Manafort may try to remove or conceal evidence despite cooperation."

Rangappa said that when she was at the FBI, predawn raids were often conducted at 5 a.m. "to catch targets unaware, so they cannot destroy or remove evidence." She added that anything the government finds "can be used to leverage Manafort," especially if it shows that he misled or lied to the government or Congress.

Still, there are other reasons why the FBI would have felt compelled to seek a warrant for this kind of raid instead of just issuing a subpoena.

Mueller, the special counsel, may have needed the documents quickly "for purposes of witness interviews," Whitting wrote. "And so may have decided that using a search warrant would be more expeditious."

Conducting a raid also leaves targets unable to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. While recipients of grand jury subpoenas normally can't invoke those rights, Manafort's lawyers may have argued an exception on the grounds that such a subpoena might require testimony "which could be self-incriminating," Whitting wrote.

The raid could have been part of a larger psychological strategy, too.

Mueller "may have wanted to get Manafort's attention to emphasize the seriousness and advancing nature of the investigation, all with the hope of securing his cooperation," Whitting said.

Jack Sharman, a white-collar lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama, and former special counsel to the House Banking Committee for the Whitewater investigation of President Bill Clinton, said the warrant was "designed to send a message."

"Manafort has reportedly been cooperating with congressional investigators about documents," he said. "But 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."

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.