Mueller obtained a new search warrant against Manafort last month, and it could signal a huge shift in the Russia investigation
- The special counsel Robert Mueller obtained a search warrant against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort as recently as March 9, new court documents show.
- The search warrant was related to "ongoing investigations that are not the subject of the current prosecutions involving Manafort."
- The revelation indicates Mueller's focus on Manafort is now shifting from examining his Ukraine lobbying work to possible collusion with Russia while he was chairman of President Donald Trump campaign in 2016.
The special counsel Robert Mueller obtained a new search warrant against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort less than a month ago, according to court documents filed on Thursday.
Mueller's office made the revelation in an opposition it filed to Manafort's recent motion to compel the government to turn over un-redacted versions of search and seizure warrants it had obtained against him. Mueller's office said that after Manafort first raised the issue, the US government gave the defense copies of six affidavits — three of them had no redactions, and the other three had minimal redactions.
Per the court filing, the special counsel also obtained a new search warrant in the Manafort case less than one month ago, on March 9. It turned over a redacted copy of the warrant to the defense on Wednesday.
But Mueller's office also made another notable disclosure.
Four out of the seven affidavits that have been produced for the defense were redacted because they contained information regarding "ongoing investigations that are not the subject of the current prosecutions involving Manafort." The most recent warrant has more "substantial redactions" than the other three.
Manafort has been charged with dozens of counts related to financial crimes and conspiracy against the US. The charges against Manafort so far deal primarily with his lobbying work for pro-Russia interests in Ukraine and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Based on Thursday's court filing, Mueller has found evidence of wrongdoing in the Manafort case that is not limited to his consulting work in Ukraine.
According to a recently released memo deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein sent Mueller last year, the special counsel is authorized to investigate at least two threads as it relates to Manafort: allegations of criminal activity arising from his work in Ukraine, and allegations that he colluded with Russian officials as Russia was trying to meddle in the 2016 US election.
The rest of the Rosenstein memo was redacted, and legal experts have suggested it's possible Mueller was authorized to investigate additional allegations against Manafort outside of the collusion inquiry and his Ukraine lobbying.
The special counsel's office disclosed a partial list of its warrants against Manafort thus far in Thursday's court filing. In addition to searching Manafort's home, bank accounts, email, and hard drive, prosecutors also secured permission to search "information associated with five telephone numbers controlled by AT&T."
News that Mueller is broadening his focus with respect to Manafort is bolstered by recent reports that prosecutors told Manafort's longtime deputy Rick Gates they didn't need his cooperation against Manafort. Instead, they are reportedly interested in learning more from him about the Trump campaign's contacts with Russians during the 2016 US election.
Manafort and Gates are two of several Trump associates who are known to have been in touch with Russia-linked individuals during the campaign. The two men have known each other for at least the past three decades and Gates was privy to most, if not all, of Manafort's dealings during the 2016 election.
Mueller's warrant against Manafort last month came after Gates had a "Queen for a Day" interview with the special counsel in early February, in which Gates answered any questions from investigators, including those asked about his own case and other possible criminal activity he may have witnessed.
Manafort has so far mounted an aggressive defense against the special counsel, arguing that the charges against him so far should be dropped because they do not deal with Russian collusion. His lawyer has also argued that Mueller's mandate itself is "tantamount to a blank check."
Manafort was unaware of the Rosenstein memo's existence before it was publicly revealed Monday night, and the second stipulation threw a wrench into his claim that Mueller overstepped his mandate by charging him with crimes unrelated to Russian collusion.
The special counsel's office also addressed Manafort's assertion that his mandate was too broad, arguing that Manafort's objections to the scope of Mueller's mandate were "unsound."
It added that the DOJ's regulations regarding the appointment of a special counsel give Mueller "limited flexibility" while authorizing Rosenstein to amend the scope of his mandate where "necessary in order to fully investigate and resolve the matters assigned."
Mueller's office questioned Manafort's right to argue the validity of the special counsel's mandate at all, saying Manafort had "no basis" to use that reasoning to call for the case against him to be dismissed.
Specifically, Mueller's office said the DOJ regulations governing the appointment of a special counsel are meant to provide a framework for the department's internal structure. The regulations "unequivocally state" that they are not meant to "create any [enforceable] rights" in a criminal proceeding, the special counsel continued.
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