President Donald Trump said the FBI’s raid of Paul Manafort’s Virginia home came as a surprise to him, speaking Thursday from his Bedminster, N.J. property.
Manafort, who joined then-candidate Trump’s campaign in March 2016, was forced to quit the campaign in August after investigative reports revealed consulting work he’d done. The work was for a Ukrainian political party that linked back to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
On Wednesday, FBI agents acted on a search warrant obtained by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating a potential link between the Trump campaign team and Russia. Reportedly, the kind of search warrant Mueller obtained is typically approved when there is probable cause that a crime has been committed, leading to an early morning “no knock” raid on Manafort’s Alexandria, Va. home on July 26, according to a report by The Washington Post.
When asked if it was appropriate for the FBI to raid Manafort’s house, President Trump said, “I thought it was a very, very strong signal.”
The president said that while Manafort was only with the campaign “for a relatively short period of time,” the raid had significance.
“You know, they do that very seldom, so I was surprised to see it. I was very, very surprised to see it,” the president said.
In a moment of empathy, the president said the raid must have been difficult for Manafort. “I don’t know, but I thought it was pretty tough stuff to wake him up, perhaps his family was there,” he said. “I think that’s pretty tough stuff.”
The FBI raid occurred the day after Manafort voluntarily appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee. As Mueller’s investigation continues, he has reportedly subpoenaed Manafort’s banking and financial records, and approached Manafort’s son-in-law, attempting to gain his cooperation in the investigation, according to reports.
It was also reported that the special counsel has taken over a review of Manafort’s late filings to comply with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Although the president did not comment about what he thought it all means, he reiterated that he is not in communication with Manafort.
“I know Mr. Manafort. Haven’t spoken to him for a long time, but I know him,” President Trump said. “I’ve always found Paul Manafort to be a very decent man,” he continued later, adding “he’s like a lot of other people, probably makes consultant fees from all over the place.”
Trump said he hadn’t talked to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mueller, or anyone at the FBI in regards to the raid. Regarding whether it was appropriate, the president said, “To do that early in the morning, whether or not it was appropriate you’d have to ask them.”
A chief counsel to President Trump sent an angry letter to special counsel Robert Mueller’s office this week, accusing the investigator of abusing the judicial process in his raid of Manafort’s home.
“It appears the Search Warrant here was obtained by a gross abuse of the judicial process by the Special Counsel’s office,” Dowd wrote in the letter, according to Fox News.
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