Law

Trump lawyer slams special counsel for 'gross abuse' in Manafort raid, challenges warrant

A top lawyer for President Trump slammed the special counsel’s office over the FBI raid of former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s Virginia home, accusing investigators of committing a “gross abuse of the judicial process” for the sake of “shock value” – and employing tactics normally seen “in Russia not America.” 

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Trump attorney John Dowd leveled the complaints in an email sent to a Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote about the Manafort raid. The email was obtained by Fox News.  

The email reflects Trump’s legal team moving to protect the president, amid speculation that the raid could be part of a broader effort to squeeze Manafort for information on Trump.

"These methods are normally found and employed in Russia not America.”

- John Dowd, attorney for President Trump

Dowd, in his note, questioned the validity of the search warrant itself, calling it an “extraordinary invasion of privacy.” Dowd said Manafort already was looking to cooperate with congressional committees and said the special counsel never requested the materials from Manafort. 

MANAFORT HOME RAIDED BY FEDS

“These failures by Special Counsel to exhaust less intrusive methods is a fatal flaw in the warrant process and would call for a Motion to Suppress the fruits of the search,” Dowd wrote, arguing the required “necessity” of the warrant was “misrepresented to the Court which raises a host of issues involving the accuracy of the warrant application and the supporting FBI affidavit.”

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Dowd also said agents seized “privileged and confidential materials prepared for Mr. Manafort by his counsel to aid him in his cooperation with the Congressional committees,” adding:

“Thus, it appears the Search Warrant here was obtained by a gross abuse of the judicial process by the Special Counsel's office. In addition, given the obvious unlawful deficiencies, this extraordinary invasive tool was employed for its shock value to try to intimidate Mr. Manafort and bring him to his needs. These methods are normally found and employed in Russia not America.”

The special counsel’s office declined to comment when reached by Fox News. 

It was revealed Wednesday that FBI agents had raided Manafort’s Virginia home in late July, one day after he met voluntarily with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The search warrant seems to indicate that investigators may have had reason to believe Manafort could not be trusted to turn over all of the records sought, The Washington Post reported.

Manafort resigned as Trump’s campaign manager in August 2016 amid questions regarding his business dealings in Ukraine. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has taken over a criminal investigation into Manafort’s financial dealings, which began even before the 2016 election, as he probes Russian meddling in the campaign and possible coordination with Trump associates.

Trump has tried to distance himself from Manafort, though the relationship between the two goes back years.

Andrew Napolitano, senior judicial analyst for Fox News, said Wednesday on “Outnumbered” that the raid indicates the FBI did not trust that Manafort would preserve the materials they wanted. Further, he speculated the pressure on Manafort could ultimately be part of an effort to get to Trump.

He said the danger for the president is that the FBI will indict Manafort "for something irrelevant to the campaign and the Russians and then squeeze him for what he knows that they can use against the president."

The tough note from Dowd regarding the search warrant is a departure from the tone set in recent days. Dowd earlier this week told USA Today that Trump and Mueller have sent messages “back and forth” and that Trump “appreciates” Mueller’s work.

A spokesman for Mueller told Fox News that there have been communications among special counsel attorneys and the president’s outside legal team, as well as the president’s special counsel, Ty Cobb. The spokesman told Fox News those communications have been “very professional” and “very cooperative from both sides.”

Fox News’ John Roberts and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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