Thursday, 10 August 2017

Politics: Paul Manafort is getting new lawyers as the Russia investigation heats up around him

Paul Manafort

President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is hiring new lawyers to represent him in the Russia investigation.

President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is hiring new lawyers to represent him in the Russia investigation weeks after the FBI raided his northern Virginia home for tax documents and banking records.

Manafort, who has emerged as a central subject in the FBI's probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, "in the process of retaining his former counsel, Miller & Chevalier, to represent him in the office of special counsel investigation," said his spokesman, Jason Maloni.

"As of today, WilmerHale no longer represents Mr. Manafort," Maloni said.

FBI special counsel Robert Mueller was a partner at WilmerHale before he was he was appointed to lead the Russia probe in May.

Manafort's home was raided on July 26 by at least a dozen FBI agents who had secured a search warrant from a federal judge. The agents left Manafort's home "with various records," according to The Washington Post.

The New York Times reported shortly afterward 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 said.

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.

On Thursday, Fox News obtained an email written by Trump's chief counsel, John Dowd, to a Wall Street Journal reporter in which he slammed the FBI's raid as "a gross abuse of the judicial process," calling Mueller's inability to "exhaust less intrusive methods" a "fatal flaw in the warrant process."

Manafort has been cooperating with investigators' requests for relevant documents. But the search warrant obtained by the FBI in July indicates that Mueller managed to convince a federal judge that Manafort would try to conceal or destroy documents subpoenaed by a grand jury.

Manafort's ties to Russia came under scrutiny last August, when The New York Times discovered that a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine designated him $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments. Manafort, a longtime Republican operative, had advised the party and its former leader Viktor Yanukovych for nearly a decade.

The ledger, and Manafort's activities in Ukraine more broadly, were examined more closely following Yanukovych's ouster on corruption charges in 2014. Manafort has been associated with at least 15 bank accounts and 10 companies in Cyprus, dating back to 2007, NBC reported in March.

On March 22, the Associated Press reported that Manafort was paid $10 million from 2006 to 2009 to lobby on behalf of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, using a strategic "model" that the AP said Manafort wrote would "greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success."

Manafort has insisted that he has never received any illicit cash payments. But he 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.



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