Prosecutors and FBI agents learned of the existence of a storage cabinet containing 30 years of Paul Manafort's annual reports from Associated Press reporters investigating him, an FBI agent testifying in federal court.
The agent, Jeff Pfeiffer, testified Friday that four AP employees were meeting with a group of prosecutors and representatives on April 11, 2017 to discuss Manafort's business negotiations with President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman. The news agency later wrote about Manafort's dealings with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Six weeks after meeting the reporters, Pfeiffer whistled, he interviewed a personal assistant from Manafort, who gave him permission and a key to enter the locker and survey its contents. One day later, the agents returned with a search warrant and took most of the records, Pfeiffer said at a preliminary hearing in Alexandria, Virginia
Manafort, 69, being indicted on July 25 for bank fraud and taxes, wants the evidence Thrown away during this search, on the grounds that only Manafort, not the employee, was entitled to give Pfeiffer his first entry into the locker. US District Judge T.S. Ellis III. Said he would decide later.
Refusal of Judge
Manafort made a similar request to suppress the search for storage cabinets in the Federal Court in Washington, where he was charged with money laundering and acted as an unregistered agent of Ukraine and obstruction of justice. This judge rejected the request last week.
On Friday, Ellis also rejected Manafort's request to hold a hearing on whether high-ranking government officials unlawfully leaked materials from the grand jury before Manafort was first indicted in October 201
Defender Kevin Downing said the solution to such leaks should be the dismissal of the case. Ellis refused, saying that the only other option would be to delay the process, for example to one of two cities in the eastern district of Virginia, Roanoke or Richmond. He hinted that he was still considering whether the leaks were inappropriate, and gave Downing a written request by July 6.
Manafort, whose provisional release was revoked this month by the judge who presided over his case in Washington, has renounced his right to attend on Friday. He is being held in the Northern Neck Regional Prison in Warsaw, Virginia, more than 80 miles south of Alexandria and asked to be excused from the hearing. His wife, Kathleen Manafort, attended the hearing.
At the hearing, Pfeiffer said Manafort employee Alexander Trusko was running errands for his boss and leading him around. Trusko, who signed the lease, told Pfeiffer that he was moving boxes of documents and a filing cabinet from a smaller storage cabinet and from Manafort's home in Alexandria to the unit.
Trusko signed an FBI approval form to raise the evidence needed for the investigation, Pfeiffer said. Instead of removing items, Pfeiffer photographed the boxes and filing cabinet and cataloged the contents listed on the outside of each box. He then consulted with prosecutors in the Department of Justice in Washington and the eastern district of New York, who then examined Manafort,
Pfeiffer stayed at the locker until the camp, which was also in Alexandria, was closed. On that day he testified. Agents returned the next day – May 26, 2017 – with a court-authorized search warrant to remove most of the contents of the locker. Special Adviser Robert Mueller was briefed nine days earlier to investigate the links between the Russia and Trump campaign in the 2016 presidential election and related matters.
In addition to raiding the storeroom, Ellis also checks that the agents have conducted a search two months later from Manafort's house in Alexandria.
The Manafort Falls are US vs. Manafort, 17-cr-201, US District Court, District of Columbia (Washington) and 18-cr-83, US District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).
( Updates with details of the hearing in the fourth paragraph. )