DOJ Says Manafort Could Walk; Mueller’s Disastrous Error on Search Warrant Could Wreck High-Profile Indictment
Paul Manafort, the target of a 12-count indictment filed by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, could walk away a free man or on reduced charges, according to a high-ranking source in the Justice Department.
The controversial July search warrant for Manafort’s Virginia home was apparently not prepared properly and key evidence seized during the search of Manafort’s residence was outside the specific scope of the warrant, according to DOJ insider Intel. This means the government confiscated documents it was not legally entitled to seize and any charges stemming from such “poisoned fruit” evidence could get tossed out.
This is a very large problem for the government.
Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing could not be reached for comment.
To wit: Mueller’s federal warrant did not specifically cover seizing certain foreign documents and materials, yet Mueller confiscated Manafort’s records on his sensitive dealings with Ukraine businesses and international clients which, again, may have exceeded the limitations of the search warrant’s scope.
The DOJ source said the error might have been rooted in the fact that securing search warrants is a rare tactic for any federal special counsel. It is seldom employed in fact, according to the Justice Department insider, specifically because it can taint evidence that was not previously specified before a raid.
The FBI agents and lawyers on Mueller’s staff who prepped the search warrant omitted key wording which means key evidence that was seized and then presented to the Grand Jury is likely not admissible.
“One very very large error,” the DOJ insider said. “His (Manafort’s) lawyers will seize on this opportunity.”
Now, mere days after the media trumpeted Mueller’s case against Manafort as a criminal smear against President Donald Trump, the high-profile indictment could be in serious peril. Manafort was previously Trump’s campaign manager for a brief stint in 2016 but was fired by Trump well before the election.
Mueller’s investigation of Manafort and subsequent indictment stems directly from evidence that was seized during the FBI’s raid on his home. This fact has already been made public in news stories following Monday’s unsealed indictment.
Search warrants in a case like the one against Manafort and alleged co-conspirator Richard Gates are highly unusual and quite haphazard for the prosecution.
To avoid such potential legal snafus, Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel never used search warrants during his Clinton probe. Likewise, the special counsel investigating Lewis “Scooter” Libby for the leak of a CIA operative’s identity during the George W. Bush administration did not employ search warrants either.
Mueller likely substituted speed in the place of thoroughness and by operating outside the framework of other high-profile special counsel cases, it may cost his case Bigly.
This story is Developing. We will update as additional Intel is secured.