Prosecutors Defend Searches of Manafort’s Condo, Storage Unit

WASHINGTON (CN) – Efforts by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to suppress evidence seized from his condo and a nearby storage locker faced opposition from prosecutors Monday night.

Opposing suppression of the evidence in separate briefs, Andrew Weissmann with the special counsel’s office said there was nothing improper about the FBI’s access of Manafort’s storage unit on May 26, 2017 — a day before the court-ordered search was conduct.

“As was fully disclosed to the magistrate judge who signed the warrant for the storage unit, the initial entry into the storage unit was done with the permission of the unit’s lease holder, who had a key to the unit,” the brief states.

Though the filing does not identify the lease holder by name, a copy of the storage unit lease filed on April 6 by Manafort’s defense attorney, Kevin Downing, names Alexander Trusko as the “occupant” of the storage unit.

Weissmann specified that FBI special agents got written consent “from an employee of a Manafort-affiliated business who had a key to the unit, was listed as its occupant on the lease, and had personally moved the contents of the unit into the unit.”

Weissmann also said the FBI had enough evidence before receiving the lease holder’s permission on May 26 to obtain a warrant.

“Even excising the description of what the agent saw in the storage unit during the initial entry, the warrant application established probable cause to believe that evidence of the listed offenses would be found at that location,” the filing says.

The searches were conducted as part of conspiracy charges Special Counsel Robert Mueller has brought against Manafort in connection to his work on behalf of a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

Manafort is also challenging the FBI’s search on July 27 of his condo in Alexandria, Virginia, saying this warrant lacked particularity, and that agents seized his electronic devices without probable cause and beyond the scope of the warrant.

In the other opposition brief Monday, prosecutor Weissmann rejected assertions that the warrant, which was supported with a 41-page affidavit, was overbroad.

“The warrant enumerated 11 specific categories of records that were subject to seizure, all of which must relate to the criminal offenses listed alongside those categories in the warrant,” the brief says. “The supporting affidavit also established ample probable cause to believe that electronic devices would contain evidence of the crimes at issue and would be found at Manafort’s residence.”

Weissmann said FBI agents used a filter team to preserve attorney-client privilege, and made digital copies of his devices during the search so that Manafort could keep them in his possession.

Details of the affidavit in support of the warrant are heavily redacted in the filing, but it does say that a Manafort employee who had been at the condo provided information about the type of documents he observed there.

According to the filing, the employee “had reported seeing a desktop computer in Manafort’s home office and had described Manafort’s ‘widespread use of electronic media in the course of his business activity.'”

The employee also said Manafort had kept “a drawer full of phones and electronic equipment at his prior residence in Alexandria, from which he had moved in 2015.”

The warrant authorized agents to seize financial and tax records, correspondence with foreign financial institutions and anything related to his efforts to conduct activities on behalf of a foreign government, the brief says. The warrant also authorized seizure of records related to the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting with Aras and Amin Agalorov.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is presiding over the matter.

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