HARTFORD, CT – U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the execution of a search warrant on Paul Manafort’s home was a “stunning development” and an indication of “criminal wrongdoing.”
Manafort is the New Britain native and longtime lobbyist who was chairman for Trump’s campaign until August 2016.
“This kind of raid – in the early morning hours with no advanced notice – shows an astonishing and alarming distrust for the President’s former campaign chairman,” Blumenthal said Thursday. “It seems to decimate his claim that he is cooperating with law enforcement.”
At a press conference at the Legislative Office Building, Blumenthal said the search of Manafort’s home on July 25 for tax documents and foreign bank records is a clear signal that the Russian investigation is “widening and intensifying.”
“Apparently there is now no question of clear evidence connecting Paul Manafort to some criminal wrongdoing,” Blumenthal said.
The search is a sign that the investigation into Manafort has broadened, and is the most significant public step investigators have taken since the special counsel, Robert Mueller was appointed in May.
Investigators are expected to deploy a wide array of similar measures— including interviews and subpoenas — in the coming months as they move forward with the intensifying inquiry.
Mueller has declined to comment on the raid.
The warrant, demanding tax and foreign banking records, suggests that investigators are looking at criminal charges related to the federal Bank Secrecy Act, which requires Americans to report their foreign banking accounts, according to several news reports.
A spokesman for Manafort confirmed that an F.B.I. raid was carried out around July 25, but provided no details on the documents that might have been taken.
“Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well,” said Jason Maloni, Manafort’s spokesman. News of the search warrant was first reported on Wednesday by The Washington Post.
Blumenthal, who is an experienced lawyer and served as Connecticut’s United States Attorney from 1977 to 1981, said for a judge to sign off on allowing a raid of Manafort’s home “a high standard of probable cause would have had to been met.”
It was already known that Manafort was under investigation for his business dealings with Trump’s son-in-law; his role in a meeting on June 9, 2016, between Trump campaign officials and Russians; and whether his work for the Ukrainian government violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Blumenthal said he expected it is likely inevitable that Congress will hold hearings on the alleged Russian election meddling once it gets back in session.
Asked where he thought the investigation might be headed, Blumenthal answered: “There should be criminal charges if criminal wrongdoing is found.”
Blumenthal is a member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which expects to call on Manafort to testify when it reconvenes in September.
The raid on Manafort’s Virginia home happened a day after he met voluntarily with Senate Intelligence Committee staff members.