The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a raid of the home of one of President Trump’s former campaign chairmen, Paul Manafort, in the early morning of July 26.
Only the day before, Manafort had met (voluntarily) with staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, concerning allegations of Russian interference with the U.S. presidential election campaign last year.
The predawn raid on Manafort’s Alexandria, Virginia home was predicated on a wide-ranging search warrant, and the agents did leave the home in possession of certain records.
Manafort has numerous connections to Russia that may account for the interest of the special counsel, and thus for the search warrant. For example, Manafort received two payments, in 2007 and 2009, from politicians within the Ukraine associated with Russian influence in that country. The Associated Press reported in April that the two payments, confirmed by financial records it obtained, amount to $1.2 Million.
Right Wing View
Over recent months a quite common reaction to any news about Trump family and friends having some connection with Russian governing circles has been, “but what about Hillary and the Ukraine?” Trump surrogates have long contended that the Clinton campaign’s connections to the Ukraine are quite certain, whereas any connection between the Trump campaign and Russia is speculative, thus a focus on the latter rather than the former is misguided.
Manafort’s dealings with Ukraine have been under “investigation” for a while. WHO else had dealings with Ukraine?
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) August 9, 2017
The Manafort raid raises the matter of the connection between … the two connections! The Clinton connection to the Ukraine seems to have come about as a consequence of Manafort’s connection to Russian politicians in the Ukraine.
Politico, in January, a little more than a week before Trump’s inauguration reported the basic facts that seem to have fueled most subsequent debate about a Clinton-Ukraine connection. The gist of investigation was this: “A Ukrainian-American operative [consulting with the DNC]… met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort, and Russia….” The pro-independence faction in Ukrainian politics supported Clinton by trying to expose Trump’s ties to the anti-independence, pro-Russia, faction in Ukrainian politics.
Thus, the Manafort raid has encouraged the right wingers to wax indignant that the FBI is investigating one sort interference by foreigners rather than the other.
Raided by FBI?
❎ Hillary Clinton
❎ Debbie Wasserman Schultz
❎ DNC Offices
❎ Clinton Foundation
❎ Awan Family
✅ Paul Manafort
— Stefan Molyneux (@StefanMolyneux) August 9, 2017
Another bullet-point on the right was the timing of the raid. As noted above, it occurred the day after Manafort had voluntarily discussed the underlying issues with staff of an investigating committee. This, to some, illustrates the axiom that no good deed goes unpunished.
Andrew McCarthy, writing in the National Review, set it out as a general rule that “[p]rosecutors don’t do pre-dawn raids on the home of a cooperating witness.” He discussed a couple of possible reasons why an exception might have been made in this case. McCarthy seems to favor what he calls the “brass knuckles” explanation – the raid was an attempt to intimidate, third parties as well as Manafort himself.
Left Wing View
On the left of center, much of the response to the raid was joyful. This tweet from Ted Lieu is an example:
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) August 9, 2017
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D- CT), who has been the object of some of President Trump’s tweeted bile in recent days, did some post-raid tweeting of his own, saying:
1/ Predawn raid on Manafort’s house is stunning- typical of serious criminal investigations dealing w uncooperative or untrusted targets
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) August 9, 2017
Months before the raid, The New Republic ran a piece by Alex Shephard describing Manafort as a “grifter,” and an example of the many people in Trump’s circle, especially those who were in it “in the early days, when few respectable political types would join the circus,” for whom the goal of the campaign that Manafort managed was self-enrichment, not victory, and thus not governing.
More recently, Gabriel Schoenfeld, at the New York Daily News, has engaged in similar characterizations of the Trump circle and Manafort’s role there in particular.
As the scandal spools itself out, one might well see the left trying to re-work its characterizations of Manafort, trying to make him out to be less of a mere opportunist, more of an ideologue. After all, the political use of a criminal investigation isn’t just about who the prosecutors ‘get,’ it’s about who else they help discredit!