Now that the shock has worn off from the FBI’s pre-dawn raid of the home of Donald Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, it’s time to figure what it means in terms of the next steps in the Trump-Russia investigation. The initial Washington Post report merely revealed that FBI agents used the raid to seize documents. But a subsequent report has revealed that the documents in question are likely the kind that will send Manafort to prison if he doesn’t flip on Trump.
After the initial WaPo report about the raid, the New York Times published a followup piece of its own (link). Down in the sixth paragraph is the key takeaway: “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.” This tells us what Mueller is really going after here.
While Manafort essentially admitted his guilt when he retroactively registered as a paid foreign agent, it’s never been clear how much legal leverage this particular crime gives Robert Mueller. Rarely is anyone prosecuted for violating the FARA act, as it’s essentially just a failure to file paperwork. But now that we know Mueller is pursuing Manafort for the Bank Secrecy Act, that’s a whole different ballgame. Violating that law points to all kinds of underlying financial crimes – and so this raid points to Mueller bringing serious criminal charges against Manafort.
If Paul Manafort is indeed guilty of these kinds of financial crimes, he’ll be facing major prison time. His only option to leniency, by design in these kinds of multi-layer kingpin investigations, will be to testify against Donald Trump. Manafort may have first hand information in everything from Trump’s election rigging to Trump’s own financial crimes.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report