When the FBI raided the office of a Republican fundraising firm called Strategic Campaign Group in Annapolis today, it immediately raised questions as to whether this was related to the FBI’s investigation of the Donald Trump campaign and Russia, and whether it was in response to Trump having fired FBI Director James Comey. Then newspapers began reporting that the raid was instead about Ken Cuccinelli. But we’ve since discovered that this claim was mischaracterized.
The trouble began when the Baltimore Sun reported that Kelley Rogers, the president of Strategic Campaign Group, had “said the FBI investigation concerns work the firm performed during the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial campaign of former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli” (link). The trouble here is two fold. First, when someone runs a firm that’s just been raided by the FBI, you can’t take him at his word as to why he was raided. Second, this wasn’t an actual quote from Rogers.
The national online version of the Washington Post parroted the same thing, that Kelley had said it was about Cuccinelli, as if Kelley should be taken at his word on it (link). But the local Maryland version of the Washington Post posted an entirely different iteration of the story online (link), which reveals that Kelley merely said he had his “suspicion” that today’s FBI raid is a carryover from a lawsuit which Cuccinelli had filed against the firm in 2013.
In other words, multiple major newspapers reported that today’s FBI raid was about Cuccinelli, based on nothing more than the head of the raided firm happening to name-check a lawsuit from four years ago. This isn’t to call out the newspapers in question; this was a fast developing story with scant confirmable details, and a difficult one to report on in real time. But now we know that the Cuccinelli report was based on nothing more than the head of the raided firm randomly mentioning the name of an old legal adversary of his. So what’s the real story?
As Palmer Report has spent the day digging up, Strategic Campaign Group has indirect connections to Donald Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Roger Stone (link), as well as indirect connections to the Trump Taj Mahal (link). And the FBI used its Twitter account to tip its hand about the importance of the raid at the exact time it was being carried out (link). So while we still don’t know for sure that today’s raid was part of the FBI’s Trump investigation, it wasn’t about Ken Cuccinelli. Help fund Palmer Report
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report