Judge Orders FBI Agent Who Conducted Manafort Search To Attend Hearing

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, departs Federal District Court, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Andrew Harnik/AP

The FBI agent who searched Paul Manafort’s storage unit should be present and ready to testify at a hearing about the legality of the search next week, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered Friday.

Manafort has challenged the search of his storage unit, which was conducted just 10 days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take over the Russia investigation. Jackson — who is overseeing the case brought against Manafort in Washington, D.C. — is holding a hearing on Manafort’s request to suppress the fruits of the search on Wednesday.

In dispute in the dueling court filings from Manafort and Mueller about the storage unit search is whether the FBI agent — whose name is redacted in the version of the affidavit filed in court — understood that an employee of Manafort’s had the authority to unlock and let the agent into the unit.

The employee, Alexander Trusko, had a key to the storage unit, and a lease that the agent examined prior to entering the unit showed him listed as an “occupant.”

After initially entering the unit on May 26 — during which, according to Mueller, the agent did not open any of the containers — the agent successfully sought a search warrant that was executed the following day.

Manafort in court filings argued Trusko was a former employee at the time of the search, that he did not have authority to let the FBI agent enter the unit and that there was no indication that Trusko shared use of the unit with Manafort.

Manafort claimed that the FBI agent knew all of these things when he entered the unit the first time. Furthermore, Manafort argued, the fact that the FBI agent sought a search warrant after entering on May 26 showed that the agent knew he wasn’t authorized to be in there in the first place.

Mueller countered in court filings that such “speculation” was “unfounded.”

Mueller argued that the agent understood the employee to be “currently” working for Manafort. In the affidavit Trusko is described as being a former employee of Manafort’s consulting firm DMP and current employee of Steam LLC, an entity also operated by Manafort. The agent understood, according to Mueller, that among Trusko’s duties as Manafort’s employee was moving materials into the storage unit.

“The relevant question in deciding apparent authority is whether ‘the facts available to the officer at the moment [would] warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that the consenting party had authority over the premises,'” Mueller’s court filing said.  “Here the answer to that question is ‘yes.'”

Manafort is facing charges of money laundering and failure to disclose foreign laundering. A separate case Mueller brought against him in Virginia accuses Manafort of bank fraud and tax fraud. The former Trump campaign chairman has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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