The special counsel also obtained search warrant for info on 5 phones in ongoing investigation just last month.
By Josh Gerstein
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office moved to seize bank accounts at three different financial institutions last year just one day before former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted, prosecutors disclosed in a court filing Thursday.
The previously unknown move against the bank accounts was revealed in a list of search and seizure warrants prosecutors submitted to a federal court in Washington after Manafort’s defense team complained that the government was withholding too many details about how the warrants were obtained.
The new filing also indicated that Mueller’s investigators have been pressing on with their work in recent weeks despite the pair of indictments pending against Manafort and a detailed indictment in February of the Russia-based Internet Research Agency and a dozen Russian nationals for alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
On March 9, the special counsel’s office obtained a search warrant for information related to “five telephone numbers controlled by AT&T,” the prosecution said. It did not reveal who the numbers belonged to, although it said some information about the search was given to Manafort’s defense on Wednesday, so presumably there is some connection to the veteran political consultant who held a top role in the Trump campaign for several months in 2016.
Prosecutors said some information about the various searches was withheld from Manafort because it relates to the identity of informants or “to ongoing investigations that are not the subject of either of the current prosecutions involving Manafort.” POLITICO reported in January that an errant court filing by the defense indicated that at least one employee of a Manafort consulting firm was surreptitiously cooperating with the FBI and journalists.
Manafort is currently facing two separate indictments. One, in Washington, focuses on money laundering and foreign lobbying. Another, in Alexandria, Virginia, involves tax fraud, bank fraud and failure to report overseas bank accounts. The 69-year-old Manafort could potentially spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted in either case.
Neither case appears to directly relate to the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia that are at the heart of Mueller’s mandate, but it was revealed this week that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein specifically authorized the special counsel’s team to pursue the financial and foreign lobbying allegations against Manafort.
The new filing by Mueller’s team also confirms accounts that investigators obtained a warrant to search a storage locker belonging to Manafort, apparently somewhere in northern Virginia.
All the warrants listed by prosecutors Thursday remain under seal and off limits to the public, but new details in the latest filing indicate that the storage unit search took place in late May or early June, about two months before the FBI conducted an early morning raid on Manafort’s Alexandria, Va. condo.
Manafort’s lawyers have suggested some mystery surrounding the search of the storage locker. They say an FBI agent appears to have gotten into the locker before the search the a federal magistrate in Virginia ordered. Some press accounts have said investigators obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to conduct a search of a storage locker belonging to Manafort at some point last year. It’s possible they used that authority to enter the locker and then decided to obtain a criminal warrant to delve into whatever Manafort had inside.