Chuck Ross, DCNF
Associated Press reporters might have provided the tip that led the FBI to search a storage unit used by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, an FBI agent said in federal court on Friday.
Jeff Pfeiffer, the FBI agent, said in a pretrial hearing that AP reporters asked about the storage unit during an April 2017 meeting with Department of Justice attorneys and FBI agents to discuss an investigation into Manafort.
Manafort, who faces charges of tax evasion and bank fraud related to his Ukraine lobbying work, has challenged the search warrant used to access his storage unit. He has also accused DOJ lawyer Andrew Weissmann, a member of the special counsel’s team, of leaking information about his case to reporters. Weissmann was at the April 2017 meeting with the AP.
Pfeiffer said the DOJ met with AP reporters in order to gain information about the wire service’s investigation into Manafort, according to Politico, which had a reporter present at Friday’s pretrial hearing. The agency’s attorneys offered no information in return, Pfeiffer said.
“Generally, no comment,” was the DOJ’s response to questions posed by the AP, Pfeiffer testified.
Pfeiffer and other FBI agents took part in a May 2017 search of Manafort’s storage unit. An assistant to the longtime Republican consultant granted them access to the facility.
Manafort’s trial in Alexandria, Virginia, is scheduled to start on July 25. He has also been indicted in Washington, D.C., on similar charges related to his consulting work. That trial is expected to begin in September.
So far, the special counsel’s office has yet to produce evidence about Manafort’s activities as a member of the Trump campaign. The indictments center on work that Manafort did from 2005 through 2014 on behalf of a Ukrainian political party affiliated with former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
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