Establishment media outlets on Wednesday cast dark shadows over revelations that the FBI went to onetime Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s home and took documents for the investigation of so-far unsubstantiated allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russia.
A number of headlines insinuated Manafort was a highly sought fugitive instead of a witness cooperating with Congress and others, with the Washington Post and the Week magazine declaring the FBI conducted a “predawn raid.”
On his nationally syndicated talk-radio show, Rush Limbaugh commented that whether or not any real crimes were committed doesn’t seem to be the issue now. It’s whether the FBI wants to find a crime against someone.
“Now, this predawn raid of a supposedly cooperating witness is puzzling. Now, Manafort’s allies, if you will, fear that what’s going on here is an attempt by Mueller – remember, there’s no limits on this guy’s scope. He can investigate anything.
“And Manafort buddies fear that Mueller is hoping or trying to build a case against Manafort that’s unrelated to the 2016 campaign.”
He continued: “And if they can make a case – and, by the way, when they have unlimited money and a no-limitations scope and if they want to find somebody who has done something illegal, irregular, or if they want to create that – this is another thing – they can create a process crime. Very simply, a witness can tell Mueller’s team, ‘Yeah, that happened on Tuesday.’ But what if it really happened on Wednesday? They can say the guy lied to ’em. Process crime.
“The point is that once they find something to charge, then they’ve got leverage, and then they can offer a deal. ‘OK, Manafort, look what we found here. We found that back in 2008, you were doing X, and it led to event Y, and we don’t think you want people to know about this. We’re willing to let you go in this if you’ll turn state’s evidence or if you’ll tell us what was actually going on between the Trump campaign and Russia.’ That’s the great fear,” he explained.
He said that’s why it’s a “very dangerous time.”
“Remember, this is what did in Martha Stewart. They didn’t find any evidence of any wrongdoing, so they created the crime during the investigation. It’s become a staple, if you will, in the ammunition that prosecutors have at their disposal. If they want to get somebody, interview ’em 15 different times on the same subject. You get the point where the interviewee says, ‘I’ve told you this! I’ve told you this 10 times. What more …’ ‘We want to hear it again.’ And if there’s any variance, here comes the process charge. ‘You lied to federal investigators. You lied to us!’ ‘I didn’t lie. I got the date wrong.’ ‘You lied. That’s the charge! We have the power, we have the ability, we have the desire to charge you.'”
He explained: “There’s no limits on this, folks. It is a very dangerous time for everybody involved. And when I saw this predawn raid … Look, it caught me up short because he supposedly is cooperating. You just don’t raid before everybody’s up. I mean, here you’re sleeping – you’re soundly sleeping – and all of a sudden lights and sirens outside your house before the sun comes up, and it’s the FBI with a search warrant?”
The San Diego Union-Tribune suggested the approach used by the FBI means Mueller didn’t trust Manafort to provide documents to a grand jury.
“Unnamed sources told the Post that FBI agents seized some documents that Manfort had already given to Congress in its own separate investigation,” said the report, which added that the New York Times later said agents seized tax documents and foreign banking records.
The Union-Tribune also admitted, “It remains unclear what, if any, evidence the FBI will find that ties Manafort to a wider effort by Russians to influence the 2016 elections, but it signals the agency’s willingness to leave no stone unturned.”
It also described Mueller’s team of investigators, most of whom supported Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, including financially, as an “all-star team.”
Online commenters pointed out there has been no such raid on former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Hillary Clinton, Debbie Wasserman Schultz or others who were caught up in a wide range of allegations, including mishandling classified information and meeting secretly with the attorney general while a spouse is under investigation.
Time magazine explained that the “act of carrying out a search on a witness is a powerful psychological tool that can prompt a witness to become more forthcoming or name more targets.”
“It’s a sign that lack of cooperation from the witness won’t be take lightly.”
The Washington Post noted investigators may be intending to use Manafort “as leverage.”
“Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign isn’t the only aspect of his life under federal investigation,” the newspaper said, citing “money laundering allegations,” his work in Ukraine and more.
“That’s significant leverage investigators have on Manafort. If they can’t convince Manafort to cooperate on the Russia investigation – and this search warrant is evidence that they feel they couldn’t – they could potentially force him to cooperate by threatening him with unrelated legal trouble.”
While media were suggesting some negative aspect of Manafort’s case prompted the FBI action, others held another opinion.
Fox News host Jon Scott suggested, “Some might call it, I don’t know, witness intimidation.”
The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky told Scott, “I frankly have a bad suspicion that this is part of Mueller’s shock and awe to get back at critics of him and to show them that he may take advantage of the power he’s got, particularly with regard to his critics.”
John Flannery, a former federal prosecutor, then claimed of von Spakovsky’s concerns, “There’s no evidence of that at all.”