FBI Conducted Pre-Dawn Raid Of Manafort's Home

The FBI raided the home of President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. According to the Washington Post, which first reported the story, documents and other materials were seized. NPR's Ailsa Chang speaks with White House reporter Geoff Bennett.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

We have news this morning about the investigation into Russian meddling in last year's presidential election. The FBI raided the home of President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. According to The Washington Post, which first reported the story, the raid was carried out before dawn. It had - it happened late last month. And during that raid, agents seized documents and other materials.

NPR's White House reporter Geoff Bennett is here with us in the studio to talk about it. Hi, Geoff.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: So do we know what the FBI was looking for in this raid?

BENNETT: We don't. And as The Washington Post story makes clear, the significance of the records that were taken from Manafort's apartment, his home in Alexandria, is unclear. But we do know that he had been turning over - voluntarily turning over documents to the Senate intelligence committee and the Senate judiciary committee in particular about that now-infamous 2016 campaign meeting in Trump Tower in which there were three Trump - top Trump associates, top Trump campaign associates, of which Manafort was one - also Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. And then there were those five other Russians or Russian advocates in the room. And so Manafort took contemporaneous notes of that meeting, turned those over. And those notes are crucial to understanding what happened there.

CHANG: That was the meeting that took place in June of 2016.

BENNETT: That's right.

CHANG: So he has been cooperating. But a search warrant implies the investigators are looking for things that Manafort is not voluntarily giving up.

BENNETT: Right.

CHANG: I mean what do you think? Is this the first clear sign we have that he's actually not cooperating?

BENNETT: In some respects - I mean to - remember; in order to obtain a search warrant, the FBI would need to show probable cause that some sort of crime was committed. And Manafort in many ways is sort of the obvious suspect in this potential collusion investigation because of his long and lucrative career, his lobbying and consulting career. And he has well-documented ties to Russian oligarchs. And then Chris Coons, who's a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee - he makes...

CHANG: From Delaware

BENNETT: ...from Delaware - he makes the point that, remember; during the during the Republican National Convention, the platform - the Republican Party platform changed, and it's position to Ukraine changed. That was the only change of the Republican Party platform at the time, and it was done particularly at the behest of Paul Manafort. So there's a link there that Coons and other Democrats and we can imagine some folks on the special counsel team wanted to take a look at as well.

CHANG: So it seems that some of the heaviest scrutiny right now in this investigation is on Manafort. But could this be a sign that we may be seeing other search warrants being issued for other close advisers to the president as this investigation unfolds?

BENNETT: Potentially. But as Jared Kushner tried to paint himself publicly - remember; he made those public statements about that June 2016 meeting, and he tried to paint himself as a political novice at the time who had, you know, thousands of contacts, as he put it, with foreign officials, of which there were those four contacts with Russians. Donald Trump Jr. tried to paint himself in a similar way. The same cannot be true. The same cannot be said of Paul Manafort, who, as we know, has a very long and well-documented career and well-documented contacts with Russians as well.

CHANG: That's NPR's Geoff Bennett. Thank you so much.

BENNETT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.