(National Sentinel) Faulty Search: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is among the first to be indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller under a broad mandate to investigate far more than just alleged ‘Russia collusion’ with Team Trump during last year’s presidential election.
And while the charges are very detailed — alleging in part, that he illegally funneled millions of dollars of payments into offshore bank accounts in order to avoid detection by U.S. authorities as it related to his work on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych — how FBI agents who raided his home earlier this year obtained some of their evidence could be constitutionally problematic.
In particular, LawNewz reports, agents may have obtained evidence that was not covered by the search warrant.
The site notes:
In a surprise raid on July 26th, FBI agents busted into Manafort’s home in Alexandria, Virginia to collect documents and other materials related to the FBI probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. At the time, Manafort’s attorney raised concerns about how the raid was conducted. In order for the feds to obtain a warrant, a federal judge would have to determine that probable cause existed that a crime was committed. As part of the warrant, investigators attached an affidavit which contained a list of items that FBI agents hoped to collect. That’s where the trouble appears to be in Manafort’s case.
As a legal website, we were immediately drawn to the revelation that evidence was collected that may not have been covered by the warrant. That’s a serious development, and one that Manafort’s attorneys will no doubt seize upon. But, is it necessarily illegal? Did the agents do anything wrong? It’s not clear. It certainly could raise some serious constitutional issues that could taint the investigation.
During the raid, according to an older CNN report, agents collected documents that are considered to be under attorney-client privilege. Lawyers from the WilmerHale law firm, which was representing Manafort then, warned Mueller’s office that the warrant did not allow access to such materials.
The documents in question have since been returned.
During that raid, Mueller’s investigators took documents considered to be covered by attorney-client privilege, sources told CNN. Lawyers from the WilmerHale law firm, representing Manafort at the time, warned Mueller’s office that their search warrant didn’t allow access to attorney materials. The documents in question have now been returned, the sources say.
Legal experts note that despite the fact that the documents were returned, it’s not possible to ‘unsee’ them.
“If they (investigators) had any kind of heads up, and they went beyond the scope of the warrant, that could be a problem,” Henry Hockeimer, a former federal prosecutor, told LawNewz.com.
In 2005, Eric D. McArthur, who coincidentally now serves as Deputy Associate Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, authored an article about the Fourth Amendment implications if investigators collect attorney-client privileged information.
In particular, he wrote:
[T]he Fourth Amendment is violated when the government purposely, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently searches privileged attorney-client communications. In other words, the Fourth Amendment is violated whenever law enforcement officials have reason to believe that a search or seizure is likely to expose them to privileged attorney-client communications and fail to take reasonable steps to minimize their exposure.
A similar issue came up recently in a case against Wall Street financier Benjamin Wey, LawNewz reported.
“A federal judge threw out all of the evidence gathered against him through warrants because the ‘sweeping’ searches of his property violated his Fourth Amendment right,” the site reported.
“Generally, if agents seize privileged materials, (Manafort) could argue the entire search was tainted, they went beyond the scope of the warrant. A defense attorney could make some hay out of this,” Hockeimer said.
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