Probable Cause

10 August 2017

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

FBI Raided Trump Campaign Manager's Home in Search for Evidence

The FBI served a search warrant on the home of Paul Manafort, the former campaign director and chief strategist for the Trump presidential campaign, on July 26. The warrant is a significant escalation in Robert Mueller's investigation of the Russian-Trump collusion case. Its use suggests Mr. Manafort is not being fully cooperative, which suggests he's guilty of something, or at least, he thinks he might be. That will prove to be a useful tool in moving the investigation along.

The Washington Post reported, "Investigators in the Russia inquiry have previously sought documents with subpoenas, which are less intrusive and confrontational than a search warrant. With a warrant, agents can inspect a physical location and seize any useful information. To get a judge to sign off on a search warrant, prosecutors must show that there is probable cause that a crime has been committed."

"Probable cause" is not the same as "beyond a reasonable doubt," which is the standard for conviction in a criminal case. Nor is it even a "preponderance of the evidence," which would carry the day in a civil suit. "Probable cause is a fluid concept, turning on the assessment of probabilities in particular factual contexts-not readily, or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules." (Illinois v. Gates).

That's lawyers talking. Politically, probable cause is easily defined as "Robert Mueller having sufficient evidence that Paul Manafort has committed some kind of criminal office such that Mr. Mueller could defend this search and seizure of documents in Mr. Manafort's home if called to testify about it during televised Congressional hearings." With the warrant, he has already convinced a judge that he has that kind of evidence.

As former prosecutor Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a statement, "A federal judge signing this warrant would demand persuasive evidence of probable cause that a serious crime has been committed and that less intrusive and dramatic investigative means would be ineffective."

Whatever the FBI took from Mr. Manafort's home is likely needed to flesh out the case Mr. Mueller already has. He failed to register as an agent of a foreign government, a well-known fact, tacitly admitted by Mr. Manafort himself when he retroactively complied with the registration requirement. Having accepting rather a lot of money from a pro-Putin political party in Ukraine and elsewhere, Mr. Manafort's finances become fair game for the investigation.

The firm of Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly has done business with Presidents Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mohamed Siad Barre of Somalia and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi of UNITA in addition to the Ukrainian project. One would be surprised to find that the payments were made with funds of pristine origin done in a perfectly standard fashion. That would be inconsistent with the nature of the clients.

The question now becomes just how much prison time can Mr. Mueller threaten Mr. Manafort with. If the possible defendant is looking at 20 years and if he doesn't feel lucky, one would expect his counsel to arrange some kind of cooperation in exchange for a lighter sentence. If one recalls that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has already offered to cooperate with the Congressional inquiries in exchange for immunity, it would appear the race to be the first to cooperate with Mr. Mueller is on.

There are few questions to be answered. "What did Mr. Manafort know? When did he know it? What will it take to make him tell his story?"

© Copyright 2017 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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