A former federal prosecutor explains the complex nature of the statements made to former Donald Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.
“If he’s been told that he’s a target—that he’s likely to be indicted—I think the way you interpret that is he’s likely to be indicted,” said Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor who served as special counsel to Mueller when he was assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s Criminal Division.
The trick here is that there’s no trick at all. Those interpreting the pre-dawn raid on one of several homes owned by Manafort to be a tactic to get the man known as “the torturer’s lobbyist” to roll over on the rest of the Trump campaign are ignoring the more important point: The intention was to find information related to Manafort’s crimes and charge him.
In details provided by TPM, the warrant for searching Manafort’s residence included activities going back to 2006. That would certainly cover the period in which Manafort provided foreign money to a pair of U.S. lobbying firms, in violation of the law. But it would even more neatly proscribe the period, starting in 2006, in which Manafort made real estate purchases at three Trump properties.
According to a report by WNYC, Manafort has engaged in a series of curious real-estate deals over the past 11 years, all of which follow a pattern that law-enforcement experts say raises red flags. Between 2006 and 2013, the former Trump campaign chairman purchased three multimillion-dollar New York City–area properties in Trump Tower, SoHo, and Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Each home was purchased entirely in cash through various limited liability companies, and later transferred to Manafort.
Manafort used these properties as collateral in still more mysterious real estate dealings, including a series of transactions that happened on the same day Manafort left the Trump campaign.
As Manafort rolled away from Team Trump under a cloud of suspicion about his activities in Ukraine, he took the time to create a whole new company.
That same day, Manafort created a holding company called Summerbreeze LLC. Several weeks later, a document called a UCC filed with the state of New York shows that Summerbreeze took out a $3.5 million loan on Manafort’s home in the tony beach enclave of Bridgehampton.
And now, prepare for the kind of intentional tangle that surrounds every single Trump-related real estate deal:
A review of New York state and Suffolk County records shows the loan was made by S C 3, a subsidiary of Spruce Capital, which was co-founded by Joshua Crane, who has partnered with Donald Trump on real estate deals. Spruce is also partially funded by Ukrainian-American real-estate magnate Alexander Rovt, who tried to donate $10,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign on Election Day but had all but the legal maximum of $2,700 returned.
Manafort walks out the door at the Trump campaign and forms a holding company. Then someone inserts $3.5 million into that fresh envelope sourced from business partners of Trump.
This deal is only one of many. In fact, Paul Manafort has taken out an amazing $19 million in home equity loans in a round-robin of escalating value through companies registered both to himself and to his son-in-law.
That’s in addition to his visits with the tiny Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, where Manafort racked up $16 million in loans to himself and his “company.”
Federal Savings Bank made about $6.5 million in loans in January to Manafort and his wife for a Brooklyn property, documents show. That came about a month after Federal Savings lent $9.5 million to Summerbreeze, a limited liability company connected to Manafort, according to 377 Union, a website run by two New York lawyers that is named for the address of the Manafort property in Brooklyn.
That $16 million represented one-quarter of all the assets in Federal Savings Bank.
It seems clear that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking primarily at Manafort’s shady real estate transactions, which have included a series of shady loans from oligarchs in Russia and former Soviet territories and funneled through a set of holding companies. Even with the information that’s been made public, it appears very much as if Paul Manafort was acting as a personal laundromat for illicit funds being carried into the U.S. by flipping the same properties over and over. And taking a cut for himself, of course.
Which makes sense when you get back to that pre-dawn raid.
Agents reportedly took documents related to taxes and banking …
“They could pick his lock to go into his house which meant that they must’ve had strong evidence that he was going to destroy documents,” Nick Akerman, a former prosecutor on the Watergate investigation, told TPM. “That would have to be laid out in the search warrant application.”
It’s unlikely that Mueller was after documents that outright demonstrated how the Trump campaign was conspiring with Russia. But it’s very likely he was after documents showing how Manafort had acted as a pipeline for Russian money.
Just like someone else in this story.
Among the powerful facts that DNI missed were a series of very deep studies published in the [Financial Times] that examined the structure and history of several major Trump real estate projects from the last decade—the period after his seventh bankruptcy and the cancellation of all his bank lines of credit. ...
The money to build these projects flowed almost entirely from Russian sources. In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful business enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources.
He was their man.
The period in which those transactions occurred … started in 2006.