WASHINGTON, D.C. (TNS) — An FBI agent testified that an assistant to Paul Manafort gave him permission to conduct an initial survey of a Virginia storage locker whose contents became the basis for later indictments of Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman.
The agent, Jeff Pfeiffer, testified Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., where Manafort faces trial on July 25 on bank fraud and tax charges. Manafort, 69, wants a judge to disqualify as evidence the thousands of business records seized during the search in May 2017 on the grounds that the employee wasn't authorized to give the FBI entry.
Pfeiffer said that Alexander Trusko worked as a personal assistant to Manafort, running errands for him and driving him around. Trusko, who had a key to the locker and had signed the lease, told Pfeiffer that he had moved boxes of records and a file cabinet into the unit from Manafort's home in Alexandria, Pfeiffer said.
Trusko signed an FBI search-consent form that authorized the agent to take items from the locker as necessary, Pfeiffer said. Rather than remove items, Pfeiffer photographed the locker and made a list of its contents. He then consulted with prosecutors at Justice Department headquarters and the Eastern District of New York, which was then investigating Manafort.
Pfeiffer remained at the locker until the storage facility, which was also in Alexandria, closed that day, he testified. The next day, agents returned with a court-authorized search warrant to remove most of the contents of the locker.
Investigators first learned of the existence of the storage unit during a meeting with reporters form The Associated Press who "offered information" they had learned about Manafort, Pfeiffer said.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III took a break before defense lawyers could cross-examine the agent.
Beyond considering the raid on the storage locker, Ellis is also reviewing whether agents properly conducted a search two months later of Manafort's home in Alexandria, and whether prosecutors and agents improperly leaked grand jury material about Manafort to the news media before he was first indicted in October 2017.
Manafort made a similar request to suppress the storage-locker search in federal court in Washington, where he's charged with money laundering, acting as an unregistered agent of Ukraine and obstruction of justice. That judge rejected the request last week.
Voreacos reported from Newark, N.J., Harris from Washington