President Trump said he was “surprised” that FBI agents raided the Virginia home of his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, last month.
“You know, they do that very seldom, so I was surprised to see it. I was very, very surprised to see it,” Trump said in remarks from Bedminster, N.J., where he is vacationing.
“I don’t know, but I thought it was pretty tough stuff to wake him up, perhaps his family was there. I think that’s pretty tough stuff.”
On Wednesday, The Washington Post broke the news that FBI agents acting on a search warrant obtained by Special Counsel Robert Mueller conducted an early morning “no knock” raid on Manafort’s Alexandria, Va. home on July 26.
Search warrants of the sort that Mueller obtained are approved only when there is probable cause that a crime has been committed.
Manafort is a central figure in Mueller’s expanding investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential campaign. The former FBI director has reportedly subpoenaed Manafort’s banking and financial records. Mueller has also reported approached Manafort’s son-in-law in an effort to get him to cooperate in the investigation.
Trump did not directly condemn or support Mueller’s decision to exercise a search warrant.
“I thought it was a very, very strong signal, or whatever,” he said, according to a White House pool report. “I know Mr. Manafort. Haven’t spoken to him for a long time, but I know him.”
Manafort, who has a residence in Trump Tower in New York City, joined Trump’s campaign last March, in the heat of the primaries. The longtime Republican operative and lobbyist was brought on to help the Trump campaign wrangle delegates for what was expected to be a contentious primary battle and GOP convention.
Manafort was forced to quit the campaign in August after the publication of investigative reports about his consulting work for a Ukrainian political party with ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Manafort recently filed a foreign agent disclosure report for that consulting work, which ended in 2014.
Asked if he had talked to Attorney General Jeff Sessions or anyone at the FBI about the Manafort raid, Trump said he had not.
“I have not, but to do that early in the morning, whether or not it was appropriate you’d have to ask them,” he said.
“I’ve always found Paul Manafort to be a very decent man,” he continued, adding that “he’s like a lot of other people, probably makes consultant fees from all over the place.”