Robert Mueller's Russia investigation jumped back into the headlines Wednesday with news of a pre-dawn raid at the home of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Now Politico reports that investigators appear to be trying to rattle Manafort in another way, by approaching his son-in-law in a bid for cooperation. Jeffrey Yohai has worked with Manafort on various business deals, and the story points out that neither he nor Manafort has been formally accused of any wrongdoing. It's not clear whether Yohai agreed to any such cooperation, but the move shows that investigators are trying to get "into Manafort's head," says one of Politico's sources. Related developments:
- "Climbing the ladder": Reaching out to a relative or some kind of lower-ring operative would be a tried-and-true investigative practice called "climbing the ladder," notes the story. If, for example, investigators had turned up any kind of wrongdoing on, say, a tax form, related to Yohai's business deals, they could offer him protection in exchange for information on his father-in-law.
- A "gross abuse": President Trump's attorney fired off a scathing email calling the raid on Manafort's home a "gross abuse of the judicial process," per Fox News. Chief counsel John Dowd also questioned the validity of the search warrant, perhaps laying the ground for a future challenge of anything uncovered. He called it an "invasion of privacy," adding that "these methods are normally found and employed in Russia, not America."
- Change in tone: The aggressive email seems to reflect a shift in tone from the White House. Though Trump has regularly called the Russia investigation a witch hunt in public, he has also sent private messages to Mueller, via Dowd, expressing "appreciation" for Mueller's work, USA Today reported earlier this week.
- So why Manafort? The Washington Post has a primer of sorts that runs through the reasons his house would be raided, including his brief role as Trump's campaign manager, Manafort's own ties to Russia, and his participation in the controversial Donald Trump Jr. meeting. Manafort also faces allegations of money laundering and other financial misdeeds, and all those inquiries would now be under Mueller's purview. In other words, the feds may be looking for leverage.
- About that warrant: A post at Newsweek explains that Mueller used a search warrant for the raid, not a mere grand jury subpoena that would have given Manafort time to prepare. One theory is that Mueller was worried Manafort would destroy documents. Another is that Mueller wanted to send a message that he means business.
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