BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he was surprised by an FBI raid on his former campaign chairman’s home, calling the move “pretty tough stuff.”
Trump was referring to FBI agents who searched Paul Manafort’s home in Alexandria, Virginia, in the early morning hours of July 26. The agents, working for special counsel Robert Mueller, were carrying a warrant that sought tax documents and foreign banking records.
Also Thursday, Manafort dropped a law firm that was representing him in the investigation led by Mueller, switching to one with expertise in international tax cases.
Trump was asked about the Manafort search during a question-and-answer session with reporters at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course. He said he “thought it was a very strong signal,” adding: “They do that very seldom. I was surprised to see it.”
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Trump also tried to minimize his relationship with Manafort, saying Manafort only ran the campaign for “a very short period of time.”
Mueller has been looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any possible collusion with Trump associates. He has also incorporated other pending investigations into people close to Trump including Manafort, who has been a subject of a longstanding FBI kleptocracy investigation focused on Ukraine.
Manafort worked for years as a political consultant advising the pro-Russian Party of Regions and its leader, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort has denied any wrongdoing, saying that his work in Ukraine was open and appropriate.
On Thursday, Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said in a statement that Manafort is no longer represented by Washington law firm WilmerHale. Going forward, Manafort will be represented by Miller & Chevalier, Maloni said.
The move to a firm with specific expertise in international tax cases signals that Manafort expects Mueller to focus on his foreign financial entanglements.
Manafort had been represented by experienced Washington attorney Reginald Brown of WilmerHale. Brown declined to comment in a text message.
Day reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.