President Donald Trump said Thursday that he was surprised by the FBI’s pre-dawn raid last month of his former campaign chairman’s home, calling the action “pretty tough stuff” but declining to weigh in on whether it was appropriate.
During the raid on the Alexandria, Virginia, home of Paul Manafort, the FBI seized documents and other materials related to the special counsel investigation of possible meddling in the 2016 election.
In his first public comments since the raid was made public this week by The Washington Post, Trump called Manafort “a very decent man” but said he hadn’t spoken to him for a long time.
“I thought it was a very, very strong signal, or whatever,” Trump said of the raid, speaking to reporters at his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is vacationing.
The raid, which occurred without warning on July 26, marked an aggressive new approach by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team in dealing with a key figure in the Russia inquiry. Using a search warrant, agents appeared the day Manafort was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and a day after he met voluntarily with Senate Intelligence Committee staff members.
Manafort has been under increasing pressure as the Mueller team looks into his personal finances and his professional career as a highly paid foreign political consultant.
Trump said Manafort is “like a lot of other people, probably makes consultant fees from all over the place, who knows, 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.”
Asked whether he had spoken to Attorney General Jeff Sessions or the FBI about the raid, Trump said: “I have not, but to do that early in the morning, whether or not it was appropriate, you’d have to ask them.”
Trump was also asked about the status of his relationship with Sessions, whom Trump has criticized in statements and tweets since the attorney general recused himself from the Russia investigation. Trump has also accused Sessions of not aggressively pursuing allegations of leaks by government officials.
“It is what it is,” Trump said of his relationship with Sessions. “It’s fine.”
Trump offered praise for the attorney general’s work to crack down on illegal crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border. “He’s working hard on the border,” Trump said. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done at the border.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · John Wagner