Judge denies request by ex-Trump campaign aide to suppress evidence

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday declined a request by President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to suppress evidence seized from a storage unit by investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives for arraignment on a third superseding indictment against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges of witness tampering, at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S. June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Manafort, who is currently jailed in Virginia, had argued the evidence was seized improperly after an FBI agent got one of Manafort’s employees to open the storage unit, rather than asking Manafort for permission or seeking a warrant.

But Judge Amy Berman Jackson for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected that argument, saying, “Law enforcement agents do not need a warrant to enter a location if they have voluntary consent.”

Manafort is facing two indictments in Washington and Virginia arising from Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. His Washington trial is scheduled for September.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges that include conspiring to launder money, bank and tax fraud and failing to register as a foreign agent for the pro-Russia Ukraine government.

Last week, Jackson ordered Manafort be jailed after Mueller brought fresh charges against him alleging he tampered with witnesses.

In a hearing last month, Manafort’s lawyers told Jackson his rights against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment were violated in 2017 when the FBI searched the storage locker and also conducted a raid on his home in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia.

In the argument related to the storage locker, Manafort’s lawyers accused the FBI of conducting an illegal warrantless search in May 2017 on the unit by getting one of Manafort’s low-level employees to unlock it and let an agent look inside.

The employee who unlocked it was listed on the lease for the unit and the agent then obtained a warrant to seize business records stored there.

Manafort’s lawyers also claimed the warrant was overly broad but Jackson also rejected that argument.

“The warrant was not overbroad since it called for records related to specific offenses detailed in the application and in the warrant itself,” she wrote.

Jackson has yet to rule on a motion by Manafort to suppress certain evidence seized in his home.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by James Dalgleish and Bill Trott