Mueller Team Calls Out New York Times, Washington Post for Incorrect Stories on Manafort

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
June 23, 2018 Updated: October 5, 2018

The team of special counsel Robert Mueller singled out articles from The New York Times (NYT) and The Washington Post (WP) as examples of incorrect reporting on the case of Paul Manafort, who briefly led Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

While saying that the media reported “at times inaccurately” on the Manafort case, Mueller’s lawyers, in a June 21 court filing, gave examples, including one NYT story and one WP opinion piece, that both incorrectly said that FBI agents conducted a no-knock raid on Manafort’s home.

NYT made the false claim both in the headline and the first sentence of the article, stating, “Paul J. Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home.”

WP opinion writer Radley Balko even based his article on the false claim, titling it, “No-knock raids like the one against Paul Manafort are more common than you think.”

The raid indeed occurred on July 26, but, “the warrant application had not sought permission to enter without knocking,” the Mueller team noted in an April 23 court filing (pdf).

The WP responded to a request for a comment by issuing a correction to Balko’s opinion piece. “This post stated that the FBI raided Paul Manafort’s house without knocking. In court filings the FBI has stated that that is not the case,” the correction stated.

The New York Times didn’t respond to a request for a comment.

It’s not clear how Balko or the NYT, which had three reporters working on its story, came up with the no-knock claim, as neither piece attributed the claim to any sources.

Both papers first reported on the raid on Aug. 9, citing people “familiar” with the matter, but neither article stated the raid was conducted without knocking or by picking the lock. The WP article, however, incorrectly called the raid pre-dawn.

The judge who authorized the raid ordered it to be conducted any day before Aug. 8 “in the daytime [from] 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m,” the Mueller team wrote. “The government complied fully with those date and time conditions, and Manafort does not contend otherwise.”

Upon being alerted to the error, the WP issued a correction and promised to run one in print, too. The Epoch Times also corrected its previous reports, which used the WP as a source.

On Oct. 27, Mueller filed charges against Manafort (pdf), saying he hid from authorities millions of dollars in payments from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, dodging taxes in the process. He also allegedly lied to banks about his income to get better loans.

Epoch Times Photo
Former Trump Campaign manager Paul Manafort leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington, D.C., on April 4, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Manafort was also charged with lobbying for Ukraine in the U.S. without registering (a seldom prosecuted offense) and lying to the Justice Department.

On June 8, he was also charged with witness tampering after he allegedly called and messaged a former associate to give him a “heads-up” about work the two did connected to the unregistered lobbying, according to court documents.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson then sent Manafort to jail to prevent further contact with witnesses.

Manafort joined Trump’s campaign in March 2016 and briefly served as the campaign manager, from June to August that year. He stepped down amid reports of his work in Ukraine.

Manafort is counter-suing Mueller, saying Mueller lacked jurisdiction to bring the charges.

Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein a year ago to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with the Russians. But Rosenstein also gave Mueller authority to investigate and prosecute “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” into the Russia matter (pdf). Manafort argues this authority is illegal because a special counsel’s power must be limited by a “specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated.”

Rosenstein issued a memo (pdf) on Aug. 2 that, in its unredacted portion, specifically authorized Mueller to investigate Manafort’s work in Ukraine. But Manafort’s home was raided a week before that. The raid was authorized based on allegations about his work in Ukraine.

Despite serving scores of indictments, Mueller has not produced any charges related to the collusion allegations. President Donald Trump calls Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt.”

On June 14, the inspector general of the Justice Department released a report that “cast a cloud” over the work of at least two FBI officials who worked on Mueller’s team. The officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, exchanged text messages displaying animus toward Trump. The messages showed that the couple were willing to take steps to prevent Trump from becoming president, the inspector general found.

Update: The article was updated to reflect a response from The Washington Post obtained on June 23, 2018, as well as corrections to previous Epoch Times reports.


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Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.