Manafort real estate agent testified before grand jury in Russia probe

By DonShook

The agent, who helped Manafort buy the Alexandria apartment recently raided by the FBI, was called last week by prosecutors working under special counsel Robert Mueller.

The real estate agent who helped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort buy the Virginia condo that was recently raided by the FBI testified last week before the federal grand jury hearing testimony in Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, POLITICO has learned.

The Realtor, Wayne Holland of Alexandria, Virginia-based McEnearney Associates, appeared before the Washington-based grand jury after a federal judge rejected the firm’s lawyer’s bid to quash subpoenas for testimony and records about various real estate transactions.

The broker’s appearance before the grand jury is one of few concrete indications of the leads Mueller’s prosecutors are pursuing as they investigate Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election. The investigation encompasses lobbying work done by Manafort as well as possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni was called before the grand jury on Sept. 15, but few other witnesses have been publicly identified.

While property records show Holland represented Manafort in his 2015 condo purchase, the broker declined to say anything about Manafort or about what questions were asked by prosecutors during the testimony last week.

“I cannot talk about what happened in front of the grand jury,” Holland said.

Manafort bought the 2,779 square foot Alexandria condo with Potomac River views in 2015 for $2.7 million, according to property records.

Holland was originally called to testify on Oct. 13, but objected to the subpoenas on the grounds that Virginia and District of Columbia law makes real estate broker records confidential.

However, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell ruled that those confidentiality statutes don’t preclude federal prosecutors from using grand jury subpoenas to demand details of real estate deals.

“The respondents are wrong: the information the grand jury subpoenas seek is not privileged under state or federal law and the government need not make any special showing to obtain these records, nor would production be ‘unreasonable or oppressive,’” Howell wrote in an opinion unsealed Friday. “The language of the District and Columbia statutes…make clear that real estate brokerage records may be produce pursuant to a federal grand jury subpoena without the necessity of an additional court order.”

The public version of the opinion is simply captioned “In re Grand Jury Investigation” and does not name Holland or Manafort. However, the real estate agent confirmed in a brief telephone interview Friday that the legal dispute concerned his testimony.

“The motion was decided and the judge said, ‘No,’” Holland said.

The real estate broker said no appeal was taken and he gave the required testimony last week.

“I did and it is over—I hope,” he said.

Howell’s ruling made no mention of Mueller or his prosecution team, but sheds some light on the scope of the special prosecutor’s investigation. The judge said the subpoenas at issue sought information “regarding the purchase of real property, including in Virginia, by four individuals and their affiliated entities.”

The Alexandria condo was purchased by Paul Manafort and his wife Kathleen. There have also been reports that federal and New York State authorities are investigating real estate deals involving Paul Manafort and other family members, including his former son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai.

Mueller’s team is believed to be conducting a wide-ranging investigation into Manafort’s finances, including his income from consulting work in places like Ukraine, where the political party he represented had strong ties to Russia.

Pursuant to a search warrant, the FBI raided Manafort’s apartment around dawn on July 26, seizing papers and computer records. A lawyer for President Donald Trump, John Dowd, described the search as resulting from a “gross abuse of the judicial process,” according to an email obtained by Fox News.

Maloni declined to comment Saturday morning and his lawyer did not respond to a request for comment. It’s unclear whether Manafort’s legal team was aware of the litigation over the real estate records, but the confidentiality laws the broker’s lawyer cited can be waived when the customer consents to release of information.

Howell issued an order compelling Holland’s testimony following a closed-door hearing on Oct. 17. When she issued her opinion on the matter on Monday, she asked government lawyers to advise her if they had any objection to unsealing the opinion with a redaction apparently intended to shield the privacy of the parties involved.

The version of the opinion released Friday doesn’t say how prosecutors responded, but it appears the opinion was made public in the form the judge suggested.