Wearing plainclothes and bearing a search warrant Thursday morning, FBI agents raided GOP consulting firm Strategic Campaign Group in Annapolis, Md. The firm has close ties to two key Trump advisers: former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone.
Dennis Whitfield, a senior adviser at Strategic Campaign Group, is also a director of the political consulting firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, which, in 1996, merged with lobbying firm Gold & Liebengood to form BKSH and Associates.
According to media reports, both Manafort and Stone are under heavy scrutiny for possibly working with the Russian government to help secure Trump’s 2016 Electoral College win.
Regarding the raid at Strategic Campaign Group, WBALTV-11’s Jayne Miller reports:
The FBI agents used trash bags to cover a window at the third-floor offices of Strategic Campaign Group at 191 Main St. Two agents, with FBI on their body armor, started to tape trash bags over the glass door blocking out any view of what [was] going on inside. One of the agents had a side arm, one was wearing blue surgical gloves.
The Washington, D.C., FBI field office, not the Maryland bureau, is leading the investigation into the firm’s operation, according to the report.
Kelley Rogers, Strategic Campaign Group’s founder, told reporters that the FBI was investigating his firm’s involvement in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race, the Washington Post reports.
Rogers confirmed that his firm did consulting work for former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli during his 2013 gubernatorial campaign against Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Baltimore Sun reports. Cuccinelli sued after his loss, claiming that Strategic Campaign Group did not adequately promote him.
“The truth shall set you free,” Rogers said. “I think it was frivolous then. I think it was frivolous now.
“I feel like we did everything in our power,” he continued. “Had he been a better candidate, I think we could have done better.”
But for many political observers, the Cuccinelli angle is little more than a distraction.
[Strategic Campaign Group] director, Kelley Rogers, has been employed by Penn National Gaming, a company with ties to the Trump Taj Mahal. The Senate Intelligence Committee reportedly has been looking into money laundering penalties levied against the Taj in 2015.
Sen. J.B. Jennings, the Maryland Senate minority leader, says the Senate Republican Caucus has worked with Strategic Campaign Group in the past, but he will now be severing ties.
“This came as an absolute shock to us, but we have not renegotiated a contract this year because no one has really gotten around to it, and so with this, we’re just going to separate our relationship for now,” Jennings told the Washington Post.
Strategic Campaign Group’s clients also include the national Tea Party and the Conservative Majority Fund.