Bombshell: Paul Manafort Was Wiretapped By FBI Before And After Election

Well, someone’s “wires” were indeed “tapped” (as Trump famously alleged in an ill-fated tweet earlier this year) and that someone was Paul Manafort.

As anyone who’s followed the Russia investigation knows, Manafort is screwed – and “big league.” Long the subject of intense scrutiny, the former Trump campaign chairman is on the front lines of the battle to discover exactly what went on between the President’s associates and emissaries from Moscow in the lead up to the election.

On July 26, Manafort’s Virginia home was the subject of a predawn FBI raid which the The New York Times detailed on Monday as follows:

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. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.

Subsequently, Mueller issued subpoenas to a former lawyer for Manafort and to Manafort’s spokesman, a move described by CNN at the time as “an aggressive tactic that suggests an effort to add pressure on the former Trump campaign chairman.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Mueller is also reportedly working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on the Manafort investigation. By all accounts, that’s an effort to circumvent Trump’s pardon power. Here’s Politico:

The cooperation is the latest indication that the federal probe into President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying. It also could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage to get Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump’s campaign, as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes.

Well on Monday night, CNN is out reporting that Manafort was wiretapped by U.S. investigators since 2014 with an interlude “sometime last year” that apparently encompassed the June meeting between Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Natalia Veselnitskaya. Here’s CNN:

US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.

The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump.

Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation. Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.

A secret order authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. It centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine’s former ruling party, the sources told CNN.

The surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources.

The FBI then restarted the surveillance after obtaining a new FISA warrant that extended at least into early this year.

Sources say the second warrant was part of the FBI’s efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives. Such warrants require the approval of top Justice Department and FBI officials, and the FBI must provide the court with information showing suspicion that the subject of the warrant may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.

Apparently, we don’t know when the new warrant was started, but CNN’s sources say the FBI’s ears perked up (figuratively and literally in this case) sometime last fall following “intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives.” The sources also say the FBI searched a storage facility belonging to Manafort earlier this year.

The initial wiretaps were an effort to make a case against Manafort and his firm in connection with the ousted Viktor Yanukovych regime in Ukraine. “The basis for the case hinged on the failure by the US firms to register under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act,” CNN notes.

When that didn’t work (i.e. there wasn’t enough evidence to renew the FISA), the FBI stopped listening. For a while. One more time, from CNN:

Manafort was ousted from the campaign in August. By then the FBI had noticed what counterintelligence agents thought was a series of odd connections between Trump associates and Russia. The CIA also had developed information, including from human intelligence sources, that they believed showed Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered his intelligence services to conduct a broad operation to meddle with the US election, according to current and former US officials.

The FBI surveillance teams, under a new FISA warrant, began monitoring Manafort again, sources tell CNN.

What does all of this mean? Well, for one thing it seems to suggest that Donald Trump could very well have been picked up on these wiretaps. And while that will invariably cause some commentators to have conniption fits, at the end of the day it’s a real problem for the President for obvious reasons.

Also, if CNN knows this much, God only knows how much Mueller knows – again, that’s a real problem for Trump.

For more on the specifics, we’ll leave you with some on-the-fly analysis from former FBI counterintelligence agent and current associate dean at Yale Law Asha Rangappa:

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2 thoughts on “Bombshell: Paul Manafort Was Wiretapped By FBI Before And After Election

  1. Flynn, too will be in the same boat. If Paul asked directly for Russian help as director, then it gets crazy. Category 5 Twitter storm on the way…..

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