Published: Wed, September 20, 2017
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

FBI Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny Trump Tower Wiretap

FBI Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny Trump Tower Wiretap

CNN reported that Paul Manafort, who worked for President Donald Trump's campaign previous year before he resigned in August, was wiretapped before and after the November election.

According to CNN, the new warrant was related to an FBI investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians.

After agents took documents, copied computer files, and photographed expensive suits in Manafort's closet, Mueller, who is the special counsel in charge of the Justice Department's Russian Federation probe, warned Manafort that his prosecutors were planning to indict him, two of The Times' sources said. That warrant eventually expired and nothing of note, or at least worthy of criminal charges, came up at the time so the surveillance was dropped. These investigations were initially "discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence" but then restarted conveniently after the FBI obtained a FISA warrant as the presidential race was heating up last year and continued into early 2017.

Warrants issued by the court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act are based on probable cause that a person is an agent of a foreign power.

According to the report, Manafort was warned by investigators to expect an indictment. "It is possible now-as has been noted many times since Trump tweeted his accusation in March-that if the USA president was in communication with these individuals, his communications might have been incidentally collected". But he has consistently been at or near the center of the Justice Department investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump associates colluded in those efforts.

The wiretap on Manafort has yielded intelligence of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential campaign.

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"Nothing in this report vindicates Trump's claims that he or Trump Tower were wiretapped", a group of prominent national security bloggers wrote at Lawfare. The surveillance lasted through early this year, when Manafort was said to still be in touch with Trump.

In July, Federal agents raided Manafort's Virginia house with The New York Times reporting that prosectors told Manafort they plan to indict him.

Manafort became Trump's campaign manager in June 2016 but was forced to resign two months later after reports of his business relationship with the party of Ukraine's former Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. As former federal prosecutor Jimmy Gurulé told the Times, "clearly they didn't trust him".

The unusual pace and aggression with which Mueller is moving against Manafort is a classic sign that the special counsel wants to coerce Manafort's cooperation in the Russian Federation probe, wrote former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. Though much of Laurenza's work for Manafort is protected by attorney-client privilege, Mueller hopes to leverage several exceptions to the confidentiality duty to learn more about her work for the former Trump aide.

Sen. Liz Warren was right there to shout down the president, saying, "I just think it's becoming clearer every day that President Trump is failing and he knows it, and that's what these wild allegations are about".

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