US investigators obtained a warrant to wiretap former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort before and after the election, CNN reported Monday night.
Manafort was campaign chairman for Trump from May to August; he wasn’t surveilled during that period. After his ouster, the FBI surveillance began again. So the FBI may not have tapped Trump’s wires, but they very well might have picked him up while tapping Manafort, and they might indeed have tapped Trump Tower. Trump has previously accused former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower, but the Justice Department confirmed in a court filing earlier this month that neither it nor FBI had any evidence to support that claim.
The revelation marks a potentially significant development in the ongoing probe into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. U.S. investigators first obtained a secret order to conduct surveillance on Manafort after he became the subject of an FBI investigation in 2014 because of his consulting work for a Ukrainian political party. The surveillance was ended at some point last year because of a lack of evidence, one source told CNN, but investigators obtained another warrant at some point during the presidential campaign. 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.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 19, 2017
It is unclear when the new warrant started. The FBI interest deepened last fall because of intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves, that reignited their interest in Manafort, the sources told CNN. As part of the FISA warrant, CNN has learned that earlier this year, the FBI conducted a search of a storage facility belonging to Manafort. It’s not known what they found.
The White House and Mr Manafort have yet to comment. Drafted in as Mr Trump’s campaign manager in March 2016, Mr Manafort replaced Corey Lewandowski and was brought in to shore up Mr Trump’s primary campaign team. He only lasted five months, however – resigning on August 19 after a slew of damaging accusations about his ties to Russia, and a high-profile reshuffle of Mr Trump’s team.