One has to wonder if the outcome of the 2016 presidential election would have been different had the public known that Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort had his phone bugged by the FBI and that he would be told within months that an indictment was pending.
Yesterday afternoon, thanks to two bombshell reports by CNN and the New York Times, we’ve learned that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was told by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, shortly after his house was raided back in July, to expect an indictment. We have also learned that not one but two secret orders were authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which permitted authorities to place Manafort under surveillance.
The first order began in 2014, and centered around Manafort’s dealings with Ukraine’s former ruling party. This warrant was concluded, likely prior to Manafort taking his role as campaign chairman, after investigators were unable to find any major evidence of a crime. However, the FBI obtained a second FISA warrant, which extended into to the early part of this year, and maybe even further. According to sources, the new warrant was issued in an effort by the FBI to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives. In order for this warrant to be issued, both the DOJ and the FBI would have needed to prove to a federal judge that there was probable cause that Manafort was acting as an agent of a foreign power.
What makes this second FISA warrant even more intriguing, however, is the fact that it was in place during Manafort’s tenure as Trump’s campaign chairman, and spanned into the new year, when Trump was reportedly still in communication with Manafort even though he was no longer working with him. Reportedly attorneys for both Trump and Manafort put a halt to any further communications between the two earlier this year.
This means that there is almost certainly multiple incidental collections of phone conversation or even personal conversation between Trump and Manafort. Such information would be permissible in court, and could very well show whether or not the President was privy to any collusion that his campaign may have been involved in with the Russians.
As the Mueller investigation moves along, it will be interesting to see just what other information leaks out to the press regarding these likely recorded conversations. Let’s hear your thoughts on this story in the comments section below.