Trump Campaign Chair Was Wiretapped By The Federal Government — REPORT

by Seth Millstein
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The U.S. government reportedly wiretapped former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort under court orders both before and after the 2016 presidential election, according to CNN. The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court, reportedly gave U.S. investigators the go ahead to surveil Manafort's communications on two separate occasions through secret court orders. According to CNN, investigators continued monitoring Manafort's communications into 2017.

Manafort was Trump's campaign manager in the summer of 2016, including the week during which Trump was formally nominated as the Republican Party's presidential candidate. In August 2016, CNN reported that Manafort's firm was under FBI investigation due to its consulting work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. Nine months later, NBC News reported that Manfort himself was a focus of the FBI's probe into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, an investigation that's since been taken over by former FBI Director Robert Mueller. In June 2017, Manafort retroactively registered as a foreign agent, and the next month, the FBI raided his home as part of its investigation into Russia meddling in election.

In addition to the CNN report, the New York Times reported on Monday that Mueller's investigators told Manafort that they planned to indict him shortly after they raided his house.

According to CNN, the first FISA court order that investigators allegedly obtained was part of a 2014 FBI investigation into Washington firms that had worked with the Party of Regions, the former ruling party in Ukraine that was generally seen as pro-Russian. That court order expired some time in 2016, sources told CNN, but the FISA court reportedly issued another one as part of the FBI's investigation into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials. Trump and the White House have repeatedly denied that they colluded with Russia at any point.

Manafort left the Trump campaign in August 2016 after it the Associate Press reported the existence of a handwritten ledger in Ukraine that allegedly detailed over $1 million in payments to Manafort from the Party of Regions in 2007 and 2009. Manafort didn't deny the allegations, telling AP at the time that "any wire transactions received by my company are legitimate payments for political consulting work."

That Manafort was reportedly surveilled under a FISA warrant is significant, because FISA warrants require the approval of top officials at both the FBI and the Department of Justice. It's unclear when the second FISA warrant was issued; however, CNN reports that it was not in effect in June 2016, when Trump's son Donald Jr. met with a Russian attorney at Trump Tower in the hopes of obtaining damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Long before joining the Trump campaign, Manfort lived part time in Trump Tower, and the two men reportedly came to know each other "in the lobby and elevators," according to the Washington Post. CNN reported that they remained in contact in 2017, when the wiretap on Manafort was still in effect; however, it's unclear whether or not Trump himself was captured on any of those wiretaps.

Sources told CNN that the Manafort wiretap included conversations that, in the eyes of investigators, raised the possibility that Manafort had encouraged Russian officials to help the Trump campaign; however, they also cautioned that the evidence of this wasn't conclusive. CNN reported in February that Manafort "regularly" communicated with Russian individuals during his time on the Trump campaign, but Manafort denied speaking with any officials or operatives from the Russian government itself.

"I don't remember talking to any Russian officials, ever," Manafort told CNN at the time. "I have knowingly never talked to any intelligence official or anyone in Russia regarding anything of what's under investigation."