I know this will be small consolation for some, who have latched onto the news that FISA warrants were, in fact, issued for Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and want to hold that up as proof that Trump, himself, was “wiretapped.”
Frankly, this desire to martyr Trump is befuddling to me, but there is a palpable sense of satisfaction among some of Trump’s faithful in pinning the “Victim” label on their champion.
A new report from CNN, however, explains that not only has Paul Manafort been under investigation by the FBI for three years (You know, pre-campaign), but that the recent pre-dawn raid on Manafort’s home was part of a probe that could be extending back as far as 11 years.
If Trump was recorded, it was incidental, not intentional.
Manafort has previously denied financial wrongdoing regarding his Ukraine-related payments, his bank accounts in offshore tax shelters, and his various real estate transactions over the years.
Last year, authorities determined there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Manafort or anyone else involved in their Ukraine-related probe with anything. Mueller’s team, however, is working on a deadline, and some of the moves they’ve made seem to indicate they are in the advance stages of an investigation.
The period mentioned in the search warrant covers much of the decade that Manafort worked as a consultant for Ukraine’s former ruling party. It’s that work, which extended beyond the ouster of the president, Viktor Yanukovych, amid street protests in 2014, that prompted the FBI’s interest in Manafort. Yanukovych’s Party of Regions was accused of corruption and the FBI sought to learn whether the American consultants hired by the Ukrainian party, which also included Mercury LLC and the Podesta Group, were involved. The Justice Department probe also looked into whether the US firms violated the federal law that requires registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
All three firms earlier this year filed retroactive registrations with the Justice Department.
Besides the documents seized from Manafort’s home in the raid, Mueller has also subpoenaed his financial reports.
Also, Manafort’s notes from the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Russian attorney have been collected.
So far, it seems that very little was gathered from those, as they mostly centered on the Magnitsky Act.
The notes portray a meeting largely focused on a Russian lawyer’s complaints about investment fund manager William Browder and his role in pushing sanctions legislation to punish Russia. The Russian lawyer repeated claims that Browder made campaign donations to both parties as a way to pass a Russia sanctions law, according to sources briefed on the notes.
The notes are disjointed, the sources who have seen them said, and appear to focus on Russia’s frustration over a law passed in 2012 that led to frozen assets of powerful Russian officials.
Earlier news reports about the reference to political contributions in the notes have led to speculation that the meeting attended by Trump Jr., Manafort and Kushner included a request for donations.
But people who have seen the notes say the reference is to political contributions that the Russian lawyer alleged Browder made.
Again, any connection to Trump seems to be incidental, at most. Manafort is the target, because he has a background that raises red flags, and he has been under investigation for several years. It doesn’t matter that he’s known Trump for a number of years. Trump was not running for office when the investigation into Manafort’s dealings began.
The question now must be, why does Donald Trump surround himself with such shady characters?
Because he’s a victim?