Turns Out There Was Wiretapping In Russia Probe, But Trump Wasn’t The Target

U.S. investigators ordered the wiretaps under secret court orders.

Government investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the presidential election. Their investigation continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump. Manafort and Trump continued to speak long after Manafort was forced out of the campaign, and would have continued had their respective attorneys not “insisted that they stop.”

According to three sources familiar with the investigation, some of the intelligence collected includes communications which revealed Manafort had encouraged Russian operatives to help with the campaign. Two of these sources cautioned that the evidence is nonconclusive. Investigators have provided details of these communications to Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team.

According to three sources familiar with the investigation, some of the intelligence collected includes communications which revealed Manafort had encouraged Russian operatives to influence the campaign. Two of these sources cautioned that the evidence is nonconclusive. Investigators have provided details of these communications to Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team. CNN broke the story, parts of which were subsequently confirmed by CBS News.

The FBI obtained foreign intelligence surveillance warrants after Manafort became the subject of an investigation that began in 2014. That investigation centered on consulting work done by Washington firms for the pro-Russian party of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Investigators discontinued the surveillance at some point last year for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources, but the FBI then restarted the surveillance after obtaining a new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA warrant) that extended at least into early this year. The second warrant was “part of the FBI’s efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives,” according to CNN.

Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent in the counterintelligence division, explained when and why investigators obtain FISA warrants in statements posted to her personal Twitter account:

 FISAs are sought when you are seeking foreign intelligence information on a foreign power or agent of a foreign power. Because you are not necessarily intending to gather evidence of a crime the standard is not as high as a criminal wiretap … That is, you don’t have to allege a specific crime, but you do have to show that the target is acting on behalf of a foreign power. For U.S. persons … the (standard) is slightly higher: that the target is ‘knowingly engaging in clandestine intelligence activities.’ … Evidence of a crime obtained in the course of a FISA *can* be used in a criminal proceeding.

The New York Times reports this morning that, after agents raided Manafort’s home in July, prosecutors on Mueller’s team told Manafort that they planned to indict him. Federal investigators decided to pick the lock on Manafort’s front door, citing fears he might destroy evidence:

They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet.

Attorneys and witnesses say that Mueller has obtained numerous subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify before a grand jury.

They are setting a tone. It’s important early on to strike terror in the hearts of people in Washington, or else you will be rolled,” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, who was the deputy independent counsel in the investigation that led to the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton in 1999. “You want people saying to themselves, ‘Man, I had better tell these guys the truth.’”

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