Paul Manafort and Carter Page, two advisers of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, are officially in the thick of the Russia investigation. The Washington Post confirmed late Tuesday that the FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of Page, while the Associated Press reported that payments Manafort has received in the past can be traced back to a "black ledger" that surfaced last year in Ukraine.
In August, Manafort denied ever receiving payments from the Russian or Ukranian government, and said that the suggestion he had accepted cash payments was "unfounded, silly and nonsensical." Now, the AP has obtained financial records that show that at least $1.2 million in payments that were listed in the ledger next to Manafort's name were indeed received by his consulting firm in the United States. The payments came in 2007 and 2009 and provide the first evidence that support the credibility of the black ledger.
Manafort told the AP that any money he received was through legitimate political consulting work and that there was nothing unlawful about it. Last month, a Ukranian lawmaker said that one of the payments listed in the black ledger, for $750,000, was part of a money-laundering scheme that would interest U.S. authorities.
While Manafort insists he never did work for the Russian government, the Department of Justice sought and received a FISA warrant to conduct surveillance on another Trump associate, Page. By granting the warrant, the judge found there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, U.S. officials told The Post. It is the clearest evidence yet that the FBI had reason to believe that a Trump campaign adviser was communicating with Russia.
Page says that the existence of the FISA warrant proves Trump's claim that former President Barack Obama "tapped" Trump Tower.