Paul Manafort was wiretapped as part of the Russia probe

Things take a turn in the saga of Paul Manafort

By Matthew Rozsa

Published September 19, 2017 9:40AM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

This story has been updated.

A new report reveals that the FBI had wiretapped Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, as a result of his suspicious ties to Russia.

Secret court orders that were in effect both prior to and after the election allowed American investigators to wiretap Manafort, according to a report by CNN (one that The Washington Post noted it has not been able to corroborate). The intelligence gathered on Manafort raised the alarm that he might have worked with Russians to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election, although two of the sources that informed CNN of this added that the evidence was not conclusive.

The surveillance was initially authorized in 2014 by a court empowered by the Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) as part of an investigation into work done by several Washington consulting firms for a Russia-connected ruling party in Ukraine. Although that surveillance ceased in 2016 (before Manafort became Trump's campaign manager), the FBI resumed it (most likely after Manafort left the Trump campaign) until at least early in 2017 due to the bureau's concern about suspected collusion between individuals tied to the Trump campaign and individuals believed to be Russian operatives.

In order for the FBI to receive the legal authority to engage in that surveillance, it needed to provide a FISA-empowered court with information that the targeted individuals could be acting as foreign agents.

What remains uncertain is whether Trump himself was recorded in any of this surveillance. Despite Manafort resigning as Trump's campaign manager in August 2016 due to reports about his connections to the Vladimir Putin regime, the two men remained in touch even after Trump was elected president. Their communications only ceased at the urging of both their lawyers.

Since as early as July 2017, Manafort has been aware of the fact that Mueller's prosecutors planned on indicting him, after federal agents conducted a raid of his house, according to The New York Times. During that raid, they confiscated both computer and paper files in order to search for evidence that Manafort had used offshore bank accounts.

There are other signs that a major development is about to occur in the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller III into alleged collusion between President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia.

That Friday tweet from former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa referred to a report that Mueller had obtained a search warrant for information about Facebook accounts which were suspected of being manipulated by the Russian government. This development meant that Mueller had likely convinced a federal judge that there would be evidence of a crime found on Facebook, which in this case would almost certainly have involved Russia breaking the law through campaign contributions and spreading fake news, according to Business Insider.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Fbi Paul Manafort Robert Mueller Russia Wiretapping