WXXI AM News

FBI Wiretapped Manafort Before And After Trump Campaign, Reports Say

Sep 19, 2017
Originally published on September 19, 2017 12:46 pm
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And there is a new twist in the Russia investigation, reports that President Trump's one-time campaign chair was wiretapped. This because of concern that Paul Manafort might have been communicating with Russian operatives who wanted to influence the 2016 election. Now, we should say NPR cannot independently confirm these reports. We do have NPR's Greg Myre with us now to try to unravel what they might mean. Morning, Greg.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Good morning, Mary Louise.

KELLY: What do we know? What are the details of - about these wiretaps?

MYRE: So we had a report from - first from CNN last night and confirmed again by CBS this morning that these wiretaps were taking place on Manafort. What's really interesting, I think, is they go back to 2014. So this is before Trump entered the race. It had to do with Manafort's role in Ukrainian politics where he was a consultant to the party linked to the president, Viktor Yanukovych at the time. And the warrant was under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. So as it suggests, it's connection with a foreign entity, and there were two of them, one from 2014 to 2016, and then it stopped and then there was a second one that began last year and extended into this year - so a pretty fascinating development here.

KELLY: So some information must have come to light that triggered them to restart it after - after it had been stopped.

MYRE: Correct, correct. Yeah. So apparently the first one was dropped, according to the CNN report, because of lack of evidence. But then in the - during the Trump campaign last summer, we know that that investigation began in July over concern that people in the Trump campaign were in contact with Russians, operatives, and so that apparently generated this second warrant, again, which began last year and stretched into this year.

KELLY: And this would be significant if it's confirmed because in part, I mean, to get a FISA warrant on a sitting campaign chair in the presidential campaign, that - that is not easy.

MYRE: Absolutely not. You have to show that there's - there's some serious evidence here. Again, we don't know the exact timing. Manafort served briefly as Trump's campaign chairman from May till August of last year. So we don't quite know the timeline, but we do know that in fact Trump and Manafort have continued to be in contact after - after he stepped down. So yes, the fact that he had this high position, was continuing to be in contact with Trump raises all sorts of additional questions.

KELLY: Quickly clear something up for us. Does this vindicate in any way President Trump's allegation from earlier this year that he was wiretapped by President Obama?

MYRE: No. The FBI and Justice Department have said that did not happen, that - that they did not wiretap Trump. So it doesn't justify that - that claim. However, we should note Manafort does have a residence at Trump Tower in New York and so we don't know whether or not that was part of the wiretap, but we should note that.

KELLY: Whether that was where he was wiretapped. And, just briefly, big picture - what does this tell us about the Mueller investigation and where it's headed?

MYRE: Well, you certainly would think that they're trying to put pressure on Manafort to speak more broadly to the nature of the investigation. This doesn't link, again, directly to Trump as a wiretap but it shows that they are putting pressure on Manafort, and he seems to be the focus right now.

KELLY: That's NPR's Greg Myre holding down the fort on the Russia beat. Thanks, Greg.

MYRE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.