US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.
The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump.
Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation. Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.
This may help explain special counsel Mueller’s move to raid Manafort’s Virginia home last July, an aggressive act that hinted Mueller had reason to believe the supposedly-cooperative Manafort was hiding information from them. After that raid, the New York Times reports:
The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.
In another new hint at the direction of the investigation, we learned that Facebook turned over information about Russian-linked Facebook accounts after Mueller’s team obtained a warrant for the information.
It means that Mueller presented evidence to a federal magistrate judge who concluded there was good reason to believe that foreign individuals committed a crime by making a “contribution” in connection with the election and that evidence of such a crime existed on Facebook.
Manafort was one of the individuals who met with a team of Russians in Trump Tower, during the election, for a meeting held to discuss a Russian government offer of “support” to the campaign.
That support soon materialized. Mueller’s task is, in part, to unravel whether Manafort and other agents of the Trump campaign themselves provided assistance to those efforts.