UK

Paul Manafort Story Does Not Vindicate Donald Trump's 'Wiretap' Claims

It's basically the opposite.

19/09/2017 13:16 BST | Updated 19/09/2017 15:14 BST

A number of Donald Trump supporters are deliriously claiming the President has finally been vindicated over his claims Barack Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower during the 2016 election campaign.

The wave of “I told you so” has been prompted by a CNN report alleging “US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election”.

Breitbart and the Russian Government-controlled Sputnik News led the charge, claiming the revelation meant Trump was “vindicated”, a line quickly jumped on by others.

Only it doesn’t mean he’s vindicated at all - here’s why.

Back in March Trump made the incendiary claim that President Obama “had my wires tapped in Trump Tower”.

The latest story on Manafort claims the secret court that oversees warrant requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) initially authorised monitoring of Manafort but discontinued it at some point in 2016 for lack of evidence, CNN said, citing one of its sources.

The FBI resumed surveillance under a new FISA warrant at some point last year and continued to monitor him into 2017, CNN said.

Bill Clark via Getty Images
Donald Trump, flanked by campaign manager Paul Manafort (3rd from right) and daughter Ivanka inJuly 2016.

The second warrant was obtained as part of the FBI’s investigation into ties between Trump campaign associates and Russian operatives.

Crucially, neither Trump nor Trump Tower were not wire tapped, a fact confirmed previously by the Department of Justice and then-FBI Director, James Comey (who was later fired by Trump).

Trump’s conversations could have been swept up as part of Manafort investigation but this has never been in dispute and is a far cry from court-ordered wiretaps specifically targeting him.

As Politico reported in March:

First, they may have come upon Trump Tower phone calls if a targeted foreign agent was on the other end of the line — this method comes from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court. Or Trump Tower digital chatter might have shown up while authorities dug through the vast quantities of data hoovered up via more sweeping foreign surveillance programs.

So the real story here is not the “vindication” of Trump but that the then-Presidential candidate hired someone whose actions were deemed suspicious enough by top FBI and Justice Department officials that they concluded he could be an agent of a foreign power.

And it gets worse for Trump - a separate story in The New York Times claims the Special Counsel investigation headed by Robert Mueller plans to indict him as it looks into Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 election.

Federal agents raided Manafort’s Virginia house in July, picking his lock rather than knocking, possibly because they believed he was likely to destroy evidence if alerted.

A former US deputy independent counsel told The New York Times: “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.”

And let’s not forget, Manafort became Trump’s campaign manager in June 2016 but was forced to resign two months later amid reports of his business relationship with the Kremlin-backed former Ukrainian leader, Viktor Yanukovich.