Donald Trump may have moved even closer to impeachment after reports that former campaign manager Paul Manafort is staring down the barrel of a likely indictment from Russia investigator Robert Mueller and could be forced to turn on the president.
On Monday, CNN reported that Manafort was wiretapped under the order of secret courts both before and after the 2016 election, showing that the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the election reached the highest levels of Trump’s campaign. The report noted that the surveillance was discontinued in 2016 for lack of evidence, but started anew in 2017 after the FBI obtained a FISA warrant.
While previous reports showed that the investigation was honing in on Paul Manafort’s financial dealings including potential payments from Ukraine that he failed to disclose, this surveillance was reportedly connected directly to allegations of collusion with Russia.
“Sources say the second warrant was part of the FBI’s efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives,” CNN reported. “Such warrants require the approval of top Justice Department and FBI officials, and the FBI must provide the court with information showing suspicion that the subject of the warrant may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.”
The report noted that the FBI’s interest in Manafort was reignited after communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives were intercepted. In July of this year, the FBI raided Manafort’s home, and the New York Times reported that prosecutors told Manafort they planned to indict him.
While the reports noted there was no evidence that Donald Trump was directly involved in collusion with Russia, the investigation tightening around Paul Manafort and other top campaign associates could be meant to snag Trump and possibly lead to indictment and impeachment. Reports emerged last week that investigators are focusing on Michael Flynn Jr., the son of Trump’s former national security adviser, in what could be an attempt to flip Flynn Sr. and get him to testify against Trump.
If prosecutors are trying to get Paul Manafort to turn and testify against Donald Trump, it would be a familiar play for Robert Mueller, As the New York Times noted, Mueller used a similar tactic as FBI director when prosecuting executives from Enron. Mueller targeted the wife of company CFO Andrew Fastow, charging her with tax evasion for hiding money stolen from the company. In order to win her a lesser sentence, Fastow testified against other company executives.
Other reports have noted that Mueller is working closely with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to bring state-level charges against Manafort, meaning Trump would not be able to issue a pardon and save his former campaign manager. That could be used as greater incentive for Manafort to testify against Trump in exchange for a lesser sentence, legal experts note.
It is still not clear if Robert Mueller is trying to get Paul Manafort to testify against Donald Trump, and no direct evidence has emerged linking Trump himself to Russian collusion. But the possibility of Trump’s impeachment could be rising as the investigation reaches deeper and deeper into his inner circle.
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