Investigators working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller have extended their search for information on former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort beyond US borders.
Mueller’s team of investigators has sent subpoenas in recent weeks from a Washington grand jury to global banks for account information and records of transactions involving Manafort and some of his companies, as well as those of a long-time business partner, Rick Gates, according to people familiar with the matter.
It took two weeks for the news to emerge on the FBI raiding Manafort’s home in Virginia. But since then more information has emerged quickly. On Thursday, reports came out showing that Manafort’s son-in-law had been recruited as a cooperating witness as early as June.
Manafort’s finances are dense and twisted. He has a long history of working for dictators and oppressive regimes, and his previous actions have included supposedly “losing” $17 million in secret payments by pro-Russian forces and slipping $3 million into the US for unreported foreign lobbying. But the most interesting feature of the latest report is an indication that, as rich a source of charges as Manafort’s finances may be, they’re not the real focus of the investigation.
Those efforts were characterized as an apparent attempt to gain information that could be used to squeeze Manafort, or force him to be more helpful to prosecutors.
Which certainly makes it sound as if Manafort is under pressure, not because Mueller is out to get Trump’s campaign chair on charges of financial wrongdoing. The special counsel is far more interested in what Manafort knows about Trump.
While the special counsel investigation may have launched with Rod Rosenstein’s instructions to address the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, those instructions made it clear Mueller could look into other matters that he encountered along the way.
As early as June, the special counsel moved to take over an existing investigation into Manafort.
The special counsel investigating possible ties between President Trump's campaign and Russia's government has taken over a separate criminal probe involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and may expand his inquiry to investigate the roles of Atty Gen. Jeff Sessions and Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein in the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey, the Associated Press has learned.
So compared to the rest of the investigation, the study of Manafort’s criminal actions had a head start. The interview and raid that took place in July likely grew from those early efforts, which included the move to recruit Manafort’s son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai.
The two best tools that Mueller has at the moment are likely Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. Which is a shame, because both have been involved in illegal foreign lobbying and acting against the US national interest to protect the goals of autocratic leaders. It would be terrible to see either of them get off the hook.
But not as terrible as leaving Trump in place. Though there are other ways this could go down.
Of course, the Manafort inquiry is just one thread of Mueller’s multifaceted effort, which includes the purchase of Trump real estate properties by wealthy Russians going back a decade, the foreign ties of Michael Flynn, who was briefly the administration’s National Security Adviser, and the dismissal of FBI chief James Comey by the President.
And while Manafort says he’s not working with investigators.
Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, declared last month that Manafort was not a "cooperating witness" -- a legal term for someone who agrees to provide evidence and testimony to prosecutors.
There are different definitions of “cooperating.”
In fact, Manafort had alerted authorities to a controversial meeting on June 9, 2016, involving Trump’s son Donald Jr., other campaign representatives and a Russian lawyer promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton, according to people familiar with the matter. The president and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were dragged into the matter as details repeatedly emerged that contradicted the initial accounts of that meeting.
It had seemed earlier that it was Kushner’s attorneys who had first rung the bell on the Trump Tower meeting. If it was Manafort, was that the sound of a witness getting cooperative?