When Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskya was asked to describe the meeting between representatives of the Russian government and senior members of the Trump campaign staff, she offered only one memory of Paul Manafort:
“And the other individual who was in the same meeting, but all the time he was looking at his phone. He was reading something. He never took any active part in the conversation. That was Mr. Manafort.”
However, it turns out that Manafort wasn’t looking at his phone because he was distracted and not paying attention to the meeting. He was looking at his phone because he was using it to take notes.
Manafort’s notes, typed on a smart phone and described by one briefed source as cryptic, were turned over to the House and Senate intelligence committees and to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Those notes haven’t yet been made public, but one small snippet from Manafort’s “cryptic” text seems immediately interesting:
They contained the words “donations,” and “RNC” in close proximity, the sources said.
If the deal at the meeting included not just an offer of information harmful to Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government program to help Trump—as Donald Trump Jr. expected when the meeting was arranged—but also an offer to provide donations to the Republican National Committee, then that’s another law that may have been broken. It’s illegal for American campaigns to accept foreign donations. That includes through the political parties.
Paul Manafort is under investigation both by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the New York attorney general, who are sharing information on the case. The prospect of charges from the State of New York neutralizes Donald Trump’s ability to protect Manafort through the kind of pardon he recently gave to ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Russian-American spy-turned-lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, who was one of those present at the meeting, recently testified before the grand jury convened by Mueller, but he has refused to make any comment on his testimony.