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Trump Was Right All Along

Summary:
CNN, which had previously denounced President Donald Trump’s claims that he had been wiretapped at Trump Tower, reported late on Monday that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was tapped by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Depending on the political inclinations of the journalists covering the story, the tale has been framed as either a vindication of Trump’s generally derided claims that Trump Tower was wiretapped by the Obama Administration or yet another bit of evidence demonstrating that Team Trump was in collusion to with the Russians to influence the results of the presidential election. Insofar as can be determined given the lack of any corroboration coming from the government, the narrative surrounding Manafort

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CNN, which had previously denounced President Donald Trump’s claims that he had been wiretapped at Trump Tower, reported late on Monday that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was tapped by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Depending on the political inclinations of the journalists covering the story, the tale has been framed as either a vindication of Trump’s generally derided claims that Trump Tower was wiretapped by the Obama Administration or yet another bit of evidence demonstrating that Team Trump was in collusion to with the Russians to influence the results of the presidential election.

Insofar as can be determined given the lack of any corroboration coming from the government, the narrative surrounding Manafort goes something like this: Manafort, together with a number of other Washington based consultants, was a top adviser to former pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich between 2004 and 2014. His involvement somehow came to the attention of the FBI in 2014 and a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant was sought by the Bureau and then issued to permit teltapping and other forms of investigation to determine if foreign lobbying laws had been broken. The initial inquiry was eventually allowed to lapse “for lack of evidence.”

A second warrant was obtained in the summer of 2016, presumably when Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager, based on apparently new information that had been obtained by the Bureau. Manafort was wiretapped, presumably to include his residence in Trump Tower, and the eavesdropping continued until early in 2017, after Donald Trump was inaugurated. Manafort reportedly spoke with Trump throughout that period though it is not clear whether the president-elect or president was personally recorded as a consequence of the tap.

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Since the appointment of Robert Mueller as Russiagate special counsel in May, some of the ongoing investigation has again focused on Manafort, investigating whether his relationship with Ukraine violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), since he may have been acting on behalf of the government in Kiev, or regarding possible money laundering or tax irregularities. The principal focus, however, has been on the possibility that Manafort actively colluded with the Russian government to influence the U.S. election. To that end, Manafort has been questioned by a Grand Jury and has had his home in Alexandria raided by FBI agents in the early morning of July 26th, while he and his family were sleeping. The lock on the door to his house was picked to enable entry. His computer drives were copied, hard files were taken and even his suits were photographed to provide evidence that his attire was “expensive.” Prosecutors subsequently told Manafort that they were planning to indict him.

So based on what has been reported as well as on available evidence, you can select the “meaning” of the Manafort affair. Either Donald Trump is vindicated or Team Trump was acting in collusion with the Russians. Those who are more cautious might well be inclined to hedge their bets, positing that both interpretations are partially correct, that Trump Tower might not have been the actual target and that Manafort possibly behaved indiscreetly and might have violated FARA, but he would never have attempted to interfere with the election. So everyone would be somewhat wrong and somewhat right.

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