Less than 24 hours after CNN triggered the latest outbreak of ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ by relaying information from anonymous sources that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manfort has been under surveillance by the FBI since 2014, Manafort has fired back by calling on the Department of Justice to release all transcripts of his tapped phone calls so that the American public “can come to the same conclusion as the DOJ — there is nothing there.” Per the Daily Caller:
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is calling on the Justice Department to release transcripts of any intercepted communications he may have had with foreigners.
Manafort, a longtime Republican political consultant, also called on the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate the leak of details of secret surveillance warrants obtained by U.S. investigators.
“Mr. Manafort requests that the Department of Justice release any intercepts involving him and any non-Americans so interested parties can come to the same conclusion as the DOJ — there is nothing there,” Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said in a statement.
Manafort’s spokesman goes on to demand that the DOJ launch an immediate investigation into who continues to commit federal felonies with reckless abandon by leaking details of confidential FISA warrants to the media.
Whether or not Manafort committed a crime — and he has not been charged with anything — the leak of information about FISA warrants is a federal crime, Maloni noted in his statement.
“If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged,” Maloni said.
Information about FISA warrants is classified and tightly held by government officials and the federal judges that approve them. Unauthorized disclosures of FISA information is also a felony.
At a House Intelligence Committee hearing in March, then-FBI Director James Comey testified that the leak of FISA information is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
In his statement, Maloni called on the Justice Department’s watchdog to “immediately” open an investigation into the leak and to “examine the motivations behind the previous Administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent.”
Of course, this was all triggered by CNN‘s ‘bombshell’ story last night which revealed that Manafort has been under an ongoing wiretap, approved by the FISA courts, going back to 2014 and tied to his consulting arrangements with Ukraine’s former ruling party.
That said, the interesting part of CNN’s story came via the revelation that “surveillance [of Manafort] was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence” but was then restarted with a “new FISA warrant that extended at least into early this year”…all of which sounds an awful lot like the Obama administration using FISA courts to spy on a political opponent.
Here are the details as presented by CNN:
US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.
The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump.
Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation. Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is leading the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election, has been provided details of these communications.
A secret order authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. It centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine’s former ruling party, the sources told CNN.
The surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources.
The FBI then restarted the surveillance after obtaining a new FISA warrant that extended at least into early this year.
All of which has led many people to question throughout the day whether the Obama administration, as Trump suggested back in March, did intentionally spy on his campaign using FISA warrants.
Certainly these two tweets from CNN’s Jake Tapper would seem to be somewhat contradictory:
Tapper’s initial reaction from March 2017 to Trump’s claim that the Obama administration wiretapped his campaign:
Tapper’s follow-up tweet from last night: