The FBI had wiretapped President Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort before and after the election, contrary to what former FBI Director James Comey suggested earlier this year.
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.
The CNN report also noted that Manafort has a residence in Trump Tower, although it said it was “unclear” whether the wiretapping took place there or not.
President Trump asserted in a series of Tweets on March 4 that the Obama administration had ordered a wiretap at Trump Tower during the election.
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” he tweeted.
“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”
“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
Later that month, then-FBI Director James Comey disputed Trump’s claims to the House intelligence committee.
“With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” he told the committee, according to the BBC.
Comey may have tried to skirt the question of wiretapping Trump’s campaign by denying wiretapping “directed at” Trump himself, since the surveillance warrant was on Manafort, according to the report.
However, it is clear from CNN’s report that the warrant targeted the Trump “campaign.” The report notes the warrant of Manafort “was part of the FBI’s efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives.”
The report also notes that surveillance of Manafort occurred during a period of time when Manafort “was known to talk to” Trump.
Earlier this year, Comey had also asked the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s tweets, “senior American officials” told the New York Times.
The Justice Department issued a court filing on September 2 stating, “Both FBI and [National Security Division] confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets,” it said.
But about two weeks later, the FBI told reporters who had filed Freedom of Information Act requests that it could neither “confirm or deny the existence of records” pertaining to wiretapping of Trump Tower.
It is not the first time that Comey may have misled lawmakers.
He told the House Judiciary Committee last September that he had decided not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton until after the FBI interviewed her.
However, leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee last month obtained transcripts by two senior FBI officials that revealed Comey had drafted a statement exonerating Clinton months before the FBI interviewed her.
He also told senators in May that he had never been an anonymous source in news reports, but later told senators that he had made memos of his private conversations with Trump and given them to at least one friend to leak to the media.
Comey oversaw the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential elections and potential collusion with the Trump campaign, until he was fired by Trump in May.