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Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, was wiretapped by US government
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Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, was wiretapped by US government

Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, has been told to expect an indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation. However, it was also revealed on Tuesday that Manafort had been wiretapped by the U.S. government both before and after the 2016 presidential election.

What happened?

CNN on Tuesday reported that it had received confirmation on reports that alleged Manafort was wiretapped not only prior to the 2016 presidential election, but afterward as well.

The outlet revealed that the wiretapping was done on standard orders issued pursuant to a FISA warrant, and was authorized after Manafort became the subject of a 2014 FBI investigation — well before he was chair of Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Though Manafort was fired months before election day, he and Trump kept in communication after Trump was elected president.

Manafort came under fire over his work in the Ukraine with the party of former President Viktor Yanukovych, and as a result, surveillance of Manafort reportedly commenced through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

FISA is a federal law that allows the government to legally intercept and wiretap certain communications between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in order to collect potentially sensitive information.

CNN reported that the surveillance stopped in 2016 over "lack of evidence," but was reinstated in 2017.

"The FBI interest deepened last fall because of intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves, that reignited their interest in Manafort," CNN reported. "As part of the FISA warrant, CNN has learned that earlier this year, the FBI conducted a search of a storage facility belonging to Manafort. It's not known what they found."

What has Manafort said?

Manafort in March denied that he had "knowingly" communicated with Russian intelligence during the Trump campaign and election, and denied any involvement in a scheme to "undermine the interests" of the U.S.

He added that he had nothing to do with reports alleging that Russian intelligence hacked the emails of "prominent Democratic groups and figures," and denied involvement with those Russian officials who were said to be involved.

In a statement, Manafort said, "The suggestion that I ever worked in concert with anyone to release hacked emails or sought to undermine the interests of the United States is false."

Why does this matter?

According to CNN, some of the intelligence obtained on Manafort included communications which drew investigators' concerns that he had "encouraged the Russians" to help with the campaign.

CNN added that two of its three unnamed sources admitted that their "evidence is not conclusive."

It is important to note that though judges granted the standard FISA warrant to surveil Manafort, no evidence of a crime necessarily had to be present in order for that to happen. Instead, investigators needed only to show justifiable suspicion that Manafort may have been working as a foreign agent.

CNN reported that Manafort has a residence in Trump Tower, but it is unknown whether the surveillance of Manafort took place there.

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