Two big bombshells on Monday night: The U.S. government reportedly wiretapped former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and prosecutors told him that they planned to indict him for his role in the Russia investigation. This all appears to be part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s “shock and awe” approach to investigating any potential connections between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Assuming those stories are accurate, Trump should be worried, and here’s why: Mueller appears to be trying to “flip” Manafort.
Here’s what The New York Times said:
The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.
“[T]he tactic that Mueller is using–telling Manafort that he will be charged–is generally used when prosecutors are trying to get a defendant to ‘flip.’ This strongly suggests what we’ve long expected–that Mueller is trying to ‘flip’ Manafort,” said attorney Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor.
Mariotti contends that targets are more likely to flip when there is sufficient evidence to implicate they might get convicted and serve time in prison. We are getting clear indications that is the case. For one, a federal judge found probable cause to grant a “no knock” FBI warrant on Manafort. In addition, investigators got a FISA court to agree to a wiretap (and then got that tap extended.) As Lawfare blog reports, under Title I of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a person can be targeted if the government establishes probable cause that he or she is the “agent of a foreign power. In other words, you need to present strong evidence to a court to obtain both of those warrants.
The New York Times article indicates that Mueller’s team subpoenaed Manfort’s attorney which is highly unusual, as most interactions are protected by attorney client privilege. An added move to pressure Manafort into giving up the goods on whoever may be implicated in any alleged crime, including, of course, President Trump.
“When the indictments start rolling out, I predict an avalanche. And for Trump to escape being an undicted co-conspirator [would] be miraculous,” Lawrence Tribe, a Harvard Law professor recently stated on twitter.
The fact this story was leaked by two people “close to the investigation” is not random. It was most likely done on purpose to try to get any potential co-conspirators to turn on one another and get nervous.
“It’s a way to get other rats to run in and say, ‘me first, me first,’” Charles Clayman, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor said in a recent interview regarding Mueller probe leaks. “There’s always a race to the courthouse, because there’s no honor among thieves. The idea is to make other co-conspirators think the race has already begun.”
Manfort has denied he ever knowingly communicated with Russian operatives. The FBI is probing him for possible tax law violations, potential money laundering, and failure to disclose foreign lobbying.
LawNewz will update this article with more legal analysis.