Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, worked with the President to deliberately undermine the FBI and Robert Mueller’s investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In court filings special counsel Robert Mueller made on Wednesday, he describes how Manafort told “multiple discernible lies” to federal agents and prosecutors, including the claim that he had not been in contact with anyone in the White House under the Trump administration.
The documents describe how after Manafort signed the plea deal, he told agents “he had no indirect or direct communications with anyone in the administration while they were in the administration.”
Muller has uncovered text messages and electronic records that demonstrate this to be categorically untrue. In his investigations, which included interviewing witnesses, Mueller has concluded, “the evidence demonstrates that Manafort lied about his contacts”.
Even after Manafort became a cooperating witness in the Mueller investigation, the New York Times reported that he maintained communication with the White House through his attorney.
Manafort advised President Trump on how to undermine the FBI and Mueller investigations. He provided information on how the Trump administration might discredit witnesses that had provided testimony against the president. He also worked with the president to discredit the investigators, Vox reports.
Trump’s strategy was to “declare a public relations war” on the FBI and go after James Comey and other FBI officials, an anonymous source familiar with the investigation told Vox.
It is unclear what role Manafort’s advice played in this decision, however, it is clear that Manafort advised another administration official to attack the Justice Department and the FBI. Manafort told the official, through an intermediary, to criticize the decision to seek warrants to monitor Manafort and another campaign aide under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). A court-authorized document had been issued to monitor Manafort and the aide as part of an investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to win the 2016 election.
Trump has since attacked the decision to “wiretap” Manafort and his campaign aides. Branding the decision as a coordinated Democratic attempt at political espionage has been a cornerstone of Trump’s criticisms of the Justice Department, FBI, and Mueller investigations, despite being unable to produce any shred of evidence to demonstrate the truth of his claims.
Although the attacks on the Justice Department and FBI had no impact on Manafort’s case (he was still indicted on two dozen felony counts), a source told Vox that in attacking the use of the FISA warrants, Manafort and his defense team believed it would make it more politically feasible for Trump to pardon Manafort at a later date.
Manafort also advised the Trump administration to attack the Democratic National Committee (DNC). He suggested the White House accuse the DNC of colluding with the Ukrainian government to swing the 2016 election.
The Trump administration then alleged that DNC consultant Alexandra Chalupa was working with Ukrainian officials to undermine the Trump-Pence campaign in 2016, again, without a scrap of evidence.
Finally, Manafort also advised the President to attack Hillary Clinton over the Steele dossier. Manafort uncovered information that a private investigation firm hired by the Clinton campaign had commissioned a report from Christopher Steele, a former head of MI6’s Russia desk, into the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Manafort recommended Trump use this information to discredit the dossier, which the president duly did.
In addition to Manafort’s advice in these three specific areas, Vox reported that Manafort’s attorneys provided the White House with details of his cooperation with Mueller’s investigation. This may have helped guide Donald Trump’s answers to Mueller’s written questions he submitted last month.
This open channel of communication is criminal. It demonstrates a coordinated attempt to obstruct justice and impede Mueller’s investigation. It essentially amounts to a Russian doll of crimes, as Trump and Manafort commit further crimes while they are under investigation of other crimes.
When an investigation opens up over this communication channel, can we expect more crimes, within investigations for crimes, within investigation for crimes? The list goes on.