While Senate Republicans on Monday were busy mounting a last-minute push to take health care away from millions of Americans, two stories broke about the Mueller investigation that suggest it has kicked into a higher gear. Both deal with Paul Manafort.
CNN reported that Manafort was the subject of a FISA warrant both before and after the election. Although it’s not entirely clear when the warrant went into effect, it seems to have preceded Manafort’s resignation as campaign chairman in August of 2016. According to CNN, there are wiretaps that suggest that Manafort reached out to Russia for help during the campaign, although, as with the date of the warrant, there is more than a little ambiguity about the details.
The New York Times produced an arguably more explosive report, this one about the FBI’s raid of Manafort’s home in July, which was first reported in August. The Times reported that the FBI had a “no-knock” warrant, meaning that agents picked the lock of Manafort’s home while he was still in bed. Agents “took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that Mr. Manafort ... set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet,” a common tactic when looking for evidence of hidden assets. Perhaps most importantly, Mueller told Manafort that the special counsel “planned to indict him.” The “no-knock” warrant suggests that Mueller did not trust Manafort to cooperate with a subpoena.
What’s notable about these stories aren’t just that they represent the escalation of the Mueller investigation, but that they show Mueller projecting the seriousness of the investigation itself. These are signals to other people involved in the campaign and the Trump administration: Robert Mueller and his team mean business and if that worries you, you should consider talking.