Attorneys for President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, are reportedly blocking FBI special counsel Robert Mueller from obtaining a transcript of his interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee in July.
CNN reported on Tuesday that a dispute had erupted between the FBI, which said it had obtained authorization from Manafort’s attorneys to view the transcript, and the committee, which says it was instructed by the attorneys not to hand it over.
Mueller’s team has apparently gotten permission to view the documents Manafort submitted to the committee about the meeting he attended last June at Trump Tower with two Russian lobbyists and Trump’s son, Donald Jr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was also present.
But the committee hasn’t turned over those documents yet, either, according to CNN.
Manafort’s spokesman did not respond to phone calls seeking comment. But his attorneys’ reluctance to allow Mueller to view the transcript will likely raise red flags for the FBI and prompt them to take more aggressive measures to obtain it.
Manafort has emerged as a focal point of the FBI probe, which recently recruited New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to help investigate the longtime political operative for possible financial crimes and money laundering. The IRS’s Criminal Investigations unit has been brought on to the investigation to examine similar issues, according to the Daily Beast, though it is unclear to what extent their work will focus on Manafort.
Mueller’s team obtained a search warrant to raid Manafort’s home in July. Sources told CNN that documents protected by attorney-client privilege may have been taken, but federal prosecutor-turned defence attorney Renato Mariotti said on Twitter that “incriminating” evidence “in plain view” and spotted by FBI agents during a raid is fair game.
Obtaining a warrant after the fact to put documents into evidence that were not covered under the scope of the initial warrant is also common practice, Mariotti said.
Manafort’s presence at the Trump Tower meeting came under intense scrutiny last week when NBC reported that he had been taking notes on his iPhone that referenced political contributions and the Republican National Committee.
Congressional investigators examining Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election are now using Manafort’s notes as a jumping off point to examine whether the Trump campaign or the RNC received donations from Russian sources after the meeting, according to NBC.
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Business Insider last week that “a complete investigation will answer whether the Russians were working with the Trump campaign and whether that included financial assistance.”
“There are enough accounts out there that we should probe further to see if that was the case,” Swalwell added, pointing to the meeting and the recent revelations about the Trump Organisation pursuing a real-estate deal in Moscow during the election.
“Clearly, we have to keep following the money,” he said.
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