- Paul Manafort has reportedly visited the special counsel Robert Mueller’s office at least nine times in the past month.
- He and his lawyers are said to have spent at least six hours at a time there with prosecutors.
- Manafort is arguably Mueller’s most significant cooperating witness to date, and his frequent trips to Mueller’s office indicate the Russia investigation is not slowing down anytime soon.
Paul Manafort has visited the special counsel Robert Mueller’s office at least nine times over the past month, for hours at a time, CNN reported this week.
According to CNN, a black SUV carrying Manafort has been seen arriving at Mueller’s office at about 10 a.m. ET several times since September. Manafort’s lawyers are said to arrive at the same time, with them all spending about six hours inside the special counsel’s office at a time.
Manafort pleaded guilty in September to two counts of conspiracy and obstruction as part of the ongoing Russia investigation.
He is arguably Mueller’s most significant cooperating witness to date, given his role leading President Donald Trump’s campaign during the most pivotal period in the 2016 election.
Manafort was the chairman of the Trump campaign when he offered a Russian oligarch “private briefings” on Trump’s bid. He was one of three top Trump campaign officials to attend a meeting with two Russian lobbyists offering dirt on Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
And he was leading the campaign when the radical pro-transparency group WikiLeaks began dumping thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee that had been stolen by Russian operatives.
Manafort’s cooperation with the special counsel comes amid heightened calls from the president’s allies for Mueller to wrap up the Russia investigation.
Mueller has not given any public indication that he will do so. But two US officials told Bloomberg this week that the special counsel was close to getting answers to the two core questions in the investigation: whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to sway the 2016 race in his favour and whether Trump sought to obstruct justice after the existence of the Russia investigation became public knowledge.
News out of Mueller’s office has been slow over the past few weeks as the November 6 midterm election approaches, a sign prosecutors are adhering to Department of Justice guidelines that warn against taking any overt actions that can be seen as influencing the outcome of an election.
But Manafort’s frequent trips to Mueller’s office indicate the investigation is doing anything but slowing down.
On Wednesday, ABC News reported that Mueller’s prosecutors had been grilling Manafort for information on the longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone. Stone told Business Insider he didn’t do anything wrong but expected to be charged soon because he believed he was being “framed.”
Legal experts say that they expect to see a string of new revelations from Mueller’s office once the election is over but that they don’t expect the special counsel to release a final report of his findings anytime soon.
What he may do, they added, is release a report of his findings in the obstruction inquiry, which he is reportedly close to wrapping up.
Meanwhile, Trump’s team is in the middle of providing written answers to the special counsel on questions focusing on potential collusion with Russia. Mueller has reportedly made clear that he wants to ask follow-ups as well, and prosecutors have not ruled out a one-on-one sit-down with the president.
Jed Shugerman, a professor at Fordham Law School, said he thought it was significant that Mueller agreed to narrow the scope of his initial questions for Trump to focus on collusion rather than obstruction.
“It suggests Mueller thinks that’s more significant and worthwhile at this stage,” he said.
Shugerman added that Mueller’s questions about collusion indicated that “he probably has sufficient evidence for obstruction.”
“If forced to allocate his time to obstruction or Russia, he is choosing Russia,” he said. “And probably [because] he has big leads.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.