Paul Manafort spokesman issues rare public response to reports that Manafort was wiretapped

Paul Manafort. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The longtime spokesman for US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is calling on the Justice Department to investigate who leaked the existence of a FISA warrant targeting Manafort to the press.

“If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged,” the spokesman, Jason Maloni, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The U.S Department of Justice’s Inspector General should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous Administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent,” he continued.

Maloni, who was issued a subpoena by FBI special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this month to testify before a federal grand jury, was responding to a CNN report published on Monday night that said US investigators had obtained a warrant to wiretap Manafort before and after the election.

“Mr. Manafort requests that the Department of Justice release any intercepts involving him and any non-Americans so interested parties can come to the same conclusion as the DOJ — there is nothing there,” Maloni said.

Some of the information gleaned from the surveillance apparently prompted concerns that Manafort had encouraged Russians to “help with the campaign,” CNN reported, citing three unnamed sources.

Former FBI agent Asha Rangappa, who served in the bureau’s counterintelligence division, explained earlier this year the FBI can request and be granted a warrant to monitor a US person from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “if they can show probable cause that the target is an ‘agent of a foreign power’ who is ‘knowingly engag[ing]…in clandestine intelligence activities.'”

“In other words,” Rangappa added, “the government has to show that the target might bespying for a foreign government or organisation.”

Investigators last year obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to conduct surveillance on Manafort, which continued through early 2017.

The government eavesdropping apparently included a period earlier this year when Manafort was “known to talk” to President Donald Trump. The president sparked weeks of speculation in March when he accused former President Barack Obama of having his “wires tapped” in Trump Tower. Trump’s own Justice Department, however, has said there is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.

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