Why Team Trump’s flop-sweat over Russiagate has only just begun
Team Trump is getting nervous in a big way.
Yesterday it was revealed that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort – who despite denials and protestations from Trump’s PR machine was a close colleague and one of the most influential members of the team even after he was no longer campaign manager and at least up until Trump’s failure to secure a popular vote majority in the 2016 presidential election – received a subpoena for bank records from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation appears to be picking up steam, with his team issuing subpoenas in recent weeks for bank records from Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman.
Mueller’s investigation team has sent the orders from a Washington grand jury to global banks seeking relevant transaction records and other banking information that involve Manafort, sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
The subpoenas also reportedly seek information related to some of Manafort’s companies as well as his former business partner Rick Gates.
Other business associates, including Manafort’s son-in-law and a Ukrainian oligarch, have been contacted by Mueller’s team in an attempt to pressure Manafort into cooperating with prosecutors, one source told Bloomberg. …
A spokesperson for Manafort confirmed the raid had taken place, adding that he continues to work with law enforcement.
And now someone else close to Manafort – as in related by marriage – has been providing information and documents to Mueller.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai, met with Department of Justice investigators in recent months, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Yohai provided information and documents to federal investigators in New York more than two months ago, according to one of the sources.
The sources say the Justice Department was seeking cooperation related to the federal investigation into Manafort for possible money laundering or tax violations in his business dealings with pro-Russia parties in Ukraine.
The information has been turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his probe. It’s unclear if any of the information Yohai provided has been useful for the investigation of Manafort.
Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni declined to comment on this story and an earlier Politico report Thursday that first discussed Yohai being approached about cooperation.
Yohai has been under federal investigation for real estate deals he made with Manafort.
And now, Manafort is switching out his legal team – from WilmerHale to Miller & Chevalier, a specialist in white collar criminal defense. Josh Marshall, among others, speculates that WilmerHale may have fired Manafort and not vice-versa.
That can’t be good for Manafort. All signs point to him either not cooperating or having lied to Mueller’s investigators. And Manafort would have good reason to do that – his former allies have shifted into full backstab mode.
The terms “shady” and “sketchy” come up most frequently when senior veterans of Trump’s campaign discuss the earlier work done by Manafort, the campaign’s former chairman. (This is the kind of work that has in decades past included Manafort’s lobbying for some of the worst human rights abusers, killers, and dictators of the Cold War era—work Manafort did with longtime Trump consigliere Roger Stone at their well-connected K Street lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly.)
What they don’t know is whether Mueller has “turned” Manafort or simply obtained information during his investigation that has led to pertinent election-meddling developments, and what—if anything—Manafort would have to offer or interest Mueller and his team.
“There is no trust between the president and Paul [Manafort],” another West Wing official said. “There never really was any to begin with, to tell you the truth.”
Multiple sources close to the president have said that there was a growing resentment from Team Trump toward Manafort because he tried to profit off of the access and influence that he claimed to still have on the Trump administration. Specifically, top Trump officials were especially annoyed when stories began appearing online starting in April about how Manafort had reportedly told Chinese interests that he could convince the Trump administration to go along with deals related to U.S. construction contracts.
“That really pissed people off,” a White House adviser told The Daily Beast.
Maybe Dear Leader was a little jealous that Manafort might actually be better at the “art of the deal.” But one thing is certain: Manafort had a lot of contact with Team Trump, including the June 2016 meeting at trump Tower involving Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Russian agents supposedly eager to provide “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. And that has a whole lot of folks in teh West Wing very nervous, especially when you look at the extent of investigations targeting Manafort. The good folks at Slate bullet-pointed the many paths of investigation based on Bloomberg reports, and bullet-pointed them:
- Mueller’s team, for weeks, has been issuing subpoenas to global banks seeking transaction histories for accounts involving Manafort and his business interests.
- Investigators are trying to use Manafort’s business associates, including his son-in-law and a Ukrainian oligarch, in order to turn up the heat on the former Trump aide in an effort to extract more information out of him.
- “Jeffrey Yohai, who is the estranged husband of Manafort’s daughter, is under investigation by FBI agents working with prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles,” people familiar with their work told Bloomberg. “U.S. authorities are now looking into claims by an investor that Yohai operated a Ponzi scheme.”
- Federal prosecutors in New York have handed over the reigns to Mueller’s team on an investigation started earlier this year into money laundering allegations, where Manafort invested in New York real estate to clean up dirty money from Eastern Europe.
- Investigators have been focusing on a Manafort business called CMZ Ventures that received $25 million from Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash to develop a luxury skyscraper on Park Avenue. The project never happened, the money was never invested, and a year later, in 2009, CMZ shut down. Plaintiffs in a civil suit on the matter, “including the former prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, alleged the real purpose of the firm was to launder money through the U.S. financial system that Firtash had obtained improperly by skimming sales of natural gas to Ukraine,” according to Bloomberg.
- “The New York authorities are examining an unusual combination of mortgages and loans assembled by Manafort,” according to Bloomberg.
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