April 6, 2018 10:07 am -

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has ratcheted up the squeeze on alleged Russian co-conspirator Paul Manafort.

A warrant recently issued targeting Manafort and comments from a knowledgable insider suggest Mueller has been authorized to again expand the scope of his probe:

Last month special counsel Robert Mueller obtained a new search warrant for records of five AT&T phone numbers belonging to ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort.

The warrant is “not the subject of either of the current prosecutions” against the Washington political consultant, according to a new court filing made by the special counsel Thursday.

Mueller didn’t just get Manafort’s phone records. This development should have plenty of people in the Beltway and the former Soviet Union taking notice:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office moved to seize bank accounts at three different financial institutions last year just one day before former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted, prosecutors disclosed in a court filing Thursday.

The previously unknown move against the bank accounts was revealed in a list of search and seizure warrantsprosecutors submitted to a federal court in Washington after Manafort’s defense team complained that the government was withholding too many details about how the warrants were obtained.

Manafort has been charged with bank fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, tax avoidance, and corruption. Could the next charge involve explicit collusion of conspiracy?

We do know this: Manafort is not the only Team Trump “marquee name” that Mueller has under the proctoscope:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained evidence that calls into question Congressional testimony given by Trump supporter and Blackwater founder Erik Prince last year, when he described a meeting in Seychelles with a Russian financier close to Vladimir Putin as a casual chance encounter “over a beer,” sources told ABC News.

Well-connected Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, a key witness given limited immunity by Mueller, has been interviewed seven times by prosecutors on a wide range of subjects. He told investigators that he set up a meeting in the Seychelles between Prince and Russian sovereign wealth fund CEO Kirill Dmitriev, mere days before Trump was inaugurated, sources familiar with the investigation said this week.

Nader has submitted to three interviews with special counsel investigators and four appearances before a federal grand jury in Washington since agents stopped him at Dulles International Airport in January, served him with a grand jury subpoena and seized his electronic devices, including his cell phone.

As of late March, Mueller’s team has not asked Prince – whose sister Betsy DeVos serves as Trump’s Secretary of Education – to appear before the grand jury being used to investigate whether Trump campaign officials or transition aides colluded with Russian government operatives, according to one of Prince’s friends.

Reading between the lines of ABC’s report, one concludes that it is likely Mueller has airtight corroborating evidence beyond Nader’s testimony.

And then there is this story, dropped by McClatchy late last night:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators this week questioned an associate of the Trump Organization who was involved in overseas deals with President Donald Trump’s company in recent years.

Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller’s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump’s effort to expand his brand abroad, according to persons familiar with the proceedings.

Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

McClatchy is not revealing the name of the associate, which has naturally triggered speculation not only as to the identity of the associate but whether he or she is a witness or suspect.

The takeaways:

  • Mueller’s team continues to squeeze Manafort with the goal of getting him to turn state’s evidence. Given that Manafort was involved with several figures from the former Soviet Union who have been identified as, to put it mildly, “mobbed up,” Manafort may believe he has more to fear from them than from Mueller — at least for now.
  • Erik Prince is going to likely need additional lawyers.
  • Michael Cohen is going to need additional lawyers.
  • All of this may be the underlying cause of Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior. Expect several more infrastructure weeks in the near future.
D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.