The news of the inquiry, which has not blossomed into a full-blown criminal investigation, emerges just days after FBI Director James Comey’s disclosure that his agency is examining a new batch of emails connected to an aide to Hillary Clinton. It also comes a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid criticized Comey’s revelation and asserted that Comey possesses “explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government.”
As a reminder, Manafort, who resigned as Donald Trump’s campaign manager in August, was previously an international political consultant. He became a liability for the Trump campaign amid reports of his involvement with a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. One damaging New York Times story earlier this year alleged the party had earmarked more than $12 million in under-the-table cash payments, raising questions about whether Manafort had run afoul of U.S. lobbying laws that would he require he register as “foreign agent” with the Justice Department.
But back to Manafort, and the NBC story, which in retrospect is merely a regurgitation of a CNN report from August 19, which reported the exact same thing over two months ago: the FBI did not comment. Manafort told NBC News “none of it is true … There’s no investigation going on by the FBI that I’m aware of.” He said he had never had ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, or had dealings with Putin and his government. He said any suggestion of such ties was “Democratic propaganda.”
“This is all political propaganda, meant to deflect,” he said.
Furthermore, it appears that the latest news is actually a step down from the origianl CNN report: sources told NBC that the FBI review is not a full-blown criminal investigation, but rather an initial inquiry.
NBC News reported in August that Manafort was a key player in multi-million-dollar business propositions with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs — one of them a close Putin ally with alleged ties to organized crime — which foreign policy experts said raised questions about the pro-Russian bent of the Trump candidacy. A few days later, amid other reporting on Manafort’s Ukraine ties, Manafort was ousted from the campaign.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, regularly receives sensitive briefings. Schiff said he could not discuss Reid’s assertions, but he said, “Americans have every right to be concerned about what they see in terms of Trump advisors and their closeness with the Kremlin, Trump’s policies vis-a-vis Russia, Trump’s potential financial interest, all of those things ought to be of deep concern to voters.”
He added, “Whether an investigation is appropriate depends on whether there’s evidence of criminal connections. Of course the intelligence community wants to know what foreign influence Russia may be looking to exert in the United States.”
Manafort was paid millions of dollars — $12.7 million in cash, according to The New York Times—representing a pro-Russian politician in the Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Democrats have used this renewed opportunity of ties between a former Trump staffer and Russia, or rather Ukraine, to pitch the worn out propaganda line that Trump is nothing more than a KGB plant.
Trump has taken a series of pro-Russian positions that experts from both parties say are far outside the mainstream, and inexplicable from a political viewpoint. He continues to cast doubt on Russian involvement in election hacking, for example, despite the intelligence community’s public assessment.
“The relationships that Trump’s advisors have had with pro-Russian forces are deeply disturbing,” David Kramer, a former senior State Department official in the George W. Bush administration and a former adviser to Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign, told NBC News in August. “Trump’s attitude on Russia is not in line with most Republican foreign-policy thinking. Trump has staked out views that are really on the fringe.”
Yes, heaven forbid someone step out of line with most Republican foreign-policy thinking, which incidentally, is a carbon copy of most Democrat foreign-policy thinking these days: shoot first, bomb second, and only ask questions if you are subpoenaed by Congress.
Meanwhile, not content with letting the Russian “angle” drop, on Monday evening, the master of propaganda, John Podesta himself, whose brother would be in the same trouble as Manafort if not more if the FBI were truly probing pro-Russian/Ukrainian lobbying connections, tweeted that “Donald Trump has a secret email server set up to communicate privately with the Russian Alfa Bank.”
Donald Trump has a secret email server set up to communicate privately with the Russian Alfa Bank. https://t.co/7b3E8VbT6c
— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) October 31, 2016
Which is wonderful (granted he may be borrowing a little too heavily from the Hillary Clinton script), the only problem is that at almost exactly the same time, the NYT reported that U.S. Officials Doubt Donald Trump Has Direct Link to Russia.
For much of the summer, the F.B.I. pursued a widening investigation into a Russian role in the American presidential campaign. Agents scrutinized advisers close to Donald J. Trump, looked for financial connections with Russian financial figures, searched for those involved in hacking the computers of Democrats, and even chased a lead — which they ultimately came to doubt — about a possible secret channel of email communication from the Trump Organization to a Russian bank.
Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.
In other words, the FBI itself is telling the Democrat establishment to move on and find a different attack on Putin because the “Putin agent” is getting old. Alas, that means either more tax stories or more allegations of rape, both of which the public appears to no longer care as much about.