Without more information about why Mueller’s team opted for a no-knock raid, it’s hard to discern whether the move was grounded in practicality, theatricality, or a little bit of both.
3. What gave investigators probable cause to obtain a FISA warrant?
To obtain a FISA warrant to target a U.S. citizen, a federal investigator must demonstrate to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secretive tribunal in Washington, why he or she thinks the target is acting on behalf of a foreign government. If that standard is met, the court authorizes 90 days of surveillance, which can be renewed as long as the government can demonstrate its utility.
Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, said it was a “big deal” that investigators had reportedly secured a FISA warrant against Manafort. “It means not only that the government thought it had probable cause that he was acting as an agent of a foreign power, but that it convinced a FISA judge that it was right,” he explained. “One can only speculate as to what evidence provided the basis for such a probable cause showing, but it certainly does not augur well for Manafort.”
4. With whom was Manafort talking during the time period he was under surveillance?
Obtaining a FISA warrant could give federal investigators access to a wealth of communications made by Manafort during the 90-day periods it authorized. That surveillance may answer some questions about possible Trump-Kremlin lines of communication and whether they existed. A tantalizing Times article in May reported that U.S. intelligence agencies had captured communications between Russian political and intelligence officials during the summer of 2016 in which they discussed ways to influence the Trump campaign. According to the Times’ descriptions of the intercepts, those conversations focused on reaching out to Manafort and Michael Flynn.
When the report was published, Manafort emphatically denied he had colluded with Russian officials to influence the election. The Times did not report at the time that any of those discussions among the Russians had borne fruit. But in July, the Times revealed that Manafort was among those who attended a previously unknown June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
5. Were any of his conversations with Trump recorded, either before or after the election?
Few of Trump’s claims have been as sensational as a series of tweets on March 4 alleging that Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower prior to the election. His allegation that a sitting president had surveilled a political opponent reverberated throughout Washington, even though Trump provided no evidence to support his claim. Obama broke his post-presidency silence to deny the allegations and assert he had never directed the surveillance of any U.S. citizen.