Even if anonymously sourced reports prove true, and it turns out that 11 years of Paul Manafort’s business activities are under an FBI microscope, the ultimate meaning for Donald Trump’s presidency remains hazy.
The latest story goes that Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign manager last year, is under legal pressure. Law enforcement officials could be focused on the campaign itself, or Manafort’s business in Ukraine or his activities elsewhere.
Or maybe they’re just squeezing him.
Because Manafort is purported to have been wiretapped under secret court orders before and after the election, as CNN says, it covers a period when he was known to speak with Trump.
That has prompted some Trump defenders to essentially shout “Aha!” Their belief is that details of the Manafort probe could validate Trump’s claim that predecessor Barack Obama illegally spied on him.
Trump tweeted on March 4: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
But two weeks ago, the Justice Department stated in a court filing: “Both FBI and NSD confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets.”
And for now, Trump’s decrying of “wiretaps” still belongs in the same file as his fabulistic outbursts over millions of illegal votes, millions of unrecorded inauguration-goers, and thousands of local Muslims cheering the 9/11 attacks.
But let’s say Trump’s voice was indeed picked up on the wiretaps of a Manafort phone at his Fifth Avenue tower, where Manafort lives.
David French writes for the National Review: “Obviously, wiretapping Manafort is not the same thing as wiretapping Trump, but the repeated, blanket denials [by the government] seem disingenuous if Trump is actually on tape.
“Would ‘no comment’ have been a better response than a vigorous denial?”
A more interesting question is what the president could tell us about what he had “just found out” back in March — and how he purportedly learned that “nothing was found.”
The president never has seen fit to enlighten the citizens with any actual information about this mystery “wiretap” of which the nation’s commander-in-chief suggested he was somehow a victim.