On the same day that the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel was announced, NBC News reported that the two key figures under direct criminal investigation from within the Trump campaign are former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Former Trump aides Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort have emerged as key figures in the FBI’s investigation into Russian campaign interference, which has just been taken over by a special counsel, four law enforcement officials told NBC News.
Officials say multiple grand jury subpoenas and records requests have been issued in connection with the two men during the past six months in the ongoing probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian attempts to influence the election, an inquiry that will now be overseen by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
The FBI, with the help of the Treasury Department, the CIA and other agencies, is examining evidence of possible contacts, money transfers and business relationships between a variety of Trump associates and Russian officials, the sources say…Law enforcement officials tell NBC News that both Flynn and Manafort are formally considered “subjects” of a criminal investigation, though their lawyers say they have done nothing wrong. A “subject” is someone whose conduct is being examined by the investigation, and may be suspected of a crime.
Those have long been the most obvious targets because of their close ties to the Putin government and their failure to register as foreign lobbyists. Trump has tried to distance himself from Manafort with a variation of “new phone, who dat?,” pretending that he barely had a cup of coffee with the campaign before being replaced by Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon. But Manafort ran the Republican National Convention and was brought in to run the campaign to clean up the mess left behind by Corey Lewandowski.
Trump will find it much harder to distance himself from Flynn, especially in light of the revelation that he tried to get Comey to drop the investigation into him even after he was fired by the White House.