Special counsel Robert Mueller reportedly warned Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump's campaign, that he would be indicted in relation to the federal probe into the Russian government's role during the 2016 election.
On Sept. 18, sources familiar with the Mueller probe disclosed that federal agents had picked the lock of Manafort's home during an investigative raid on July 26. In order for Mueller's team to obtain a warrant for the raid, they would have had to persuade a federal judge that Manafort held crucial evidence in his household that he would potentially destroy the evidence if given prior notice. Mueller allegedly told Manafort after the raid that he could expect to be indicted in the investigation, The New York Times reports.
On May 17, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller to head the federal probe into Russia's influence campaign during the 2016 election. The decision was prompted by controversy surrounding Trump's decision to fire former FBI director James Comey. Mueller was tasked with determining the extent of Russia's meddling, whether or not associates of the Trump campaign assisted with those efforts and whether or not Comey's termination was an obstruction of justice.
"I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability," Mueller said after his appointment, according to NPR.
Manafort and former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have both been heavily scrutinized by the Mueller probe.
Sources familiar with the investigation also said that Mueller's team had subpoenaed several Manafort associates, including one of his attorneys. Following the freshly disclosed details of the Manafort raid, legal experts observed that Mueller's team was using aggressive tactics that indicated they had serious evidence of wrongdoing.
"They seem to be pursuing this more aggressively, taking a much harder line, than you'd expect to see in a typical white-collar case," said law professor Jimmy Gurule of Notre Dame. "This is more consistent with how you'd go after an organized crime syndicate."
Solomon Wisenberg, who worked as a deputy independent counsel during a federal probe into former President Bill Clinton, asserted that Mueller's team was trying intimidate persons of interest into fully cooperating.
"They are setting a tone," Wisenberg said. "It's important early on to strike terror in the hearts of people in Washington, or else you will be rolled. You want people saying to themselves: 'Man, I had better tell these guys the truth.'"
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti took to social media to offer his analysis of the new disclosures.
"This strongly suggests what we've long expected -- that Mueller is trying to 'flip' Manafort," Mariotti tweeted out. "What causes a target to 'flip'? The #1 factor is assembling sufficient evidence to make it likely that the person will be convicted and serve a prison sentence. Mueller's team is being as aggressive as possible to indicate to Manafort that he should be concerned about that possibility."
On Sept. 19, several sources disclosed that Manafort had been the subject of an FBI investigation and was intermittently wiretapped by federal agents from sometime in 2014 until early 2017, CNN reports.
The FBI had obtained secret authorizations for the surveillance through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, meaning that it had to prove before a court that there was sufficient evidence to probe Manafort for wrongdoing.
The former Trump campaign chairman was allegedly being investigated for his consulting work with the Ukrainian government. Investigators reportedly intercepted communications that gave them reason to suspect that Manafort was in contact with Russian officials during the 2016 election.