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Investigation Into Manafort Gathers Pace

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The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan has launched a probe into the financial dealings of Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Anonymous sources said federal prosecutors are examining whether Manafort used New York real estate transactions to launder foreign money, according to Bloomberg.

The attorney's office in Manhattan initially transferred the inquiry to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining alleged collusion between Russia and members of Trump's presidential campaign in the 2016 election. However, the attorney's office rejoined the inquiry over recent weeks by issuing subpoenas.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also conducting a probe into possible money laundering by Manafort.

Manafort has yet to be formally accused of any wrongdoing. Jason Maloni, a spokesperson for Manafort, did not comment when asked about the issuance of subpoenas.

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The focus on Manafort suggests Mueller is hoping to pressure him to cooperate with his Russia probe, according to Bloomberg.

​The FBI raided Manafort's house in July. In September, it was reported that investigators had secured a warrant to wiretap Manafort in the lead up to and after the 2016 election. Reports also stated that Manafort offered "private briefings" to a Russian oligarch about the Trump campaign, Business Insider reports.

Joseph Pelcher, a former FBI counterintelligence agent, told Business Insider that while it's unclear what Mueller's inquiry knows about Manafort, investigators must have grounds for suspicion since they obtained a search warrant.

"You need probable cause to get a search warrant, so there is something there, without question," he added.

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Manafort is not the only one coming under scrutiny from Mueller; the special counsel is also looking into the activities of Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and his organization, the Podesta Group. The inquiry is considering whether the group violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, NBC News reported on Oct. 23.

The Podesta group was involved in an initiative, together with Manafort, called European Centre for a Modern Ukraine.

Manafort's firm only submitted a FARA registration after the media reported its financial dealings with the ECMU in June 2017. The Podesta Group also updated its registration after the matter became public.

A spokeswoman for Podesta's organization said it originally did not report its involvement with ECMU because the campaign "had certified that it was neither funded nor directed by a foreign government or political party."

But reports suggest the ECMU was backed by the Party of Regions, a pro-Russian party whose members include Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president. Yanukovych was also a client of Manafort's.

The Associated Press first reported on the pro-Ukrainian lobbying campaign on Aug. 17, 2016; Manafort resigned from his position as Trump campaign chairman several days later on Aug. 19, 2016, Politico reports.

Sources: Bloomberg, NBC News, Business Insider, AP, Politico / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr / Embedded Images: Gage Skidmore/Flickr, President of Russia

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