CLAIM

The FBI announced an inquiry into Russian ties between Trump's former campaign director and the Russian government.

MIXTURE

RATING

MIXTURE

WHAT'S TRUE

NBC reported that the FBI was looking into allegations about ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's foreign business dealings.

WHAT'S FALSE

The FBI has not made an "announcement" regarding their actions, and an inquiry is only a review of allegations and not a formal investigation.

ORIGIN

On 1 November 2016, the liberal blog Occupy Democrats posted a story headlined, “FBI Just Announced It’s Looking Into the Trump Campaign’s Ties to Russia” that made it appear as if a criminal case against Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, were imminent:

It’s official. NBC is now reporting that Donald Trump’s campaign management has fallen under the scrutiny of an FBI inquiry, which is sure to blossom into a formal criminal investigation centered on Trump’s disgraced ex-manager Paul Manafort’s stewardship of the Republican campaign and his close ties to Ukraine. When he departed, Manafort was facing felony charges, and now the FBI’s suspicions have been confirmed by the evidence.

New York Times found Ukrainian documents which outlined $12.7 million in previously unreported payments from a Ukrainian political party to Manafort, precipitating his departure from the campaign.

In August 2016, the New York Times published a report that a secret ledger had been unearthed in Ukraine showing $12.7 million in payments designated from Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party to Manafort between 2007 and 2012. When the story was published, anti-corruption officials in Ukraine told the paper that they had not yet determined whether Manafort had actually received the money.

The Occupy Democrats story was based on a later 1 November 2016 NBC report:

The FBI has been conducting a preliminary inquiry into Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s foreign business connections, law enforcement and intelligence sources told NBC News.

Word of the inquiry, which has not blossomed into a full-blown criminal investigation, comes just days after FBI Director James Comey’s disclosure that his agency is examining a new batch of emails connected to an aide to Hillary Clinton.

While an unnamed source apparently spoke to NBC, the FBI has not “announced” an inquiry into Manafort’s activities — the Bureau, generally, does not officially confirm whether or not they are investigating a matter, and they responded to our inquiry by saying just that. Similarly, they gave no formal statement to NBC.

Furthermore, an inquiry is not a criminal investigation, nor does the FBI’s opening of an inquiry mean a criminal investigation will necessarily follow.

The NBC report is part of a back-and-forth between parties in which the FBI appears to be something of a political football in the final days before the 8 November 2016 election. A day before the NBC report, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid sent a furious letter to FBI Director James Comey, accusing him of bias and attempting to help one presidential candidate over the other:

Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another. I am writing to inform you that my office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election. Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law.

The double standard established by your actions is clear.

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

By contrast, as soon as you came into possession of the slightest innuendo related to Secretary Clinton, you rushed to publicize it in the most negative light possible.

Reid’s letter came days after Comey sent a letter to Congress saying that in the course of an investigation separate from the now-closed probe of Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server, new material had been found that the FBI was looking at. The vaguely-worded letter was spun by Republicans claiming it meant the Bureau was “re-opening” the e-mail investigation, while the letter actually said that the FBI hadn’t yet determined if the contents of the new e-mails were significant.

Comey’s letter sparked outrage among Democrats, while his decision to close the investigation of Clinton’s e-mails without recommending prosecution inspired outrage among Republicans.

In recent electoral history, the FBI and its investigative activities have not been as much of a source of controversy as they are in 2016. It thus remains unclear what the FBI is looking into in regards to Manafort and whether it will be serious enough to merit a formal investigation, or whether it will be dropped as nothing more than last-minute election machinations.

Sources:

Stern, Grant.   “FBI Just Announced It’s Looking Into the Trump Campaign’s Ties to Russia.”
    Occupy Democrats.   1 November 2016.

Kramer, Andrew et al.   “Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief.”
    The New York Times.   14 August 2016.

Dilanian, Ken et al.   “FBI Making Inquiry Into Ex-Trump Campaign Manager’s Foreign Ties.”
    NBC News.   1 November 2016.

Goldman, Adam, and Rappeport, Alan.   “Emails in Anthony Weiner Inquiry Jolt Hillary Clinton’s Campaign.”
    The New York Times.   28 October 2016.