DOJ Suddenly Decides It Can Share the McCabe, Comey 302s with Congress

After DOJ asserted to DC Chief Judge Beryl Howell that US v. Nixon would be decided differently today, the judge instructed the parties fighting over whether DOJ will share the grand jury materials from the Mueller investigation with Congress to get busy. She set of bunch of short deadlines to determine the validity of DOJ’s claims to secrecy. As part of that, she had DOJ explain which FBI 302s (interview reports) it had shared of those the House Judiciary Committee requested, then had HJC fact check that list.

According to HJC, DOJ’s declaration alerted them, for the first time, that some of the redactions in 302s were made to protect “Executive Branch confidentiality,” a claim they’ll move to challenge.

Although DOJ discussed the bases for redaction in its Supplemental Submission and at the October 8, 2019 hearing, see DOJ Supp. Sub. ¶ 4; Hr’g Tr. 48-49 (Oct. 8, 2019), none of the bases for redactions are listed or otherwise indicated on the FBI-302 reports reviewed by the Committee. Instead, portions of the FBI-302 reports are simply blacked out without any explanation. During the Committee’s on-site reviews of the FBI-302 reports and in calls between Committee and DOJ officials, the Committee has repeatedly requested that DOJ specifically identify the complete set of bases for its redactions. The Committee still has not received this information as to any of the FBI-302 reports it has reviewed. While the Committee is generally aware that there were redactions for personally identifiable information, until the discussion during yesterday’s hearing and in DOJ’s Supplemental Submission, the Committee was unaware, for example, that the bases for redactions included either “Executive Branch confidentiality interests,” DOJ Supp. Sub. ¶ 4, or “presidential communications,” Hr’g Tr. 48:19- 20 (Oct. 8, 2019).

The more interesting revelation from the exchange, however, pertains to whether or not DOJ was going to supply all 302s, and which ones they might suppress. As DOJ explains, it has given HJC 302s for 17  of the 33 people they asked for (though the Rob Porter and Uttam Dhillon 302s were mostly redacted):

The Committee requested FBI-302s for 33 individuals. To date the Department has provided access to the FBI-302s of 17 of those individuals, several of whom had multiple interviews. Those individuals are (in alphabetical order): (1) Chris Christie, (2) Michael Cohen (six separate FBI-302s); (3) Rick Dearborn; (4) Uttam Dhillon; (5) John Kelly; (6) Jared Kushner; (7) Cory Lewandowski; (8) Paul Manafort (seven separate FBI-302s); (9) Mary McCord; (10) K.T. McFarland (five separate FBI-302s); (11) Stephen Miller; (12) Rob Porter (two separate FBI-302s); (13) Rod Rosenstein; (14) Christopher Ruddy; (15) Sarah Sanders; (16) Sean Spicer; (17) Sally Yates.

But it has thus far withheld 302s from a group of others.

The Department currently anticipates making the remaining FBI-302’s available under the agreed upon terms as processing is completed, so long as they do not adversely impact ongoing investigations and cases and subject to redaction and potential withholding in order to protect Executive Branch confidentiality interests. These include, in alphabetical order (1) Stephen Bannon; (2) Dana Boente; (3) James Burnham; (4) James Comey; (5) Annie Donaldson; (6) John Eisenberg; (7) Michael Flynn; (8) Rick Gates; (9) Hope Hicks; (10) Jody Hunt; (11) Andrew McCabe; (12) Don McGahn; (13) Reince Priebus; (14) James Rybicki; (15) Jeff Sessions. In addition, the Committee requested the FBI-302 for the counsel to Michael Flynn, which also has not yet been processed.

It’s an interesting list to withhold.

Hicks, of course, was privy to a great deal (including Trump’s effort to lie about the June 9 meeting), and her testimony about certain communications during the campaign was actually fairly revealing.

At least two of these may be withheld for the pendency of the Roger Stone trial; both Steve Bannon and Rick Gates will be witnesses, and Mike Flynn’s discussions of WikiLeaks may come up as well.

These 302s (and Dhillon’s heavily redacted one) cover virtually all of the White House’s side of discussions not to fire Mike Flynn right away after discovering he lied about his call with Sergey Kislyak: James Burnham, John Eisenberg, Don McGahn, and Reince Priebus, and of course Flynn himself, were all key players in that. Of course, Eisenberg (who’s the lawyer who decided to hide the records on Trump’s call to Volodymyr Zelensky) was involved in other acts that might indicate obstruction, including advising KT McFarland not to create a false record about what Flynn said. And McGahn was involved in much else (and might even have been asked about Stone’s campaign finance issues, which McGahn represented him on, and the awareness of the Trump campaign about will be an issue at Stone’s trial). But I find it acutely interesting that DOJ is withholding a bunch of records that will make it clear how damning Trump’s reluctance to fire Flynn was, even as Flynn attempts a propaganda driven effort to give Trump an excuse to pardon him.

Then there are the 302s pertaining to the recusal of Jeff Sessions and firing of Jim Comey (and immediate pressure on Andrew McCabe). Those include Comey himself, McCabe, Rybicki, Hunt, Sessions, and Dana Boente. The fact that DOJ has been withholding these (and it’s suggestion that there are ongoing investigations) is really sketchy: it suggests that DOJ may have been withholding really damning 302s from Congress so it can decide whether to indict McCabe and — presumably — wait for DOJ IG to finish its investigation of the FISA orders some of these men approved. In other words, DOJ has been releasing one after another damning claim against Comey and McCabe, but withholding evidence about why they might be targeted.

It’s also noteworthy that Boente and McGahn’s memory regarding an effort McGahn made to shut down the Russian investigation is one of the greatest conflicts of testimony in the entire Mueller Report.

The 302s DOJ has been withholding also happens to include 302s of current DOJ officials. Boente is the FBI General Counsel. More alarmingly, Jody Hunt runs the Civil Division and Burnham is his Deputy. These are the men directing the DOJ effort to make breathtaking claims about impeachment, and they’re hiding their own actions in the investigation about which Congress is considering impeachment.

But, having been asked by Howell what the state of affairs is, DOJ has now decided that they’re going to turn over 302s they previously had suggested they might withhold. HJC expressed some surprise about the sudden change of plans.

With respect to the outstanding FBI-302 reports, the Committee was surprised but encouraged by DOJ’s statement in its supplemental filing that it “currently anticipates making the remaining FBI-302s available.” DOJ Supp. Sub. ¶ 5. The Committee had previously understood from its recent communications with DOJ that DOJ’s production was nearing completion and that there were only a limited number of remaining documents that DOJ would disclose.

It will be interesting if and when HJC obtains these records to see how DOJ tried to protect itself.

Update: I’m reminded of two things. First, as I copied out this URL, I recalled that Turkey, along with Russia, would have known that he lied about his calls with Sergey Kislyak.

Also, in the government’s most recently filing in the Mike Flynn case, they revealed that he had not been in possession of the interview reports from between the time he was initially interviewed and the time he pled guilty.

Based on filings and assertions made by the defendant’s new counsel, the government anticipates that the defendant’s cooperation and candor with the government will be contested issues for the Court to consider at sentencing. Accordingly, the government will provide the defendant with the reports of his post-January 24, 2017 interviews. The government notes that the defendant had counsel present at all such interviews.

This suggests that the government was withholding reports that would make it clear that Flynn continued to lie, even after he lawyered up.

The Press Gets Utterly Snookered on the White House Rebranding of the Same Old Unrelenting Obstruction of Congressional Prerogatives

Yesterday, the White House sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi and just some of the Committee Chairs conducting parts of an impeachment inquiry into the President, purporting to refuse to participate in that impeachment inquiry. Since then, there has been a lot of shocked coverage about how intemperate the letter is, with particular focus on the fact that White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, used to be considered a serious lawyer. There has been some attempt to analyze the letter as if it is a legal document and not instead the President’s rants packaged up in Times Roman and signed by one of his employees. A number of outlets have thrown entire reporting teams to do insipid horse race coverage of the letter, as if this is one giant game, maybe with nifty commercials on during halftime.

None I’ve seen have described the letter as what it is: an attempt to rebrand the same old outright obstruction that the White House has pursued since January.

The tell — for those teams of well-compensated journalists treating this as a factual document — might have been the addressees. While the letter got sent to Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel, and Elijah Cummings, it did not get sent to Jerry Nadler, who has been pursuing an impeachment inquiry of sorts since the Mueller Report came out. The White House knows Nadler is also part of the impeachment inquiry, because even as the White House was finalizing the letter, Trump’s DOJ was in DC Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s courtroom fighting a House Judiciary request for materials for the impeachment inquiry. In the hearing, DOJ literally argued that the Supreme Court’s 8-0 US v. Nixon was wrongly decided.

Howell picked up on that point by pressing DOJ to say whether then-U.S. District Court Chief Judge John Sirica was wrong in 1974 to let Congress access a detailed “road map” of the Watergate grand jury materials as it considered President Richard Nixon’s impeachment.

Shapiro argued that if the same Watergate road map arose today, there’d be a “different result” because the law has changed since 1974. She said the judge wouldn’t be able to do the same thing absent changes to the grand jury rules and statutes.

Howell sounded skeptical. “Wow. OK,” she replied.

DOJ also argued that Congress would have to pass a law to enshrine the principle that this binding Supreme Court precedent already made the law of the land.

In the HJC branch of the impeachment inquiry, the few credible claims made in yesterday’s letter — such as that Congress is conducting the inquiry in secret without the ability to cross-examine witnesses or have Executive Branch lawyers present — are proven utterly false. And with the claims made in yesterday’s hearing, the Executive demonstrated that they will obstruct even measured requests and negotiations for testimony.

The Trump White House obstructed normal Congressional oversight by absolutely refusing to cooperate.

The Trump White House obstructed an impeachment inquiry focused on requests and voluntary participation.

The Trump White House obstructed an impeachment inquiry where subpoenas were filed.

The Trump White House obstructed an impeachment inquiry relying on whistleblowers who aren’t parties to the White House omertà.

The Trump White House obstructed what numerous judges have made clear are reasonable requests from a co-equal branch of government.

Nothing in the White House’s conduct changed yesterday. Not a single thing. And any journalist who treats this as a new development should trade in her notebooks or maybe move to covering football where such reporting is appropriate.

It is, however, a rebranding of the same old unrelenting obstruction, an effort to relaunch the same policy of unremitting obstruction under an even more intransigent and extreme marketing pitch.

And that — the need to rebrand the same old obstruction — might be worthy topic of news coverage. Why the White House feels the need to scream louder and pound the table more aggressively is a subject for reporting. But to cover it, you’d go to people like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, who already seem to be preparing to explain votes against the President. You even go to people like Lindsey Graham, who is doing ridiculous things to sustain Rudy Giuliani’s hoaxes in the Senate Judiciary Committee — but who has condemned the principle of making the country dramatically less safe for whimsical personal benefit in Syria. Or you go to Richard Burr, who quietly released a report making it clear Russia took affirmative efforts to elect Trump in 2016.

This week, Trump looked at the first few Republicans getting weak in the knees and his response was to double down on the same old policies, while rolling out a campaign trying to persuade those weak-kneed members of Congress who are contemplating the import of our Constitution not to do so.

The President’s former lawyer testified earlier this year, under oath, that this has always been a branding opportunity to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the “greatest infomercial in political history.”

His latest attempt to cajole Republican loyalty is no different. It’s just a rebranding of the same intransigence. Treating it as anything but a rebranding is organized forgetting of what has taken place for the last nine months, and journalists should know better.

Bill Barr Risks becoming George Papadopoulos’ Coffee Boy

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Everything I’ve ever tweeted or — probably, if that’s what you’re referring to, it’s just backed by things I’ve read in the media. George Papadopoulos

First, I testified against both Downer and Mifsud a year ago to help launch Durham’s investigation. Now, the fruit of that accurate testimony is exposing the global nature of the attempt to set up the 2016 campaign and interfere in the democratic process. George Papadopoulos

There has only been one roadmap that clearly identifies what AG Barr and John Durham are investigating abroad, it’s all in my book. George Papadopoulos

In this post, I noted that Attorney General Bill Barr had put himself in the role of an FBI line Agent and flown to Italy not so he could interview Joseph Mifsud — and so obtain information that might be useful in assessing the credibility of his Russian-backed lawyer’s claim that Mifsud actually worked for Western, not Russian, intelligence — but instead to sit in a room and watch a movie, the taped deposition made by Mifsud’s Russian-linked lawyer.

Not only had Barr flown to Italy without obtaining the real ask, a face-to-face interview, but he did so chasing claims that were laundered through one of the frothy right’s stenographers into the mouth of George Papadopoulos for his October 24, 2018 Congressional testimony, provenance so unbelievably sketchy it would be shameful for Rudy Giuliani to chase the conspiracy theory, much less the Attorney General of the United States of America on the taxpayer dime.

As a reminder, to try to help him avoid prison for lying to the FBI, Papadopoulos’ lawyers explained that in 2016, “To say George was out of his depth would be a gross understatement” and described his pursuit of ties to Russia as part of his campaign work as an attempt to, ” be at the center of a globally significant event.” They explained that he “lied, minimized, and omitted material facts” about the Russian investigation, “Out of loyalty to the new president and his desire to be part of the administration.” This is not a man you’d think anyone in government would take seriously.

I think, because Papadopoulos has so little credibility outside of the frothy right, traditional journalists largely ignored the role of Papadoulos and his Congressional testimony until it had already taken hold of the entire frothy right. That’s changing. Vox has a good post on Papadopoulos’ centrality in Bill Barr’s treasure hunt, and NYT tried to debunk the Italian part of it pertaining to Mifsud.

But I’d like to look at one more detail, that makes Papadopoulos’ obvious lack of credibility even more non-existent.

Most of the conspiracy theories he floated in his testimony didn’t even come from his first-hand information. Rather, they’re stuff he read, often from known stenographers for the frothy right, relying on sources that are fairly obviously either close to the President and/or close to Russian and Ukrainian sources who shouldn’t be trusted; where he relied on credible journalists, he misrepresented it. Papadopoulos, then, serves not as witness. Instead, he’s just an empty vessel being used by others to carry a concocted story.

Papadopoulos obtained his beliefs about Joseph Mifsud from the Daily Caller, La Republica, Fox News, and other unsourced reports

One of the few exceptions is that Papadopoulos believes that Alexander Downer recorded the conversation in which Papadopoulos told the Australian that someone had told him Russia had dirt on Hillary they were going to release material on Hillary to help the Trump campaign because Downer holds his phone when he speaks.

You know, at that time, I’m like, Wow, all these, you know, very senior diplomats and people want to just meet this 28-year old young aid who just joined the campaign, I think, or month or so before. But why not, you know. They could send it back to the campaign that I just met with the Australian diplomat. What I’m going to tell you right now is what I remember telling special counsel directly to their face, too. One, I felt like Alexander Downer — first, I felt the meeting was completely controlled. That he was sent to meet me by some entity or some organization, and that he was recorded my conversation with him. And what do I mean by recording my conversation? If I had my phone I would show you of how strange this character was acting. I sat down with him and he pulls his phone out and he starts holding it like this towards me.

Mr. Meadows. Here.

Mr. Papadopoulos. Here, I’ll show you. And I told the special counsel this over a year ago. I’m sitting down within 5 or 6, 7 minutes of meeting this person, I’m talking and he goes like this to me, stone-faced, just holding his phone like this towards me. And I didn’t know what to think except do I tell him Will you stop recording me, or, What are you doing? Because it was just, it just left such an indelible memory of how this individual was acting that I never forgot it, and I felt that he was recording it and the meeting was controlled. So he held his phone up like this.

But Papadopoulos believes that Downer is a spy, not a diplomat, because of something he read (he doesn’t say what).

Mr. Meadows. That’s correct. And so following up on the question from my colleague here about transcripts. Was there any other time that you felt like that you might have been recorded or surveilled in a manner, as you’re looking back on it now? Obviously, at the time, you might not have been aware of it. Is there any time that you said, well, you know, this just doesn’t feel right? Can you share that with the committee?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Certainly, sir, and thank you for your kind words. I was — let’s go to the Alexander Downer meeting, this Australian person, who I’m —

Mr. Meadows. And for the record, this is the Australian diplomat as it has been reported, at least, the Australian diplomat, Mr. Downer.

Mr. Papadopoulos. Mr. Downer, that’s right, who, it’s my understanding, is probably the top diplomat in Australia, or was before he retired. He was the head of what I think is the equivalent of the CIA in Australia for around 17 years. I think that’s what I read about him. Anyway, he’s a very unknown person, this isn’t counselor at the Australian embassy in London, okay. [my emphasis]

As for the source of that information, Papadopoulos told Congress he held two incompatible beliefs, both beliefs he took from something he read. Most critically, the belief that got Bill Barr to fly to Italy — that Mifsud actually works for Western, not Russian, intelligence — Papadopoulos cited to a Daily Caller article which itself relayed claims Mifsud’s Russian-backed lawyer made he had read the day before.

Q Okay. So, and Mifsud, he presented himself as what? Who did he tell you he was?

A So looking back in my memory of this person, this is a mid-50’s person, describes himself as a former diplomat who is connected to the world, essentially. I remember he was even telling me that, you know, the Vietnamese prime minister is a good friend of mine. I mean, you have to understand this is the type of personality he was portraying himself as.

And, you know, I guess I took the bait because, you know, usually somebody who — at least in Washington, when somebody portrays themselves in a specific way and has credentials to back it, you believe them. But that’s how he portrayed himself. And then I can’t remember exactly the next thing that happened until he decided to introduce me to Putin’s fake niece in London, which we later found out is some sort of student. But I could get into those details of how that all started.

Q And what’s your — just to kind of jump way ahead, what’s your current understanding of who Mifsud is?

A My current understanding?

Q Yeah. A You know, I don’t want to espouse conspiracy theories because, you know, it’s horrifying to really think that they might be true, but just yesterday, there was a report in the Daily Caller from his own lawyer that he was working with the FBI when he approached me. And when he was working me, I guess — I don’t know if that’s a fact, and I’m not saying it’s a fact — I’m just relaying what the Daily Caller reported yesterday, with Chuck Ross, and it stated in a categorical fashion that Stephan Roh, who is Joseph Mifsud’s, I believe his President’s counsel, or PR person, said that Mifsud was never a Russian agent.

In fact, he’s a tremendous friend of western intelligence, which makes sense considering I met him at a western spying school in Rome. And all his interactions — this is just me trying to repeat the report, these are not my words — and when he met with me, he was working as some sort of asset of the FBI. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m just reporting what my current understanding is of this individual based on reports from journalists.

[snip]

Q And then at what point did you learn that, you know, he’s not who he said he was?

A Like I said, I don’t have the concrete proof of who this person is. I’m just going with reports. And all I can say is that I believe the day I was, my name was publicly released and Papadopoulos became this person that everyone now knows, Mifsud gave an interview to an Italian newspaper. And in this newspaper, he basically said, I’m not a Russian agent. I’m a Clinton supporter. I’m a Clinton Foundation donor, and that — something along those lines. I mean, don’t quote me exactly, you could look up the article yourself. It is in La Republica. And then all of a sudden, after that, he disappears off the face of the planet, which I always found as odd.

[snip]

I guess the overwhelming evidence, from what I’ve read, just in reports, nothing classified, of course, because I’m not privy to anything like that, and considering his own lawyer is saying it, Stephan Roh, that Mifsud is a western intelligence source. And, I guess, according to reports yesterday, he was working with the FBI

Meanwhile, Papadopoulos explains away Joseph Mifsud’s mention of Hillary’s emails weeks later to a comment that Andrew Napolitano made on Fox News the day before (not, as he claimed to believe in the same testimony, that it was a big Deep State set-up), even though Papadopoulos believed Mifsud really believed in the emails at the time and didn’t know of the Napolitano link. Papadopoulos also mischaracterizes what he believed about Mifsud at that moment and even later, given his public emails from the time.

A Yeah. So my understanding, my current memory of this meeting was that he invited me to the Andaz Hotel in London by Liverpool Street Station, I guess on April 26, 2016. And at this meeting, he was giddy, you know, like he had something he wanted to get off his chest. And he tells me that the Russians have thousands of Hillary Clinton emails. I never heard the word DNC.

[snip]

A And I’ve said this on TV, and I’m saying it here, I never heard the words DNC, Podesta, anything like that. I just heard “the Russians have thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails.” And at that time, and we could look at the records, people were openly speculating about that, too. I think even Judge Napolitano on Fox News, the day before I met with Mifsud on April 25th was openly speculating the same thing. So my impression when he told me this information at the time was he is validating rumors. Because I didn’t feel that I heard something so different, like Democratic National Committee emails, WikiLeaks, I didn’t hear anything like that. So yeah, it was an interesting piece of information, but you know, by that point you have to understand, he had failed to introduce me to anyone of substance in the Russian Government. So he failed to do that, but now all of a sudden he has the keys to the kingdom about a massive potential conspiracy that Russia is involved in. So that was my mindset when he told me this.

[snip]

Q So to the best of your understanding now, you know, how do you believe Mr. Mifsud would have known about these — you know, the Russians having these Clinton emails?

A My understanding now?

Q Uh-huh. A Well, one —

Q Or at the time or now, but —

A Well — well, one, as I stated, but I don’t want to be exactly quoted, I believe the day before Joseph Mifsud told me about this issue, I believe April 25, 2016, Judge Andrew Napolitano was on Fox News openly speculating that the Russians have Hillary’s emails. I don’t know if that’s true or not. Somebody told me that that’s what happened. I’m not sure. That he might have heard it from there. He might have been telling the truth that he heard it from people in Russia. He might have been working for Western intelligence like the evidence now suggests he was. I don’t know. That’s not my job to figure it out.

[snip]

A My current memory makes me believe that he was stating it as a fact, and I took it as well.

Q And did you believe him at the time?

A At the time, yeah.

So to sum up the source of Papadopoulos’ congressional testimony regarding his beliefs about his interactions with Mifsud and then Downer, he’s relying on:

  • Excuses relying on a Fox News host
  • A Daily Caller story that relies on a Russian backed lawyer
  • Some other unsourced claim
  • Downer’s posture and mannerisms

Papadopoulos obtained his beliefes about the Stephan Halper meetings from Twitter, NYT, and John Solomon

A similar pattern emerges regarding his interactions with Stephan Halper, the FBI informant sent with a presumed undercover Agent using the name Azra Turk to interview Papadopoulos about how he learned of the Hillary emails. Papadopoulos’ testimony to Congress is that he believes Azra Turk’s name is fake (it almost certainly was) because of something he read on Twitter

So I get there. I get to London. And he introduces — or he does not introduce me to, but I can’t remember exactly how I came into contact with his assistant, this young lady named Azra Turk, which I think is a fake name, by the way. My —

Mr. Meadows. Why do you believe it’s a fake name?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Reading — reading Twitter and people saying that Azra in Turkish means pure and then Turk. So unless she has the name of pure Turk.

He testified he believes Turk asked him about hacking because he read it in the NYT (the NYT actually shows Halper asked about this).

Mr. Papadopoulos. Just who I am, my background in the energy business, because everyone was curious about my background in the energy business in Israel. And that’s another thing we’ll get to about what I think why I had a FISA on me, but I don’t know. She then apparently — I don’t remember it, I’m just reading The New York Times. She starts asking me about hacking. I don’t remember her actually asking me that, I just read it in The New York Times. Nevertheless, she introduces me the next time to Stefan Halper.

Mr. Meadows. She asked you about hacking?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember it. I just — I think I read that particular —

Mr. Meadows. You’ve read that?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Yes, that’s what I — I think I read it in The New York Times.

And Papadopoulos believes (correctly) there is a transcript of these conversations and (falsely) that it is exonerating because of what John Solomon wrote days earlier.

Mr. Papadopoulos. I’m sure the transcript exists and you’ve probably read it, so I don’t want to be wrong on exactly what he said. But —

Mr. Meadows. You say a transcript exists. A transcript exists of that conversation?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s I guess what John Solomon reported a couple days ago.

Mr. Meadows. So are you aware of a transcript existing? I mean —

Mr. Papadopoulos. I wasn’t aware of a transcript existing personally.

Mr. Meadows. So you have no personal knowledge of it?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I had no personal knowledge, no.

Mr. Meadows. But you think that he could have been recording you is what you’re suggesting?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Yes.

Mr. Meadows. All right. Go ahead.

Mr. Papadopoulos. And after he was throwing these allegations at me, I —

Mr. Meadows. And by allegations, allegations that the Trump campaign was benefiting from Hillary Clinton emails?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Something along those lines, sir. And I think I pushed back and I told him, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. What you’re talking about is something along the lines of treason. I’m not involved. I don’t know anyone in the campaign who’s involved. And, you know, I really have nothing to do with Russia. That’s — something along those lines is how I think I responded to this person.

As I have noted, if the transcript reflects what Papadopoulos says it does, it shows that he lied about ongoing connections to Russia; he had been planning a secret meeting with Russia for precisely that date during the summer, and would boast of a pro-Russian interview to Mifsud some weeks later (which got him fired from the campaign). Plus, Papadopoulos’ claim an action — optimizing the WikiLeaks releases, which Roger Stone was doing even as Papadopoulos gave this answer — would amount to treason explains why he would lie to the FBI about any knowledge four months later. That is, the transcript, if it says what Papadopoulos says, shows the deceit of a guilty conscience, not exoneration.

Papadopolous cites an article quoting his lawyer saying his arrest was totally legal to claim it was rushed

In addition to citing his beliefs about the Israeli that almost got him charged with being a foreign agent of Israel to a misreading of a WikiLeaks cable, Papadopoulos does this most hysterically in attempting to respond to Mark Meadows’ clear demands that he claim the circumstances of his arrest (and a border search of his briefcase the likes of which happens all the time to brown people who aren’t even being arrested) was improper. At the beginning of a colloquy where Papadopoulos repeatedly stops short of using the inflammatory language Meadows tries to feed him,, the former campaign aide suggests a Politico story suggested a deviation from the norm on arrests.

So everything was done in a very — I had never been arrested before. I didn’t know that was a normal procedure. But reading certain articles about my arrest in Politico and other newspapers, it seems like there was some sort of rush to arrest me and —

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. So you didn’t say, Why are you arresting me?

Mr. Papadopoulos. The only thing I remember was something along the lines of — and I can’t remember if it was after I had the handcuffs on me that they told me this is what happens when you don’t tell us everything about your Russia contacts. But I don’t remember any formal charges, or them telling me You are under arrest for X, Y or Z. That, I don’t remember at all.

Mr. Meadows. They told you — I guess, they gave your Miranda rights?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember that. I don’t remember that. I’m sure there might be the video or a transcript of what was going on. You have to understand, I had just come off a trans-Atlantic flight.

Mr. Meadows. Right.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. So that’s your testimony. So they basically take your briefcase and they start searching it? Did they ask you permission to search it?

Mr. Papadopoulos. My memory is that they put me in the room at the airport, did not ask me for any permission whatsoever, and then they began to search through my briefcase in a very, quite violent manner.

Mr. Meadows. By “violent,” what do you mean, just ripping it —

Mr. Papadopoulos. Just opening it, like that, putting their hands and just digging around. That’s, I just didn’t understand what was going on.

Mr. Meadows. And they didn’t indicate what they were looking for?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember them indicating anything, no. And I don’t remember them actually formally, I guess, looking through my bag until I — I can’t remember — after we went in a car to another facility where I was processed. It was very strange.

Mr. Meadows. So did they show you a warrant to search those things?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I didn’t —

Mr. Meadows. Did they have a warrant to search your —

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember any warrant. In fact, the whole situation was very, it seemed very rushed and very chaotic.

Mr. Meadows. So you’re telling me that they searched your personal property without a warrant prior to you coming through Customs?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s what I remember, yes, sir.

Here’s the Politico report. While reporting that the arrest was likely done in an attempt to shock Papadopolous, it also cites his own lawyer saying, “What they did was absolutely lawful,” [Thomas] Breen said. “If I had a complaint, you’d know about it. I’ve got a short fuse.”

Mark Meadows allowed Papadopoulos to tell a less damning fairy tale by neglecting to get backup emails from him first

This charade, letting a witness testify to Congress not about what he personally knows, but what he read about himself, often what he read in propaganda outlets relying on sketchy sources, would be bad enough. It was made far, far worse because of a simple fact about the hearing: the Republicans who set it up (and this appears to have been run almost entirely by Mark Meadows) did not, first, demand that Papadopoulos provide the backup documents that would make such questioning even remotely worthwhile.

As a result, Papadopoulos responded to question after question that went to the substance of his sustained interest in working with Russia with vague claims about what he did and did not remember and a offer, instead, to share the emails that might pinpoint what he really knew and did. Over and over, he happens to tell a story that is less damning.

Whether out of forgetfulness or deceit, for example, Papadopoulos foreshortens two things about the campaign: first, the claimed date when the campaign started covering up its ties to Russia, which was July, not May.

Q You said also that you continued to suggest this Trump-Putin summit, but eventually, you found out that the campaign just wasn’t interested. Can you tell me the process by which you came to understand that the campaign wasn’t interested in setting up a Trump-Putin meeting?

A Yes. As I remember it, by the time Manafort took the helm of the campaign, I just emailed him, Are we interested in this or not? I think I forwarded to him an email from Ivan Timofeev where he’s asking for a letter to be signed by the campaign if this is a serious proposal or not, something like that. And I don’t think I ever received a response from Manafort. And you just put two and two together, no one’s interested, so stop it.

He also foreshortens the time he was in contact with Mifsud, which extended even after the election.

Q When was the last time you remember communicating with Professor Misfud?

A Off the top of my memory I think it was the summer of 2016.

Perhaps the most glaring instance of this, however, pertains to whether Walid Phares was involved in pursuing a secret meeting with Russia that would have taken place at the precise time Papadopoulos was in London getting interviewed by Stefan Halper. Papadopoulos answered a question about whether he discussed the secret meeting with Phares not by answering, but by saying he wasn’t sure it was in the emails.

Q You mentioned a number of emails where both of you would have been copied. Did you and Mr. Phares have any direct communication just the two of you?

A We met face to face at the TAG Summit. And then we obviously met at the March 31st meeting. And I can’t remember if we met another time in person or not. But we certainly were in correspondence for months over email.

Q Did you discuss your efforts to set up the Putin-Trump meeting with Mr. Phares?

A I’m not sure he was copied on those particular emails, but I could send whatever emails I have with him to the committee. It’s fine with me.

As the Meuller Report makes clear, very very damning details about precisely this topic were in Papadopoulos’ emails.

Papadopoulos remembered discussing Russia and a foreign policy trip with Clovis and Phares during the event.484 Papadopoulos’s recollection is consistent with emails sent before and after the TAG summit. The pre-summit messages included a July 11, 2016 email in which Phares suggested meeting Papadopoulos the day after the summit to chat,485 and a July 12 message in the same chain in which Phares advised Papadopoulos that other summit attendees “are very nervous about Russia. So be aware.”486 Ten days after the summit, Papadopoulos sent an email to Mifsud listing Phares and Clovis as other “participants” in a potential meeting at the London Academy of Diplomacy.487

This is what any hearing with George Papadopoulos should be about, details that would make any allegation that his claim, in mid-September, that he had nothing to do with Russia would be inculpatory, not exculpatory. But that’s not the hearing Mark Meadows decided to stage.

According to someone familiar with the aftermath of this hearing, Papadopoulos never did supply the emails he promised, at least not in a way such that they got shared with Democratic staffers.

Papadopoulos tells Congress there is no substance behind allegations that the main source for his allegations made

The whole hearing was absurd, which is why it is all the more ridiculous that the Attorney General of the United States is running around the world treating these conspiracies as if they have merit.

But don’t take my word — or the public record — for it. Take the word of the hearing’s star witness, George Papadopoulos. He told Congress that there was no substance to the allegations that Stephan Roh, the Mifsud lawyer whose conspiracies Bill Barr is currently chasing, had made that he, Papadopoulos, was a western intelligence operative.

Q Are you aware that in a Daily Caller article, Mr. Roh has referred to you as a western intelligence operative?

A I wasn’t aware of that, but I was aware he wrote a book where he speculated that I could be that, but of course I don’t know this person beyond a couple of emails and phone calls, so, of course, he has no substance behind any allegations.

So on the one subject about which Papadopoulos claimed to have first hand knowledge here, he said Roh was making stuff up.

And yet, Bill Barr still treats Roh’s other allegations — the ones laundered through propaganda outlets — as true.

Trump Specifically Ensured Republicans Wouldn’t Know about His Extortion

Kurt Volker’s prepared testimony from yesterday has been released. It is very unconvincing in several places, particularly read in conjunction with his texts that makes it clear there was a quid pro quo tied to security assistance and aid. Most charitably, it reads like the narrative of someone whose intentions were good, but in denial about his actions in service of an ultimate outcome — the continued provision of aid to Ukraine.

As is well documented, I had long supported lifting the ban on lethal defensive assistance to Ukraine, advocated for the supply of javelin anti-tank systems, advocated for an increase in U.S. assistance, and urged other nations to provide more assistance as well.

The issue of a hold placed on security assistance to Ukraine also came up during this same time I was connecting Mr. Yermak and Mayor Giuliani. I did not perceive these issues to be linked in any way.

On July 18, I was informed that at an interagency (sub-PCC) meeting, OMB had said that there was a hold being placed on Congressional Notifications about security assistance to Ukraine. No reason was given.

A higher level interagency meeting (PCC) was then scheduled to take place to discuss the issue on July 23. I met in advance with the individual who would represent the State Department at that meeting, Assistant Secretary of State for Pol-Mil Affairs, R. Clarke Cooper. I stressed how important it was to keep the security assistance moving – for Ukraine’s self-defense, deterrence of further Russian aggression, as a symbol of our bilateral support for Ukraine, and as part of having a strong position going into any negotiations with Russia. He fully agreed and intended to represent that position at the PCC meeting. I also had separate conversations with the Pentagon and NSC staff to reiterate the same position.

I was told later that there was no outcome from the PCC meeting. That said, I was not overly concerned about the development because I believed the decision would ultimately be reversed. Everything from the force of law to the unanimous position of the House, Senate, Pentagon, State Department, and NSC staff argued for going forward, and I knew it would just be a matter of time.

As well, Volker avoids admitting this was partly about inventing dirt on Joe Biden by treating the possibility of election interference as credible, without any basis (and it’s clear he conducted this projection repeatedly in real time).

Concerning the allegations, I stressed that no one in the new team governing Ukraine had anything to do with anything that may have happened in 2016 or before – they were making TV shows at the time. Mr. Lutsenko, however, would remain in place until a new government was seated in a month or more. It was important to reach out and provide strong U.S. support for President-elect Zelenskyy.

I also said at that July 19 meeting that it is not credible to me that former Vice President Biden would have been influenced in anyway by financial or personal motives in carrying out his duties as Vice President. A different issue is whether some individual Ukrainians may have attempted to influence the 2016 election or thought they could buy influence: that is at least plausible, given Ukraine’s reputation for corruption. But the accusation that Vice President Biden acted inappropriately did not seem at all credible to me.

But the key new detail in Volker’s statement, beyond what we already knew, is confirmation that not only did OMB freeze assistance to Ukraine, but it also froze notifications about security assistance to Congress, effectively hiding the fact that Trump was using the aid authorized by Congress to extort election assistance from Ukraine.

On July 18, I was informed that at an interagency (sub-PCC) meeting, OMB had said that there was a hold being placed on Congressional Notifications about security assistance to Ukraine. No reason was given.

Withholding the aid is something Republicans were on the record opposing. Indeed, Mitch McConnell claims (credibly or not) that even he was not informed that Trump was withholding the aid to extort campaign assistance.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was not provided an explanation for why the Trump administration held up aid to Ukraine when he pressed senior officials on the matter over the summer.

“I was not given an explanation,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday as the congressional furor grew over President Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

McConnell said he spoke to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo twice about the matter without receiving clarification for the delay in $391 million in aid to Ukraine.

“I was very actively involved in advocating [for] the aid. I talked to the secretary of Defense, the secretary of State once,” he said.

“The good news was it finally happened,” he added, noting the administration finally released the aid. “I have no idea what precipitated the delay.”

Whatever other story Republicans want to tell to excuse this behavior (and, as I said, McConnell’s claim here reads like CYA), Republicans should be furious that, first, Trump ignored the stated will of Congress on something they all claimed to care about and, second, that Trump’s OMB very specifically froze them out of notice they were entitled to have, as Congress.

Again, this scandal is not just about Trump demanding that other countries help him get reelected. It’s also about Trump defying the will of Congress to obtain leverage to extort that aid. Now we know that he even deliberately kept Congress in the dark about what he was doing.

Republicans surely will continue to excuse this behavior. But by doing so, they are utterly emasculating the prerogatives of Congress to do so.

Update: Multiple sources suggest that by August 31, Ron Johnson knew why aid was being held up, and by September 12, McConnell and James Inhofe did too.

Trump Is Being Impeached for Harming America to Extort Campaign Help

There’s a narrative solidifying among journalists that Democrats are conducting an impeachment inquiry (at least as it pertains to Ukraine) into whether Trump solicited foreign help for an election.

Even setting aside that on the call with Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump first asked Ukraine’s president to provide “evidence” backing Russian disinformation about the last election, foreign election assistance is not (all) Trump is being impeached for. Trump is being impeached for pursuing US policies that serve to coerce his foreign partners into helping him win the 2020 election.

His demand that China start an investigation into the Bidens was separated from his assertion that “if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power” by less than 30 seconds.

We’re looking at a lot of things. China’s coming in next week. We’re going to have a meeting with them. We’ll see. But we’re doing very well. Some of the, uh, numbers are being affected by all of the nonsense, all of the politics going on in this country, but the Democrats, I call them the do-nothing Democrats because they do nothing for this country. They don’t care about this country. But, uh, the numbers really are looking very good going into the future. So we’ll see. I have a lot of options on China. But if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.

[comment on how he wants Zelensky to investigate the Bidens]

And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with uh, with Ukraine.

And a key part of the whistleblower’s complaint is that,

On 18 July, an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official informed Departments and Agencies that the President “earlier that month” had issued instructions to suspend all U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. Neither OMB nor the NSC staff knew why this instruction had been issued. During interagency meetings on 23 July and 26 July, OMB officials again stated explicitly that the instruction to suspend this assistance had come directly from the President, but they still were unaware of a policy rationale. As of early August, I heard from U.S. officials that some Ukrainian officials were aware that U.S. aid might be in jeopardy, but I do not know how or when they learned of it.

Trump held up the money, which had been appropriated by Congress, overruling John Bolton’s and some other national security advisors’ counsel (which may be why Bolton was excluded from the call), as well as that of some Republican Senators. At least some of the Ukrainians in the loop claimed to be blindsided by the freeze and talked about how the freeze made Ukraine more vulnerable vis a vis Russia. Trump restored the aid only after Congress forced him to, even as the whistleblower complaint was breaking.

In short, Trump was defying Congress’ orders, and his excuses (that he was trying to get Ukraine to work on corruption) don’t hold up.

Trump has a lot of leeway to set the foreign policy of the US (but not in defiance of Congressional budgetary guidance). But he has come very close to suggesting that he is setting the foreign policy priorities of the country in such a way as to get leverage over other countries to help him politically.

And DOJ, when receiving this whistleblower complaint, did not review whether this amounts to extortion or bribery, the latter of which is specifically enumerated as an offense demanding impeachment in the Constitution.

This is what impeachment is about: Trump is considering inflicting more damage on farmers and manufacturers and this summer helped an adversary (admittedly the one who helped him get elected the last time), all in an effort to coerce help from foreign leaders.

Update: Fox just obtained encrypted texts showing that temporary Ambassador to Ukraine William Brockenbrough Taylor Jr. said “it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” which would appear to make the intent clear.

The Conspiracy Theories Flynn Wants to Resuscitate and the McCabe Investigation

Lost in the frenzy regarding the conspiracy theories Rudy Giuliani is planting and the Attorney General is personally chasing is the government’s response to Mike Flynn’s purported “Brady” demand — which accuses Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell of planting conspiracy theories. I tweeted about the package in this thread. While there may be a dispute about a few items, I correctly predicted that the main legal question is whether Emmet Sullivan will interpret his standing Brady order — requiring that prosecutors turn over Brady information even for defendants pleading guilty — will extend to Giglio information impeaching witnesses. In response to a request for any Brady or Giglio information discovered by DOJ’s Inspector General in the last two years, DOJ states flat out Giglio is not covered by Sullivan’s order.

The government has already provided the defendant with all Brady material; it is not obligated to provide Giglio material pursuant to the Court’s Standing Order, United States v. Flynn, 17-cr-232 (D.D.C. Feb. 16, 2018) (Doc. 20).

And much of the rest of what Powell is asking for, pertaining to Peter Strzok at least, would be Giglio.

That said, there is a part of the government’s substantiation that Sidney Powell is sowing conspiracy theories that deserves more attention. The government lays out how Flynn lawyer Rob Kelner asked the government three times about a conspiracy theory that Andrew McCabe, before Powell asked a fourth time.

The defendant’s complaints and accusations are even more incredible considering the extensive efforts the government has made to respond to numerous defense counsel requests, including to some of the very requests repeated in the defendant’s motion. For instance, the defendant alleges that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said, “‘First we f**k Flynn, then we f**k Trump,’ or words to that effect;” and that Deputy Director McCabe pressured the agents to change the January 24 interview report. See Mot. to Compel at 4, 6 (Request ##2, 22). Defense counsel first raised these allegations to the government on January 29, 2018, sourcing it to an email from a news reporter. Not only did the government inform defense counsel that it had no information indicating that the allegations were true, it conducted additional due diligence about this serious allegation. On February 2, 2018, the government disclosed to the defendant and his counsel that its due diligence confirmed that the allegations were false, and referenced its interview of the second interviewing agent, who completely denied the allegations. Furthermore, on March 13, 2018, the government provided the defendant with a sworn statement from DAD Strzok, who also denied the allegations.

Nevertheless, on July 17, 2018, the defense revived the same allegations. This time, the defense claimed that the source was a staff member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (“HPSCI”). The HPSCI staff member allegedly told the defendant that the second interviewing agent had told the staff member that after a debrief from the interviewing agents, Deputy Director McCabe said, “F**k Flynn.” Once again, the government reviewed information and conducted interviews, and once again confirmed that the allegations were completely false. And after defendant and his counsel raised the accusation for a third time, on October 15, 2018, the government responded by producing interview reports that directly contradicted the false allegations. Despite possessing all of this information, defense counsel has again resurrected the false allegations, now for a fourth time. See Mot. to Compel at 4, 6 (Request ##2, 22)

The persistence of this conspiracy theory — and HPSCI’s role in perpetuating it — is significant for another reason.

The IG Report on Andrew McCabe discusses how DOJ IG came to investigation McCabe this way.

In May 2017, the FBI Inspection Division (INSD) expanded a pre-existing investigation of media leaks to include determining the source of the information in the October 30 WSJ article regarding the August 12 McCabe-PADAG call. INSD added the October 30 article to their pre-existing matter because it appeared to involve an instance of someone at the FBI leaking the Deputy Director’s private conversations to the media.

The backstory to this is that Jim Comey asked the Inspection Division to investigate leaks (remember, something Trump had demanded). But the “pre-existing” investigation referenced reportedly pertained to the same conspiracy theory: that someone had leaked to the press that McCabe had said “First we fuck Flynn, then we fuck Trump” in front of some FBI Agents. (I believe the Circa story cited here eventually came to be part of the investigation, but TruePundit claims credit for the conspiracy, pointing to a version that temporally matches the timeline.)

Note the asymmetry to this story.

No DOJ entity, whether FBI’s Inspection Division, DOJ IG, or Flynn’s prosecutors have presented the public proof that this serial conspiracy theory has been debunked — much less chase down the Agents who keeps spreading it and prosecute them. But because the Inspector Division asked McCabe who might be leaking about him (which is what the initial question was), he is being pursued in an investigation that Reggie Walton denounced the other day.

This is how conspiracy theories about what DOJ and FBI did in the last three years are allowed to persist, much less get reentered into court filings that otherwise would get the lawyers doing so sanctioned.

In Days before Robert Mueller Got Hired, DOJ Immediately Forwarded Bill Barr’s Op-Ed Approving of Comey’s Firing to Rod Rosenstein

Judicial Watch released another set of files, from the days leading up to his appointment of Robert Mueller, that they think are incriminating for stupid reasons that aren’t.

There’s two emails that might, actually, be damning. The very conservative former Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip emailed Rod Rosenstein asking him to call. Rosenstein answered, first, by saying that “Mukasey” was going to call, and imploring Filip to listen to him. That’s scandalous in any case, because the son of Michael Mukasey (who was Filip’s onetime boss) was representing affiliated players here. Then Rosenstein wrote back and seemed to tell Filip he was hiring Mueller. Was Filip the other candidate Rosenstein considered?

The more interesting detail is how DOJ treated Bill Barr’s May 12, 2017 op-ed applauding Trump’s decision to fire Jim Comey. In it Barr condemned how Comey handled the Hillary investigation, then said that his firing wouldn’t affect the Russian investigation (but not addressing Trump’s comments about that being the purpose of firing Comey).

Jeff Sessions’ spox, who received it from the “RNC War Room,” sent it to Rosenstein’s office the morning after the op-ed was posted, during the weekend he was contemplating hiring Mueller.

But even before that, DAG employee (and current EDVA US Attorney) George Terwilliger forwarded it (though not the RNC War Room version) as well, telling Rosenstein it was the most important thing for him to read that weekend.

At the very least, the close attention the op-ed (which largely parroted the ginned up reasons Rosenstein gave for firing Comey) received are intriguing, as is the choice from the RNC War Room to send it out.

But it’s also a hell of a way for Rosenstein to meet his future boss.

Bill Barr Risks becoming Joseph Mifsud’s New Coffee Boy

Yesterday, the Daily Beast provided details about what Bill Barr was doing in Italy on the trip to dig up dirt first confirmed by the WaPo. According to DB, Barr and John Durham went to Italy on short notice (that is, even as the Ukraine scandal he is personally implicated in was breaking) to watch a videotaped deposition by Joseph Mifsud.

Barr was in Rome on an under-the-radar mission that was only planned a few days in advance. An official with the embassy confirmed to The Daily Beast that they had to scramble to accommodate Barr’s sudden arrival. He had been in Italy before, but not with such a clear motive. Barr and Durham are looking into the events that led to Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and suddenly all roads were leading to Rome.

The Daily Beast has learned that Barr and Durham were especially interested in what the Italian secret service knew about Joseph Mifsud, the erstwhile professor from Malta who had allegedly promised then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign aide George Papadopoulos he could deliver Russian “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. The Italian justice ministry’s public records show that Mifsud had applied for police protection in Italy after disappearing from Link University, where he worked and, in doing so, had given a taped deposition to explain just why people might want to harm him.

A source in the Italian Ministry of Justice, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Daily Beast that Barr and Durham were played the tape. A second source within the Italian government also confirmed to The Daily Beast that Barr and Durham were shown other evidence the Italians had on Mifsud.

There are a ton of reasons why this trip is batshit crazy. For one, Barr is placing himself in the role of a line Special Agent, someone without the requisite expertise chasing off to watch taped depositions while he should be running DOJ. For another (as I’ll show in more detail later), Barr is literally just chasing conspiracy theories sown by sworn liar George Papadopoulos, conspiracy theories which fabulist John Solomon (and his obvious sources named Rudy Giuliani and some Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs including Oleg Deripaska) has both fed and magnified. That Barr is doing it as he becomes personally embroiled in a scandal which could implicate him criminally suggests he and Trump may be trying to beat the clock, produce results before the shit really hits the fan.

But what’s most remarkable about the trip is the Attorney General of the United States went out on this goose chase without first ensuring he’d get what he was promised.

There’s a principle often aired when discussing Trump’s failed diplomacy with North Korea. You don’t send out the Principal for a meeting before getting certain commitments that advance your own goals. Trump should not have met with Kim Jong-Un without first getting concessions, because by doing so he took away several things of value (such as conferring credibility on the world stage) that Kim was most interested in.

The same is true here. The Attorney General should never run off to do the work of an FBI line Special Agent. But he certainly shouldn’t do so unless he was getting what he was really after.

And Billy Barr just flew to Italy without getting what he was really looking for.

Handily, for this scandal, Papadopoulos and Solomon and Chuck Ross have been ready scribes for the script that Trump and Billy Barr are supposed to be following. It’s all out in the open.

The Attorney General’s voyage to Italy got set in motion last fall when Ross published two stories relying on Mifsud’s “attorney” Stephen Roh (who himself has close ties to Russia). The first, dated September 10, reported that Mifsud was alive and well hiding in Italy. The second, published October 24, was explicitly a set-up for George Papadopoulos’ testimony before the joint OGR/HJC investigation into the Russian investigation. It included comments from Roh alleging that Mifsud was not a Russian asset, but was instead a Western one. Ross included those comments almost as a side note, even though the comments make what would normally be big news.

Roh told TheDCNF this week that Mifsud claimed in their previous meetings that he was working under the direction of the FBI when he made contact with Papadopoulos. He also claims that Mifsud told him that he was ordered to stay out of the public spotlight until the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“Prof Mifsud explained that he is and was always a trusted cooperator of Western Intelligence services,” Roh said on Oct. 20.

“Prof Mifsud explained to us that he agreed not to speak, not to give interviews and to hide until the [Mueller] Investigation is terminated,” said Roh, who added that Mifsud claimed that he was being assisted by a London law firm in his discussions with the Mueller team.

The claims, if true, would be bombshell developments in the Russiagate saga. But TheDCNF was not able to independently verify Roh’s claims. The special counsel’s office declined comment.

While some of Roh’s claims about Mifsud would seem to support Papadopoulos’s theories, Roh has also said that Mifsud denies Papadopoulos’s allegation that he mentioned Clinton emails during their April 2016 meeting. Roh has asserted that Papadopoulos was working as an “agent provocateur” for a Western spy agency.

The next day, Papadopoulos — cued by Zachary Somers, then Majority Counsel for Bob Goodlatte — pointed to the Daily Caller piece as the basis for his belief that Joseph Mifsud was actually western intelligence.

Q Okay. So, and Mifsud, he presented himself as what? Who did he tell you he was?

A So looking back in my memory of this person, this is a mid-50’s person, describes himself as a former diplomat who is connected to the world, essentially. I remember he was even telling me that, you know, the Vietnamese prime minister is a good friend of mine. I mean, you have to understand this is the type of personality he was portraying himself as.

And, you know, I guess I took the bait because, you know, usually somebody who — at least in Washington, when somebody portrays themselves in a specific way and has credentials to back it, you believe them. But that’s how he portrayed himself. And then I can’t remember exactly the next thing that happened until he decided to introduce me to Putin’s fake niece in London, which we later found out is some sort of student. But I could get into those details of how that all started. Q And what’s your — just to kind of jump way ahead, what’s your current understanding of who Mifsud is?

A My current understanding?

Q Yeah. A You know, I don’t want to espouse conspiracy theories because, you know, it’s horrifying to really think that they might be true, but just yesterday, there was a report in the Daily Caller from his own lawyer that he was working with the FBI when he approached me. And when he was working me, I guess — I don’t know if that’s a fact, and I’m not saying it’s a fact — I’m just relaying what the Daily Caller reported yesterday, with Chuck Ross, and it stated in a categorical fashion that Stephan Roh, who is Joseph Mifsud’s, I believe his President’s counsel, or PR person, said that Mifsud was never a Russian agent.

In fact, he’s a tremendous friend of western intelligence, which makes sense considering I met him at a western spying school in Rome. And all his interactions — this is just me trying to repeat the report, these are not my words — and when he met with me, he was working as some sort of asset of the FBI. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m just reporting what my current understanding is of this individual based on reports from journalists.

As I’ll show, this was not the only time Papadopoulos did this in a deposition that was supposed to air what Papadopoulos knew, personally. His testimony served to validate conspiracy theories planted in right wing propaganda outlets.

In May Devin Nunes, in the guise of raising counterintelligence concerns about the number of high level people (including Boris Johnson, who would not be Prime Minister of the UK right now without dodgy financing of Leave) who had interacted with Mifsud, wrote a letter airing Roh’s claims and information that otherwise has been sourced from Roh, wrote Mike Pompeo, Paul Nakasone, Gina Haspel, and Chris Wray claiming Mueller misrepresented Mifsud.

Alternatively, if Mifsud is not in fact a counterintelligence threat, then that would cast doubt on the Special Counsel’s fundamental description of him and his activities, and raise questions about the veracity of the Special Counsel’s statements and affirmations. It should be noted that the Special Counsel declined to charge Mifsud with any crime even though, to justify seeking a prison sentence for Papadopoulos, the Special Counsel claimed Papadopoulos’ untruthful testimony “undermined investigators’ ability to challenge the Professor [Mifsud] or potentially detain or arrest him while he was still in the United States.” Furthermore, it’s still a mystery how the FBI knew to ask Papadopoulos specifically about Hillary Clinton’s emails, on multiple occasions throughout 2016-17 before having interviewed Mifsud, if the FBI hadn’t already somehow received this information directly or indirectly from Mifsud himself.

Obviously, Nunes’ “concerns” are rank bullshit. The tip from Australia was sufficient to raise question about the emails. And Mueller didn’t charge a bunch of other suspected foreign assets (some even in the US), which is how counterintelligence works. But Nunes’ letter sufficed to make this an official request.

Apparently, then, Stephen Roh shared a transcript of a deposition with some Republicans in Congress and Solomon. That, and more cues from Republicans, Roh, Papadopoulos, and who knows who else, got laundered through a Solomon story full of obvious misrepresentations (one that irks me, for example, is his use of a February 2017 email Mifsud sent following up on his FBI interview to claim Mifsud exchanged emails with the FBI, as if that substantiated an otherwise independent relationship with the Bureau). The news hook of the story is that John Durham wanted to interview Mifsud. But if he couldn’t do that, Solomon dutifully reported, Durham would like to “review a recorded deposition” he gave to Roh.

An investigator told Swiss attorney Stephan Roh that Durham’s team wanted to interview Mifsud, or at the very least review a recorded deposition the professor gave in summer 2018 about his role in the drama involving Donald Trump, Russia and the 2016 election.

The contact, confirmed by multiple sources and contemporaneous email, sent an unmistakable message: Durham, the U.S. attorney handpicked by Attorney General William Barr to determine whether the FBI committed abuses during the Russia investigation, is taking a second look at one of the noteworthy figures and the conclusions of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.

Solomon went on to claim — and the frothy right believes it as scripture now — that if Durham would just interview Mifsud, he would learn that the whole Papadopoulos story was actually a set-up by Western intelligence agencies seeking to frame George Papadopoulos and Donald Trump.

Roh told me the information he is preparing to share with Durham’s team from his client will accentuate those concerns.

Mifsud was a “longtime cooperator of western intel” who was asked specifically by his contacts at Link University in Rome and the London Center of International Law Practice (LCILP) — two academic groups with ties to Western diplomacy and intelligence — to meet with Papadopoulos at a dinner in Rome in mid-March 2016, Roh told me.

A May 2019 letter from Nunes to U.S. intelligence officials corroborates some of Roh’s account, revealing photos showing that the FBI conducted training at Link in fall 2016 and that Mifsud and other Link officials met regularly with world leaders, including Boris Johnson, elected today as Britain’s new prime minister.

A few days after the March dinner, Roh added, Mifsud received instructions from Link superiors to “put Papadopoulos in contact with Russians,” including a think tank figure named Ivan Timofeev and a woman he was instructed to identify to Papadopoulos as Vladimir Putin’s niece.

Mifsud knew the woman was not the Russian president’s niece but, rather, a student who was involved with both the Link and LCILP campuses, and the professor believed there was an effort underway to determine whether Papadopoulos was an “agent provocateur” seeking foreign contacts, Roh said.

The evidence, he told me, “clearly indicates that this was not only a surveillance op but a more sophisticated intel operation” in which Mifsud became involved.

The point is, though, that the ask was an interview, at which Barr and Durham (and, if they had brought experienced interrogators, which the DB does not report they did) would be able to test Mifsud’s credibility. Sitting in a secure room and watching a deposition (without experts there to test the provenance of the deposition video, no less) was not the ask and provides no way to obtain what would really be necessary.

But Barr didn’t demand that, and he didn’t get that. Instead, he allowed himself to be lured into a dark room in Italy to watch something — possibly without anyone with the relevant counterintelligence expertise to help him understand it — that provides very little useful information to test Mifsud’s claims. That puts the Attorney General in an incredibly vulnerable position (even beyond being implicated in covering up the President’s extortion to get such access), because he not only has traded away a lot of leverage to get what he would actually need to test this information, but he has already met a suspected Russian asset on the asset’s terms.

A lot of what Papadopoulos has done over the last three years was downright idiotic. But he has the excuse of being stupid, untrained, venal, and overly ambitious.

Billy Barr has no excuses for doing something that is even stupider than much of what Papadopoulos did. And yet he did just that.

Is Bill Barr Already Feeding Sidney Powell So-Called Evidence Trump Coerces?

The WaPo confirms what was becoming obvious: The Attorney General of the United States is spending his days flying around the world collecting claims that Trump has coerced from foreign governments. It reports that Barr has already had conversations similar to those Trump seeded with Ukraine with the UK, Italy, and Australia.

Barr has already made overtures to British intelligence officials, and last week the attorney general traveled to Italy, where he and Durham met senior Italian government officials and Barr asked the Italians to assist Durham, according to one person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue. It was not Barr’s first trip to Italy to meet intelligence officials, the person said. The Trump administration has made similar requests of Australia, said people who discussed the interactions on the condition of anonymity because they involve an ongoing investigation and sensitive talks between governments.

In a recent phone call, Trump urged Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to provide assistance to the ongoing Justice Department inquiry, the people said. Trump made the request at Barr’s urging, they said.

I raise all this because of something Sidney Powell said on September 10. At the status hearing for her client, Mike Flynn, she said that they had a letter from the British Embassy that “undoes the whole Steele dossier debacle.”

It was an interesting claim for several reasons. Most notably, the only references to Powell’s client in the Steele dossier simply repeat public claims about Flynn’s paid trip to an RT gala in 2015. That is, it’s totally irrelevant to the question of Flynn’s guilt on the charges he pled to or even the counterintelligence investigation into her client. Even if DOJ had such a record, it’d not be discoverable under Brady.

But Powell seemed to be saying she had the letter.

That raises the possibility that Bill Barr is not — as he claims — collecting “evidence” for a John Durham investigation into the start of the Russian investigation, but is instead (or also) collecting evidence he can share with those prosecuted by Mueller to help them undermine their guilty pleas and or convictions (which would raise interesting questions about Roger Stone’s focus on Crowdstrike, given that’s included in Trump’s list of propaganda he wants to extort from foreign countries).

Mind you, Powell could be lying or unclear about this document–she has been caught in both multiple times so far before Emmet Sullivan. But this claim — which was surprising to me at the time — raises real questions about whether Barr is using coerced evidence to undermine his own DOJ.

Update: I think I have the timing of this letter wrong. I think it was sent under Obama, not recently. 

Bill Barr’s OLC Treated His Implication in the Whistleblower Complaint as Top Secret

Because I was on my epic road trip with June Bug the Terrorist Foster Dog, I’m just now reading some of the documents underlying the whistleblower complaint closely. Doing so makes it clear that Bill Barr’s DOJ (specifically, the Office of Legal Counsel) treated his implication by the whistleblower as Top Secret, even though the White House considered the fact only Secret.

This post relies on these documents:

  • The TELCON of the Trump-Zelensky call, treated throughout as Secret/NoForn
  • The unclassified whistleblower complaint with classified appendix, the latter of which has one paragraph marked Top Secret, one redacted, and other paragraphs marked Secret
  • ICIG Michael Atkinson’s letter to Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire; the letter itself, four paragraphs, and one footnote are marked Top Secret and something redacted (probably NOFORN), with a longer classification mark as a whole
  • The first version of the OLC memo dated September 3 deeming this not urgent; the memo itself, eight paragraphs of it, and three footnotes are marked Top Secret and something redacted (probably NOFORN), with a longer classification mark as a whole
  • The official version of the OLC memo dated September 3 currently available on DOJ’s website; it explains that after the underlying documents were declassified, it was released as an unclassified memo
  • A September 24 version of the OLC memo, described in the currently official September 3 one as an “unclassified version”

Here’s the editor’s note that describes why there are three versions of the OLC memo:

Editor’s Note: This memorandum was originally issued in classified form on September 3, 2019. An unclassified version was signed on September 24, 2019, and publicly released in slip-opinion form on September 25, 2019. That unclassified version avoided references to certain details that remained classified at the time it was signed. After the underlying documents were themselves declassified, the September 3 memorandum was declassified in its entirety and publicly released on September 26, 2019.

That suggests we can compare either September 3 version of the OLC memo with the September 24 one to identify what OLC itself (the name of the person who classified the memo is classified) claimed to be classified on September 3.

The ICIG letter makes clear that Atkinson had not yet read the TELCON when he wrote his letter. The whistleblower letter doesn’t say whether or not he read the TELCON (I’m using “he” to refer to the whistleblower because that’s the pronoun the NYT used). He explains that he believes all classified information in the letter is in his enclosure. He also reiterates that marking the information included in his unclassified letter with classification marks would,

violate EO 13526, Part I, Section 1.7, which states: “In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to: (1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; [or] (2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency.”

Among the information the whistleblower included in his unclassified letter is that Trump:

[S]ought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid. According to the White House officials who had direct knowledge of the call, the President pressured Mr. Zelenskyy to, inter alia:

  • initiate or continue an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter Biden;
  • assist in purportedly uncovering that allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election originated in Ukraine, with a specific request that the Ukrainian leader locate and turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and examined by the U.S. cyber security firm Crowdstrike, which initially reported that Russian hackers had penetrated the DNC’s networks in 2016; and
  • meet or speak with two people the President named explicitly as his personal envoys on these matters, Mr. Giuliani and Attorney General Barr, to whom the President referred multiple times in tandem.

The ICIG letter marks the paragraph describing that part of the complaint as Top Secret, though it doesn’t include the specific allegations naming Rudy and Barr, It describes the gist of the complaint this way:

Here, the Complainant’s Letter alleged, among other things, that the President of the United States, in a telephone call with Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelenskyy on July 25, 2019, “sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid.”

But DOJ did see the TELCON of the call. Therefore, they would have known that the White House — the original classification authority for the content of the call — had deemed the entire thing Secret/NOFORN. Nothing in it was deemed Top Secret.

Among the things removed from paragraphs marked Top Secret in the September 24 memo are:

  • The date of the call
  • Zelenskyy’s identity and country
  • Approximately a dozen officials had listened in
  • A description of Trump pressuring Zelenskyy
  • The reference to election assistance
  • The citations to the ICIG letter
  • The references to Rudy and Barr
  • The ICIG deemed the complaint credible but did not conduct legal analysis on whether this was solicitation of a campaign contribution
  • OMB had cut off security assistance to Ukraine*
  • White House officials had moved the TELCON to the covert server*

The whistleblower treated the placement of the TELCON onto the covert server as Top Secret and the OMB detail as Secret, since neither of those appear in the TELCON marked Secret those are both properly treated by OLC as classified (though OLC bumped up the OMB detail to Top Secret).

But given that OLC took this language out of a paragraph that it marked Top Secret for its unclassified version, it must be treating this information as Top Secret.

The complainant alleged that he or she had heard reports from White House officials that in the course of a routine diplomatic communication between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President Trump had “sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid.” ICIG Letter at 3 (quoting the complainant’s letter). Specifically, the complainant allegedly heard that the President had requested that the Ukrainian government investigate the activities of one of the President’s potential political rivals, former Vice President Joseph Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. The complainant also allegedly heard that the President had requested Ukrainian assistance in investigating whether Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election originated in Ukraine, and that Ukrainian investigators meet with the President’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, as well as Attorney General William Barr regarding these matters.

In other words, DOJ, after having reviewed a White House document that treated this information as Secret, instead bumped up the classification of it to Top Secret, including the detail that the Attorney General himself was implicated in the attempt to frame the President’s opponents.

It’s not just the White House that was abusing the classification system in an attempt to cover up what really happened here. It was also DOJ.

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