Chuck Johnson’s Narrowed Scope of What a Russian Is Excludes Known Conspirators in Operation

Michael Tracey has a story that purports to show that the Senate Intelligence Committee, in negotiating voluntary cooperation with Chuck Johnson, is criminalizing being Russian.

The Senate committee probing alleged Russian interference in the U.S. political system has deemed anyone “of Russian nationality or Russian descent” relevant to its investigation, according to a document obtained by TYT.


On July 27, 2017, Charles C. Johnson, a controversial right-wing media figure, received a letter from Sens. Burr and Warner requesting that he voluntarily provide materials in his possession that are “relevant” to the committee’s investigation. Relevant materials, the letter went on, would include any records of interactions Johnson had with “Russian persons” who were involved in some capacity in the 2016 U.S. elections.

The committee further requested materials related to “Russian persons” who were involved in some capacity in “activities that related in any way to the political election process in the U.S.” Materials may include “documents, emails, text messages, direct messages, calendar appointments, memoranda, [and] notes,” the letter outlined.

Doss’s statement was in response to a request made by Robert Barnes, an attorney for Johnson, for clarification as to the SSCI’s definition of a “Russian person.”

How the committee expects subjects to go about ascertaining whether a person is of “Russian descent” is unclear. “It does indicate that the committee is throwing a rather broad net,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University, said. “It is exceptionally broad.” In terms of constitutionality, Turley speculated that “most courts would view that as potentially too broad, but not unlawful.”

Johnson played a key role in several known parts of the election operation. In addition to brokering Dana Rohrabacher’s meeting with Julian Assange, all designed to provide some alternative explanation for the DNC hack, Johnson worked with Peter Smith and Weev to try to find the deleted emails from Hillary’s server.

Johnson said he and Smith stayed in touch, discussing “tactics and research” regularly throughout the presidential campaign, and that Smith sought his help tracking down Clinton’s emails. “He wanted me to introduce to him to Bannon, to a few others, and I sort of demurred on some of that,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think his operation was as sophisticated as it needed to be, and I thought it was good to keep the campaign as insulated as possible.”

Instead, Johnson said, he put the word out to a “hidden oppo network” of right-leaning opposition researchers to notify them of the effort. Johnson declined to provide the names of any of the members of this “network,” but he praised Smith’s ambition.

“The magnitude of what he was trying to do was kind of impressive,” Johnson said. “He had people running around Europe, had people talking to Guccifer.” (U.S. intelligence agencies have linked the materials provided by “Guccifer 2.0”—an alias that has taken credit for hacking the Democratic National Committee and communicated with Republican operatives, including Trump confidant Roger Stone—to Russian government hackers.)

Johnson said he also suggested that Smith get in touch with Andrew Auernheimer, a hacker who goes by the alias “Weev” and has collaborated with Johnson in the past. Auernheimer—who was released from federal prison in 2014 after having a conviction for fraud and hacking offenses vacated and subsequently moved to Ukraine—declined to say whether Smith contacted him, citing conditions of his employment that bar him from speaking to the press.

Tracey’s claims are based on this email (and, clearly, cooperation with Johnson).

Except Tracey (and so presumably Johnson) appear to be misrepresenting what is going on.

When SSCI originally asked for Johnson’s cooperation in July, they asked him to provide communications “with Russian persons, or representatives of Russian government, business, or media interest” relating to the 2016 election and any hack related to it.

And while Tracey calls the December follow-up a “clarification,” Doss clearly considers it a “narrowing” of that July description. So the description Tracey finds so outrageous — people of Russian nationality or descent — appears to be a subset of what might be included in the original request.

Moreover, the narrowing might be really detrimental to SSCI’s ability to learn what Johnson was up to when he was seeking out Russian hackers who might have Hillary’s server. Consider just the examples of Karim Baratov or Ike Kaveladze. Both are likely suspects for involvement in the events of 2016. Baratov — the hacker who recently pled guilty to compromising selected Google and Yandex accounts for FSB — is a Canadian citizen born in Kazakhstan. Kaveladze — who works for Aras Agalarov, has past ties to money laundering, and attended the June 9, 2016 meeting — is an American citizen born in Georgia. Neither is ethnically Russian. So if Johnson had any hypothetical interactions with them, he could cabin off those interactions based on this narrowed definition of what counts as a Russian.

To say nothing of Johnson’s interactions with Assange, who is Australian, yet whose ties to Russia are unclear. Effectively, even if Johnson knew that Assange had coordinated with Russia last year, he wouldn’t have to turn over his communications with him, because he’s not himself Russian.

According to Tracey’s piece, Johnson says he won’t cooperate regardless, in spite of his lawyer’s efforts to narrow the scope of any cooperation.

But I find it interesting that his lawyer attempted to narrow any testimony in a fashion that might hide important parts of Johnson’s actions.

52 replies
  1. Babyl-on says:

    “While nuclear deterrence strategies cannot prevent all conflict, they are essential to prevent nuclear attack, non-nuclear strategic attacks, and large-scale conventional aggression,” the NSS said.
    “Non-nuclear strategic attacks” represents a new category of threat that US nuclear weapons could be used to counter, and points towards likely changes in the Nuclear Posture Review expected in the next few weeks.
    In September, the deputy assistant secretary of defense, Rob Soofer, included “cyber-attacks against US infrastructure” in the category of non-nuclear strategic threats.
    These quotes are from a Guardian article I’ll link below.
    This National Security Strategy while approved by Trump surly written by the Imperial powers of the deep state does a trick seldom noticed. It describes conditions already present to justify nuclear war.
    We have abundant evidence that Russia in engaged in a massive cyber/info war with the US and “Western Democracy” we have abundant evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump team and the hacking of election machines and democratic institutions. Could these acts now justify nuclear war? – apparently so.
    There is also abundant evidence that North Korea hacked the SWIFT system and stole hundreds of millions of dollars, perpetrated the Sony hack as an act of vengeance and is also responsible for the Wannacry ransomware attack. Any one of these could now justify nuclear war.
    These quotes are from a Guardian article I’ll link below.
    This National Security Strategy while approved by Trump surly written by the Imperial powers of the deep state does a trick seldom noticed. It describes conditions already present to justify nuclear war.
    We have abundant evidence that Russia engaged in a massive cyber/info war with the US and “Western Democracy” we have abundant evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump team and the hacking of election machines and democratic instructions. Could these acts now justify nuclear war – apparently so.
    There is abundant evidence North Korea hacked the SWIFT system and stolen hundreds of millions of dollars, perpetrated the Sony hack as an act of vengeance and is also responsible for the Wannacry ransomware attack. Any one of these could now justify nuclear war.
    Still, it is hardly anything new, these documents have a history of describing already existing conditions so that nuclear war can be justified at any time. And that the rest of the world is clear about that.
    When the Empire achieves “Global full spectrum domination.” Which has been the foreign policy of the US led empire sense August 6, 1945 and for which the US has slaughtered innocent people EVERY SINGLE DAY for the past 73 years, perhaps then paradise will come to earth.
    PS I only post here occasionally and often I am called names. It’s really quite alright though, I’ve been called names all the way from the supernatural powers which haven’t effected me much sense there is no such thing as supernatural beings.

    • bmaz says:

      You have commented here exactly twice….unless you are using sock puppetry that is not allowed under our terms and conditions. And exactly nobody responded to you the last time you commented under this handle. Are you trolling with sock puppetry? If not, then please, spare the put upon BS.

      I love people who cite “THE DEEP STATE”! It is the sign of hollow idiocy.


      • matt says:

        Before you scream “hollow idiocy,” read this book, and tell me the Deep State is not real-  The Devils Chessboard: Allan Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government by David Talbot. 

        I take offense again at your troll accusation of Babyl-on’s post.  She mentions a real concern, and linked a Guardian article- with no baiting, bad language, or insults.  Read your own terms and conditions for posting.

          • cat herder says:

            The really sophisticated ones have shortened it to a catchy acronym by now – DSFNWH (Deep State Fake News Witch Hunt). Usually found in big blocks of run-on text that includes other snappy acronyms like SHTF and EOTWAWKI.

        • Babyl-on says:

          Yes, Deval’s Chessboard is quite clear and expository regarding the historical record and goes into a little more detain about the meetings and collaborations with the Nazis than the other excellent on the Dulles brothers exercise of US power for commercial/Imperial purposes;  The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War in addition there the great I. F. Stone’s The Hidden History of the Korean War, 1950-1951 and importantly, The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy – Walter A. McDougall.

          The historical record is clear, the nuclear weapons that were dropped on cities full of innocent people in August of 1945 were dropped AFTER Japanese surrender for political purposes.  To make it clear just what the US could and would do again to any challenger.

          From that day until and including today and into the foreseeable future that is EVERY DAY FOR 73 YEARS the US has slaughtered people in multiple locations around the world.

          I oppose this country/empire/deep state/democracy which gives itself this privilege  – the privilege of slaughter with impunity.

          • bmaz says:

            So….You oppose the United States, babble incessantly about the “deep state” like an idiot, and are against democracy. Fine.

            We do not need that here, nor amplification of other trolls. Emptywheel is not your troll playground, and it is not going to be. rethink how you use this site.

            • Babyl-on says:

              Would you care to actually engage on the subject of 73 years of continuous slaughter of innocent people by the United States of America as the historical record shows or do you just prefer to bloviate and support its continuation?

              Never mind.
              “Babylon, land of deepest shadow and deep darkness, where even light is like darkness.”
              Job 10.22

              • bmaz says:

                Would you care to stick to the subject, be a productive member of this community and not promote tollery here in our little corner of the internet, or naw? Never mind, you have already announced the answer in your five whole comments here to date. We know what you are, just haggling about how the rest will proceed. Fair enough.

                • matt says:

                  I’m calling FOUL!  would the other moderators care to weigh in on bmaz?

                  By all definitions he is troll baiting the posts that he does not agree with vs. engaging in reasonable debate.

                  • zonefreezone says:

                    I am not a moderator. Is bmaz a moderator?

                    Is that what he thinks he’s doing?


                    He’s not good at it but manages to post a solid 30% of total comments in any given post, so he’s prolific at sucking.

                    • bmaz says:

                      No, I am not a “moderator”, I have been here since before day one over ten years ago as a principal contributor and editor. This site literally started with just the two of us. But, hey, if you were more than a johnny come lately, you would know that. At least we have confirmed what you are.

                      And “what I think I am doing” is keeping the creeping troll idiocy out of our threads that are otherwise extremely, and long, well known for intelligence. Please try to contribute to that goal. If not, find a different place to occupy.

                  • bmaz says:

                    Trolls do not run this place. Never have, and are not going to start now. You want to run a blog, go start your own. And cry “foul” there. The “other moderators” will not support you. This is not where you want to be.

                  • Jim White says:

                    Although I haven’t been here as long as bmaz, I’m also an editor and contributor.

                    What folks need to realize is that there is very wide latitude given to comments appearing here. What is expected, though, is that the comments be based on reality and a reference that can be checked if needed. It takes a lot for one of us running things here to get fed up with a commenter. But once the line is crossed, your latitude goes to zero, if not below. And repercussions escalate quickly.

                    bmaz is also a close personal friend. His Twitter avatar is prickly for a reason, though, so it is always best to keep that in mind. As a highly experienced litigator, he is quite able to evaluate competing positions on an issue, so any attempt to paint him as narrow is laughable.

                    • Evangelista says:


                      “[A] highly experienced litigator…able to evaluate competing positions”  is an oxymoron.  To correct the phrase (meaning make it not so funny), change the word “evaluate” to “attack”.

                      As bmaz here illustrates, he is, beyond any shadow-government of a doubt “a highly experienced litigator”.

                    • bell says:

                      i think your friendship with bmaz clouds your clarity on his recent actions here..  refer back to the original response.. to dismiss someone due the fact they use the term ‘deep state’ seems intolerant or worse..


                      “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

                  • Desider says:

                    FOUL??? That’s like Butch Cassidy’s “first let’s discuss the rules… there are no rules”. This isn’t some voting democracy – it’s a goddam blog, and whatever BMaz’s “official” title, I bet he has more cred with the blogowner(s) than any johnny-come-lately. And the “30%” claim is BS, much less than that, and usually split evenly between herding the troll cats and making relevant comments. So why not all you ghouls and zombie bots just piss off to some less focused blog – a good hint you’re in spambot Nirvana is where they have these “I made $7459 at home last month and you can too…” spam articles.
                    (and yeah, I’ve been around since FDL & Next Hurrah days, which makes me old as fuck, but was never that involved with posting there)

                    But in past years, this site was always on topic, and it’s only been in the last 2 years that all this spam/irrelevant distraction has taken off. Care to guees why?

                    • greengiant says:

                      The involvement of Chuck Johnson in Donald Trump’s downfall.  Things like that bring out the noise.

                • matt says:

                  bmaz, I think we can have an intelligent conversation about topics covered in The Guardian, The Nation, or an Oliver Stone series.  We probably agree on much more than we disagree… I just wish you would politely remind a poster if they are off topic, or if they have a viewpoint that you disagree with… act like an honest intellectual and make a rebuttal with some facts.

                  Otherwise, keep your paws off the reply button and don’t say anything at all.  All your “sock-puppet” comments are muddying up the fine discussions on EW.

                  • bmaz says:

                    Mostly fair enough. But you have NO idea of who is sock puppeting us and how. And that will not be tolerated here.

                    You have not done that. Others have. That term is not bandied about spuriously, we know. Other than that, no, you do not get to order how the principals here run the blog; we will reply when think appropriate.

                    • zonefreezone says:

                      I’m actually interested in how sock puppets are identified. You frequently reference your familiarity with the history of all work product (comments) of various posters , including me. How are you able to do this? It seems like it would be so labor intensive and time-consuming.

                      I have posted infrequently here, under one name only, over about 2 years. I’m guessing @ 40-50 times. But I’m guessing – whereas you claim to be able to track me precisely – so you tell me. Do you have access to the donation history of each participant as well?

                      For once – in engaging with you – I am actually looking forward to learning something from your answer.

          • xpara says:

            The a-bombs were dropped “after” the Japanese surrender? That’s just silly, and not even worthy of being classified as an alternate fact. The war cabinet that had run the country leading it into a war to conquer all of Asia and “free” their citizens from European colonialism vowed to fight to the last man, woman, and child–with bamboo spears and suicide vests–even after almost every major city had been incinerated by incendiary bombs, killing and wounding millions of civilians and setting the stage for a massive famine that would have killed off millions more who somehow survived the coming allied invasion. Their home islands were cut off by a submarine cordon that had sunk their merchant fleet and navy, and their major armies were stranded in China. And they almost didn’t surrender even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were atom bombed. It was only the official and unprecedented intervention by the emperor that convinced the war cabinet to obey and agree to surrender, and even then some junior officers tried to stage a coup to take the emperor into protective custody and continue the war until death. I am sure you will not believe this if you really believe that the Little Boy and Fat Man were dropped after the surrender, but the atomic bombs saved not only the killing and maiming of tens of thousands of allied soldiers in the planned invasion of Kyushu and then the Kanto Plain to take Tokyo, but also the lives of millions more Japanese than the bombs took as the civilians obeyed their military masters and tried to repel the invaders with hoes and rocks.

    • matt says:

      Babyl-on, I agree with you… that in the current escalation with Russia, the Trump admin (and possibly fractions in the Deep State) is threatening nuclear retaliation for non-nuclear acts of aggression.  This extreme posture has been voiced in the US since the time of General Curtis LeMay and his brilliant idea to preemptively nuke the Soviet Union in the 50’s.

      • bmaz says:

        Oh, and look, another bit of “Deep State” brilliance. Well done there Matt! Thanks for feeding the (apparent) sock puppet trolls. So kind of you!

            • Desider says:

              The Nation? seriously? No, we don’t need any all expansive Trilateral Commission/Rothchild/Knights of Malta deep state paranoia to get us through this dark night of the soul – that’s Alex Jones’ side of the street. This site is based on facts & lawyers (of which I’m not one, so I largely shut up except times like these). We (meaning Marcie) simply have to look at the very obvious players and note what they’re doing and how it fits together, avoiding jumping on bandwagons where the facts don’t actually fit. But no, going back 73 years to discuss some supposed byzantine proto-conspiracy beginnings with secret handshakes and burning cheap incense or torches is rather an intentional waste of time we can well avoid.
              In any case, what usually happens here is Marcie posts and the rest of us discuss what Marcie has posted. That was a great formula since forever, and anything BMaz can do to keep that pretty damn simple format running still is appreciated.
              (and yeah, FDL largely died from all the chaotic hair-on-fire vindictive clique posting, especially when Jane lacked the energy to shut them down)

              • matt says:

                You cannot begin to understand current events without a strong understanding of history.  I will try to stay on topic.  As a newbie, I only come back here because of the quality of the posts and discussion.  Isn’t a little healthy debate good for everyone?

        • Babyl-on says:

          The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government
          Written by a wing nut conspiracy promoter so just ignore it, do you read books? I mentioned several others above to support my assertions.


  2. Bay State Librul says:

    Deep State is a nasty tool……… It has been banned in Boston

    “Much as his use of “fake news” miscasts reporting as lying, “deep state” presents apolitical civil servants as partisan agents. And it mischaracterizes those officials, who seek to defend their place within the system, by presenting them as acting against that system.

    Both phrases have become tools that Mr. Trump or his allies use to deflect perceived criticism by attacking the legitimacy of the critic.” NY Times

    • matt says:

      Geez, you guys… Trump, Bannon, Stone, and Alex Jones did not invent “Deep State.”  Please don’t assume that because the alt-Right brandished the term (like they do “fake-news”) that the concept the term represents does not exist.

      The term has been around for a while in academic circles that challenge the whitewashed narrative of modern American History.  Are you guys against Oliver Stone? He would be considered a liberal, right?  Have you watched his series,”Untold History of the United States?”  It’s the cliff-notes you can watch on Netflix to the book I recommended above by David Talbot.

    • bell says:

      coming from the nyt, wapo or wsj – i would take that as gospel… the alternative view is they are the mouthpiece of the deep state..

  3. pseudonymous in nc says:

    [deep breath]

    It’s going to be difficult to pin down Rage Furby’s contacts under one or two defining criteria, because they seem to go from the bottom of the gutter to, um, members of Congress.

  4. maybe ryan says:

    Johnson also wrote the ‘victim’ letters in the Anthony Weiner case, I’m willing to allege, based on his admission to being involved in a general way and certain content tics that constrain the background of the person who wrote it.

    (Note – the scare quotes are to indicate that those communications weren’t really from the victim. I do believe there was a victim. Nonetheless, the situation was handled with a primary motive of using it as a political asset by the victim and her family. How else to explain that they went to a rookie reporter at the Daily Mail before they went to law enforcement?)

  5. Babyl-on says:

    I must say I am disappointed with the level of discussion here. Of all the responses and back and forth there was only one which tangentially addressed the matters I set forth. I guess I just didn’t understand the narrow focus of these discussions on the topic of the article exclusively making context very difficult to communicate it seems to me. But I’m not the one who decides that.

    I have never found it harmful to interrogate and challenge underlying assumptions or to try and put events into historical perspective.

    I have no beef with bmaz or anyone else I want my ideas to be challenged, ultimately what I want is understanding if I misunderstand I want to correct I can’t do that without legitimate challenges to my views.

    And just because I used a couple of quotes from the supernatural world I wouldn’t want to leave the impression I accept the existence of supernatural forces.

    Saint Thomas Aquinas gave the show away, actually, because he said that the blessed in heaven will often walk to the battlements and look down and delight in the justice of God being properly carried out in hell.”

    — Alan Watts

    “Qualities are an idiosyncrasy peculiar to man. To demand that our human interpretations and values should be universal, and perhaps consitutive, is one of the hereditary madnesses of human pride.”
    —F. Nietzsche, The Will to Power

    • Desider says:

      I must say I’m disappointed with the diversion you’ve made in your little time here – we were doing quite fine without – and hope you won’t be around long to mess up any more threads. And it would be really pleasing if you took any friends you brought with you. Of course I’m not a moderator nor a founder, so BMaz or Marcie or someone else can tell me to STFU & I will. That’s a big difference between you & me – I know how to take a hint.

    • matt says:

      Your right.  Kinda reminds me how Rush Limbaugh tainted the term “liberal” by saying it thousands of times with intonations of hatred and disgust.

      Trump may well have ruined political discourse in American for decades to come.

      • Desider says:

        Guys, what the hell is this? This is a post on Chuck Johnson & ties to Russians, not a history of the word “liberal” or whatever other extraneous bullshit you want to drag in, and for the record, Reagan was trashing Tip O’Neill and the “libruls” long before Rush Limbaugh, so this is seriously nonsense. Stay on topic or stay quiet, bitte.

  6. SpaceLifeForm says:

    It’s still the Ruskies!

    [Changing story. And a twofer, KL supposedly wrong saying Wannacry via Lazarus from NK, and US saying NK also. Ironic that US would agree with KL, No?]

    The alleged hacker posted to his Facebook page in December a transcript and an audio recording of his confession during a pre-trial court hearing.

    [Really now. Still had internet after the pre-trial hearing but is now in jail on *different* (likely fraud) charges? Had transcript and audio?]

  7. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Interesting that this came out nearly 5 years post.

    Washington (CNN)The State Department posted a number of emails belonging to former top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin on Friday after the messages were found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop by the FBI. Several of the released documents were found to contain information classified “confidential,” and were heavily redacted.

  8. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Mining cryptocurrency? Hoarding a bunch?
    Think you have privacy (and security)?

    Think again.

    An employee of a U.K.-based bitcoin exchange who was kidnapped while leaving his office in Ukraine earlier this week has now been released, according to a statement from the company.

    Russian and Ukrainian media reports claimed that Pavel Lerner, a 40-year-old Russian citizen and head of the U.K.-registered cryptocurrency exchange Exmo Finance, was kidnapped on Tuesday and dragged into a black Mercedes-Benz by men in balaclavas.

    Lerner is a prominent expert on blockchain, the technology originally developed for bitcoin that allows digital information to be shared without being copied. One source told the Financial Times that Lerner had paid $1 million in bitcoin to secure his release. His abduction may be one of the first rare cases of kidnapping and extortion for cryptocurrency.

  9. cat herder says:

    To all the ‘O/T’ people:

    Please stop whatever it is you’re doing. The comments are not a place for you to start your own stand-alone blog. WordPress and various other sites still exist and you can sign up and start your own blog and post every off-topic brainfart you come up with till the cows come home. None of us will call you names for posting O/T content on your own blog. So please go do that.

    I am not affiliated with EW in any way, just a reader from way back and very very infrequent commenter and I’m sick of the psycho bullshit that keeps happening in every single comment thread.

  10. imasmakurmomsdum says:

    This is such a fantastic blog! Just wanted to let you know I’ve been reading it daily for a few months now, and your wealth of knowledge and critical analysis is such a treasure for the world of investigative journalism.

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