“An Entire Universe of Malfeasance, Corruption, and Depravity:” Joel Greenberg Promotes the Value of His Snitching

Joel Greenberg — the Roger Stone and Matt Gaetz associate who pled guilty in May 2021 to trafficking a minor, identity theft, wire fraud, stalking, and conspiracy — will be sentenced on December 1.

(h/t to Sandi Bachom for the screen cap of Gaetz’s tweet)

In accordance with a schedule set in July, when Greenberg last extended his sentencing date to expand the time he could cooperate with the government, DOJ submitted its 5K letter (in which it tells the judge how much credit Greenberg should get for his cooperation) on November 10. The government submitted its sentencing memorandum yesterday.

Greenberg’s sentencing memorandum was initially due yesterday as well, but his attorney, Fritz Scheller, got an extension until next Monday, in part so he could submit this response to the 5K letter.

Judge Gregory Presnell set a pre-sentencing hearing for November 30 to hear arguments about the proper guidelines to apply.

The government sentencing memorandum — which repeatedly seems to express amazement at how Greenberg kept criming even as he realized the government was hot on his trail — is worth reading on its own. Here are some highlights:

Greenberg had only just gotten started in his efforts to defraud the Tax Collector’s Office to fund his personal cryptocurrency purchases.

[snip]

In January 2019, Greenberg told one of his family members that he was in “big trouble” and asked for $200,000. Id. at ¶ 102. Rather than repay the Tax Collector’s Office what he had obtained through his fraud, however, Greenberg used those funds to purchase more cryptocurrency for himself.

[snip]

The one thing that Greenberg did not do, however, was stop his fraud. Greenberg continued to defraud the Tax Collector’s Office to obtain funds to purchase cryptocurrency for himself. His only reaction to the federal investigation was to alter his scheme.

[snip]

As part of this scheme, Greenberg continued to sell the cryptocurrency machines that he had purchased with Tax Collector’s Office funds. In addition, Greenberg used some of the machines to mine cryptocurrency for himself. As part of those efforts, Greenberg used Tax Collector’s Office funds to build a server room in his personal office, and he operated some of the machines at the Lake Mary branch. Id. at ¶ 134. Because of how those machines were daisy chained together at the Lake Mary branch, they started a fire that damaged the machines and the branch office.

[snip]

After he was released on pretrial supervision, Greenberg continued with his scheme, executing an SBA loan agreement for $133,000 only a day after he was ordered by a United States Magistrate Judge not to commit any new offenses.

It all feels like a Coen Brothers movie. Sex with minors, ecstasy, rat-fucking, and flaming cryptocurrency servers.

With regards to Greenberg’s cooperation, one of his crimes — stalking — deserves particular attention. When someone filed to run against him as tax collector, Greenberg manufactured a claim that his opponent was sleeping with a student.

In the midst of defrauding the Tax Collector’s Office, Greenberg added stalking to his repertoire of criminal activity. See id. at ¶¶ 138-147. On October 4, 2019, an individual who was a teacher at a school, filed to run for the elected office of Seminole County Tax Collector in 2020, against Greenberg. Id. at ¶ 138. In retaliation, Greenberg caused nine letters to be sent to the teacher’s school. The letters falsely represented that they were being sent by an anonymous “very concerned student” who had information that the teacher had engaged in sexual misconduct with a particular student. Id. at ¶ 139. The following month, in November 2019, Greenberg set up a Facebook account that falsely claimed to belong to a “very concerned teacher” at the school. Using that account, Greenberg made similar false allegations to the ones previously made in his letters. Id. at ¶¶ 143-145. Further, he created an imposter Twitter account, using the name and photograph of his political opponent, without the teacher’s knowledge or consent. Greenberg then published, using that account, a series of racially motivated posts that he falsely represented were being made by the teacher, and representing that the teacher was a racist. Id. at ¶ 142.

This is classic Republican projection and rat-fuckery. But it is also a really damaging confession for anyone who might want to turn snitch in the future.

I’m sure Greenberg knows all sorts of things about what his sleazeball buddies have done and shared some of it with prosecutors. But the fact that Greenberg manufactured false allegations against someone would make him really easy to discredit as a witness about anything for which there wasn’t a whole bunch of independent documentation. Prosecutors use fraudsters as cooperating witnesses all the time, but to do so they need a bunch of corroboration, because otherwise jurors aren’t going to believe the claims of someone who confessed to manufacturing false claims for personal gain in the past.

With that said, I wanted to look closer at the sentencing dispute. Greenberg thinks his cooperation has been more valuable than the government has given him credit for. Partly, that’s because he thinks he should get a 4-level reduction for each of what he says are seven prosecutions he has been a part of (or will be as downstream conspiracy prosecutions progress or would have been had the defendant not died), rather than the 10-level reduction the government says he should get for all his cooperation. Partly, he thinks the mandatory 2-year minimum for the identity theft he pled to, which would be consecutive to his other sentence, should be set aside given his cooperation.

But as Greenberg’s and all other plea agreements make clear, he doesn’t get to decide.

[T]he defendant understands that the determination as to whether “substantial assistance” has been provided or what type of motion related thereto will be filed, if any, rests solely with the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, and the defendant agrees that defendant cannot and will not challenge that determination, whether by appeal, collateral attack, or otherwise.

It’s solely up to the government to decide. And here’s what the government thinks of Greenberg’s cooperation:

In summary, the defendant has provided truthful and timely information to the United States which, in part, resulted in the charging of: two individuals involved in a conspiracy to provide bribes and kickbacks to the defendant,2 one individual involved in a conspiracy to submit false claims to the SBA and to bribe an SBA employee,3 and one individual involved in a conspiracy to defraud the Tax Collector’s Office.4 In addition, the defendant has provided substantial assistance on other matters discussed in the sealed Supplemental Memorandum Regarding Defendant’s Cooperation.

The United States has acknowledged the value added as a result of the defendant’s cooperation, and to reflect the significance of his assistance, the United States has moved for a 10-level reduction in his offense level. This is however, where his mitigation and reasons for any type of reduction in offense level should end. Considering all of the above referenced information including (1) the nature and circumstances of the instant offenses, (2) the defendant’s history and characteristics, and (3) the need for the sentence imposed to provide just punishment, adequate deterrence, respect for the law, and protection of the public, the United States respectfully submits that no downward variance is warranted.

It’s the “substantial assistance on other matters discussed in the sealed Supplemental Memorandum Regarding Defendant’s Cooperation” we’re all particularly interested in, what, in Greenberg’s response, he calls “an entire universe of malfeasance, corruption, and depravity.”

I’m sure it is.

I’m sure it is.

This is the stuff, including the Gaetz sex trafficking allegations, that has shown up in the press.

Most recently, it showed up — with an on the record quote from Scheller boosting the import of Greenberg’s cooperation — in a NYT story on multiple January 6 prosecutors’ investigation of the ties between January 6 and the 2018 Stop the Steal effort.

In recent months, prosecutors overseeing the seditious conspiracy case of five members of the Proud Boys have expanded their investigation to examine the role that Jacob Engels — a Florida Proud Boy who accompanied Mr. Stone to Washington for Jan. 6 — played in the 2018 protests, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The prosecutors want to know whether Mr. Engels received any payments or drew up any plans for the Florida demonstration, and whether he has ties to other people connected to the Proud Boys’ activities in the run-up to the storming of the Capitol.

Different prosecutors connected to the Jan. 6 investigation have also been asking questions about efforts by Mr. Stone — a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump — to stave off a recount in the 2018 Senate race in Florida, according to other people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Gaetz, Republican of Florida, participated in the 2018 demonstration, but the extent and nature of his involvement remain unclear.

Fritz Scheller, a lawyer for Joel Greenberg, a local Florida tax collector who is cooperating with the government in an investigation into Mr. Gaetz, declined in response to questions to discuss the specifics of what his client told the authorities about the 2018 incident. Still, Mr. Scheller said, “A significant aspect of Mr. Greenberg’s cooperation has been his assistance in matters involving efforts to subvert the democratic process.” [my emphasis]

What is going on overtly in this sentencing dispute, with Greenberg arguing for the value of his cooperation, likely parallels what has generated a lot of press coverage (particularly about any sex trafficking case against Gaetz) in recent years. We likely got stories about “an entire universe of malfeasance, corruption, and depravity,” including the expectation that Gaetz would be indicted, because those close to Greenberg were trying to raise the value of his cooperation in the public sphere and pressure prosecutors for an indictment of Gaetz, which would have increased the credit he’d get for cooperating, another 4-level sentencing reduction, Greenberg says it would have gotten him.

None of that’s to say that Greenberg’s cooperation hasn’t been corroborated (on some points) or valuable: The government explicitly says he was “truthful” and uses the phrase, “substantial assistance,” that prosecutors use to describe real meat, often meat that they expect will lead to indictments.

It’s just that at this moment, the first time the government has been able to say publicly how valuable they think Greenberg’s cooperation is in the face of all the sex, ecstasy, rat-fucking, and flaming cryptocurrency servers that Greenberg pled guilty to, they say all that truthful and substantial assistance doesn’t outweigh the fraud as much as Greenberg would like it to.

None of that says Gaetz is in the clear, though the report that federal prosecutors won’t charge him for the sex trafficking because, “a conviction is unlikely in part because of credibility questions with the two central witnesses,” accords with what we see in the sentencing memo. Greenberg would have particular credibility problems on that count because Greenberg manufactured a claim of sex crimes in the past.

That said, I find it interesting that Gaetz decided, at the last minute, not to attend Trump’s rally in Florida last night, purportedly because of rain that wasn’t affecting travel in the least. And in Scheller’s motion for an extension, he described five hours of work with federal and state prosecutors (which may or may not relate to Greenberg), but also resolving an unexpected issue that might impact Greenberg’s sentence.

Because of the recent tropical storm (Nicole) and associated federal and state court closures on November 9 and November 10, as well as the federal holiday on November 11, 2022, the undersigned has had multiple case matters continued to this week. Indeed, today the undersigned has already spent five hours in both state court and in an extensive proffer with the Government.

[snip]

Additionally, the undersigned is currently in the process of resolving an unexpected issue (both today and tomorrow) that could impact Mr. Greenberg’s sentence.

So there may be recent developments of interest, developments that had to wait until courthouses could be opened after rain that was affecting travel.

I hope we’ll get a slew of new titillating new stories about Joel Greenberg’s universe of malfeasance, corruption, and depravity when that sealed cooperation memo is unsealed (or, better yet, if it leads to indictments). But for now, the advent of this sentencing dispute is a helpful reminder that the motives that drive reporting often require overselling the value of the testimony of an admitted fraudster.

Yes, DOJ Is Reportedly Investigating the 2018 Election that Trump Just Invoked with Ron DeSantis

In the wake of Tuesday’s shellacking of Democrats in Florida and the losses of winnable seats by Trump endorsees, Republicans are explicitly discussing Ron DeSantis as if he is the head of the party, in lieu of Trump. That set off a temper tantrum on the second shittiest social media site run by a narcissistic billionaire [sic] in which Trump:

  • Accused Fox of fighting him and likened the focus on DeSantis to the 2016 election
  • Claimed his endorsement of DeSantis in 2018 was a “nuclear weapon” that took out Adam Putnam
  • Took credit for DeSantis’s victory over Andrew Gillum
  • Claimed he “sent in the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys, and the ballot theft immediately ended, just prior to them running out of the votes necessary to win”

This last bullet, which seems to claim that Trump deployed DOJ resources to help DeSantis win, has attracted a great of attention.

It would be utterly corrupt to imagine that Trump used DOJ resources to help in an election — though there is evidence he did in 2020: when Bill Barr’s efforts to undermine the Mike Flynn prosecution released altered Peter Strzok notes that Trump used in an attack on Joe Biden. He of course tried to do far more, going so far as attempting to replace Jay Rosen with Jeffrey Clark to give DOJ sanction to frivolous lawsuits.

Plus, people are far too quickly suggesting this claim is made up entirely, and that there’s no evidence of misconduct in 2018. That’s true not just because Trump’s lies generally have some basis, albeit really tenuous, in reality.

Just ten days ago, after all, the NYT reported that prosecutors on at least two investigative teams (which might actually be prosecutors bringing together networked conspiracies as seemed likely for 14 months), implicitly boosted by cooperation from Joel Greenberg, are investigating the 2018 Stop the Steal effort in Broward County.

The NYT article focused on efforts by Trump’s rat-fucker and friends to shut down challenges to the vote count: a Jacob Engels/Proud Boy mob in Broward County.

President Donald J. Trump and other top Republicans were stoking claims that the election had been stolen, and their supporters were protesting in the streets. Members of the far-right group the Proud Boys and people close to Roger J. Stone Jr., including Representative Matt Gaetz, took part in the action as the crowd was chanting “Stop the Steal.”

The time was 2018, the setting was southern Florida, and the election in question was for governor and a hotly contested race that would help determine who controlled the United States Senate.

Now, four years later, the Justice Department is examining whether the tactics used then served as a model for the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

In recent months, prosecutors overseeing the seditious conspiracy case of five members of the Proud Boys have expanded their investigation to examine the role that Jacob Engels — a Florida Proud Boy who accompanied Mr. Stone to Washington for Jan. 6 — played in the 2018 protests, according to a person briefed on the matter.

[snip]

The 2018 protests were triggered by the tight outcome of the races for United States Senate and Florida governor. On election night, the Republican Senate candidate, Rick Scott, declared victory over the Democrat, Bill Nelson, but the race was close enough that local officials were set to hold recounts in key locations like Broward County.

Prominent Republicans, including Mr. Trump and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, suggested on social media that the Democrats were trying to steal the election. Mr. Engels promoted an event in Broward County, writing on Twitter that he was headed there “to handle this situation” and was going to “STOP THE STEAL.”

On Nov. 9, a group of about 100 angry protesters, including members of the Proud Boys, descended on the Broward County elections office, carrying pro-Scott and pro-Trump signs and protesting the recount.

The event drew support from several far-right activists in Florida linked to Mr. Stone — among them, Ali Alexander, who later organized Stop the Steal events around the 2020 election, and Joseph Biggs, a leader of the Proud Boys who has since been charged alongside Mr. Tarrio in the Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case.

Undoubtedly, the Proud Boys are not the FBI (though the FBI in this phase was far too credulous of the Proud Boys). But given the NYT report, it is nevertheless the case that Trump-related Broward County rat-fuckery in 2018 not only happened but is already under investigation.

It may even be the case that DOJ collected information about such things in near real time. DOJ obtained renewed warrants on three Roger Stone accounts on August 3, 2018. It continued to investigate Stone and associates at least through October 2018. And an investigation into the rat-fucker remained ongoing through his November 2019 trial and into at least April 2020.

Again, that doesn’t mean that Trump’s specific claim — that DOJ was involved in all this — is specifically true. It means that before you dismiss it out of hand, you should ask what bread crumbs of reality this probable lie is based on.

When Trump started threatening DeSantis, I immediately thought of Roger Stone, because collecting dirt with which to exert political pressure is what Trump’s rat-fucker does and because Stone was always active in these same circles. And the Broward County Stop the Steal effort may be the least of it.

The Roger Stone Convergence at the Winter Palace

There was a status hearing in the Owen Shroyer case last week that was so short it was over by the time I had entered the dial-in code. Shroyer, you’ll recall, is the Alex Jones sidekick who was charged for violating his specific prohibition on being an asshole at the Capitol. His lawyer, Norm Pattis, happens to be the lawyer who sent a large swath of Alex Jones’ data to the Texas Sandy Hook plaintiffs, and then presided over the $1 billion judgement in the Connecticut Sandy Hook lawsuit. On June 14, Pattis noticed his appearance on Joe Biggs’ legal team, effectively giving him visibility on how badly the discovery in the Proud Boy case implicates Shroyer and Jones and Ali Alexander. Shroyer appears to be stalling on his decision about whether he wants to enter a plea agreement — one that would presumably require some cooperation — or whether he wants to stick around and be charged in a superseding indictment along with everyone else.

Shroyer has until November 29 to make that decision, around which time I expect a Roger Stone convergence to become more clear.

The Roger Stone convergence has been coming for some time (I’ve been pointing to it for at 14 months). Yesterday, NYT reported that one means by which it is coming is in the dissemination of the We the People document laying out plans to occupy buildings — under the code “Winter Palace” — which the FBI found on the Enrique Tarrio phone it took over a year to exploit.

As I laid out here, the document is important because it shows Tarrio’s motive on January 6 in his assertion that “every waking moment consists of” planning for revolution.

41. Between December 30 and December 31, 2020, TARRIO communicated multiple times with an individual whose identity is known to the grand jury. On December 30, 2020, this individual sent TARRIO a nine-page document tiled, “1776 Returns.” The document set forth a plan to occupy a few “crucial buildings” in Washington, D.C., on January 6, including House and Senate office buildings around the Capitol, with as “many people as possible” to “show our politicians We the People are in charge.” After sending the document, the individual stated, “The revolution is important than anything.” TARRIO responded, “That’s what every waking moment consists of… I’m not playing games.”

And an exchange he had with now-cooperating witness Jeremy Bertino that they had succeeded in implementing the Winter Palace plan shows that Tarrio recognized that occupying buildings was part of his plan.

107. At 7:39 pm, PERSON-1 sent two text messages to TARRIO that read, “Brother. ‘You know we made this happen,” and “I’m so proud of my country today.” TARRIO responded, “I know” At 7:44 pm. the conversation continued, with PERSON-1 texting, “1776 motherfuckers.” TARRIO responded, “The Winter Palace.” PERSON-1 texted, “Dude. Did we just influence history?” TARRIO responded, “Let’s first see how this plays out.” PERSON-1 stated, “They HAVE to certify today! Or it’s invalid.” These messages were exchanged before the Senate returned to its chamber at approximately 8:00 p.m. to resume certifying the Electoral College vote.

The NYT story reveals that Eryka Gemma is the person who sent the document to Tarrio, but she was not its author.

As a part of the investigation, prosecutors are seeking to understand whether Mr. Engels has ties to a little-known Miami-based cryptocurrency promoter who may have played a role in the Capitol attack.

A week before the building was stormed, the promoter, Eryka Gemma, gave Mr. Tarrio a document titled “1776 Returns,” according to several people familiar with the matter. The document laid out a detailed plan to surveil and storm government buildings around the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a pressure campaign to demand a new election.

[snip]

The federal indictment of Mr. Tarrio says that the person who provided him with “1776 Returns” told him, shortly after it was sent, “The revolution is more important than anything.” That person was Ms. Gemma, according to several people familiar with the matter.

But Ms. Gemma was not the author of “1776 Returns,” which was written by others, first as a shared document on Google, the people said.

It remains unclear who the original authors were.

It may be unclear or detrimental to the sources for this story who originally wrote the document; it’s probably not to investigators who can simply send a warrant to Google.

And whether because investigators know who wrote the document or for some other reason (such as that they have just a few more weeks of pre-sentencing cooperation with Joel Greenberg), they’re trying to understand whether this document, laying out a plan to occupy buildings, had an analogue in the Florida-based riots that key Roger Stone associate, Jacob Engels, staged in 2018 in an attempt to thwart any delays in certification for Rick Scott (and Ron DeSantis, who gets a positive shout out by name in the Winter Palace document).

On Nov. 9, [2018] a group of about 100 angry protesters, including members of the Proud Boys, descended on the Broward County elections office, carrying pro-Scott and pro-Trump signs and protesting the recount.

The event drew support from several far-right activists in Florida linked to Mr. Stone — among them, Ali Alexander, who later organized Stop the Steal events around the 2020 election, and Joseph Biggs, a leader of the Proud Boys who has since been charged alongside Mr. Tarrio in the Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case.

The NYT describes this line of inquiry as happening via two different sets of prosecutors, which is a sign of either convergence or simply the networked structure that DOJ’s approach, using parallel and (through Stone) intersecting, conspiracy indictments clearly facilitated (Shroyer’s prosecution team, incidentally, features an Oath Keeper prosecutor and a key assault prosecutor).

In recent months, prosecutors overseeing the seditious conspiracy case of five members of the Proud Boys have expanded their investigation to examine the role that Jacob Engels — a Florida Proud Boy who accompanied Mr. Stone to Washington for Jan. 6 — played in the 2018 protests, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The prosecutors want to know whether Mr. Engels received any payments or drew up any plans for the Florida demonstration, and whether he has ties to other people connected to the Proud Boys’ activities in the run-up to the storming of the Capitol.

Different prosecutors connected to the Jan. 6 investigation have also been asking questions about efforts by Mr. Stone — a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump — to stave off a recount in the 2018 Senate race in Florida, according to other people familiar with the matter.

While the NYT describes (breaking news!) that Engels was one of the people who in 2019, along with Tarrio, crafted an attack on the judge presiding over Roger Stone’s case, Amy Berman Jackson, it does not note that the Stop the Steal effort dates back two years earlier than the 2018 riot, to voter intimidation efforts that Stone pursued that look similar to the current drop box intimidation effort being disseminated via Trump’s shitty social media website (NYT does mention the Brooks Brothers riots in 2000 and notes the participants “apparently work[ed] with Mr. Stone” — more breaking news).

Nor does it describe the backstory to how Biggs showed up in Florida in 2018, fresh off his ouster from InfoWars after playing a key role in both the PizzaGate and Seth Rich hoaxes, both part of a Russian info-op that Stone played a key role in. But it’s part of the prehistory of the Proud Boys that prosecutors are now tracing.

I have no idea whether the very clear 2016 precedent is part of this. DOJ wouldn’t need to do (much) fresh investigation of it because Mueller and DC USAO did quite a bit of investigation before Bill Barr torched the investigation all to hell and then Trump pardoned Stone to avoid being implicated himself. But if it was part of this, no one who would share those details with NYT would know about it unless and until it was indicted. That’s even true of the 2019 incident; DOJ did at least some investigative work into the funding of that, the same questions being asked now about how Engels organized the 2018 riot.

But whether this investigative prong extends no further back than 2018 or whether it includes the Stone Stop the Steal activity that demonstrably paralleled a Russian effort, it does seem that DOJ is investigating how the prior history of the Proud Boys parallels these efforts to undermine democracy and did so in the place — Miami — where the Proud Boys, schooled by the master rat-fucker, are increasingly taking on an official role.

That may not be an investigation about Engels’ actions, directly (though he has long been in the thick of things). Rather, it may be an investigation into resources that were consistent throughout these developments.

Rudy Giuliani’s Support Role in the Mueller Report

As I showed in the Rat-Fucker Rashomon series, it can be tremendously useful to compare how different inquiries into Russian interference in 2016 tell that story. That’s true not just of Roger Stone; it’s also true of Rudy Giuliani.

By the time SSCI finished its Russia Report, the shape of the 2020 Russian influence campaign was evident, and it shows up, in redacted form, in the final report. As part of that discussion, the SSCI Report deals with Rudy at least once in almost entirely redacted passages about the ongoing influence campaign involving Russian assets in Ukraine. That is, it clearly suggests the trajectory led to the influence campaigns that were still active in 2020.

Perhaps because SSCI had the advantage of seeing where Rudy would end up, it also included a few more details about Rudy from earlier on of interest. For example, before Paul Manafort discussed how to win Pennsylvania and how to carve up Ukraine on August 2, 2016, he met with Trump and Rudy Giuliani in Trump Tower.

Among the details SSCI shows of the Trump campaign exploiting documents leaked to WikiLeaks is a citation to an email, dated October 11, 2016, showing Rudy was in that loop.

When Rick Gates was asked what kind of contact Paul Manafort retained with Trump after he was ousted from the campaign, Gates revealed that Manafort told Gates that Rudy Giuliani was helping him place people in Administration positions.

And PsyGroup’s Joel Zamel claimed that Rudy introduced him to Jared Kushner some months after the inauguration; Kushner and Zamel had a meeting at the White House to discuss “human rights issues in the Middle East, Iran, and ‘counter-extremism’.”

Aside from the detail that Manafort was using Rudy as a side channel to influence the White House, those aren’t necessarily momentous details.

Still, those details show that Rudy was a participant in these events during 2016. And yet, Rudy doesn’t show up as such in discussions about 2016 in the Mueller Report. Rather, Rudy shows up exclusively as Trump’s lawyer, floating the pardons in an attempt to get witnesses to lie to cover up what really happened in 2016.

Rudy — who was not yet formally Trump’s personal counsel — and his current defense attorney, Robert Costello, didn’t succeed in getting Michael Cohen to shield Trump.

On or about April 17, 2018, Cohen began speaking with an attorney, Robert Costello, who had a close relationship with Rudolph Giuliani, one of the President’s personal lawyers. 1022 Costello told Cohen that he had a “back channel of communication” to Giuliani, and that Giuliani had said the “channel” was “crucial” and “must be maintained.” 1023 On April 20, 2018, the New York Times published an article about the President’s relationship with and treatment of Cohen. 1024 The President responded with a series of tweets predicting that Cohen would not ” flip” :

The New York Times and a third rate reporter . . . are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip. ‘ They use nonexistent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media! 1025

In an email that day to Cohen, Costello wrote that he had spoken with Giuliani. 1026 Costello told Cohen the conversation was “Very Very Positive[.] You are ‘loved’ … they are in our corner … . Sleep well tonight[], you have friends in high places.”1027

But Rudy, acting as part of Joint Defense Agreement in the role of Trump’s personal counsel, did succeed in getting Paul Manafort to lie about what happened on August 2 and efforts to carve up Ukraine in the aftermath.

Immediately following the revocation of Manafort’s bail, the President’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, gave a series of interviews in which he raised the possibility of a pardon for Manafort. Giuliani told the New York Daily News that “[w]hen the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons.” 856 Giuliani also said in an interview that, although the President should not pardon anyone while the Special Counsel’s investigation was ongoing, “when the investigation is concluded, he’s kind of on his own, right?”857 In a CNN interview two days later, Giuliani said, ” I guess I should clarify this once and for all. . . . The president has issued no pardons in this investigation. The president is not going to issue pardons in this investigation …. When it’s over, hey, he’s the president of the United States. He retains his pardon power. Nobody is taking that away from him.”858 Giuliani rejected the suggestion that his and the President’s comments could signal to defendants that they should not cooperate in a criminal prosecution because a pardon might follow, saying the comments were “certainly not intended that way.”859 Giuliani said the comments only acknowledged that an individual involved in the investigation would not be “excluded from [ a pardon], if in fact the president and his advisors .. . come to the conclusion that you have been treated unfairly.”860 Giuliani observed that pardons were not unusual in political investigations but said, “That doesn’t mean they’re going to happen here. Doesn’t mean that anybody should rely on it. … Big signal is, nobody has been pardoned yet.” 561

[snip]

The President said that flipping was “not fair” and “almost ought to be outlawed.”880 ln response to a question about whether he was considering a pardon for Manafort, the President said, “T have great respect for what he’s done, in terms of what he’s gone through …. He worked for many, many people many, many years, and T would say what he did, some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does.”881 Giuliani told journalists that the President “really thinks Manafort has been horribly treated” and that he and the President had discussed the political fallout if the President pardoned Manafort.882 The next day, Giuliani told the Washington Post that the President had asked his lawyers for advice on the possibility of a pardon for Manafort and other aides, and had been counseled against considering a pardon until the investigation concluded.883

On September 14, 2018, Manafort pleaded guilty to charges in the District of Columbia and signed a plea agreement that required him to cooperate with investigators.884 Giuliani was reported to have publicly said that Manafort remained in a joint defense agreement with the President following Manafort’s guilty plea and agreement to cooperate, and that Manafort’s attorneys regularly briefed the President’s lawyers on the topics discussed and the information Manafort had provided in interviews with the Special Counsel’s Office.885 On November 26, 2018, the Special Counsel’s Office disclosed in a public court filing that Manafort had breached his plea agreement by lying about multiple subjects.886 The next day, Giuliani said that the President had been “upset for weeks” about what he considered to be “the un-American, horrible treatment of Manafort.”887

Also, for whatever reason — probably because he had word diarrhea — Rudy provided the best evidence that Trump knowingly lied on his written answers to Mueller when he claimed not to remember the Trump Tower Moscow dangles during the election.

Also in January 2019, Giuliani gave press interviews that appeared to confirm Cohen’s account that the Trump Organization pursued the Trump Tower Moscow project well past January 2016. Giuliani stated that ” it’s our understanding that [discussions about the Trump Moscow project] went on throughout 2016. Weren’t a lot of them, but there were conversations. Can’t be sure of the exact date. But the president can remember having conversations with him about it. The president also remembers-yeah, probably up-could be up to as far as October, November.” 1069

Rudy was treated so persistently as a lawyer in the Mueller Report, but not a participant, that he didn’t even make the Glossary of Referenced Persons.

That’s true even though Rudy did show up in interviews as a topic of interest.

For example, when Mike Flynn was asked on April 25, 2018, just days after Rudy officially became Trump’s defense attorney, who else besides he and Bannon were hunting for Hillary’s missing 33,000 emails, the former Director of Defense Intelligence named Rudy, because he was “a big cyber guy.”

When question[ed] who else might have information about on the email messages, FLYNN mentioned Rudy GIULIANI. GIULIANI was “a big cyber guy” who have a speech on the topic in Tel Aviv. GIULIANI had a ton of contacts and traveled quite a bit with TRUMP (FLYNN surmised approximately half of the time). GIULIANI had a certainty that the emails were out there and available. GIULIANI would have said this directly to TRUMP. The natural response from TRUMP was “why the hell could they not find them?”

After two more questions (about Barbara Ledeen’s efforts), Mueller’s team returned to Rudy. This time, former Director of Defense Intelligence explained that if Rudy said something, you could be sure it was factual.

GIULIANI had contacts at the FBI, though he was pretty “close hold” on who he spoke with there. If GIULIANI said something, you could take it to the bank as factual, FLYNN believed that GIULIANI acted in a manner which indicated had specific knowledge related to the emails. FLYNN reviewed GIULIANI’s speech for Tel Aviv, made some comments, and gave it back to GIULIANI. GIULIANI did not name drop. GIULIANI popped in throughout the campaign to help with certain events. FLYNN did not know if GIULIANI knew Russia hacked the DNC.

Two more questions later, in response to a question about whether Jeff Sessions attempted to find the emails, Flynn brought up Rudy again.

FLYNN was asked whether SESSIONS or CHRISTIE made any efforts to find an answer based on their law enforcement backgrounds. SESSIONS did not make any effort at all. GIULIANI had deeper discussion on the issue with the campaign. CHRISTIE was somewhere between the two in regards to effort. CHRISTIE always seemed to “puff” about what he could do. FLYNN observed that GIULIANI and CHRISTIE had extensive connections and contact in New York. They constantly brought information back to the campaign. They did not do a lot of name dropping but there was a certainty to their information. FLYNN did not remember either of them saying they had contact with WikiLeaks.

Several more questions later, Flynn raised Rudy again in a discussion of whether anyone reached out to other countries for the emails.

Flynn opined that if Russia had them, then China, Iran, and North Korea also had them. Those countries had the cyber capabilities to get them and CLINTON was the Secretary of State. FLYNN also thought hactivist groups operating in the [sic] Ukraine could have them. It was also likely Israel had them. FLYNN did not recall specific discussions on reaching out to these countries to find out what they had. GIULIANI could have reached out to Israel but FLYNN did not know.

In an interview six days later, Mueller’s team asked Flynn more about the role of the guy who had just become Trump’s defense attorney.

FLYNN did not recall Rudy GIULIANI saying specifically what he was doing to learn more about the missing email messages. GIULIANI seemed insightful to FLYNN on knowing when news would break. GIULIANI was working on cyber policy for TRUMP. FLYNN was not sure if GIULIANI got his information from the news or from actual contacts. FLYNN attended a couple of meetings at Trump Tower where GIULIANI was present. GIULIANIs conversations were always that Wikileaks would release the missing email messages, not Russia. FLYNN thought Russia would wait to see who won the election. If CLINTON won, Russia could then use them for leverage over her. Wikileaks claimed to have the desire to put information out in the public to damage CLINTON.

FLYNN did not participate in any conversations with GIULIANI that indicated GIULIANI “cast his net” with his contacts. GIULIANI was one of a number of people around TRUMP’s inner circle. GIULIANI agreed on who was behind the hack but was not really certain. GIULIANI was a close hold guy but might share what he was hearing. FLYNN recently saw a clip that during the campaign, GIULIANI said during an interview that there were more leaks to come. FLYNN recalled that was the kind of thing GIULIANI would say with certainty related to cyber. FLYNN listened to GIULIANI who came across as a judge and made remarks as though they were facts.

I have not done a systematic review of all this (and earlier releases are too redacted to be of much use on such issues). But it’s not just Flynn who had something interesting to say about Rudy. When discussing the Transition (and egregiously downplaying his own role in foreign policy), for example, Steve Bannon described the tension during the Transition because both Jeff Sessions and Rudy wanted to be Secretary of State. “Bannon thought Giuliani would have issues in his confirmation if he was nominated as Secretary of State, however, because of some of his companies and foreign contacts,” Bannon explained, acknowledging even then that Rudy was a foreign influence peddling risk.

Perhaps it’s because, when Rudy became Trump’s defense attorney, it made any inquiry into his role in 2016 awkward. But even though Rudy was a participant in all this, and even though Mike Flynn thought he might be the most likely person to “cast his net” for ways to pursue stolen emails, it’s not clear how aggressively the Mueller team considered what role Rudy had.

Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s Trolls Recoil from Sunlight

The other day, I noted that the government had turned the table on Concord Consulting, the Yevgeniy Prigozhin company that funded his troll operation, by asking for some pre-trial subpoenas. The reception of that motion by one of our new guests suggested that the trolls were not responding kindly to treatment to their own medicine.

Concord’s response did not disappoint.

The trollish Eric Dubelier complained that if he had to comply with this subpoena, he risks breaking Russian law.

Here, if the Court were to issue the government’s requested subpoena, Concord would be able to demonstrate that the request would cause Concord to violate Russian law on Russian soil— a result that is improper under controlling law. See In re Sealed Case, 825 F.2d at 498 (party challenging subpoena on basis that it would require the party to violate foreign law bears burden of making such a showing) (per curiam). Specifically, if Concord, individuals acting on its behalf, undersigned counsel, or its Russian counsel were to produce the information requested in the government’s proposed subpoena to the government pursuant only to a U.S. subpoena,2 they would likely be subject to legal jeopardy in Russia under criminal and other laws.

Treason, hacking, anti-sanction laws — Concord lists a parade of legal jeopardy with complying with this subpoena.

Dubelier even complains that complying with the parts of the subpoena asking for information on co-defendants charged with identity theft in the US might fall afoul of Russian privacy law.

The materials requested in items 6, 7, 8 and 9 also include documents that, if they exist, would constitute and/or contain personal data that, if Concord had such data, Concord would be generally forbidden by law from producing to the U.S. government or any third-party without each individual’s consent under Article 7 of Russian Federal Law 152-FZ, “On Personal Data,” paragraph 1 of Article 3 of which defines the term “personal data” broadly as “any information relating to an individual who is directly or indirectly identified or identifiable[.]”

I won’t take time to wade through his citations. Some (about the propriety of the subpoena, for example) are bullshit. Others pose interesting questions about the intersection of corporate persons and international law similar to others already raised by this prosecution.

But Concord’s response to some of its own medicine sure has produced an amusing response on the part of the trolls.

Update: Here’s the government’s reply, which lays out details of how it knows Concord has the subpoenaed materials. It also notes that Concord chose to mount a defense, and therefore should not now be able to hide behind its foreign status.

Additionally, Concord voluntarily chose to appear in this case. And, as the Court well knows, Concord has obtained substantial discovery and continues to seek additional information about how the United States detected its activities and detects and responds to related activities more generally. Foreign entities should not lightly be permitted to come to U.S. courts while shielding themselves from the same obligations that would apply to American defendants. Cf. In re Grand Jury Proceedings Bank of Nova Scotia, 740 F.2d 817, 828 (11th Cir. 1984) (explaining that where a bank “voluntarily elected” to do business abroad, it “accepted the incidental risk of occasional inconsistent governmental actions” and “cannot expect to avail itself of the benefits of doing business here without accepting the concomitant obligations”).

[snip]

Concord next contends (Doc. 273, at 13-16) that because it is a foreign corporation located abroad, it cannot be issued a subpoena to produce documents in connection with this case. In particular, Concord urges that its trial counsel “has no authority to accept” a trial subpoena (id. at 14) and that the Court, in any event, lacks personal jurisdiction over Concord and therefore cannot order it to produce records (id. at 14-16). Concord ignores the critical fact that it is properly a party in this case. The Court therefore can issue orders to Concord concerning this case. That includes a trial subpoena—an order to produce records that are relevant to and admissible in the case.

[snip]

In fact, after Concord initially disputed whether it had been properly served with a summons in this case, the Court confirmed that defense counsel was authorized “to enter a voluntary appearance in this matter and to subject [Concord] to the jurisdiction of this Court.” 5/9/18 Tr. 4-5. The Court clarified that Concord understood “that by doing so, it must also comply In fact, after Concord initially disputed whether it had been properly served with a summons in this case, the Court confirmed that defense counsel was authorized “to enter a voluntary appearance in this matter and to subject [Concord] to the jurisdiction of this Court.” 5/9/18 Tr. 4-5. The Court clarified that Concord understood “that by doing so, it must also comply with the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the rules of this Court, and with the orders of this Court,” and defense counsel agreed. Id. at 5. A trial subpoena is an order of this Court issued in this case pursuant to the Federal Criminal Rules. Yet Concord (through that same counsel) now suggests that the Court has no authority to issue such an order to Concord. Indeed, this raises the question whether Concord believes that the Court has personal jurisdiction with respect to other orders issues in this case, such as the protective order governing the extensive discovery provided to the defense, or the Court’s scheduling order requiring Concord to provide the government with trial exhibits.

DOJ Flips the Lawfare on Its Head in Russian Troll Case

In part because Judge Dabney Friedrich has only recently attempted to impose some control on the case, the prosecution against the Russian troll company Concord Management waddles slowly towards a scheduled trial date of April 6, 2020. As it has throughout this process, Concord continues to make trollish arguments to gum up the prosecution. Of particular note, it continues its efforts to use the prosecution to obtain as much information as it can, including information about intelligence the government has on Concord as well as on the victims.

Don’t get me wrong. That is their right, and one of the dangers of indicting corporate entities for this kind of crime.

But the government just gave Concord a bit of its own medicine. On Tuesday, it moved to obtain an early trial subpoena to serve on Concord. It seeks information on Concord’s communications with the Internet Research Agency, other shell companies, and a list of co-conspirators. Perhaps most concerning, for Concord’s sometime owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin, it asks for his calendar from January 2014 through February 2018, a calendar that — if it’s accurate — likely includes Vladimir Putin.

Calendar entries for Yevgeniy Prigozhin for the time period January 1, 2014 to February 1, 2018.

The motion uses precisely the legal fact that allowed Concord to respond to this indictment with no risk to any biological person against it, arguing that because it is a corporation it has no Fifth Amendment privilege.

Moreover, even though it is a defendant, Concord cannot avoid responding to a trial subpoena requesting the production of records under the Fifth Amendment because corporations have no privilege against self-incrimination. Braswell v. United States, 487 U.S. 99, 102 (1988).

Understand, the government almost certainly has versions of all the things it asks for on the list. But assuming Friedrich approves the subpoena, Concord will be required to submit its own version of these documents, which the government might be able to prove to be false (adding to Concord’s legal jeopardy and putting Concord’s American lawyers on the hook). It’s also likely the government is forcing Concord to do its own parallel construction.

It’s a subtle move, but one that may shift how this proceeds going forward.

The Parnas Family Wire Transfers Released In The Pues Lawsuit Reveal More Than You Think

Much of what we know about the details of the transactions at the heart of the indictment of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman was revealed in the lawsuit Michael Pues brought against Parnas for a scam in which Parnas got Pues to invest in a movie project that never came about. Because Parnas owed Pues $500,000, Pues was able to obtain Parnas business and family financial records including wire transfer information. Back in June of this year, the Campaign Legal Center obtained those records and included them in its supplemental filing on their complaint about the $325,000 contribution Parnas and Fruman made to America First Action.

The wire transfer records, which include a full page of incoming transactions and a full page of outgoing transactions, can be found as exhibits at the end of this filing by CLC. An accompanying explainer by CLC gives us this background on how the transaction broke the law (GEP is Global Environmental Partners):

And those documents reveal that GEP never contributed to America First Action.

Wire transfer records show that another LLC managed by Parnas. Aaron Investments I, LLC, transferred $325,000 to America First Action on May 17, 2018. The super PAC never disclosed receiving money from Aaron Investments I, LLC—it instead attributed the contribution to GEP.

It is not clear why Parnas or Fruman asked America First Action to misattribute the contribution, nor is it clear why the super PAC went along with this scheme. But in doing so, America First Action violated the straw donor ban: it accepted a contribution from one entity, and reported it as having come from another entity.

The explainer also gives us this on how the funds came into Aaron Investments I, LLC:

Other wire transfer records show that just two days before making the super PAC contribution, Aaron Investments I, LLC received a $1.26 million transfer from the client trust account of a Miami real estate attorney named Russell S. Jacobs (the funds in a client trust account don’t belong to the attorney: they belong to the attorney’s client.) Absent that transfer, it appears that the LLC would not have had the funds to cover the $350,000 contribution.

So the money used for the contribution appears to have come from Jacobs’ client. We don’t know who that client is–but Jacobs, the real estate attorney, specializes in working with foreign real estate buyers and advising realtors on how to avoid federal requirements aimed at disclosure of foreign buyers who use shell companies to launder money through U.S. real estate.In 2016, for example, he hosted a seminar titled “Avoid the Treasury Trap with Foreign Buyers.”

And yes, when we look at the wire transfer records, we see $1,260.329.80 coming in to Aaron Investments I, LLC on May 15, 2018 from Jacobs:

Only two days later ,on May 17, is the transfer of $325,000 back out to America First Action:

But these records also show us two more transfers out of Aaron Investments I, LLC and five more coming into it. There is one more outgoing wire transfer, and it may be the most interesting. It is marked as coming from a personal account for Svetlana Parnas, who married Lev in 2012. The transaction occurred on May 11, or four days before the $1.26 million transfer came in. It is for $3556.75. The recipient is marked as Victor Imber:

That is a very interesting name. The Daily Beast was first to investigate the contribution to America First Action and this is what they found back on July 19 of 2018:

We end today’s edition with a mystery. Leading pro-Trump super PAC America First Action disclosed nearly $5 million in second-quarter contributions this week. Among its donors was a company called Global Energy Producers LLC (GEP). It donated $375,000 in May, putting the company among the deep-pocketed group’s top 20 donors. But there’s very little indication of what the company does or who’s behind it.

It appears that GEP was incorporated in April in Delaware, a notorious black hole for corporate disclosure. But FEC filings listed its address as a Boca Raton, Florida, property owned by someone named Victor Imber. The FEC has no record of the Russian-born Imber or GEP making any previous federal political contributions. Additional public records indicate that Imber may have rented the property to someone named Michael Braid, who likewise has no other apparent connections to the company or history of political contributions. Braid did not respond to questions about GEP. Numerous calls to Imber went unanswered.

Hmm. So six days before Victor Imber’s address was used as a false location for Global Energy Partners Producers in a false representation that GEP made the contribution to America First Action, Sevetlana Parnas wired Victor Imber a little over $3500. Perhaps that is the actual “rental” of this address that was going on. That stands out as pretty significant.

But there’s more! I’ve heard mention of money going back out to Igor Fruman’s company, and yes, there it is. A transfer of $490,000 went out to FD Import & Export on May 16, only one day after the big transfer came in and a day before the America First Action transfer went out:

It’s especially confusing for Fruman’s company to get money from Aaron Investments I, LLC, because Fruman never shows up in any of the corporate filings for it. For further interest, David Correia was originally the Registered Agent and eventually a member, but Lev Parnas filed a form with the state on October 2, 2017 removing Correia from the company and making Svetlana the Registered Agent. Parnas backdated the form to June 15.

Mysteriously, there’s also a transfer into Aaron Investments I, LLC from FD Import and Export for $11,500 on May 10, five days before the big transfer in from the real estate attorney:

Perhaps Parnas had some expenses in getting the large infusion of funds organized? The indictment describes the $1.26 million as coming from “a private lending transaction between Fruman and third parties”. Other reports in the media have said it was a private loan secured by property Fruman owns. At any rate, we can rest assured that the government knows who the third parties are and there’s a good chance we will find out once the case goes to trial. It should also be noted here that in other reports, Parnas has claimed the $1.26 million came from the sale of a condo.

Getting back to the rest of the wire transfers, we find another outgoing transfer on the same day as the funds going to Fruman’s company, May 17. This transfer is for $12,950 and went to JetSmarter, Inc. That company has been described as an Uber service for private aircraft. This could well be payment for one of the many trips Parnas and/or Fruman made. I’ve tried to see if that time coincides with any of the trips we’ve seen reported, but so far nothing:

But the choice of flight provider is very interesting. Virtually every name associated with JetSmarter is Russian. In 2017, the then-CEO, Edward Gennady Barsky, resigned when he was indicted for embezzling $11 million from the real estate investment company he had just left to come to JetSmarter. The current CEO, who is one of the founders, is Sergey Petrossov, who is only 30. His father spent 15 years in Russian prisons and is best friends with “Vyacheslav Ivankov, a.k.a. Yaponchik, who’s been called the John Gotti of the Russian mob and once had a crew of 100 soldiers in Brighton Beach”. Yes, that Brighton Beach, aka South Brooklyn, where Lev Parnas grew up and got his first job selling co-ops for Fred Trump. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first time Ivankov’s name has come up in the stories about Parnas and Fruman.

The earliest transaction we see in the wire transfer records is on May 30, 2017. Since it is so far removed in time from these other events, I’m not going to put the name in here from whom the money came, but it was for $30,000 received into Aaron Investments I, LLC. The name is Russian and comes up on searches as a male in his mid-20’s living in South Florida. The name also turns up in an email address for a Toyota dealership’s Russian flyer, but not on that dealership’s current staff list. The name is also associated with a defunct LLC incorporated in January of 2018 and dissolved by the state last month. At any rate, that’s a lot of money for a kid in his mid-20’s to have if he’s also helping to sell Toyotas.

On December 18, 2017, we have income of $10,000 into Aaron Investments I, LLC from WeHold, LLC. The one person affiliated with this company, which is still active, appears to be quite active in commercial real estate.

The final three wire transfers, which all came into Aaron Investments I, LLC within an 18 day period in the middle of January, 2018, totaled $5,300. These transfers came from Aaron G. Parnas. Aaron Parnas is the son of Lev Parnas and would have been in the middle of his first year of law school at the time of these transfers:

Much about Aaron, Lev and Svetlana Parnas can be read here, where we learn that this summer, Aaron interned at the Miami office of Rudy Giuliani’s former law firm. He also managed to get his undergraduate degree simultaneously with his high school diploma, which enabled him to enter law school at the age of 18. He volunteered for the Trump campaign and has said he wants to be president some day.

We of course don’t know the source of these funds Aaron put into one of many entities his father named after him. Some were incorporated around the time Aaron was born. The money could be as innocent as birthday gifts from friends and family. Recall, though that the Parnas family was at that time actively avoiding paying the $500,000 awarded to Pues in the lawsuit. And to put those funds into an entity that was being used to break the law is not a good plan for someone wanting to be president. That is, unless that someone plans to mirror the path of Donald Trump and the illegal schemes Fred used to funnel money to Donald.

The Criminal Investigation into Paul Manafort Was (and May Still be) Ongoing–and Likely Pertains to Trump’s Ukraine Extortion

Robert Mueller was never able to determine whether Paul Manafort entered into a quid pro quo on August 2, 2016, trading — either on his own or with the approval of Trump — promises to help carve up Ukraine to Russia’s liking in exchange for help winning the election.

Mueller never made that determination, in part, because Manafort lied during the period he was purportedly cooperating with the investigation.

Here’s what Mueller did determine was reliable:

First, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed a plan to resolve the ongoing political problems in Ukraine by creating an autonomous republic in its more industrialized eastern region of Donbas,922 and having Yanukovych, the Ukrainian President ousted in 2014, elected to head that republic.923 That plan, Manafort later acknowledged, constituted a “backdoor” means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine.924 Manafort initially said that, if he had not cut off the discussion, Kilimnik would have asked Manafort in the August 2 meeting to convince Trump to come out in favor of the peace plan, and Yanukovych would have expected Manafort to use his connections in Europe and Ukraine to support the plan.925 Manafort also initially told the Office that he had said to Kilimnik that the plan was crazy, that the discussion ended, and that he did not recall Kilimnik asking Manafort to reconsider the plan after their August 2 meeting.926 Manafort said [redacted] that he reacted negatively to Yanukovych sending-years later-an “urgent” request when Yanukovych needed him.927 When confronted with an email written by Kilimnik on or about December 8, 2016, however, Manafort acknowledged Kilimnik raised the peace plan again in that email.928 Manafort ultimately acknowledged Kilimnik also raised the peace plan in January 2017 meetings with Manafort [redacted — pertains to him admitting continuation of the plan into 2018] 929

Second, Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s plan to win the election.930 That briefing encompassed the Campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data. According to Gates, it also included discussion of “battleground” states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.931 Manafort did not refer explicitly to “battleground” states in his telling of the August 2 discussion, [redacted]

Third, according to Gates and what Kilimnik told Patten, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed two sets of financial disputes related to Mana fort’s previous work in the region. Those consisted of the unresolved Deripaska lawsuit and the funds that the Opposition Bloc owed to Manafort for his political consulting work and how Manafort might be able to obtain payment.933

922 The Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, which are located in the Donbas region of Ukraine, declared themselves independent in response to the popular unrest in 2014 that removed President Yanukovych from power. Pro-Russian Ukrainian militia forces, with backing from the Russian military, have occupied the region since 2014. Under the Yanukovych-backed plan, Russia would assist in withdrawing the military, and Donbas would become an autonomous region within Ukraine with its own

Although Mueller included this significant summary of the issue in his Report (and a description of how Rick Gates kept sending polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, to be shared with Ukrainian oligarchs and Oleg Deripaska’s GRU-linked aide, Viktor Boyarkin), the government nevertheless refused to release the details regarding this dispute that were laid out in court filings and exhibits regarding his breach of his plea deal when WaPo tried to liberate them starting in March. The government explained that, “a number of matters [related to his lies that were referred] to other offices in the Department of Justice … remain ongoing,” and asked for any further matters in WaPo’s challenge be deferred until six months later, which happens to be Tuesday. Judge Amy Berman Jackson never ruled differently, so that’s where things have stood, at least on the public docket, since April, shortly after the Mueller Report was released.

That’s interesting because the government accused Manafort of lying about five different topics. Some are definitely related to each other, and some (as well as his underlying guilty verdicts) are also definitely related to recent events relating to Ukraine and Russia. Which is why it’s worth looking back to learn what Manafort worked hardest to obscure in September and October 2018. Doing so suggests that Trump’s Ukraine call — including the demand for election help and Volodymyr Zelensky implementation of the Steinmeier Formula since — may simply be one step in paying off his campaign debts from 2016. As such, Rudy Giuliani’s involvement with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman may just be the continuation of what Manafort was pursuing — also being paid by a cut-out system — even after he got sent to jail.

In this post, I’ll look specifically at how the lies Manafort told do and may relate to current events. In a follow-up, I hope to show how the issues for which he was prosecuted also relate to current events, well beyond Trump’s efforts to undermine Manafort’s prosecution to make a pardon easier. Taken together, such analysis will show that the Ukraine scandal is completely inseparable from the Russia one.

Manafort told five lies

Altogether, the government tried to hold Manafort accountable for five lies. Those were:

  1. How he got paid using a kick-back system involving a SuperPAC, Rebuilding America Now, which (on top of violating prohibitions on coordination with the campaign) may have accepted funds from foreigners. Mueller’s team never seemed to figure out how that scheme worked, in part because Manafort never settled on an explanation for the kickbacks. ABJ ruled that Manafort lied about this.
  2. Whether he tried to dissociate Konstantin Kilimnik from his own witness tampering to hide the true role of the Hapsburg Group, some former European leaders Manafort used to lobby for Viktor Yanukovych’s party. Effectively, the government accused Manafort of trying to suggest that Kilimnik wasn’t willfully part of what he was doing during a period that spanned from February (when the actual witness tampering happened) through April 2018 (when Manafort tried to tamper again). ABJ agreed in principle that Manafort had lied about this, but ruled the government did not present a preponderance of the evidence, so didn’t count this against him in sentencing.
  3. Whether he lied to adapt his story to a more exonerating one being told by a Trump flunkie — it’s not clear who — involved in doing something — it’s not clear what — to save Trump’s campaign in the last days during which Manafort managed the campaign. ABJ agreed he had.
  4. What the fuck he was doing on August 2, 2016, and (though this is always unstated) whether his lies to hide repeated discussions to support a Ukrainian “peace” plan between then and April 2018 were an attempt to hide an effort to pay off a quid pro quo tied to assistance winning the election.
  5. Whether Manafort spoke to the Administration after inauguration, either directly or indirectly. ABJ ruled that the government had not provided evidence that Manafort lied about his ongoing communications with the Administration.

Of these lies, the lies about another investigation (lie 3 above) seem to be unrelated to the rest. That’s because they involved, well before the Mueller investigation finished, another part of DOJ, and so almost certainly have nothing to do with Russia or Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, the Trump campaign may have been willing to cheat multiple ways to win the 2016 electionm.

The kickback system (lie 1 above) may or many not relate to the Russian and Ukraine questions. Mueller was never able to sort it out, so it’s not clear what to make of it. For my purposes, however, it’s relevant that Manafort’s claims of working for “free” may turn out to be false. Instead, Paul Manafort — who pled guilty a year ago to laundering money and refusing to register to hide how his influence campaigns in the US were being paid for by Ukrainian oligarchs — may have been paid to run Trump’s campaign by foreigners laundering those payments via various means. That’s significant because, last week, DOJ accused Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman of laundering money (from sources Russian, Ukrainian, and unknown) through various front companies, including one called Global Energy Production apparently created for the function, to engage in influence campaigns relating to Ukraine, effectively the same kind of scheme that Manafort engaged in for years. Particularly given that Rudy claims to be both working for and employing Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, it raises questions about whether his claims to be working for “free” are also bogus, just a lie to hide how the cut through works.

Kilimnik and Manafort’s efforts to push a Ukraine “peace” plan overlap with their witness tampering

Lies 2 and 4 are obviously related, because Konstantin Kilimnik — as Manafort’s tie to several Ukrainian oligarchs and Oleg Deripaska — is at the center of both of them. Manafort’s efforts to deny that Kiliminik was his co-conspirator may have been motivated by nothing more than a need to permit Kevin Downing to claim, falsely, that Manafort’s guilty plea affirmed no “collusion” between the President’s campaign manager and any Russians had occurred. Not only did ABJ affirmatively state that, whatever Kilimnik’s ties to GRU, his role did amount to a link to Russia.

So Manafort was both trying to lie that he had pled guilty to entering a conspiracy with a Russian suspected of ties to GRU, but he was lying to hide precisely what the nature of any conspiracy that may have tied assistance with the 2016 election to help implementing a Ukraine “peace” plan favored by Russia and Russian-aligned Ukrainian oligarchs.

Still, even within that context, there are details of the two Kilimnik lies that deserve more attention. Consider how the timeline of the two sets of lies intersect in 2018, months after Manafort was first charged, in the weeks and months after Trump had reportedly told allies that he was sure he would survive the Mueller investigation because Manafort would not flip on him.

In the weeks after that claim was published, from February 5 through 10, 2018, Manafort was still trying to deliver on his “New initiative for Peace” (PDF 82).

Later in February, after Mueller unveiled Rick Gates’ cooperation and made it clear he was pursuing another of the vehicles Manafort used to hide his influence operations, the Hapsburg Group, he and Kilimnik reached out to key players in that influence operation (who, unbeknownst to Manafort, had already been cooperating for some time) in an attempt to get them to lie about the influence operation. Those contacts, over Telegram and WhatsApp, took place between February 24 and 28.

But knowing that another part of his past influence operation was under scrutiny still didn’t dissuade Manafort from pursuing that “peace” plan Kilimnik first pitched him on August 2, 2016, amid a discussion of how to get Trump elected. On March 9, he was sending some unnamed person related documents from Kilimnik. (PDF 92ff) The breach hearing and other documents make it clear this was an effort to test the viability of a Ukrainian candidate, including his willingness to implement the “peace” plan.

He was doing it again on March 26. (PDF 97)

Manafort would try to dissociate this polling from the people who were really implementing, including, apparently, trying to pretend that Kilimnik didn’t know about it.

Then — included in the contacts that (the government says) were part of Manafort’s conspiracy to obstruct with Kilimnik, though it’s not clear how — there were more contacts with the Hapsburg Group flacks on April 4.

In fact, Manafort’s efforts to pursue this “peace” plan continued even further, with him hoping that some unnamed person would find documents valuable on May 4. (PDF 95)

There’s a lot more sealed evidence about how relentlessly Manafort pursued a Ukrainian “peace” plan between August 2, 2016 and at least the time he was jailed for bail violations in June 2018 (though remember, the government alleges he continued to communicate in incriminating ways even from jail, via laptops carried by his attorneys). Altogether, there are 38 exhibits documenting Manafort’s false denials of his actions on that front. Because the government says it has (or had) an ongoing investigation into such matters, we don’t get to see what the exhibits are. But Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing (who filled in at Parnas and Fruman’s bail hearing the other day) has seen them. And Downing, reportedly, was sharing details of Manafort’s cooperation with other lawyers in Manafort’s Joint Defense Agreement with the President, including Rudy Giuliani.

Trump “hired” his “free” defense attorney Rudy Giuliani on April 19, 2018, after current Parnas and Fruman attorney John Dowd quit. And once Manafort could no longer pursue  his Ukraine “peace” plan, Rudy got involved in efforts to press for certain concessions in Ukraine.

Manafort’s attempts to communicate with the Administration (excepting via counsel)

Finally, there’s the last alleged lie, the one ABJ said prosecutors did not prove.

It’s not really clear what prosecutors believed Manafort was communicating about, beyond hires (like Steve Calk) in the Administration, because the topic of interest (which in some redactions appears to be too short to refer to Ukraine or Russia) is redacted in the documents released. They only submitted six exhibits to substantiate their claim. But the two unredacted exhibits presented in support of their case are notable.

UPDATE, 5/26/21: The further unsealing of these documents have revealed that they pertain to lobbying Department of Labor about ERISA, and so are probably totally unrelated.

On May 15, Manafort drew up a document that (the government’s declaration makes clear) included a section titled “Targets,” along with notes indicating Manafort would reach out to people about those targets. (PDF 152)

It might be a coincidence, but Manafort draws up this document right at the beginning of Parnas and Fruman’s efforts to donate big money to key Republicans through their shell company.

And on May 25, someone asked Manafort via WhatsApp whether it was cool to invoke his name if he or she met with Trump the following week, one-on-one. (PDF 156)

In the breach hearing, ABJ summarizes this:

You say that what he said was false because he did in fact agree to have messages sent to the administration on his behalf. And you point to evidence in which he offered to have other people contact the [redacted] on behalf of Mr. [redacted], for example, or to press buttons. But that outreach appears to have been two people outside the administration who themselves would have contacts within. There is some evidence that Mr. Gates said that Mr. Manafort said he still had connections, and that another individual asked Mr. Manafort if he, that individual, could tell [redacted (the President)] he was still close to Manafort.

And you have his involvement in lobbing with respect to [redacted], and Exhibit 404 is this memo summarizing the group’s plan that say, somewhat ambiguously, [redacted] will find out if [redacted] did her bit and get her to call [redacted] And it’s not even crystal clear that he was supposed do that by calling her.

In explaining the lie, Greg Andres makes it clear that Manafort was also representing in March that he had the ability to send messages to someone (probably Trump) in the Administration.

Significantly, Manafort lawyer Richard Westling dismisses that anyone would value Manafort’s advice or support at a time when he was already under indictment.

he was already under indictment at this point and, you know, the idea that he was going to pass a message and it would have some value, frankly, no offense to Mr. Manafort, but I can’t see that.

It’s notable that Downing did not make that claim because — as recent reports make clear — Rudy continued to consult Manafort on these Ukraine issues even after he went to prison, through Downing.

Especially since, in all its representations about these ongoing communications, the government makes clear,

for the purposes of proving the falsity of Manafort’s assertions in this section, the government is not relying on communications that may have taken place, with Manafort’s consent, through his legal counsel. We previously so advised the defense.

It’s clear the government knew Manafort continued to communicate with Trump via Downing and Rudy; they just weren’t going to reveal that they had pierced privilege or what they had learned.

The Ukrainian grifters timeline

Now consider how the timelines of Manafort’s relentless pursuit of a “peace” deal, his witness tampering with Kilimnik, and his efforts to communicate with Trump overlap with the known timeline of the Ukrainian grifters (I’ll continue to update this). It suggests that Parnas and Fruman kicked in their influence operations just as Manafort’s legal problems made him unable to do so.

February 5-10, 2018: Manafort working on “a new Peace initiative”

February 19, 2018: Manafort email pertaining to “peace” plan

February 21, 2018: Manfort emails document pertaining to “peace” plan to undisclosed recipients

February 23, 2018: Mueller reveals Rick Gates’ plea deal

February 24-28, 2018: Kilimnik and Manafort attempt to script testimony of Hapsburg Group flacks

March 2, 2018: Pentagon issues final approval to send Javelin missiles to Ukraine

March 3, 2018: Fruman participates in high donor meeting at Mar-a-Lago

March 9, 2018: Manafort working on polling regarding Ukraine “peace” plan for potential client

March 26, 2018: Manafort working on Ukraine “peace” plan

April 4, 2018: Kilimnik again attempts to witness tamper with Hapsburg Group flacks

Early April, 2018: Reported halt to Ukraine’s cooperation with Mueller

April 11, 2018: Parnas and Fruman form Global Energy Producers

April 19, 2018: Trump “hires” “free” defense attorney Rudy Giuliani

April 29, 2018: Someone first solicits help creating a website for GEP

May 2, 2018: NYT reports that Ukraine has stopped cooperating with Mueller probe

May 4, 2018: Manafort sends unnamed person information on Ukraine plan

May 8, 2018: Parnas and Fruman meet with Trump and seven other people “about preparations for victory in the midterm elections;” Fruman raises “America’s support for Israel and Ukraine,” topics about which “Trump … was absolutely positive”

May 15, 2018: Real estate lawyer Russell Jacobs deposits $1.26 million pass through funds into Aaron Investments LLC

May 15, 2018: Manafort document lists “Targets” and reflects commitment on his part to reach out about them.

May 17, 2018: Parnas LLC Aaron Investments donates $325,000 to Trump PAC, America First Action in the name of GEP

May 21, 2018: Parnas has breakfast with Don Jr and Tommy Hicks Jr, head of America First

May 24, 2018: Someone again solicits help creating a website for GEP

June 8, 2018: Manafort charged with witness tampering; prosecutors move to revoke bail

June 21, 2018: GEP donates $50K to Ron DeSantis

September 14, 2018: Manafort enters into what would be a failed plea agreement, admitting he laundered money and influence on behalf of Ukrainian oligarchs, but entering into a five week process of learning what prosecutors know

Mid-to-late 2018: Rudy referred to Parnas and Fruman for work with “Fraud Guarantee”

Around November 2018: Rudy starts working for Parnas and Fruman

Late 2018: While Parnas and Rudy were eating together, “someone” approached Rudy and gave him information about Ukraine

January 8, 2019: Manafort lawyer’s redaction fail reveals that Manafort was asked about the Ukraine “peace” plan and that Manafort was lying about whether it got raised while working on the campaign and also that he was being asked about ongoing contacts with the Administration

Background

I have laid out the structure of Manafort’s lies in these posts:

The primary sources for them are these documents:

Rudy Giuliani Represents Fraud Guarantee Founder

Marcy has already hit the announced arrests of Rudy Giuliani clients Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman as they were about to leave the country. In reading the New York Times article about the arrests and indictment, I noticed that, at least at the time of that reading, David Correia,  one of the four men indicted, was still not in custody.

I hadn’t heard of Correia before, so I did some digging. It would appear that Correia’s Twitter handle is @DavidCorreia14. The account appears to have been taken down, but there was still a cached version on Google.

It would be easy to mistake his tweets for any standard Trump bot retweeting all of the usual conspiracy theories, rather than realizing he was in the middle of some of their more nefarious schemes.

A couple of weeks ago, the Miami Herald ran a story on Parnas and Fruman, where we see that they are basically con artists with a trail of lawsuits following them around. Most hilariously, Parnas had the gall to incorporate a company under the name Fraud Guarantee. Significantly, when I started searching around to find out more about David Correia, he turned out to be a co-founder of Fraud Guarantee:

Hmmm. Campaign finance indictment. Background in commercial mortgages. Founder of Fraud Guarantee. It’s not clear to me how Correia originally hooked up with Parnas and Fruman, but the commercial real estate angle and propensity for illegal activity sure seems like a good fit with the Trump organization.

It’s really hard to get over just how much outright gall it took for Parnas and Correia to name their company Fraud Guarantee. And for Parnas to be represented by Rudy Guiliani, who has been tasked with obtaining fraudulent dirt on the Biden family for Trump, the circle just keeps closing in on itself. (Note added as I was proofing the post: it appears that the Fraud Guarantee website has been scrubbed. Glad I got those screengrabs!)

As a postscript for those of us in Florida, it’s also especially juicy that the fraudulent shell company set up to funnel money to political campaigns, Global Energy Producers, also made a $50,000 contribution to the campaign to elect currentFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis.

DOJ Confirms that Trump’s Anti-Biden Propagandists Were in the Employ of a Russian

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested last night as they tried to flee the country in advance of Congressional subpoenas for their testimony. These are the men who, their recently hired attorney, former Trump personal attorney John Dowd, described how intertwined their actions were with the President’s in an effort to excuse them from testifying in the House impeachment inquiry.

Messrs. Parnas and Fruman assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman have also been represented by Mr. Giuliani in connection with their personal and business affairs. They also assisted Joseph DiGenova and Victoria Toensing in their law practice. Thus, certain information you seek in your September 30, 2019, letter is protected by the attorney-client, attorney work product and other privileges.

The indictment charging Parnas and Fruman with multiple counts of conspiracy lays out how they pursued policies pushed by a Ukrainian politician (and, not coincidentally, Trump), in part by getting Congressman Pete Sessions’ help.

[T]hese contributions were made for the purpose of gaining influence with politicians so as to advance their own personal financial interests and the political interests of Ukrainian government officials, including at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working. For example, in or about May and June 2018, PARNAS and FRUMAN committed to raise $20,000 or more for a then-sitting U.S. Congressman [Sessions], who had also been the beneficiary of approximately $3 million in independent expenditures by [one of the PACs they ran] during the 2018 election cycle. PARNAS and FRUMAN had met [Sessions] at an event sponsored by an independent expenditure committee to which FRUMAN had recently made substantial contribution. During the 2018 election cycle, [Sessions] had been the beneficiary of approximately $3 million in independent expenditures by [their PAC]. At and around the same time PARNAS and FRUMAN committed to raising those funds for [Sessions], PARNAS met with [Sessions] and sought [his] assistance in causing the U.S. Government to remove or recall the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine []. PARNAS’s efforts to remove the Ambassador were conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials.

This, of course, is the recall of Marie Yovanovitch, that Trump discussed in his quid pro quo call with Volodymyr Zelensky.

What the indictment is less clear about is who the Russian bankrolling all this is. A key part of Parnas and Fruman’s crime is that they were laundering funds for “a foreign national Russian citizen and businessman.”

From in or about June 2018 through April 2019, LEV PARNAS, IGOR FRUMAN, DAVID CORREIA, and ANDREY KUKUSHKIN, the defendants, and others known and unknown, conspired to make political donations — funded by Foreign National-1 [the Russian] — to politicians and candidates for federal and State office to gain influence with candidates as to policies that would benefit a future business venture.

Putting together the Dowd letter and the indictment, it becomes clear that the John Solomon propaganda that Trump was pushing (and which Rudy sent to Mike Pompeo’s State Department as part of the effort to get rid of Yovanovitch and which Lindsey Graham just invited Rudy to come present to the Senate Judiciary Committee) was funded by an as yet unnamed Russian.

It was only a matter of time before Trump was implicated in ConFraudUs with Russia.

Update: Now add this passage from Trump’s call to Zelensky, and it becomes hard to see how Trump is not implicated in the charged conspiracy.

President Zelenskyy: Yes it is. very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier. For me as a President, it is very important and we are open for any future cooperation. We are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine. For that purpose, I just recalled our ambassador from United States and he will be replaced by a very competent and very experienced ambassador who will work hard on making sure that our two nations are getting closer. I would also like and hope to see him having your trust and your confidence and  have personal relations with you so we can cooperate even more so. I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that you have nobody but friends around us. I will make sure that I surround myself with the best and most experienced people. I also wanted to tell you that we are friends. We are great friends and you Mr. President have friends in our country so we can continue our strategic partnership. I also plan to surround myself with great people and in addition to that investigation [into the source of the Russian investigation], I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you.

The Pre·sident: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York Ci:ty, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The otter thing, There’s a lot of. talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.

President Zelenskyy: I wanted to tell ·you about the prosecutor. First of all I understand and I’m knowledgable about the situation. Since we have won· the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one. who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.

The President: Well, she’s going to go through some things.

At a minimum, this makes it clear that the withdrawal of Yovanovitch — which was done with the involvement of Rudy and Parnas –was tied up in the quid pro quo extorted on that call. Indeed, Trump’s suggestion she was “going to go through some things” suggests far worse.

But it is also at least likely that one of the two prosecutors Rudy was pitching was the Ukrainian involved mentioned elsewhere in this indictment.

All of which provides substantial evidence that the quid pro quo Trump engaged in on July 24 — the day after Mueller testified before Congress — is just a continuation of the conspiracy charged in the Parnas and Fruman indictment.

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