Why Did Trump Tweet an “In the Ball Park” Accurate Number for Hillary’s Total Staffers on June 9, 2016?

In this post, I showed how the George Papadopoulos filings suggest there was a signaling process that went on during 2016, as he and other staffers sent public signals to the Russians that may have suggested further commitment to a deal of some kind. In this post, I laid out a bunch of circumstantial evidence suggesting that the current, public story about the June 9, 2016 meeting is just a limited hangout, one that hides more damning details about what happened after Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin left the meeting. I also examined the first Guccifer 2.0 documents and noted that, in addition to responding to and debunking the June 14 WaPo story, they might serve well to lay out (arguably, to oversell) the breadth of what the Russians had stolen.

With those details in mind, I want to return to a detail many others have already noted, Donald Trump’s tweet, just 40 minutes after the Trump Tower meeting started, referencing Hillary emails (albeit the ones she deleted off her server, not the still secret stolen ones).

Given that George Papadopoulos seemed to treat other public statements from the campaign (most notably Trump’s April 27 foreign policy speech) as signals to the Russians the campaign was prepared to take the next step, could this tweet be the same? A response, seemingly from the candidate himself, accepting a deal presented in the meeting?

The tweet may have involved one or another of the campaign’s data guys

Mind you, as Pseudonymous in NC noted, the tweet was done on an iPhone — this is the period from before Trump had switched to iPhones — meaning someone else, perhaps either Brad Parscale or Dan Scavino, tweeted it. PINC lays out reasons either one of Trump’s data guys might be of particular interest:

Per the Bloomberg pre-election “bunker” story, Parscale was one of the few with credentials to the boss’s account. Pre-written tweets during events like the debates went through the web client, but my guess is that Scavino and Parscale represent most of the ‘Twitter for iPhone’ tweets in 2016 and early 2017. Some of them are RTing Scavino’s personal account, and Caddy Dan is that kinda guy. Parscale has consistently used an iPhone, including the June 8th photo from the Tower.

Remember that Feinstein is interested in Scavino’s contacts with, er, VKontakte, and that’s before considering Parscale’s data op. Pretty much everything tweeted out during 2016 that relates to the specifics of hacked emails is sent from an iPhone.

And the intermediary for the VK connection was Goldstone, going back to January 2016. It’s interesting that neither Scavino nor Parscale have apparently been called in for chats with investigators, or if they have, we haven’t heard about it.

[snip]

What I’m thinking is that if there was indeed an after-meeting about “dirt in the form of emails”, Scavino or Parscale may have been brought into the room. And Goldstone had been put in touch with Scavino earlier that year.

This story revealing Goldstone’s communications about his role in brokering the VK contact doesn’t support the possibility that one of the data guys was brought into the room. Rather, Goldstone’s emails suggest he discussed the idea with Don Jr and Paul Manafort, presumably on June 9, but that Scavino was not included in the meeting, even though he had been looped in during earlier discussions about it.

The newly disclosed emails show that Goldstone was in contact with the campaign about two weeks after visiting Trump Tower.

“I’m following up on an email [from] a while back of something I had mentioned to Don and Paul Manafort during a meeting recently,” Goldstone wrote to Scavino on June 29. Goldstone wrote that his client, Emin Agalarov, and a “contact” at VK wanted to create a “Vote Trump 2016” promotion.

“At the time, Paul had said he would welcome it, and so I had the VK folks mock up a basic sample page, which I am resending for your approval now,” Goldstone wrote. “It would merely require Mr. Trump to drop in a short message to Russian-American voters or a generic message, depending on your choice, and the page can be up and running very quickly.”

In any case, the discussion about VK is yet another detail that makes it pretty likely Goldstone, at least, arrived early or stayed after Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin left (in the WaPo story on this, Scott Balber denies VK came up at any meeting Ike Kaveladze attended).

One other possibility for who sent that Tweet, though: It would not be surprising if Don Jr had access to Pop’s account. At least recently, he has alternated between an iPhone and the web client to send his own tweets, so it’s possible any tweets he sent on Dad’s behalf would also be from an iPhone.

Where’s Trump get that number, 823? And why’d he use it?

But I’m at least as interested in why Trump (or rather, Scavino or Parscale or Don Jr) used the number “823” in the tweet. In the aftermath of the John Sipher interview Jeremy Scahill did, Sipher suggested to me might be some kind of signal, a code; he’s the pro–maybe he’s right.

But I was wondering whether it might, instead, reflect real-time knowledge of the Hillary campaign’s finances and resources. That is, I wondered whether that number might have, itself, reflected the sharing of some kind of data that could verify the Russians had compromised Hillary’s campaign (or at least researched it substantively enough to know more than the Trump camp did). The public use of the number, then, might serve as a signal that that message, and the inside data, had been received.

While the specific number is difficult to check, I’ve been told the 823 number would have been at least “in the ball park” of the real number of Hillary’s campaign staffers on June 9, 2016.

Politico’s analysis of the Hillary campaign’s May 20 FEC filing showed Hillary had 732 staffers at the time of the report. The day after the June 9 meeting, Philip Bump did a story comparing Hillary and Trump’s staffing (a slew of such stories in the weeks after the June 9 meeting was one reason Corey Lewandowski got replaced as campaign manager), referencing the tweet. But his analysis reflected the month’s long lag in FEC filings. Without doing cleanup (to figure out who got paid that frequently, whether anyone got paid monthly rather than bi-monthly), Clinton’s FEC filings seem to show 587 individual payroll disbursements at her headquarters on June 15, 2016.

I talked to a couple of people on the campaign who remember thinking about the tweet, and its use of the 823 number, in real time. Someone who was working on responding to such issues told me he thought, when the tweet came out, that it might have been just a guess (though now thinks it might come from misreading a report). But another Hillary staffer described taking note of the specific number in real time. That person did about 10 minutes of follow-up at the time, checking real-time FEC filings, and concluded that it might be an accurate number. Between headquarters staff, working (policy) teams, advance, and field staff, the person believes the 823 number could very well represent a close to real number of staffers Hillary had “working” on her campaign.

Of course, none of this would mean the number came from the Russians. Such estimates are done by (competent) political campaigns all the time. So it could have come from Trump’s data people — the same people who could have tweeted the tweet in Trump’s name — itself.

That said, in none of the other Trump tweets using the 30,000 or the 33,000 email number does he include a similarly specific detail — the closest comparison is one invocation of Chelsea’s wedding. Note, too, just one other of those tweets also came from an iPhone — the equally suspicious one on July 27, 2016 asking Russia to release those emails (though one of the others came from the web client).

One more point on the number: That night, at 8:22PM ET, someone on Reddit’s The_Donald thread posted, “Hillary has a staggering 823 staffers on her campaign; Donald Trump  has over 142,000.” Best as I understand it, the comment was almost immediately removed by moderators. I find that worth noting.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

49 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    Things that are oddly specific (as in why not “thousands” or “800 or so”) are rarely coincidences. Keep digging here, but do not expect help from the Kaiser’s palace.

    OT but not surprising, Faux News has gone silent about the secret society when it was revealed as BS.
    https://www.rawstory.com/2018/01/fox-hypes-bogus-fbi-secret-society-dozens-times-goes-silent-revealed-joke/
    https://www.rawstory.com/2018/01/schumer-blasts-crazy-delusional-fbi-secret-society-conspiracy-gop-sen-admits-outraged-joke/

    And the obstruction from the palace:
    https://www.rawstory.com/2018/01/watch-doj-spokeswoman-refuses-answer-chris-cuomos-questions-four-straight-minutes/

  2. Jim White says:

    As an alternative for the significance of “823” I wondered whether Trump was signalling something to happen on August 23. I did a quick scan of the transcript of his speech that day and nothing stands out as new that day, but perhaps there are other happenings on that day we could look for.

    • harpie says:

      hmmm. So, here are some of the headlines from the NYT on 8/23/16:
      1] Trump Calls for Clinton Email Inquiry [AP] https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/elections/100000004606148/trump-calls-for-clinton-email-inquiry.html [includes video] Calling the Justice Department a “political arm of the White House,” Donald J. Trump proposed an independent investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use.
      2] New York Times Says Suspected Russian Hackers Targeted Moscow Bureau [Reuters] The New York Times said on Tuesday its Moscow bureau was targeted by a cyber attack this month but that there was no evidence the hackers, believed to be Russian, were successful.
      3] In Attacking Clinton Foundation, Trump Seeks a Republican Rallying Cry [Reuters]  After struggling to find a consistent message and consolidate party support, Donald Trump is honing his attack on Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton and the foundation bearing her family’s name in hopes of making it a rallying cry for f…
      4] Many Donors to Clinton Foundation Met With Her at State [AP] More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion …
      5] Donald Trump Cues Up Another Conspiracy [NYT Editorial] “Donald Trump is calling for volunteers to watch the polls in November, and he is making no bones about why. “Help me stop Crooked Hillary from rigging this election!” says the application form on his campaign website. […]
      6] Donald Trump, Shifting Immigration Tone, Stresses a ‘Fair’ Approach https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/23/us/politics/donald-trump-immigration.html
      7] Racism and Talk of Religious War: Trump Staff’s Online Posts [AP] Donald Trump’s paid campaign staffers have declared on their personal social media accounts that Muslims are unfit to be American citizens, ridiculed Mexican accents, called for Secretary of State John Kerry’s death by hanging and stated their rea… 
      8] The Latest: Trump Pays Tribute to Border Patrol Agents [AP]

  3. Peterr says:

    In reading this post, I kept recalling Trump at some point making a big deal about the small size of his staff — lean and mean — as opposed to his opponents having all these political hangers-on and consultants and campaign professionals. Checking his twitter feed, just three days earlier he wrote this:

    I am getting bad marks from certain pundits because I have a small campaign staff. But small is good, flexible, save money and number one!

    This is just not the right time for Jeb Bush. His campaign is in total disarray, too much staff being paid way too much money = U.S. GOVT.

    I suspect that the “823” in this tweet was an attempt to rebut “certain pundits”, and nothing rebuts “certain pundits” than specific large numbers. Assuming it was sent by one of the three mentioned in the post, this would mean that the intended audience was probably not the Russians, but more likely The Donald, as one of them was looking to suck up to him by reinforcing his point with very specific data.
  4. Watson says:

    Assuming that ‘823’ wasn’t being used as a coded communication, might the Trump camp have gotten the correct number from surveillance of, or a mole inside the HRC campaign?

    • bmaz says:

      I would not go talk to that addled geezer dirtbag either. But he is quite likely, voluntary or via subpoena, to talk to Mueller again

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

         that addled geezer dirtbag

        Charles Grassley, US Sen from Iowa, b. 1933

        Elected to US Senate 1980 (!)

        Which means anyone <38 years old has been saddled with ‘Charles’ in the Senate their entire lives.  The wars, the neoliberal deficit obsessions, the secrecy, the Bush v Gore fiasco/coup, ‘global terrorism’, the growing infrastructure deficits, the dying family farms, the increasing opioids, mafia’s everywhere, wealth concentration:  all during this geezer dirtbag’s  Senate tenure.

        The **median** age in the US is 37.8 years.  (Wikipedia, US Demographics).

        Google ‘average life expectancy 1770s’ and you’ll come up with a figure around 35 years; childhood mortality rates brought the ‘average’ down. Nevertheless, I’m convinced the Sacralized Founders never, ever foresaw a situation where a large portion of the US Congress would live long enough to serve 20 years.  And Grassley has now been treated like royalty served  38 years, or the entire lifetimes of at least half of America, and decades longer than the Founders foresaw.

        So much winning.

        Richard Shelby, b. 1934.  In Senate since 1987.

        Diane Feinstein, b. 1933. In Senate since 1992.

        Pat Robert, b. 1936.  In Senate since 1997.

        Mitch McConnell, b. 1942. In Senate since 1985 (33 glory-filled years…)

        Someone needs to start looking at birth dates, life experiences, and worldview of the geezer dirtbags making policy in this nation.  Experience is valuable; at some point, it just corrodes into egoism and pettiness.

  5. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Good spot on that WaPo piece, one I missed because I’m not up to EW close-reading standards. Scavino was being brought up to speed on something he wasn’t in the room for. “[M]eeting recently” sounds like either the known meeting on the 9th or something else close to it, given that Goldstone didn’t spend much other time in NYC that month.

    There’s never been any outright confirmation that Uday had his daddy’s tweeting credentials, unlike with Scavino and Parscale, which is why I didn’t want to go there. But there have been hints — and hints for Most Favored Daughter, too.

    And in that context, 823 isn’t typical bullshit number-generation or exaggeration, of the kind that Daniel Dale writes up every day. It’s “we know where you live.” It’s responding to “delete your account” with “nice campaign you got there, shame if something were to happen to it.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      So, it’s not like Senator Iselin claiming there are [Heinz] 57 known Communists in the State Department?  I think we’re working with similar dunderheads.  But I accept that Trump needn’t understand the messages sent out in his name and that others may be pursuing plans within plans.

  6. bloopie2 says:

     
    I love how you all dig into things, but this strikes me as off course.  Do you honestly believe there is real/coded meaning to a three digit number that he tweeted?  Are they smart enough to have done that?  (If you think it’s special because he’s never done it before, don’t; most of what he does daily, has never been done before.)  Gawd.  Faux News would be proud of how you have uncovered this secret conspiracy.  As EW noted, anyone who dug a  bit could have come up with a reasonably accurate number, then thrown down on paper something that screamed “You’ve got #### people working for you and you can’t do any better than that ???”  Granted there were secret meetings and all, but surely we can do better than aping Highlights Magazine and its “Hidden Pictures” page (the only good thing I can remember about going to the dentist when I was young.)

    • harpie says:

      Do you honestly believe there is real/coded meaning to a three digit number that he tweeted? Are they smart enough to have done that? 

      No and no. I think peterr and PINC, above, are probably close to correct.

    • JAAG says:

      Well Jared won’t testify and he did want a back channel.  Just sayin.

      If EW is right about this code thing then hand her/them the Pulitzer.

      At some point people have to stop comparing a blog to the NYT when they bandy about the fake news trope. Things can be written on an (expert) blog that are speculative, just as memos must be written by investigators, for other investigators, during an investigation. That is analogous to what is happening here.  Since the DJT prick does practically nothing except act like the worlds most obvious double agent there must be some leeway given to someone who runs a donation funded blog and is uncovering things that really, really matter.

      I don’t see an itemized list of the times that the MSM actually followed the lead of some clever inference one of the posters here makes and then runs with it, only to create real news once its run down to ground.  Trump puts people in a situation where they play a guessing game and therefore the best educated guesses are the best things to read.

      Putin wins when it becomes impossible to rank arguments.  The fake news thing has taken off so incredibly well because it relieves so many people of the human task of turning poorly justified opinions into more justified opinions in a slow sure process that we call human thought. Putin and Trump are gangsters before they are philosophers and so we should asterisk their particular brand of epistemological relativism and call it first order bullshit. Then we can differentiate between a smart person’s hunch and a gangster’s PR strategy.  Adults know the difference, basically.

      I know you are not saying that this is a fake news site.

  7. Bay State Librul says:

    I will play 823 in the Mass State Lottery Game (Numbers Game) — First Three Any Order

    I will do anything to get this miserable Con out of the White House……….

     

     

  8. SpaceLifeForm says:

    823 is “Thinking Of You”

    Thinking – 8 letters
    Of – 2 letters
    You – 3 letters

    Most certainly not composed by potus in this instance.

    Which leads one to wonder if any significance to the 33,000 number. Or 30,000.

  9. SpaceLifeForm says:

    The MemoWars and inadvertent reveal.

    The Boyd letter to Nunes reflects DOJ concern about reveal of ‘stuff’ that could happen if the Nunes memo is revealed to the public.

    Yet, by my very close parsing, Boyd may have committed an inadvertent reveal of ‘stuff’.

    All involved in the beltway need to slow down and think carefully about the words they choose to convey a message regarding opsec.

    Inadvertent reveal in memos and letters may blow some ops, and/or reveal sources and/or methods.

    They really need to slow down.

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/emmaloop/trumps-justice-department-warns-house-republicans-not-to

  10. M says:

    Just throwing this out, a reason why Donald had to have had some involvement in dealing with the Russians: If they knew — likely! — of Donald’s need for flattery, how could they hope to get what they want without a means for flattering him? There had to be some direct contact, no matter how fleeting.

  11. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Just published: a joint report by NOS and De Volkskrant that the Dutch AIVD and MIVD were tracking APT29 / Cosy Bear and shared what they found with the FBI and NSA, and this information was the basis for the FBI active measures investigation.  One of those “known secrets” to those following the story, but good to have around amid the “secret society” bullshit.

    The big question in their reporting: why was the APT29 infiltration of the DNC not addressed, when it was supposedly flagged in mid-2015 by MIVD and then the FBI?

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        (the to English translate)

        Note that the Boyd Letter hints at this.
        This is not an inadvertent reveal by Boyd that I am thinking of. The loss of access, I am certain was well known at that time by FBI.

        (hint: Cozy Bear was operated thru Tor. Approx same timeframe that Wannacry started, and french Tor servers went offline.
        KL also reworked their Tor servers about same time IIRC)

        The translate:

        “The AIVD hackers no longer have access to Cozy Bear. Why and when that access ended exactly is not clear. The intelligence services take into account that the openness of American intelligence sources, which in the spring of 2017 against their American media praised the access of ‘a Western ally’, awakened the hackers. Openness that aroused great anger in The Hague and Zoetermeer. You do not talk about intelligence work – certainly not about that of an ally.”

  12. Potty Mouth says:

    I remember that tweet. It was just after the space ship came to get those 772 dead alien bodies from Area 51. And as we know – or some of us do – 772 + 51 is 823 which proves this story is true.

  13. greengiant says:

    Totally no knowledge of the inner workings of reddit,  however it is very common for the original poster to delete their post.   The post would disappear from the_Donald post listings but would still be in the reddit system and the orginal poster’s name and post text is replaced by [deleted].   When a user deletes their reddit account or any individual comment,  their text post and comments are removed and replaced by [deleted].

    Reddit moderators have more information.

  14. R says:

    He picked 823 for a simple reason, people would think about it, consider it, maybe poke fun at it or (best case) fact check it and thus continue to discuss it.

    The fact checkers may ultimately disprove it and determine it isn’t 823, but instead 653 or 573 or 443 – that doesn’t matter (it may even be ideal) because the message Trump has put out remains largely intact and is ultimately advanced by further discussion. Even more so if you didn’t see the fact checker rebuttal.

    None of this happens (the tweet has no legs) if he says 900, 800 or 700 because everyone knows it would just be a rough guess/estimate and not an attempt at accuracy worth vetting.

    Trump does this a lot – say things (knowing they are mostly inaccurate) to foster a conversation about an issue he wants to put in neon lights or an image he wants to make people consider and hopefully believe.

    In this instance, (1) big bad Clinton destroying evidence (perhaps of wrongdoing?) (2) her establishment machine of 823 staffers inability to formulate a witty tweet (what will they do when running the country?) (3) his streamlined, efficient operation and their ability to act quickly (wouldn’t that be a nice change vs a bloated bureaucracy?)

    It is no surprise it was one of his most well received/discussed tweets of the campaign and Occam’s razor says it is unlikely there is some hidden message – other than the subtext that Clinton is inefficient, wasteful, incompetent, underhanded and generally lame.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      There’s a pattern — like I said, Daniel Dale has tracked this for a long time (poor guy) and talks about the combination of deliberate slight exaggeration and utter bullshit. But a) this doesn’t fit that pattern; b) this didn’t come from the man himself.

    • orionATL says:

      this is an appealing analysis focusing on trump’s (or perscale’s) messaging skills to voters rather than russians.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        Oh, it was a native quote-tweet as well, which is something that happened precisely never during June 2016 on the Android, but a lot of times on the iPhone.

  15. lefty665 says:

    Trump’s tweet repeated his use of the 823 number. He used it in a 6/8 interview with Time.  The article says it is an ‘estimated’ number. It appears to be made up by adding an arbitrary digit, 8, to his stated staff size of 73. Both numbers were believed by Time to be made up. The Google knows all.

    “In an interview with TIME on June 8 in his Manhattan office overlooking Central Park, he gleefully rattled off the sharp differences in staffing. On this topic, he had no doubt that smaller was better. “We had 73 people. She had 873,” he estimated. “It’s called lean and mean.” His numbers understated his staff and overstated hers, but the ever-fluctuating ratio stands at about 6-to-1.”  http://time.com/trump-clinton-mismatch/

     

  16. orionATL says:

    goldstone!

    there’s more to him than a dumb-looking music p. r. guy?

    who’s he working for? aras agaralov? who in turn is working for the big guy?

    • orionATL says:

      agarlov sr. has got to show up in this story somewhere and it hasn’t happened yet.
      he’s personally connected to veselnitskya and ike kaveladze.

      • orionATL says:

        actually, connected to three in the meeting, counting goldstone.

        somebody engaged and motivated goldstone and it probably wasn’t emin.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      there’s more to him than a dumb-looking music p. r. guy?

      I’ve said this before, but if your career has led you to be a bullshit retainer and ego-fluffer for an oligarch failson, then you probably end up in certain situations and having certain relationships just from doing the dumb stuff.

      • JAAG says:

        maybe the music gig is bs and he just links capital flight to finance/condos in london and nyc.

         

        if people pay you to “promote” you could write infinite invoices when really charging for something else entirely

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          maybe the music gig is bs and he just links capital flight to finance/condos in london and nyc.

          Well, it’s  perhaps”BS” in the sense that Gulnara Karimova’s pop career was BS, or Uday and Qusay and Most Favored Daughter’s business careers are BS. But even BS jobs for failchildren require staff who would probably not be doing that much different if they were hyping boy bands or YouTube stars.

      • orionATL says:

        yeah. seems like a reasonable assessment – but a bit in ew’s tale indicates goldstone keeps at it.

      • orionATL says:

        the june 9 meeting was too short with too many allegedly uninterested parties not to require other meetings/communications to insure something of consequence actually happened. ivanka, goldstone, the two tweeting twins you have identified, himself – the hunt is on for where the russian initiative finally ended up post the 30 minute meeting, 20 of which were consumed by veselnitskaya.

        personally, i prefer to apply the analogy of the aspen grove to the main meeting* :))

        *see libby, isidore.

  17. K says:

    Or the number could have been from the same source that tail gunner joe used to get his numbers of communist’s in the state department – out of his posterior.

  18. Meth Abrasomn says:

    This is the sort of speculation that makes the much-shat-upon Seth Abramson’s “theory of the case” stuff seem sober and conservative by comparison.

    If “823” was a signal to the Russians, it’d be a shitty one if the number was also a legitimate headcount as there could always be many other potential sources for getting that number into Trump’s camp’s hands.

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