The Mueller Subpoena Starts at the Moment a Real Estate Deal in Moscow Might Get Trump Elected

Axios got a copy of a subpoena someone got from Robert Mueller last month. It asks for all communications (including handwritten notes) “this witness sent and received regarding the following people.” The list of people includes a lot of people you’d expect, but it’s missing a few:

  1. Carter Page
  2. Corey Lewandowski
  3. Donald J. Trump
  4. Hope Hicks
  5. Keith Schiller
  6. Michael Cohen
  7. Paul Manafort
  8. Rick Gates
  9. Roger Stone
  10. Steve Bannon

Cooperating witnesses George Papadopoulos and Mike Flynn aren’t on this list, but cooperating witness Rick Gates is (which may date the subpoena to before Gates flipped on February 23). The order is of particular interest (or, maybe they’re just alpha order by first name): Page, the long term suspected Russian asset, followed immediately by Lewandowski, who was in the loop on the stolen email offer, followed by the President and those closest to him, followed by Manafort and his closest aide. Then Stone and then — in the same month he gave 20 hours of testimony — Bannon.

Neither Don Jr nor Kushner is on this list. Given the emphasis on communications “regarding” the listed people, and given the way that Abbe Lowell purposely avoided giving “about”communications to Congress (and possibly to Mueller), and also given that Jonathan Swan is Axios’ key White House scoopster, I actually don’t rule out the witness being Jared. Or, as I joked on Twitter, like Flynn and Papadopoulos, maybe he has already flipped and so isn’t on this list.

Whoever it is, the absences on the list are probably a function of who is legitimately in this person’s circle.

Perhaps most telling, however, is the timing: November 1, 2015, to the present. Recall that on November 3, sometime FBI informant Felix Sater sent Michael Cohen (on the list) an email promising that a real estate deal in Moscow might lead to Trump becoming President. (Here’s the original WaPo scoop on the story.)

On November 3, 2015, two months before the GOP primary started in earnest and barely over a year before the presidential election, mobbed up real estate broker and sometime FBI informant Felix Sater emailed Trump Organization Executive Vice President and Special Counsel to Trump, Michael Cohen. According to the fragment we read, Sater boasts of his access to Putin going back to 2006 (when the Ivanka incident reportedly happened), and said “we can engineer” “our boy” becoming “President of the USA.”


Mr. Sater, a Russian immigrant, said he had lined up financing for the Trump Tower deal with VTB Bank, a Russian bank that was under American sanctions for involvement in Moscow’s efforts to undermine democracy in Ukraine. In another email, Mr. Sater envisioned a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Moscow.

“I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Mr. Sater wrote.

That’s the start date Mueller uses for potential communications among people including Trump’s closest aides, including Cohen (but not including Sater) in the Russian investigation.

Update: Adding, we know that on October 21, 2016, the FBI had investigations into Manafort, Page, Stone, and possibly Gates. Is it possible this list is the sum of all those against whom sub-investigations have been opened (or were at the time this subpoena was issued)?

36 replies
    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Not an ordinary way to order a list of names, which gives it the appearance of order while avoiding it.  Someone in this process knows how to play chess.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        They are alpha by last name in the NBC story.  Apparently reorganized by NBC.  Why would it do that?

  1. Domye West says:

    Huh. I don’t know what to think about this. I assumed the list came from Sam Nunberg, but I would guess that Kush would be on his contact list.

    • JD12 says:

      It appears you were right. Nunberg did say on MSNBC a few days ago that he left the campaign early and Kushner came “when it looked like they were going to win.” So he said they had no interaction. Nunberg was gone by the November 1 start date, but he still had a lot of communication with people after he left.

  2. pseudonymous in nc says:

     including Cohen (but not including Sater) in the Russian investigation.

    It’s been a while since Felix said that he was going to be featured in multiple headlines, and I don’t know whether that’s because crazy times relegate big stories to the inside pages, or because whatever he’s shared is under wraps for now.

    • Trip says:

      Maybe he’s closer to the top, and the uphill climb is still ahead.

      The Financial Times reported Thursday morning that Felix Sater, former business partner of President Donald Trump with deep ties to the Mafia and Russian government, is cooperating in an international investigation into an alleged money-laundering network. Sater has a history of channeling money from prominent families in the Eastern bloc into Trump properties. This could pose problems for Trump, given Sater’s history of outing former close associates in exchange for immunity.

      “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump”

      • NorskieFlamethrower says:

        “Maybe he’s closer to the top, and the uphill climb is still ahead.”

        Thanks for that. I have been hoping against hope that this thing would go beyond the election, hacking, lying and money laundering and get to international conspiracy. In order for that to happen, Mueller must get Trumpty all wrapped up and laminated so that’s gunna take well into next year.

  3. der says:

    With the early dates reaching back before the primary season and to the last years of the Obama Administration a question that keeps coming to my mind is what did Mitch McConnell know that he would feel confident to delay Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court, what gave McConnell the confidence that the next President would give us the corporatist christianist Garland and a Koch 5-4 majority?

    • Trip says:

      It’s tough to differentiate between any potential political strategy aforethought or just being a complete obstructionist, reprehensible dick 24/7, as it pertains to McConnell.  There’s likely some combo thereof.

      • Falls says:

        Agree with Trip. Could explain McConnell’s Garland play as get-out-the-vote for that strand of the GOP 2016 coalition. Seems reasonable.

        • Mark says:

          Also, given that it is now out that McConnell watered down the Obama response to the states to be on guard for russian meddling:

          And has done nothing to enforce the sanctions vote that was near unanimous in both the house and senate.  It is the duty of the president to enforce the laws made by congress, he cannot simply decide on his own he does not like the law so he will refuse to enforce this one or that one.  It is looking very suspicious and I hope he is indicted along with the trash in the white house.  He, and Nunes, and, Rohrabacher, and anyone else that is part of this malignant coup!

  4. John Forde says:

    Why is this list missing ‘The Caddy’? Is he in a higher echelon? …the next tranche?

  5. Palli Davis Holubar says:

    reply to earlofhuntingdon March 5, 2018 at 9:03 am
    Bannon is the better known i.e. more “news-sexy” name &/or the more journalistically safe [conventional] listing?

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Birds and people keep colliding with the glass doors and walls in Apple’s $5 billion headquarters building.  I hope the logic and hubris that went into Apple’s architecture are not reflected in its software.  Meanwhile, do post-it notes stick to glass?

    • Rugger9 says:

      Hubris is part of the brand, Apple’s been pretty tone-deaf throughout the process about the effects their mother ship has on the rest of us here in Silicon Valley.

  7. harpie says:

    Marcy tweets that Sarah Kendzior‘s suggestion is interesting:

    I don’t think it’s Kushner. I don’t think that would’ve leaked (or that Axios could keep it quiet.) I think it’s a more minor player. In terms of a timeline, it matches Michael Caputo, who joined the Trump campaign in Nov 2015 and has contacts with everyone on that list.

    • harpie says:

      Emptywheel on 1/27/18: FEINSTEIN’S HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENTS  
      [On 1/25/18 Diane Feinstein asks for information from Michael Caputo:]
      […] “You joined the presidential campaign of Donald Trump as a communications advisor upon the recommendation of Paul Manafort, and it has been reported you have close ties to campaign advisor Roger Stone. It also has been reported that you have deep ties to Russia, including having worked for the Kremlin and Russian energy conglomerate Gazprom.”[…] 

    • maybe ryan says:

      From Wiki, “in October, 2014, Trump hired Caputo to run an astroturfing operation in support of his bid for the Buffalo Bills.”

      The Nov. 1 subpoena date still makes sense.  it’s just interesting to see that his Trump connection, and his connection in a surreptitious vein, goes back a few years.

        • harpie says:

          All she said was “We should really start a betting pool.” I haven’t seen any action on that idea. Who would you bet on?
          Until one is established, you may want to test your bracketology skills on @MollyJongFast ‘s #magamadness: Trumpworld  

          PS: the “partners in crime” photo of KiKi and Q brought a big smile to my face!

            • bmaz says:

              At that moment, they had just battled to a draw over a Darth Vader toy. And were both pretty happy with themselves!

  8. Rugger9 says:

    OT but might be worth a post down the road: it seems our Kaiser wants to be in office for life like Xi is doing in the PRC. Normally, that would be blocked by the 22nd Amendment which was ratified in response to FDR, but given how close we are to the “Convention of the States” does anyone really believe that the GOP will stick only to their announced agenda of balanced budgets? Every other legislative opportunity they have had has been larded up with wingnut wish list items plus we’ll have the Dominionists putting religious stuff in there too.

  9. FLEX says:

    I do not share your optimism. While the CPS has devoted itself with great vigour to prosecuting non Islamic sex offenders and child abusers, it and the police have not secured a single conviction against perpetrators of FGM, despite 137,000 women being affected by it in the UK. They may impose the same requirement on same sex marriages in mosques but you will find that for some strange reason that nearly all the cases will be in Christian churches. Mainly because left-wing informants will, with burning enthusiasm, only report cases in Christian churches to the police. The reason? If there has to be a national religion in the UK it must be as far from our western tradition as possible so it is irrelevant in the coming Corbynite Abbot nightmare.

  10. maybe ryan says:

    The Axios web address spells it Muller.  Maybe they have a German webmaster who wrote it with an implied umlaut.

    EW you retweeted today’s Papadopoulos tweet about transparency.  It seems to be his first tweet with any connection to Trump Russia since the famed London photo in October  (which wasn’t necessarily tied to events, but certainly provoking rampant speculation about how it might be.)  Did something in particular happen yesterday that he’s reacting to or venting about?  Is he talking to someone in particular?

    Someone in the comments to his tweet pointed out Simona Mangiante, his girlfriend, tweeted out a warning on Saturday about a connection between one of the candidates for Prime Minister in Italy (DiMaio) and Prof.  Mifsud.  Here’s her link to an Il Manifesto article about the Universita Link Campus di Roma connection.

    My Italian is good enough to get my own sense of it, but not good enough for anyone else to rely on my summary.

    Mangiante may be the central character in a Trump-Russia movie one day.  Not because she’s central, but because she’s an interesting window who may have played a pivotal role in the re-framing of Papadopoulos’s approach to the investigation.  A fictionalized Mangiante could be played as an everywoman initially involved in a marginal way who gradually comes to understand and be horrified by what she’s seeing.

    Anyway, I’d be interested to learn what people make of the Papadopoulos tweet.

  11. maybe ryan says:

    Gah! For reasons some will know, I should have been aware of that marriage. Breakdown in comms unit. :-)

  12. Palli says:

    Prof. Misfud may have been cupid but not an incognito groomsman. Can we be thinking he is under British witness protection?

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