The Quest: Trump Learns of the Investigation (Part Four)

In this series, I’m analyzing the Mueller questions as understood by Jay Sekulow and leaked to the NYT to show how they set up a more damning investigative framework than commentary has reflected.

This post laid out how the Agalarovs had been cultivating Trump for years, in part by dangling real estate deals and close ties with Vladimir Putin. This post shows how during the election, the Russians and Trump danced towards a quid pro quo agreement, with the Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton in exchange for a commitment to sanctions relief, with some policy considerations thrown in. This post laid out how, during the transition period, Trump’s team took a series of actions they attempted to keep secret that moved towards consummating the deal they had made with Russia, both in terms of policy concessions, particularly sanctions relief, and funding from Russian sources that could only be tapped if sanctions were lifted.

This post will look at Mueller’s reported investigative interest in Trump’s reaction to discovering the “Deep State” was investigating the election year operation, including the actions his team had tried to keep secret. Note, I have put all of the events leading up to Flynn’s firing here (not least because I think the firing itself often gets treated improperly as obstruction), though just some of the Jim Comey events. I will repeat the timeline of events in the next post, which overlaps temporally, for clarity.

January 6, 2017: What was your opinion of Mr. Comey during the transition?

This is a baseline question for Trump’s firing of Jim Comey. At a minimum, Trump would need to explain his decision to keep Comey. It also provides Trump an opportunity to rebut Comey’s claim that, in the January 6 meeting, Trump told Comey he:

had conducted myself honorably and had a great reputation. He said I was repeatedly put in impossible positions. He said you saved her and then they hated you for what you did later, but what coice did you have? He said he thought very highly of me and looked forward to working with me, saying he hoped I planned to stay on. I assured him I intended to stay. He said good.

January 6, 2017: What did you think about Mr. Comey’s intelligence briefing on Jan. 6, 2017, about Russian election interference?

One key detail Comey (and the other representatives of the intelligence community) would have detailed for Trump that day is not just that Russia interfered in the election, but their basis for concluding that “We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances,” a conclusion Republicans have objected to repeatedly.

In his book, but not his memos, Comey describes that immediately after the briefing, Trump first asked for assurances Russian interference hadn’t affected the outcome and then, with his team, started strategizing how to spin the conclusions so as to dismiss any outcome on the election.

‘I recall Trump listening without interrupting, and asking only one question, which was really more of a statement: “But you found there was no impact on the result, right?” The intelligence team said they had done no such analysis.

‘What I found telling was what Trump and his team didn’t ask. They were about to lead a country that had been attacked by a foreign adversary, yet they had no questions about what the future Russian threat might be.’

Instead, Trump and his team immediately started discussing how they would “spin” the information on Russia as if the intelligence officers were not in the room. ‘They were keen to emphasize that there was no impact on the vote, meaning that the Russians hadn’t elected Trump.’

This reflects the same concern expressed in the KT McFarland email from just days earlier (which probably reflected detailed Trump involvement) that acknowledging Russian involvement would “discredit[] Trump’s victory by saying it was due to Russian interference.”

January 6, 2017: What was your reaction to Mr. Comey’s briefing that day about other intelligence matters?

In its analysis of the questions, NYT takes this question to be exclusively about Comey’s briefing on the Steele dossier, and it may be. But in Obama’s January 5 briefing covering the same issues, according to Susan Rice, Comey and others discussed concerns about sharing classified information with the Trump team, especially Mike Flynn.

The memorandum to file drafted by Ambassador Rice memorialized an important national security discussion between President Obama and the FBI Director and the Deputy Attorney General. President Obama and his national security team were justifiably concerned about potential risks to the Nation’s security from sharing highly classified information about Russia with certain members of the Trump transition team, particularly Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

Even though concerns about Flynn came up in that Obama briefing, the FBI counterintelligence investigation did not. It’s possible that this passage from Comey’s memo, which describes the main part of the briefing and not that part dedicated to the Steele dossier, pertained to the counterintelligence concerns about Flynn,which Obama had already shared with Trump the previous fall; such a warning may or may not have included Flynn’s conversations with Sergey Kislyak.

If Comey briefed anything to do with Flynn, it would significantly change the importance of subsequent events.

As for the Steele dossier conversation, which surely is included with this question, Comey has claimed that Trump first tried to convince Comey is wasn’t true that he would need to “go there” to sleeping with prostitutes, “there were never prostitutes,” even though Trump’s reference to “the women who had falsely accused him of grabbing or touching them” actually undermined his defense.

Comey has also claimed that Trump seemed relieved when he said (in the context of the Steele briefing), that the FBI was not investigating him. Importantly, this took place after Comey had said he didn’t want people to claim the information came from the FBI.

I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook. I said it was important that we not give them an excuse to write that the FBI has the material or [redacted] and that we were keeping it very close-hold.


I responded that we were not investigating him and the stuff might be totally made up but that it was being said out of Russia and our job was to protect the President from efforts to coerce him. I said we try to understand what the Russians are doing and what they might do. I added that I also wanted him to know this in case it came out in the media.

He said he was grateful for the conversation, said more nice things about me and how he looks forward to working with me and we departed the room.

January 12, 2017: What was your reaction to news reports on Jan. 12, 2017?

On January 12, in the context of a discussion of Trump aiming for better relationships with Putin, David Ignatius reported revealed that Flynn had called Sergey Kislyak “several times,” asking whether but not asserting that it might be an attempt to undercut sanctions.

Trump said Wednesday that his relationship with President Vladimir Putin is “an asset, not a liability.” Fair enough, but until he’s president, Trump needs to let Obama manage U.S.-Russia policy.

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, cultivates close Russian contacts. He has appeared on Russia Today and received a speaking fee from the cable network, which was described in last week’s unclassified intelligence briefing on Russian hacking as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.”

According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act(though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report neither revealed the FBI had intercepts of the conversation nor confirmed an investigation. But it may have alerted Trump that the actions he was probably a party to weeks earlier might have legal consequences.

January 24: FBI interviews Mike Flynn and he lies about talking about sanctions

January 26 and 27, 2017: What did you know about Sally Yates’s meetings about Mr. Flynn?

According to Sally Yates’ public testimony, she met with Don McGahn to discuss Mike Flynn’s interview with the FBI on January 26, 2017. She framed it by describing that DOJ knew Mike Pence’s January 15 comments about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak were not correct.

YATES: So I told them again that there were a number of press accounts of statements that had been made by the vice president and other high-ranking White House officials about General Flynn’s conduct that we knew to be untrue. And we told them how we knew that this – how we had this information, how we had acquired it, and how we knew that it was untrue.

And we walked the White House Counsel who also had an associate there with him through General Flynn’s underlying conduct, the contents of which I obviously cannot go through with you today because it’s classified. But we took him through in a fair amount of detail of the underlying conduct, what General Flynn had done, and then we walked through the various press accounts and how it had been falsely reported.

We also told the White House Counsel that General Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI on February [sic] 24. Mr. McGahn asked me how he did and I declined to give him an answer to that. And we then walked through with Mr. McGahn essentially why we were telling them about this and the first thing we did was to explain to Mr. McGahn that the underlying conduct that General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself.

Secondly, we told him we felt like the vice president and others were entitled to know that the information that they were conveying to the American people wasn’t true. And we wanted to make it really clear right out of the gate that we were not accusing Vice President Pence of knowingly providing false information to the American people.

And, in fact, Mr. McGahn responded back to me to let me know that anything that General Flynn would’ve said would have been based — excuse me — anything that Vice President Pence would have said would have been based on what General Flynn had told him.

We told him the third reason was — is because we were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what General Flynn had done, and additionally, that we weren’t the only ones that knew all of this, that the Russians also knew about what General Flynn had done.

And the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others, because in the media accounts, it was clear from the vice president and others that they were repeating what General Flynn had told them, and that this was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information.

And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians. Finally, we told them that we were giving them all of this information so that they could take action, the action that they deemed appropriate.

I remember that Mr. McGahn asked me whether or not General Flynn should be fired, and I told him that that really wasn’t our call, that was up to them, but that we were giving them this information so that they could take action, and that was the first meeting.

Then there was a follow-up meeting on January 27. Among the five topics discussed, McGahn asked if Flynn was in legal jeopardy, and if “they” (presumably meaning he and the Associate WHCO in the meeting) could see the underlying intelligence.

WHITEHOUSE: Did you discuss criminal prosecution of Mr. Flynn — General Flynn?

YATES: My recollection is that did not really come up much in the first meeting. It did come up in the second meeting, when Mr. McGahn called me back the next morning and asked the — the morning after — this is the morning of the 27th, now — and asked me if I could come back to his office.

And so I went back with the NSD official, and there were essentially four topics that he wanted to discuss there, and one of those topics was precisely that. He asked about the applicability of certain statutes, certain criminal statutes and, more specifically,


And there was a request made by Mr. McGahn, in the second meeting as to whether or not they would be able to look at the underlying evidence that we had that we had described for him of General Flynn’s conduct. And we told him that we were inclined to allow them to look at that underlying evidence, that we wanted to go back to DOJ and be able to make the logistical arrangements for that. This second meeting on the 27th occurred late in the afternoon, this is Friday the 27th. So we told him that we would work with the FBI over the weekend on this issue and get back with him on Monday morning. And I called him first thing Monday morning to let him know that we would allow them to come over and to review the underlying evidence.

By the time the materials for review became available on January 30, Yates had been fired, nominally because she refused to defend Trump’s Muslim ban.

The HPSCI report (particularly content newly unredacted on May 4; see PDF 63 ff) reveals there were several concerns about Flynn’s contradictory comments (which Republicans bizarrely present as conflict). First, there had been a counterintelligence investigation into Flynn still active in December 2016, though FBI may have been moving to shut it down. The interview may have been sparked by Logan Act concerns, or it may have been Flynn’s public comments to Pence (the Republican report ignores that this would pose a blackmail problem). Comey told HPSCI that the agents found Flynn — a lifetime intelligence officer — exhibited no physical signs of deceit, but made it clear the Agents did find his statements plainly conflicted with known facts.

When Mueller asks the President what he knew about the meetings, he likely wants to know (and already has answers from McGahn and likely the Associate) whether they told him about the Flynn interview, if so when, and in how much detail. If they did tell Trump, Mueller may also want to know about whether McGahn’s questions on the 27th (including whether Flynn was in legal jeopardy) reflect Trump’s own questions.

Obviously, one other subtext of this question pertains to whether Yates’ pursuit of Flynn contributed to her firing.

The other critical point about whether and what Trump knew of Yates’ meetings with McGahn: on January 27, he had his first creepy meeting with Jim Comey. Then, on January 28, he had his first phone call with Vladimir Putin, a call Flynn attended.

January 27, 2017: What was the purpose of your Jan. 27, 2017, dinner with Mr. Comey, and what was said?

At lunchtime on January 27 — so after McGahn had called Yates to set up a follow-up meeting and indicated concerns about Flynn’s legal jeopardy, but before that meeting happened — Trump called Comey and set up dinner that day. According to Comey, several minor things that would recur later came up, including questions about Andrew McCabe and Trump’s exposition of the Hillary email investigation.

In addition, five other key things happened at the meeting.

He invited the FBI to investigate “the Golden Showers” thing to prove it was a lie:

At this point, he turned to what he called “the golden showers thing”


He said he had spoken to people who had been on the Miss Universe trip with him and they had reminded him that he didn’t stay over night in Russia for that. [this is not true]


He said he thought maybe he should ask me to investigate the whole thing to prove it was a lie. I did not ask any questions. I replied that it was up to him, but I wouldn’t want to create a narrative that we were investigating him, because we were not and I worried such a thing would be misconstrued. Ii also said that is very difficult to disprove a lie. He said ‘maybe you’re right,’ but several times asked me to think about it and said he would also think about it.

He asked if the FBI leaks:

He asked whether the FBI leaks and I answered that of course in an organization of 36,000 we were going to have some of that, but I said I think the FBI leaks far less than people often say.

He asked if Comey wanted to keep his job, even though they had discussed it twice before:

He touched on my future at various points. The first time he asked “so what do you want to do,” explaining that lots of people wanted my job (“about 20 people”), that he thought very highly of me, but he would understand if I wanted to walk away given all I had been through, although he thought that would be bad for me personally because it would look like I had done something wrong, that he of course can make a change at FBI if he wants, but he wants to know what I think. There was no acknowledgement by him (or me) that we had already talked about this twice.

I responded by saying that he could fire me any time he wished, but that I wanted to stay and do a job I love to and think I am doing well.

He asked for loyalty:

He replied that he needed loyalty and expected loyalty.

[snip — this comes after the request for an investigation]

He then returned to loyalty, saying “I need loyalty.” I replied that he would always get honesty from me. He paused and said that’s what he wants, “honest loyalty.” I replied, “you will get that from me.”

He claimed to suspect Mike Flynn’s judgment because he had delayed in telling Trump about Putin’s congratulatory phone call:

He then went on to explain that he has serious reservations about Mike Flynn’s judgment and illustrated with a story from that day in which the President apparently discovered during his toast to Teresa May that [Vladimir Putin] had called four days ago. Apparently, as the President was toasting PM May, he was explaining that she had been the first to call him after his inauguration and Flynn interrupted to say that [Putin] had called (first, apparently). It was then that the President learned of [Putin’s] call and he confronted Flynn about it (not clear whether that was in the moment or after the lunch with PM May). Flynn said the return call was scheduled for Saturday, which prompted a heated reply from the President that six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call from the [President] of a country like [Russia]. (“This isn’t [redacted] we are talking about.”) He said that if he called [redacted] and didn’t get a return call for six days he would be very upset. In telling the story, the President pointed his fingers at his head and said “the guy has serious judgment issues.” I did not comment at any point during this topic and there was no mention or acknowledgement of any FBI interest in or contact with General Flynn.

Trump would be hard pressed to argue the meeting was unrelated to the Yates meeting and the FBI investigation. Which would mean one thing Trump did — in a meeting where he also lied to claim he hadn’t had sex in Moscow — was to disclaim prior knowledge of the Putin meeting the next day (even while emphasizing the import of it).

Of course, the claim he thought Flynn had poor judgment didn’t lead him to keep Flynn out of the phone call with Putin the next day.

January 28: Trump, Pence, Flynn, Priebus, Bannon, and Spicer phone Vladimir Putin

February 9, 2017: What was your reaction to news reports on Feb. 8-9, 2017?

According to Jim Comey, he went for a meet and greet with Reince Priebus on February 8. While he was waiting, Mike Flynn sat down to chat with him though didn’t mention the FBI interview. Then, after clarifying that the conversation with Comey was a “private conversation,” he asked if there was a FISA order on Flynn. Comey appears to have answered in the negative. Priebus then took Comey in to meet with Trump, who defended his answer in an interview with Bill O’Reilly released on February 6) that “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” After Comey criticized that part of the answer, Trump, “clearly noticed I had directly criticized him.” (h/t TC for reminding me to add this.) Since Yates had told McGahn how they knew Flynn had lied, Priebus’ question about a FISA order suggests the White House was trying to find out whether the collection was just incidental, or whether both sides of all Flynn’s conversations would have been picked up.

On February 9, the WaPo reported that Flynn had discussed sanctions, in spite of public denials from the White House that he had.

National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.

Flynn on Wednesday [February 8] denied that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Asked in an interview whether he had ever done so, he twice said, “No.”

On Thursday [February 9], Flynn, through his spokesman, backed away from the denial. The spokesman said Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”

Officials said this week that the FBI is continuing to examine Flynn’s communications with Kislyak. Several officials emphasized that while sanctions were discussed, they did not see evidence that Flynn had an intent to convey an explicit promise to take action after the inauguration.

In addition to tracking Flynn’s changing claims, it also noted that on January 15, Mike Pence had denied both any discussion of sanctions in the December call and discussions with Russia during the campaign.

On February 10, Trump was asked by reporters about Flynn’s answer. Trump played dumb: “I don’t know about that. I haven’t seen it. What report is that? I haven’t seen that. I’ll look into that.” (h/t TC)

Presumably, Mueller wants to know how surprised Trump was about this story (which actually builds on whether McGahn told him about the Yates conversation). But given Trump’s earlier question about FBI leaks, I also wonder whether Mueller knows that Trump knew this was coming. That is, some of the leaks may have come from closer to the White House, as an excuse to fire Flynn, using the same emphasis that the story (and Yates) had: the claim that Flynn had lied to Pence.

Except Mueller probably knows that the effort to soothe Russia’s concerns about sanctions made in December were a surprise to few top aides in the White House, least of all Trump.

February 13, 2017: How was the decision made to fire Mr. Flynn on Feb. 13, 2017?

We have remarkably little reporting on how and why Flynn was actually fired — mostly just the cover story that it was because Flynn lied to Pence — though after Flynn flipped last year, Trump newly claimed he had to fire Flynn because he lied to the FBI (something that, if the claims about the original 302 are correct, FBI hadn’t concluded at the time Trump fired him).

The thing is, neither story makes sense. It’s virtually certain that many people in the White House knew what Flynn had said to Sergey Kislyak back in December 2016; Tom Bossert was included in KT McFarland’s emails to Mike Flynn, and he sent it to Reince Priebus, Stephen Bannon, Sean Spicer, and at least two other people. All of those people, save Bossert, are known to have provided testimony to Mueller’s team.

But it also makes little sense to argue that Trump had to fire Flynn because he lied. If so, he would have done so either immediately, before the Putin meeting, or much later, after FBI actually came to the conclusion he had lied.

One logical explanation is that Flynn lied because he was told to lie, in an effort to continue to hide what the Trump Administration was doing in the transition period to pay off its debts to Russia. But faced with the prospect that the FBI would continue to investigate Flynn, Trump cut him out in an effort to end the investigation. Which explains why things with Comey proceeded the way they did.

Update: This post has been updated with new details surrounding February 8-10 and newly unredacted details from the HPSCI report.


These are some of the most useful resources in mapping these events.

Mueller questions as imagined by Jay Sekulow

CNN’s timeline of investigative events

Majority HPSCI Report

Minority HPSCI Report

Trump Twitter Archive

Jim Comey March 20, 2017 HPSCI testimony

Comey May 3, 2017 SJC testimony

Jim Comey June 8, 2017 SSCI testimony

Jim Comey written statement, June 8, 2017

Jim Comey memos

Sally Yates and James Clapper Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, May 8, 2017

NPR Timeline on Trump’s ties to Aras Agalarov

George Papadopoulos complaint

George Papadopoulos statement of the offense

Mike Flynn statement of the offense

Internet Research Agency indictment

Text of the Don Jr Trump Tower Meeting emails

Jared Kushner’s statement to Congress

Erik Prince HPSCI transcript


Part One: The Mueller Questions Map Out Cultivation, a Quid Pro Quo, and a Cover-Up

Part Two: The Quid Pro Quo: a Putin Meeting and Election Assistance, in Exchange for Sanctions Relief

Part Three: The Quo: Policy and Real Estate Payoffs to Russia

Part Four: The Quest: Trump Learns of the Investigation

Part Five: Attempting a Cover-Up by Firing Comey

Part Six: Trump Exacerbates His Woes

103 replies
  1. TomVet says:

    In the section detailing the news reports of Feb 8-9 2017 you leave us dangling with this incomplete thought:

    Except Mueller probably knows that the effort to soothe Russia’s

    I’m confused.

  2. domye West says:

    “This isn’t [redacted] we are talking about”

    About which country is Trump talking shit?!

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Lovely, lovely piece of work.  Remind me never to play you in Go or chess.

    Two quick thoughts.  Yates’s willingness to share the underlying evidence against Flynn.  I assume she must have considered – after a string of prior warnings to Trump about Flynn – that the president would use that information to defend Flynn rather than as a reason to force him to resign.

    In the end, he did and fired Yates.  She did her job, protecting the law and national security.  Trump fired her for being disloyal to him.  He fired Flynn weeks later, only when his troubles became public.  He still defends him.  The Trump presidency in microcosm.

    That episode, and your time line reminds me of how desperate, absolutely desperate Trump and his closest advisers were and are to assure Putin that they have his back.  An own goal for a Republican President, Shirley, an inexplicable political crime from the get go.  Perhaps we’ll find out one day whether Mr. Mueller has found legal crimes, too.

  4. bloopie2 says:

    I wonder if Trump will remember what he did or said or (much less) thought a year and a half ago on a handful of occasions (out of hundreds and hundreds) after his life had just been turned upside down by winning the election.  If he’s as addled as many think he is, then I doubt it.  Plus he just says stuff all the time without thinking, so “what he thought” isn’t really something that will meaningfully stay with him.  I think your series of posts is a great summary of so much, tying it together to the extent possible, and thank you, but I don’t think anyone should count on getting any useful intel out of him.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Trump is powerfully narcissistic, but his brain works about things he cares about: his money, his brilliance and beauty, his Greatness! (and sexual prowess [sic]), and abject loyalty.

      He remembers slights.  But he can forget to remember if remembering would expose the few things he cares about.  He can’t stick to a script for long or when challenged, which means he ought to avoid a voluntary interview by Mueller, because his team will work on his weaknesses gently and persistently until he opens up.

      An interview forced on him by the courts would at least feed his Base’s prejudice against big gubmint.  It would, in their eyes, justify his refusal to cooperate and/or to lie in his defense.

      The big questions are what evidence, if any, about which crimes does Mueller have.  After that is whether Mueller will subpoena Trump and spend months and serial arguments before the S.Ct. to fight about getting him in the chair.  If he does, what timing would suit his investigation best?

      • bmaz says:

        In U.S. v. Nixon, SCOTUS bypassed the appellate courts and reviewed the Watergate tapes subpoena directly. Took less than two months from Sirica’s ruling to SCOTUS’s decision. It can move quickly if SCOTUS is so inclined.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Not news to anyone here, Trump’s “I’d love” to talk with Mueller is a lie.  It is the Don doing the peacock walk, preening for his Base.  He does not want to go near Mueller.  But, moths to the flame.

  5. greengiant says:

    The second Flynn interview was Jan 24th. Either Yates misspoke or the transcript was in error.
    There is only so much EW can do with the lying Giuliani Sekulow questions. My guess would be Mueller’s team is working on more than this, and less in that political theater requires deniable with prejudice charges to be attributed to Mueller.

  6. SteveB says:

    As you now set out the timeline of 26 to 30 Jan the different elements of Trumps conversation with Comey come into sharper focus

    In particular the whole business of the call with Putin.

    Trump on the surface seems to be saying that Flynn has done something about the Putin call (caused a delay) which

    A) trump did not know about

    B) disapproved of.

    But is Trump merely trying to distance himself from Flynn, or is there something about the upcoming call both in timing and content that Trump is worried about. He clearly felt the need to proffer an  explanation for the breach of protocol in the sequencing of the call.

    Maybe the answer is that the WH was chaotic and had upended protocols on the calls with foriegn leaders ( Perhaps accidentally, perhaps on purpose: there is the pro publica reporting of the very very early call back to Vietnam, and Trump business connections to  a huge casino there).

    But as ever with Trump the deeper you delve the stranger things look; and the more that intial explanations/statements by Trump seem to conceal worrying activity.

    • greengiant says:

      McCabe set up Flynn’s interview by calling Flynn’s scheduler earlier in the day,  Jan 24th. If you believe Trump sources who always lie, then Trump did not learn of the interview until Jan 26th, two days later after Yates briefed McGahn.  Note that this is a January 2018,  two sources familiar with the matter story.  Sekulow drops this report off the May 2018 list of topics such that EW fills in the question.  So Sekulow’s list of topics is a Cliff Notes version to remind Trump with the answers blank?

      In the make believe Trump time line, this is in the middle of the seven day delay between Trump and Putin’s phone call. As to when Trump learned Mueller may actually have a different time line from Flynn. Why is the seven day delay such a big smoke screen, were there other Putin calls? Such speculation is the desired distraction. But there is no reason to think that the Sekulow NYTimes tune is the only one any investigator wants to dance to.

  7. SteveB says:


    Pardon my impertinence at suggesting a correction to your text.

    Re Putin phone call of 28 Jan 2017. Your first reference to it makes it clear that it is a phone call, but after the discussion of the Comey dinner conversation with Trump the is a reference to a ‘meeting’  with Putin, which is a mere slip
    Thanks for all the work and excellent insight.

  8. Trip says:

    In re to Trump’s quest: I want to give honorable mention to Rosenstein for being a badass against the Nunes BS to share investigatory work product and rig the system in favor of Trump. I was on the fence about him when he wrote the pretext for Comey’s firing, but the attempted ‘extortion’ and threats made to him have really shown what he is made of: One nerdy (intended as compliment) little candle in the darkness.

    • SteveB says:

      In a similar vein Comey gave up McCabe to the leak investigators (and hence the eventual firing).

      Rosenstein knew that Comey was toast whatever and Rosenstein’s view on the propriety of Comey speaking out when he did and how he did re Clinton matter was probably well known at the upper echelons of the DoJ, so I imagine that he could hargly have avoided writing the letter he did. Though it is notable that he did not recommend firing Comey.

      But neither Comey nor his supporters can reasonably carp about the Rosenstein role in the Trump (plus Sessions et al) decision to fire Comey.

      Rosenstein is publically burnishing his sword of justice and shield of the separation of powers with some aplomb.

      What is not clear to me is whether there is as yet a House subpoena issued against Rosenstein puporting to require him to disclose the Mueller authorisation memo(s), or whether it’s a request at this stage, but I believe its the latter.

      The lawyers here (bmaz, avattoir) are obviously the ones to ask, but I wonder whether Rosenstein could resist such a subpoena on constitutional grounds, and do so via the courts,

      In the conduct of litigation ( which Mueller investigation and prosecution plainly is)  the AG acts on behalf of the US as Sovereign according to the Nixon case: consequently the dispute over the subpoena against Nixon was not an intra-branch matter, and it was for the Court to decide (not the executive branch) what the ambit of the law is respecting such matters.

      That analysis (assuming I have not completely mangled what appears to be a central point in the Nixon case) gives rise to some interesting issues on the Rosenstein HouseRepublicans stand off. Should it come to legal cudgels, I guess that Rosenstein could seek some sort of declaration that a subpoena issued by congress interfering with ongoing investigation/litigation is unconstitutional and void.

      It may be a crazy thing to even imagine those sort of possibilities, but given the existence draft grounds of impeachment

    • Bob Conyers says:

      I’m still puzzled why Rosenstein was chosen (but glad). He’s a Republican but a professional and not a hack. Coming from Maryland he didn’t have the backing of influential home state same-party Senators.  He didn’t handle much in the way of red meat issues – he was known for stuff like busting Baltimore gun traffickers and going after midlevel corrupt politicians, but not in a way that created big headlines.

      I could see an administration that was trying to be more savvy deciding to appoint Rosenstein in order to satisfy the DOJ rank and file, except that doesn’t fit the model of the Trump White House at all. Maybe his nomination was the result of horse trading in the Senate to get votes for Sessions?

      • Trip says:

        My guess is that Trump probably thought he could be a political hack because:

        He was on the team of prosecutors handling the Whitewater investigation into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Arkansas business dealings in the mid-1990s, according to a Washington Post 2011 profile, and has spent his career as a federal prosecutor cracking down on gang violence and public corruption….

        In the mid-1990s, Rosenstein landed in the middle of one of the most high-profile cases in years. Kenneth W. Starr named him to the team of prosecutors handling the Whitewater investigation into Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Arkansas business dealings. In 1997, Rosenstein began working as an assistant U.S. attorney in the office he would later lead.

        Knowing Trump, he ignored any other element about Rosenstein’s past, including being described as impartial.  Trump probably calls him a Democrat or liberal today.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          Trump should have cut out the middleman and just named Ken Starr himself. He’d finally lost his job as President and Chancellor at Baylor in 2016, and his long experience covering up rape and other crimes at Baylor should have been seen as a big plus for Trump.

    • emptywheel says:

      She is cute and funny, except when she’s yelling at UPS drivers, in which case she’s really scary.

  9. Jill says:

    Seems clear now from the links provided that Mueller used information obtained via FISA warrant authorization in prosecuting Paul Manafort and in conducting his investigation. The initial FISA warrant on Carter Page, as part of a national security investigation, was in October 2016 and it was renewed three times. The latest renewal was by Rod Rosenstein is the spring of 2017, long after the end of the Trump campaign.

    “Judge T.S. Ellis III gave Justice Department attorneys two weeks to provide him with complete copies of two memos written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, one from May 2017, and the other, from August, that lay out the scope and ground rules for the investigation.”

    ““We don’t want anyone with unfettered power. That includes you and the other attorneys and special counsel and that also includes the president of the United States,” Ellis said.”

    This is the redacted authorization from Rosenstein to Mueller: ( The date of the memo is August 2, 2017 which is after the search of Manafort’s storage locker on May 26, 2017 and the search of Manaforts home on July 26, 2017.

    Michael Caputo states that the Mueller team has everything on everyone ( inside and outside ) associated with the Trump campaign including text messages, personal emails, phone calls, and all communications made by the campaign

    • emptywheel says:

      Hi. That’s a remarkably stupid thing to say. Downright ignorant. If you’re just coming here to litter the threads with inane stupidity I’m happy to block you.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      We do *not* know that the investigations are totally FISA based. Maybe partially, but almost certainly not completely.

      HUMINT mainly.

      Caputo may be gaming.

  10. Bob Conyers says:

    That photo is obviously staged, since the only time Trump has that much paper on his desk that isn’t fast food wrappers is when the staff dumps a giant pile of curated fan mail in front of him, Miracle on 34th Street style.

    But I am still struck by the image of Flynn and Priebus dutifully taking notes. There is so much information that those two have passed on and validated for Mueller that we just don’t know about yet, and I am sure Mueller’s team’s call to Sekulow was designed in large part to reveal as little as possible.

    The leak of Sekulow’s document has backfired in that it has given Mueller’s team a good indication of what Trump’s lawyers understand about the case, and I would not be surprised if they weren’t leaked earlier by Trump’s former lawyers precisely because they didn’t want to telegraph their areas of ignorance and misunderstanding. Giuliani on the other hand….

  11. matt says:

    (reply in comment not working)

    I agree with this series findings in terms of connections between Trump campaign players and Russian political/business interests. However, quid pro quo in a criminal context would involve the one side conspiring with the other in an illegal act, say hacking/leaking. I’m not even saying this didn’t happen… just that the paper trail, wire tap, or high value testimony may not materialize. Likely- or even obvious- pro Russia stances Flynn and Trump took to ease sanctions is not a crime unless it can be proven that campaign associates coordinated the attack on the DNC or Hillary’s server with Russian actors.

    As far as @Jill’s comment. It is upsetting to me that the caliber of people here would threaten blocking what is can only be considered a mainstream point of view. The Judge Ellis question deserves asking- why has Muller only charged Manifort with crimes unrelated to the 2016 election? And, Fox News/Michael Caputo have a point, with all the information and testimony that Mueller has- its time to shit or get off the pot.

    • bmaz says:

      No, it was an absolutely asinine question. And the only extent to which it is “mainstream” is due to ignorance of the “mainstream” in the face of Trump/FoxNews bullshit. We aim for better here.

      And, for that matter, “Fox News/Michael Caputo have a point, with all the information and testimony that Mueller has- its time to shit or get off the pot.” is asinine too. If you cannot fathom how criminal investigations work, how prosecutorial discretion can, and is, applied, maybe you are in the wrong place.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The GOP’s “shit or get off the pot” theme is political opportunism.  It was not much in evidence during the year Obama tried to get an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland for Supreme Court Justice.

        The GOP is trying to calm Trump’s nervousness and do his bidding.  Trump has zero patience, and the idea that he or his closest advisers might find themselves in federal court, defending serious criminal charges, is driving the Don nuts.  The GOP would also like to turn fear into reality, which is always easier to handle.  And it would love to do that before this year’s electoral campaigning takes off.  An October surprise indictment would annoy the GOP no end.

        The likelihood is that Mueller is investigating serious criminal charges against the president and his closest advisers, several of whom have already pleaded guilty to felonies.  The tasks he faces are weighty and complex.  Massive amounts of data are being reviewed, the evidence assessed, and trial and appeal strategies being prepared.  The possible crimes include many with serious international implications.  The Supreme Court is likely to consider a plethora of procedural and substantive appeals related to them.

        As with any serious mob prosecution, an analogy, first the little fish, the accountants and button men, are hooked, landed and gutted.  Then the bigger fish, the capo regimes, then the biggest fish for which substantial evidence is available.

        It took years to bring down one Teflon Don, John Gotti.  It may take years to bring down another (assuming hard evidence justifies it).  None of this happens on the time line of a reality TV show’s production schedule, no matter how often Trump treats his White House like a studio.

        To use a phrase Trump’s aides have enjoyed when describing the perils of others, the Don will have to wait to see if he or his children will have their turn in the barrel.  To paraphrase an older analogy, the wheels of justice grind slowly, but exceedingly fine.

        • matt says:

          EOH, thank you for that thoughtful response.  I don’t disagree with you at all.  Trump is a mob boss.  Criminal and crooked for sure, but there is going to be hell to pay from the conservatives, GOP, and Trump base if the “Russia Inquiry” doesn’t deliver a crime related to the 2016 Election meddling.  Botched porn star payments and empty condos aren’t going to cut it.

          • bmaz says:

            Yes yes. Sure. Criminal investigations of governmental officials should be run on the ill informed ignorant opinions of “conservatives, GOP and the Trump base”. What a simpering load of horse manure.

            • matt says:

              No. No. Not. The Mueller investigation was not intended to be broad sweep of government corruption.  You and I both know the broad SC mandate was given to tie Trump and Associates business dealings (financial gain/quid pro quo) with the Russian effort to turn the election.

              If its a “yes” on financial deals, but a “no” on criminal involvement with the Russia DNC hack, there will be no political will, even with moderates, to impeach Trump.  Keep in mind that it is the criminal involvement in the 2016 election that taints the business dealings.  So, the whole thing falls apart without Trumps culpability in Hilary’s email hit.

              • bmaz says:

                Another load of ill informed crap. And the mueller investigation was designed to be whatever DOJ  deigned it to be. You are relentlessly talking out your ass.

                • matt says:

                  Are you living in a fantasy world? Impeachment is going nowhere without Donald Trump’s criminal involvement with Russia.  I think that is a pretty solid assumption.

                  And, can I hold the opinion that pornstargate and shady condos are not enough on their own to turn congress against the president?

                  And, can I despise Trump, but curb my enthusiasm about the eventual outcome of the Mueller investigation?

                  • bmaz says:

                    Trip is right, you talk out of both sides of your mouth. And you do so rather disingenuously. Keep flailing, but know that your relentless BS will be called out. You came in as a belligerent gun nut, and now exist as a disingenuous troll. Thanks Matt!

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                Um, no.  Criminality related to the 2016 election, especially Russian interference in it, and other federal crimes discovered in the course of that investigation.  If Mueller discovers something outside his remit, it is fair game but would be prosecuted by others in the DoJ.

                The odds are that Trump has left a long trail of criminal dealings over the decades.  Since he’s been tied to the Russians for several of those decades, two potential sets of crimes intersect.

                To be prosecutable, the crimes would have to be serious enough to be worth the resources to fully investigate and prosecute, they would have to be within the statute of limitations, and hard evidence would need to exist and be presentable in court sufficient to withstand intense scrutiny and multiple judicial reviews.  The DoJ would have considerable leeway in its choices, so long as its discretion is not corruptly wielded.

                • matt says:

                  I’m talking about the political will to impeach the president… not the investigative mandate of the DOJ.  Charges against Trump, if any, will only be the beginning of a long drawn out legal battle(s), impeachment hearings… that, for the love of God… depend on the political will of the American electorate, congress, and the power establishment in Washington.

                  • Greenhouse says:

                    “No. No. Not. The Mueller investigation was not intended to be broad sweep of government corruption.  You and I both know the broad SC mandate was given to tie Trump and Associates business dealings (financial gain/quid pro quo) with the Russian effort to turn the election.” Calling BS on Matt. Am I missing something here?

          • SpaceLifeForm says:

            Yep. Not all about Russia, though that is a big issue.

            But, follow the money. That is the main thing to pay attention to.

      • matt says:

        No, its not asinine to ask the Mueller investigation to stick to crimes related to the 2016 election fraud.  That is the question central to the functioning of our democratic elections, not the Don’s long history of shady real-estate deals.  I fathom quite well how criminal investigations work- of most import is the crime itself.  We have one crime likely (but not proven yet) committed by Russian actors- the DNC/Podesta email hack- that may implicate the campaign.*  The million dollar “impeachable” question is whether or not Donald Trump “made a deal” for sanctions relief or Trump Tower Moscow in exchange for a political hit on Hillary.  It’s actually so strait forward that it defies logic that evidence (not conjecture and conspiracy theory) has not come forth from Mueller in terms of criminal indictments related to it.

        If Mueller’s “prosecutorial discretion” is waiting, waiting, waiting for someone to “flip” than he does not have, nor will likely find the evidence necessary for congress to impeach the president.

        *I don’t believe there are any Trump campaign associates implicated in the IRA troll farm indictments.


        • bmaz says:

          This is completely dishonest. It is a complete lie if you are familiar with the statements and certifications of Rosenstein. You are completely trolling the comments here, and either ignorant or lying in the process. It is one or the other, which one is it “Matt”?

          • matt says:

            Sorry for the confusion- I did not mean to imply that Mueller’s mandate was limited to the 2016 election meddling- I realize it is not.  I think many Americans think that it should be, though.

            No, not trolling at all- like a said before I prefer rabbinical or Socratic dialog vs. yes, yes, yessing in a echo chamber.

            • Trip says:

              I think many Americans think that it should be, though.

              “Everyone is saying it”?  Everyone on Fox News and others who don’t want Trump to be held culpable for being a professional grifter. I haven’t heard one Joe on the street say, “They shouldn’t look into criminal acts elsewhere”.

              • matt says:

                Not everyone, but we have a pretty even partisan split in America. Trump still has plenty of popular support, support in congress, and establishment support (which despite all odds is growing).  Unfortunately “professional grafter” seems to be a prerequisite for many political offices.

    • Soldalinsky says:

      I agree.  There’s so much more too.

      Last month, a pair of Washington-area lawyers suddenly surfaced in the Russian meddling case, notifying the court that they represent Concord Management. Mueller’s team is seeking a delay and arguing process garbage and “fairness” instead of turning over relevant evidence to the Russian firm.   God forbid they have to turn over Brady materials!!

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Gee, the Concord lawyers might also be cooperating with other actual and potential defendants in an attempt to discover sensitive information from Mueller to share with others he might prosecute.  There might be valid reasons to delay besides imitating Trump’s habitual disregard for “process garbage.”

        • Trip says:

          First thing that entered my mind; Back door maneuvering to get information. If they can’t impeach Rosenstein, they set up/pay some strawmen to represent the Russians, even though they could never be served.

          And the “Suddenly” is a big red flag. Usually the Kremlin et al respond with mockery and sarcasm, especially in response to charges on people who don’t do business in, or travel to the US.

          • SpaceLifeForm says:

            Back door maneuvering to get information.

            Yep, yep, yep.

            Major pressure on the ‘players’ to figure out what is really happening. GS.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Mueller might also be charging Manafort with the most serious crimes he’s ready to charge and to reveal the evidence for them that he’s ready to reveal to other potential defendants.

      This isn’t just about “getting” the Don for any serious crimes he may have committed.  It’s about a complex strategy for dealing with multiple defendants and possibly serial interrelated crimes, some of which go to the heart of the American electoral system.  If we cease to have trust in that, however flawed it was before 2016, all we have left is our willingness to take to the streets.

      • bmaz says:

        Or, you know, as you note, exactly how complex conspiracy investigations are done. By all rights, Mueller has operated quite efficiently and rapidly considering it has not even been a year since he was appointed. Opening an office, gathering a team and getting here to this point is extremely efficient and timely action.

      • matt says:

        “serial interrelated crimes, some of which go to the heart of the American electoral system.”

        Those crimes are gerrymandering, citizens united, voter ID, and misuse of personal data. Please, its not the Russians.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          It may not be all Russia, certainly not.

          That does not mean they are not involved.

          The weird thing is that they may be involved in both good and bad ways.

          • matt says:

            Ignorance is confusing facts with opinions.

            I have learned a lot from the intelligent posters here like EOH, OrionATL, Trip, Rayne and others who challenge my assumptions, and engage in dialog.  I am by no means immune to misstating facts and welcome any corrections thereof.  But its a little disingenuous of you to call me ignorant and insinuate that I don’t read the posts simply because I draw different conclusions that you.

            • bmaz says:

              Then read the comment immediately below by Earl. And understand why your content he was responding to was, indeed, bullshit. Also read his comments above in this sub thread. You waltz around in our comments propounding disinformation and Fox News like talking points and then take umbrage when people call bullshit on you. The refutation to almost all your bunk has been in our posts historically. As long as you seek to be a disinformation agent, you, and trolls like “Jill” who you oh so conveniently took umbrage on behalf of, will be treated accordingly.

              • matt says:

                I agreed with your assessment of @Jill’s 10:54 post- it made no sense.  My “umbrage” related to the Judge Ellis opinion/transcript which was news yesterday and was a valid discussion in the Manafort case- not trolling or fogish bullshit as you stated.

                I do not pound Fox news- the Caputo “shit or get off the pot” point of view was stated by other prosecutors in the WSJ yesterday.  This is a mainstream point of view, albeit conservative, and you are living in an echo chamber if you cannot engage in dialog with others in the political spectrum who disagree with you.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Bullshit.  The Russians have earned a place in the review of 2016, but other crimes occurred.  Mueller has already documented several.

          Other election related problems exist that allowed for easier interference.  Bipartisan gerrymandering, engaged in more aggressively by the GOP, since it controls more state legislatures, voter intimidation, state manipulation of the voting process, a lack of national standards, the absence of a voting holiday that would enable more of the 99% to vote, to name a few.

          Voter fraud is virtually non-existent.  The resources used to chase it are meant to convince the Base that its vote is being undermined by the left, especially if anyone but the GOP is in office, and to make governance from the left itself seem illegitimate.  That is a political fraud the Dems are ignoring.

          There are also serious potential vulnerabilities in the h/w and s/w of elections that sorely need addressing, but which are being left to twist in the wind by both parties.

          • matt says:

            Everything in your post is true except the first sentence.  I respectfully call bullshit on your “bullshit” about the Russians if for one glaring fact- that Bannon/Mercer/Trump campaign were far more involved in the architecture (content and targeting) of the trolling/campaign FB ads than the Russian IRA.  We know IRA got the targeting algorithm left dangling from Cambridge Analyica’s data firm Aggregate IQ.  Additionally, this debacle would never have happened if FB gave a damn about privacy over profits.

            • Trip says:

              Matt, you are talking out of both sides of your mouth, now. You call what @earl said bullshit, and then proceeded to admit that the IRA used data to influence the election. You think minimization equals no involvement and innocence. When @earl clearly stated that the behind the scenes machinations of big money GOP played a part, it doesn’t eliminate the Kremlin connections in that regard; there is no cancelling it out. I’m not sure why you continue to play the “Russians were definitely not involved” game, even while admitting that they were. What is it that you are trying to accomplish?

              • matt says:

                I’m not an “either/or” kind of guy… more of a “both/and.”  That does make analysis of events more complex… but probably closer to the truth.  I never stated Russians were not involved- just that in the “Review of 2016” I think there are bigger homegrown threats to our democracy… and that the Russian/IRA meddling has Mercer/Bannon fingerprints on it for sure with Trump’s complicity to be determined.

                I challenge idea that Russia/Putin was the “main” culprit.  A willing accomplice, yes.  But, who created the brilliant system for psychological mind fucking and election interference? Who introduced election tampering into the cold war rules of engagement with Russia?  Who has other “stolen” presidential elections and hundreds of stolen congressional seats and governorships?

                Answer:  USA

                • Trip says:

                  You said:
                  Those crimes are gerrymandering, citizens united, voter ID, and misuse of personal data. Please, its not the Russians.

                  @earl said:
                  Bullshit.  The Russians have earned a place in the review of 2016, but other crimes occurred.  Mueller has already documented several.

                  You said:
                  Everything in your post is true except the first sentence.  I respectfully call bullshit on your “bullshit” about the Russians if for one glaring fact- that Bannon/Mercer/Trump campaign were far more involved in the architecture (content and targeting) of the trolling/campaign FB ads than the Russian IRA.

                  Matt, you’ve been intentionally or unintentionally dismissing the Kremlin element from the start. You apparently don’t recall what you just said a few minutes ago. Don’t give us the “I’m the only one who is open enough to be close to the truth” bunk. It’s condescending to everyone here, and your mantra has been “NO, NOT THE RUSSIANS” in almost every thread until people revisit the connections over and over, including those written by Marcy.

                  No one knows how this investigation will end up, including you.

                  As far as your other comment in re to Trump supporters not wanting to discover crimes outside of the Russian/Kremlin element by the SC, how do you reconcile that with everything you just said to earl?

                  It sounds like you’d rather they just found NOTHING on Trump in any arena. And support is a stupid reason to wish to remain blind. I voted for Obama, and supported him at a point, but FFS, if he was paying off problems, potentially laundering money, to get to his his presidency, I would want the SC to dig it all up so it would see the light of day. WTH is there to support with Trump? Billionaire tax cuts, cuts to the poor?  Or is it his “charm and decorum”?

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              FB contributed to the legitimacy problems in the 2016 election.  Its actions were not the single reason, and probably not the driving force, behind the problems of 2016.  As you say, there were plenty of other actors throwing sand in the gearworks.

              FB’s business model and value are built around invasive data extraction.  It is has built a false friendly persona to that end.  As long as that persona works, FB is unlikely to make more than cosmetic changes in what it does, absent it being regulated like a public utility – which I favor.

              Personally, I think the more Zuckerberg – he with the personality of an electronic parking meter – says in public, the more that false friendly persona wilts, and the more likely it is that his business will have to contend with increased regulation.

    • Peterr says:

      I agree with this series findings in terms of connections between Trump campaign players and Russian political/business interests. However, quid pro quo in a criminal context would involve the one side conspiring with the other in an illegal act, say hacking/leaking. I’m not even saying this didn’t happen… just that the paper trail, wire tap, or high value testimony may not materialize. Likely- or even obvious- pro Russia stances Flynn and Trump took to ease sanctions is not a crime unless it can be proven that campaign associates coordinated the attack on the DNC or Hillary’s server with Russian actors.

      Reread the testimony above by Sally Yates, relating to her meetings with Don McGahn on Jan 26 and 27 (with emphasis added):

      YATES: So I told them again that there were a number of press accounts of statements that had been made by the vice president and other high-ranking White House officials about General Flynn’s conduct that we knew to be untrue. And we told them how we knew that this – how we had this information, how we had acquired it, and how we knew that it was untrue.

      And we walked the White House Counsel who also had an associate there with him through General Flynn’s underlying conduct, the contents of which I obviously cannot go through with you today because it’s classified. . . .


      WHITEHOUSE: Did you discuss criminal prosecution of Mr. Flynn — General Flynn?

      YATES: My recollection is that did not really come up much in the first meeting. It did come up in the second meeting, when Mr. McGahn called me back the next morning and asked the — the morning after — this is the morning of the 27th, now — and asked me if I could come back to his office. . . .

      The bolded item indicated Yates went into not just the evidence of Flynn’s problems, but also the sources and methods that unearthed the evidence. There’s a trail there, and it was a strong enough trail to scare McGahn that day, and once things became public, enough to scare Trump into firing Flynn. This trail is also likely what Mueller showed Flynn to induce him to cooperate, saying essentially “We’ve got you six ways from Sunday on a number of very problematic things. We’re willing to forgo charging you with everything but lying to the FBI about these things, if and only if you fully cooperate in our ongoing investigation.”

      Flynn faced a choice: fight the allegations or take Mueller’s deal. If he wanted to fight, that would only add to the blackmail potential that the Russians would hold over him, because they could reveal what they knew at any time and completely undermine his fight against Mueller. His only — ONLY — path forward was to accept the deal. Faced with the paper trail, Flynn swallowed his hubris, and said “OK.”

      Make no mistake: there *is* a trail there, and Mueller’s already using it to his advantage.

      • matt says:

        Absolutely.  I don’t doubt at all Flynn’s financial dealings, promises to ease sanctions, and even forward friendly plotting in the Middle East.  However, what makes his dealings “questionable” is that they were with Russia, with the implication, true or not, that Russia is a state enemy of the United States.  If his political maneuvering would have been with UK, France, or Israel… there would not be one iota of concern.

        Like Manifort, Flynn’s crimes likely predate the Trump campaign and may not be related to the 2016 DNC hack.  And, like Manifort, Flynn may have committed his crimes with no connection to Donald Trump.   Then again,  maybe he did… but that evidence has not been disclosed.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          An unwarranted assumption regarding the timing of any crimes Manafort may have committed, as well as who else is connected to them.

          • matt says:

            We know (have evidence and charges) of crimes predating the 2016 election with Manifort.  Without new charges or evidence, all conjecture about Maniforts criminal involvement with Russians to turn the 2016 election is also based on assumptions.   It’s just as “unwarranted” to imply any individual in speculated crimes with no evidence.  We all are in the same boat- floating our own opinions until more facts come to light.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Manafort’s crimes, if any, would be proven based on the evidence compiled by Mr. Mueller.  He seems to think he has a lot of it.  It is unwarranted to assume all those crimes predate the election or the campaign, though many of them likely do.  They might relate to the Ukraine as well as Russia, as well as the United States.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, that is certainly some disingenuous “foggish” bullshit surrounding a transcript. Is it humanly possible for you to add anything here but trollish crap?

      • matt says:

        Eh? Are you calling Judge Ellis a troll… pushing foggish, disingenuous bullshit?

        Those red blocks on the transcript are his words.

  12. harpie says:

    APNewsBreak: Mueller team questions Trump friend Tom Barrack  

    […] Days after Trump’s victory in November 2016, Barrack told CBS’ “This Morning” that Trump was like an ultimate fighter during the campaign who used “whatever tools necessary to convey a really disruptive message.” Barrack said America would see “a softer, kinder” Trump now that Trump had won the presidency […]

    Rayne mentioned Barrack in this February post: What Lies Beneath the Gates

    15-OCT-2017 — About this time, local news reported Gates was still working for Tom Barrack, CEO of Colony Capital and a member of the Presidential Council of Economic Advisers, prior to the indictment.


  13. tryggth says:

    Leaving aside the question of Trump instructing Flynn to lie to FBI, directing him to lie to Pence would clean up the narrative a bit. Also, when Flynn justified internally his actions (referencing FBI leaks) that led to the Trump -> Comey leak question.

  14. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    I am left wondering if we aren’t misreading Judge Ellis’s public flogging of Mueller’s folks. If I remember correctly, the judge not only stated that prosecutors in his courtroom were not above the law but he specifically named the White House too. So if he comes back supporting the prosecutors he is inoculated against criticism of bias going forward from the lunatics. Is there anything in the judge’s background, behavior, rulings or writing besides being a Reagan appointee that would indicate that he would do anything to advance the assault on the rule of law?

    • Trip says:

      **”Someone familiar with his thinking” (sorry I couldn’t resist this meaningless press phrase), said that he often browbeats the government, but that doesn’t indicate he will rule against them.


      **I actually just can’t recall who said this.

      • Peterr says:

        I heard something like this the other day in the car, listening to either NPR or MSNBC – the difference being I recall the reporter saying the judge is often very hard on the side of the folks he ultimately rules in favor of.

        The national reporter who swooped in to cover the case said that this was the take he picked up from the local reporters who regularly cover the judge as he works through all kinds of cases.

      • NorskieFlamethrower says:

        What is this “Jill” and why is it following this site? Is this a poorly programmed Russian bot?

        And BTW I’m changing service providers and email so how do I switch that with your security?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I think by “resigned,” it means forced out by the Don and left unprotected by the heads of the FBI and DoJ who should have protected his job from such crude political interference.

  15. Jill says:

    In reply to SpaceLifeForm @3:23pm

    We know from Rod Rosensteins’ announcement on May 17, 2018, that Mueller’s tasking was “to oversee the previously-confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters”.

    In his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, James Comey confirmed such an investigation:

    Adam Schiff, in his memo dated January 29,2018, confirms the Title 1 FISA warrant and “repeated renewals” against Carter Page in reference the “Russian investigations”.

    All of the above goes to the point of my post @1:27pm in that the Special Counsel took over a previous counterintelligence investigation and gained access to all captured intelligence that a FISA warrant allows. This is what Caputo was talking about in the link I provided and what the government is trying to hide in the heavily redacted Rosentein memo dated August 2, 2018 referenced by Judge Ellis.

    • bmaz says:

      This is your big point…..that there was  a CI investigation? That’s it? That’s what you have??

  16. brumel says:

    EW, you wrote: “By the time the materials for review became available on January 30, Yates had been fired”.

    This timeline seems not quite correct. According to Yates’ testimony, the materials were already available for review by early Monday morning, when Yates still remained in office for another several hours. “I called [Don McGahn] first thing Monday morning” and: “He had to call me back. He was not available then and I did not hear back from him until that afternoon [her firing] of Monday the 30th”.

    I have no idea what the significance is of this timeline detail. But it surely seems very odd McGahn made himself unavailable and failed to return Yates’ call. Why is it that he was so keen on reviewing the materials on Friday afternoon, making Yates work overtime to prepare them over the weekend, but suddenly so nonchalant by Monday morning as not even bothering to return Yates’ call? What did the WH learn over the weekend that seems to have obviated the look into the FBI’s Flynn evidence?

    Surely a lot of things must have happened between the “loyalty oath” dinner on Friday and Yates’ leaving the building on Monday afternoon. This crucial weekend seems still completely in the dark.

    Hope this helps. Your work is totally admirable!

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      McGahn’s “unavailability” is routine executive behavior when one knows that the caller has been fired.  No more can be gained from the caller.  The “team” left inside wants to give nothing else away to someone who has already been deemed an outsider and potentially another “disgruntled former employee,” the discrediting status given to every former insider.

      • brumel says:

        Again: Yates was not fired until Monday evening. She was in office all day and announced her defiance of the travel ban only late in the afternoon. Before that, McGahn could hardly have known she was going to be fired.

        In any case, the timeline according to the Senate testimony is that the FBI materials on Flynn were available for review throughout Monday and nobody from WH seemed to wanna take a look, despite the vital content.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Before that, McGahn could hardly have known she was going to be fired.

          In corporate America, the timeline would work out just fine for McGahn to have known of her upcoming firing.  The decision and its announcement are rarely simultaneous, especially for someone of Yates’s seniority.

          • bmaz says:

            Yeah. Not to mention that in normal circumstances (yes I know Trump Admin is not normal, but it was early then) the White House Counsel is THE presumed conduit to DOJ. If the decision was already made in the morning, I think the better presumption is that McGahn knew then.

            • brumel says:

              If. But there’s no evidence for that. Puzzles should not be solved by inventing untestable ad-hoc hypotheses. Especially since the official explanation of the decision, according to which it was made on Monday evening and was prompted by Yates’ spectacular insubordination, is highly plausible. (That alone doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true, of course.)

              Note also that the WH legal team failed to show up not only on Monday. They didn’t show up on Tuesday or Wednesday, either, when Yates was already history and Boente was in her place. It was only on Thursday that they looked at the materials.

              Whatever may have happened, the timeline statement “By the time the materials for review became available on January 30, Yates had been fired” is demonstrably incorrect. Which I find unfortunate because the error glosses over a problem.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                Plausibility is a non-starter with this administration.  Mr. Trump is a serial abuser of the truth.  What other president has motivated a major newspaper to count his daily lies and to publish a running total of them?

                This administration does not deserve any benefit of the doubt.  Verify, then trust.  Especially so when it comes to firing decisions that relate not to the employee’s performance but to whether she demonstrates sufficient loyalty and willingness to lie to protect the president.

                • brumel says:

                  We cannot abandon all ideas of plausibility! Otherwise Trump’s actions are merely random electric waves inside that chunk of mozzarella he claims to be his brain, and we can only shut up and await the PET scans for any insight. (Come to think of it, even that seems almost… plausible.)

                  No. It is not for nothing that wise doctors have observed since antiquity this cautionary rule: When you see madness, look for the method in it. Because if you miss it, you can easily end up as the madman’s toy. (Which, BTW, it might be prudent to apply in the Giuliani case as well!) By contrast, “Credo quia implausibile” is not a good maxim. Trump does display character constants that permit rational conclusions, and it is important to draw them.

                  If Trump had really made the firing decision at any point prior to Yates’ declared insubordination, it would cry out for an explanation, even by Trump-crazy standards. What would have triggered it? Can her intervention with McGahn on Thursday 26 be interpreted in the remotest way as showing insufficient loyalty, or an unwillingness to lie? I just don’t see that. And on the subsequent days, she did nothing but comply with the WH’s every request. It was only on Monday that she broke the loyalty.

                  Before that, Trump had no motive (including no Trumpish motive) to get rid of Yates, whose peaceful resignation was imminent within just a few days anyway. You could perhaps argue he succumbed to a sick impulse to shoot the messenger (of the bad Flynn/FBI news). However, the Trump method of madness, proven over many years, has never been to shoot the messenger but to protect and use him to his own ends.

                  So McGahn’s no-show remains for me one of the puzzles. Among others, but enough for now.

  17. Jill says:

    Concord Management and Consulting was indicted by the Special Counsel on February 16, 2018

    The Reed Smith law firm representing Concord Management and Consulting has sent a letter to Special Counsel demanding fifty one various classes of information including recordings and electronic surveillance of Concord Management employees and officers ( Attachment A ) and further demanded { 1. From 1945 to present, each and every instance where any officer, employee and/or agent of the United States Government engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes in any foreign country; including but not limited to information relating to whether any such activity utilized propaganda in any format, including but not limited to the use of social media. This disclosure should include any and all information regarding the use of computer infrastructure inside and outside of the United States, false foreign identities, goals to sow discord in a foreign political system, assistance to a foreign elected official or candidate, attacks on a foreign elected official or candidate, assassination or conspiracy to assassinate a foreign elected official or candidate, buying political advertisements, posing as foreign persons and/or failure to honestly identify to foreign voters the involvement of any officer, employee or agent of the United States Government} and  2. { From 1945 to present, each and every instance where any United States or foreign person has been charged by the government with violating 18 U.S.C. 371, for allegedly impairing, obstructing and defeating lawful governmental functions of the United States by dishonest means in order to interfere with the United States’ political and electoral processes. } ( Attachment B ).

    Special Counsel requested a continuance of a scheduled May 9, 2018 hearing but it was denied by the judge




  18. Jill says:

    Special Counsel claims “1 Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein was and is serving as Acting Attorney General for the Russia investigation because, on March 2, 2017, the Attorney General recused himself “from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.” Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Attorney General Sessions Statement on Recusal (Mar. 2, 2017), available at As the Attorney General noted, id., the Deputy Attorney General in those circumstances exercises the authority of the Attorney General. See 28 U.S.C. § 508; 28 C.F.R. § 0.15(a). ”

    See bottom of page 4:

    That is not what Sessions stated in his recusal:

    “Consistent with the succession order for the Department of Justice, Acting Deputy Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dana Boente shall act as and perform the functions of the Attorney General with respect to any matters from which I have recused myself to the extent they exist.”

    • bmaz says:

      And, again, WHAT IS YOUR POINT?? I am done with your dumping of unexplained links and disingenuous, if not duplicitous, argument. Function as a responsible commenter or I will strike your comments.

    • matt says:

      @Jill… tough crowd for sure here… but I agree with BMAZ that you’ll need a thesis statement or well formed argument to survive the blacklist.  I tried, but could not figure out what your last post was trying to convey- care to sum it up in a sentence or two?

  19. jill says:

    Sessions clearly stated that Buente will take his place in all matters relating to the campaign. So why is Special Counsel citing Rosenstein?

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