Manafort and His Co-Conspirators Adopt the Communications Habits of David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell

Back in January, I observed with some surprise that Paul Manafort was conducting his ongoing dalliance with Oleg Deripaska’s flunkie Konstantin Kilimnik on a PRISM provider’s server.

Which is why I find it so interesting that prosecutor Greg Andres emphasized Manafort and … he didn’t say whom (at least per the two reports that covered this) were communicating using the “foldering” technique that terrorists and unfaithful CIA Directors have been known to use in the past. Here’s how Josh Gerstein described the exchange:

“This was a sustained campaign over a five-week period,” Andres declared, saying it involved “multiple” phone calls, texts and other messages.


The two sides also squared off during the hearing about Manafort’s use of technology. Andres raised a new allegation that Manafort engaged in a practice knows as “foldering,” where two or more people trade messages through draft folders in an email account. The prosecutor provided few details but suggested it was part of “a history of deception on behalf of Mr. Manafort in this case.”

Westling didn’t address that issue, but said prosecutors were going too far in seeing cloak-and-dagger spycraft in Manafort’s use of popular messaging apps, like WhatsApp, that encrypt their contents.

Here’s how CNN’s Marshall Cohen described it.

Prosecutors said Manafort used a method called “foldering” to covertly talk to people. It’s not that complicated: He made an email account and shared the password. He wrote messages but saved them as drafts, never sending actual emails. Other guys open the draft, read it, delete.

For some time, Manafort has known Mueller had obtained a search warrant for this email in August (though I guess he didn’t learn that before being caught emailing Kilimnik in November).

And while it’s unclear, it seems likely, given the context and Andres’ reference to “other messages,” that Manafort adopted the foldering technique (stupidly, given that FBI has been able to catch people using it since David Petraeus got busted this way and CIA long before that) as a way to attempt to continue communications, and that they were used as part of Manafort and Kilimnik’s efforts to reach out to Alan Friedman. Andres seems to have suggested at the hearing that Manafort continues to get new phones.

Here’s the thing, though. While Mueller’s repeated efforts to use Manafort’s ongoing communications with Kilimnik against him have made for amusement. they also seem a good signal to Manafort about what else the government has collected, and not necessarily just with Kilimnik.

Ah well, Manafort now has time on his hands to reflect on what comms that means Mueller has obtained.

28 replies
  1. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Parse error.  Missing DOJ/FBI, no?
    Maybe a verb too?

    Manafort has known his own Manafort email had obtained a search warrant for this email in August 


  2. SpaceLifeForm says:

    And now Manafort will no longer be doing any ‘foldering’.   But maybe the others will continue to do so.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Rudy 9/11 is now into dangling pardons for Manafort. These guys aren’t very creative, but they never give up.  I hope Mueller’s team takes a long hard look at Rudy’s gambit.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      I know the talk of pardons fits the PR strategy – it’s throwing red meat to bad reporters. If Trump went through with it, he could keep weeks of unwelcome news off the TV – at a potential cost of other bad news, of course.

      Does it accomplish anything from a legal perspective regarding Trump’s case, though? Or has that boat already sailed?

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        The only Trump case that I am aware of is NY State level, not Federal. So no pardon angle will apply.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Only Rudy would pardon Manafort.  Most of his alleged crimes appear to be federal, which would benefit from a Trump pardon.

        Receiving a pardon would take away his right to avoid criminally implicating himself.  That would remove any legal defense he might have to avoid cooperating with Mueller.  He could still refuse to cooperate.  But without jeopardy waiting for him, he would quickly end up in contempt and spend as much time in jail as it took to change his mind.

        If Trump had another lawyer besides Rudy, that lawyer might encourage the Don to wait and commute any sentence Manafort received to time served.  In effect, Bush did that for Libby, notwithstanding Cheney’s campaign for a pardon.

        It would be important for Trump to deliver that message in a credible way to Manafort though.  And by now everybody knows how much a Trump promise is worth.  Manafort’s a high-risk kinda guy though.

        In Libby’s case, the commutation preserved Libby’s potential legal jeopardy and preserved a reason for him not to spill the beans.  That protected Bush and Cheney from being implicated in the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.  (Trump’s pardon of Libby was safe for the perps, because it was after any applicable statute of limitations had passed.)

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Something may be ‘dangling’, but I doubt it will ever be long and hard.

      Rudy has a problem. He has leaks that have been discovered.

  4. Jake McDermott says:

    Yes, foldering. Same thing Strzok, Page and some of their FBI cohorts were doing. Says a lot about the Russia investigation, huh?

    • bmaz says:

      Eh, no, it doesn’t say anything whatsoever “about the Russia investigation”. It does say something about Manafort’s opec, but that is about it.

  5. Bob Conyers says:

    “they also seem a good signal to Manafort about what else the government has collected”

    I would guess it’s not just a signal to Manafort. It’s a signal to everyone Manafort has communicated with, and for that matter it’s a reminder to anyone in the larger case that the FBI can dig up a lot once they’re on the trail.

  6. Rusharuse says:

    One way around the whole pardons goat FCK would for Mueller to break with tradition and indict Trump. Sure that would set another herd of goats a’fornicatin but a Prez trying to pardon co-accused would be a sad sight indeed.
    Note: I am not a lawyer (but I could have been!).

    • Trip says:

      I like this.

      On the other hand, the arguments would be exclusively about “can he or can’t he?”, rather than specifics to Trump and we all know how that goes.

  7. Rugger9 says:

    A pardon at this point would accomplish what, exactly, for the palace?  Under Burdick, if Paul accepts it he is presumed guilty and also cannot invoke the 5th on topics attached to it.  However, with the NYS charges swirling around, could Manafort be able to invoke the 5th allegedly for those potential charges?

    • Frank Probst says:

      I think his 5th Amendment rights would be the least of his worries.  Manafort would have to be pardoned for EVERYTHING to get him out of jail at this point, wouldn’t he?  And those charges now formally include witness tampering while out on bail for other charges.  If Burdick means acceptance of a pardon is an admission of guilt, then how does Manafort argue for bail if he’s charged with something by New York State?  To get to that point, he would have had to accept a pardon for federal witness tampering while out on bail.  Wouldn’t the New York State prosecutors be able to argue that he should go directly to jail at that point?  Manafort had already been given a shot across the bow in this case for violating his gag order.  He STILL chose to tamper with witnesses.  It’s hard to for me to see any compelling argument for why he wouldn’t be willing to commit more crimes while out on bail for New York State charges.

      Lawyers, what say you?

      • Trip says:

        IANAL, but I kept hearing that if he were pardoned, he would have to testify, he’d have no reason to claim potential self-incrimination, and couldn’t take the Fifth. The Talking Head TV lawyers, however, were saying this before the additional charges.

    • RWood says:

      If pardoned, what keeps Manafort from leaving the country? Would he not have to face additional (state) charges in order to ensure he did not simply place himself out of reach?

  8. Kathleen says:

    EoH….but our Reps, intelligence officials etc etc have been repeating for decades “no one is above the law, no one is above the law” you are getting very sleepy

  9. pseudonymous in nc says:

    “Foldering” relies upon storing drafts on a server. So you have to pick your server wisely.

    Manafort’s opsec is interesting: half-arsed, but with lots of eggs in lots of baskets. That’s perhaps a testament to how super-seekrit conversations involve more than one person and multiple correspondents may have different beliefs about what counts as super-seekrit.

  10. greengiant says:

    The dots between political operative and lobbyist Manafort and possible election hacking and disenfranchisement in the Ukraine and the US have never been publicly connected to my knowledge.

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