Paul Manafort Is One of 37 People in an Omertà with the President

Apparently, Bob Woodward committed some journalism along with canonizing racist John Kelly and wife-beater Rob Porter in his book: he got a number for how many people are included the Joint Defense Agreement that gives Rudy Giuliani such confidence the President is not at risk: 37.

And Politico committed still more journalism and answered the question we’ve all been asking: yes, Paul Manafort is among those 37.

Giuliani also confirmed that Trump’s lawyers and Manafort’s have been in regular contact and that they are part of a joint defense agreement that allows confidential information sharing.

“All during the investigation we have an open communication with them,” he said. “Defense lawyers talk to each other all the time where as long as our clients authorize it therefore we have a better idea of what’s going to happen. That’s very common.”

Giuliani confirmed he spoke with Manafort’s lead defense lawyer Kevin Downing shortly before and after the verdicts were returned in the Virginia trial, but the former mayor wouldn’t say what he discusses with the Manafort team. “It’d all be attorney-client privilege not just from our point of view but from theirs,” he said.

That means when John Dowd complained that the raid of Manafort’s condo (where his eight iPods were seized), that was based on privileged conversations between lawyers. And when, in January, Trump confidently said he was sure Manafort would protect him, that was based on privileged conversations between lawyers.  And when, just before the EDVA trial, Kevin Downing was ostentatiously saying there was no way Manafort was flipping, and when he was balking on a plea with Mueller immediately after the trial, he was also talking to Rudy Giuliani.

Mind you, Rudy G will learn right away if Manafort starts considering cooperating, rather than just pleading, because Manafort will have to (finally!) drop out of the JDA before those discussions start.

And while I suspect Mueller has slowly been peeling away people like Sam Patten, that the JDA is so big likely means some or most of the following people are part of the omertà (and Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, and Mike Flynn were part of it):

  • Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik
  • Jared Kushner
  • The Trump Org defendants: Don Jr, Rhonna Graff
  • Bill Burck’s clients: Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Don McGahn (and up to three more)
  • Victoria Toensing’s clients: Mark Corallo, Erik Prince, Sam Clovis
  • The hush payment recipients: Hope Hicks, Brad Parscale, Keith Schiller
  • Roger Stone and his buddies: Stone, Michael Caputo, Sam Nunberg, Andrew Miller, plus some (probably)

That’s 20. Some other likely (and enticing) JDA members are: Devin Nunes, Jeff Sessions, Tom Barrack, Keith Kellogg, John Mashburn, KT McFarland, JD Gordon, Walid Phares, Stephen Miller, Sean Spicer, Rob Porter, Corey Lewandowski, John Kelly. Heck, it’s not even clear that George Papadopoulos is not part of the JDA.

But that still leaves space in the JDA for people who were already comparing notes with known members of the JDA, including Rinat Akhmetshin, Rob Goldstone, and Ike Kaveladze (along with Emin and Aras Agalarov, who are all represented by Scott Balber).

No wonder Rudy thinks he knows everything that Mueller has.

That’s why the collective panic on the discovery that Stone’s phone was likely among the ~10 or so that Mueller got warrants for in the wake of Rick Gates’ cooperation agreement is so interesting, and also why Manafort, playing his part as point, tried so hard to find out who the other four AT&T users whose phones were obtained with his own.

These guys may be good at omertà. But every single one we’ve seen so far has shitty OpSec; they’ve been saying their co-conspiracy communications on their phones and on iCloud. Plus there are people like Omarosa wandering among them, dismissed as irrelevant even while they record everything they hear. And meanwhile, Mueller is chipping away at the edges, people they haven’t considered (like Patten). And all the while he’s been building his case against Stone and Don Jr.

61 replies
  1. Ollie says:

    So.  Let me paraphrase what I think I understand here.  That president Trump has a secret  team that regularly communicate w/each other.  The JDA are there to protect the president.  At all costs.  WTF?  Sean Spicer?  Seriously?  That moron?  Ok.  Well they’re all morons but this is really scary Marcy.  They’ve found a legal way to find out all that Mueller has on them, is looking into…………

    So.  What’s the point then?  I mean these asshats are basically a living/breathing condom for a p*#^k to screw this country at will?  I can’t breath.

    • oldoilfieldhand says:

      Breathe deeply when you can. Keep in mind that Bob Mueller only reveals what he knows in court. Rudy and the Omertas are scared! DJTJr is actually worried, in spite of his bravado act, and the presindebt is terrified, for good reason.

      • Ollie says:

        Hey thanks for a reply.  I guess my mouth dropped over the magnitude of people running protection of that idiot in office.  I still do have hope in Mueller.  Marcy’s reporting has helped that tremendously.  You  know I’ve never just given the gov a blank “gov is good’.  I’ve tried to seek out information, carefully; I’ve seen w/my own eyes the craziness who kiss butt and protect/defend at all costs but to actually know now that there is a ‘JDA’ who are the front line to these deadly antics of perhaps “our last president”?  I mean OMG.  It does seem ‘things’ are coming out at a ‘zoomies’ rate

        And I was for some reason ‘heatened’ over the coming together (in a more public arena) of mainstream media and MW.  The reporting here is exemplar.  Trustworthy.  HAHAHA  It’s like often I come here, get some more knowledge w/stellar insight and then spend time processing.  My god I yearn for the old days of running in the mountains of Sugarloaf/Big Bear w/my dog Michael.  This was back in the 60’s and you could go hours w/o seeing another soul.

        So are a lot of these thugs in the GOP …….are they birthers?  I mean, I really have a hard time grasping that there are treason.ists alive and well in power.  I kinda lol when I saw the promo for Michael Moores new film: “Donald Trump might be our last president?”  I’m not anymore.

    • Will Twiner says:

      it’s  not secret, and the “people” involved are motivated to share information because 1) it forwards their personal defense and 2) they all expect pardons.

      • bmaz says:

        They generally are kind of secret, at least as in not public. And if 37 people think they are going to all get pardons if charged, they are nuts.

        • Milo says:

          Why? I can see that pardons won’t make all their problems vanish (state charges, asset loss), but is there a difference for Trump if he pardons 7 of them versus if he pardons 37?

        • Bob Conyers says:

          I assume not all 37 face a big risk of prosecution, qnd some joined to avoid being made a fall guy, or to avoid political or financial issues if the Trump camp badmouths them.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          An operation as insidious and far-reaching as Cambridge Analytica’s had to be paid for someone, somehow.  Some of those hidden funders  don’t  show up among the 37 Omertà devotees.

          I strongly agree with OldOilFieldHand, and would add that absent vast quantities of liquor and drugs — unless Rudy and the 37 Omerta’s are brain-dead, they should be scared shitless.   If the liquor and drugs numb their senses to the point that they spill some beans, so much the better…

          Also, IIRC, there were reports leaking out early in the Mueller investigation that all the Trumpistas were shocked (shocked!) and exclaiming in a mixture of panic and horror that ‘Mueller knows everything‘.  Their lies were exposed only because ‘Mueller knows everything‘; they had no intention of telling the truth.  Alas.

          Their impunity strongly suggests that they were convinced that they were so smart, so clever, so ‘Facebookie disruptive‘ that they could get away with having Cambridge Analytica manipulate voters leading up to the election, move money through LLCs and tax havens around the globe, and  be viewed as political ‘geniuses’ for pulling off the coup of beating the Hated Hillary.

          FWIW, I don’t see the soulless harpy Kellyanne Conway among the 37.  Nor the Mercers, who sent Kellyanne and Bannon to bail out Trump — while at the same time, overseeing the coordination with Cambridge Analytica. With Kellyanne, Robert Mercer, and Rebecca Mercer, my count is up to 40 Omertà.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          Well, you know the story of secrets. Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.

          With 37, odds not good.

        • Avattoir says:

          l’omertà della banda di ragazzi di farinelli bianca

          Also, as an Italian surname Manafort ultimately traces back to Syria and Turkey.

  2. oilfieldhand says:

    Thanks Marcy,

    We should all keep in mind that Rudy and the Omertas tell us everything they hear or see in an attempt to shield the Presindebt. The Special Counsel has only revealed a portion of what he knows, in court proceedings, when he takes co-conspirators for a walk in the halls of justice. It’s going to get bumpy when the rest of the facts are presented.

    • Ollie says:

      Seriously!  Stunning…. like this is so treasonous behavior it’s hard to imagine who said the first thought of forming this?  At what point in their collective twisted minds did ‘protect the president and our agenda at all costs’ came to fruition?

      • Tracy says:

        Yeah, Ollie, I am also stunned and I agree w/ those saying that this seems just more “collusion” in plain sight.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Hoary jokes abound:

        What’s 37 lawyers buried up to their necks in sand?

        Not enough sand.

        When God created New York and New Jersey, why did she give New York all the lawyers and New Jersey all the toxic waste dumps?

        New Jersey picked first.

        • orionATL says:

          i know i shouldn’t laugh out of respect for the genuinely thoughtful and caring lawyers here, but… oh my, oh my….

        • marksb says:

          I had a wonderful and brilliant lawyer friend, now passed on to his final judgement, who collected lawyer jokes. Had hundreds, most of them memorized. I thought that was unique until I sang in an ensemble with an incredible tenor who would regale us at break with musician jokes. He had us barely able to go back in and hit stay on beat, let alone pitch.

  3. Swami says:

    Not a lawyer, so if anyone who is can answer this question I have: how is a JDA even enforceable by the parties? Sure, there’s the sword of prosecution dangling over all parties to the agreement, as well as the carrot of pardons. But how does any one party know that the others are complying with the JDA? What are the consequences if one of the parties doesn’t share details of discussions with Mueller, with the other parties? Is this predicated on an ethical duty of lawyers to comply with their client’s agreements?

    • Avattoir says:

      There’s a good point in here.

      There are practical non-court hammers, and as well there’s the potential for complaints to licensing bodies, and even potentially civil complaint exposure (Trump, I’d think, has kept decades worth of attorneys busy drafting these things.).

      But ultimately, to the extent individual attorney’s or firm’s duties to their own client is paramount, JDAs get blown up.

      The most truly lasting implication is that the attorney who participates in one of these creations and then at some point blows it off, even if for ethical, good and/or sound reasons, word gets around about that like a rookie batter’s susceptibility to slider into the hands does in MLB. And that fact typically ends that attorney’s value in this game of courts being played around the White House, as surely as it ends that rookie batter’s career.

      Here’s one way to recognize when this or that person in need of legal assistance has closed  off the idea of a JDA: when press coverage refers to his attorney as a ‘barracuda’ or ‘skilled at cutthroat’.

      Learning that the multiple defendants a government prosecution team is facing is engaging in cutthroat, is almost always highly energizing and rarely less than thrilling.

  4. John Rogers says:

    Although the only info we get out of the Mueller probe is when they go to court on something, it’s well to remember that his primary remit is counterintelligence not criminal. Think of an iceberg that runs much much deeper underwater than you suspect from what you can see on the surface.

    • bmaz says:

      No, it may have started out as CI when it was still at the DOJ, but don’t think it is correct to say that is currently the primary goal under Mueller

  5. Kick the darkness says:

    Two questions for the experts.  Would this extensive JDA arrangement change the fulcrum point on the leverage Marcy described on her previous post, where Mueller is trying to use asset forfeiture to pressure Manafort’s cooperation?  Presumably he’d be getting a much more concrete sense of whether he’s getting his pardon.  Second, I’m assuming this type of JDA is completely above board according to the rules.  Is there any way that it would conceivably stray into some form of obstruction of justice.

      • Kick the darkness says:

        Presumably the JDA itself would not be considered part of the central thrust of the conspiracy case if I follow you.  And some of the 37 would be more culpable than others.  Some of my questions are also appearing below so we’ll see how the comments play out.  To be more specific about it, would one of the lawyers involved in the JDA need to declare that fact in their interactions with Mueller’s team?

        • Tracy says:

          Kick – just heard on Chris Hayes the (I think Obama) Ethics Czar saying that the JDA brings up the real risk of moving from cooperation (w/ each other) into the area of obstruction of justice. Pardon offering would still be unethical within a JDA. I’m not a lawyer so look below to answers of your other questions, but I found it interesting that even within the JDA, there can still be obstruction, in his view.

        • Kick the darkness says:

          Pardon offering would still be unethical within a JDA.

          Yeah, I guess having the ability to play a get out of jail free card would not normally be part of the dynamic.  My take on Avattoir’s  comments was that maybe the JDA’s can end up being like throwing a bunch of rabid skunks in a burlap sack.   I guess what I was wondering in my comments was, for a defense attorney, what are your ethical guidelines in these arrangements? Especially in this case because, as you point out, the Dark Side is offering cookies.  Which presumably cost something. On the one hand everyone deserves representation before the law.  On the other, as Rick Wilson assures us, everything Trump touches turns to shit.

          Tomorrow may be another FUBAR Friday.  Just have to see.

  6. oldoilfieldhand says:

    Mueller was asked to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and Rod Rosenstein’s letter outlined his authority. Read the letter. (Manafort’s lawyers tried to rewrite the scope of his investigation and failed.)

    Remember Mueller had just met with Trump as a potential replacement as FBI Director after Comey was fired when he agreed to take the job investigating Russian interference. Remember also that Robert Mueller III did not hesitate, he terminated his association with a prestigious law firm and started calling people on his rolodex the same day. The letter he sent to Trump informing him that he would be unable to serve as a replacement FBI Director would be an interesting, if short, read.

  7. Trip says:

    It’s even more disgusting that Burcke was cherry-picking docs on Kavanaugh, while this is going down, to shove him through and get his clients and those in agreement better ‘justice’.

    How is this entire practice legal?

    We know you can’t lie to the Feds, but there’s nothing against the Feds lying. So, can they toss a bomb of disinformation down the pipe and watch where it leads, maybe change minds inside the “racket”?

  8. Kansas Watcher says:

    RICO? Could these JDA’s be used as another piece of evidence?

    I he Russian citizens and Corp that were charged… could 1 or more be apart of that JDA? If sooo… holy smokes. That would put a capital C in collusion. ( ya I hate that word too but a Rico that used the JDA… )

  9. orionATL says:

    37 lawyers, eh*. all with families, care payments, mortgages, and retirement funds.

    who is paying the freight for this menagerie?

    *not exactly 37. some clients have gone together as a sub-group (“family”) :).

  10. Bob Conyers says:

    What’s the likelihood that people who are in largely non-decision making roles are included? I’m thinking of people like secretaries and accountants who presumably face legal risk and know a lot, even if they’re not major actors.

  11. oldoilfieldhand says:

    reply isn’t working…
    It may not be 37 law firms involved in the JDA, but even a few of the firms involved have an overhead that likely would cover the annual budget of Rhode Island.
    Good staff ain’t cheap and cheap staff ain’t good. (colloquial paraphrase re: tattoos)
    Some of these firms have good staff…

    • Kick the darkness says:

      I was wondering that too.  I mean, presumably a lawyer that is representing a client within the JDA would need to disclose this to Mueller’s team as part of their interactions.  Or maybe not?  Also, Rudy G.’s quote was something like “lawyers talk to each other all the time”, which sounds much less informal than what I’m imaging a JDA to be.  One way or another, though, it appears that the wagons have been circled.

  12. mommybrain says:

    So basically, a JDA lets all these guys know which lie each of them told, so they can coördinate their future lies and arrange a more innocent explanation for their past lies?

    Bmaz, pls explain how this is in the interests of true justice?

    • SteveB says:

      JDAs are not as such a feature in UK criminal practice. But in every juridiction prosecutors and investigators will start from the premise that persons who are witnesses and possible subjects of an investigation, and who remain in the milieu of other witnesses/subjects/ targets will collaborate (collude) with each other in preferrence to cooperating with the authorities. Obviously JDA s put a cloak of privilege around the discussions their lawyer have, but what the witnesses say to each other is not privileged.

      Investigators usually want to work out who is talking to whom, and the best have pretty good techniques to discover chains of influence.  Directly asking yeilds informative responses.

      I would be interested to learn whether the fact of being party to a JDA and with whom are themselves matters covered by privilege, I imagine not but stand to be corrected.

  13. Allison Holland says:

    i think this protected herd of lawyers and their clients would be a giant threat and impediment to justice if mueller wasnt who and what he is.  i cant imagine that there would be justice at all otherwise. not just because of his very magnificence but also due to the assembled group he has led.  in a very real and honest way they are fighting for the soul of america and for us who are the most ordinary. and lordy i hope he wins. on the humanist side i am so pleased to read in reference to kelley that he is again being referred to as the racist kelly.  i also suspect his own domestic abuse but thats simple supposition on my part.  but i would like him referred to also as lyin’ racist kelley too. please.

    • Tracy says:

      I’ll second your approval of the term “racist Kelly,” and also move to second your introduction of the phrase “lyin’ racist Kelly.”

  14. Peterr says:

    Marcy, “hush money” is such a nasty phrase. I believe the language preferred by Hope et al. is “parting gifts”.

  15. Anne says:

    Congratulations to all on spelling omertà correctly: it’s used in English because it’s untranslatable but everybody leaves off the à.

    Avattoir, ya got me: chi è farinelli bianca?

    • Avattoir says:

      Riffing off the name of an historically famous castrato in the 1700s, Carlo Broschi, stage name Farinelli, or ‘Young (or Little) Flour’, thus itself a riff off the idea of the Flower of Youth combined with a reference to his notable pallor being accentuated by flour-based face make-up.

      There’s a decent movie based on him, the title character’s singing dubbed from a digitally merged blend of soprano Ewa (now) Podles & countertenor Derek Ragin. Here’s an example, Cara Sposa from Handel’s opera Rinaldo (The voice synch in the film is much better this YouTube copy suggests.):

  16. Tracy says:

    Thanks, Marcy, for helping us make sense of this news!

    When I see the names all laid out like that it really fleshes out the number “37”… chilling!!

    In my view, this is an injustice to the American people, pure and simple – it takes us further from knowing the truth. Glad to see that obstruction charges can still be brought to the JDA.

    Just a couple of notes:

    1) Chuck Rosenberg on Maddow tonight saying that if Manafort only pleads, and does not cooperate, he might not need to leave the JDA – but if he cooperates (Chuck thinks this is unlikely, but…), then since M’s goals would have changed from that of those in the JDA, he would leave it.

    This makes me wonder about the fact that Cohen DID leave the JDA – had he just pleaded guilty w/out cooperation, he might have stayed in it. Some lawyers had speculated at the time that Cohen was rushed into a hasty plea deal, but since his lawyer is tight w/ SDNY, they may have made an understanding together that some degree of cooperation would be coming.

    2) A few nights ago on Maddow, she quoted John Dowd in “Fear” – the reporting was that Trump did not realize that Ty Cobb could be called as a witness for Mueller, and that Trump did not have attorney-client privilege with him. Trump was like: shit, I told him a lot of stuff.

    Well, hopefully to counterbalance all of this JDA tomfoolery, Mueller is able to elicit info from surprising sources like Ty Cobb. I mean – I don’t understand why this is the case with Cobb – but if Mueller can interview him and attorney-client privilege doesn’t apply, then that’s at least one plus in the column of Truth and Justice.

  17. Anne says:

    Grazie Avattoir, che divertimento! That was fun. Love Händel.
    The irony of having a castrato singing to his cara sposa…how does that work?
    Oh, maybe that’s why she left: she found out. But I digress.

    Now, what does everybody know about Opus Dei? Those folks are mega-scary.
    Do we really have three SCOTUS justices with those connections? From what I’ve read (in Italian), Opus Dei does not exist to push women around or promote the Latin mass; its purpose is political power, period.

Comments are closed.