Why Did Rebekah Mercer and Steve Bannon Start Preparing an Accusation that Hillary Had Corrupt Ties with Russia Starting on March 14, 2016?

Amid a lot of noise regarding the eight month investigation into Roger Stone (including that his assistant Jason Sullivan has been asked for the complete recordings of some conference calls he gave in 2016 and that he has passed two polygraphs that may not be asking the right questions), the WaPo has a detail of real interest. Mueller brought Steve Bannon back in for questioning Friday.

On Friday, Mueller’s team questioned Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former chief campaign strategist, about alleged claims Stone made privately about WikiLeaks before the group released emails allegedly hacked by Russian operatives, according to people familiar with the session.

I say that’s particularly interesting because of Bannon’s role in a series of events that come as close as anything to hint that Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi not only had advance knowledge that Wikileaks would release John Podesta’s emails, but may have known and planned for what those emails included.

Stone and Corsi seemed to expect that there would be Podesta emails relating to Joule

As I noted in these two posts, Stone’s evolving public stories explaining his knowledge of the stolen documents seem to attempt to do three things:

  • Provide non-incriminating explanations for any foreknowledge of WikiLeaks — first pointing to Randy Credico and now to James Rosen
  • Offer explanations for discussions about Podesta that he may presume Mueller has that took place around August 14
  • Shift the focus away from Joule and the remarkable prescience with which the right wing anticipated that WikiLeaks would be able to advance an attack first rolled out on August 1

Basically, over the course of August, several key events happened: Stone first started publicly claiming foreknowledge of what WikiLeaks would drop, tried to launch a counterattack against public reporting on Paul Manafort’s sleazy ties to Russian and Russian-backed Ukrainian oligarchs, and then warned that it would soon be John Podesta’s time on the barrel. Those events came amidst two separate oppo research efforts: An early one initiated by Bannon and (Clinton Cash author) Peter Schweizer that accused Hillary of corrupt ties to Russia, largely through John Podesta’s role a company called Joule Unlimited. And then a later one (starting at 39), written by Corsi, trying to impugn Hillary because her campaign manager’s brother was so corrupt he had worked with Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and at Manafort’s instructions not properly declared the work. Stone seems to have wanted to conflate those two efforts, in part to suggest his August 21 tweet (and an August 15 one that may end up being just as interesting) referred to both brothers, not just John, and therefore not the earlier oppo effort.

What’s interesting, however, is that while Corsi claims Stone was quite interested in the Bannon/Schweizer effort and that his own report arose out of it, Stone was virtually silent about it up until the Podesta emails started dropping in October. In fact, the day before the Podesta emails dropped, Corsi renewed the focus on Joule, which in turn teed up a Stone report and then a Corsi one integrating but not linking emails released by WikiLeaks, followed four days later by a Corsi report actually showing how those WikiLeaks emails supported claims he and especially Stone had already made. While it is true that Stone doesn’t integrate evidence from the WikiLeaks emails until they were released, the analysis of those emails (Corsi’s) took place days after his first report on them.

One possible scenario to explain all that (and this is all speculative) is that Roger Stone, back when he was trying to find a way to respond to stories about Manafort, asked someone with access to the files Russia either already had or planned to share with WikiLeaks, and learned there were files in the dump pertaining to the attack already launched, focused on Joule. That is, Stone may have figured out that those emails were coming in August, and therefore held his focus on Joule until they were eventually released. In this scenario, then, when Stone predicted it would soon be Podesta’s time on the barrel, he may have been anticipating that the upcoming WikiLeaks dump would substantiate an attack his cronies had already made.

We know, for example, that in September 2016 he asked Randy Credico for help learning what Clinton emails on Libya — which Stone appears to have known or believed were in Assange’s hands but that had yet to be released — said. So it is consistent to assume that Stone tried to learn and plan for what was coming at other times. And his October 13 Joule attack is, as far as I’m aware, the one for which there is the most public evidence that he did plan the later attack.

That Joule attack was part of a report that remarkably anticipated the need to accuse Hillary of Russian ties

But all that raises another question I’ve been pondering: Why did Bannon and Schweizer already have an attack claiming Hillary had corrupt ties to Russia, ready to release on August 1? The timing was key: the report came out just over a week after the WikiLeaks DNC dump made the question of Russia’s tampering to defeat Hillary really pressing, and just days after Trump asked Russia to go find more Hillary emails. It also came as Manafort would have had the first rumors that stories of his own Russian ties would break.

The question is all the more important given that this was not a last minute report.

Indeed, according to the footnotes, the report was started in March 2016, even before John Podesta was hacked. The Obama White House fact sheet on that Administration’s attempted reset with Russia was accessed March 14, days before Podesta was hacked, and again on March 18, the day before Podesta was spearphished.

“U.S.-Russia Relations: “Reset” Fact Sheet.” The White House. June 24, 2010. Accessed March 14, 2016. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/us-russia-relations-reset-fact-sheet.

[snip]

“U.S.-Russia Relations: ‘Reset’ Fact Sheet.” The White House. June 24, 2010. Accessed March 18, 2016. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/us-russia-relations-reset-factsheet.

Some of the Hillary emails released by the State Department were accessed on March 28.

“Search Hillary Clinton’s Emails.” WSJ. March 1, 2016. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://graphics.wsj.com/hillary-clinton-email-documents/.

Reports on Viktor Vekselberg Silicon Valley’s initiative were accessed in March, too.

24 “Skolkovo Innovation Center.” Skolkovo Innovation Center. Accessed March 24, 2016. http://in.rbth.com/skolkovo.

25 “Cisco Commits $1 Billion for Multi-year Investment in Skolkovo.” ThinkRUSSIA. June 27, 2010. Accessed March 24, 2016. http://www.thinkrussia.com/business-economy/cisco-commits1-billion-multi-year-investment-skolkovo.

WikiLeaks Cablegate files on the Vekselberg effort going back to 2009 were accessed on April 27 (the day after George Papadopoulos learned the Russians had emails on Hillary they wanted to dump in an effort to help Trump).

“Russia Moving Into High Gear on Nanotechnology; Actively Seeking Cooperation with U.S.,” U.S. State Department Cable. February 11, 2009. Wikileaks. Accessed April 27, 2016. https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09MOSCOW333_a.html.

Some of the Podesta Joule work was done in April.

Podesta, John. “Public Financial Disclosure Report.” Accessed April 20, 2016. https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1227013/john-podesta-whitehouse-financial-disclosure-form.pdf. ”

Joule Unlimited, Inc.” Portfolio Companies. Accessed April 06, 2016

There were also a string of emails that would have come from officially released State emails (but which don’t include access dates; remember that most of those emails came in response to a Jason Leopold FOIA but WikiLeaks hosted them to great fanfare).

88 Mills, Cheryl D. “My List.” E-mail. July 27, 2009.

89 Podesta, John. “Calling.” E-mail. June 2, 2009.

90 Talbott, Strobe. “RE: Speech for Tomorrow’s Meeting.” E-mail. July 9, 2009.

91 Abedin, Huma. “Podesta.” E-mail. August 21, 2009.

92 Podesta, John. “[redacted].” E-mail. July 25, 2009;

One of the last access dates was May 10, 2016.

Nowak, David. “Key Skolkovo Partners Microsoft, Siemens, Reiterate Commitment to Project.” Skolkovo Foundation. November 13, 2014. Accessed May 10, 2016.

Unless I missed something, there are just three finishing touches added after that date, in mid-July.

“Fact Sheet-U.S.-Russia Business Summit.” Department of Commerce. June 25, 2010. Accessed July 18, 2016. http://2010-2014.commerce.gov/news/fact-sheets/2010/06/24/fact-sheet-us-russiabusiness-summit.html.

[snip]

“State in €70m Aids Partnership in Africa.” The Irish Times. October 25, 2006. Accessed July 15, 2016. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/state-in-70m-aids-partnership-in-africa-1.798426. “Press Release: President Clinton to Visit Pediatric AIDS Clinic in Mozambique, Beginning Trip to Africa to Focus on AIDS Care.” Clinton Foundation. June 17, 2005. Accessed July 15, 2016. https://www.clintonfoundation.org/main/news-and-media/press-releases-and-statements/pressrelease-president-clinton-to-visit-pediatric-aids-clinic-in-mozambique-beg.html.

All of this suggests that, by May 10, 2016, the report was just sitting there at Rebekah Mercer funded Government Accountability Institute, waiting for the right opportunity to accuse Hillary of ties to Russia; virtually the entire report was done before Democrats confirmed they had been hacked by Russia, and all the research was done before WikiLeaks dumped the DNC emails.

Ms. Mercer and a person close to her had a brief conversation regarding Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails in June 2016, a month after Mr. Cruz had dropped out of the race, the person said. The person said they discussed whether it would make sense to try to access and release those emails, but ultimately decided that looking for them would create “major legal liabilities” and would be a “terrible idea.”

Rebekah Mercer kept trying to work with WikiLeaks on optimizing emails

That Rebekah Mercer was funding this attack (one that started long before the Mercers started backing Trump) is all the more interesting given several different efforts she or her employee made to reach out to WikiLeaks. There’s Alexander Nix’s offer to help WikiLeaks organize emails we weren’t supposed to know about yet in June 2016.

Mr. Nix responded that he had reached out to Mr. Assange two months earlier—in June 2016, before Cambridge Analytica had started working for the Trump campaign—to ask him to share Clinton-related emails so the company could aid in disseminating them, the person familiar with the email exchange said. He said Mr. Assange had turned him down. That outreach and subsequent rejection was confirmed by Mr. Assange earlier this week on Twitter.

Also in June, Ms. Mercer had a discussion about accessing Hillary’s deleted emails.

Ms. Mercer and a person close to her had a brief conversation regarding Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails in June 2016, a month after Mr. Cruz had dropped out of the race, the person said. The person said they discussed whether it would make sense to try to access and release those emails, but ultimately decided that looking for them would create “major legal liabilities” and would be a “terrible idea.”

Then, again in August, Mercer asked Nix — or the GAI, the same outlet that did the Hillary Russia attack — about helping WikiLeaks with emails.

On Aug. 26, 2016, roughly a month after Mr. Trump formally became the Republican nominee, Ms. Mercer passed along to Mr. Nix an email she had received from a person she met at an event supporting Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), whose presidential campaign she had initially supported during the GOP primaries, the person familiar with the exchange said. The email’s author suggested to Ms. Mercer that the Trump campaign or an allied super PAC ought to better index the WikiLeaks emails to make them more searchable, the person said.

Ms. Mercer forwarded the email to Mr. Nix, whose firm had started working for the Trump campaign in July 2016 after previously working for the Cruz campaign, according to the person. In the email, Ms. Mercer asked Mr. Nix whether the suggested organization of the emails was something Cambridge Analytica or the Government Accountability Institute—a conservative nonprofit that focuses on investigative research—could do, the person said. Ms. Mercer has sat on the board of the institute, which has received funding from her family.

Clearly, Mercer was thinking a lot about how to optimize the emails Russia had stolen.

Steve Bannon would know, at a minimum, about how he and Schweizer anticipated the need to project Russian corruption onto Hillary and her campaign manager way back in March 2016. But he also might know whether, in the wake of the GAI report, Stone or someone else got a preview of coming attractions, other emails they might later use to return to the Joule attack.

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25 replies
  1. Rapier says:

    I kind of hate to go all drama queen on this but does the Muller team drop more indictments the day after the election or soon after?  Not that anyone would know so it’s a rhetorical question,  and I don’t want to suck the air out of this threads topic and then send it off into the weeds, but on the other hand………………..

    • SirLurksAlot says:

      at some point in the future, white hate posing as crank libertarianism will be classified as an illness.  just don’t forget to breathe

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nice piece of work.  One interesting bit is how elaborate was the planning to tar Hillary with the ConFraudUS that they knew they were actively and continually committing.  It looks like a great manure pile for growing mushrooms just so that a prosecuting attorney could pluck them.

    • orionATL says:

      it is indeed very nice puzzle-piece fitting.

      as for mushrooms food and confraud, what sticks in my mind are the propaganda tactics the rightwing uses – repeatedly. one could make a list of them by name. furthermore, the rightwing uses them so consistently that they can be taken as a “tell” about rightwing activities, e,g., rightwing charges of voter fraud.

      in this post, it is what appears to be projection – asserting that clinton had “corrupt ties to russia” when in fact it is bannon, mercer, stone, manafort, trump, jr., kushner, trump, who may have had the corrupt ties to russia. with respect to projection, that psychological term, when precisely used, refers to action out-of-consciousness. the “projection” i am talking about is merely a metaphor borrowed from that psychotherapy to describe a propaganda tactic, that of accusing your oponent of doing something you have in fact done, in order to confuse and intimidate subsequent reporting by those who discover that it is you who have been, for example, collaborating corruptly with the russians. the republican party uses this tactic over and over again in their propaganda and media-manipulation activities.

      in all such activities, the rightwing/republican action is to disguise the truth that actually describes to the political situation.

      • gpBazzini says:

        This is absolutely right, and the first time I have seen ‘Psychological Projection’ aired out insightfully. The reason that’s remarkable at all is that PresidentJimJones has two kinds of verbal articulations: one is Confession (unconscious); the other is Psychological Projection. Moreover — and I think orionATL makes this point well — PJJ’s projections are so consistent as to be DIAGNOSTIC. Which is to say they are indicators of the actual truth; i.e., know what PJJ has done by that of which he accuses his enemies.

      • Doctor My Eyes says:

        Indeed, for those of us who have been tuned into to this, the pattern is as reliable as fingerprints. It is quite remarkable, going back certainly well over a decade and likely much longer. It has reached the point that, when I hear the right accuse liberals of some particularly horrendous behavior, my first thought is “Oh crap. Look what the Republicans are up to now.”

        If only there were actual analysis of actual behavior in place of the both-sides-ism that has become the lifeblood of political coverage. Along these lines, the following video mounts about as effective an argument as I’ve seen that the GOP’s thorough-going corruption has created assymetrical polarization. Still, people who will not be convinced who would not be convinced, and the motivations for mainstream media behavior go much deeper than lazinesss cowardliness, or incompetence.

      • William Bennett says:

        Re projection as political tactic: Karl Rove seems to deserve credit as point of origin for this maneuver and boy howdy hasn’t it suffused the entire party since those golden days of accusing genuine war heroes of being frauds on behalf of draft-dodging W. One of the great manifestations of the fact that at the core of the GOP there is only nihilism.

  3. oldoilfielshand says:

    Amazing work Marcy! If only family money was a sign of hard work, intelligence and the dilligent desire to do more for your fellow citizens…

  4. greengiant says:

    The Mercers’ hate for the Clintons predates Trump. Jane Mayer’s piece on Robert Mercer https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency writes about exposure to The American Spectator as a source for anti Clinton beliefs. Recall that all the theories noted by Mayer’s sources and more were broadcast on the WSJ OP-ED pages. Through wikipedia is a link describing Peter W Smith’s campaign against the Clintons feeding the American Spectator and I suspect the WSJ as well. http://articles.latimes.com/1998/apr/01/news/mn-34973

    What with a Renaissance disputed tax bill of 7 billion dollars on the line, it is not surprising the other owners out contributed Mercer with donations to Democrats.

  5. greengiant says:

    Aplogies for the typo login.

    The Mercers’ hate for the Clintons predates Trump. Jane Mayer’s piece on Robert Mercer https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency writes about exposure to The American Spectator as a source for anti Clinton beliefs. Recall that all the theories noted by Mayer’s sources and more were broadcast on the WSJ OP-ED pages. Through wikipedia is a link describing Peter W Smith’s campaign against the Clintons feeding the American Spectator and I suspect the WSJ as well. http://articles.latimes.com/1998/apr/01/news/mn-34973

    What with a Renaissance disputed tax bill of 7 billion dollars on the line, it is not surprising the other owners out contributed Mercer with donations to Democrats.

  6. BobCon says:

    I realize the evidence is too thin to think that Stone’s team is revealing information that gives Mueller reason to doubt Bannon’s truthfulness, but it sure would be interesting if Bannon starts feeling a lot more heat about what he said in the past.

    • Susan Galea says:

      My guess is  that Bannon will be feeling the heat from his meetings in the Seychelles, alongside Erik Prince and the whole nexus of Saudi Arabia, Russia, UAE and Israel coordination in the effort to support Trump and get him elected. I’d be surprised if his hands are clean ( sure doesn’t look like it ‘0) Then, there’s the fact he was on the Cambridge Analytica board and surely up to his neck trying to swing the election with help from the Russkies- as solicited by C.A.

      • Trip says:

        Plus, he was a ‘friend’ of Butowsky, the bank roller of the Wheeler/Fox News “investigation” of the Seth Rich murder. His tentacles are everywhere. Not to mention the propaganda he was regularly churning out at Breitbart, which was remarkably similar to the bots.

  7. David C says:

    Thank God for Marcy Wheeler, she is so much smarter than me. No way I would understand what was going on without her. I really, really mean that.

  8. Jonb says:

    Perhaps Bannon is brought in to give his last “version” of events that he has knowledge of, before indictments are dropped. “were you lying then…or are you lying now”?

  9. Wm. Boyce says:

    I look forward to possible indictments, or at least an explosive report from the special counsel’s office. Hopefully it will be very soon after the election, and then I will also be very interested in emptywheel’s analysis.

    Happy Halloween!

  10. orionATL says:

    the march 14 date is important, at least to me, because it is in march 2016 that paul manafort, with his russian ties and russian gru sidekick kilimnik,  joined the trump campaign. manafort’s formal date of hire was march 29, but he and whomever, including stone, could have been scheming for weeks. while manafort was not made campaign chairman until may 19, lewnadowski asserts that manafort was in control of the campaign from april 7

    https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/timeline-paul-manaforts-role-trump-campaign/story?

    this is consistent with my fantasy that stone talked trump (“with whom i have been intimate for 40 yrs”) into hiring manafort, stone’s former business partner, to run the campaign, possibly with the goal already set to involve russian campaign assistance. in any event, the gru started rifling thru clinton campaign files (again) about that time.

    “…The  campaign began as early as March 2016, when Lukashev crafted and sent a spearphish email to Podesta that was designed to look like a security notification from Google, the indictment stated. The spoof email instructed the user to change his password by clicking on a link. Podesta’s assistant, following the instructions of a security technician, dutifully complied, according to people familiar with the incident…
    The GRU allegedly broke into the networks of the DCCC in April 2016, by spearphishing an employee…”
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/how-the-russians-hacked-the-dnc-and-passed-its-emails-to-wikileaks/2018/07/13/af19a828-86c3-11e8-8553-a3ce89036c78_story.html?

    don’t tell me that manafort and the gru arriving at the same time to aid the trump campaign, or that bannon and mercer working on a propaganda tactic to blot out any subsequent media discovery of trump-russia collusion was merely coincidence. what it suggests to me is that the planning for a trump-russia mutual assistance pact involved a lot more people than one might have guessed. in particular, that mercer is involved ties the cambridge analytica-facebook disinformation campaign more tightly to the russian (and to the brexit) effort.

    • William Bennett says:

      Thanks for pulling that all together, really sharpens the picture. Looks more like a plausible scenario than a “fantasy” to me.

      Beware the idiots of March.

  11. orionATL says:

    well, well. washingtonnpost columnist paul waldman reports speculation that osc mueller has subpoened president trump:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2018/10/31/after-the-midterms-itll-be-mueller-time/

    based on this politico article by former federal prosecutor nelson cunningham:

    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/10/31/has-robert-mueller-subpoenaed-trump-222060

    cunningham suggests mueller may have subpoenaed trump to appear before the osc grand jury. this would be further, legally, forca president than the bill clinton legal tangle ever got.

    if true we may get to test the proposition that bret kavanaugh was put on the supreme court specifically to pull trump’s bacon out of the fire.

    • orionATL says:

      and, again in the washingto post, there is this – the release by the archives of prosecutor leon jaworski’s report to congress:

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/us-archivists-release-watergate-report-that-could-be-possible-road-map-for-mueller/2018/10/31/841cc938-dbb5-11e8-85df-7a6b4d25cfbb_story.html?

      “… U.S. archivists on Wednesday revealed one of the last great secrets of the Watergate investigation — the backbone of a long sealed report used by prosecutor Leon Jaworski to send Congress the evidence that led to the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon.

      The release of the 1974 impeachment referral came after a former member of Nixon’s defense team and three prominent legal analysts filed separate lawsuits seeking its release from grand jury secrecy rules. The legal analysts argued the report could offer a precedent and guide for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as his office addresses its present-day challenge on whether, and if so, how to make public findings from its investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election, including any that directly involve President Donald Trump…”

  12. Trip says:

    Chaos:

    NBC Politics‏Verified account @NBCPolitics 30m30 minutes ago

    NEW: President Trump is expected to give remarks on immigration this afternoon in the Roosevelt Room, White House officials tell @NBCPolitics – @KellyO / @albamonica

    New: Trump is expected to raise propagandist fear mongering in pursuit of the midterms. Press would be wise not to report it.
    (Fixed it for ya)
    He’s only looking for more free campaign coverage and amplification. Don’t be a dupe. Go there, maybe, but don’t air it live.

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