DAG Rod Rosenstein Involves Himself in Mueller’s Press Response to Buzzfeed Story

WaPo has a story that provides the official DOJ version of what happened with the BuzzFeed story the other day. It is certainly one explanation for what has happened since Thursday — one that appears to rely on the same number of anonymous sources (two) as the BuzzFeed story it is reporting on (leaving aside a Trump Organization source for both and off the record sources).

And while I’m confident that parts of my take on what happened are correct, I’ll confess the WaPo story makes it clear I was overly optimistic in dismissing the possibility that Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker or his now-subordinate Rod Rosenstein may have weighed in. Indeed, the story reveals that Rosenstein’s office did call to check whether Mueller was going to release a statement debunking the BuzzFeed story.

In the view of the special counsel’s office, that was wrong, two people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. And with Democrats raising the specter of investigation and impeachment, Mueller’s team started discussing a step they had never before taken: publicly disputing reporting on evidence in their ongoing investigation.

[snip]

In the advanced stages of those talks, the deputy attorney general’s office called to inquire if the special counsel planned any kind of response, and was informed a statement was being prepared, the people said.

That seems to be a violation of Special Counsel regulations, which say that Mueller’s office shall not be subject to day-to-day supervision of any official, whether DAG or Acting Attorney General.

The Special Counsel shall not be subject to the day-to-day supervision of any official of the Department. However, the Attorney General may request that the Special Counsel provide an explanation for any investigative or prosecutorial step, and may after review conclude that the action is so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.

Maybe Mueller and Peter Carr don’t care. But it should set off all sorts of alarm bells that as soon as a media report states what has long been clear — that Trump suborned perjury — Mueller’s office is getting calls about how to respond to the press, which last I checked was not an “investigative or prosecutorial step” at all. All the more so given that Carr appears to have bent over backward not to reveal any investigative details to the press, adhering rigorously to any DOJ guidelines on that front.

Whichever side is correct (again, I believe WaPo has just one part of this story), that Rosenstein (or Whitaker) got involved seems to be far more important.

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93 replies
  1. JKSF says:

    I suppose the good news here is that the SCO did not unilaterally initiate the response. The fact that the DAG is now poking around in the day to day operations is horrendous, but it is something that Congress can investigate.

  2. fsudoops says:

    Couldn’t it be just as simple as DAG wanting main DOJ to coordinate with SCO to make sure there was no overlap in their respective statements, or for DOJ to determine whether to even issue a statement is SCO already was planning on it?

  3. Eureka says:

    Late last night I saw the Chuck Rosenberg interview on Maddow (which Avattoir annotates here).  I did get an image of Whitaker having been roused from the sofa (he was wearing a chambray button-down over a white tee; khakis.  Socks.  Folded Sports section in hand.  Very large man.  I think I was recalling an old tv scene).

    It’s alarming for the reasons you cite, and I appreciate your reminder that such a DAG office call would be contra regs as well.  That’s a really important part of the context that I hadn’t kept in mind.

    • Lisanne says:

      My vision was a bit longer. It started with Trump screaming in the oval office, and calling Whittaker. Then Whittaker calling Rosenstein. Then Rosenstein calling Mueller.

      But it went even broader than that. I suspect Barr is trying to walk a tightrope to get confirmed. My secret fantasy is that Barr cares about our national sovreignity and wants to protect Mueller for the sake of our nation. He is threading a thin line to get confirmed after convincing Trump he will be “his guy.”

      Then the buzzfeed article hit and news is showing split screens of pundits saying Trump suborned perjury, next to Barr saying that directing witnesses to lie is obstruction of justice.

      Mueller seeing these split screens would know that Trump was seeing those split screens and the chances of Barr getting confirmed were slipping by the minute.

      If he wanted Barr confirmed, he had to release that statement.

      That was my fantasy sceen.

      Lisanne

      • Dan Letterman says:

        We share the same dream.  That Barr is as much a manchurian candidate for truth in the Justice department as trump is for russia.

  4. YRBY says:

    First-time poster. Was around FDL, then emptywheel during the Fitz/Plame timeframe…back lurking with a vengeance hoping for our rule of law to win and out those who are trying to destroy us from within. First time I feel like I have an insight worth sharing. Whereas, I certainly don’t like seeing the DOJ get involved where they aren’t supposed to be, the upside to Carr’s statement is two-fold: softening the opposition to Mueller among the “witch hunt” crowd (even Trump basically thanked him); and now by making a ton more people realize how big a crime suborning perjury actually is. That the SCO would intervene to state there are inaccuracies, says this is one heck of a crime of which to be accused and they want to get it right. From what I’ve read here, it seems the experts (Marcy, bmaz, etc.) agree that suborning perjury has absolutely happened even if not in the specific case BF reported, thus when that shoe finally drops it is going to be a lot tougher to pontificate it away as a trivial crime.

  5. J Barker says:

    I agree that something strange is going on here.

    I doubt it’s as simple as Whitaker/RR instructing OSC to release a false or highly misleading statement, though.(Not that this is exactly what you are suggesting, Marcy).

    For nearly two years now, Carr has been incredibly disciplined in his silence. To me, that suggests he’s the kind of person who would sooner resign than be pressured into issuing a false statement about the investigation.

  6. Peterr says:

    In the advanced stages of those talks, the deputy attorney general’s office called to inquire if the special counsel planned any kind of response, and was informed a statement was being prepared, the people said.

    I think you may be going too far in saying that this “seems to be a violation of Special Counsel regulations.” As I read the WaPo story, this could be — and in my view, probably was — a simple inquiry, so that Rosenstein could prepare for the inevitable reactions from the WH (or the reactions he was already getting). That is, if Rosenstein foresaw that he’d have to take actions to protect the SCO, he’d like to know whether the SCO was going to make a public response or not, so that he could make his own plans accordingly.

      • bmaz says:

        Possible! But I still have serious questions on this. And not at all sure WaPo isn’t getting spun by clean up operations.

      • Desider says:

        Maybe – but if Rosenstein’s main function in this area is to protect the investigation, I’m not sure I should object to him inquiring about an incident that could cause blowback about leaks, errors and any kind of bias.
        As you yourself note, this incident could cause difficulties with Mueller’s cases, and Rod sitting around going, “whelp, Bob didn’t call, so I guess it’s all under control” isn’t necessarily the most responsible reaction. I don’t see this as “getting involved in the day-to-day” – it seems to be carefully offering help at a point possibly needing crisis management.
        Much worse would be Rosenstein stepping up to the mic like Comey to toss out ad hoc comments that hurt rather than helped the situation.

    • SaltoftheEarth says:

      It seems to me that the bigger question is who leaked to Buzzfeed and why. Was Mueller aware this was being leaked?

  7. Pat Neomi says:

    I am sure I am over- (or under-) thinking this, but is there any chance that the leaks out of SDNY were somehow coordinated to induce any of this? If Whitaker had insight into info he knew (or thought) SCO might refute if released (especially if nudged), could he have passed said info along to, say, Guiliani who could ask his buddies at SDNY or NY FBI to source the BuzzFeed story? Am I right in recalling that NY FBI is pretty sympathetic to Trump? The SCO refutation has given Trump anti-press talking points and a way to say SCO refuted a story that was incriminating for him. The more I think about it, the more I find that analysis to be wanting, but I was hoping the brighter minds here might weigh in.

    • DWoolly says:

      This is along the lines of what I’ve been thinking too.  Someone on trump’s side leaking info for one of a few reasons or another.  I always feel so conspiracy theorist when I have these thoughts tho.

      • Desider says:

        As Marcy suggests below, these journalists have been with this story a while, and seen the blowback when anything (Steele dossier anyone?) doesn’t line up completely, and presumably they’ve known their sources long enough and aren’t too susceptible to instant sock puppet revelations.

        There is a point that I’d mention, is that potentially Mueller or peripheral team felt that they had reasonable evidence that Trump directly suborned perjury, but a) couldn’t make it stand up in court nearly as easily as what they filed on Cohen, or b) didn’t want to play that card yet, maybe waiting for someone to perjure themself, or simply using it at the right time. If it’s the latter, a leak could hurt his investigation – similar to say Team Manfort’s sloppy redaction a week or 2 ago.
        And yes, IANAL.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think you’re overreading.

      To be clear, I’m not sure BF’s sources are from SDNY, or both from the same place.

      But I’m also certain that BF has developed trust in their sources going back most of a year.

      • Pat Neomi says:

        Thank you for your thoughts! As someone who is not a journalist (and doesn’t thereby understand sourcing/relationships with sources) or who does not have as much insight into this giant cluster-cluck of a story, it’s very nice to hear from someone who is imbued with those things I am not.

  8. Morgan Warstler says:

    BOYS, I just told you, it’s likely OVER.

    Mueller is pretty much done and this call and DOJ involvement was, “we’re not letting MSM/Dem’s conspiracy echo chamber go on any longer.

    LOOK, It’s ok to hope this isn’t right.

    BUT, you should indeed spend some serious tie reading how the other side sees things:

    https:// www. theepochtimes .com/ trump-continues-to-prepare-the-battlefield_2770855.html

    If I’m right, you should expect to see more wet blanket news, if you see it, read the signs.

    [Link inactivated by inserted space so readers do not accidentally click on a site which may contain malware./~Rayne]

    • Rayne says:

      First, we’re not uniformly minors or male. Second, thanks for the drive-by but if this was a nothing burger (or is that nothing berder) you wouldn’t have wasted your time. Buh-bye.

  9. YRBY says:

    First-time poster. Was around FDL, then emptywheel during the Fitz/Plame timeframe…back lurking with a vengeance hoping for the rule of law to win and out those who are trying to destroy us from within. First time I feel like I have an insight worth sharing. Whereas, I certainly don’t like seeing the DOJ get involved where they aren’t supposed to be, the upside to Carr’s statement is two-fold: softening the opposition to Mueller among the “witch hunt” crowd (even Trump basically thanked him); and now by making a ton more people realize how big a crime suborning perjury actually is. That the SCO would intervene to state there are inaccuracies, says this is one heck of a crime of which to be accused and they want to get it right. From what I’ve read here, it seems the experts (Marcy, bmaz, etc.) agree that suborning perjury has absolutely happened even if not in the specific case BF reported, thus when that shoe finally drops it is going to be a lot tougher to argue it’s not a crime or worthy of impeachment.

    • Rayne says:

      Welcome to emptywheel. Sorry your comment was stuck in moderation but it can happen with new identities. I’ve deleted your earlier near-duplicate comment. Good to have you join in.

  10. drouse says:

    The sourcing of the WaPo article just sucks. People familiar with the matter, these people say, not even a hint who they were associated with or anything that they weren’t anything but gossips. DoJ most likely I realize but really. And only two of them.

  11. punaise says:

    @ Eureka and Peterr:

    the subject is delicate in Essen.

    (you should know better than to encourage this sort of thing:-)

  12. punaise says:

    Taking liberties after hours:

    Did you hear about the British film depicting a Conservative MP specializing in conflict resolution?

    .

    It’s based on a truce Tory.

  13. andrew says:

    Ivanka was explicitly called out in the Buzzfeed report, it doesn’t seem like too far a stretch that fire and fury from the Mar a Lago got to Rosenstein and Whitaker’s desk. Was it all intentional though? A shot across her and her fathers bow?

  14. Charles says:

    Just to add one more possibility to the various explanations that have been offered: I have wondered whether the Carr response and perhaps also the intervention at higher levels might be because the information that Leopold and Courmier have is upstream in a parallel construction exercise.

    “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” was Carr’s convoluted pushback.

    So, for example, if the documents that were shown were partial transcripts of phone conversations but could have been thought by the reporters to be excerpts from e-mails, that would not be “internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents”

    And “two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter”/”Federal agents looking into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia” conceivably could include CIA or FBI agents in counterintelligence who are not directly interacting with Mueller. (Wikipedia lists the CIA as a law enforcement agency, but does not list the NSA as one).

    If there was a possibility of compromise of sources and methods, it could justify the intervention of the Deputy Attorney General or even the Attorney General.

    As for “specific statements to the Special Counsel’s office,” that seems to refer to “after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie,” “Cohen then acknowledged those instructions,” and “[Cohen]confirmed that Trump directed him to lie to Congress.” Is it possible that the instruction to Cohen was indirect? Then, the president could have instructed/directed him to lie through an intermediary. Only by having knowledge of the link between the president’s remarks to the intermediary would one know that the president, rather than the intermediary, was the source of the instruction. Again, if the source of that knowledge was from intercepts, the Special Counsel might really want to avoid talking about that.

    • Trip says:

      I considered that too, Charles. Another thought (after I thought SDNY/NYC FBI to alert public) was that, clearly, before the election there were leaks to Giuliani. Someone wrote an article about “Trumpland” within the FBI (maybe NYT, don’t recall).  Is someone leaking to signal to Trump? As in, “here’s the evidence they found”? Or to muddy up the investigation?

      I don’t know, it’s hard to discount the sources to BF, when their early article on the tower negotiations was an almost verbatim account of what came out much later, after Cohen copped to it.

      The interference or sense of desperation from the DOJ to “inquire” about putting out a statement is bizarre, too.

      That is IF the WaPo account is true.

      • Charles says:

        @Trip: Is someone leaking to signal to Trump? As in, “here’s the evidence they found”? Or to muddy up the investigation?

        Journalists say that figuring out the motivations of leakers is essential to their work. What would the motive be for leaking the explosive claim that Trump directed the obstruction of justice? And who would have that motive? There have been five principal effects of  the leak: it has aroused Democrats, the emotional impact of Cohen actually saying such a thing in public has been blunted, the pushback has strengthened the Republican hand in the event Cohen doesn’t actually say such a thing, it has deflected attention to the shutdown, and it has cast some shade (even if unjustifiably so) on Mueller’s office.  These are too many possibilities to sort out, as Avattoir says below, so the best approach I think is to remain agnostic about the motive.

        I would say that I think that Rudy’s friends in SDNY are probably less likely to give him or Trump an assist given Rudy/Trump’s recent behavior.

        • Trip says:

          See below. If it’s not an assist, maybe it’s a bluff?  Rudy was running his mouth again this morning “So what if Trump talked to Cohen about his testimony?”. Or if it is favor of a defense, it gives time for Rudy to diminish the revelation by normalizing it ahead of the game?

          Shit, I don’t know. It’s all surreal.

    • Avattoir says:

      Reading the kitchen sink of possibilities’ you’ve left in your comment, OTOH I was tempted to let it go or just respond with something like, Anything’s possible.

      But OTOH, I actually spotted a grain of sand flitting about the oyster bed of potentials, one that actually raises the sort of irritation that could be consistent with fearless leader’s first class sleuthing conjecture, or could actually be a stand-alone alternative to it.

      Not just on this website but at others as well, I myself have constituted something like my own little cottage production unit of artificial pearl production, on the notion of the closing report that the DoJ regulations require the SC to make to the supervising authority.

      Go back to the applicable wording in para 600.8(c):

      “(c)Closing documentation. At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.”

      What strikes me here is that it COULD (at the very least) be argued that there was a “decision” by the OSC to decline to charge Cohen with the crime of lying to Congress, and that such a “decision” falls under this provision, thereby REQUIRING Mueller to (eventually) “explain” that decision.

      I’m sure there’s more ways than this work thru this conjecture, but I’m only offering up two:

      A. the boring generic administrative one, and

      B. something closer to what I really think

      ALT #A: THE HIGH ROAD

      Having myself been involved in many hundreds of such ‘decisions’ in the ordinary course government prosecution *, it strikes me that the very act of explanation itself – which appears MANDATED by this part of the relevant regulations – can pose serious problems in exposing investigative methods.

      I’m thinking here about the general idea of levering the threat of prosecution to induce cooperation in the pursuit of a higher-up.

      IMIO (In My Informed Opinion), that is definitely NOT a subject that federal law enforcement wants thrown into the barrel of mass media crass over-doings & social media craziness.

      ALT#B: WHERE I APOLOGIZE IN ADVANCE

      So consider this hypothetical:

      1. You’ve been asked to serve as special counsel.

      2. Your service is sought in relation to what’s already a Very Big Deal, a massive iceberg of one, & some maybe even Bigger Deal lurks below the surface.

      3. Bonus: the work is almost certain to engage Issues of Existential Significance to the Republic.

      4. As it happens, you yourself happen to have a incidental passing familiarity with one of the Major Players involved, who, even at this early stage it’s possible to see as either Mr. Big – let’s call him Mr. Bigly – or Co-Mr. Big, or Mr. Bigger’s Stooge;

      in any event, someone whose involvement simply can’t be papered over, because, superficially at least, it’s patently evident this Very Big Deal could well prove to be All About Him.

      5. And even from just your limited contact with Him, you’d have to be a hermit or moron not to grasp why this invitation to serve is being extended (indeed, you can foresee the potential, as the prospective work unfolds, for this job constituting it’s own chapter in Great Books (& maybe even a book by Marcy Wheeler!), marking a seminal moment for the Rule of Law, and indeed a possible Make-or-Break for the Republic (Think of Jason Robards in his Pajamas Speech in the movie.)

      6. So you accept; Call of Duty and all that.

      7. Time passes. The work builds. Then your office gets a package – which, in classic fashion is .. A FISH! A yucky, gooey, stinky fish, swaddled in expired newspapers & taxi receipts, hummin’ so bad it makes one long for Wainright’s Ode to The Malodorous Mephitidae Victimized In Traffic …

      8. … only, as it turns out, this Fish ain’t dead. And it can TALK!

      9. And Oh, The Things It Can Talk ABOUT!

      It’s a regular confidential insider Dr. Seuss on the topics of Mr. Bigly, the Corruption of Bigly, Bigly’s Business, Bigly’s Family, Bigly’s Nasty Life, and Bigly’s Even Nastier Friends.

      10. So in the course of holding your nose while examining Fish, at some point you ‘decide’ –

      as your job description requires you to actually make such decisions, and lots of them –

      NOT to throw out the whole stinking Fish, but to leave enough of it viable to allow it to keep talking.

      11. Because, who TF knows? Maybe Fish still has some potentially interesting / possibly valuable (to the Republic!) stories still left to tell (in book form, t least) on the Bigly doings of Mr. Bigly.

      12. But you KNOW – cuz you can read & you’re smart – that months or so down the passage of time, will come That Moment, when you have to comply with para 600.8(c) of the regs bearing on your mandate,

      and for one hella long time, you couldn’t even begin to predict to whom you’ll be sending this report (or who all could end up reading it).

      So now ask yourself this:

      How would YOU go about describing your use of Fish, delineating your reasonably supportable grounds for suspicions about Mr. Bigly, coming squeaky clean on your prosecutorial motivations, all of those things and more, in the course of trying to JUSTIFY, to a potentially extremely if not downright excessively cynical reader, your decision to decline to prosecute Fish for something you could not possibly have failed to hear him mention (even just in passing), or about which failure to pursue Fish for more information could not possibly be credibly explained as anything other than willful on your part?

      Not easy, right?

      Not SAFE, either.

      Certainly not the sort of material you’d especially want right wing / authoritarian / conservative media, professional ratfuckers, the Broderian punditocracy and the unwashed public to spend time with.

      [ * For the vast bulk of them, all but a tiny percentage, I was only ever answerable to my superiors and to judges. But I can’t help recalling being involved in a relatively very few cases where some aspect of the thinking and discretion involved in arriving at what course of action was ‘decided’ on, actually became the subject of national comment.

      On one of those, until I go batty, I’ll not be able to forget receiving the sounds and transcription of a federal “lawmaker” going off like an echo’d shout in a canyon in that ner-empty chamber on what I feel fair in describing as a combined Clutch-the-Pearls-of-Liberty / Think of Our Children rant on the box of horrors that I, Faceless Heartless Bureaucrat, was inviting into the social fabric by pursing a certain prosecution path.

      (It was no fun, not remotely fun in any way. And it got goofy. AOT, for a while the elected representative went after my job; there was complaints to the bar association about my license, then formal complaints lodged with the department; for a time I was followed by private detectives – and with me being a federal prosecutor, that meant a classic Elvis Costello emerged: detectives watching the detectives.]

      (Didn’t mean to go so long on this: got on a prolix.)

      • Rayne says:

        I may have to indulge in a shot of liqueur, I mean, morning tonic to calm my heart after reading “Broderian punditocracy” and “Elvis Costello” in the same chewy comment. I love this kind of expansiveness.

        And I think you’ve nailed in in Alt-B — how could anyone of Mueller’s sensibilities not be aware of the scrutiny his work will receive, not just now in the doing and in its final presentation and by the highly skeptical from all walks, but through the country’s future history?

        Thanks for investing the time on this, much appreciated.

        • Avattoir says:

          Thnx, but again: it’s too long.

          But as well, it really doesn’t take all that long to put together, given so much of it comes from personal experience.

          I can still recall back when the New Cruelty came into power in 1981, within weeks all the line schoes like yours truly were all of sudden being pressed, then required, to come up with ‘case initiation memos’ and ‘charge declination memos’. Even then, relatively young as I was then, it was clear that process was going to be used to determine who were the schmo prosecutors who were properly in step with the goals of the new national sheriff & his owners.

          And soon enough there were quotas bandied about, mainly for charging but also for rate of convictions. Those sorts of incentives naturally lead to way more work being done towards prosecuting inner city drug gangs, for example, and way less on long tail work on public corruption & complex white collar crime. And just by imposing such quotas, the nifty pre-determined outcome is achieved without the necessity of even a single directive from on high to the effect that, We’re back to going after yer brown types.

          I also recall one office I worked out of during that era tried for a while to Fight Da Power by ‘conferencing’ all such decisions, actually holding regular bi-weekly meetings on them, reducing what all was discussed and raised, then trying to fulfill the reporting requirement with group-think buzzwords like ‘consensus’ and ‘sense of the meeting’. And that seemed to work fine for a while, but then the boss got moved out in expectation of a judicial appointment and it ended ka-thud.

          Within a year of that, almost the entire top section of line prosecutors had moved out & into private practice, me included.

          So all that does noting more than mine my recollection from the late Meese-ian period of the too-long run of AGs – French, Meese, Thornburgh, Barr – consciously or unconsciously (I wasn’t there anymore, but my feeling was that Thornburgh was more in the latter category.) dedicated to peeling back time in an effort to return to the pre-Civil Rights Act days.

      • Charles says:

        @ Avattoir  I’m sure there’s more ways than this work thru this conjecture, but I’m only offering up two: A. the boring generic administrative one, and B. something closer to what I really think

        Stated more simply (please tell me if it’s over-simplified),

        Possibility #1: Special Counsel doesn’t want its investigative methods (like, for example, squeezing a target) exposed, so it doesn’t create a paper trail by which they could be examined.

        Possibility #2: Robert Mueller, having been appointed into the organization of a corrupt person, but not knowing whether Trump is moderately or seriously corrupt, he knows he has to work extraordinarily cautiously. A known corrupt subordinate of Trump (Cohen? Weisselberg?) comes in with allegations regarding a number of potentially criminal matters. However, the reliability of the information is uncertain. Until it can be fully investigated, Mueller wants to be extraordinarily careful in when and how the allegations come to light, because he knows that he will have to account for every one of his decisions to a hostile audience.

        It seems to me that the two possibilities are so similar that they might as well be identical. Possibility #1 can only exist if prosecutors use dubious means to conceal conversations with defendant and can get away with it. But so much scrutiny will be placed on the Special Prosecutor that he isn’t even going to try to use dubious means. He will simply act as though every word and deed will become public knowledge.  And either possibility is consistent with the use of intercepts in a criminal case.

        If Mueller has used no dubious means, then he isn’t worried about the information coming to light–only when it comes to light. And why? Because it will affect how targets behave, which could affect his ability to catch them in the act.

        And not just “catch” in a prosecutorial sense. Having a president goes down is a huge national trauma–especially to those in power. People like Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, whose reputations would be permanently stained, and people like Sheldon Adelson and Robert Mercer whose role in the election might pose some legal liability.

        Mueller understands the role of politics in political prosecutions. If Trump reveals his guilt to the nation, it will solve Mueller’s problem of revealing it in such a manner that people can accept it. Or if Mueller can bring it out in such a way that denial is impossible, then the political problems are diminished.

        So: yes, it’s certainly possible that Mueller’s pushback is just to try to gain time. But, first, if the information is correct, the targets know it and will behave accordingly. But second, if the goal was to delay the political reaction, the office would probably have done better to simply say that the reporting contains inaccuracies and leave it at that. Or just say nothing publicly but quietly remind everyone of Leopold’s past issues. Instead, they waited a day and issued a carefully parsed statement.

        What happened between Buzzfeed and the Special Counsel is, no question, difficult for outsiders to understand. The temptation is to engage in what’s called “premature synthesis.” I made my suggestion because we have to keep in mind that there’s a larger picture involving a counter-intelligence investigation and actors outside the narrow cast that we see in the SCO investigation. But, as you say, anything is possible, so no special notice need be given to my comment.

        • Avattoir says:

          If I’m grateful for anything in your comment, it’s the last bit, where you basically excuse me from having to respond.

          But, hey: fools rush in.

          I was actually trying to REDUCE the critical paths to some more comprehensible number. What you’ve done – to my ken, anyway – is more like an adiabatic effect: restoring the entire maze, adding even some more possibilities.

          I guess all that can be said otherwise is that human relations can get awfully complicated but best laid plans have general tendency to fall apart, so reading highly rarified too delicate motivations into scenarios like fearless leader has led us to consider here is tantamount to inviting folks to share their personal views on UFOs, and Big Foot.

          Near as I can tell, we can’t even distinguish between Rosenstein’s office intervening to help out Mueller or to help out Trump: the mechanism’s pretty much the same either way, just the motive is different.

    • bmaz says:

      Charles, this is a severe misunderstanding of what “parallel construction” really is and the intersection of criminal and counter intelligence law. “Parallel construction” is NOT some glossy bullshit to be blithely thrown around. It is a discreet concept well at issue in criminal law long before the internet gleefully discovered it. Frankly, I was arguing it in criminal and civil forfeiture briefs before the internet as now exists was even around.

  15. Rusharuse says:

    I like to watch!
    Whitaker is seen by some as Thanos (or son of), I see him more as a kind of evil ‘Hoss’ Cartwright. So, um . .

  16. big fan says:

    Picking up on a tweet by Southpaw, does the interaction between Rosenstein and Mueller imply that Rosenstein (and by extension Whittaker and therefore Trump?) is briefed on the SCO’s evidence to the extent that he would know that the assertions in the Buzzfeed article are incorrect? Or did he intervene only on the basis of the gravity of the assertions in the article if true?

  17. Walker says:

    This is quite the mystery because it really seems that there’s two conflicted stories about the Buzz Feed “scoop” – either the SCO position (as further clarified by the WaPo piece on Mueller’s rebuttal), or BuzzFeed’s original reporting, which by their latest statements, seem to double down on the original reporting. They have confirmed, presumably from the two Fed law enforcement officials, their original reporting of multiple sources of corroboration that – – Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress. It’s a mystery – SCO’s office, according to WaPo, does not have possession of emails, text messages, etc. – the sources Buzz cites…

  18. Will says:

    I ALSO agree that something strange is going on here… and it seems like this is the only place with an in depth read on the situation.

    Who forced Carr to make this statement? Did it come from Whitaker? Most likely. Trump told Cohen to lie to congress. Okay, reprehensible, criminal, impeach! The scariest thing is that the person who Trump appointed to tamper with the investigation, seems to be actively tampering with the investigation.

  19. Shava Nerad says:

    I’ve done a bit of work in tandem with lawyers but more with politics, activists and journalists.

    Look, when that story broke the press and various slammed stage left, calling for impeachment next week.

    Then there was this Carr thing.

    My immediate reaction to this was that there was no “public statement” from Carr.  He went and had a little chat with BuzzFeed and gave them a statement. There was no press release, no press conference, etc. No letterhead.

    And my fantasy of all this is along the lines of Carr saying, “Look guys, if we were ready to take this to court, we would be. But if you start shooting this off, we’ll have to make our case before we have all our ducks in a row. If I’m not mistaken, that might sour your desired outcome. So here’s a careful, lawyerly worded statement to take the heat of of us to be in court next week. And you’re going to deliver it like grown ups.”

    And they did. And the herd slammed stage right.

    I’m sure in that story there’s some minor inaccuracies. Always are. Matters not.

    BuzzFeed went right back to defending their position.

    But the momentum was broken.

  20. Alan says:

    …and Whitaker (probably) talked to Rosenstein and someone from the White House (probably) talked to Rosenstein. Of course that all happened–I would be surprised (and skeptical) if it had not. Hence my theory that Carr’s statement was as much about protecting the investigation from the White House as anything else…

  21. Bay State Librul says:

    Dammit, we need one more FBI Raid:

    FBI raids Manifort’s home/business

    FBI raids Cohens’s home/business

    Final Raid: Trump’s White House Office and Offices in Trump Tower. All phone records please

  22. Brumel says:

    But Mueller surely does care very much, and I can hardly imagine he would take an order from the DAG or AAG that violates the Regulations. So the Carr statement can only have been Mueller’s own decision. Assuming the SCO’s previous strict no-comment policy was based on an agreement between Mueller and Rosenstein, Mueller could not break with this policy without consulting directly with Rosenstein first. And the way to do that by the book was to notify Rosenstein of a “significant event in the course of his investigation” by sending him a written Urgent Report regarding an “issue that may be of major interest to the news media, Congress, or the President”, as the Regulations provide. This explains both the delay and why Rosenstein called Mueller (rather than vice versa).

    • Frank says:

      IANAL, I went to the DOJ website to read about Urgent Reports. The description was very helpful. Since discovering this island of sanity website, I read it everyday. Thank you all who have been here a long time. (Retired medical and military person who loves the United States). Frank

  23. Jim_46 says:

    Trump’s Razor.

    Josh Marshall, TPM, July 16, 2016: “Early on I realized that when it came to Trump if I figured out the stupidest possible scenario that could be reconciled with the available facts and went with it, that almost always turned out to be right. The stupider, the righter.”

  24. J Dal says:

    I’m always reluctant to post too, because the level of expertise here is somewhat staggering, and this ain’t my field, as it so obviously is for so many here. I’ve always felt like a life long baseball fan sitting in the stands, watching uniquely skilled people go about it, and moaning about the errors and yelling my head off when they go yard.  But I never would run on the field. And it has always been my belief that this process would be long and painful, and with setbacks along the way. The setbacks, for the most part, are media fuckups, nothing yet by Mueller or the Dems, unless you count the impeach the motherfucker speech, which i don’t. Nixon was well ahead of the curve for more than a year, but when it went bad, it went bad. And as I tirelessly point out, as I’m sure everyone else does, they still haven’t proven that Nixon had anything to do with ordering the Watergate break in, which was the freaking cause of the investigation and the name of the damn scandal for chrissakes. My other starting point is as a life-time New Yorker who has been reading about this con man for forty years. He’s reckless, arrogant and not too smart.  Nixon was extremely shrewd and careful, and he taped himself obstructing justice. So a smart man did a very stupid thing and paid the price. Here we have a stupid reckless one. McConnell can’t hide forever; Goldwater, Rhodes and Scott couldn’t either.  I just never saw a scenario in which he survives.  Still don’t.

    • bmaz says:

      Okay – do not be hesitant to comment. Trust me, if we were overly critical and oppressive of commenting, there would be a lot that never saw the light of day. That is not how it is here; we actually are incredibly open to commentary. And I personally recommend you post more commentary. Also might suggest paragraph breaks for readability of the same.

      McConnell is NOT, and in fact is the very antithesis of, Barry Goldwater, John Rhodes and Hugh Scott.

  25. Willis Warren says:

    I think Rudy’s strategy is this: keep this stupid fuck president until the end by slowing down the investigation. They can distract everyone with “who is leaking” bullshit (while the whole time it’s Rudy’s buddies in SDNY. The truth is gonna come out anyway, trump colluded with the Russians, but he probably doesn’t think that matters as they can control the stupid fuck and save the party, er country, by slowing everything down.

  26. Trip says:

    Rudy is letting the air out of the balloon slowly again.

    More “so what?”s.

    I’m still waiting for “A crime isn’t a crime”.

    Jon Swaine‏Verified account @jonswaine

    Rudolph Giuliani tells @CNNSotu that Trump may indeed have spoken to Michael Cohen about his congressional testimony beforehand. “And so what if he talked to him about it?” Denies Trump told Cohen to lie.
    https://twitter.com/jonswaine/status/1086989086194323459

    There’s some ‘there’ there, as they say. Rudy wouldn’t admit this based on Cohen testimony alone.

    • LeeNLP says:

      “I’m still waiting for ‘A crime isn’t a crime’”.

      I’m waiting for “So he committed a crime.  You talk like that’s a bad thing.”

  27. P J Evans says:

    Rayne says:
    January 20, 2019 at 3:01 am

    That link is to a very, very conservative site that I wouldn’t trust farther than I can throw their offices. (I’ve seen them lie on their front page stories.) It’s the Falun Gong house news organ, as has been noted here before.

  28. J Barker says:

    In a discussion about the NYT correction re: the Manafort-Kilimnik polling data story last week, Rudy says:

    “My friend, they didn’t correct that just completely on their own, by the way. Same thing with special counsel. That didn’t happen like, spontaneously.”

    Does that mean what I think it means….? Am I hearing this correctly?

    Start at around 14:05: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEzU0nOm0hc

  29. P J Evans says:

    J Barker says:
    January 20, 2019 at 11:17 am

    And Rudy NounVerb9/11 knows “it didn’t happen spontaneously” because how? Did he con someone into doing the work for his official boss?

      • J Barker says:

        That the special counsel’s correction didn’t happen “spontaneously” is, I guess, consistent with the correction being issued only because of growing impeachment talk among Dems in Congress. But I don’t remember similar impeachment talk happening after the NYT story, and Rudy is implying that the two corrections were issued for similar “non-spontaneous” reasons…. IDK, this is all so odd.

        Trip: yeah, I wish Tapper had just asked him: “What do you mean?” or “How do you know that?” Tapper otherwise did a great job in this interview, though, so I can’t complain about this missed opportunity too much!

  30. Charles says:

    @bmaz . “Parallel construction” is NOT some glossy bullshit to be blithely thrown around.

    The Drug Enforcement Agency defines parallel construction in the following way:

    “Parallel construction happens when agents pass on incriminating information about a US citizen that has been intercepted and given to them by the NSA. This information may be distributed to any local or state law enforcement agency, usually through other DEA agents embedded in joint terrorism task forces or otherwise part of local-state-federal law enforcement partnerships

    To avoid jurisdictional legal issues and compromising investigative methods, the DEA agents tell local law enforcement to, for example, be at a certain rest stop at a certain time and date looking for a car with such-and-such license plate number. Local law enforcement would then conduct a traffic stop and find drugs in the car, confirming the original information that was passed on by the NSA. However they would construct their case as having started with the traffic stop without mentioning the NSA or DEA..” (https://www.drugenforcementedu.org/2018/01/despite-controversy-parallel-construction-is-effective-and-legal/)

    This is exactly the sense in which I used the term: that LEA 1 learns information through an intercept and passes it to LEA2 in sanitized form. This allows LEA2 to seek evidence apart from the intercept to make the case that it already knows exists. But if the content of the intercept is passed, even in sanitized form, to reporters and they publish it, then the targets may figure out that their communication was intercepted.

    Your aggressive, insulting way of addressing me just diminishes your credibility in my eyes. If you think I’m wrong, just provide me with a documented source, as I have done with you and I will learn.

    And if you’re so smart, fix your website so that it functions properly with reasonable settings on typical browsers.

    • Rayne says:

      I’m not going to get between you and bmaz on parallel construction. But I’m going to say this is not a typical website and expectations should be set accordingly.

      You want better comment functionality? Go visit a typical website for typical browsers — and by browsers I mean both the app and the readers.

      That goes for everyone else: we have no ads here interfering with your reading. No participation in intrusive advertising systems which hoover up personal data. Your reading time comes unencumbered by pop-ups and interstitial pages. A highly limited number of human volunteers monitor problematic spam and weed out trolls — oh, and strip out by hand all the null blank spaces your particular browser inserts in comments.

      The price, one might say, for this is an occasionally annoying comment system which still produces better commentary and commentariat than the overwhelming majority of typical sites which glean material from us.

      Buck up.

      • Charles says:

        Fair enough, Rayne.  I do appreciate the non-commercial nature of the site. And, since I administered a web site, I appreciate the issue of trolls.

        I do have to say: treating reasonable commenters with respect reduces the probability that they will get angry and turn trollish. It also increases the probability they’ll donate to a website.

        I’m sorry about the extra null spaces.

        • bmaz says:

          Yeah, hi there. You might want to rethink what is “reasonable”. But, sure, bring it Charles. Also, heroic of you to blithely ignore my response to you.

    • bmaz says:

      Oh, that is sweet, Charles. I started actively litigating, in real courts, parallel proceedings and construction, both in criminal, and importantly, civil forfeiture, cases back in the very early 90’s. When did you first hear the term, and can you tell me more?

      And as to your slam on our website, you have no idea of the attack we face daily, but if you want to get off your whiny ass and support our effort, do so monetarily or shut up as to that.

      Let’s be clear: You are bending to an uninformed and antagonistic commenter status as to substantive posts, and also as to how we exist as a blog at all. I guess I should thank you for commenting on this blog, but I see no credible evidence of that. Do you have any?

      • Charles says:

        BMaz, last year I gave about one-third of my less-than-princely income to worthy causes. A number of those donations were for organizations that defend press and communications freedom or help disseminate news through non-corporate outlets. In the latter regard, Marcy has already received my help indirectly.

        Other donations went to organizations and individuals that do journalism. Having worked for a short time as a real journalist, I very much appreciate people who research and write complex issues, especially those who take personal risks, as Marcy does.

        As a matter of principle, however, I never give money to any person or organization that treats me shabbily. I imagine that holds for most people who would consider contributing.

        If you want to ban me from commenting, that’s your prerogative.  It’s just not important to me. What is important is that you answer the facts that I provided with independently-verifiable facts to persuade me that I should change my views.  If you can’t or won’t do that, then you have nothing to say that I care to hear.

  31. Yette says:

    Why does the Mueller snub of the BuzzFeed story feeling exactly like the FBI/Comey coming out a week before the election and re-opening the Clinton investigation? Because it is, from silence, Mueller engages in a storyline. I’m no longer confident Mueller is investigating POTUS.

  32. I Never Lie And I’m Always Right says:

    Punaise

    When I read about the Tory MP I accidentally knocked over my bowl of blueberries, and all my blueberries died. But I gave them a decent burial.

  33. Mo says:

    I believe the SCO not buzzfeed; Buzzfeed got the story wrong. No mainstream news is reporting that according to Washington Post Rosenstein or Whitaker involved themselves in the SCO statement so I’m skeptical of this claim.

  34. taluslope says:

    What is the end game for the Mueller investigation?

    Media (more than) implies that Mueller concludes with a report. But you all seem to think it ends primarily with indictments. Sure but indictments that slowly walk up the criminal tree run into a nuclear inferno once they get near the family.

    Thus I imagine the end game as a totally bat-shit crazy moment when the world as we know it ends and I levitate up to heaven (or toward where ever the hell it is I’m going).

    In this light I wonder if the Carr blowback was simply to keep the lights on a little longer.

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