What We Know about the “Other” Investigation about which Paul Manafort Lied

In this post, I noted that another investigation that Paul Manafort had been questioned about while he was purportedly cooperating could not be Steve Calk, as I and others had previously assumed. The breach hearing transcript makes it clear that’s not true for several reasons, including the length of the names of the key players, and the fact that this involved “saving the candidate.”

In this post, I’d like to lay out what we do know about that other investigation.

Effectively, Manafort was asked some questions in a proffer session before his plea on September 13, in response to which he offered information that implicated someone with a 7-character name. [These dates are in the government’s January 15 filing at 23.] Then, in a debriefing on October 5, he changed his story to make it less incriminating — and to match the story the subject of the investigation was telling to the FBI at the time (last fall). When pressed by his lawyers, Manafort mostly changed his story back to what it had been. But the head fake made Manafort useless as a witness against this person.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson summed up this change this way:

The allegation is that the defendant offered a version of events that downplayed [redacted; “the President’s” or “the Candidate”s might fit] role and/or his knowledge. Specifically, his knowledge of any prior involvement of the [16-17 character redaction] that was inconsistent with and less incriminating of [7 character redaction] than what he had already said during the proffer stage and now consistent with what Mr. [7 character redaction] himself was telling the FBI.

This investigation pertains to events that happened “prior to [Manafort] leaving the campaign (on August 19).” [January 15 filing at 26]

As Andrew Weissman described in the breach hearing, Manafort’s version of the story first came when prosecutors, “were asking questions about an e-mail that Mr. [5 character name] had written about a potential way of saving the candidate. That’s sort of paraphrasing it. And this was a way of explaining, or explaining away that e-mail.” In the Janaury 15 filing, this conversation arises to explain “a series of text messages.” [See 25]

Weissmann describes that the revised story Manafort told was, “quite dramatically different. This is not I forgot something or I need to augment some details of a basic core set of facts.” Manafort’s original story involved Mr. [7 character redaction] providing information about a [redacted] who was doing something. Manafort appears to have made a representation about what Mr. [7 character name] believed about that (likely important to proving intent).

But in the second session, Manafort appears to have shifted the blame, implicating Mr. [5 character name] whom, “Mr. Manafort had previously said, I did not want to be involved in this at all,” but leaving out what Mr. [7 character name] had said. Manafort’s testimony effectively left out that when Mr. [5 character name] had called previously, Manafort had said, “I’m on it, don’t get involved.” It appears that Weissmann surmised that Manafort changed the story because his version would make it central to the question of criminality [this might be a reference to being related to the Mueller investigation], so he revised it in an attempt to avoid providing anything that might be helpful to implicating Mr. [7 character name].

Weissmann argues that the lie is important because it effectively made Manafort useless as a witness.

I don’t think adversely impact is the standard, but when — assuming that the Court were to find there is a lie, that is the adverse impact in terms of the utility that can be made of the cooperating witness.

While ABJ doesn’t seem to think it one of Manafort’s most egregious lies, she does recognize that it meets the materiality standard of a false statements charge.

Weissmann: I do think if the Court was trying to address also the issue of whether it hits all the elements of a false statement in terms of is it material to an investigation, I mean, what we’ve tried to do with each of these is put in enough context to show the materiality here, the whole —

THE COURT: I understand the materiality in this circumstance.

When Richard Westling tries to dismiss all this as just Manafort getting off to a bad start one day, ABJ corrects him and makes it clear he has substituted one fact for another.

THE COURT: I do think, to quibble with maybe the first thing you said, where you said he started at the level of generality and didn’t add the same amount of detail he added the first time, but then he was happy to add the details, that’s very different than telling a different detail than the detail you provided the first time. I don’t think that’s quite a — it was a very generous characterization.

The investigation is in another district.  The initial government 12/7 filing says that explicitly at 8. The breach filing at 112 says they had the other investigative team “come here.”

This could be the hush payments (investigated in SDNY), but Michael Cohen — if he’s the 5-character name redacted — never said he didn’t want to be involved in those.

It could also involve Manafort’s burgeoning FARA scandal: Vin Weber or Greg Craig could be the 5-character name, and Tony Podesta could be the 7-character name (though I doubt Manafort would perjure himself at this point to save Podesta, particularly at the detriment of Weber). The timing would work perfectly, as would the timing of the subject of this investigation talking to the FBI last fall. But it’s not clear that that burgeoning investigation ever really required “saving the candidate,” as the 5-character person seems to have deemed the issue.

Given the timing, it might involve the PsyGroup offer, but with Jared Kushner rather than Don Jr playing the starring role. That would mean that offer of foreign assistance investigation would have been moved to another district, possibly SDNY like the rest of things. Rick Gates was in the loop on that, but they wouldn’t have redacted his name if he were the 5-character named person involved.

Update: This morning, The New Yorker published this on PsyGroup’s efforts to win business in the 2016 election, with a description of the FBI’s investigation of them. It describes Joel Zamel pitching Jared Kushner, as well as the known outreach to Rick Gates and Don Jr.

During the 2016 Presidential race, the company pitched members of Donald Trump’s campaign team on its ability to influence the results. Psy-Group’s owner, Joel Zamel, even asked Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, to offer Zamel’s services to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.


In early May, 2016, Zamel sent an e-mail to Gingrich, saying that he could provide the Trump campaign with powerful tools that would use social media to advance Trump’s chances. Zamel suggested a meeting in Washington to discuss the matter further. Gingrich forwarded the e-mail to Jared Kushner and asked if the campaign would be interested. Kushner checked with others on the campaign, including Brad Parscale, who ran Web operations. According to a person familiar with the exchange, Parscale told Kushner that they didn’t need Zamel’s help. (A 2016 campaign official said, “We didn’t use their services.”)

And while someone claimed they didn’t use PsyGroup’s services, Zamel reportedly bragged to George Nader after the election that he had helped get Trump elected.

But, according to the Nader representative, shortly after the election Zamel bragged to Nader that he had conducted a secret campaign that had been influential in Trump’s victory. Zamel agreed to brief Nader on how the operation had worked. During that conversation, Zamel showed Nader several analytical reports, including one that described the role of avatars, bots, fake news, and unattributed Web sites in assisting Trump. Zamel told Nader, “Here’s the work that we did to help get Trump elected,” according to the Nader representative. Nader paid Zamel more than two million dollars, but never received copies of the reports, that person said.

If Don Jr. handed the PsyGroup pitch onto Jared and Manafort, it might mean that the other investigation is one into PsyGroup.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

83 replies
  1. BobCon says:

    The game I often see of trying to guess what is behind the curtain of redactions makes we wonder why courts don’t require less revealing redactions.

    I can understand why it was hard in the old days of ink on paper, but these days it seems like there would be easy software solutions to adding random numbers of space before blacking out.

  2. Kevin says:

    Where “the president’s” would fit, “Jared Kushner’s” would also fit. It would also make sense for both names to be used, since this is the first time he would have been mentioned. The next time ABJ mentions him, she just uses the last name with no “Mr.” consistent with having just said his name a moment before. Perhaps this is a reach, but not terrible as reaches go.

    For the other investigation, “Southern District of New York” fits for one instance (since the space at the end of the line is redacted where redactions run over onto the next line) and the “Southern District” fits for the next reference.

    Finally, I don’t read it as the 5-letter name not wanting to be involved. I read it as Manafort not wanting the 5-letter name to get involved, which does sound like the campaign’s view of Cohen.

    • Kevin says:

      Another piece to this: at the time Manafort changed his testimony, he would have known Cohen was cooperating, which I think would make him more likely to tell a story implicating Cohen.

      Also, Andres later makes a comment that suggests the person Manafort is protecting is still in the administration. Also points to Kushner.

      My bet is that this is a reference to either Karen McDougal or something we haven’t seen yet along the same lines. And that Kushner was involved. And that he lied to the FBI.

        • Kevin says:

          I agree that complicates the theory. But we don’t necessarily need to look for a motive for him to have told the truth in proffer sessions. The motive is obvious: getting a deal. If later, he decided to lie, Cohen is an obvious person to fall back on blaming.

  3. SolidPossiblility says:

    Long-time looky-loo, first-time blah blah.

    Kushner (seven letters) instantly sprang to my mind about someone Manafort might have dangled in front of the SCO’s bus in proffer and then tried to not implicate in order to hedge a pardon.

    Stone (five letter S-word) Manafort could very well have shunned Stone’s involvement initially, only to later align his story with Roger’s dodgy story.

    Thanks EW, you are often a beacon of insight.

      • Drew says:

        The Stone case is SCO, but he could be involved with Kushner in SDNY or EDNY [I have some reason to think that we may hear from EDNY before all this is over]. Of course, Mr 5 letters could also be Cohen.

  4. Savage Librarian says:

    Sater is another 5 letter name who was very invested in having a play in getting the candidate elected. Gosh, there are so many things going on, my head is spinning. So, this is a long shot possibility. I have to read this a few more times before I can get any kind of  sense of what is going on.

  5. Bay State Librul says:

    Maybe the NYT can construct a Sunday Crossword Puzzle — call it Liars Poker (Fives And Sevens Wild)
    What’s a 5 letter word for? STONE, COHEN, GATES, TRUMP, FLYNN, PENCE
    What’s a 7 letter word for? DOSSIER, KUSHNER, MUELLER, IMPEACH, SCANDAL

    • chicago_bunny says:

      More 5s: Corsi, Nader, Pence, Smith (Peter W.), Hicks.  For giggles, Putin.

      More 7s: Credico, Nunberg, Assange, Torshin, Priebus.  For giggles, Kislyak.

      Makes for some fun MadLibs.

  6. RON DIPRONIO says:

    Here are some more 7 letter words to add to the trump cesspool lexicon:

  7. Wajim says:

    “Let [her] who has understanding count the number of the beast . . . ” Excellent work, Wheels, by far the best I’ve read anywhere.


  8. Laura says:

    I read the entire Manafort breach hearing transcript this weekend. My overriding impression: Amy Berman Jackson is nobody’s fool.

      • Democritus says:

        Thank dog, maybe we will make it through this mess without losing our democracy.

        It would be a good thing to cut this revival of fascism short.

  9. Ewan says:

    The first 7 character blank is not a person, as there is no Mr. or Ms. It is an entity. Could be VTBBANK, a state-owned bank, which would likely not look forward to be subpoena-ed… just guessing.

  10. PR says:

    Manafort has zero incentive to tell the truth. He fears Putin and FSB i.e. torture & death more than US justice. He knows he will forever be a domestic piraha and a target at home (pardoned or not), but he WILL be have HELL to pay if he delivers details about the truth. It’s not blind loyalty to Trump per se, it’s fear of torture, murder, more puppeteering for Putin. Payback. His wife does not fear Mueller, prison for her husband, or being an outcast, or being exposed. She fears losing money and being beaten, killed, butchered, spirited away for all of the above followed by death. This is how Russia works and they know that. Federal prison looks more like a VACAY in this light, which gives better insight into Manafort’s previous bragging about how nice prison was – because he knows what awaits the PRICE OF TRUTH: death, painful death. Manafort is a distraction, a traitor, and a distorter. If anything, I’d caution you all not to take him at his word. His testimony is intentionally inconsistent and misleading because he never wanted a plea. He is wholly unreliable given the pressure he faces. He’s ostentatious, greedy, smarmy, showy, and lives too large for any kind of special protection we’d piecemeal out. For Manafort, the only longshot bet is a pardon a la Scooter Libby.

    Want to know why we’re in this mess? Dick Fucking Cheney. Exposing Valerie Plame forever damaged and politized IC, and re-made the GOP into a party of traitors, tea baggers, hacks, idiots, and wealthy con artists huddling the aforementioned w/ SCAM-gelicals to coalesce around UN-American ideals for greed.

    Finger-pointing and revisionist history by Manafort is anathema to truth-finding. It’s what he’s NOT saying. He’s been threatened. Repeatedly. As has Donald Trump. This is why they will NEVER turn on each other.

    Comprende? Es claro no es nublado. Un consejo: no tenemos mucho tiempo por pendejadas. Impeach & sacalo CON PRISA

    • Democritus says:

      Seeing what Manafort has done to his wife, then telling his daughters they were to blame for their moms suicide attempt told me all I need to know.  He is evil.

      EmmaBest released the details I believe.  I think people mainly don’t discuss it out of horror at his actions.

  11. Laura says:

    Actually I do have a question for Marcy/bmaz/Rayne amd I hope this isn’t stupid and I beg patience because I’m a newbie:

    Just  how are the redaction determinations made?  Is there some kind of official guidance?

    Obviously the prosecutors have their say, but what about the defense?  Can they contest a redaction, or request that an item be redacted?

    • Drew says:

      I don’t know about the legalities, but in this transcript, the defense specifically deferred to the prosecution for the redactions (saying, “we trust their judgement” or something to that effect). I understand there is a DOJ policy about not publicly releasing names of uncharged individuals, but IANAL. I’m sure there are other considerations.

      • bmaz says:

        The defense usually requests any redacting they want above what the prosecution is doing, through the prosecution. If there is a disagreement, then you go to the court. Frankly, the prosecution usually gets it done.

  12. punaise says:

    @ bmaz says at 4:50 pm

    Gosh, after all these years, dating back to FDL… didn’t know I was being so elusive!
    (hint, mods: google is your friend :~)

  13. Areader2019 says:

    “Now that both the House and Senate investigative committees have cleared Donald Trump of Democrat-inspired allegations of Russian collusion”….(thehill)

    Trump has not been ‘cleared’. I just feel like the blue bubble and red bubble are getting farther and farther apart. This just has to end ugly.

    • LeeNLP says:

      I don’t have a link, but I remember reading about a study that quantified the degree to which the right wing interwebs linked to any kind of reputable news sources, the kind with actual reporting and boots on the ground, not just other conspiracy theorists.  The conclusion was (IIRC) that there were virtually no such connections; the RW echo chamber really is an echo chamber, a closed system bubble.

      So it’s more a case of the red bubble moving farther and farther away from reality, not just from the blue bubble.

      Rather like the red shift of the Universe.  The farther out you go, the more shifted to the red you get.  Or vice versa.

      • Rayne says:

        The Trump project needs only two things: keep the base on board, and peel away a percentage only big enough to win by a percent or two. Just look at Michigan where Trump won by a mere 10K votes — approximately two votes per precinct.

        That’s why the network relationship maps for the right-wing look so tight.

  14. pseudonymous in nc says:

    [5 character name] could be [Peter] Smith. The Smith operation sort of fits with “potential way of saving the candidate” and when you stick his name into the redactions, the rest of the narrative also fits.

    (That might also make 7-character name floor-shitter Chuck Johnson.)

  15. Ererich says:

    Kushner makes possible sense. Weismann makes references to how the person told investigators something less nefarious. We know kush has been interviewed at length. Also could be a wild card.

  16. Rusharuse says:

    There is a pardon in Trumps desk drawer with the Rug’s name on it . . of course he will issue it + 20 others. America self fucked in 2016 – Don’t worry be happy!

  17. Bay State Librul says:

    I’ve given these names to Brendan Emmett Quigley for his puzzle page (???)

    Five come a seven………………… or Pardon Me?



  18. Areader2019 says:


    This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.”
    Mr. Weissmann did not elaborate.


    This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the Special Counsel’s Office is investigating. And in 2016 there is an in-person meeting with someone who the Government has certainly proffered to this Court in the past, is understood by the FBI, assessed to be — have a relationship with Russian intelligence, that there is (redacted)-.

    And there is an in-person meeting at an unusual time for somebody who is the campaign chairman to be spending time, and to be doing it in person.

    (Manafort hearing transcript, page 68)

    I am a red faced screaming alarm on this one!  Why did the NYT say he didn’t elaborate?!?   Weissmann did elaborate, and made a very specific statement that there is evidence that the campaign chairman met with Russian intelligence!!!

    • P J Evans says:

      Personal opinion: he hasn’t. And won’t, as long as he can stay holed up in that embassy. It allows him to pretend that he’s winning.

      • Frank Probst says:

        If living in the Ecuadorian embassy for years is winning, I’d hate to see what losing looks like.  Still, I think the gold standard here would be Enron’s Ken Lay, who got all of the charges against him thrown out…by dropping dead before his appeals were exhausted.  Yes, he totally beat the prosecutions entire case against him, but, um, it doesn’t strike me as a very good way to “win”.

        • LeeNLP says:

          ‘Yes, he totally beat the prosecutions entire case against him, but, um, it doesn’t strike me as a very good way to “win”.’

          Except that everyone ends the same way, good or bad.  It’s not a loss if everyone does the same thing.  Or a win.

          That’s the pity- it seems like there should be justice in the Universe.

      • BroD says:

        I just have this image of him in a corner of the embassy basement, rocking and giggling “I win!  I win!”

  19. Democritus says:

    FWIW, and with it and a few bucks you can get a decent coffee somewhere, but kudos to your attention to detail, amazing recall, deductive reasoning and ability to lay out your observations in a way even I can manage to follow.

    Thank you

  20. Christenson says:

    I agree the court’s redaction methods are so paper-and-ink, they are very leaky. Whatever happened to Person #1? and (redacted)???

  21. pseudonymous in nc says:

    So, you have to think in pairs, when Mr 7 has been interviewed by the FBI, and Mr 5 has not. Stone/Credico might fit, though not “other” investigation.

    The WSJ reporting dates the start of the Smith operation to Labor Day 2016, but Matt Tait / pwnallthethings said that he was first contacted by Smith around the same time as “Russia, if you’re listening” — July 28 — which was before Manafort officially left the campaign.


    The tenor of the conversations that Tait describes — “it made no difference to them who hacked the emails or why they did so, only that the emails be found and made public before the election.” — fits somewhat with “saving the candidate.” (7-char name could be also be [Royal] O’Brien in this scenario.) So, in this hypothetical, Smith reaches out to Manafort around the same time he contacts Tait, saying he has a source claiming to be in possession of hacked Clinton-server emails, and one of his associates says “yeah, this isn’t bullshit.”

    Of course, this could be wildly off-target.

  22. Cal says:

    How about Barrack for the 7-letter name?

    Also, it still astonishes me that, nearly two years in to the Mueller investigation, we have not heard one word about Cambridge Analytica, Brad Parscale, Jared Kushner’s running of the 2016 Trump digital campaign.

    • CaliLawyer says:

      Mueller is locking down everybody he can before he gets to the principals at the very end. That will be explosive, which is why I think there will be an extensive factual record developed before family like Kushner or the politically powerful Mercer family get dragged into this, if at all. The activity that can be colored as arguably traditional political/1A activity will be held to a high bar, so right wing political activity, as sleazy as it was in 2016, might get a public shaming without any charges being filed. Still, he’s been aggressive putting teeth into FARA, so we might get lucky. I’m very curious about certain media/political grifter-type figures who have been consistently parroting the Kremlin line, like Hannity, Alex Jones or Jill Stein.

  23. Sans-Serf says:

    5-letter = Trump

    7-letter = Trump Jr?

    I wrote this in your Pardons and Spooks post and I stand by it:
    What I found interesting was on page 127 where Andres seems to confirm that the “Other DOJ Investigation” is directly related to Trump:

    Well, so for example, in the No. 4, […] you see Mr. Manafort changing his story so as not to implicate either [redacted] or someone in [redacted]. I think, with respect to this issue, again, Mr. Manafort is trying to distance himself from the administration and saying he’s not having contact with the administration at a time when he’s under at least one indictment.”

    I think the first redaction I quote there is “Mr Trump” and the second is “his family.”

  24. obsessed says:

    I’m glad they do it the way they do for snoopy reasons, but from their point of view isn’t it kind of dumb to release redacted documents in monospaced fonts? If they’d released in in a normal font, Kilimnik (with all his narrow i’s and l’s) would have been in the running to who we know is a redacted individual with only 7 characters is his/her name. In a non-monospaced font “DJTrump” (7 characters) takes more horizontal space than “Kilimnik”:


    • bmaz says:

      “DJTrump” is a form that would not be used in such a document. It would either be Trump or Individual-1 I would think. That said, seems unlikely Trump is one of the two.

  25. Savage Librarian says:

    Marcy, thanks for the PsyGroup update. I’m guessing you have already thought of this but thought I would mention it just in case…

    My gut is telling me that Zamel is linked to Florida. So, your 2/7/19 post about the FL connections may loop into this.

    And that post may link into the Stone indictment post…

    ”Little wheels spin and spin, big wheels go around and around…” (Buffy Sainte Marie)

  26. BobCon says:

    The campaign’s denial of using PsyGroup doesn’t mean much to me, since Stone officially was off the campaign by 2015 too. If PsyGroup was hired, it would almost certainly be done indirectly.

    As always, I’m left wondering if Kushner told the truth to Mueller or if this is going to be instance number 397 of Kushner coming back to amend what he submitted.

  27. pseudonymous in nc says:

    The DOJ branch doing the other investigation is a puzzler. It isn’t obviously Northern / Southern / etc. District as that doesn’t fit. Organized [Crime] fits, as would “Organized Crime investigation”, though “investigation” wouldn’t need to be redacted. “Office of” fits, but those branches are mostly administrative.

    • bmaz says:

      Why does it not fit? Jurisdiction within district boundaries is what matters, and Trump and Cohen, as well as the campaign and transition (mostly) operated out of Manhattan. Why wouldn’t SDNY be appropriate?

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        Because “Southern” has eight characters and the redaction at the end of one line has nine; because “District of New York” has one more character than the redaction at the start of the next line.

  28. Democritus says:

    I could swear that on one of the filings documents with the mystery SCOTUS appellant had redations that were less than ideal, and now that I finally started commenting here and am going back to look I can’t find them.

    Unlike the ones in this Twitter the names of the parties was on the left hand side, so would that be filings?

    Unlike the ones below the redaction was not the whole block, and for the second line of the name, instead of redacting the whole line, they just redacted where there was text. The second line blacked out section only went about a quarter of that text columns length.

    I don’t know if they cleaned it up afterwards, or what but I remember looking at that trying to count it out, and then oh someone else will figure it out.

    I don’t have a photographic memory, and I forget a lot of things, but rarely am I wrong when I can picture the writing and I can do that with this. That skill let me ace tests, and piss off bad teachers who expected me to fail, my entire life. I would try to remember where the info I need to recal was in the textbook and that would usually help me remember.

    Are there any sites that have links to all the filings, besides pacer etc?

    Not these filings-

  29. Savage Librarian says:

    Looks like this might be the connection to “the other district” and PsyGroup that Marcy surmised. This is from a TPM story about Patten written on 2/11/19 by Josh Kovensky. So, the 5 letter name could be Zamel. And “Serhiy Lyovochkin” has 16 letters.

    ”Patten has a link to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The Ukrainian oligarch who paid Patten the $50,000 for inaugural tickets was Serhiy Lyovochkin, who worked closely with Manafort during his time in Ukraine and who reportedly received polling data from him during the presidential campaign.”

Comments are closed.