Dear Editors: Stop Trying to Predict the Mueller Report

Darren Samuelsohn, who gets credit for one of the most important courthouse scoops of the Mueller investigation — the challenge of a Mueller subpoena by a foreign-owned corporation — wrote a piece laying out, “The week that could reveal Mueller’s end-game.” It relies heavily on analysis from Matt Miller, who was among those people saying not just that Mueller was substantially done three weeks ago (apparently true) but that he would issue his report (didn’t happen as predicted). He also quotes Ty Cobb promising Mueller will finish by mid-March, which is something like 16 months after he first predicted the end date.

Yet Samuelsohn’s piece doesn’t mention his own Mystery Appellant scoop, which is currently scheduled for discussion on SCOTUS’ March 22 conference (and would take some time to coerce compliance after that), at all. This appears to be a case where a foreign owned corporation is shielding the potentially criminal behavior of an American citizen by claiming only the President can coerce it to comply, the kind of appellate question that might rival the one decided in US v. Nixon. Solicitor General Noel Francisco’s role in the defense of the subpoena seems to indicate the high stakes of this challenge. Yet even Samuelsohn seems ready to believe that the resolution of this challenge won’t hold up the end game of the Mueller investigation.

Samulesohn also doesn’t mention Andrew Miller’s challenge to a Mueller subpoena. He lost his challenge in the DC Circuit on February 26, but depending on whether this challenge is treated as a criminal or civil one, he still has time to ask for an en banc reconsideration. In the wake of Roger Stone’s indictment, Mueller’s team told Miller’s lawyer they still need his client’s testimony, apparently for other charges. Admittedly, that could just involve a superseding indictment for Stone down the road — which might explain why Mueller was looking for 8 months before trial — but it’s a loose end that won’t be tied anytime soon (unless Miller quietly complied without anyone noticing).

Even among the details that Samuelsohn lays out (status reports in Flynn and Gates, a gag review and status hearing in Stone’s case, and sentencing for Manafort), he misses a really intriguing one. In the wake of Mueller’s clarification regarding the circumstances behind the printing of polling data on August 2, 2016 and which oligarchs that got that data are Russian (a clarification that made it clear they reinterviewed Rick Gates just a month ago), Manafort submitted a sealed motion (docket 538) for Amy Berman Jackson to reconsider her breach determination.

In a minute order filed last Monday, she approved the filing of that motion under seal, but ordered Manafort’s lawyers and Mueller’s to get together to agree on a set of redactions to release that motion. While there have been several sealed motions submitted since then, we don’t yet have that motion for reconsideration.

Manafort’s lawyers have been working hard to publicly reveal details — spun using any of a variety of changing cover stories — about that August 2 meeting since last summer. They’ve already lost a bid to unseal more details of this dispute from one of the past hearings, and they may have lost a dispute here (or it may something that will be aired in Wednesday’s sentencing hearing).

It’s interesting not just that Manafort’s lawyers, in their relentless bid to perform as the guy holding the pardon pen most wants them to perform, are still trying to explain away why Trump’s campaign manager provided data to be shared with Russia at the same meeting he discussed what amounts to relief from the Ukraine related sanctions. But even as Kevin Downing tries yet again to offer a cover story, Mueller appears to be successfully hiding the full details of this incident.

If they’re done, there’s no reason to hide these details, yet ABJ seems to agree they do have reason to hide them.

It is at once possible — likely even! — that the bulk of the investigative work is done (allowing Mueller’s lead Agent to be put in charge of the Richmond FBI Office), but that there are remaining threads that Mueller needs for his final “report.” It’s even possible that everyone misunderstands what form that final report will take.

But thus far no editor has produced a story that adequately describes the signs of a nearing end that adequately accounts for the number of known loose ends that will take some weeks to be tied.

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. 

49 replies
  1. DrFunguy says:

    Ever reminiscent of Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football. Either these continual stories are click bait or some editors never learn.

    • bie phiephus says:

      It drives traffic and now that we’re accustom to Trump “truth” games, they pay no reputation hit or other price. So why would they stop crying wolf?

      Is there much/any journalistic integrity left?

    • tacocat says:

      🙋‍♂️ guilty of clicking obsessively on anything promising new news about the end of this nightmare.

  2. Badger Robert says:

    Near certainty that RR is leaving the DOJ very soon. That creates another source for information that Mueller thinks can be public. Also John W. Dean twitted the federal conspiracy statute, which could have a wide application to targets not in the Trump family.
    That sets up a big executive privilege fight.
    Senate and Cong. Republicans like these winding up stories, because if Mueller continues he is going to report on the Russian money that help pay for other federal campaigns.

  3. viget says:

    Excellent work, as always Marcy. When will the media get it with regards to the Mueller investigation?

    Here’s what I feel like still is outstanding (WARNING: SPECULATION ALERT) I realize that some of this may overlap and be further consolidated, but these are just my own outstanding questions based on informed speculation:

    1) Mystery Appellant (likely QIA), probably related to the quo of the quid pro quo (eg How Trump, Barrack, Flynn and Trump’s spawn were going to get paid)

    2) Andrew Miller and some greater importance of Roger Stone to the conspiracy in general. Part of me wonders if Stone wasn’t directing much of the conspiracy from the shadows (it’s interesting that Stone “quit” in August 2015, right as Russia starts making various overtures regarding Trump Tower Moscow). Miller as Stone’s driver and errand boy, may have overheard some important conversations. I would lump in Stone’s TERABYTES of data that were raided from his NYC apartment and FL home with this.

    3) The role of Tom Barrack in coordinating Manafort’s grift and making sure the various parties got paid — This I think got farmed out to SDNY given that its investigation is on the inauguration committee, and I’ve also seen Rebuilding America Now as part of that too. RAN was being used to launder foreign donations (from Russians? Saudis? Emratis? Qataris?) to various Trump Campaign officials (definitely Manafort, possibly others), and may have just been used as a money laundering scheme for Russian oligarchs period. It’s possible that the QIA case may intersect here too. I think I know who the straw donor (an American) to RAN was, but do not have proof of it.

    4) The usefulness of the “polling data” if that’s what it was to Russian/Ukranian Oligarchs, and what Deripaska et al actually did with it. I suspect that it may have been used for more than just targeting the IRA trolls… This however, may just be the counterintelligence side of things and may not be made public.

    5) What information exactly Christopher Steele was passing to Bruce Ohr after August 1, 2016. My suspicion is that this was very sensitive data that McCabe et al wanted to make sure was not widely shared throughout the FBI. Ohr was a trusted conduit and was used to funnel the data to FBI clean teams that McCabe knew he could trust. Marcy kind of alluded as much in her Twitter feed analysis of Ohr’s testimony over the weekend. Again, this may all be counterintelligence and we may never see this info.

    6) The Marcy Wheeler connection — I won’t say any more than that this must relate to part of the GRU investigation out of Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. Again, may just be CI stuff, but I remember Marcy saying in July 2018 that she thought it might be coming out soon then (possibly with the GRU investigation?) Speaking of which, what exactly was Philadelphia FBI investigating? We haven’t heard peep out of them, except in regards to the GRU hacking indictment wrt to elections, and also the doping/Westinghouse hacking indictment out of Pittsburgh. But those investigations seemed to be more Pittsburgh/San Fran than Philly. This could tie in to point 5 above, and may also never be known.

    7) Cohen/Sater loose odds and ends — Being investigated by SDNY currently

    8) Emoluments prosecutions — SDNY and DDC?

    9) My favorite piece of the puzzle — likely CI, but what exactly was Cozy Bear doing in the DNC server for 1 year, and why haven’t they been charged with anything. Also, we know Dutch AIVD knew exactly who these people were, why haven’t they been indicted?

    10) The ongoing effort to get nuclear tech and power plants to KSA, and how Putin was going to profit from this.

    Finally there’s also big picture stuff not directly related to the core Trump investigation, a) The role of Russian organized crime in the Trump conspiracy and Russian policy writ large (especially Semion Mogilovich), b) The new “axis of evil” of Russia/KSA/UAE/Netanyahu/Turkey, and c) the human trafficking aspect of the scandals including Jeff Epstein and Cindy Yang.

    Basically, I want to know everything…

  4. Badger Robert says:

    Still, it is likely that the forward compliance part of the investigation may be ready. That seems to the part in which RR is most interested , with respect to the NRA, Facebook, Instagram and perhaps youtube. The Deutsche Bank money laundering issues do not appear to be ripe, but that has been passed off to Congress.
    That conspiracy to defraud piece could name some very ranking Russians and Barr might be in a position to advise too bad, so sad, you’ll have to live with it.

    • BobCon says:

      You’re right that the House is starting to dig into DBank, but we don’t really know what’s going on with DBank at DOJ, besides a complaint by Schiff that Mueller wasn’t doing enough. I wouldn’t assume Schiff has a well rounded picture of what DOJ is doing, though.

      The Germans raided DBank late last year regarding money laundering, and I wouldn’t assume DOJ is done either. It’s entirely possible Mueller decided that anything his people found didn’t relate directly to Trump-Russia and handed off what they found. I’ll also be interested to see if NY State is going to dig into the Trump-DBank relationship.

      • P J Evans says:

        I think Schiff really needs to read Mueller’s authorization again. Schiff seems to think it’s covering more than Mueller does.

      • Badger Robert says:

        It is my guess that the DBank issues are so controversial in the White House, that the DOJ backed off to preserve the investigation. DBank is now co-operating with multiple house committees, and those are the committees that claim to have sufficient evidence for impeachment.
        Those issues relate to Kushner’s international debt with other banks, and could be brought to light in disclosures about the security currency for Ivanka and spouse.
        If Cong. continues to disclose on T, the reactions will become increasingly desperate.
        Thanks for the reply.

        • BobCon says:

          I think it’s hard for DOJ politicos to squelch target rich investigations when multiple jurisdictions are getting a taste.

          Still, all the usual caveats apply where I don’t know what stupid things Whitaker might have done, or if some other force is at work. And who knows, maybe Trump and DBank’s criminal tendencies maybe didn’t intersect this time for some unexplained reason.

  5. Bri2k says:

    Every time I see one of these Mueller report prediction stories, I remember that Rosenstein quote: “Mueller won’t be issuing a report, he’ll be issuing indictments.”
    I think any Mueller report will be bare-bones and the real action will be in the House committee hearings.

  6. Mark Ospeck says:

    while ABJ goes about giving him the full ten for treason, why should she not stop off to justify her legal decision by dumping all the 700 pages from the SCO prosecutors re Manafort-Trump-Russia just straight-up unredacted to Reuters on Wednesday?

    • bmaz says:

      If you are using the “treason” word here, and you most certainly are, you are biding a complete dope. Please do not pull that stupid shit here.

  7. Bay State Librul says:

    Off topic but T.S. Ellis is no T.S. Eliot, and he should be replaced by Judge Kevin Burke (a good Irishman with a wit, to wit)

    ‘A Minnesota judge has not only complained about the weather—he decided to do something about it.

    In a March 7 order, Judge Kevin Burke issued an injunction barring any more snow this winter in specified areas of Minnesota—especially in Hennepin County where he presides. Above the Law, WCCO and the Star Tribune have coverage. Burke identified the plaintiffs as the citizens of Minnesota, represented by the law firm of “Sue, Grabit, and Run.” The defendants were listed as “Minnesota Meteorologists, Old Man Winter and Mr. Snow.”

  8. CaliLawyer says:

    I remain exceedingly interested in the QIA/Rosneft transactions. I don’t think the Canada deal for Javanka is the extent of QIA exposure. I have no doubt at this point that QIA is the mystery appellant.

      • CaliLawyer says:

        If I recall correctly Qatar gave Al-Rumaihi diplomatic credentials after this suit got filed.

        • CaliLawyer says:

          There is no reason to assume that the fantasy tower project would be the only payoff on offer since TrumpCo during the campaign essentially had a huge flashing “Open for Business” sign hanging on it.

          • CaliLawyer says:

            VTB was involved on the finance side which would be hugely problematic for QIA. Also, QIA churned the stock by buying it, selling it, then buying back the shares within a short period of time, which seems indicative of (at least potential) money laundering, not to mention phony brokerage commissions.

    • viget says:

      Agree 100%. Consider the following as well:

      1) QIA partnered with Tom Barrack’s Colony Capital in 2010 to buy Miramax from Disney. It was later sold to a Qatari media network in 2016.

      2) Brookfield Asset Management, which is 9% owned by QIA, also owns 100% of Westinghouse Electric, the brand being pushed by DoE for Saudi reactors.

      3) QIA also bought the Costa Smeralda resorts in Sardinia from none other than Tom Barrack’s Colony Capital back in 2012

      4) Finally, there’s the question of why Qatar at all? It is might intriguing that before he was writing dodgy dossiers, Chris Steele first came to the FBI as an informant on the 2010 FIFA scandal whereby FIFA commissioners were trading votes to insure that BOTH Russia and Qatar were awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively. There were many meetings between ministers and officials from Russia and Qatar during that time, might have been the beginning of a “beautiful friendship.”

      Now this could all be remarkable coincidence, but I kind of doubt it.

      • CaliLawyer says:

        The Canada deal could be spun as a straightforward real estate investment via subsidiary. I don’t think they would go to the mat like this for that. The Rosneft deal – if it is as alleged – is much more difficult to explain away, if for no other reason than the VTB involvement.

        • CaliLawyer says:

          The timing is interesting as well. Page has admitted to meeting Rosneft executives in July, though not Sechin himself. The genesis of the trip was June 2016, around the time the tower project got too hot for whatever reason. The initial trip occurred in July 2016. The second one happened in December around the time of the QIA Rosneft investment – Page testified to HPSCI that he had private meetings with both Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Rosneft investor relations chief Andrey Baranov, and also met an unnamed banker on that trip.

          • CaliLawyer says:

            Why else would TrumpCo leak the plans? Because Mueller had asked about the tower in his questions to DJT, so he was already cornered on that point. It was a lifelong dream of his, so I’m not surprised at all he just kept it on the back burner rather than killing it off entirely.

  9. Manqueman says:

    The error in this post is believing the corporate media care about factual reporting when mostly they care about spewing establishment BS and producing a news-like product.
    Just as the most blatant example, an honest outlet would feel compelled to repeat and reinforce that nearly everything that comes from the current POTUS is some sort of lie and give an endemic liar all due respect and credibility. But no, Demented Donnie attracts eyeballs so criticism has to be limited.
    And the compulsion to lie to support the establishment version as opposed to, you know, facts can be applied to nearly every subject. (My favorite is that there’s been any recovery worth a damn from the 2008 financial collapse. And of course there is the classic, the Iraq “liberation”. Maybe with exception, the corporate media still haven’t gotten that one right.)

  10. Mark Ospeck says:

    sry bmaz, apologize. Used the t word for alliterative purposes only. Meant only to reference a guy who had sold out his country for money. You know the law and the US code. I don’t. It was just a spec about how perhaps ABJ could get a significant piece of the Mueller out to the GP and thereby undercut any chance for a Manafort pardon.

    • bmaz says:

      No apologies necessary, and fully understood. Frankly, I would have never said anything, but for trying to make sure even new people grasp it like you do. Sadly, this will be even a bigger distinction in the future than it has been for a while. It is going to be a problem….

      • bmaz says:

        You do not know that, and neither does any body else. Swell of you to say this twice, but it is total bunk.

  11. Greg F says:

    Thanks for a fascinating and well-informed post (and discussion, too). I don’t mind not having TV anymore, with all of the (empty) talking heads that constitute the “news media”. But I have EW to actually thank for real information on “The Crime of the Century” (apology to Supertramp, though the crime fits the song).

  12. LT says:

    Emptywheel and all of your thoughtful commenters have kept me way ahead of the pack on details and the truth during this crisis, but even as a retired lawyer who’s interested, it’s simply wearing me down. I can only imagine how baffling this case is for those to whom even the language, the lingo of the speaking indictments is confusing. Aside from the fact that transparency and good reporters may save our republic, what keeps you engaged? Aren’t you all exhausted by the lies, the headlines, and the scandal-rag reportage of it all? Or are you just better practitioners of yoga than I am? I know. I know. The point of all the lies is to wear us down. I get that. Unfortunately, it’s working.

    • bmaz says:

      Hi LT. And welcome to Emptywheel. How do you keep dealing with all of it? I don”t know, it is daunting sometimes. But there is no alternative. And if not us, then who? This is a good community and welcome to it.

  13. e.a.f. says:

    Loved the article. What blows my mind, is this has/is happening. You couldn’t make this up, if you tried. Still waiting to know which company it is.
    George :Strait sings a great song, Living on Love, well living on Empty Wheel is better. No heart break, just amazing reporting.

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