There’s a Decent Chance Jon Karl’s Source Is Being or Was Investigated for Obstruction

Jonathan Karl, ABC White House correspondent, reported yesterday with a certainty I’m hearing from none of the DOJ beat reporters that Mueller’s report will amount to nothing.

Sources familiar with the investigation believe there are no more indictments coming from the special counsel. If Mueller follows the guidance of the man who appointed him and supervised his investigation, he cannot publicly disparage those who have not been charged with a crime.

From that, he spun out a letter Rod Rosenstein wrote at a time when Republicans were trying to expose some bureau and CIA informants, and ignored the intent of the Mueller Report, to suggest that Mueller can’t say anything bad (in a confidential report to Bill Barr, not to Congress) about Trump.

[W]e don’t need to speculate on the scope – the man who appointed Mueller has already given us a potential road map on what to expect from the special counsel.

The bottom line: Do not expect a harsh condemnation of President Donald Trump or any of his associates if they have not been charged with crimes.

I said yesterday I have no idea what The Mueller Report will bring — or even if The Mueller Report is actually where we’ll learn about Mueller’s findings. I said that, while there’s abundant evidence of a conspiracy between Trump and the Russians, it may never get charged, including for reasons that have to do with DOJ’s treatment of sitting presidents. That remains true.

But what is also likely true is that at least one of Jonathan Karl’s sources saying that they “believe there are no more indictments coming from” Mueller is either currently or already has been investigated for obstruction.

That’s because the chief source of claims like this — particularly in reporting from White House correspondents — is one or another of Trump’s lawyers, especially Right Wing operative Jay Sekulow and TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani. And we now know that both would have at least been scrutinized for obstruction.

In Sekulow’s case, Michael Cohen says the lawyer edited his perjurious statement to Congress. And even in the Sekulow denial — as reported by ABC News — he denies just that he changed the timeline of Cohen’s statement, not that he edited it.

During a closed-door hearing with the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney and fixer to President Donald Trump, shared documents and emails with committee members showing what he said were edits to the false statement he provided to Congress in 2017, in an effort to bolster his public testimony last week, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Testifying publicly before the House Oversight Committee last week, Cohen said Trump’s current personal lawyer Jay Sekulow changed the former Trump loyalist’s statement to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees regarding the duration of discussions about the Trump Tower Moscow project before he submitted it to Capitol Hill.

Last week Sekulow denied the claims in a statement to ABC News.

“Today’s testimony by Michael Cohen that attorneys for the President edited or changed his statement to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations is completely false.”

Mueller cited Cohen’s description of his communications with the White House in this period — and specifically the circumstances of preparing the statement — among the ways he helped the investigation.

Third, Cohen provided relevant and useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017–2018 time period.

Fourth, Cohen described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries, while continuing to accept responsibility for the false statements contained within it.

With regards to Rudy, ABC News was among the outlets that recently provided details of what appears to be a pardon dangle to Cohen after he was raided.

In the weeks following the federal raids on former Michael Cohen’s law office and residences last April, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and confidant was contacted by two New York attorneys who claimed to be in close contact with Rudy Giuliani, the current personal attorney to Trump, according to sources with direct knowledge of the discussions.

The outreach came just as Cohen, who spent more than a decade advocating for Trump, was wrangling with the most consequential decision of his life; whether to remain in a joint defense agreement with the president and others, or to flip on the man to whom he had pledged immutable loyalty. The sources described the lawyers’ contact with Cohen as an effort to keep him in the tent.

Yet for all the attention paid to what Cohen was willing to say about the president, his reluctance to answer a question about the last communications he had with Trump or someone acting on his behalf made news on its own. Cohen clammed up and claimed that federal prosecutors were actively probing that very issue.

“Unfortunately, this topic is something that’s being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York, and I’ve been asked by them not to discuss and not to talk about these issues,” Cohen said.

The sources familiar with the contacts said the two lawyers first reached out to Cohen late in April of last year and that the discussions continued for about two months. The attorneys, who have no known formal ties to the White House, urged Cohen not to leave the joint defense agreement, the sources told ABC News, and also offered a Plan B. In the event Cohen opted to exit the agreement, they could join his legal team and act as a conduit between Cohen and the president’s lawyers.

At one point in the discussions, one of the attorneys sent Cohen a phone screenshot to prove they were in touch with Giuliani, the sources said.

According to ABC’s sources, this matter is currently under investigation by SDNY.

I mean, it’s certainly possible that someone else is sourcing Karl’s seeming unique certainty about what will come of the Mueller report. It’s certainly possible that ABC’s White House correspondent has better sources at DOJ than all the DOJ reporters who say they don’t know. It’s certainly possible his sources don’t include someone that DOJ had at least reason to believe had participated in obstruction.

But if Karl’s sources are people that his own outlet has reported to be under investigation for obstruction, he ought to at least temper his certainty that they can be believed.

Update: Rudy has gone on the record with exactly the line that Karl regurgitated yesterday.

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. 

52 replies
  1. BobCon says:

    It sounds like somebody is trying to set the table for a defense against investigations by other units.

    A better reporter would use that perspective. But a news organization that is so rigidly stovepiped can’t report in more than one direction.

    • GusGus says:

      Hi Bob,

      I am confused why Giuliani is even bothering to trot out the line that they are not expecting new indictments.

      When you wrote:

      “It sounds like somebody is trying to set the table for a defense against investigations by other units.”

      What do you mean? Is Giuliani trying to influence other investigations with “not expecting new indictments”? Could you expand for me?

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      …”But a news organization that is so rigidly stovepiped can’t report in more than one direction…”


      @GusGus: almost certainly. That’s what Judy Ruliani does: try to affect investigations. It appears to be his reason for remaining alive.

      • BobCon says:

        Giuliani’s job is to muddy the public understanding of the cases. I think he is trying to play off the widespread conflation by the press of Mueller and Trump investigations in general.

        Once Mueller has put forward his last set of cases, I think the Trump camp will be turning up the heat on shutting down every other case and every other investigation on the grounds that only Russia/Mueller should be on the table. It’s a PR campaign, not a legal one, with possible goals being pushing DOJ to shut down cases, justifying pardons of Kushner, Stone, etc., stonewalling the House investigations, etc.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          “…Giuliani’s job is to muddy the public understanding of the cases. I think he is trying to play off the widespread conflation by the press of Mueller and Trump investigations in general….
          It’s a PR campaign, not a legal one…”

          Agree emphatically.

    • paddys15 says:

      Consistently interesting work on Mueller. Thank you. Guess I’m wondering — if Karl is right, for sake of argument — what makes/made Cohen or Flynn’s cooperation valuable?

  2. klynn says:

    Thanks for this post and update.

    “Regurgitated” is the perfect verb to use for Karl.

    And an OT sort of—
    For too many reasons to cite evidence to here, I have never trusted Glen Greenwald’s views/writing.Glenn has a habit of taking facts out of context and creating a narrative that fits his mission. Here’s a good example:
    https:// quillette .com/2019/01/18/ glenn-greenwalds-bad-history/

    [Thanks, klynn, but I’m inserting blank spaces to ‘break’ that link. Community members can still visit the site by copying the URL, removing the blank spaces and pasting into a new browser tab/window, but they should be aware the site is highly problematic though it looks innocuous on the face of it. Visitors should know that any time they visit a site their IP address as well as referring site will be identifiable. I’d rather not send traffic showing EW as source./~Rayne]

    • Greenhouse says:

      Thanks for that KLynn. Certainly puts into perspective Greenwald’s wrongheadedness. Everybody’s got axe to grind.

    • MANG says:

      I’m willing to entertain shots at Greenwald along these lines, but Radosh has his own axe to grind as a man who made his bones as an ex-commie at neoliberal think tanks. I find Quillette itself reliable as a source of conservative apologia, turmoil about campus culture and “race science,” not much else. I know them best for articles attempting to link race and IQ through sophistry and charts.

      https:// quillette .com/2019/01/25/ how-real-is-systemic-racism-today/

      [FYI, link ‘broken’ with spaces to prevent community members from accidentally clicking on that racist crap. Please avoid spreading racism by not sharing their bullshit rationalizations for hating fellow humans. They don’t need the traffic nor do they need to collect IP addresses of our users. /~Rayne]

      • klynn says:

        While I agree with you, RR’s point against GG for using Wallace as his example is an appropriate counter by RR -ax to grind and all.

      • MANG says:

        Understood Rayne, your edit speaks to the same point as my first comment – Quillette should probably not be linked here at all.

    • Ollie says:

      I’m reading this book: LUCKY BASTARD by Charles McCarry and it couldn’t be more ‘in sync’ w/today’s current events. Whether Trump, Wallace……..this fictional story is incredible regarding the lengths the KGB will go to to influence our Republic’s politics.

      We’re talking years of grooming w/finances flush w/drug money (another RU terrorist act) and unlimited connections. I highly recommend the book. It kinda lets me get a break from current events w/a very entertaining and plausible RU takeover of our government. HAHAHA Well it is LESS stressful than dealing w/Trump 24/7.

      Oh yeah: I think it was Zoe Tillman who recommended the book via twitter. (She’s the one that gave excellent real time Cohen/court stuff) and finding her comes back to Marcy Wheeler.

      • Diviz says:

        Agreed. That Jeet Heer piece was basically just a neon blinking sign saying READ THIS and an arrow pointing to EW.

  3. Susan says:

    Thanks Marcy.

    You have helped explain the last couple of days of manic media. The only reasonable information I gather has been from twitter and the folks I follow… like you!

    Every other source I once considered valuable for factual, logical news reporting will be eliminated from my participation once this trump evil is over.


  4. Philippe Richards says:

    this thing about Sekulow editing Cohen’s statement is so wild to me. If he knew it was false, how does he review this and let the lie go, without consulting his client, even? If he didn’t, why is that? Because his client is lying to him? How is this not Trump suborning perjury? It’s impossible, isn’t it? And if so, can’t you get behind the privilege for the crime-fraud exception?

  5. viget says:

    I like Marcy’s Leon Jaworski analogy. Basically, the FBI investigation is done. I think Mueller needs the QIA info from the appellant case (which hopefully we will hear about today), and/or info from Andrew Miller in STL (not the pitcher) to be able to move forward with more indictments. I wonder if Jeanie Rhee will stay behind in the SCO to tie up these loose ends, and/or try any potential conspiracy case.

    I suspect Miller has some really damning info regarding Roger Stone (actually, the FBI already knows what he knows, it was only after he was subpoenaed by the GJ that he clammed up, he talked to the FBI), and will try (actually DC USA will try) to use that info to obtain either a superseding indictment or a plea deal to get Stone to talk.

    So in a way, Mueller leaving is irrelevant. DC still has the Roger Stone case and potentially a conspiracy case to prosecute, and SDNY has multiple investigations still ongoing.

    With that in mind, I think what does matter is that the appropriate people are named to oversee these investigations. Jessie Liu, the current USA for DDC, is leaving, she has been nominated to a Associate Attorney General spot where she will oversee *civil* litigation (not criminal). She basically has the same rank as Noel Francisco, #3 on the depth chart.

    And today, we found out that Robert Khuzami, the deputy USA for SDNY, is leaving the USAO next month. He is overseeing the SDNY investigations into Cohen et al, because Berman, the USA was recused.

    So to me, what really matters is that the Liu and Khuzami replacements are committed to moving the investigations forward. Perhaps this is why Rod Rosenstein is sticking around a bit longer.

  6. gedouttahear says:

    Inspector Clouseau, “A Shot in the Dark:”
    “I believe everything and I believe nothing. I suspect everyone and I suspect no one.”

  7. Desider says:

    There’s still some threads re: UAE leading to Saudis, Erik Prince’s efforts, and the Bank of Crete, but maybe these can be safely folded into more normal FBI channels and investigations.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Did you mean Bank of Cyprus, rather than Crete?
      Because Commerce Sec Wilbur Ross was (in)famously co-chair of Bank of Cyprus [aka, bankOfLauderingRublesViaCyprus].

      If there is some news of Crete, would you please be so kind as to leave a link or hint? Thx ;-)

      • Desider says:

        All Cretans are liars, so they *could* be from Cyprus – though asking them is fraught with peril. Any indictments are under seal or maybe that was walrus, but should find out soon – except for the ones wearing con-Crete shoes 2nite they sleep with the phishes.

  8. Njrun says:

    When I hear the topic of the Mueller report on the news, I turn the channel. The only people who know the facts about it aren’t talking. Whoever is discussing — even people I respect — are just guessing.

  9. jayedcoins says:

    The thing that is driving me crazy — not because I’m sure I’m understanding it correctly, but actually, because I’m *not* sure — is whether “end of SCO investigation” means “end of this entire issue.” Yes, that is pretty vague, but that’s the deal with the corruption emanating from Trumpworld. It’s just so pervasive.

    So anyways, I don’t think “end of SCO” means then end of numerous linked investigations. But I would love the opinions of the commentariat in these pages.

    • AMG says:

      my $.002 (given how the the scope of knowledge among ew and the ew community dwarfs my own), i would guess that “end of SCO investigation” means the end of the investigation codified in order no. 3915-2017, “… a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election …”

      outside of that specific topic of investigation, i don’t see how the “end of SCO” would impact any other investigations.

    • viget says:

      Agreed. See my comment above.

      I think, absent a flip of Roger Stone, that Mueller’s team has gathered all of the evidence they can possibly gather. The question is, can they use that evidence in court with an 85% chance of securing a conviction. Probably not right now, which is why it is being farmed out to SDNY and DDC. If that changes, then I suspect Jeannie Rhee will be leading the charge.

      I wonder if Mueller is delaying the report on the chance that the Supremes deny cert today, and he somehow gets QIA to comply with the subpoena. Maybe if he has that official evidence, he can then charge a conspiracy indictment.

  10. Jekyl1 says:

    First post here, hope I get it right!

    So, I’m confused. Marcy says “In Sekulow’s case, Michael Cohen says the lawyer edited his perjurious statement to Congress. And even in the Sekulow denial — as reported by ABC News — he denies just that he changed the timeline of Cohen’s statement, not that he edited it.”

    But the quote from Sekulow (“Today’s testimony by Michael Cohen that attorneys for the President edited or changed his statement to Congress to alter the duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations is completely false.”) specifically DOES deny editing Cohen’s statement.

    Am I reading this incorrectly?

    • notjonathon says:

      Yes. He denied that he edited it for the purpose of changing the time line, not that he edited it.

  11. dwfreeman says:

    In the cable news commentary frenzy and general media anxiety over a pending release date, an almost hour by hour countdown replete without any but speculative signals of redacted legal intention, isn’t Rosenstein’s continued oversight of the Muller appointment still the best indicator of any Mueller-related issue in this case? Well, it is to me. That and Marcy’s POV on whatever occurs.

    • Bay State Librul says:

      “You can observe a lot by watching’ Yogi

      I meant Pete Williams…. sorry.
      He is a Cheney guy from Wyoming

  12. viget says:

    Well, shoot. Ellen Nakashima is reporting that HJC has been told the report is in the hands of Barr.

    I guess the SC is going to grant cert on mystery appellant then…. Which means that they won’t be forced to turn over documents, cause the GJ expires in June.

    It’s all up to Congress and SDNY now. Possibly EDVA, if the rumors of an impending Assange grab are true.

    • viget says:

      Marcy, this is a bummer. :(

      No prosecutorial decisions were denied by AG or acting AG. So no “other” report to Congress. I really think this means the SC has agreed to grant cert on Mystery Appellant. Since the GJ expires in June, that ensures that QIA (we think) will not have to disclose documents. If cert had been denied, I think Mueller would have continued the investigation.

      Guess we will find out on Monday when the clerk of the SC posts the orders from today’s conferences.

  13. Carla Breeze says:

    Thank you Marcy for your perceptive and always highly informed anaysis of the legal machinations related to the criminal and his retinue in the WH—you’ve been and are an island of sanity.

  14. bjet says:

    NYT reported 32 witnesses were in that JDA with Trump. In ‘Fear,’ Bob Woodward said there were 37. In testimony Feb 27, Cohen said his ‘first draft’ of false testimony to Congress was “circulated around.”

    Sarbanes (?): “[y]ou talked about a meeting at the White House where the testimony was being reviewed and I think you said that it was at least one White House attorney Jay Sekolow who was there and …there were some edits..”

    Then he asked “who at the White House” had reviewed/edited that first draft.

    Cohen said “I don’t know the answer to that. And It was a JDA, so It was circulated around. I believe it was also reviewed by Abby Lowell..”

  15. Anne says:

    This is sort of OT but what the heck is going on with a spat between Ukraine and the US? I read about this on Kyiv Post then went back and found it on the Hill: search for Lutsenko. The stuff on The Hill seems exaggerated but I found the same on Kyiv Post which has no axe to grind. Won’t try to summarize it because it makes my head spin and I’d probably get it wrong.

Comments are closed.