Putin’s Ghost: The Counterintelligence Calculus Not Included in the Obstruction Analysis

The Mueller Report does not include the investigation’s counterintelligence analysis. It says that explicitly here (see also this Ben Wittes report, though I think he gets a few things wrong).

From its inception, the Office recognized that its investigation could identify foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information relevant to the FBI’s broader national security mission. FBI personnel who assisted the Office established procedures to identify and convey such information to the FBI. The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division met with the Office regularly for that purpose for most of the Office’s tenure. For more than the past year, the FBI also embedded personnel at the Office who did not work on the Special Counsel’s investigation, but whose purpose was to review the results of the investigation and to send-in writing-summaries of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information to FBIHQ and FBI Field Offices. Those communications and other correspondence between the Office and the FBI contain information derived from the investigation, not all of which is contained in this Volume. This Volume is a summary. It contains, in the Office’s judgment, that information necessary to account for the Special Counsel’s prosecution and declination decisions and to describe the investigation’s main factual results. [my emphasis]

These FBI Agents were only co-located for part of Mueller’s tenure, perhaps around the same time as the IRA indictment? And this description does not include the three NSD prosecutors described as detailees, Heather Alpino, Ryan Dickey, and Jessica Romero, as distinct from prosecutors originally assigned to Mueller.

Plus, we know there was always a counterintelligence focus to this investigation; all the initial subjects of it (Manafort, Page, Papadopoulos, and Flynn) were counterintelligence concerns. Other Trump associates got added in October 2017, but even there, the investigation into Michael Cohen started as a FARA investigation and Gates and probably others were brought in along with Manafort’s counterintelligence concerns. Then there’s Trump (who must have been brought in for obstruction, but I don’t think the report says how).

But the most significant thing that doesn’t show up in this report is whether Trump was undercutting the investigation as a favor to Russia, reportedly one of the concerns Rod Rosenstein had when he first hired Mueller. This report does not explicitly treat that concern, at all (to significant detriment to one area of its analysis, as I’ll show in a follow-up post).

That’s most evident in the way the report deals with Vladimir Putin in the post-inauguration period. The report itself invokes Putin at least 163 times, often describing the many different efforts to set up a meeting between Putin and Trump. But when Trump actually started meeting with top Russian officials — and Putin specifically — the report gets quiet.

We finally get a read-out of the January 28 phone call

Start with the phone call between Trump and Putin on January 28, 2017. The report describes that setting up this call was among the things Mike Flynn spoke to Sergey Kislyak about.

Flynn discussed multiple topics with Kislyak, including the sanctions, scheduling a video teleconference between President-Elect Trump and Putin, an upcoming terrorism conference, and Russia’s views about the Middle East.

That Kislyak asked him to set up the call was actually something Flynn told the FBI the truth about in his interview with the FBI. More importantly, the report reveals several details that previous reporting about the George Nader channel did not: first, the role of Jared Kushner’s hedge fund buddy Rick Gerson in that back channel with Kirill Dmitriev, and the role that a “reconciliation plan” that Dmitriev got to Kushner via Gerson played in that January 28 meeting.

On January 16, 2017, Dmitriev consolidated the ideas for U.S.-Russia reconciliation that he and Gerson had been discussing into a two-page document that listed five main points: (1) jointly fighting terrorism; (2) jointly engaging in anti-weapons of mass destruction efforts; (3) developing “win-win” economic and investment initiatives; (4) maintaining an honest, open, and continual dialogue regarding issues of disagreement; and (5) ensuring proper communication and trust by “key people” from each country. 1111 On January 18, 2017, Gerson gave a copy of the document to Kushner. 1112 Kushner had not heard of Dmitriev at that time. 1113 Gerson explained that Dmitriev was the head of RDIF, and Gerson may have alluded to Dmitriev’s being well connected. 1114 Kushner placed the document in a file and said he would get it to the right people. 1115 Kushner ultimately gave one copy of the document to Bannon and another to Rex Tillerson; according to Kushner, neither of them followed up with Kushner about it. 1116 On January 19, 2017, Dmitriev sent Nader a copy of the two-page document, telling him that this was “a view from our side that I discussed in my meeting on the islands and with you and with our friends. Please share with them – we believe this is a good foundation to start from.” 1117

Gerson informed Dmitriev that he had given the document to Kushner soon after delivering it. 1118 On January 26, 2017, Dmitriev wrote to Gerson that his “boss”-an apparent reference to Putin-was asking if there had been any feedback on the proposal. 1119 Dmitriev said, ” [w]e do not want to rush things and move at a comfortable speed. At the same time, my boss asked me to try to have the key US meetings in the next two weeks if possible.”1120 He informed Gerson that Putin and President Trump would speak by phone that Saturday, and noted that that information was “very confidential.”1121

The same day, Dmitriev wrote to Nader that he had seen his “boss” again yesterday who had “emphasized that this is a great priority for us and that we need to build this communication channel to avoid bureaucracy.” 1122 On January 28, 2017, Dmitriev texted Nader that he wanted “to see if I can confirm to my boss that your friends may use some of the ideas from the 2 pager I sent you in the telephone call that will happen at 12 EST,”1123 an apparent reference to the call scheduled between President Trump and Putin. Nader replied, “Definitely paper was so submitted to Team by Rick and me. They took it seriously!”1124 After the call between President Trump and Putin occurred, Dmitriev wrote to Nader that “the call went very well. My boss wants me to continue making some public statements that us [sic] Russia cooperation is good and important.” 1125 Gerson also wrote to Dmitriev to say that the call had gone well, and Dmitriev replied that the document they had drafted together “played an important role.” 1126 [my emphasis]

This was a meeting that the US side provided just a terse readout of (and, if I remember correctly, only after Russia released its readout). 27 months later, we’re learning that Dmitriev (whose bank was of questionable status because of sanctions) and convicted pedophile Nader were prepping the meeting less than an hour before it began (the report cites text messages between them from 11:05 and 11:11 AM the morning of the 12PM meeting, as well as texts involving Gerson). Between them, the two of them plus Gerson (none of whom had clearance) had a better sense of how the meeting went than the American public. Among the things they learned — but we did not — was that part of the reconciliation plan included “win-win” economic and investment initiatives pitched by the head of RDIF.

The lead-up to this meeting is the subject about which Steve Bannon and Erik Prince mysteriously lost the encrypted texts they exchanged discussing it.

While the report does describe this meeting in its assessment of links between Russians and Trump associates, it doesn’t focus on how it lines up with questions about firing Mike Flynn.

The correlation of Trump’s decision to fire Comey and his conversation with Putin

The report gets still more coy when it describes the role of a meeting with Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak the day after Trump fired Jim Comey. One of the most pregnant footnotes in the report (h/t Laura Rozen) notes that the May 10, 2017 meeting was planned in a call between Putin and Trump and confirmed the day Trump first dictated the Comey termination at Bedminster Golf Course.

468 SCR08_000353 (5/9/17 White House Document, “Working Visit with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia”); SCR08_001274 (5/10/17 Email, Ciaramella to Kelly et al.). The meeting had been planned on May 2, 2017, during a telephone call between the President and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the meeting date was confirmed on May 5, 2017, the same day the President dictated ideas for the Comey termination letter to Stephen Miller. SCR08_001274 (5/10/17 Email, Ciaramella to Kelly et al.).

According to Don McGahn, in the leadup to Comey’s May 3 testimony to Congress, Trump told him that if Comey did not confirm that Trump was not under investigation it would “be the last straw” because it was “hurting his ability to … deal with foreign leaders.”

McGahn recalled that in the week leading up to the hearing, the President said that it would be the last straw if Comey did not take the opportunity to set the record straight by publicly announcing that the President was not under investigation.384 The President had previously told McGahn that the perception that the President was under investigation was hurting his ability to carry out his presidential duties and deal with foreign leaders.385

Trump brought up Comey at least 8 times with Bannon in the following two days, and Bannon warned Trump not to fire Comey.

Bannon recalled that the President brought Comey up with him at least eight times on May 3 and May 4, 2017 .399 According to Bannon, the President said the same thing each time: “He told me three times I’m not under investigation. He’s a showboater. He’s a grandstander. I don’t know any Russians. There was no collusion.”400 Bannon told the President that he could not fire Comey because “that ship had sailed.”401 Bannon also told the President that firing Comey was not going to stop the investigation, cautioning him that he could fire the FBI director but could not fire the FBI.402

On the 5th — the day (the report helpfully notes) the Russian meeting was confirmed — Trump dictated to Stephen Miller to start Comey’s termination letter by stating that the Trump-Russia story was fabricated.

[T]he President told Miller that the letter should start, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me that I am not under investigation concerning what I have often stated is a fabricated story on a Trump-Russia relationship – pertaining to the 2016 presidential election, please be informed that I, and I believe the American public – including Ds and Rs – have lost faith in you as Director of the FBI.”

Trump prohibited Miller from telling anyone at the White House about his plan to fire Comey.

All that would lead you to believe the report might make further note about this correlation, about the appearance (which had already been suggested, but the report makes far more clear) that Trump took action in advance of that meeting.

It doesn’t really. The description of the meeting does make clear that, in the wake of Trump’s comments to Lavrov boasting about firing Comey, the White House released a statement that incorporated and expanded on the language about Comey’s grandstanding from finalized Miller letter drafted at Bedminster.

In the morning on May 10, 2017, President Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office.468 The media subsequently reported that during the May 10 meeting the President brought up his decision the prior day to terminate Comey, telling Lavrov and Kislyak: “T just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. … I’m not under investigation.”469 The President never denied making those statements, and the White House did not dispute the account, instead issuing a statement that said: “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia. The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified information.”470 Hicks said that when she told the President about the reports on his meeting with Lavrov, he did not look concerned and said of Comey, “he is crazy.”471 When McGahn asked the President about his comments to Lavrov, the President said it was good that Comey was fired because that took the pressure off by making it clear that he was not under investigation so he could get more work done.472 [my emphasis]

What the report doesn’t mention, at all, is that Trump shared sensitive Israeli intelligence with the Russians at this meeting, an obvious counterintelligence concern.

Trump’s secret co-author on the June 9 meeting statement

An even more remarkable silence in the report pertains to the conversation Trump had with Putin at the G20 while his team was working on drafting the statement about the June 9 meeting.

The description of Trump’s actions on this matter are fairly superlative, with Hope Hicks describing Trump in what is best described as denial, refusing to be included in conversations about it, yet strongly suggesting that it was Trump making the comment — suggesting they could withhold the damning emails — that Mark Corallo later attributed to her. Hicks even describes Trump as committing what he considered the ultimate sin, not commenting on a story.

On July 7, 2017, while the President was overseas, Hicks and Raffel learned that the New York Times was working on a story about the June 9 meeting.695 The next day, Hicks told the President about the story and he directed her not to comment.696 Hicks thought the President’s reaction was odd because he usually considered not responding to the press to be the ultimate sin.697

The report then describes how (in what would have been in the wake of Trump’s first face-to-face meeting with Putin) Trump instructed her to claim the meeting was just about adoptions. It then describes Trump dictating a statement, watering down the offer of dirt to just adoptions, something that not even Don Jr was willing to put out.

Later that day, Hicks and the President again spoke about the story.698 Hicks recalled that the President asked her what the meeting had been about, and she said that she had been told the meeting was about Russian adoption.699 The President responded, “then just say that.”700

On the flight home from the G20 on July 8, 2017, Hicks obtained a draft statement about the meeting to be released by Trump Jr. and brought it to the President.701 The draft statement began with a reference to the information that was offered by the Russians in setting up the meeting: “I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign.”702 Hicks again wanted to disclose the entire story, but the President directed that the statement not be issued because it said too much.703 The President told Hicks to say only that Trump Jr. took a brief meeting and it was about Russian adoption.704 After speaking with the President, Hicks texted Trump Jr. a revised statement on the June 9 meeting that read:

It was a short meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow up. 705

Hicks’s text concluded, “Are you ok with this? Attributed to you.”706 Trump Jr. responded by text message that he wanted to add the word “primarily” before “discussed” so that the statement would read, “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.”707 Trump Jr. texted that he wanted the change because “[t]hey started with some Hillary thing which was bs and some other nonsense which we shot down fast. “708 Hicks texted back, “I think that’s right too but boss man worried it invites a lot of questions[.) [U]ltimately [d]efer to you and [your attorney] on that word Be I know it’s important and I think the mention of a campaign issue adds something to it in case we have to go further.” 709 Trump Jr. responded, “lfl don’t have it in there it appears as though I’m lying later when they inevitably leak something.” 710

The passage mentions nothing about Trump’s meeting, with no American aides, with Putin at the G20 dinner in between the first discussion of a statement about adoptions and the one Trump drafted personally.

Nor does the report, in repeated discussions of Trump’s unplanned interview with the NYT at which he admitted discussing adoptions with Putin that night, mention that admission.

Within hours of the President’s meeting with Lewandowski on July 19, 2017, the President gave an unplanned interview to the New York Times in which he criticized Sessions’s decision to recuse from the Russia investigation.630 The President said that “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”631 Sessions’s recusal, the President said, was “very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.”632 Hicks, who was present for the interview, recalled trying to “throw [herself] between the reporters and [the President]” to stop parts of the interview, but the President “loved the interview.”633


On July 19, 2017, the President had his follow-up meeting with Lewandowski and then met with reporters for the New York Times. In addition to criticizing Sessions in his Times interview, the President addressed the June 9, 2016 meeting and said he “didn’t know anything about the meeting” at the time.734 The President added, “As I’ve said-most other people, you know, when they call up and say, ‘By the way, we have information on your opponent,’ I think most politicians – I was just with a lot of people, they said … , ‘Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?”‘735

Trump’s admission that he spoke to Putin about adoptions in the same interview where he prepared the ground to fire Sessions and insisted that everyone would take a meeting with foreigners offering dirt on your opponent would seem important to the discussion of whether in attempting to fire Sessions, Trump was obstructing not a criminal investigation into his own conduct, but a counterintelligence investigation into his own ties with Putin.

But the report not only doesn’t consider it, the report doesn’t mention it.

Nor does the report discuss some of the other bizarre Trump interactions with Putin, most of all the Helsinki meeting that took place in the wake of the release of the GRU indictment, leading Trump to yet again very publicly deny Russia’s role in the attack, that time in the presence of Putin himself.

Now, there may be very good constitutional reasons why the analysis of Trump’s weird relationship with Putin as President is not part of this report. The President is empowered with fairly unlimited authority to conduct foreign policy and to declassify information, which would cover these instances.

Plus, if Mueller conducted this analysis, you wouldn’t want to share that publicly so the Russians could read it.

But it must be noted that the report doesn’t answer what a lot of people think it does: whether Trump has been compromised by Russia, leading him to pursue policies damaging to US interests. Let me very clear: I don’t think Trump is a puppet being managed by Vladimir Putin. But contrary to a great number of claims that this report puts those concerns to rest, the report does the opposite. With the limited exception of the suggestion of a tie between firing Comey and the meeting with Lavrov, the report doesn’t even mention the key incidents that would be the subject of such analysis.

If anything, new details released in this report provide even further reason to think Trump obstructed the Russian investigation to halt the counterintelligence analysis of his ties with Russia. But the report itself doesn’t ever explicitly consider whether that’s why Trump obstructed this investigation.

Update: As TC noted, one thing the report does include is the detail that during a period he was trying to fire Sessions, Trump wanted him to limit Mueller’s mandate to future elections, which would have the effect of limiting the investigation into Russia’s crime as well as any potential exposure of his own.

During the June 19 meeting, Lewandowski recalled that, after some small talk, the President brought up Sessions and criticized his recusal from the Russia investigation.605

The President told Lewandowski that Sessions was weak and that if the President had known about the likelihood of recusal in advance, he would not have appointed Sessions.606 The President then asked Lewandowski to deliver a message to Sessions and said “write this down.” 607 This was the first time the President had asked Lewandowski to take dictation, and Lewandowski wrote as fast as possible to make sure he captured the content correctly.608 The President directed that Sessions should give a speech publicly announcing: I know that I recused myself from certain things having to do with specific areas. But our POTUS . .. is being treated very unfairly. He shouldn’t have a Special Prosecutor/Counsel b/c he hasn’t done anything wrong. I was on the campaign w/ him for nine months, there were no Russians involved with him. I know it for a fact b/c I was there. He didn’t do anything wrong except he ran the greatest campaign in American history.609

The dictated message went on to state that Sessions would meet with the Special Counsel to limit his jurisdiction to future election interference:

Now a group of people want to subvert the Constitution of the United States. T am going to meet with the Special Prosecutor to explain this is very unfair and let the Special Prosecutor move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections so that nothing can happen in future elections.610

emptywheel’s Mueller Report coverage

The Significance of Trump’s Obstruction of Investigation of His Family’s Campaign Finance Crimes, Plural

How “Collusion” Appears in the Mueller Report

Putin’s Ghost: The Counterintelligence Calculus Not Included in the Obstruction Analysis

Working Twitter Threads on the Mueller Report

The Trump Men and the Grand Jury Redactions

Mueller’s Language about “Collusion,” Coordination, and Conspiracy

The Many Lies and Prevarications of Bill Barr

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. 

87 replies
  1. Jellison says:

    I don’t know what to think about the conclusion that Trump is not acting on behalf of Russia.

    Now that we are all in the know of the Trump-Russia ties and Trump-Russia lies, does that put an end to the blackmail risk that Trump’s own actions created? Of course not.

    Mueller’s report makes clear that the only reason he isn’t guilty of criminal conspiracy is that they are missing receipts of an explicit agreement to the quid-pro-quo with Russia.

    Who in the world could produce those receipts if they existed, or counterfeit them if they didn’t? Only Putin.

    The logical inference is that anytime Trump refuses to serve Putin’s interests he risks being destroyed. And that concisely explains the weirdness of our current American foreign policy.

    This is a disaster in real time.

    • DMZ says:

      I posted earlier that I thought the Trump Tower Meeting had dual purposes. In addition to reminding Trump that Adoptions (The Magnitsky Act) was what Trump owed Putin, the meeting also established major Blackmail for Putin.
      (But, it was found out.)

      I suspect that Putin has multiple forms of Blackmail on Trump and if he doesn’t deliver soon, then Putin is going to send the Conspiracy evidence in a black shiny box with a big red bow.

  2. Badger Robert says:

    Happy Easter. Thanks, Ms. Wheeler. There are attorneys and FBI agents that know much more.
    And I suspect the gang of eight know even more.

      • Badger Robert says:

        We have George Conway with his indirect warnings that Trump is getting worse. Barr mentions anger as an explanation. Cummings states: pay attention. The Speaker is trying very hard to maintain a dialogue, but she also says Trump is not legitimate. Rob Rosenstein wanted to bail, but Barr would not let him go without the mess being fixed.
        There are two pressures baring down on the Presidency. More facts are going to come out and more election tampering warnings are going to go out. Then the Democratic field will collapse down to 4 or 5 people. I think Biden and O’Rourke will eventually be polling ahead of Trump. But anything can happen.

        • P J Evans says:

          I think people talking about the nominee next year are talking about what they’d like to see, not about reality. FFS, the primaries are still months away.

        • DMZ says:

          My two cents… I don’t think any Blue State from 2016 will Flip to Red in 2020.
          Therefore, the Democrats need to pick a Candidate that can Absolutely win Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

          Nothing else matters. Get the Orange-Dung-Pile out and then the Democrats can choose their Unicorn for 2024.

  3. RMD says:

    “We dance round in a ring and suppose,
    But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.”
    ~ “The Secret Sits”, R. Frost

    • Mel B. says:

      (To your point), I’m probably late to this conclusion among regular commenters, but after closely reading the section of the report dealing with Russian contacts particularly with Kushner, anybody else convinced that Dimitri Simes of CNI (whom I’d never heard of until very recently) is…well…a Russian operative? I can’t quite read it any other way!

        • dude says:

          I remember Dimitri as a talking head on things like “This Week with David Brinkley”. He has been around for a while.

          • Mel B says:

            Well, he is all over that section, very solicitous and helpful to young Kush. I’ve since found articles, pre Mueller report, where he is quite defensive about such speculation, so I guess I’m not the only one.

  4. Hops says:

    Putin’s people collect kompromat on anyone who goes to Russia. Trump probably figures they have something on him, even if he’s the only one who could know what it is. Maybe the real pee tape is just him taking a pee. Would Trump sell out the country because of some such fear. Sure, he’s a complete sociopath with no loyalty to the country.

    Some people like Renato Mariotti have wondered why Barr would stoop so low. Maybe there’s kompromat there too. We’re living in the world of Putin’s playbook now.

    • Jellison says:

      The more important thing is that there simply doesn’t need to be a pee tape.

      The facts as we all presently understand them are sufficient to put the Trump administration at risk. No other facts are necessary.

      This is a counter-espionage disaster.

  5. Willis Warren says:

    It’s not that trump is Putin’s puppet as much as Putin May be the only one who can prove that trump trump knows more than mueller can prove

    • Jellison says:

      Again, Putin doesn’t need to “prove” anything to destroy the president. All he needs to do is manufacture some evidence (if it doesn’t already exist).

      Putin can do this whenever he wants. The president knows this, or at least should after the meeting in Helsinki.

      To survive, Trump’s first concerns needs to be how he can continue to be useful to Putin.

      • Tom says:

        Trump is useful to Putin simply by being himself and running a corrupt shambolic administration while continually stoking the culture wars and further dividing the country. That’s all Trump has to do, just be himself, a monkey with a machine gun. No need for any agenda dictated to the President from the Kremlin.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “hurting his ability to … deal with foreign leaders.”

    Trump doesn’t mean it interfered with his ability to deal with May or Macron. He meant that he wasn’t able to give Vladimir Putin what he demanded on time. Naturally, that made Donald nervous.

    • Tom says:

      Or was Trump trying to stretch the intent of the DOJ policy on not indicting a sitting President to include meaning that a sitting President shouldn’t be investigated either? I wonder if he’ll use an argument like that to counter the House’s investigations of his tax returns, etc.

  7. Report Counselor says:

    This article hits the nail on the head. The media’s commentary of trumps “clean bill of health” regarding the conspiracy portion of the report is giving everyone a false sense of security. Regardless of the motivation that is driving Trump to have a pro Russia policy, an apologist, cabinet members sympathetic with Russia, etc, etc. we can reasonably assume he will take future actions in this direction. We can also reasonably infer these actions are based of a personal benefit and/or blackmail since we know Trump isn’t a some ideologue that prescribes to some existing policies that can be described in some coherent way. Either way his support of everything Russia is incompatible with the U.S best interest and apparently unless we can prove his motivating behavior then we just pretend that everything is ok and feel grateful that Mueller didn’t find anything.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. You have used different login information at least 4 of the 10 times you have commented here over the last month; each variation kicks you into auto-moderation. Please use the same login information each time or risk being stuck in moderation. Thank you. /~Rayne]

  8. El Cid says:

    Why would Trump have to be an ‘agent’ of Putin? Trump has collaborated with mobsters & money-launderers for generations now. Wouldn’t Putin just be another dirty ally for him to work with, just as he did lots of other crooks who keep his businesses going?

  9. PeteT says:

    This is WAY OFF TOPIC, but I accept any consequence.

    Anyone here also on Twitter please search on the hashtag #Freebmaz and do what you think is right.

    • Molly Pitcher says:


      this one’s for you:

      Cradle of Free Speech
      April 21, 2019 at 3:52 pm
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.

      Death to the Algorithms. Suspend me for that Twitter. How dare you suspend bmaz after all of the idiotic things Jack Dorsey has said and done. We can cede control to AI, but it won’t be much of a life.

      • BobCon says:

        I just read about this, and it’s a big steaming pile. And I say that as someone who has thought once or twice that he is full of it. (Not regularly, mind you, but it has happened.)

        No reasonable person would think his tweet was over any reasonable line. But reasonable isn’t a part of the equation.

        On a related note, I’ve been very critical of the NY Times coverage of politics and government, but the tech desk had a solid article today on the Zuckerberg-backed, AI-driven, idiotic computer education program.


        These dopes pretend that their AI can solve everything, but they lie relentlessly about how they are actually only interested in wiping out human expertise. Bravo to the kids who are walking out of school in protest.

  10. orionATL says:

    re: counterintelligence, or has trump functioned as an intelligence source (spy) for the Russians.

    I want to know if there is any reason to think trump gave the Russians information about American intelligence sources among the russians.

    I would like to know what was behind the report early on that trump may have given the Russians Israeli intelligence information the u.s. had been provided.

    I would like to know what was said at the trump-Putin meetings in which no other American was present or the American interpreter was muzzled by trump and at which no written american record was produced.

    I would like to know why trump does not have, or does not use, a secure phone.

    I would like to know if trump has shared any American intelligence with the Russians beyond previously agreed upon sharing such as terrorist info.

    I would like to know if, while NSA has been recording a Russian official or operative, trump has been recorded talking to that russian official or private Russian gov operative.

    • Tom says:

      The day after he fired Comey, on May 10, 2017, the President met with Kislyak and Lavrov in the Oval Office. It was there that Trump bragged to the Russians about ‘what great intelligence reports’ he receives and then proceeded to tell his guests about some secret information he had received from the Israelis regarding the war on ISIS. The Israelis were reported to be furious and felt that Trump had betrayed them. By telling the Russians, Trump may well have signed the death warrant of the source who had passed on the information to the Israelis.

      • Frank Probst says:

        And to my knowledge, we STILL don’t know if that happened or not. I doubt the Israelis are sharing nearly as much intel with us as they used to.

  11. Shyabrasive says:

    When do we learn how Trump was parroting Putin’s revisionist Russia in Afghanistan story almost word for word?

  12. massinterest says:

    First and foremost, thanks to Ms. Wheeler and staff here for your work. I discovered the site just a few months ago, and am grateful to you all, as well as commenters, for maintaining my sanity in these frenetic times.

    Just saw a comment at WaPo that a president under impeachment inquiry cannot issue pardons to anyone remotely connected to the inquiry.

    Is this true?

    • Old Antarctic Explorer says:

      Don’t know.
      But in the Mueller Report they mention that Congress has the authority to legislate against dangling pardons before people being investigated because it wouldn’t infringe on the President’s Constitutional authority to pardon. This would prevent Trump from any further dangling.

      • Bill Smith says:

        “authority to legislate against dangling pardons” My opinion is that is not correct. There have been several judges who have said that the presidents pardon power is absolute. Likely anything done by Congress in that area will end up at the Supreme Court.

        I think the way to do that is to set that up to clear that could be obstruction. Though perhaps that is what Mueller means.

        • P J Evans says:

          It’s limited by the Constitution to “offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

          • Bill Smith says:

            Doesn’t the reference to impeachment just mean that Trump can’t pardon himself?

            Manafort, Cohen, etc. are not being impeached. Trump might get impeached but that won’t happen for months at the earliest.

            The whole thing is very messy.

        • BroD says:

          “Likely anything done by Congress in that area will end up at the Supreme Court.”
          I wish I could say, “Ok, bring it on” to that but…

      • massinterest says:

        At the risk of being really dense, would that apply to those for whom he has dangled pardons to date?

        This in response to Old Antartic Explorer.

        • Old Antarctic Explorer says:

          I don’t think so. The Constitution prohibits “ex post facto” laws that legislate against acts already committed.

            • Old Antarctic Explorer says:

              In Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution it says “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.“

              From Wikipedia:
              An ex post facto law (corrupted from Latin: ex postfacto, lit. ‘out of the aftermath’) is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences (or status) of actions that were committed, or relationships that existed, before the enactment of the law. In criminal law, it may criminalize actions that were legal when committed; it may aggravate a crime by bringing it into a more severe category than it was in when it was committed; it may change the punishment prescribed for a crime, as by adding new penalties or extending sentences; or it may alter the rules of evidence in order to make conviction for a crime likelier than it would have been when the deed was committed.

              • Old Antarctic Explorer says:

                Also, on page 173 of the Mueller report they explain how Congress can pass a law preventing dangling pardons. It basically says that while Congress can’t interfere with pardons themselves they can legislate against using mentioning pardons as an obstruction to justice during an investigation.

              • bmaz says:

                And your point is…..what? I have no idea in the world what this is supposed to mean in the current context. Also, I am pretty familiar with the concept of ex post facto law.

                • Old Antarctic Expolorer says:

                  The point is simply that Mueller has given Congress instructions on how to prevent Trump (or anyone else) from dangling pardons to people being investigated by DOJ that they think would pass SCOTUS.

                • Old Antarctic Expolorer says:

                  The point is that a commenter objected to messing with pardons as it is settled law, but Mueller (page 173, V II) is plainly laying out a case for Congress to legislate to prevent dangling pardons during an investigation saying that that would NOT interfere with the Executive’s power to ISSUE pardons and therefore should pass a SCOTUS case.

                  • bmaz says:

                    Oh, for fucks sake. This is like your fifth or sixth comment on those meandering couple of sentences on page 173 of Volume 2. It is bullshit.

                    First off, there are already laws that cover such “dangling” action by a President. You might have heard of it, it is called “obstruction of justice” and, frankly, in most cases would also encompass “witness tampering”. So, no, no new statutes need be considered nor passed by Congress.

                    Secondly, there would still be the problem that a sitting President cannot be indicted under extant DOJ policy. So, despite your relentless focus on this, it is mostly irrelevant. I’d also add that the thought that the c current SCOTUS would hold up such a pardon specific statute in light of Klein and its progeny is laughable.

  13. John Hand says:

    The counterintelligence issues look like a fertile field for either or both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to investigate. Trouble is, the House has a bunch of Republicans on the committee who will either blab or throw sand into the gears, and we now know that Chairman Richard Burr is known as Aunt Blabby in the White House. This makes it tough for Schiff or anyone else to investigate these issues, whether in public or in executive session.

    • Rugger9 says:

      However, the House Intel Committee still should dig in and let Gym Jordan, et al demonstrate their complicity on CSPAN. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

  14. MattyG says:

    Thanks EW – this speaks to the quesry I posted a few days ago about where we were with the impact CI had in the report.

  15. viget says:

    So was McCabe’s CI investigation completed and closed then? Or does it continue? I’m guessing that since McCabe mentioned it that it’s probably closed, but if so, what became of the findings?

    Does it live on in the security clearance investigation(s)?

  16. Jenny says:

    Thank you Marcy. Applause to you and EW staff.

    Numerous links to Russia and the Trump campaign. The lies upon lies just continued piling up. Of course, this all should be questioned and investigated. The formal report from Mueller exposes the lies told by this president and his cabinet who defend him with lies. Cabinet members who knew Trump was lying then being asked to lie for him; however they did not resign immediately by ignoring or covering up rather than exposing him of his unethical, authoritative and obstructive actions. An untrustworthy president with an administration filled with untrustworthy advisers.

    Trump organization is like a crime ring. Same pattern transferred from his business to the WH. Crime bosses are walking talking crime scenes, always covering their tracks. Mueller did not exonerate Trump, he exposed him. He skillfully passed it on for more investigation on other fronts. Next reveal, personal and business finances.

    Trump is a self-serving profit for president with the need for greed. The report certainly uncovers the lack of service to the people. He works for the people as does the WH staff and cabinet, paid by the people to serve the people. However, his staffers defend and serve a man who cares only about himself. Public service is about working for the people and the good of the country. Obviously, lost on this administration.

    It is up to Congress to determine if Trump broke the law. Congress represents the people. People will and are determining change with the government. If congress does nothing, the people will. Government only has power if the people give it. It is up to the people to create change in order to bring evolution and justice.

    Mueller report is the huge catalyst for change. The question is will the people engage in political change being bold enough to hold corrupt individuals responsible and accountable for their actions?

    • klynn says:

      Thinking that bringing back the “salon” approach with an updated twist. At the grass roots level, have Report reading groups to read and discuss the report. Similar to todays book clubs but informed about how to read and dissect the information.

  17. Rita says:

    Trump obstructed the investigation into Russian meddling from the onset of the investigation, especially if you consider denigrating the investigation as a witch hunt and hoax.


    None of the explanations offered so far have been satisfactory or reassuring. Early on, the news media bought the WH spin that Trump was a hopeless narcissist and any talk of Russian meddling was seen by Trump as a delegitimization or diminution of his victory. Barr said that it was because Trump was angry and frustrated. (I am not clear how he knows Trump’s state of mind.). These explanations makeTrump look like an emotional and psychological basket case unable to carry out his duties.

    Trump himself talks about not being able to do what he wanted with Russia because of the investigation. This makes little sense. How do you know if you are making a good deal if you don’t have all of the pertinent information. (Anyone remember the notion of a Russian-American Cyberwarfare Taskforce?).

    The reasons for the obstructive behavior needs more explanation.

    • P J Evans says:

      “Narcissist” isn’t WH spin – that’s the opinion of quite a few psychologists. They frequently narrow it to malignant narcissist. (WH spin paints him as a genius, the best at everything, including golf, where we know he cheats bigly.)

  18. Mooser says:

    Finally, finally, Mueller is speaking out! To clarify the meaning of the report, Mueller today said “No comment”.

  19. Savage Librarian says:

    The public and the nation would benefit by learning about these kinds of narratives. They are not easy to understand. I believe it might be helpful to group concepts around particular dates and and events.

    So, adding to your helpful critique I have spent the day thinking about another timeframe. I hope you don’t mind if I plop it down here, as I don’t know where else to put it.

    For me, the activites on 6/14/16 are cause for grave concern and might be one element to help create a compelling narrative to help get a grip on the hurdle of handling the need to promote a suspension of disbelief.

    I do not claim that this is an all inclusive or comprehensive list of what happened that day. But it does give a powerful snapshot of significant events that might be able to be understood in a sound bite. Together with other potent snapshots, it might be able to create a storyboard for common consumption.

    Activities on June 14, 2016

    1. House Subcommittee Hearing on Magnitsky Act with GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher trying to get rid of it. His friend, Susie Wiles (DT’s FL campaign manager) saves a seat for Natalia Veselnitskaya; Lanny Russell (Susie’s husband) has a business arrangement with Rinat Akhmmetshin. Susie Wiles is working in Trump Tower at this time and does not return to FL until late August or early September.

    2. Dinner meeting @ Capitol Hill Club arranged by Lanny (and/or Susie) Wiles, with these people in attendance: Dana Rohrabacher, Paul Behrends, Jack Matlock, Veselnitskaya, Akhmetshin, and possibly Erik Prince (?), Manafort (?), Stone (?) Reports are that about 20 attended.

    3. On June 14, 2016, the NYT reported that D.N.C. Says Russian Hackers Penetrated Its Files, Including Dossier on Donald Trump

    4. In June 2016, Guccifer 2.0 informed reporters to visit the DCLeaks website for emails stolen from Democrats. On June 14, 2016, @dcleaks sent a direct message to @WikiLeaks about having Hillary’s financial documents, suggesting they work together. Around the same time, WikiLeaks began interacting with G2.0.
    5. “On or about 6/14/16, the Conspirators registered the domain “act blues” which mimicked the domain of a political fundraising platform that included a DCCC donations page….then modified the DCCC website”…to direct visitors to their own site. (Mueller report)

    6. St. Petersburg International Economic Forum was held on June 16–18, 2016
    a. Troll farm was in
    St. Petersburg
    b. Putin would be attending
    c. Sater almost convinced
    Cohen to attend, but on 6/14
    Cohen backed out of it
    d. Prikhodko made a lengthy,
    concerted effort for DT to
    attend. But DT declined.
    (Manafort passed the poll
    data on 8/2/16 to Kilimnik.
    He passed it to Deripaska
    who passed it to
    e. Deripaska & Zamel of
    PsyGroup attended the

    While I have documentation which I have shared with EW in previous posts that support the above outline, for the sake of conciseness, I am only including the following one now. This one supports item 6(e) above.

    “Amid Mueller scrutiny, Swiss parent company of Psy Group scrubs online presence”


    • Savage Librarian says:

      June 2016 –
      Prikhodko tried hard to get DT to attend the 2016 Economic Forum. Sater tried hard to get Cohen to attend. Neither did. Interesting though that RDIF became a sovereign fund on 6/2/16. And interesting that the Forum catered to Saudi Arabia and South Asia.

      “On 2 June 2016, President Vladimir Putin signed Federal Law on the Russian Direct Investment Fund changing the status of RDIF. According to the law, RDIF became the sovereign wealth fund of the Russian Federation.[3]”

      From TASS, June 14, 2016:
      “Arab, Asian investors interested in Russian market — official”
      “Dmitriev said the Arab and Asian investors, above all, are interested in the Russian market. According to him, the 20th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) will be attended mainly by the RDIF partners from Saudi Arabia and South Asia.”

    • Savage Librarian says:

      (Zamel, Prince, Nader, Jr. on 8/3/16)

      “Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election”
      “Erik Prince, the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president.
      The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.”

      (For 6/14/16 Magnitsky hearing: Explains how Rohrabacher got letter and film from Russia to use in the Magnitsky hearing. Also, describes his connection to Erik Prince and Lanny Wiles.)

      “GOP Lawmaker Got Direction From Moscow, Took It Back to D.C.”
      “Members of the team of Russians who secured a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting …”

  20. OldTulsaDude says:

    When you look at the group surrounding Individual-1, it appears that the presidency was only a means to the ultimate end of self-enrichment, and if that end required cooperation with various nefarious actors worldwide, what better way to accomplish that than through U.S. foreign policy decisions.

  21. Bill Smith says:

    I see the Russians have released their own report.

    I wonder if their claim about 8,000 articles about the subject is true. Seems like a lot. Otherwise some interesting links to what they consider some of the more sensationalist new articles from the time.

    https :// washington.mid. ru/upload /iblock/3c3/3c3d1e3b69a4c228e99bfaeb5491ecd7 .pdf

    If nothing else good PR on their part.

    [Link ‘broken’ to prevent accidental click-through by community members. Site has not been checked for malware, use at your own risk. /~Rayne]

    • Rayne says:

      Hey, thanks so much for doing Russia’s disinformation warfare for them by sharing their fucking propaganda here. What exactly do you think they’re going to say? “Our bad, we meant to fuck with you through your venal and stupid reality TV character”?

      Did it occur to you they’re tracking traffic origin to that site? Or is that your point?

      You really are getting on my nerves with the low grade trollery.

  22. Dr. Bob says:

    I think that contrary to Mr. Mueller’s ‘Rules of the Road’, Mueller’s probe was curtailed and finally brought to an end!

    Areas Ended: Financials (The mystery bank/entity I believe is Deutsche Bank) , The Counter – Intelligence analysis, and rumpf and his family. I think that Rosenstein, faked his friendship and concern for Mueller, and forced Mueller to drop finanials (rump will fire us for sure), the counter-Intelligence probe, and rumpf and his family. WHY? Maybe he is like rump’s attorney’s?

    The Probe: I have read where, once barr was confirmed, Mueller saw the hand writing on the wall. He then brought the probe to an abrupt end. Mueller, I feel is a good and conscientious person. He also is a rule follower (marine). Rosenstein is a survivor (i.e.. he will collaborate if it means survival).

    Bottom line: the investigation was not completed and curtailed is such ways as to make any determinations with the main players hard to prove. It is, in a way, a road map for how congress is to complete the investigation.

    The conservatives have unanimously choosen to put party over country! Now the dems …… They are looking at going this way also.

    • hester says:

      Depressing post with which I mostly agree. Agree about Rosenstein and Mueller, though wonder if the rule-following Mueller will come to regret that sort of Marine like rigidity. There are times in life, even if few and far between when one’s actions are more important than one’s (self) image. This is one of those times. We shall see if Robert Mueller III made the right choice.

    • Frank Probst says:

      I’d guess the financials were kicked to the SDNY or EDVA. Those are outside the scope of Mueller’s mandate.

    • Rayne says:

      Cite examples of this: “Now the dems …… They are looking at going this way also.”

      If you mean the fencesitting on Pelosi’s part or Hoyer’s shooting off at the mouth, you’d better widen your scope and check with the other 233 Democrats in the House.

  23. Frank Probst says:

    “Later that day, Hicks and the President again spoke about the story.698 Hicks recalled that the President asked her what the meeting had been about, and she said that she had been told the meeting was about Russian adoption.699 The President responded, “then just say that.”700”

    Who’s told Hicks that the meeting was about Russian adoption? It’s not clear to me if it was Don Jr (probably) or an intermediary.

  24. Kirk Boone says:

    Trump’s eagerness to praise Putin was always more concerning to me than the fact that Putin helped him get elected. Sure, it makes perfect sense that once elected Trump could end the sanctions, but what is the underlying reward for Trump after that (was supposed) to happen? Does Putin hold such economic power over Trump? Is it embarrassing video of Trump? Was Trump offered a seat at the oligarch club? I suspect it is at least two of the above, but only continued investigations will answer those questions. These are the hearings that need to take place and soon.

  25. tinao says:

    Oh Happy Easter, and forgive me … here’s my Easter contribution.
    Bust a Change Nancy
    The rocking of the ocean
    the rolling of the hills is in me.
    Just a bitty girl watching the world
    out the rear view mirror.
    Now a mother whose child
    also seeks a better world
    As our chance to help change
    what was given to what can be
    flits around and through us ALL.
    If We don’t Impeach NOW
    What is impeachment for
    set out by those fore father of ours?
    P.S. Unity helps peel the other party off. How come yinz don’t get that yet when the other party is soooo good at it?

  26. Nash says:

    Almost looks like Schiff took a post out of Marcy’s blog. :)


    [FYI – link edited to remove tracking. When using Washington Post URLs, please delete everything at the end of the URL from the questionmark on, including the questionmark. WaPo creates a unique userid identifying your session and can then track your use and everyone who uses your shared link. /~Rayne]

  27. mike smith says:

    The lack of establishment media discussion of the counterintelligence angle is crucial and telling.

    For a wider, cultural/historical excavation of how the Arts portray issues of intelligence agencies, and the world of “spy vs spy” and how that contextualizes some of the responses to the Mueller Report, see the following:

    https :// theviolentink. blog/2019/04/24/forget-it-glenn-its-chinatown-glenn-greenwald-the-left-and-the-mueller-report/

    [FYI, link ‘broken’ to prevent accidental clicktrough by readers as site has not been vetted for malware and should be opened with caution. /~Rayne]

    • Rayne says:

      No need for the poorly-written POS. You and that post could have said you believe the report’s ‘holes’ where there isn’t counterintelligence means there isn’t any counterintelligence at all.

      The White House could resolve that by not obstructing the House so that all requested witnesses and documents can be seen and analyzed by the public. Trump could order Barr to release the full report, unredacted. But no.

      Since you appear fond of philosophical bullshit, have some Baudrillard: the White House isn’t allowing a view of the real. It creates a simulacrum by denying access to pre-copy evidence and witnesses while insisting the public reject the evidence of their eyes and ears, believing only Trump.

      Welcome to emptywheel.

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