Peter Navarro Thinks He’s Better than the 800 Other January 6 Defendants

An hour ago, Peter Navarro had his first appearance before a very patient Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui, represented for the hearing by Public Defender Ubong Akpan.

Here’s  of my live thread the hilarity that occurred.

I’ll spare you the “legal analysis.”

The key details that he blurted out which will (predictably) hurt his case are that he claims DOJ charged him to preempt his civil suit. Then he admitted talking to one of the FBI Agents who arrested him, last week, before he filed his civil suit. Basically, he admitted what he accused the government of.

He claims he’s representing himself, but he is outraged that the government didn’t call some lawyer before they arrested him.

He’s outraged that he was arrested at an airplane gate rather than quietly at his home which–he says–is right next door to the FBI.

The most offensive part of it all, though, is that Peter Navarro thinks he should be treated better than the 800-plus other January 6 defendants, the plurality of whom, like him, face only misdemeanor charges because of who he is. He thinks standard release conditions should be waived (and indeed, the passport surrender was waived) because he worked in the White House.

Peter Navarro thinks he’s better than the 800 other people who helped to rile up. Peter Navarro thinks he should get special treatment because he did the riling up rather than responding to it.

Peter Navarro demands better treatment because he is, according to him, better, more important, more innocent, than those 800 other January 6 defendants.

Peter Navarro Had No Privileged Communications with Donald Trump’s Lawyer

Peter Navarro has been indicted.

I’m less excited about this indictment than virtually everyone else, because I know how easily Navarro will be able to stall a prosecution, particularly given that — unlike Steve Bannon — he was a high ranking government official when the events in question occurred (though also one who wrote a book about those events). I also know that the ultimate punishment for this is just a month in jail — not really the kind of punishment I’d like to see architects of a coup attempt face.

That said, there’s a detail about the indictment that does excite me.

Navarro made all the same empty excuses that Bannon did to avoid testifying, basically invoking Executive Privilege without requiring Trump invoke privilege on a question by question basis.

Oh, and also, he had already written a book about the issue.

In the case of Bannon, though, those discussions about invoking privilege to cover up his actions on January 6 were done through a lawyer, Robert Costello. Any communications between Costello and Trump’s lawyer will be privileged.

Navarro, however, represented himself. So the content of his communications with Trump’s lawyer, Justin Clark, will not be privileged. So the evidence against Navarro may quickly get more interesting than that against Bannon.

That’s the kind of thing that excites me.

The Proud Boy Leaders’ Trial Takes Shape

I’m buried in other things, but I wanted to write up a few developments in the Proud Boys case.

Yesterday, along with a response to Ethan Nordean’s sustained complaints about Brady material and more general complaints from defense counsel about the difficulty of discovery in the Proud Boy Leaders’ case, the government released a discovery index for its case against Enrique Tarrio and his co-defendants. It provides a snapshot of the government’s case against the Proud Boys.

Much of the discovery in this case consists of things we’ve seen in other cases: Lots of open source, surveillance, and body worn camera videos, the contents of phones and other devices (the term “scoped” means that FBI has provided to the defendants and others only the material deemed to be responsive to the warrant used to obtain the devices), and social media postings. The index also identifies items obtained in searches of defendants’ residences. There are calls from jail included for Ethan Nordean, Zach Rehl, and Matthew Greene. There is surveillance video from various hotel properties, including AirBNB.

There are a variety of interviews noted, including custodial interviews conducted after an arrest, as well as interviews not so marked, suggesting potential cooperation from people like Jeffrey and Jeremy Grace; the father and son pair were prosecuted separately, with son Jeremy pleading to a misdemeanor on April 8 and father Jeffrey due to plead guilty on June 17. Jeff Finley, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor on April 6 even proffered, implying more formal cooperation not identified in his plea paperwork. An interview with Greene, dated October 28, 2021, may reflect the beginning of his cooperation (he was the first Proud Boy to enter into an overt cooperation agreement). As of right now, there’s just one interview from Louis Colon and none from Charles Donohoe, the other two Proud Boys who entered into cooperation agreements. Perhaps most interesting, there is a “non-custodial surreptitious interview intercepted on 3/8/22” of Enrique Tarrio; one possible explanation for that is that the FBI wired someone up before talking to Tarrio. There’s also a surreptitious interview with someone whose name is redacted.

There are a few redaction fails, one for Eddie Block and another for Trevor McDonald, neither of whom have been arrested.

DOJ released this file with all the case numbers (in the first column of the table) unredacted. This list of the abbreviations for FBI Field Offices provides some indication about whether redacted subjects are located in the Philadelphia area (as Aaron Whallon-Wolkind is), the Pacific Northwest, somewhere between Baltimore and the Carolinas, or Saint Louis area.

I guess it’s rather late in this post to offer this warning, but this document will suck you in.

The government released this snapshot of their case even amid several other developments.

First, Joshua Pruitt, who is a long-term Proud Boy but who doesn’t show up in this index, will plead guilty at 1PM.

In a hearing on discovery yesterday, Rehl attorney Carmen Hernandez asked whether the government would comply with their earlier assurances that they would obtain any superseding indictment (potentially adding co-defendants) by June 1, as they promised earlier. The government (I believe this was AUSA Jason McCullough) declined to answer. From that, I take there may be an imminent superseding indictment, perhaps even one that remains sealed until co-defendants are arrested.

We know who won’t be in any superseding indictment though: yesterday the government released a superseding indictment against Christopher Worrell and Dan Scott, joining the two cases and adding obstruction charges to the former. Both men figure prominently in this index.

Must-See TV: House January 6 Committee Hearings Begin June 9 at 8:00 PM

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Schedule your evenings accordingly, people:

Apparently there are spiffy advisories with a blurb about the hearings’ subject making the rounds:

Squirrel away this link for live stream through the House J6 Committee’s website:

https://january6th.house.gov/news/watch-live

The folks at Just Security produced a primer on the hearings available at this link.

The content is structured into teams based on the efforts and outcomes certain groups of Trump supporters focused on in the run up to and through January 6.

At least 93 persons and organizations have been subpoenaed by the House J6 Committee to date. The hearings are working on the content produced by these subpoenas as well as other methods for obtaining evidence.

Last night CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed former Republican representative Denver Riggleman about the House J6 Committee’s work. It’s a +10:00 minute segment but worth your time.

A Republican with a background in national security and the military with experience in obtaining intelligence, Riggleman should be Mark Meadow’s nightmare. One might wonder if this interview was a last-ditch attempt to encourage Meadow’s full compliance with the committee’s subpoena because it sounds like Meadows is in the committee’s crosshairs. Riggleman is candid in this interview, calling the content he’s seen a horror.

Speaking of horror, Ginni Thomas is mentioned several times in this interview.

Former AG Bill Barr testified before the J6 committee today. He may have been asked about the proposed rejiggering of the Department of Justice before January 6 during this session.

Probably a last chance to buff his image and distance himself from the attack on the Capitol.

There are folks who should be squirming in Washington; there should be some preparing resignations, too.

But if the mass delusion has a stranglehold on them as well as a substantive portion of of the American right-wing, they may simply be preparing to do more damage to our democracy during the mid-term elections, and after depending on the election results.

In Upholding His Decision to Rule “Otherwise” Than His Colleagues on Obstruction, Judge Nichols Worries [about] “Corruptly”

While I was buried in the Michael Sussmann trial last Friday, former Clarence Thomas clerk Carl Nichols, issued a ruling denying the government’s request that he reconsider his earlier outlier ruling against DOJ’s application of 18 USC 1512(c)(2) to January 6.

Having only addressed one of his colleagues’ opinions in his initial order, in this one, Judge Nichols dismisses the unanimity of his colleagues in this go-around by pointing to the differences in their arguments.

1 The Court notes that those decisions reach the same conclusion but for different reasons. For example, some opinions do not consider the relevance of the word “otherwise” in the statute at all, see United States v. McHugh, (“McHugh I”), 2022 WL 296304, at *12 (D.D.C. Feb. 1, 2022) (omitting “otherwise” even from its quotation of the statute); others mention the word but essentially omit any serious discussion of it, see United States v. Nordean, 2021 WL 6134595, at *6-7 (D.D.C. Dec. 28, 2021); and others suggest that it presents the key interpretive question, United States v. McHugh, (“McHugh II”), 2022 WL 1302880, at *4 (D.D.C. May 2, 2022) (concluding “the meaning of ‘otherwise’ is central to the meaning of § 1512(c)(2)”). Other decisions appear to have concluded that § 1512(c)(1) acts as something of a carveout from § 1512(c)(2)’s otherwise broad terms, see United States v. Reffit, 2022 WL 1404247, at *8 (D.D.C. May 4, 2022), see also United States v. Sandlin, 2021 WL 5865006, at *5 (D.D.C. Dec. 10, 2021); United States v. Caldwell, 2021 WL 6062718, at *12 (D.D.C. Dec. 20, 2021), reconsideration denied, 2022 WL 203456 (D.D.C. Jan. 24, 2022); United States v. Mostofsky, 2021 WL 6049891, at *11 (D.D.C. Dec. 21, 2021); United States v. Bingert, 2022 WL 1659163, at *8–*9 (D.D.C. May 25, 2022), while others interpret “otherwise” to require a link between the subsections that is provided through the requirement that the illegal conduct be targeted at an “official proceeding,” see United States v. Montgomery, 2021 WL 6134591, at *12 (D.D.C. Dec. 28, 2021); United States v. Grider, 2022 WL 392307, at *5–6 (D.D.C. Feb. 9, 2022).

This is … just weird, though it may be intended to help someone like fellow Clarence Thomas alum DC Circuit judge Neomi Rao uphold his own opinion. The reason these opinions differ is because the defendants didn’t argue the same points — and just two of the opinions he cites address his own opinion.

Particularly given that, last year, Nichols explicitly asked whether this application of 1512 might apply to the former President — and the abundant evidence that Ginni Thomas might have exposure for obstructing democracy as well — I’m most interested in the long footnote in which Nichols complains that there are many ways one might obstruct the vote certification.

3 Other Judges in the District have concluded that the word “corruptly” limits the scope of § 1512(c)(2). See, e.g., Sandlin, 2021 WL 5865006, at *13; Final Jury Instructions, United States v. Reffitt, No. 21-cr-32, ECF No. 119, at 25 (“To act ‘corruptly,’ the defendant must use unlawful means or act with an unlawful purpose, or both.”); Montgomery, 2021 WL 6134591, at *21 (“The predominant view among the courts of appeals is that the ‘corruptly’ standard requires at least an ‘improper purpose’ and an ‘intent to obstruct.’ ”). But this limitation goes to the mens rea required by the statute; it does not limit the types of conduct that are made criminal. But see 18 U.S.C. § 1515(b) (defining “corruptly” in § 1505 as “acting with an improper purpose” but specifically “including” only acts with an evidentiary nexus); United States v. Poindexter, 951 F.2d 369, 385 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (interpreting “corruptly” in a transitive sense, requiring acts directed towards others). And much like the different opinions on the scope of the statute, see supra note 1, while all Judges to have considered the issue have concluded that the statute’s use of the term “corruptly” does not render it unconstitutionally vague, those decisions have not landed on a consistent approach. For example, some have suggested that “corruptly” means acting “voluntarily and intentionally to bring about an unlawful result or a lawful result by some unlawful method, with hope or expectation of . . . [a] benefit to oneself or a benefit to another person,” Montgomery, 2021 WL 6134591 at *22 n.5 (quoting Aguilar, 515 U.S. at 616–17 (Scalia, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part)), while others have suggested it means, at least, acting with “consciousness of wrongdoing.” Bingert, 2022 WL 1659163, at *6 (quoting Arthur Anderson LLP v. United States, 544 U.S. 696, 706 (2005)). In any event, the government has not argued that “corruptly” meaningfully clarifies or limits the conduct charged in the Indictment here. Although the Court does not now interpret “corruptly” as used in § 1512(c), the Court concludes that the common meanings of “corruptly” are sufficiently capacious so as not to limit or clarify the actus reus charged in the Indictment.

Nichols is not wrong to lay out these distinctions. I’ve done so myself! But there’s no reason to believe that the most circumscribed of the opinions — Dabney Friedrich’s holding that applied just to conduct that included otherwise illegal activities — couldn’t provide a common baseline for all the decisions.

Plus, his citation to Poindexter, which has been addressed legislatively in any case, seems to concede his point.

The opinion feels strained and may not sustain review as a dismissal at the motion to dismiss stage.

But along the way Nichols is saying quite a bit about corruption.


Other 1512 opinions

  1. Dabney Friedrich, December 10, 2021, Sandlin*
  2. Amit Mehta, December 20, 2021, Caldwell*
  3. James Boasberg, December 21, 2021, Mostofsky
  4. Tim Kelly, December 28, 2021, Nordean; May 9, 2022, Hughes (by minute order), rejecting Miller
  5. Randolph Moss, December 28, 2021, Montgomery
  6. Beryl Howell, January 21, 2022, DeCarlo
  7. John Bates, February 1, 2022, McHugh; May 2, 2022 [on reconsideration]
  8. Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, February 9, 2022, Grider
  9. Richard Leon (by minute order), February 24, 2022, Costianes; May 26, 2022, Fitzsimons (post-Miller)
  10. Christopher Cooper, February 25, 2022, Robertson
  11. Rudolph Contreras, announced March 8, released March 14, Andries
  12. Paul Friedman, March 19, Puma
  13. Thomas Hogan, March 30, Sargent (opinion forthcoming)
  14. Trevor McFadden, May 6, Hale-Cusanelli
  15. Royce Lamberth, May 25, Bingert

Jim Baker’s Tweet and the Recidivist Foreign Influence Cheater

Thanks to those who’ve donated to help defray the costs of trial transcripts. Your generosity has funded the expected costs. If you appreciate the kind of coverage no one else is offering, we’re still happy to accept donations for this coverage — which reflects the culmination of eight months work. 

In my post on what prosecutors need to prove to win their case against Michael Sussmann, I noted they had to prove that:

  • Sussmann said the lie that they claim he did: that he affirmatively said he was not sharing the Alfa Bank allegations on behalf of a client
  • He said it on September 19, and not just on September 18
  • It was an intentional lie
  • It was material, meaning the alleged lie mattered to the operation of the FBI

I think the government has, in some ways, done best presenting their materiality arguments (but then, that’s the lowest bar). But even there, exhibits submitted at trial show that at least two of the key decision-makers on investigative issues had received a text referencing that this was a DNC report; Andrew DeFilippis speculated with one of the witnesses who received the text that it was a typo for DNS. And it appears, in multiple situations, people just assumed that Sussmann was at the FBI on behalf of the Hillary campaign, and took it into account. That said, Berkowitz got Baker — who was a key player in the Stellar Wind story that Eric Lichtblau held through an election in 2004 — to explain how important, from a national security perspective, it can be to hold certain stories.

And as I’ll show, Sussmann’s team may have something very special in store to make their materiality argument.

Regarding whether his statement that he was not there “on behalf of any client,” I think Sussmann has made a very good case that he meant his comment to Jim Baker on September 18 that he wanted to help the FBI. Both Marc Elias and Robbie Mook testified that sharing advance warning of a story they wanted to come out was the last they would have wanted or approved, because Jim Comey had done so much to damage the campaign. Particularly if Eric Lichtblau testifies, Sussmann will have a powerful story about all the damage that going to the FBI did to the campaign.

As to the other questions, they all go to Baker’s credibility on the stand.

I can’t say how the jury reacted, but I think prosecutors really didn’t do what they needed to do to prove that Sussmann repeated his comment about not meeting with Baker on behalf of any client and, then, hiding it when he helped the FBI kill the story later in the week. And Berkowitz did even more to show the changing nature of Baker’s statements about the meeting over time.

I did two long twitter threads on Sean Berkowitz’ cross-examination of Baker (Thursday night, Friday morning). I think Berkowitz achieved the following:

  • Used Baker to define “lie” as having an intention to deceive.
  • Made it clear that Baker reconstructed his understanding of his face-to-face meeting with Sussmann with the help of a chain of custody log that an FBI agent referring to the process called “doctored.” That’s going to provide Sussmann’s team a great metaphor to explain what Baker’s memory consists of.
  • Got Baker to suggest his memory of what happened on September 19 amounted to “words to that effect” of what has been charged.
  • Got Baker to agree that there’s at least a 25% chance Sussmann told him he had a client on September 21, which would be proof he wasn’t hiding a client.
  • Foregrounded the possibility that Baker could be prosecuted for his many inconsistent statements, including some that were made in 2018 and some that were made months ago. The statute of limitations on Baker’s inconsistent statements won’t expire until 2027.
  • Showed that Baker’s testimony on the stand was inconsistent with things he told Durham even in recent months; and Baker continues to not remember key details both of what happened on September 19 but also much more recently.
  • Showed that Baker’s reconstructed memory shifts at times from “that matter” (collecting the data) to the meeting itself; this is a reconstructed memory that can only come from prosecutors.
  • Demonstrated that Durham withheld at least three documents that could have “refreshed” Baker’s memory to believing Sussmann had told him he had a client.
  • Placed Durham in the room for some of the key sessions — including in Summer 2020, when Barr and Trump were pressuring Durham to show some results in time for the election — when Baker’s memory was “refreshed.”

Those threads were hard to write and I’m sure even more painful for people who are friends of one or both men to read. The story Berkowitz told was how, through the relentless grind of Republican blowhards and the Trump DOJ’s politicized investigations, Baker came to “remember” testimony that could put his friend, Sussmann, someone who had tried to get him a job when he was at a really bad point in his life, in prison.

There was no way out for Sussmann except to destroy his friend. And Berkowitz at least made it seem that Baker had believed there was no way out for him except to “refresh” his memory to match what Durham wanted.

I suspect it likely that Sussmann’s team will point out that Durham is choosing to prosecute just the people whose story doesn’t match the one that Durham wants to tell. It’s not just Baker whose testimony to Durham is inconsistent with provable facts, but Durham is not prosecuting any of the witnesses who are saying what he wants them to.

With all that as background I want to point to something subtle that I suspect will become part of that theme. Ostensibly to address materiality — Baker’s belief, one he shared with Congress in 2018 but contradicted under coaching by Durham on the stand — that if you have a national security tip you need to feel free to come to the FBI. Baker tweeted it out on June 13, 2019.

This would have been posted weeks after Durham was appointed, which — Baker testified — led Baker to expect he’d be under criminal investigation again.

Q. And you, sir, were aware that Mr. Baker was — I mean, Mr. Durham was reappointed as special counsel, correct, in or around 2019?

A. For this matter?

Q. yes.

A. yes.

Q. And when that happened, you were concerned, were you not?

A. Concerned about what?

Q. That Mr. Durham might come and investigate you more?

A. I wasn’t concerned about it. I expected it.

Q. All right. You expected to be investigated further by Mr. Durham. Correct?

A. Correct.

After having laid out how Baker had been investigated by Durham as part of a leak investigation for years, Berkowitz even introduced a text that Baker sent Ben Wittes the day after Durham was appointed saying, “now I get to be investigated for another year or two by John Durham. Lovely.”

But the tweet about going to the FBI wasn’t about Durham and it wasn’t random.

Rather, it was a response to something Trump said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, between the time Mueller wrapped up his investigation, in part, of Trump’s request, “Russia, are you listening,” in 2016 and the time Trump asked Volodymyr Zelensky, “but first, I would like you to do us a favor.” On the same day Baker encouraged people to go to the FBI if they had evidence, ABC posted an interview in which Trump said,

“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

I’m not precisely sure how Sussmann’s team is going to use this tweet, beyond the materiality question, materiality about precisely this situation, whether someone should share information with the FBI after their opponent solicited help from a hostile foreign government.

But it sure seems to be evidence of more than just materiality.

Like the January 6 Investigation, the Mueller Investigation Was Boosted by Congressional Investigations

Midway through an article on which Glenn Thrush — who as far as I recall never covered the Russian investigation and has not yet covered the January 6 investigation — has the lead byline, the NYT claims that it is unusual for a congressional committee to receive testimony before a grand jury investigation does.

The Justice Department has asked the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack for transcripts of interviews it is conducting behind closed doors, including some with associates of former President Donald J. Trump, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

The move is further evidence of the wide-ranging nature of the department’s criminal inquiry into the events leading up to the assault on the Capitol and the role played by Mr. Trump and his allies as they sought to keep him in office after his defeat in the 2020 election.

[snip]

The Justice Department’s request for transcripts underscores how much ground the House committee has covered, and the unusual nature of a situation where a well-staffed congressional investigation has obtained testimony from key witnesses before a grand jury investigation. [my emphasis]

That’s simply false. This is precisely what happened with the Mueller investigation, and there’s good reason to believe that DOJ made a decision to facilitate doing the same back in July, in part to avoid some evidentiary challenges that Mueller had difficulties with, most notably Executive Privilege challenges.

First, let’s look at how Mueller used the two Congressional investigations.

At the start, he asked witnesses to provide him the same materials they were providing to Congress. I believe that in numerous cases, the process of complying with subpoenas led witnesses to believe such subpoenas were the only way Mueller was obtaining information. Trump Organization, especially, withheld a number of documents from Mueller and Congress, including direct contacts with Russian officials and a Steve Bannon email referencing Russian involvement in the election. By obtaining a warrant for Trump Transition materials held by GSA and the Trump Organization emails of Michael Cohen hosted by Microsoft, Mueller got records the subjects of the investigation were otherwise hiding. Steve Bannon, too, falsely told Mueller he didn’t use his personal accounts for campaign business, only to discover Mueller had obtained those records by the time of his October 2018 interview. Surprising witnesses with documents they had been hiding appears to have been one of the ways Mueller slowly coaxed Bannon and Cohen closer to the truth.

We should assume for key figures in the vicinity of Ali Alexander and John Eastman, the same is happening with the January 6 investigation: the very people who’ve been squealing about complying with subpoenas or call records served on their providers are likely ones DOJ obtained covert warrants for.

Then there are the prosecutions that arose entirely out of Congressional interviews. There were three Mueller prosecutions that arose out of Committee investigations.

Perhaps the most interesting was that of Sam Patten — whose interview materials are here. He had an interview with SSCI on January 5, 2018, where he appears to have lied about using a straw donor to buy Inauguration tickets for Konstantin Kilimnik. By March 20, the FBI attempted their first interview of Patten, after which Patten deleted some emails about Cambridge Analytica. And when Mueller did interview Patten on May 22, they already had the makings of a cooperation deal. After getting Patten to admit to the straw purchase and also to violating FARA — the latter of which he would plead guilty months later, on August 31 — Patten then provided a ton of information about how Kilimnik worked and what he had shared with Patten about his role in the 2016 operation, much of which still remained sealed as part of an ongoing investigation in August 2021. Patten had two more interviews in May then appeared before the grand jury, at which he shared more information about how Kilimnik was trying to monitor the investigation. He had two more interviews before pleading guilty, then at least two more after that.

Not only did Patten share information that likely served as part of a baseline for an understanding about Russia’s use of Ukraine to interfere in US politics and provided investigators with an understanding of what the mirror image to Paul Manafort looked like, but this remained secret from much of the public for three months.

It’s less clear precisely when SSCI shared Cohen’s lies with Mueller. But in the same period, both Mueller and SDNY were developing parallel investigations of him. But by the time Cohen pled guilty in SDNY (also in August 2018), Mueller had the evidence to spend almost three months obtaining information from Cohen as well before he entered into a separate plea agreement with Mueller in which he admitted to the secret communications with the Kremlin that he and Trump lied to hide.

Meanwhile, HPSCI’s much more hapless investigation proved a way to get a limited hangout prosecution of Roger Stone. By May 2018, when Mueller developed evidence showing not just ways that Stone was obstructing his own investigation but also how Stone attempted to craft lies to tell to the Committee — coordinated with Jerome Corsi and reliant on threats to Randy Credico — it provided a way to prosecute Stone while protecting Mueller’s ongoing investigation into whether Stone conspired with Russia.

And by all public appearances at the time, it appeared that Congress was acting while Mueller was not. But that was false (and is probably false now). The entire time during which SSCI and HPSCI were taking steps with Cohen and Stone that would late become really useful to the criminal investigation, Mueller was taking active, albeit covert, steps in his own investigations of the two men (whether he was investigating Patten personally or just Kilimnik is uncertain). Mueller obtained his first warrants against Cohen and Stone in July and August, respectively. But no one knew that until the following spring. That is, Cohen and Stone and everyone else focused on Congress while Mueller got to investigate covertly for another nine months.

We should assume the same kind of thing is happening here. All the more so given the really delicate privilege issues raised by this investigation, including Executive, Attorney-Client, and Speech and Debate. When all is said and done, I believe we will learn that Merrick Garland set things up in July such that the January 6 Committee could go pursue Trump documents at the Archives as a co-equal branch of government bolstered by Biden waivers that don’t require any visibility into DOJ’s investigation. Privilege reviews covering Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and John Eastman’s communications are also being done. That is, this time around, DOJ seems to have solved a problem that Mueller struggled with. And they did so with the unsolicited help of the January 6 Committee.

Even those of us who’ve been covering DOJ’s January 6 prosecution day-to-day (unlike Thrush) have no way of saying what DOJ has been doing covertly in the last year — though it is public that they’ve been investigating Alex Jones, the purported new thrust of this investigation, since August.

What we know from recent history, however, is that DOJ’s use of Congress’ work in no way suggests DOJ hasn’t been doing its own.

DOJ’s Reply Motion for Carl Nichols’ Reconsideration on 1512: Other Judge Other Judges Other Judges

I’ve written two posts on former Clarence Thomas clerk Carl Nichols’ outlier ruling rejecting DOJ’s use of 18 USC 1512(c)(2) to January 6. (one, two)

Yesterday, they submitted their reply motion. It reads like this:

Reconsideration of the substantive ruling in Miller is appropriate because that ruling is inconsistent with decisions from every other judge on this Court to have considered the issue. That inconsistency means proving a violation of Section 1512(c)(2) requires additional facts in this case (and other Section 1512(c)(2) cases in front of this Court) but not in any case before any of the other judges of this Court. Moreover, with one exception, the Court’s ruling in Miller did not address the opinions from other judges of this Court, some of whom have explicitly disagreed with this Court after Miller issued.

[snip]

As noted in the government’s reconsideration motion, every other judge of this Court to consider this issue has concluded that Section 1512(c)(2) “prohibits obstruction by means other than document destruction.” United States v. Sandlin, No. 21-cr-88, 2021 WL 5865006, at *5 (D.D.C. Dec. 10, 2021) (Friedrich, J.); see ECF 75 at 5-6 (citing cases). At the time the reconsideration motion was filed, one judge had disagreed with Miller in a footnote, United States v. Puma, 21-cr-454, 2022 WL 823079, at *12 n.4 (D.D.C. Mar. 19, 2022) (Friedman, J.), and another judge indicated her disagreement with Miller orally when delivering a “brief ruling” denying a defendant’s post-trial motion for judgment of acquittal, see United States v. Reffitt, 21-cr-32, Trial Tr. 1498, 1502-05 (Mar. 8, 2022) (Friedrich, J.) (attached as Exhibit A to the reconsideration motion). Since the reconsideration motion was filed, judges have continued to reject Miller’s reasoning. See, e.g., United States v. Hughes, No. 21-cr-106, Minute Order denying motion to dismiss count charging Section 1512 (D.D.C. May 9, 2022) (Kelly, J.) (rejecting the “narrow reading” of Section 1512(c)(2) and agreeing with an opinion that “directly responded to and rejected the logic employed in Miller”); United States v. Hale-Cusanelli, No. 21-cr-37, Transcript of motion to dismiss hearing at 4-8 (D.D.C. May 6, 2022) (McFadden, J.)(attached as Exhibit D);United States v. Reffitt, No. 21-cr-32, 2022 WL 1404247, at *7-*10 (D.D.C. May 4, 2022) (Friedrich, J.); United States v. McHugh, No. 21-cr-453, 2022 WL 1302880, at *2-*13 (D.D.C. May 2, 2022) (Bates, J). Although none of those rulings represents “controlling law,” McAllister v. District of Columbia, 53 F. Supp. 3d 55, 59 (D.D.C. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted), it is surely “significant” that this Court stands as the sole outlier among all the judges on this Court to have ruled on the issue both before and after Miller issued.

Two related factors militate in favor of reconsideration of the Court’s substantive conclusion about the scope of Section 1512(c)(2). First, the Court in Miller addressed only one of the contrary opinions from judges on this Court. See Mem. Op. 16, 18 n.8, 22, 26 (citing United States v. Montgomery, No. 21-cr-46, 2021 WL 6134591(D.D.C. Dec. 28, 2021)). Reconsideration would permit the Court the opportunity to consider in full the “persuasive authority” issued by other judges of this Court. See United States v. Drummond, 98 F. Supp. 2d 44, 50 n.5 (D.D.C. 2000) (noting that within-Circuit district court cases are not binding but “[o]f course” are “persuasive authority”). Second, reconsideration resulting in an interpretation consistent with other judges of this Court would ensure that all defendants charged under Section 1512(c)(2) are treated alike until the court of appeals has an opportunity on post-conviction review to consider the merits of their challenges to the statute’s scope.

[snip]

Second, Miller argues (Opp. 10-18) that the government “misunderstands” (id. at 10) this Court’s textual analysis of Section 1512(c)(2). But the issue is not one of misapprehension; rather, the government (and every other judge on this Court to have considered the issue) understands but disagrees with the Court’s (and Miller’s) interpretation of Section 1512(c)(2)’s reach. [my emphasis]

It uses Garret Miller’s response to implicitly attack Carl Nichols and emphasize the degree to which even Nichols’ Trump appointed colleagues — first Dabney Friedrich, then Tim Kelly, and finally, the judge most likely to agree with Nichols, Trevor McFadden — have disagreed with Nichols’ thinking.

Guy Reffitt’s prosecution is now ripe for appeal, if he still plans on doing that. Or Nichols will choose to adhere to his outlier opinion.

Here’s the current tally on obstruction opinions, with McFadden added.

  1. Dabney Friedrich, December 10, 2021, Sandlin*
  2. Amit Mehta, December 20, 2021, Caldwell*
  3. James Boasberg, December 21, 2021, Mostofsky
  4. Tim Kelly, December 28, 2021, Nordean; May 9, 2022, Hughes (by minute order), rejecting Miller
  5. Randolph Moss, December 28, 2021, Montgomery
  6. Beryl Howell, January 21, 2022, DeCarlo
  7. John Bates, February 1, 2022, McHugh; May 2, 2022 [on reconsideration]
  8. Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, February 9, 2022, Grider
  9. Richard Leon (by minute order), February 24, 2022, Costianes; May 26, 2022, Fitzsimons (post-Miller)
  10. Christopher Cooper, February 25, 2022, Robertson
  11. Rudolph Contreras, announced March 8, released March 14, Andries
  12. Paul Friedman, March 19, Puma
  13. Thomas Hogan, March 30, Sargent (opinion forthcoming)
  14. Trevor McFadden, May 6, Hale-Cusanelli
  15. Royce Lamberth, May 25, Bingert

Members of Congress Subpoena Members of Congress

The January 6 Committee just issued subpoenas to five of their colleagues.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was in communication with President Trump before, during, and after the attack on January 6th. Mr. McCarthy was also in communication with other members of the White House staff during the attack and in the days before and after January 6th concerning the events at the Capitol. Mr. McCarthy also claimed to have had a discussion with the President in the immediate aftermath of the attack during which President Trump admitted some culpability for the attack.

Representative Scott Perry was directly involved with efforts to corrupt the Department of Justice and install Jeffrey Clark as acting Attorney General. In addition, Mr. Perry had various communications with the White House about a number of matters relevant to the Select Committee’s investigation, including allegations that Dominion voting machines had been corrupted.

Representative Jim Jordan was in communication with President Trump on January 6th and participated in meetings and discussions throughout late 2020 and early 2021 about strategies for overturning the 2020 election.

Representative Andy Biggs participated in meetings to plan various aspects of January 6th and was involved with plans to bring protestors to Washington for the counting of Electoral College votes. Mr. Biggs was involved in efforts to persuade state officials that the 2020 was stolen. Additionally, former White House personnel identified Mr. Biggs as potentially being involved in an effort to seek a presidential pardon for activities connected with the former President’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Representative Mo Brooks spoke at the rally on January 6th, encouraging rioters to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” In addition, Mr. Brooks has publicly described conversations in which the former President urged him to work to “rescind the election of 2020” and reinstall Mr. Trump as President. The Select Committee also has evidence that Mr. Brooks’s staff met with members of Vice President Pence’s staff before January 6th and conveyed the view that the Vice President does not have authority to unilaterally refuse to count certified electoral votes.

I suspect such a subpoena only conceivably has a chance in hell of working with Kevin McCarthy (or possibly Mo Brooks if he can do it quietly, given how Trump has targeted him). The rest of genuine criminal liability they’d like to use Speech and Debate to dodge.

But this provides a way for the January 6 Committee to package up what evidence they have against these five in such a way as to feed it to DOJ.

Tick Tock: SDNY Tells Project Veritas, Again, To Wait Until James O’Keefe Is Indicted to Complain

As I noted back in March, when Project Veritas discovered what was clear from the start — that SDNY had relied on material obtained from emails involving James O’Keefe and two other Project Veritas associates to get warrants to obtain their phones — they tried to claw back not just the emails but also the phones.

[B]efore obtaining warrants to seize James O’Keefe’s phones, DOJ had first obtained emails that provided the evidence to get the warrants for his phones.

The Government disclosed many of its covert investigative steps in the ex parte context of the Affidavit, including each email search warrant it had obtained pursuant to the SCA in this investigation.

This is precisely what SDNY did with Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani, and it’s what Magistrate Judge Sarah Cave was talking about when she referred to the “considerable detail” in the affidavit.

Third, the Court has reviewed the Materials in camera and observes that they contain considerable detail about individuals who may have already provided information to the Government—voluntarily or involuntarily—such that unsealing of the Materials “could subject [them] to witness tampering, harassment, or retaliation.”

PV revealed that in a motion asking Judge Analisa Torres to claw back this information.

In March, DOJ told PV to wait until they were indicted to complain (here’s my thread on that response).

Days later, on March 30, PV tried again, petitioning Judge Torres to force the government to return all their phones and their emails.

Tick tock, tick tock.

On April 11, Judge Torres set a briefing schedule: the government had to file a response by May 6, and PV should file their reply by May 20.

Tick tock, tick tock.

Right on schedule, the government filed its response last night. The response is 28-pages long, much of which is dedicated to explaining to PV how the Fourth Amendment works and asserting that SDNY is quite confident the magistrates’ rulings findings there was probable cause that these accounts and devices would contain evidence of enumerated crimes will hold up. The discussion includes a particular focus on how SDNY already has precedents approving investigations that first obtain emails covertly and then seize phones overtly, as they did with Rudy Giuliani and (while they don’t rely on the precedent) did with Michael Cohen before that.

To the extent that the Movants are attempting to raise arguments with respect to execution of the warrants for email account data, there is no legal basis for such challenges at this stage of an ongoing grand jury investigation. Last year, Judge Oetken denied a similar challenge where the circumstances were materially the same: in the course of a multi-year, covert investigation, the Government obtained electronic data pursuant to judicially-authorized search warrants issued under 18 U.S.C. § 2703, the Government had reviewed that electronic data prior to the overt execution of search warrants for electronic devices, and a Special Master was appointed to oversee the review of the contents of the electronic devices (but not the electronic data obtained previously). Specifically, Judge Oetken ruled:

Giuliani and Toensing also seek pre-indictment discovery of the Government’s privilege and responsiveness designations in connection with the 2019 warrants [obtained covertly, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2703]. They cite no legal authority for this request, and the Court is aware of none. If there is a criminal proceeding, any defendants will be entitled to discovery under Rule 16. There is no basis for compelling the Government to produce this information now, during an ongoing grand jury investigation.

Finally, the Court sees no legal basis for Toensing’s request for detailed information about the filter team review process, at least at the pre-charge phase of this matter.

In re Search Warrants Executed on Apr. 28, 2021, 2021 WL 2188150, at *2. The circumstances confronted by Judge Oetken are indistinguishable from those presented here. The Movants offer no authority contrary to Judge Oetken’s ruling, and the Government is aware of none. To the extent the Movants may potentially be entitled at some point to the disclosures that they seek, any such entitlement would only be triggered, if at all, by the filing of an indictment charging them in connection with the investigation, and not before.12

12 Or, potentially, by the filing of a civil claim, should one exist, that survives a motion to dismiss and proceeds to discovery.

Just for good measure, though, SDNY makes it clear they had reviewed all the emails before obtaining the overt warrants on O’Keefe and his flunkies, which makes it a good bet they relied on the email content to show probable cause to get the phone warrants.

With respect to the subscriber, non-content, and content information for email accounts referenced by the Movants, which were obtained pursuant to a grand jury subpoena and orders and warrants issued by federal magistrate judges pursuant to the Stored Communications Act (the “SCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 2703, the Government’s review of those materials was completed months ago, before the Movants initiated this Part I matter in November 2021.

I’ve stated repeatedly this was what happened here, only to have a PV lawyer claim I was wrong.

I was not wrong.

As I said, the bulk of this filing is just a primer in how the Fourth Amendment works, as applied. It is thorough, but it mostly feels like T-crossing.

More specific to the facts at hand, however, SDNY accuses PV of attempting to bypass the Special Master process they themselves demanded and Judge Torres approved last year.

Consisting of equal parts rhetoric, speculation, and inaccurate factual assertions, the motion is little more than a misguided attempt to end-run the Special Master process that this Court put in place and prematurely litigate the merits of the Government’s prior investigative steps.

[snip]

With respect to the devices that are subject to the Special Master’s review, the Movants’ attempt to put these arguments before the Court while the same arguments are pending before the Special Master appears to be an improper end-run around the Special Master. As explained above, these very arguments were fully briefed as of April 20, 2022, and are in the process of being decided by the Special Master. The Movants should not be permitted to short-circuit the process that this Court put in place, at their request, and which will adequately safeguard any potentially privileged materials that were contained on the devices.11

11 In the event the Court finds any of these issues material to the resolution of the motion, the Court should defer consideration until after the Special Master has issued a ruling on the same.

Even if Torres is sympathetic to poor James O’Keefe’s plight (and she accorded him better treatment than Rudy Giuliani got in the same court), she’s likely to be pissed about this aspect of things, that she went to the trouble of approving a Special Master and splitting the costs to pay for Barbara Jones’ services, only to have PV demand more.

And here’s why that matters: as SDNY noted, Jones is as we speak making final decisions about what SDNY gets.

The Special Master’s responsiveness review has largely been completed, with the contents of only one device currently under review. The parties have submitted briefs outlining their positions regarding the law and principles that should be applied to the Movants’ objections to the release of the items that the Special Master has deemed responsive to the search warrants to the investigative team. 2

2 The Movants submitted their briefs to the Special Master on April 1, 2022, the Government submitted its response on April 13, 2022, and the Movants submitted a reply on April 20, 2022.

Tick tock, tick tock.

Project Veritas was, almost certainly, already preparing their briefing for Jones when they demanded this end-run around the Special Master process. They had, almost certainly, reviewed what was about to be turned over to SDNY and how, having read the affidavits that PV is still trying to get, Jones interpreted the scope of the investigation. So not only does this timing seem to substantiate SDNY’s claim they’re trying to back out of their demands for a Special Master, but it makes it likely that by the time they file their own reply two weeks from now — tick tock, tick tock — Jones will already have submitted her recommendations regarding what materials SDNY gets.

And until then, SDNY explained in their law school primer to PV about how the Fourth Amendment works in practice, SDNY gets to keep all the evidence implicating a criminal investigation until they decide whether or not to charge anyone.

To the contrary, the electronic devices retained by the Government were obtained pursuant to search warrants issued by a Magistrate Judge after a finding of probable cause, and are currently in the final stages of the Special Master’s review process. Similarly, the contents of email accounts were also obtained pursuant to search warrants issued by Magistrate Judges after findings of probable cause, and the Government’s review of materials obtained pursuant to those warrants was completed months ago. There can be no dispute that the Government’s investigation is ongoing, that these materials include evidence relevant to that investigation, and that, if a prosecution results from the investigation, these materials will have evidentiary value.

[snip]

Third, the Government’s retention of the items and materials at issue is reasonable because its investigation remains ongoing and the return of the property sought would impair the Government’s investigation. The electronic devices at issue either have been determined by the Special Master to contain responsive items, are currently under review by the Special Master, or have not yet been reviewed by the Special Master due to technical impediments. Similarly, the email account content has been reviewed by the Government and has been determined to contain material responsive to the search warrants. See, e.g., In re Search Warrants Executed on Apr. 28, 2021, 2021 WL 2188150, at *2 (denying pre-indictment motion to “return” to movants the “results from earlier search warrants of [movants’] iCloud and email accounts” because, among other reasons, “the review of the [earlier] warrant returns is now largely complete”). These items and materials are anticipated to have evidentiary value if a prosecution arises from the Government’s ongoing grand jury investigation. In light of the character of these items and materials and the status of the Government’s investigation, retention of the items and materials is reasonable at least until the Government’s investigation is completed or, in the event a prosecution arises from the investigation, until such time that the criminal case reaches its conclusion.

SDNY is not saying that a prosecution will arise from the materials seized from PV. But they are saying they’ve found evidence that would be relevant if they chose to do so.

And, SDNY repeats again in their primer on how the Fourth Amendment works, it’s only after SDNY makes that decision that James O’Keefe will have standing to challenge these searches.

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