Stan Woodward Claims He Doesn’t Know Where the Missing Beautiful Mind Boxes Went

Perhaps the most amazing detail in the stolen documents transcript of last week’s hearing before Judge Aileen Cannon is that until the summer, Trump still had a Q clearance.

There is a category of documents that it — actually in unclassified discovery, we learned a week or two ago that there is a certain category of documents that require what is called a “Q clearance” and it includes one of the charged documents, and we learned that it’s a Department of Energy program. We learned that President Trump continued to have an active security clearance, even after he was indicted in this case, with the Department of Energy. Now that, in our view, is the definition of Brady. It was — I’m not going to say it was buried, but it was provided to us in discovery as part of miscellaneous materials at some point in the third or fourth production. I mean, it is literally a memo from the Department of Energy dated June — dated late June of this year, June 28th of this year, saying that, oh, we should remove Donald J. Trump from the person who has an active security clearance. He has been charged with possessing a document in violation of federal law, when he has an active security clearance with the holder of that document.

The detail doesn’t help as much as Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, would have you think. Whatever clearance Presidents get under the Atomic Energy Act (especially since presidents don’t get clearance; on Bluesky, Cheryl Rofer suggests he may have gotten DOE clearance while still a candidate) obliges them to follow document handling rules that might not have been as meticulously spelled out for Trump under his access to other classified documents. That he still had access when he was found with nuclear documents in August 2022 only means he was affirmatively violating the terms of his Q clearance, not that he could legally store nuclear documents in his gaudy bathroom.

Most people who get charged under the Espionage Act have or had clearances; those clearances actually make it easier to prosecute them.

Though Trump finally added someone appropriate to an Espionage Act trial last month, former SDNY National Security AUSA  Emil Bove, Blanche still seems to have a woefully inadequate understanding of how 18 USC 793 elements of the offense get proven at trial.

And Jay Bratt seems to be unable to conceive that his counterparts (and, probably, Judge Cannon) fail to understand that.

Bratt’s attempt to explain all this — something that makes a lot of sense to me from covering so many of these trials — was just one of two times where (in the transcript at least) Cannon abruptly cut off Bratt, as she often does when she risks embarrassment.

BRATT: I do not — we do not believe that the motion to compel litigation needs to be complete before they can file with the Court their theory of defense with respect to the 793 charges, and it kind of strains credulity that they say they can’t do that. You know, the elements of 793 are unauthorized possession of a document containing national defense information, possessing it willfully, that is with knowledge that what you are doing is unlawful, and failing to return it to a proper person. All that information they can flesh that out for the Court, and there is really — they may have legal — separate legal challenges to the 793 charges, but if you look at the elements, those are the defenses: Either he didn’t possess it, or he was authorized to possess it, or the information doesn’t contain national defense information, or he wasn’t acting willfully, or he returned it before he was being asked to return it. Those are the defenses, and they may have other color they want —

THE COURT: But to some extent, of course, one would have to review the relevant classified discovery in order to formulate a meaningful response, even if maybe not entirely complete, it would be difficult to just sketch out a skeleton, so to speak, of your theory without really doing so rooted in the documents themselves.

MR. BRATT: So I’m not sure that you do need to be able to say, no, we know this doesn’t contain NDI for the Court to rule on whether or not what we are presenting in Section 4 is relevant and helpful to the Defense, I don’t think so. I understand that, you know, they have said in their pleadings that they are going to strongly contest whether or not the information was national defense information, strongly contest whether it was closely held. Our burden is to prove that it was, and we embrace that burden; but these documents, you know, I —

THE COURT: That’s fine. We don’t need to talk about the actual contents of the documents, obviously, given this is a public hearing.

Blanche was pretty obsessed with the classification determinations, marveling over the fact that prosecutors had to talk to the Intelligence Community before deciding what documents to charge, what documents they could charge.

We have seen communications between NARA and the Department of Justice and the White House and the Special Counsel that started way before what has been publicly disclosed and extensive meetings, extensive communications; and so we feel very strongly and expect that we will win on that, when we file the motion that NARA is absolutely part of this prosecution team and that the intelligence communities that they worked very closely with in determining the — well, from what we can tell, the particular documents that they chose to charge, so there is purportedly a tranche of documents that have classified headings on them, and then 32 that they decided to charge. That wasn’t just done in a vacuum. They didn’t just, you know, pick 32 documents out of a hat and say, “We will go with these.” There was a lot of coordination that we can tell from the materials we do have with the intelligence community that ultimately led them to proceed the way they did.

So yes, we have an answer with them. They say very strongly that they view the prosecution team as being limited to the Special Counsel’s Office and the FBI, and we very strongly believe that’s wrong.

That may have been a cynical ploy to treat the IC as part of the prosecution team, which in turn may be an attempt at graymail.

Blanche also claimed that the defense had not yet received all the classification reviews for these documents, and had yet to receive Jencks production for people he imagines will sit on the stand and attest to the classification of each document, in a trial where the standard is National Defense Authorization, not classification.

THE COURT: What about classification reviews, have you received all of those?

MR. BLANCHE: No, Your Honor, we have not received all of them. That is one of the things that we are continuing to ask about. We have received them for — I believe for the charge documents; but as what should be obvious from the volume compared to the 32 counts, there is a tremendous number of documents that are extraordinarily important to our defense that are purportedly classified that we don’t have any information about at this time.


A little bit about the classified Jencks material, as was discussed. The issue of whether a particular document is classified or not is something for the jury. And what we are looking for in discovery and what we don’t have is that has to be from a witness. There has to be a witness that is testifying about why a particular document is classified; and as part of that, like any witness, we are entitled to 3500 and Jencks material and we don’t have that. We don’t have that for all the witnesses, and our concern is that there is this class or category of Giglio and Jencks material that we are going to get at some later date which we are then going to — it’s another Section 4 litigation, at that point, because we are going to then ask the Court what we can use to impeach the witness, what information we are allowed to cross-examine him or her on.

Bratt did correct Blanche to say that Trump had already gotten all the classification determinations for all the classified documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.

THE COURT: Now, I went through some of these categories with Mr. Blanche, but classification reviews, are those included in the 5,500 and/or the disks?

MR. BRATT: Yes. And just to respond to something Mr. Blanche said, and it may have been oversight, it is not just for the 32 documents. It is for all 340-some documents that were at Mar-A-Lago.

But I just think that Blanche doesn’t get how easy it’ll be to convince jurors that you can’t put nuclear documents in a beach resort shower (and that’s all before the smoke and mirrors that the government uses in all Espionage Act trials, which will be epically contentious here).

I don’t think he understands any of this.

This all brings me to something I’ve been wondering: what the government has been withholding anticipating its CIPA 4 filing, which has been delayed by various Trump games about CIPA. CIPA 4 covers stuff they’ll share with Judge Cannon to have her rule whether the material needs to be turned over to the defense (the standard is whether the material is relevant and helpful to the defense), and if so, whether DOJ can use substitutions for some of the information.

This is my updated track of the universe of classified discovery.

Pretty much everything that should obviously be there is there:

  • The stolen documents themselves
  • All the witness testimony about the documents
  • The discussions about classification reviews of the documents (which Brian Greer has suggested were likely somewhat limited in anticipation of trial)

But there’s one thing not mentioned — at least not obviously — that always proves contentious in 793 cases: The damage assessment.

One way defendants always attempt to prove that things aren’t National Defense Information is by pointing to a report — if they get one — that nothing blew up after they released a document or left it in their beach resort shower.

Often defendants don’t get them.

I’m particularly interested in what kind of damage assessment the Intelligence Community did here because of a footnote included in the 11th Circuit appeal last year, which I wrote about here:

footnote modifying a discussion about the damage assessment the Intelligence Community is currently doing referenced a letter then-NSA Director Mike Rogers wrote in support of Nghia Pho’s sentencing in 2018. [This letter remains sealed in the docket but Josh Gerstein liberated it at the time.]

[I]n order to assess the full scope of potential harms to national security resulting from the improper retention of the classified records, the government must assess the likelihood that improperly stored classified information may have been accessed by others and compromised. 4

4 Departments and agencies in the IC would then consider this information to determine whether they need to treat certain sources and methods as compromised. See, e.g., Exhibit A to Sentencing Memorandum, United States v. Pho, No. 1:17-cr-631 (D. Md. Sept. 18, 2018), D.E. 20-1 (letter from Adm. Michael S. Rogers, Director, National Security Agency) (“Once the government loses positive control over classified material, the government must often treat the material as compromised and take remedial actions as dictated by the particular circumstances.”).

Even on its face, the comment suggests the possibility that the Intelligence Community is shutting down collection programs because Trump took documents home.

You can’t very well do nothing after you learn some of the most sensitive government documents were parked on a stage in a room hosting weddings attended by all manner of foreigner and grifter. You can’t do nothing after learning that Trump freely blabbed about the content of his stolen documents to anyone who bought access to him. You can’t do nothing after a Five Eyes document gets dumped out of a box in a storage closet that musicians and other resort personnel have accessed. You’ve got to go to your Five Eyes allies and explain that America’s former President is a dumbass and so the allies should take measures assuming that some drunken guest got a look at that document.

You might not even be able to charge documents as sensitive as these if the underlying programs hadn’t had to be rolled up. The spooks are going to prefer to protect the programs over vengeance against the dumbass former President.

Which brings me to the most intriguing claim made at the hearing.

Stan Woodward — Walt Nauta’s attorney — claims that neither he nor the government have figured out where all the missing boxes have gone.

[T]he Special Counsel has directed us to certain portions of the CCTV footage that they view as the most relevant, but there is — from what we know and from our defense, there is a tremendous amount of CCTV footage that we believe has been produced that is not what they have identified that is extremely relevant to us. For example, to the extent that boxes were moved on occasions other than what is delineated in the indictment, that is certainly something that matters to us.


We have, of course, the benefit of consultation with our clients and are able to talk about what video we should be looking at and what video we should not be looking at. And the entire nature of the allegations, of the charges in this case are about missing boxes, right? The indictment is charging Mr. Nauta — and I’ll just stick with my client, with Mr. Nauta — with having moved boxes. Some number of boxes come out of a storage room, a lesser number of boxes go into the storage room, and Mr. Nauta is charged with hiding those boxes from whether it is Trump’s then counsel or whether it is the Government. And obviously, we are interested in knowing where those boxes are if they are, in fact, missing. The CCTV footage is what is going to help us understand that riddle.

Now, the Government does not know where those boxes went. As far as I can tell, to this day, the Government does not know where the boxes they allege were hidden ended up.


I have a whole separate computer that I’m using just to do these extractions so that I can go in and start watching this days of video so that we can make an assessment of what this case is all about and whether it is about missing boxes or about boxes that just weren’t found when the FBI conducted its search of the property.

Now, Woodward has a habit of saying things that I find … shall I say, unpersuasive?

This certainly feels like one of those instances, coming as it did amid a schtick whereby Woodward repeatedly referred to the government, then corrected himself to say Special Counsel, something that seems to mirror Judge Cannon’s own preferences for calling Jack Smith’s office the OSC (John Durham used this abbreviation but no one else does).

Woodward is attempting to claim that he needs to delay the trial past the election because he needs to review all of ten years worth of surveillance video to defend his client. I’ve seen him make similar claims in January 6 trials.

More importantly, this is not a remotely fair representation of the charges against Nauta, which have to do with Nauta claiming to know nothing about moving boxes within days of being caught on surveillance video moving boxes, then allegedly attempting to destroy the video that captured him moving those boxes. Importantly, even if someone else moved a bunch of boxes that aren’t otherwise included in the indictment, it doesn’t exonerate Nauta. It could even inculpate him: if boxes were at Mar-a-Lago for someone else to move because Nauta had taken steps to withhold them from the government, it means his alleged obstruction would have made those other movements possible.

Plus, one big reason why the government charged Nauta, I believe, is because they believe he knows what happened to the missing boxes, including the ones he packed up to go to Bedminster where they disappeared forever.

I don’t doubt that the government hasn’t accounted for all the missing boxes; certainly Bratt did not correct Woodward on this point.

But one reason the government would have had to get ten years of video is to attempt to see who else entered that closet, to see who was in the closet when a Five Eyes document tumbled out, to see whether any of the foreign visitors to Mar-a-Lago seemed to know to look in the closet.

That’s not something that would show up in the indictment, not without proof that Trump willfully told visitors where the documents were.

But if Woodward is telling the truth about needing to see who else was moving boxes around, rather than just using the volume of video to stall, it might suggest he’s trying to find out what you might otherwise learn from a damage assessment. It might suggest that either Nauta hasn’t been entirely forthcoming with Woodward or Trump isn’t being forthcoming with his lawyers or his trusted valet.

Learning what the government saw in the surveillance video about moving boxes is not remotely necessary for defending Nauta against the charges against him. It might have a lot to do with understanding how ugly the story prosecutors will tell at trial will be.

James Comer Finally Finds Evidence Supporting Impeachment — of Donald Trump

Back on October 7 (after Hunter Biden sued Garrett Ziegler on September 13, after Hunter Biden sued the IRS on September 18, after Hunter Biden sued Rudy Giuliani on September 26, and after Matthew Graves testified to the House Judiciary Committee on October 3) — Abbe Lowell sent Graves a letter asking him to investigate whether Tony Bobulinski lied to the FBI on October 23, 2020.

The letter was first reported by NBC.

Jamie Comer has now seized on the letter in his latest demand for more information — and testimony of Hunter Biden. But this time, the evidence implicates Donald Trump, not Joe Biden.

The substance of Lowell’s allegation boils down to a claim that Bobulinski lied in his FBI interview when he claimed to have attended a key meeting with CEFC on February 19, 2017. If Bobulinski didn’t attend the meeting, he therefore lied in his interview when he made claims about personally witnessing the involvement of Joe Biden in all this.

The most significant set of false statements is central to Mr. Bobulinski’s entire interview and self-aggrandizement. The memorandum states that “BOBULINSKI first met in person with members of the BIDEN family at a 2017 meeting in Miami, Florida. BOBULINSKI, GILLIAR, WALKER, HUNTER BIDEN, and YE all attended the meeting.”11 This is deliberately false; Mr. Bobulinski did not attend a meeting with Mr. Biden and his associates in Miami in 2017, nor did he meet members of the Biden family then. Around February 13, 2017, Messrs. Biden, Walker, and Gilliar traveled to Miami to meet with CEFC Chairman Ye, Director Zhang, and other CEFC members to discuss a possible business venture. It is here that Mr. Biden met Chairman Ye for the first time, and at that meeting, a tentative business agreement was reached in principle to set up a joint venture with CEFC, and a business structure was discussed.

Despite what Mr. Bobulinski told investigators to pretend he had firsthand knowledge, he was never in and did not attend this meeting in Miami on February 14, 2017. [bold emphasis Lowell’s]

That’s not the only allegation in the letter; Lowell accuses Bobulinski of a bunch of other lies.

The most important — aside from his provable presence (or not) at that February 2017 meeting — has to do with the origin of the “10 held by H for big guy” letter that Fox News has made a focus of their propaganda for three years.

Lowell provided background to a series of communications in May 2017, during a period when the proposed Joint Venture involving Hunter, Bobulinski, James Gilliar, and Rob Walker, was losing ground in the competition for CEFC’s support in the face of a group involving James Woolsey. That’s what led Gilliar — not Hunter — to propose getting Joe Biden involved.

It is in this context that, on May 11, 2017, Mr. Bobulinski and Mr. Gilliar discussed their concerns that Chairman Ye had skipped meetings with Mr. Biden in New York, while separately attending a party held by Mr. Witkoff. (Ex. G attached hereto.) Mr. Gilliar acknowledges this growing concern about competition for CEFC in a May 11 message to Mr. Bobulinski: “Man U are right let’s get the company set up, then tell H and family the high stakes and get Joe involved.” (Id.) Importantly, this notion of “get[ting] Joe involved” was referenced as an idea by Mr. Gilliar to Mr. Bobulinski in private, and never sent to Mr. Biden, as potential leverage to counter the competition for CEFC’s U.S. investment.

This is consistent with what Gilliar told the WSJ in October 2020, in the wake of Bobulinski going public with these claims (as Lowell notes in his letter). But as Lowell also noted, Bobulinski’s claims that a split involving Joe Biden was real and happened earlier rests on his claim — which Lowell asserts to be false — to have been at the CEFC meeting in Miami.

Mr. Bobulinski took this lie even further when he willfully told investigators that the reference, “10 held by H for the big guy,” originated from deal discussions that he witnessed as between Mr. Biden and Chairman Ye in Miami in February 2017. As explained above, Mr. Bobulinski was never at that meeting in Miami and this fantasy was his and Mr. Gilliar’s.

Lowell pointed to additional texts seemingly supporting the claim that the idea of involving Joe only ever came from Gillier and Bobublinski. Weeks earlier, Hunter laid out a 50-50 split with CEFC, in turn split four ways (not including his uncle), and days after, Bobulinski bitched that bringing Jim Biden in — as a fifth recipient — would only serve to up the proportions of the Biden family. Gilliar responded that bringing Jim Biden in as a 20% stakeholder was his own idea, to buy loyalty, not Hunter’s.

As laid out, this means that Bobulinski or Gilliar, not Hunter Biden, may have been contemplating monetizing access to Joe Biden with the Chinese in 2017.

This allegation will get litigated in days ahead, I’m sure. As noted, Comer pointed to this letter about Bobulinski to justify doing what they were already planning on demanding: calling Hunter to testify.

For now, I’m interested in some logistical aspects of the allegation.

First, while Bobulinski’s claims have long been out there, Lowell only has a hook to package it up in a letter to Matthew Graves because the IRS agent who spent five years investigating his client, Joseph Ziegler, released the Bobulinski and Rob Walker interview materials on September 27 in support of his insinuation that the Delaware US Attorney’s office dropped the ball by not doing follow-up interviews with Bobulinski.

While providing this information in front of agents with the FBI, Bobulinski makes multiple references to Former Vice President Joseph Biden’s potential involvement with Sinohawk and the CEFC joint venture. 5.

In investigative team meetings that occurred after this, I can recall that agents on the investigative team brought up on multiple occasions to the assigned prosecutors that they wanted to do an interview of Bobulinski with the assigned case agents. I can recall being told that they would think about it and then ultimately being told there was no need for the team to interview Bobulinski and that Bobulinski was not viewed as a credible witness.

Note that the Bobulinski 302, unlike the Rob Walker or the Gal Luft 302s, is not the official 302.

The others, along with the IRS memorialization of James Biden’s interview, all appear in the official form and the FBI 302s have the “Official Record” stamp in the right hand corner.

The Bobulinski interview report Ziegler released, however, has not been entered in the official 302 form and by title is just a revision of his interview, with the author marked as one of the agents in the original interview; it appears to have been saved from Microsoft Word.

Ziegler doesn’t even call this a 302 and his description of how it came into his possession is tortured (though it’s similar to his description of how he got the Luft 302, which was saved from Notes).

This was a memo and attachment that was provided to the RHB investigative team by agents with the FBI regarding information that was provided to agents with the FBI Washington Field Office from Anthony Bobulinski.

That is, the form of the interview report raises real questions about whether Ziegler was ever supposed to have access to it or even whether the report was ever officially filed (a question Chuck Grassley also has raised). Though in Tim Thibault’s interview, he referred to the interview report as a 302 and described asking those involved, “how are you sending this information to Baltimore,” and being, “advised it was like an [sic] e-Guardian system. So there’s receipts for that.”

It took just ten days — September 27 to October 7 — after reading that interview report for Abbe Lowell to write a letter about the problems with it. That would suggest writing this letter, calling out the problems with Bobulinski’s testimony, was not a close call.

The possibility that the story Bobulinski told the FBI was subsequently discredited would explain a lot. Gary Shapley-adjacent reporting from last summer complained that Bobulinski had not been asked to testify before a grand jury. Long after Democratic Ranking Members Jamie Raskin, Jerry Nadler, and Richard Neal would have gotten a copy of the Lowell letter, Chuck Grassley demanded details about how Bobulinski’s interview was treated. And Joseph Ziegler, who seems to have little appreciation for how badly his conspiracy theories have damaged the case he tried to bring against Hunter Biden, revealed that, “ultimately,” prosecutors described, “Bobulinski was not viewed as a credible witness.”

If Lowell’s letter is right, there’s a good reason why Bobulinski was not viewed as credible: Because prosecutors would have quickly identified holes in Bobulinski’s story, making his tie to the White House — made explicit in his FBI interview when he described getting a COVID test at the White House the previous day even if they didn’t see reports that he had been Trump’s guest at the debate the day before — absolutely toxic.

And after (per Ziegler’s claims) prosecutors decided they didn’t want Bobulinski anywhere near their prosecution and definitely didn’t want him in front of the grand jury, Ziegler decided to share the details of Bobulinski’s interview with the FBI for all the world to see, a world that includes Hunter Biden’s lawyers, who now know that prosecutors were repeatedly asked about Bobulinski but, presumably for reasons that had to do with preserving plausible deniability about Bobulinski’s actions, didn’t do anything that would have required providing details about Bobulinski in discovery.

The reason you don’t put someone whose location data and other comms show he wasn’t where he claimed to be in front of an investigative team, much less the grand jury, is to preserve a fragile claim that the entire investigation wasn’t a political witch hunt directed from the President, to hide from defense attorneys that the President of the United States had ties with someone who would pitch (per Lowell) false claims to the FBI. But Joseph Ziegler, goaded on by a trio of dumbass Republican Committee Chairman, decided to make that available to Hunter’s legal team anyway.

Lowell’s letter doesn’t describe where he obtained the exhibits attached, but they include texts involving Hunter Biden (and so presumably in his possession), texts not involving Hunter Biden, and a scan of a stapled printed email involving Bobulinski. Even for the texts involving Hunter Biden, Lowell appears to lack reliable metadata.

And these are definitely cherry picked communications, enough so to counsel caution about this being the full story. Then again, Bobulinski tried to cherry-pick the communications he provided to the FBI himself, offering up three devices but asking to delete most of the content first. I would imagine that after Rob Walker told the FBI of Bobulinski’s rumored tie to Viktor Vekselberg just 16 days later, they would have taken steps to obtain a set of his communications that he hadn’t cherry picked.

The point being, whatever Abbe Lowell has, we can assume the FBI has a far better set of data, including location  and travel data to track where Bobulinski really was at what time on February 19, 2017. The FBI doesn’t need Abbe Lowell to tell them that Bobulinski lied in this interview, if in fact he did; this letter to Graves (as opposed to sharing copies of it with the three Ranking Democratic members of committees involved in the impeachment charade) serves only to advertise that the FBI could have, but has not yet, responded differently to Bobulinski’s involvement.

It serves to flip the script that Republicans have been inventing.

I mean, let’s be clear what Abbe Lowell alleges, with some backup: He’s accusing Tony Bobulinski of doing the same thing for which Trump’s hand-picked Special Counsel John Durham prosecuted Michael Sussmann. But unlike that case, in which multiple witnesses testified that the Hillary campaign would never have wanted to share information with the FBI, in this case, Bobulinski showed up at the White House the day before and waltzed into the FBI with a former Trump White House Counsel.

And, frankly, Lowell pulls his punches on this — a bunch of them.

He briefly mentions and footnotes the passages from Cassidy Hutchinson’s book that describe contacts with Bobulinski, both the night before and some weeks after his FBI interview on October 23. Lowell doesn’t mention Hutchinson claims that, in advance of the second meeting — the one where Bobulinski showed up in a ski mask, someone told her that “the boss” asked Mark Meadows to meet with Bobulinski.

When staff began to deplane, we climbed back down and made our way to the offstage announcement area. A senior campaign official jabbed his finger into my shoulder. Alarmed, I spun around. “Chief’s still on the plane talking to the boss,” he said. “He’s going to meet up with Tony Bobulinski. Can you go get him?”

I took a step back and crossed my arms. “What do you mean?” I asked. He said gruffly, “The boss asked him to meet up with Tony Bobulinski. He’s here. It has to be low-key, though, so just find somewhere away from any cameras.” I looked at Tony Ornato, expecting him to say something. Instead, he pointed at Mark leaving Air Force One. “He’s coming,” he said. The aide walked away.

I didn’t know much about Tony Bobulinski, just that he was a former business associate of Hunter Biden’s and had something to do with the laptop controversy. Trump had brought him as a guest to the presidential debate in Nashville on October 22. I wasn’t tracking the story closely enough to know more. But as Mark approached, I had a weird feeling that we were in danger. I couldn’t explain it, but the feeling was real. “Mark shouldn’t do this,” I said to Tony. “He’s being set up.” Tony shrugged. “Don’t overthink things. It’s not a big deal. Chief knows what he’s doing. Bobulinski came with us to Nashville, remember? Don’t worry, kid.” He patted my shoulder and walked away as Mark approached me.

“You’re not meeting Tony Bobulinski here, Mark. We can send someone from the campaign.” I heard my voice whine with childlike desperation. “Please, Mark. This isn’t a good idea. Just trust me.” Mark looked at his Secret Service agent, then back at me. “Just go find him, and work with Secret Service to find a hidden spot. Come get me once you have him there.”


As Brian thanked him, I recognized a few of the men sitting in idling Secret Service vehicles and rushed over to them. I asked if they could park four of the vehicles in the shape of a square, and explained that the chief needed to have a quick meeting with someone out of sight. They were reluctant at first and questioned why Mark couldn’t just meet the person where staff were congregated. “The chief of staff needs to have a private meeting,” I said, lying with convincing confidence. “If you want me to ask Tony Ornato to explain more, I’m happy to call him over.” They began lining up the vehicles, and Brian and I made our way into the crowd, searching for the fenced-in house.


“There,” Brian said, and pointed to the house. “I don’t want to talk to him,” I told him, as three men came out of the house. I tried to pick out Tony Bobulinski, but they were all wearing hats and ski masks. Brian introduced himself and explained that we would bring them to the chief. I spun around and started pushing through the crowd to make a path for the group a good distance behind me.


“This is really stupid of you, Mark. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s really stupid,” I said. He didn’t have time to respond as I ushered him into the makeshift area, away from cameras, as requested, but not from watchful Secret Service eyes.

In the shadows of the bleachers, I observed Mark and Tony Bobulinski’s interaction through a gap in the vehicles. When they said their goodbyes, I saw Mark hand Tony what appeared to be a folded sheet of paper or a small envelope. Mark walked toward me, staring at the ground. He was silent for several moments as we made our way back to the staff holding area. [my emphasis]

Lowell also notes that Hutchinson raised concerns about the lawyering of Stefan Passantino, who represented Bobulinski at the interview. But he doesn’t mention that by the time of Bobulinski’s October 23, 2020 interview, Passantino had pitched Bobulinski as a source to the WSJ — with the involvement of then-White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann, as well as Don Jr’s best buddy Arthur Schwartz.

The three had pinned their hopes for re-electing the president on a fourth guest, a straight-shooting Wall Street Journal White House reporter named Michael Bender. They delivered the goods to him there: a cache of emails detailing Hunter Biden’s business activities, and, on speaker phone, a former business partner of Hunter Biden’s named Tony Bobulinski. Mr. Bobulinski was willing to go on the record in The Journal with an explosive claim: that Joe Biden, the former vice president, had been aware of, and profited from, his son’s activities. The Trump team left believing that The Journal would blow the thing open and their excitement was conveyed to the president.

That’s the story that ended in a flop, partly because records very similar to the ones Lowell included with his letter didn’t back Bobulinski’s story, and partly because Gillier refuted it in an interview with the WSJ.

Abbe Lowell doesn’t mention that, per the NYT story on this pitch to WSJ, Donald Trump knew the story was coming.

Mr. Trump and his allies expected the Journal story to appear Monday, Oct. 19, according to Mr. Bannon. That would be late in the campaign, but not too late — and could shape that week’s news cycle heading into the crucial final debate last Thursday. An “important piece” in The Journal would be coming soon, Mr. Trump told aides on a conference call that day.

Which means that when Lowell refers in his letter to,

The materials reveal the extraordinary lengths Mr. Bobulinski and other individuals were willing to go to implicate Mr. Biden or members of his family in some false and meritless allegations of wrongdoing. [my emphasis]

He never explicitly says that multiple sources say those “other individuals” include Donald Trump, personally.

Plus, Lowell goes easy on Bobulinski’s motives. Hunter Biden’s lawyer only assumes that Bobulinski allegedly lied, “to boost his own sense of self- worth,” not for any of a long list of more nefarious reasons that might involve being handed an envelope by the President’s Chief of Staff.

He relegates the allegations about Chinese cultivation of James Woolsey for his access to Trump in the Gal Luft indictment to a footnote. And while he raises Bobulinski’s possible ties with a range of hostile countries — including his alleged ties to Viktor Vekselberg — he doesn’t pursue the implications any of that would have for claims of foreign influence operations targeting Hunter Biden.

And Lowell plays coy about the reasons why Bobulinski would keep insisting on speaking with agents “read in[to]” any investigation into Hunter Biden.

In what can only be described as a strange exchange at the start of his interview, Mr. Bobulinski asked the interviewing agents whether they were “read in” on the information he was about to tell them. The interviewing agent responded that that was not how the process works and advised they did not have any specific knowledge of the information. Mr. Bobulinski and his attorney, Stefan Passantino, reiterated their request that Mr. Bobulinski only speak with agents who were “read in” to his testimony. The FBI agent then reminded Mr. Bobulinski that his testimony was voluntary. The expectation by Mr. Bobulinski and his attorney that FBI agents taking his voluntary testimony would be “read in,” whatever that means, is particularly troubling given that Mr. Bobulinski had met with President Trump and his campaign team the day before in Nashville.

Remarkably (or maybe not, as I’ll return to), the FBI seems to have anticipated that Bobulinski may have been sent by Trump to fish for information. Thibault explained that the reason Bobulinski was sent to the DC office rather than Baltimore was to keep the investigation secret. “[T]he whole idea that he came to WFO is they were trying not to disclose that there was an investigation in Baltimore is my belief,” described, later attributing that decision to the supervisor who set up the interview.

Again, none of these details are exactly new. But the specific circumstances created by Jamie Comer and Joseph Ziegler provided an opportunity to point out that Comer has more evidence worthy of impeaching Donald Trump than he does Joe Biden.

Trump’s New Appellate Argument about His 100 Million Imaginary Friends

Judge Tanya Chutkan issued her order denying Trump a stay of her gag order on October 29.

That was admittedly a Saturday. Nevertheless, it took Trump four days before he ran to the DC Circuit to cry about an emergency infringement on the First Amendment rights of him and his mob.

He took those four days even as he demanded that the DC Circuit — which had been expecting Trump’s initial brief on November 8 — rule on this motion by November 10.

The Court should stay the Gag Order pending appeal. In addition, President Trump respectfully requests that the Court enter a temporary administrative stay pending resolution of this motion and issue its ruling by November 10, 2023. If the Court denies this motion, President Trump requests that the Court extend its administrative stay for seven days to allow him to seek relief from the U.S. Supreme Court.

During those four days that Trump didn’t file for a stay, John Lauro found time to file three different things (one, two, three) in Judge Chutkan’s docket. In those four days, Trump posted a slew of attacks on Joe Biden, the 2020 election, and his prosecution (though admittedly many of the recent posts targeted Arthur Engoron), many of them attacks that — he claims — this gag prevents him from making.

I’ll leave it to smarter people to explain the posture that leaves this case.

What I’m more interested in are the arguments that Trump makes that should not withstand prolonged scrutiny, at least not at the DC Circuit, arguments that are surely designed to trigger the interest of Sam Alito and Clarence Thomas.

In his appeal, Trump argues — substantially for the first time — that his gag subjects him to viewpoint discrimination. There’s a very short section dedicated to the topic, citing an inapt precedent.

7. The Gag Order reflects forbidden viewpoint discrimination.

By forbidding speech that “target[s]” certain individuals, the Gag Order prohibits only (vaguely defined) negative speech about them. See infra, Part I.C. In Matal v. Tam, the Supreme Court held that prohibiting only negative or “disparaging” speech constitutes forbidden viewpoint discrimination. 582 U.S. 218, 243 (2017) (plurality opinion). Such a prohibition “constitutes viewpoint discrimination—a form of speech suppression so potent that it must be subject to rigorous constitutional scrutiny.” Id. at 247 (Kennedy, J., concurring in part and concurring in the judgment). To prohibit “disparaging” speech “reflects the Government’s disapproval of a subset of messages it finds offensive. This is the essence of viewpoint discrimination.” Id. at 249; see also R.A.V., 505 U.S. at 391- 92. The Gag Order violates these principles

Trump lards the rest of the discussion with claims that a gag tied to the crimes alleged against Trump amounts to censorship of right wing views.

Based this speculation, the district court entered a sweeping, viewpoint-based prior restraint on the core political speech of a major Presidential candidate, based solely on an unconstitutional “heckler’s veto.” The Gag Order violates the First Amendment rights of President Trump and over 100 million Americans who listen to him.


President Trump’s viewpoint and modes of expression resonate powerfully with tens of millions of Americans. The prosecution’s request for a Gag Order bristles with hostility to President Trump’s viewpoint and his relentless criticism of the government—including of the prosecution itself. The Gag Order embodies this unconstitutional hostility to President Trump’s viewpoint. It should be immediately stayed.


As a viewpoint-based prior restraint on the core political speech of a Presidential candidate to an audience of over 100 million Americans, the Gag Order is virtually per se invalid.

There are nine appearances of the word “viewpoint” in the entire appendix. All appear in Trump’s filings bidding for a stay, not his underlying opposition to the gag. But all of those also appear as part of an argument about political speech — an important argument, but one largely divorced from the circumstance of this gag, not as a free-standing argument about the free speech of nutjob right wingers.

That argument is closely related to (and builds on) another argument that Trump belatedly raised: that gagging his speech harms the First Amendment rights of his 100 million followers.

4. The Gag Order violates the rights of tens of millions of Americans to receive President Trump’s speech.

The First Amendment’s “protection afforded is to the communication, to its source and to its recipients both.” Va. State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Va. Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748, 756 (1976) (citing many cases); Packingham v. North Carolina, 582 U.S. 98, 104 (2017) (recognizing the right to “speak and listen, and then … speak and listen once more,” as a “fundamental principle of the First Amendment”); Red Lion Broad. Co. v. F.C.C., 395 U.S. 367, 390 (1969). A restriction on President Trump’s speech inflicts a reciprocal injury on the rights of over 100 million Americans who listen to him, irrespective of their political beliefs.

This right of listeners to receive President Trump’s message has its “fullest and most urgent application precisely to the conduct of campaigns for political office,” especially for the Presidency. Susan B. Anthony List, 573 U.S. at 162. Ford emphasized that, if Congressman Ford were silenced, “reciprocally, his constituents will have no access to the views of their congressman on this issue of undoubted public importance.” 830 F.2d at 601. Likewise, Brown stated that “[t]he urgency of a campaign … may well require that a candidate, for the benefit of the electorate as well as himself, have absolute freedom to discuss his qualifications….” 218 F.3d at 430.

In Trump’s appeal, he doesn’t cite evidence supporting this number, but — as I already noted — the underlying motion relies on garbage double counting of bots on the Twitter platform Trump no longer uses. Given that this argument is based on fraudulent numbers, it amounts to a defense of the First Amendment rights to listen of Trump’s imaginary friends, including the Russian bots the now-deceased Yevgeniy Prigozhin deployed to fuck with US politics.

The problem with this argument is, as DOJ noted in its response to Trump’s bid for a gag, Trump misrepresented the record on that point.

11 The defendant did not invoke these interests in his response to the Government’s motion for an order under Local Criminal Rule 57.7(c). And while the defendant claims to have invoked these interests at the hearing, only to have been unfairly interrupted by the Court (ECF No. 110 at 17), his citations mischaracterize the record. For example, he asserts (id.) that the Court interrupted him in response to his statement, “And what the government is proposing here is an order not just directed against President Trump but against the American electorate that wants to hear from President Trump under these circumstances.” The Court did not, in fact, interject in response to that point. See ECF No. 103 at 44. Rather, it was only several sentences later, after defense counsel returned to his oft-repeated talking point that “[t]his is the first time we’ve had a sitting administration prosecute a political opponent” that the Court responded, “I’m going to interrupt you. . . . You have said that. You have said it repeatedly. I have heard it.” Id. Likewise, the defendant asserts (ECF No. 110 at 17) that, when counsel said, “The American people are entitled to understand that and understand the consequences of that,” the Court simply responded, “No.” The Court did no such thing. After defense counsel’s comment, the Court asked why the defendant “is entitled to suggest that an appropriate punishment would be death.” ECF No. 103 at 59-60. When defense counsel invoked the First Amendment in response, the Court said, “No. As part of that. But again, the First Amendment protections must yield to the administration of justice and the protection of witnesses.” Id.

In a footnote of Judge Chutkan’s order denying the stay, she agreed.

Defendant’s Motion argues that his speech restrictions are inconsistent with the “right of listeners to receive President Trump’s message.” Motion to Stay at 15. Defendant did not squarely raise that argument in his opposition brief to the government’s original motion; the closest he came to identifying any authority for it was an unrelated “see also” citation to United States v. Ford, 830 F.2d 596, 598 (6th Cir. 1987), a case that he now quotes to support his right-of-listeners argument. Compare ECF No. 60 at 5, with Motion to Stay at 16. But the court expressly addressed and distinguished that case. Order at 2–3. In any event, the argument does not alter the fundamental principle that First Amendment rights, whether those of the speaker or the listener, may be curtailed to preclude statements that pose sufficiently grave threats to the integrity of judicial proceedings.

Undeterred by that footnote, Trump argues that Chutkan’s failure to address something he didn’t raise is her reversible error, not a waiver on his part.

Though the issue was raised repeatedly, A159-60, A165, A178; A47, A62-63, the district court gave the First Amendment rights of President Trump’s audiences no meaningful consideration. The Gag Order does not mention them, see A1-3, and the district court declined to consider them when President Trump raised them, e.g., A47, A62-63. That is reversible error.

I’ve linked two of the spots in the record, above, where John Lauro imagines he raised this — A47, which he cites twice, was in the oral arguments, not the underlying brief. None was a substantive argument about his imaginary 100 million friends. Here’s the appendix if you want to see if you can find what other things he is citing to.

There are other problems with this appeal. Trump doesn’t address the part of Chutkan’s order that explicitly permits Trump to attack, “the current administration or the Department of Justice.” Trump does not engage, at all, with the evidence DOJ submitted of expected trial witnesses testifying under oath about how mobs started threatening them after Trump tweeted mean things. Notably, Trump’s citations to the government’s examples of threats that Trump made between August 2 and September 26 doesn’t cite to the footnotes in the government response that reference the threat — made the day after the linked threat, “if you come after me I’m coming after you” — to Judge Chutkan herself.

By the time the Gag Order was entered, the case had been pending for almost three months, and President Trump had often spoken about it. The prosecution provided seventeen examples of public statements by President Trump between August 2 and September 26, 2023, that it considered objectionable. A140-46; A190- 91. However, it did not produce any evidence that any prosecutor, witness, or court staffer experienced “threats” or “harassment” after President Trump’s speech. Likewise, it did not produce any evidence that any witness or prosecutor felt threatened or intimidated by President Trump’s speech—however subjectively—during three months of President Trump’s public commentary on the case. See A140-46; A190-91.

Lauro claims DOJ didn’t present any evidence that anyone, including court staffers but not the judge herself, felt intimidated by threats that followed on Trump’s incitement and simply ignores that footnote. But someone in Judge Chutkan’s chambers alerted the Marshals after that threat, and the FBI deemed it sufficiently dangerous to arrest Abigail Jo Shry for making it.

So there are other problems with this appeal, exhibiting the same obstinate refusal to address the record as it stands that Judge Chutkan described in her opinion refusing the stay.

But the key dynamic, in my opinion, is that Trump is trying to refashion his argument to trigger the known biases of Sam Alito and Clarence Thomas. But he’s doing so — launching a bid to protect the First Amendment rights of his imaginary friends — after the fact.

This is not a frivolous argument. The legal arguments should bear the weight of the historic decision that ultimately will result.

But instead of making serious arguments, John Lauro has pitched the Supreme Court’s right wing justices an argument about Trump’s imaginary Twitter friends.

Update: A DC Circuit panel of 3 Democratic appointees (Obama, Obama, Biden) has stayed the gag and ordered and set an expedited briefing that is quick enough SCOTUS is unlikely to have any reason to intervene.

PER CURIAM ORDER [2025399] filed considering motion to stay case [2025149-2], ORDERED that the district court’s October 17, 2023, order be administratively stayed pending further order of the court. Further ordered that his case be expedited. setting briefing schedule: APPELLANT Brief due 11/08/2023, at 5:00 p.m.. APPENDIX due 11/08/2023, at 5:00 p.m.. APPELLEE Brief due on 11/14/2023, at 5:00 p.m., APPELLANT Reply Brief due 11/17/2023, at 12:00 p.m., scheduling oral argument on Monday, 11/20/2023. Before Judges: Millett, Pillard and Garcia. [23-3190] [Entered: 11/03/2023 05:06 PM]

Jim Jordan Dragged Martin Estrada Away from Fighting Fentanyl To Chase Hunter Biden’s Dick Pics

Yesterday, Ohio Senator JD Vance gave a speech explaining that he is holding up the confirmation of a US Attorney candidate for his own state because Donald Trump is being prosecuted for stealing classified documents but — Vance claimed in an earlier version of this rant — “the President and his family [go] completely untouched.”

Meanwhile, yesterday’s version of Vance’s harangue claimed that “it is Joe Biden’s border policies that have invited this fentanyl into our country at record levels.”

It’s an interesting take, given that Republicans keep dragging law enforcement away from fighting the fentanyl crisis  so they can explain that the conspiracy theories right wingers believe about the investigation into Hunter Biden are false.

In a July hearing where both Jim Jordan and now-Speaker Mike Johnson complainedrelying on Terry Doughty’s badly misinformed opinion — that (they claimed) the FBI had prevented millions of people from sniffing Hunter Biden’s dick pics before the 2020 election, Chris Wray pointed to the impact two drug busts had had in Marion, Ohio.

Just last month, for instance, the FBI charged 31 members of two drug trafficking organizations responsible for distributing dangerous drugs like fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine throughout the area around Marion, Ohio. In that one investigation, run out of the FBI’s 2-man office in Mansfield, we worked with partners in multiple local police departments and sheriff’s offices to take kilos of fentanyl off  Marion’s streets, enough lethal doses, I should add, to kill the entire population of Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, combined.

As I noted at the time, this was good staff work. Marion, Mansfield, and Lorrain are all in Jim Jordan’s district (and so all obviously constituents of Vance, as well).

Jim Jordan took time out of Chris Wray’s day so he could complain about Hunter Biden’s dick pics, while ignoring the drug problems facing his own constituents.

It’s not just Wray.

In testimony last week before Jordan’s committee, the US Attorney for Los Angeles, Martin Estrada, struggled to explain to Jordan’s staffers why his own top AUSAs didn’t think it smart to reallocate prosecutors to partner on the Hunter Biden investigation at a time his office was 40 prosecutors short of the number they’re supposed to have. As Estrada explained, instead, CDCA granted Special AUSA status to some prosecutors from Delaware and had done so even as Gary Shapley wailed that nothing was going on in LA.

Jordan’s top aide Steve Castor was incredulous that Estrada wouldn’t know specific details about what the Delaware prosecutors granted Special Assistant status to pursue a case against Hunter Biden in LA were doing.

I mean, this is a potential prosecution of the President’s son. If the lawyers from the District of Delaware were out in your district discussing the case, don’t you think you’d know about it?

When Estrada tried to get Castor to understand how different the priorities looked when you were running the country’s biggest US Attorney’s office, fentanyl was the first thing he raised.

I think a little context would be helpful. So, as I said, we have the largest district in the country. We have a Fentanyl epidemic which is one of the worst in the country’s. We’ve done more death-resulting cases than any other district in the country. We’re on pace to do more this year than we ever had before.


There are a lot of high-profile cases, so I don’t meet with attorneys on every single high-profile case.


We have a fentanyl epidemic. That includes not just death-resulting cases, it includes going after cartels which are distributing these pills, not just in powder form but in pill form. We routinely seize over a million pills at a time from vehicles, and we need to prosecute those cases. Each pill could be a death. And routinely now we’re finding cartels transporting fentanyl in liquid form, which is a new thing that they’re doing. So we have to do those cases.

Republicans claim to care about the fentanyl crisis. But in reality, they keep proving that they care more about Hunter Biden’s dick pics than they do about their troubled constituents in Marion, OH.

NYT Keeps Downplaying Trump’s Past Retribution Tour

Charlie Savage, Maggie Haberman, and Jonathan Swan keep teaming up to write the same story over and over: A second Trump term is going to be bad … really bad.

Just some of these stories, in reverse order from Tuesday’s latest installment, are:

There are several aspects to these stories: a bid to eliminate civil service protections, a personalization of power, and the elevation of people who proved willing to abuse power in his first term: Russel Vought (who helped obstruct the Ukraine investigation), Stephen Miller, and Johnny McEntee (who even before January 6 was making a willingness to invoke the Insurrection Act a litmus test for hiring at DOD), and Jeffrey Clark.

The series, thus far, skirts the language of authoritarianism and fascism.

At the core of the stories is that Trump is going to use a second term for retribution, to which the June 15 article is dedicated.

When Donald J. Trump responded to his latest indictment by promising to appoint a special prosecutor if he’s re-elected to “go after” President Biden and his family, he signaled that a second Trump term would fully jettison the post-Watergate norm of Justice Department independence.

“I will appoint a real special prosecutor to go after the most corrupt president in the history of the United States of America, Joe Biden, and the entire Biden crime family,” Mr. Trump said at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., on Tuesday night after his arraignment earlier that day in Miami. “I will totally obliterate the Deep State.”

These stories admit that Trump did some of this in his first term. But they describe a process of retribution by the guy who got elected — with abundant assistance from Maggie Haberman — on a platform of “Lock her up!,” who breached the norm of judicial independence 24 days into office when he asked Jim Comey to “let this” Mike Flynn “thing go,” as something that took a while to “ramp up.”

In his first term, Mr. Trump gradually ramped up pressure on the Justice Department, eroding its traditional independence from White House political control. He is now unabashedly saying he will throw that effort into overdrive if he returns to power.

Mr. Trump’s promise fits into a larger movement on the right to gut the F.B.I., overhaul a Justice Department conservatives claim has been “weaponized” against them and abandon the norm — which many Republicans view as a facade — that the department should operate independently from the president.

Yet even though Savage did some important reporting on some of this (reporting that was counterbalanced by Maggie’s central role in helping Trump obstruct criminal investigations), these pieces always vastly understate how much politicization Trump pulled off in his first term, and never describe how that politicization continues at the hands of people like Jim Jordan.

In the spring of 2018, Mr. Trump told his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, that he wanted to order the Justice Department to investigate his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, and James B. Comey Jr., the former head of the F.B.I. Mr. McGahn rebuffed him, saying the president had no authority to order an investigation, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

Later in 2018, Mr. Trump publicly demanded that the Justice Department open an investigation into officials involved in the Russia investigation. The following year, Attorney General William P. Barr indeed assigned a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney, John Durham, to investigate the investigators — styling it as an administrative review because there was no factual predicate to open a formal criminal investigation.

Mr. Trump also said in 2018 and 2019 that John F. Kerry, the Obama-era secretary of state, should be prosecuted for illegally interfering with American diplomacy by seeking to preserve a nuclear accord with Iran. Geoffrey S. Berman, a former U.S. attorney in Manhattan whom Mr. Trump fired in 2020, later wrote in his memoir that the Trump Justice Department pressured him to find a way to charge Mr. Kerry, but he closed the investigation after about a year without bringing any charges.

And as the 2020 election neared, Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham to file charges against high-level former officials even though the prosecutor had not found a factual basis to justify any. In his own memoir, Mr. Barr wrote that the Durham investigation’s “failure to deliver scalps in time for the election” eroded their relationship even before Mr. Barr refused Mr. Trump’s baseless demand that he say the 2020 election had been corrupt.

Where Mr. Trump’s first-term efforts were scattered and haphazard, key allies — including Jeffrey B. Clark, a former Justice Department official who helped Mr. Trump try to overturn the 2020 election — have been developing a blueprint to make the department in any second Trump term more systematically subject to direct White House control.

This effort was in no way haphazard!!! Most FBI personnel involved in the Russian investigation, from Jim Comey down to line analysts, had their careers systematically ruined, with Peter Strzok (who, the actual record of the Russian investigation shows, repeatedly took steps to protect Trump and Mike Flynn, even if he disliked Trump) offered up as an example of what will happen to people who don’t meekly just accept their punishment or, better yet, retreat to the private sector. The exceptions were the cyber guys who completely bolloxed the Alfa Bank investigation and people like Bill Barnett, who misrepresented the steps he himself took to provide “proof” of corruption on the Mueller investigation. That precedent has been sustained as right wingers take out other FBI agents deemed insufficiently loyal, like Tim Thibault, who personally opened an investigation into the Clinton Foundation in 2016 but who was targeted last year because in 2020 he didn’t mainline disinformation about Hunter Biden.

Yes, Bill Barr ordered Geoffrey Berman to investigate John Kerry. But he also set up a complex, systematic structure to halt  any investigation into Rudy Giuliani so the President’s lawyer could get dirt from Russian spies, feed it to Scott Brady, who would then push that information into the investigations of Hunter Biden and others. When Berman and Jessie Liu refused to break (after a good deal of bending to Barr’s will), he fired them both.

Barr didn’t just pressure John Durham to prosecute high-level people: He skipped, hand-in-hand, with Durham as they used Russian intelligence to fabricate an attack on Hillary Clinton, the organizing logic of an investigation that swept up private sector people and who had the temerity to research Donald Trump or — worse!! — to help Hillary recover from a hack-and-leak. The effort even took out academic researchers who were simply trying to keep the US safe from Russian hacking. Trump did get DOJ to investigate Hillary, with investigations lasting the entirety of his presidency, and that investigation included precisely the kind of fabricated evidence and coached testimony that NYT imagines is a hypothetical left for Trump’s second term.

To the extent these stories talk about Trump’s pardons, they do so prospectively. There’s no discussion of how the pardons of Mike Flynn and Roger Stone rival any of the most corrupt in US history, but were necessary to prevent DOJ from developing proof that Trump conspired with Russia.

These articles don’t describe how Congress has served as a wing of this politicization, from the leaks to Mike Flynn in 2018 about how to undermine his own investigation to sham hearings — like the one with George Papadopoulos unencumbered by the documents that would have provide evidence of “collusion,” in which he spewed out conspiracy theories that Bill Barr and John Durham quickly got on a plane to chase. These articles don’t describe how the current unrelenting attempt to manufacture an impeachment out of the detritus of Hunter Biden’s life could not have happened if Bill Barr hadn’t made very systematic attempts to enable Trump’s retribution tour in 2020.

And these articles don’t describe the violent threats that have become routine for anyone deemed insufficiently loyal to Donald Trump. The threats Trump deployed against Lisa Page and Marie Yovanovitch — “she’s going to go through some things” — exist on an unrelenting continuum as the threats against Ruby Freeman and Lesley Wolf and Fani Willis and Don Bacon’s wife.

Yes, it’s important to warn about what Trump plans to do with a second term. But calling Trump’s past retribution “haphazard” is a journalistic cop-out, a way to avoid admitting that we don’t yet fully understand how systematic Trump’s past retribution was or — worse — don’t want to come to grips with our own central role in it.

For a warning to be effective, we have to show the human costs of all the past retribution — the thousands of Jan6ers who had their lives ruined, the significant degradation in US national security, the fear, especially the fear among Republicans — costs that no one, no matter how loyal, will ultimately escape.

Hours After Aileen Cannon Suggests She’ll Stall Florida Prosecution, Trump Moves to Stall DC One

Judge Aileen Cannon has not yet released a ruling describing how much she’ll bow to Trump’s manufactured claims of classified discovery delays in the stolen documents case, but she made clear that she will delay the trial somewhat. As reported, at least, that delay will come because of the competing schedule in DC.

Trump’s lawyers argued that they need a delay in the documents case because preparations for it will clash with the federal election case, which is slated to go to trial on March 4 and could last several months.

Trump’s indictment in the election case — which came days after Cannon set her initial timeline for the document case — “completely disrupted everything about the schedule your honor set,” Trump lawyer Todd Blanche told Cannon.

Another Trump lawyer, Chris Kise, personified the crunch the former president’s attorneys are facing, phoning into the hearing from a New York courthouse where Trump is undergoing a civil trial targeting his business empire.

“It’s very difficult to be trying to work with a client in one trial and simultaneously try to prepare that client for another trial,” Kise said. “This has been a struggle and a challenge.”

Note: as DOJ pointed out, Kise’s NY trial schedule was already baked into Cannon’s schedule.

Having secured that delay, Trump turned to delaying his DC trial, with a motion to stay all other DC proceedings until his absolute immunity claim is decided, a 3-page motion Trump could have but did not submit when he was asking for a delay before submitting his other motions. Everything he points to in that 3-page motion, the completed briefing on the absolute immunity bid, was already in place on October 26. But he waited until he first got Cannon to move her trial schedule.

As I laid out the other day, Trump is not making legal arguments sufficient to win this case — certainly not yet. He is making a tactical argument, attempting to run out the clock so he can pardon himself.

Update: LOL. Trump filed the DC motion too soon, giving DOJ a chance to notice the cynical ploy in DC before Aileen Cannon issues her order.

Yesterday, the Court conducted a hearing on the defendants’ motion to adjourn trial, in which defendant Trump claimed that trial in this matter should be delayed in part because “[t]he March 4, 2024 trial date in the District of Columbia, and the underlying schedule in that case, currently require President Trump and his lawyers to be in two places at once.” ECF 167 at 1. Defendant Trump’s counsel reiterated that argument during the hearing yesterday. However, defendant Trump’s counsel failed to disclose at the hearing that they were planning to file – and yesterday evening did file – the attached motion to stay the proceedings in the District of Columbia until their motion to dismiss the indictment based on presidential immunity is “fully resolved.” See United States v. Donald J. Trump, No. 23-cr-257-TSC, ECF No. 128 at 1 (D.D.C. Nov. 1, 2023), attached as Exhibit 1. As the Government argued to the Court yesterday, the trial date in the District of Columbia case should not be a determinative factor in the Court’s decision whether to modify the dates in this matter. Defendant Trump’s actions in the hours following the hearing in this case illustrate the point and confirm his overriding interest in delaying both trials at any cost. This Court should [sic] allow itself to be manipulated in this fashion.

Chuck Grassley and James Comer Brag that 40 Informants Couldn’t Substantiate a Crime against Biden

Philip Bump notes that James Comer is now fundraising not just off his own conspiracy theories, but also Chuck Grassley’s.

Comer presents himself as a warrior for the truth, standing up to the media and the left-wing hordes, etc. Then the money ask appears.

Now, I track Comer and the Oversight Committee’s work more closely than most, so what struck me wasn’t that the chairman was trying to fundraise off what he was doing (he’s done that more than once in the past) but that he was trying to fundraise off this. After all, the allegation about the informants wasn’t something that came from his and his party’s efforts. The pitch couches that a bit, asserting in boldface text that “[i]t has come to light” that these informants purportedly existed. But there’s no news release about it from the normally news-release-enthusiastic House majority and no mention of it on Comer’s X/Twitter feed. The account for the Oversight Committee did mention it once, pointing back to the source of the claim: Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa).


That Comer is raising money off Grassley’s claim — raising money by exaggerating the claim to assert that there were 40 informants for 50 years — is the point. This wasn’t his work; it was simply an allegation that those who would respond to an “I’m fighting Biden for you” appeal would find compelling. I once referred to Comer’s efforts as a fishing expedition, but he’s not simply throwing out bait to see what he gets, he’s throwing out as much bait as he can to vacuum up as many fish as there are in the sea.

Actually, Comer is fundraising off Fox’s breathless regurgitation of Chuck Grassley’s conspiracy theories, which appeared in a letter to Chris Wray and Merrick Garland.

I find Bump’s observation notable for several additional reasons, beyond what Bump lays out.

First, it comes as Jamie Raskin’s whack-a-mole efforts to track Comer’s lies have gotten punchy. Monday, Raskin released a new 9-page letter listing the top lies Comer told after sniffing too many dick pics, to which the Maryland Congressperson appended the previous 12 letters Raskin sent debunking Comer’s bullshit.

  • Falsely claimed that witness interviews actually conducted by Committee staff never happened;27
  • Referred to a fugitive from justice charged with multiple felonies as a “very credible witness;”28
  • Suggested you were present at a transcribed interview that you did not attend;29
  • Repeatedly mischaracterized the statements of witnesses in interviews while refusing to publicly release interview transcripts; 30
  • Claimed that the National Archives and Records Administration failed to turn over records to the Committee when they were actively cooperating;31
  • Wrongly claimed that a transcribed interview suggested the President was involved in his family’s business dealings; 32
  • Incorrectly asserted that suspicious activity reports, which you routinely mischaracterize as “bank violations,” implicate President Biden in wrongdoing; 33
  • Dishonestly suggested that the President had the prosecutor of Ukraine fired as part of a bribery scheme;34
  • Falsely accused the Biden-Harris Administration of obstructing the Committee’s investigation and interfering in U.S. Attorney Weiss’s investigation;35 and
  • Falsely denied the existence of bank records in the Committee’s possession.36

See below for Raskin’s footnotes to just these 10 bullet points.

One reason the far right might stoke the conspiracy fires via Chuck Grassley rather than Comer is because Comer’s claims never last more than 20 minutes before Raskin or Dan Goldman expose them as nonsense. Grassley can make wildly unsubstantiated and often recycled and debunked claims and no one in the Senate will mock him for it.

But his claims are, if possible, even more ridiculous than Comer’s.

Take the headline claim — the one Comer is fund-raising off of: Chuck Grassley claims that the FBI sicced forty informants on Joe Biden, his brother, and his son.

As just one initial example, I’ve been made aware that at one point in time the FBI maintained over 40 Confidential Human Sources that provided criminal information relating to Joe Biden, James Biden, and Hunter Biden. An essential question that must be answered is this: did the FBI investigate the information or shut it down? Indeed, if those sources were improperly shut down, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for the FBI, as this letter will address.

Four-zero. Forty.

When just three informants interacted with Trump’s Coffee Boy as part of the Russian investigation, Republicans squealed about it for years. They claimed it was a gross weaponization of the FBI, not against Trump’s Coffee Boy (who told one of the informants, “I have to be an idiot not to monetize” access to Trump and “if [Trump] loses probably could be better for my personal business”), but Trump himself. But Chuck Grassley rolls out the claim that the FBI used forty informants against Biden and his immediate family, some known examples of which would have come during the period when Biden was the expected or declared candidate against Trump, and somehow he doesn’t see flashing sirens of abuse at the FBI?


Nope. Instead, he’s sure that the FBI must have ignored those forty informants because they haven’t yet substantiated any crime against Biden and his family.

Grassley makes a similar move when he raises the FD-1023 he recklessly released this summer, which showed that Mykola Zlochevsky said something different in late 2019, probably during impeachment, than he had said earlier in the year. Grassley points to what he claims as confirmation from Bill Barr, Chris Wray, and Paul Abbate that there’s an ongoing investigation into the allegation as proof that it must have validity (in reality, Wray and Abbate appear to have been trying to protect the viability of this and all other informants, which Grassley instead decided he should burn to the ground).

The report, including information on the Biden family 1023, was ultimately transmitted to U.S. Attorney Weiss who, according to Attorney General Garland, had every investigative tool at his disposal even before being designated as a special counsel. 14

Since making the Biden family 1023 public on July 25, 2023, it’s been made clear by former Attorney General Barr, Director Wray, and Deputy Director Abbate that the 1023 is part of an ongoing investigative matter, indicating its investigative credibility and authenticity. 15 As such, it’s essential that we examine the alleged attempts by FBI personnel to sweep it under the rug, as well as what steps U.S. Attorney Weiss has taken to use the document for his ongoing investigation.

The one person who said there was an ongoing investigation pertaining to the FD-1023 was David Weiss, in a letter to Lindsey Graham. The fact that the guy in charge of the Hunter Biden investigation said this is a pretty good indication it hasn’t been swept under the rug.

As to the rest of Chuck Grassley’s claims, they have been almost entirely debunked by the House investigation.

For example, Grassley cites to his own letter about Joseph Ziegler and Gary Shapley’s testimony to support a claim that Lesley Wolf “prevented investigators from seeking information” about Biden’s involvement in what he claims were Hunter Biden’s “criminal arrangements.”

Also on October 23, 2020, Justice Department and FBI Special Agents from the Pittsburgh Field Office briefed Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Wolf, one of U.S. Attorney Weiss’s top prosecutors, and FBI Special Agents from the Baltimore Field Office with respect to the contents of the Biden family 1023. However, the meeting did not include any IRS agents, and AUSA Wolf prevented investigators from seeking information about Joe Biden ‘s involvement in Hunter Biden’s criminal arrangements. 18

What the evidence actually shows, however, is that agents blew off Wolf’s restrictions on references to the then-President-elect, and asked those questions anyway. In response, Hunter’s former partner, Rob Walker, told investigative agents that Joe was never involved in Hunter’s business. “I certainly never was thinking at any time the VP was a part of anything we were doing.”

But even that was a cherry-pick. After Shapley revealed that claim, Ziegler released the full Walker transcript (compare the excerpt from Shapley’s deposition with the full transcript released in September). The excerpt Shapley released at first left out critical details, details that impact Grassley’s complaints that Tony Bobulinski hasn’t been treated as a star witness.

The full Rob Walker interview makes it clear there was a whole lot of bad blood between Hunter Biden and Bobulinski that should raise questions about Bobulinski’s biases. At least per Walker — at the time (in 2017), Hunter believed that Bobulinski was too close to some Russians, which Walker explained that he treated as credible because the first time Walker met Bobulinski, Bobulinski was with someone claimed to be Viktor Vekselberg’s son.

Walker: …but ah.., um.., I.., I think that he was “blown off” because um.., ah.., Tony’s a.., an asshole…,

Wilson: (Laughs).

Walker: …um, but um.., you know, I think Hunter ah.., at one point, was ah.., um.., a little “bent out of shape” with Tony and ah..,

Wilson: Hmph hmph.

Walker: …granted he wasn’t in his.., his right mind but ah.., he thought that ah…, um.., Tony had some weird ah.., business background stuff…

Wilson: Okay.

Walker: …and Hunter did tell me that he had Tony, ah, checked out at one time…,


Walker: …and he ah.., he thought that ah.., Tony was ah.., close or too close to ah.., ah.., some Russians.


Walker: The first time, which it didn’t seem so unbelievable to me because the.., the.., the first time that I met Tony, um, I was in ah.., Las Vegas.  Ah, James came over, um, and ah.., I had a friend from here come up with me and ah.., some people from Los Angeles came over that were friends of James.  One was Tony and Tony was with ah, a kid named Alex and ah.., Tony didn’t tell me this but Alex was Russian and they thought it was ah.., or I was told it was ah.., Viktor…

Soline: Hmph hmph.

Walker: …Vexelberg’s (phonetic) son who was ah.., who Viktor is.., at the time he wasn’t on the sanctions list I’m sure.., but I think he’s been sanctioned now…


Walker: …Tony’s background was that he.., ah.., you know.., had been pushing deals in the past in New York.., in and around New York.., and um.., ah.., with ah.., ah.., Russians and ah.., Russian money.

At the time Walker shared these details in December 2020, he was absolutely livid about Bobulinski’s public claims after the release of the “laptop,” so Walker’s comments shouldn’t be credited all that heavily either. But Walker temporally placed both Hunter’s suspicions about Bobulinski and the even earlier incident in Vegas years before Bobulinski’s Fox News media tour. Walker wasn’t insinuating that Bobulinski had ties to Russia because he was involved with the laptop caper; he was describing what he and Hunter believed three years before the laptop caper.

That’s important background to Grassley’s similarly unsubstantiated claim that Bobulinski’s testimony — at which he was represented by White House Counsel Stefan Passantino — matched something in Gary Shapley’s testimony.

On October 23, 2020, Tony Bobulinski met with and was interviewed by James Dawson, a Washington Field Office Special Agent in Charge, Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge Giulio Arseni, Special Agent William Novak, and Special Agent Garrett Churchill. 16 Bobulinski provided first-hand knowledge as an eye and ear witness to Joe Biden’s involvement in potentially criminal schemes with Hunter Biden. Notably, on October 13, 2022, I wrote a letter to the both of you and U.S. Attorney Weiss with respect to a summary of Bobulinski’s FBI interview that my staff reviewed which included, in part, reference to the Biden’s receiving an unsecured $5 million loan, intended to be forgivable, from CEFC in 2017 that would serve as payment for actions Joe Biden took during his vice presidency. This financial strategy to illegally treat income as a loan is consistent with IRS whistleblower testimony that indicated Hunter Biden attempted the same with respect to other income, including payments received from Burisma. 17

It’s true that Shapley made this allegation over and over (it’s also true that Hunter did rely on loans as he grew more and more broke overcome by his addiction). But Ziegler’s testimony and David Weiss’ own explanation for not charging the earlier Burisma years revealed that the circumstances of the Burisma payments were not as clearcut as Shapley claimed.

[N]ow that the U.S. Attorney looked at the case, they don’t want to move forward with it.

And essentially what he told me is that not only are they not going to join the case and give us assistance — so give us another AUSA, give us someone to help there — they also told our prosecutors that they don’t think we have — that we can — or they don’t think that we have the charges — or not the ability, but the evidence for the charges to charge in D.C.

Then there are the other Grassley complaints that had already been debunked by Tim Thibault’s and other House witnesses’ testimony.

Grassley complains that “an avenue of derogatory Hunter Biden reporting” was ordered closed by Tim Thibault.

In that same letter, I noted that in October 2020, an avenue of derogatory Hunter Biden reporting was ordered closed at the direction of Assistant Special Agent in Charge Tim Thibault. My office has been made aware that FBI agents responsible for the information that was shut down were interviewed by the FBI HQ team in furtherance of Auten’s assessment.

Grassley doesn’t admit what Peter Schweizer has admitted: that he was the “avenue of derogatory … reporting” in question: Steve Bannon’s sidekick and propagandist (and so two degrees from two influence operations the FBI investigated, that of Andrii Derkach and that suspected of Guo Wengwui).

Schweizer is one of the 40 informants Grassley boasted about and the reason why he claims that the other 39 informants may have been shut down too.

Grassley seems to have botched the details about his handlers being interviewed by the Foreign Influence Task Force: Thibault tried to get them into the briefing, but FBI refused — in part because the daughter of one was posting related content on Daily Caller).

As Thibault testified, there were two reasons why he shut down Schweizer (based on whose book, Clinton Cash, Thibault had opened an investigation into Hillary in 2016). The first was that the Baltimore FBI team didn’t want Schweizer’s reporting, some of which was sourced to the laptop, because they already had the laptop and follow-on warrants and Schweizer’s involvement would only provide something Hunter’s attorneys might one day use to undermine the credibility of the inevstigation.

Here’s how Grassley twists what must be that discussion.

On October 5, 2020, Supervisory Special Agent Eric Miller and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Thibault participated in a call with the Washington Field Office; Baltimore Field Office; Wilmington, Delaware FBI agents; and FBI management personnel. That call allegedly included Assistant Special Agent in Charge Alfred Watson, Supervisory Special Agent Joe Gordon, Special Agent Susan Roepcke and Special Agent Joshua Wilson. Notably, FBI agents from the Baltimore Field Office were attached to U.S. Attorney Weiss’s investigation. My office has been informed that on that call it was confirmed the Delaware case currently run by U.S. Attorney Weiss was opened as a money laundering and Foreign Agents Registration Act case, not a bribery case as the Biden family 1023 would appear to require, and that it was jointly worked with the IRS. On that call, it was made clear that Delaware FBI agents were in possession of email evidence that contradicted denials made by Joe Biden that he was never aware of or involved in Hunter Biden’s business arrangements.

When Grassley said that the Delaware team was in possession of email evidence that, “contradicted Biden’s denials,” he meant they had the laptop and probably the iCloud warrant returns. There, too, he appears to be parroting Shapley’s claims about the laptop, which spun Hunter claiming to involve his father in business calls as proof that Joe was involved.

The other reason Thibault shut down Schweizer is because of what he learned in a Foreign Intelligence Task Force briefing that provided more context about things. Grassley claims that what persuaded Thibault was a Brian Auten assessment about disinformation that “improperly” discredited claims about Hunter Biden as disinformation.

On July 25, 2022, I wrote to the both of you.5 In that letter, I described whistleblower allegations that the FBI developed information in 2020 about Hunter Biden ‘s criminal financial and related activity but ultimately shut it down based on false assertions that it was subject to foreign disinformation. It’s been alleged that the basis for shutting the investigative activity down was an August 2020 assessment created by FBI Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Brian Auten. That assessment was used by an FBI HQ team to improperly discredit negative Hunter Biden information as disinformation and caused investigative activity to cease.

Yet Laura Dehmlow testified to the House that the claim that, “there was an assessment on Hunter Biden disinformation,” was inaccurate and agreed that, “the allegations … with respect to Mr. Auten are just wrong.”

Grassley ends with a claim that his story is based on “multiple credible whistleblowers” and a wail about political infection.

Based on the information provided to my office over a period of years by multiple credible whistleblowers, there appears to be an effort within the Justice Department and FBI to shut down investigative activity relating to the Biden family. Such decisions point to significant political bias infecting the decision-making of not only the Attorney General and FBI Director, but also line agents and prosecutors. Our Republic cannot survive such a political infection and you have an obligation to this country to clear the air.

But we know these whistleblowers aren’t credible. Several of them are undoubtedly agents disgruntled because Thibault shut down a propagandist as a source. One likely disgruntled agent — the aforementioned father whose daughter was reporting related content on Daily Caller — went to work for Heritage Foundation after he quit the FBI rather than be reassigned from a position where he could politicize public corruption investigations. Another chased the ItalyGate conspiracy theory long after Richard Donaghue debunked it. Ziegler and Shapley’s claims have been debunked by every witness who testified and a great many of the documents they themselves shared.

And that’s just the whistleblowers. Consider what we know about those forty informants. They definitely or may include (as Raskin partly addressed):

  • Gal Luft, whose March 2020 claims came amid interviews where he also allegedly lied to the FBI
  • The aforementioned June 2020 FD-1023 reporting a late 2019 statement from Zlochevsky that conflicted with things Zlochevsky had said earlier in 2019
  • Steve Bannon flunky Peter Schweizer’s election 2020 season pitches
  • Probably at least three Ukrainian sources that were part of Rudy’s campaign efforts
  • People tied to Dmitry Firtash and Andrii Derkach

There may be localized people with their own political gripes, too; for example, in addition to metadata that could have been manufactured by anyone in possession of a “Hunter Biden” “laptop,” one reason the FBI treated John Paul Mac Isaac’s claims seriously was “intelligence” that said Hunter was in Delaware at the time.

The point being, even if the notion that the FBI used forty — 40!!!! — informants to investigate Donald Trump’s rival doesn’t set off alarm bells, the quality and the biases of the known informants should.

The House investigation has made it clear that Grassley’s credible whistleblowers aren’t credible whistleblowers. As DC US Attorney Matthew Graves charitably described it, Grassley’s sources delivered, “the garble that can happen when you layer hearsay on top of hearsay on top of hearsay. And when you look at a lot of this, it’s someone said that someone said that someone said.” The House investigation also made clear that at least some of Grassley’s forty informants aren’t credible sources, either.

And that may be why Republicans are recycling these debunked claims over in the Senate, where they’ll continue to churn up Fox viewers, but where they’ll avoid the scrutiny that has already debunked the claims in the House.

27 Letter from Ranking Member Jamie Raskin, Committee on Oversight and Accountability, to Chairman James Comer, Committee on Oversight and Accountability (Sept. 19, 2023) (online at 19.JBR%20to%20Comer%20re%20Schwerin%20Interview.pdf); see also House Republicans Downplay Meeting with Key Biden Aide, HuffPost (Sept. 19, 2023) (online at www

28 Letter from Ranking Member Jamie Raskin and Rep. Dan Goldman, Committee on Oversight and Accountability, to Chairman James Comer, Committee on Oversight and Accountability (July 11, 2023) (online at 11.JBR%20Goldman%20to%20Comer%20re%20Luft.pdf); Rep. James Comer (@RepJamesComer), X (July 7, 2023) (online at

29 Rep. Dan Goldman (@RepDanGoldman), X (Aug. 7, 2023) (online at

30 Memorandum from Democratic Staff to Democratic Members, Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Transcribed Interview of Former FBI Supervisory Special Agent (Aug. 16, 2023) (online at 16.Democratic%20Member%20Memorandum%20re%20FBI%20SSA%20Transcript.pdf); Transcript of Devon Archer Testimony Doesn’t Back Key Claims About Joe and Hunter Biden, PolitiFact (Aug. 4, 2023) (online at; Devon Archer Said the Opposite of What Republicans Claimed, Washington Post (Aug. 3, 2023) (online at; Memorandum from Democratic Staff to Democratic Members, Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Oversight Committee Investigation into Presidential and Classified Records and Transcribed Interview of Former Executive Assistant to then-Vice President Biden (May 3, 2023) (online at %20FINAL.pdf).

31 Rep. Comer to Newsmax: Impeachment Inquiry Vote Possible Mid-Sept., NewsMax (Sept. 7, 2023) (online at www; Committee on Oversight and Accountability Democrats (@OversightDems ), X (Sept. 8, 2023) (online at

32 Transcript of Devon Archer Testimony Doesn’t Back Key Claims About Joe and Hunter Biden, PolitiFact (Aug. 4, 2023) (online at; Devon Archer Said the Opposite of What Republicans Claimed, Washington Post (Aug. 3, 2023) (online at; Memorandum from Democratic Staff to Democratic Members, Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Transcribed Interview of Devon Archer (Aug. 3, 2023) (online at 03.Democratic%20Member%20Memorandum%20re%20Archer%20Transcribed%20Interview%20Final.pdf).

33 The Faulkner Focus, Fox News (Apr. 21, 2023) (online at; Chairman James Comer (@RepJamesComer), X (Apr. 16, 2023) (online at; Memorandum from Democratic Staff to Democratic Members, Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Chairman Comer’s Misuse and Distortion of Confidential Bank Information (May 10, 2023) (online at mbers%20re%20Misuse%20and%20Distortion%20of%20Confidential%20Bank%20Information%20FINAL.pdf); Comer Releases Biden Family Probe Update Without Showing Link to President, Politico (May 10, 2023) (online at

34 Fox and Friends, Fox News (Mar. 31, 2023) (online at https://video.snapstream net/Play/8cJmJQ9KSgTuI2622JTEza?accessToken=cr1lk3ctb7qf0); Jesse Watters Primetime, Fox News (July 3, 2023) (online at www; My Fellow Republicans: One Disgraceful Impeachment Doesn’t Deserve Another, Washington Post (Sept. 15, 2023) (online at; Debunking 4 Viral Rumors About the Bidens and Ukraine, New York Times (Oct. 29, 2019) (online at; Memorandum from Democratic Staff to Democratic Members, Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Chairman Comer and Senator Grassley’s Decision to Publicly Release FBI Form FD-1023 (July 24, 2023) (online at 24.Dem%20Memo%20re%20Comer%20Grassley%20Letter%20FD-1023_.pdf).

35 Sunday Morning Futures, Fox News (Aug. 20, 2023) (online at; Kudlow, Fox Business (June 29, 2023) (online at; The Daily, New York Times (Sept. 15, 2023) (online at html?showTranscript=1); McCarthy Launches Biden Impeachment Inquiry—With Zero Evidence, New Republic (Sept. 12, 2023) (online at; Memorandum from Democratic Staff to Democratic Members, Committee on the Judiciary and Committee on Oversight and Accountability, IRS and FBI Witnesses Debunk Republicans’ False Claims About Political Interference in Special Counsel Weiss’s Investigation (Sept. 27, 2023) (online at 27%20Joint%20Democratic%20Memorandum%20re%20IRS%20and%20FBI%20Witnesses%20Debunk%20Politic al%20Interference%20Claims.pdf).

36 Mornings with Maria, Fox Business (Oct. 25, 2023) (online at; Letter from Ranking Member Jamie Raskin, Committee on Oversight and Accountability, to Chairman James Comer, Committee on Oversight and Accountability (Oct. 26, 2023) (online at er%20re.%20Subpoenas.pdf); GOP Touts Bombshell Biden Payments—But Records Suggest Otherwise, Messenger (Oct. 26, 2023) (online at; Another GOP “Bombshell” About Joe Biden Turns Out to Be a Dud, HuffPost (Oct. 23, 2023) (online at www

After Trump Issued Threats, Abigail Jo Shry “Came after” Judge Tanya Chutkan

As noted, Judge Tanya Chutkan lifted the stay on the gag she imposed on Donald Trump. In her opinion lifting the stay, Chutkan laid out how Trump’s garden variety attacks on Joe Biden were fair game under the gag, but his specific attack on Mark Meadows in conjunction with the Jack Smith prosecution was not.

Two of Defendant’s social media posts since the Order’s entry illustrate the comprehensible difference between the statements it permits and those it proscribes. First, on October 20, 2023—after the Order was entered, but before it was administratively stayed— Defendant stated:

Does anyone notice that the Election Rigging Biden Administration never goes after the Riggers, but only after those that want to catch and expose the Rigging dogs. Massive information and 100% evidence will be made available during the Corrupt Trials started by our Political Opponent. We will never let 2020 happen again. Look at the result, OUR COUNTRY IS BEING DESTROYED. MAGA!!!3

This statement asserts that Defendant is innocent, that his prosecution is politically motivated, and that the Biden administration is corrupt. It does not violate the Order’s prohibition of “targeting” certain individuals; in fact, the Order expressly permits such assertions. Order at 3.

By contrast, on October 24, 2023—after the Order was administratively stayed— Defendant stated:

I don’t think Mark Meadows would lie about the Rigged and Stollen 2020 Presidential Election merely for getting IMMUNITY against Prosecution (PERSECUTION!) by Deranged Prosecutor, Jack Smith. BUT, when you really think about it, after being hounded like a dog for three years, told you’ll be going to jail for the rest of your life, your money and your family will be forever gone, and we’re not at all interested in exposing those that did the RIGGING — If you say BAD THINGS about that terrible “MONSTER,” DONALD J. TRUMP, we won’t put you in prison, you can keep your family and your wealth, and, perhaps, if you can make up some really horrible “STUFF” a out him, we may very well erect a statue of you in the middle of our decaying and now very violent Capital, Washington, D.C. Some people would make that deal, but they are weaklings and cowards, and so bad for the future our Failing Nation. I don’t think that Mark Meadows is one of them, but who really knows? MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!4

This statement would almost certainly violate the Order under any reasonable definition of “targeting.”5 Indeed, Defendant appears to concede as much, Reply in Support of Motion to Stay, ECF No. 123, at 10 n.3 (“If the Gag order had been in effect, President Trump would have been unable to [make the statement].”)—and for good reason. The statement singles out a foreseeable witness for purposes of characterizing his potentially unfavorable testimony as a “lie” “mad[e] up” to secure immunity, and it attacks him as a “weakling[] and coward[]” if he provides that unfavorable testimony—an attack that could readily be interpreted as an attempt to influence or prevent the witness’s participation in this case. The plain distinctions between this statement and the prior one—apparent to the court and both parties—demonstrate that far from being arbitrary or standardless, the Order’s prohibition on “targeting” statements can be straightforwardly understood and applied.



5 Because of the administrative stay on the Order, this statement is not before the court. Before concluding that any statement violated the Order, the court would afford the parties an opportunity to provide their positions on the statement’s meaning and permissibility.

Since Chutkan lifted the stay, Trump has made six attacks on his failing social media platform, four complaining that the prosecution against him wasn’t initiated three years ago (under Bill Barr?!?! at a time when Bill Barr was still corruptly shutting down prosecutions of Trump and his people?!?!?!), before the conspiracies charged against him started, and two attacking Judge Chutkan.

All of these attacks are perfectly permissible under the gag.

While Chutkan’s staffers are covered by the gag, she specifically excluded Joe Biden and herself from the gag.

Because Chutkan is excluded from the gag, I thought it worth reviewing the specific circumstances of the threat Abigail Jo Shry made against Judge Chutkan, which as I noted first got raised in the government’s opposition to staying the gag.

Such risks are far from speculative here, the Court found, given uncontradicted facts submitted by the Government showing that when the defendant “has singled out certain people in public statements in the past,” it has “led to them being threatened and harassed.” ECF No. 103 at 66-67.1

1 Shortly after being assigned to the case, the Court itself received a racist death threat explicitly tied to the Court’s role in presiding over the defendant’s case. See United States v. Shry, No. 4:23-cr-413, ECF No. 1 at 3 (Criminal Complaint) (S.D. Tex. Aug. 11, 2023) (caller stating, among other things, “‘If Trump doesn’t get elected in 2024, we are coming to kill you, so tread lightly, b***h. . . . You will be targeted personally, publicly, your family, all of it.’”). This incident, like many of the others the Government cited, was widely publicized and surely well known to the defendant.

That is, it first got raised explicitly in the opposition to lift the stay.

Not stated anywhere in this filing is that when DOJ said Shry made her threat against Judge Chutkan and Sheila Jackson Lee “shortly after” Judge Chutkan was assigned to the case, they mean Shry made the threat on August 5, one day after Trump issued his, “if you come after me” threat, which was included in the initial motion for a gag (the consideration of which, remember, John Lauro succeeded in stalling for ten days).

Trump followed that attack with more, including several almost identical to the ones he used overnight, except that they swapped out Jack Smith (who is covered under the gag) for Joe Biden.

When DOJ first moved for a gag on September 5, Shry remained detained pretrial, based on the findings that she had repeatedly made increasingly serious threats in the previous year.

Defendant has been criminally charged four times in the past year for engaging in similar conduct. On September 20, 2022, she was convicted in two separate cases (misdemeanor resisting arrest and misdemeanor criminal mischief) and sentenced to 30 days imprisonment. Recently, on July 11, 2023, she was charged with misdemeanor threat causing fear of imminent serious bodily injury. It is alleged that she committed the instant offense while on bond for the July 11 incident, less than one month after it occurred.

Defendant suffers from major depression and has a long history of substance abuse. She denies using any illegal substances for the past year. However, according to Defendant’s father, she excessively drinks beer daily. Defendant lives with her boyfriend, but he is presently charged with a family assault against her. Defendant has two children, ages 17 and 19, who currently live with her parents.

Defendant’s father, Mark Shry testified at the detention hearing. Mr. Shry believes that Defendant is a non-violent alcoholic. He testified that she sits on her couch daily watching the news while drinking too many beers. She then becomes agitated by the news and starts calling people and threatening them. Mr. Shry stated that his daughter never leaves her residence and therefore would not act upon her threats. He has agreed that Defendant can reside with him and Defendant’s mother, and he would serve as a third-party custodian.

Defendant’s aggressive and threatening behavior has continually escalated during the past year as evidenced by her criminal conduct in four separate cases.

But by the time DOJ resubmitted the motion on September 15, Shry had been released to home detention with an order to get mental health and substance abuse treatment.

In less than 24 hours since the stay, Donald Trump has shown a fine-tuned ability to continue to issue threats even as he adheres to the letter of the gag, just like I used to legalistically adhere to my seventh grade Geometry teacher’s rule against chewing gum in class by simply not chewing the gum in my mouth.

But there are thousands — maybe millions — of Trump supporters with mental health problems out there, sitting on couches, getting worked up about what they see on Fox News.

And as this gag gets appealed all the way to SCOTUS, Judge Chutkan has chosen to entrust her own safety from threats like Shry’s to the US Marshals, not to any gag.

Update: Fixed some points where I said the opposite of what I meant wrt lifting or staying the gag.

The “Piles” of Chris Kise Bullshit Devlin Barrett Claims to Believe

According to this piece, Devlin Barrett (this time, with Perry Stein) claims to believe a bunch of Chris Kise bullshit that has already been debunked in court filings.

One key issue is how much time Trump and his legal team get to review the piles of secret evidence in the case. Trump’s lawyers have accused the government of being too slow to provide access to the full catalogue of classified papers, and insist they need more time to prepare.

It’s true that Trump has claimed that. It’s true that Trump insists they need more time. But these claims were largely manufactured, which was readily apparent if you read the court filings closely.

Over the last five weeks, Trump’s lawyers have made a series of claims about classified production to support a bid to delay the stolen document trial until after the election.

Some of those were real: In particular, the Court Information Security Officer had to keep juggling a number of the documents Trump stole because they were so sensitive.

The first set probably involved the single charged and some number of uncharged nuclear documents, which defense attorneys were not yet cleared to access (the CISO basically removed them from the defense SCIF so the attorneys would be cleared to read everything that was left in there).

The second set — of first four and then another five — of the charged documents are Special Measures documents (those with additional compartments). Those could not be stored in the existing SCIFs in Miami without additional measures put in place. They were available in DC, and have now been made available in Miami. Altogether, it appears those Special Measures documents are around 44 pages in length. The defense team still needs a laptop equipped to write about them, the only apparent remaining delay in classified materials outstanding.

Those exchanges (most clearly laid out here) have revealed that, save for some classified FBI Agent emails that DOJ will provide closer to trial as Jencks production and some documents DOJ wants to provide with substitutions under CIPA 4 that this fight is holding up, this is the current universe of classified discovery in the case.

At less than 5,500 pages, it could hardly be called a “pile,” as Devlin did, unless you were referring to the horse manure that Kise was spreading.

Many of the claims that Chris Kise made were transparent bullshit. The most important one — because it appears to have fooled Aileen Cannon — is that the reason why a bunch of classified documents weren’t available in Miami (some were available in DC, where a number of Trump’s lawyers are) is because the defense attorneys weren’t in Miami to read them, something they delayed doing during several competing filings in this dispute. A CISO can’t just drop off nuclear documents in an unattended SCIF, but the guy who left the same document in his beach resort may not understand that.

It’s possible the defense put off going to Miami because the Special Measures documents were not yet there.

What’s clear, however, is that Trump’s team waited 11 days before reviewing documents that were ready for their viewing once they showed up to review them, then blamed DOJ because they waited.

A still more amusing complaint is that DOJ provided a disk with the items in a box of White House schedules that a Trump aide had scanned and then downloaded onto her computer, which because of duplicates amounted to 13,584 pages, of which just 15 pages were classified. DOJ had tried to provide all the unclassified pages in June, but Trump asked DOJ to hold off. That requested delay is one of the reasons Trump claims he can’t stand trial before the election.

Trump also spent weeks of October complaining that DOJ had provided 1,400 pages of Jencks materials (statements related to the case from people who’ll be witnesses at trial) in October, rather than the weeks before trial, when it is due.

Kise also complained he couldn’t review the classified discovery because he had to be in Trump’s 3-month fraud trial in New York, something that was known when Judge Cannon set the schedule.

As the government notes, Aileen Cannon’ schedule only had one deadline, for the initial production of classified documents, and the only delay in meeting that deadline came from Judge Cannon’s own dawdling over the protective order.

The Scheduling Order set September 7 as the deadline for the Government’s first production of classified discovery. The Government delivered certain classified discovery to the defense SCIF before then, but it was not available to the defense until September 13, after the Court entered the CIPA Section 3 protective orders, ECF Nos. 150-152.

Below I’ve put the series of claims Trump has made with DOJ’s debunking.


On October 17, 2023, the Special Counsel’s Office caused approximately 2,487 pages of documents and four discs to be delivered to President Trump’s counsel, for the first time, at a secure facility in this District.


As the Government explained in a recent filing, ECF No. 187 at 5-6, it informed the defense on October 6 that the production had been provided to the Classified Information Security Officer (CISO) and inquired the next day when the defense would resume its review of classified discovery in the defense SCIF, so the Government could arrange for it to be delivered there. Defense counsel waited 11 days, from October 6 until October 17, to receive the materials in the defense SCIF.


[T]he Office’s October 6, 2023 production of approximately 2,400 pages of additional classified discovery is still not available for review in this District.

Debunking, One:

As the Government explained in a recent filing, ECF No. 187 at 5-6, it informed the defense on October 6 that the production had been provided to the Classified Information Security Officer (CISO) and inquired the next day when the defense would resume its review of classified discovery in the defense SCIF, so the Government could arrange for it to be delivered there. Defense counsel waited 11 days, from October 6 until October 17, to receive the materials in the defense SCIF.

Debunking, Two:

As in all federal criminal cases involving classified discovery, to ensure confidentiality for the defense, the Government does not have access to the defense SCIF. To deliver classified discovery to the defense SCIF requires the presence of either the CISO or appropriately cleared members of the defense team.


A recent, untimely production nearly doubled the volume of classified discovery, and the Office has not explained why those materials were withheld from prior productions.


[T]he Special Counsel’s Office recently made available a classified production consisting of approximately 2,400 pages and four discs.


[T]he Office still has not explained the timing of its October 6, 2023 production of thousands of pages of additional classified discovery, which is greatly in excess of what the Office estimated to the Court as recently as September 12, 2023.


[T]he largest set of documents in the most recent classified production—a set of about 1,400 pages of emails described in defendant Trump’s classified supplement—consists mostly of Jencks material, which this Court has indicated is not due until closer to trial.


Mr. Kise has not yet been cleared fully to review all the CIPA materials and is currently representing President Trump in a trial in New York which is expected to conclude by December 22, 2023, well after expiration of many current deadlines as well as the hearing dates this Court has established. See People v. Trump, et. al, Index No. 452564/2022 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2022). He has therefore had no opportunity to review any of the CIPA materials or to participate in the preparation of the defense. President Trump should not be denied the assistance of core counsel in a matter of this significance due to the Government’s delayed discovery process.


Mr. Kise received an interim security clearance in late July, which authorized him to review about 2,100 pages of classified discovery the moment they were produced on September 13–the same day the protective orders issued. ECF Nos. 150, 151, 152. These materials included 16 of 31 charged documents and about 600 pages of classified interview transcripts, among other materials. So, although it is true that as of their filing Mr. Kise had not been “cleared fully,” it is inaccurate to suggest that that fact at all explains his failure to review “any of the CIPA materials.” This leaves only one of the proffered explanations for Mr. Kise’s alleged inability to review “any of the CIPA materials” as the possibly accurate one—Mr. Kise’s competing obligations in the New York trial. But those obligations were aired at the July 18 scheduling hearing, July 18 Tr. at 35, 43, and the Court has already taken them into account in setting trial in May.


[T]the Office omits from its “supplemental response” that the four discs contained more than three gigabytes of data relating to six facilities, approximately 13,584 additional pages.


[A]ll but 15 pages of this 13,584-page set of materials had already been produced in unclassified discovery; and the reason the entire set of materials—including the previously produced unclassified pages—was provided together in classified discovery is that the defense asked that it be done that way. The 13,584 pages consist of multiple copies of documents from a box of scheduling materials from Trump’s presidency stored at Mar-a-Lago and elsewhere in West Palm Beach. During the investigation of this case, the Government obtained duplicate copies of the box’s contents—including from the box itself, as well as from a laptop and a cloud storage account to which an aide to defendant Trump had scanned copies—totaling the 13,584 pages, only 4,242 of which are unique. Fifteen of the pages were classified. On June 21, the Government produced to defendant Trump the unclassified digitized contents of the box, containing all but the 15 classified pages of the total of 4,242 unique pages. During a meet-and-confer on September 20, the defense indicated that rather than receiving productions of only the classified pages extracted from electronic devices, separated from the digitized unclassified material already provided in unclassified discovery, they wanted to receive any classified pages from electronic media together with surrounding contents so that it could ascertain where the pages had been stored.

Claim [classified supplement]:

The special measures documents could not be discussed in the defense SCIF when counsel resumed review of materials there on October 17 and 18.


[A]n equipment failure deactivated a security measure that prevented discussion of the special measures documents in Defense SCIF 1 (but review could still occur), and that the following day, October 18, counsel moved one block over to Defense SCIF 2, which was authorized for both review and discussion of all the classified discovery and to which the special measures documents were re-delivered.

Gary Shapley’s Handlers Revisit Past Leak Investigations into Chuck Grassley’s Staff

According to a press release on the website for Empower Oversight–the group handling Gary Shapley’s now-debunked media tour–Empower’s founder, Jason Foster, was the subject of an FBI subpoena to Google in 2017.

Google first alerted Foster to the September 12, 2017 subpoena on October 19, 2023. That’s one of the reasons I find this FOIA so interesting. The notice came more than six years after the subpoena, suggesting FBI likely continued to investigate someone tied to the investigation for at least a year longer than statutes of limitation would normally extend.

Empower seems to suggest there’s a tie between the subpoena and one served on Google pertaining to Kash Patel’s personal email two months later, on November 20, 2017, as does Margot “Federalist Faceplant” Cleveland in this propaganda piece reporting on the subpoenas. While Empower says that this subpoena asked for information on other staffers, it only cites Kash to substantiate its claim that other staffers had also gotten notice of a past subpoena (Cleveland does report that a HPSCI staffer was also included).

Empower Oversight has information indicating that the other accounts listed in the subpoena belonged to other staffers, both Republicans and Democrats, for U.S. House and Senate committees also engaged in oversight investigations of the Justice Department at the time pursuant to their authorities under the U.S. Constitution.


Other former staffers have publicly referenced receiving similar notices, including former U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (“HPSCI”) staffer Kashyap Patel.

They’re from the same grand jury (16-3). But they not only have different file numbers, but the one on Kash’s subpoena — that is, the later subpoena, by two months — has a lower file number, 2017R01887, as compared to 2017R01896.

Kash is suing roughly the same people over his subpoena as Empower is FOIAing: Empower is asking about former DC US Attorney Jessie Liu, Rod Rosenstein, his one-time Principal Associate Robert Hur (currently the Special Counsel investigating Joe Biden’s classified documents), and Ed O’Callaghan, who replaced Hur, along with then DOJ Spox Sarah Isgur. Kash is suing Liu, Rosenstein, Hur, and O’Callahan, plus FBI Director Chris Wray and the two AUSAs behind the subpoena.

There are problems with both of their target sets. For example, Liu wasn’t even sworn in as US Attorney until September 25, 2017 — after the Foster subpoena (though before the Kash one). So Empower’s suggestion that Liu had some influence on the subpoena on him is nonsense. Rosenstein wasn’t sworn in until April 26, 2017, almost five months after the request for conversations with the press starts.

Similarly, Ed O’Callaghan, whom Kash describes as, “the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General for Mr. Rosenstein at the time in question,” didn’t move from the National Security Division to Rosenstein’s office until April 2018, after Hur was confirmed as US Attorney for Maryland and long after both the subpoena implicating Kash and his blow-up with Rosenstein. Though if these were really sensitive leak investigations, NSD may have had a role in them. (Empower includes NSD within its FOIA.)

Those details don’t seem to matter for their projects: both men appear to be using the subpoenas as an excuse to settle scores.

Kash, ever the conspiracy theorist, brought a Bivens claim insinuating that Rosenstein and others violated Kash’s Fourth Amendment rights because DOJ served a subpoena — something not requiring probable cause under the Fourth Amendment — to obtain the subscriber information for a list of around 14 identifiers, of which his personal email was just one. There’s nothing on the face of the subpoena to suggest that DOJ knew his email was tied to someone who was a Congressional staffer at the time of the subpoena (though again, Federalist Faceplant seems to know at least one other person listed was a staffer). In fact, the subpoena asked for contact information going back to April 2016, a year before Kash moved from DOJ to HPSCI, so it could have pertained to a leak internal to DOJ.

Nevertheless, Kash spins a tale where the November 2017 subpoena is in some way connected with what he claims is Rosenstein’s threat, over a month later, to subpoena HPSCI staffers.

5. The illegitimate grounds for the subpoena were made clear when, shortly after the FBI and DOJ previewed what would become the “Nunes Memo,” which outlined significant issues with FBI’s and the DOJ’s manner of opening and conducting the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (“DAG Rosenstein”) threatened to subpoena the records of the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee staff, including Mr. Patel, during a closed-door meeting about producing documents requested by the Committee for their investigation into DOJ’s and the FBI’s, its subagency, conduct in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

6. The Department of Justice attempted to defend against the allegation of this threat to Legislative Branch employees, but admitted, at a minimum, that DAG Rosenstein did threaten to subpoena records of Congressional staff in contempt proceedings over the DOJ’s noncompliance with multiple subpoenas. Regardless, this characterization was disputed by multiple Committee staffers, and the matter was referred to the House General Counsel and Speaker of the House as a threat to subpoena records of staffers to halt their investigation.

7. DAG Rosenstein made this threat in January of 2018, approximately one month after his Department of Justice had already subpoenaed Mr. Patel’s email records from Google. This confrontation establishes that DAG Rosenstein and other Defendants were searching for a reason to subpoena Mr. Patel’s official accounts as well as the personal ones that DOJ was already improperly pursuing.

Contrary to Kash’s claim, DOJ didn’t concede Rosenstein threatened to subpoena the HPSCI records. According to a Fox News article Kash himself cites in his suit, DOJ said that Rosenstein was advising staffers to retain their emails so he could use them to defend against any accusation of contempt. Though Rosenstein did threaten to ask the House General Counsel to investigate Kash and whoever else was involved.

A DOJ official told Fox News that Rosenstein “never threatened anyone in the room with a criminal investigation.” The official said the department and bureau officials in the room “are all quite clear that the characterization of events laid out here is false,” adding that Rosenstein was responding to a threat of contempt.

“The Deputy Attorney General was making the point—after being threatened with contempt — that as an American citizen charged with the offense of contempt of Congress, he would have the right to defend himself, including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages and calling them as witnesses to demonstrate that their allegations are false,” the official said. “That is why he put them on notice to retain relevant emails and text messages, and he hopes they did so. (We have no process to obtain such records without congressional approval.)”

Further, the official said that when Rosenstein returns to the United States from a work trip, “he will request that the House General counsel conduct an internal investigation of these Congressional staffers’ conduct.”

This all seems like a retroactive attempt to politicize the investigation into some contact Kash had, potentially even before he joined HPSCI with a lawsuit claiming a violation of the Fourth Amendment under Bivens for a subpoena for toll records that a former DOJ prosecutor, especially, should know are not entitled to any expectation of privacy.

Foster’s claim, which is only a FOIA, not a lawsuit, is a bit less ridiculous (so long as you ignore his demand for communications involving Liu before she started as US Attorney and Rosenstein before he was DAG).

He seems certain that the subpoena for his phone (which he says was used by his spouse) pertained to a leak investigation. He’s filing it to find out if Rosenstein’s office ever got the same scrutiny in leak investigations that (he seems sure) some Congressional staffers got in 2017.

It begs the question of whether DOJ was equally zealous in seeking the communication records of its own employees with access to any leaked information.


(5) All communications exchanged between members of the press and DAG Rosenstein, Robert Hur, Edward O’Callaghan, Sarah Isgur, aka Sarah Isgur Flores, and/or Jessie Liu for the period from December 1, 2016 to September 26, 2017, regarding (a) communications between Michael Flynn and Sergey Kislyak, (b) Carter Page, (c) Joe Pientka, (d) Bill Priestap, (e) congressional oversight requests, (f) Senator Charles Grassley, (g) Jason Foster, and/or (h) the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

(6)All grand jury subpoenas issued for personal communications of DAG Rosenstein, Robert Hur, Edward O’Callaghan, and/or Jessie Liu between May 1, 2017 and May 1, 2018.

(7) All communications exchanged between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the National Security Division, the Deputy Attorney General’s Office and/or the FBI and Verizon between March 15, 2016, and the present regarding obtaining communications data associated with devices that Verizon serviced for U.S. House Representatives or U.S. Senate. [my emphasis]

The time range of the Foster subpoena, December 1, 2016 to May 1, 2017, covers the period of the known leaks about Mike Flynn and Carter Page — the former, especially, one of the leaks Republicans have never stopped bitching because it wasn’t charged. Yet here, a key Republican is complaining there was “no legitimate predicate” in investigating people who were briefed on information that subsequently got leaked.

There appears to have been an extensive and far-reaching effort to use grand jury subpoenas and perhaps other means to gather the personal communications records of innocent congressional staffers and their families with little or no legitimate predicate.

Empower’s mention of Carter Page also situates the subpoena temporally. The subpoena that included a number associated with Foster was served in precisely the same time period that — the Statement of the Offense and sentencing memo for James Wolfe case show — FBI was investigating the leak of the Carter Page FISA. DOJ opened that investigation in April 2017. They had shown enough probable cause against Wolfe to obtain a warrant to covertly image his cell phone by October 2017. No one complained that Wolfe was prosecuted for his presumed role in leaking some of these stories, and his prosecution alone shows that the subpoena had predicate.

Foster may have other specific stories in mind too: In addition to the leaked stories about Flynn undermining US foreign policy with the Russian Ambassador, the FOIA asks about other Russian investigation stories, including Joe Pientka, whose role in briefing Mike Flynn Grassley made into a personal crusade.

Curiously, the Steele dossier is not on here, even though that was another personal crusade of Chuck Grassley.

All that said, the timeline included in the FOIA is broader than that. Here’s how the various timelines overlap, or don’t:

  • Scope of Foster subpoena: December 1, 2016 through May 1, 2017
  • Rosenstein sworn in as DAG: April 26, 2017
  • Date of Foster subpoena: September 12, 2017
  • Jessie Liu sworn in as US Attorney: September 25, 2017
  • Scope of Foster’s FOIA for DAG communications with the press: December 1, 2016 through September 26, 2017
  • Date of Kash subpoena: November 20, 2017
  • Scope of Kash subpoena: May 1, 2016 through November 20, 2017
  • Scope of Foster’s FOIA for grand jury subpoenas targeting DAG: May 1, 2017 through May 1, 2018
  • Scope of Foster’s FOIA for Verizon records of Congressional staffers March 15, 2016 through October 24, 2023

Foster is FOIAing Rosenstein’s office, first, for conversations with the press — including about him — starting on December 1, 2016, before Trump was inaugurated and months before Rosenstein was sworn in on April 26, 2017. He is FOIAing conversations with the press that continue through the day after Liu was sworn in September 2017, still months before O’Callaghan was part of DAG.

Then he’s asking for any grand jury subpoenas (which he knows would be protected under grand jury secrecy rules and so won’t get) from the end date of the subpoena targeting him, after which point both the Flynn and Page investigations were underway, until May 1, 2018 — still four months before Legistorm shows Foster leaving his SJC job on September 4, 2018, but perhaps not coincidentally ending before the time when the Mueller investigation started to more closely probe fellow SJC staffer Barbara Ledeen’s role in Mike Flynn’s 2016 rat-fucking and two weeks shy of an interview when Mueller asked Flynn about Ledeen’s investigation of the investigation. A September 17, 2018 interview asked very specific questions about people leaking claimed details of the investigation to Flynn, as well as Flynn’s contacts with unidentified Congressional staffers.

Again, this request is a test about whether Rosenstein’s office was targeted for leaks, but the leaks that Foster suggest this subpoena pertains to — Mike Flynn’s contacts with Sergey Kislyak and Carter Page’s FISA — happened before any of these people were in DAG. Foster seems interested in leaks about leak investigations, not the leaks themselves.

It’s the final bullet I find the most interesting though. None of the subpoenas he raises in his FOIA — not the subpoena of Kash’s personal email, not the subpoena of his own Google voice phone, and not the subpoena to Apple targeting HPSCI members — target official phone records. But Foster FOIAs for official records as well: All communications between DC USAO, NSD, DAG, and FBI with Verizon — communications that might be something other than a grand jury subpoena — about obtaining phone records for the Congressional devices serviced by Verizon. He’s asking for a much broader period of time, too: March 15, 2016 — early enough to include the start date of Kash’s subpoena, but also to include some of Barbara Ledeen’s rat-fucking with Mike Flynn — through the present, late enough to include any contacts in which Chuck Grassley staffers used their official devices to share information about the Hunter Biden investigation with the press.

This last request is not about Rosenstein; Rosenstein was only DAG for two of the seven and a half years covered by this part of the FOIA.

This FOIA is, on its face, totally uncontroversial (though it attempts to do with a FOIA what DOJ IG is already doing, which it notes). It purports to test whether Rod Rosenstein exempted his own top deputies from the kind of investigative scrutiny to which Rosenstein — always a leak hawk — subjected Congressional staffers. Hell, I’m fairly certain Rosenstein and his top deputies were key undisclosed sources for a bunch of bullshit comments (though most of them were false, and therefore not criminal leaks). Some of those anonymous comments were to the same stable of journalists who also happen to serve as mouthpieces for Chuck Grassley propaganda (and as such, Foster may have specific reason to believe that Rosenstein teed up journalists’ questions to or about him).

And the FOIA for contacts with Verizon gets at important separation of powers issues: under what terms the Executive Branch can investigate the official business of the Legislative Branch, including times when the Legislative Branch is screaming for investigations into leaks that probably (and provably, in the case of Carter Page) include Legislative Branch staffers.

But it also serves as a fishing expedition, by the entity that championed the now debunked claims of Gary Shapley, into potential investigations into transparent ongoing efforts by Chuck Grassley to release details of criminal investigations in the guise of oversight.

In a meeting agenda sent September 3, 2020, Joseph Ziegler included the Senate investigation led by Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson among topics for discussion.

No later than December 2020, a document shared by Empower Oversight client Gary Shapley reveals, the IRS agents running this investigation cared more about catering to demands from Congress, including from Chuck Grassley, than preserving the investigation.

The USAO and FBI received congressional inquiries concerning this investigation and have repeatedly ignored their requests, openly mocking the members of congress who made the request.

Another document shared by Empower Oversight client Gary Shapley shows that, in May 2021, the IRS agents running the investigation continued to be aware of — and interested in catering to — requests from Congress.

The USAO and FBI received congressional inquiries concerning this investigation and it’s believed they have ignored their requests.

A document released by Empower Oversight client Gary Shapley reflecting a January 6, 2023 call with IRS’ Deputy Field Officer Michael Batdorf alerting him — among other things — that he expected the Delaware US Attorney to make “nefarious” allegations against him, also recorded that by the time, two days after he notified IRS and DOJ IG Inspectors General he was seeking formal whistleblower status which happens to have happened on the day the GOP took the House, his attorney had already, “participated in calls and/or meetings” with “the Congressional Judiciary committees.”

DFO asked about the process and Shapley responded that the Congressional Judiciary committees, OSC, IRS OGC and TIGTA have been notified and have participated in calls and/or meetings with my counsel.

Yet when one of Shapley’s attorneys, Mark Lytle, formally contacted the Chairs and Ranking Members of those same “Congressional Judiciary committees,” the Chairs and Ranking Members of the relevant finance committees, along with Chuck Grassley on April 19, 2023, he did not treat those contacts with the judiciary committees as protected disclosures. The letter mentions that Grassley is a member of the Finance Committee, but doesn’t mention that Grassley is a member and former Chair of the Judiciary Committee.

That was the first moment, publicly at least, that Empower Oversight client Gary Shapley sought protection to share IRS protected information with Congress. That is, even according to Lytle, if Shapley shared any IRS protected information — to say nothing of grand jury protected information — prior to that, by the plain terms of his letter it was not under a grant of protection.

A month after Gary Shapley’s claims — facilitated by Empower Oversight — were soundly debunked by his own documentation and his colleagues, Empower Oversight filed a FOIA that would, among other things, attempt to learn whether the FBI was conducting any investigation of leaks to the press from Chuck Grassley’s staffers, covering the period in 2016 when a Chuck Grassley staffer attempted to reach out to hostile intelligence services to find dirt on Hillary Clinton, the period when a Grassley staffer was seeding press stories — some that were fabrications — about the Russian investigation, and the period of time when those investigating Hunter Biden were more solicitous of requests from members of Congress like Chuck Grassley than they were in protecting the ongoing investigation.