In Lev Parnas Investigation, SDNY Decided that Ivana Trump Is Not Political

I really should be writing a responsible article describing, in detail, the three phases of the Lev Parnas investigation. But instead, I need to obsess about Ivana Trump.

There were, roughly speaking, three phases of the investigation into Parnas:

January through August 2019: Campaign Finance crimes

The first — which I laid out here — focused primarily on the campaign finance crimes. SDNY obtained two warrants in this period:

  • January 18, 2019, 19 MJ 1729: For Yahoo and Google content
  • May 16, 2019, 19 MJ 4784: For iCloud content

When DOJ did a search of Parnas and Fruman’s residences the day they were arrested, the only crime listed on the warrants were the campaign finance crimes; they did this to hide the scope of the ongoing investigation. SDNY only unsealed the Fruman warrant, not the Parnas one (nor warrants in other districts targeting their co-defendants).

August through December 2019: Foreign Agent suspicions

After the firing of Marie Yovanovitch, SDNY investigated whether all Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman’s influence-peddling served the interests of foreign principals — chiefly Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, but also other Ukrainians and maybe some Russians too.

SDNY obtained at least 8 warrants in this period (there are at least two, 19 MJ 7594 and 19 MJ 9830, which must be related — perhaps targeting their Russian backer, Andrey Muraviev? — but which SDNY withheld). And SDNY also withheld the November 2019 warrants targeting Rudy Giuliani.

  • August 14, 2019, 19 MJ 7593: Yahoo and Google content since January, with expanded focus
  • August 14, 2019, 19 MJ 7595: Existing Yahoo and Google content, with expanded focus
  • October 17, 2019, 19 MJ 7595: Actual authorization of the warrant approved in August
  • October 21, 2019, 19 MJ 9829: iCloud content since May
  • October 21, 2019, 19 MJ 9831: Devices from Dulles
  • October 21, 2019, 19 MJ 9832: Existing iCloud content for expanded focus
  • November 4, 2019: Warrants targeting Rudy
  • December 10, 2019, 19 MJ 11500: Stuff seized from residences for foreign agent focus
  • December 10, 2019, 19 MJ 11501: Instagram

As I’ll return to, it looks like Bill Barr intervened to halt SDNY’s expanding investigation even earlier than previously disclosed, in December 2019 rather than January 2020.

The only additional warrants SDNY served after December 10, 2019 in the foreign agent investigation was a warrant obtained in March 2020 because Fruman had not synced his iCloud with his phone until after SDNY obtained the May 2019 warrants, meaning some of the texts and chats he had already sent were not in the earlier warrant return.

  • March 20, 2020, 20 MJ 3074: iCloud content obtained with October 21, 2019 to cover earlier periods

Effectively, SDNY discovered that they had obtained content in October 2019 pertaining to events in 2018 and earlier in 2019 that hadn’t been available when they first got Fruman’s iCloud in May 2019, so they asked to use the October 2019 warrant for the earlier periods.

This may mean that Fruman, like Parnas, deleted some of his content on his phones.

December 2019 through March 2020: Fraud Guarantee fraud

Starting on December 12, 2019 — two days after the foreign agent investigation halted — SDNY spent several months trying to figure out what Fraud Guarantee actually was.

  • December 12, 2019, 19 MJ 11651: Google for longer period and expanded focus
  • January 21, 2020, 20 MJ 740: Existing email content for expanded focus
  • February 28, 2020, 20 MJ 2240: Google from creation date for Fraud Guarantee
  • February 28, 2020, 20 MJ 2241: Parnas iCloud for expanded focus

SDNY originally had believed, in 2018, that Fraud Guarantee was a recent creation, one serving as another means to launder political donations. But they had to keep digging further and further back, to 2012, to try to figure out what Fraud Guarantee really was.

The Instagram pivot

I’m still triple checking my own work, but SDNY appears not to have complied with SDNY’s order to release all this backup. In addition to withholding the warrant for the search of Lev Parnas’ residence on October 9, 2019 (though that’s likely to be nearly indistinguishable from the one used to search Fruman’s residence, which was obtained in the same docket), I don’t think they released the affidavit for the December 10, 2019 search of the devices seized at the residences for foreign agent crimes.

That’s the one that should have the most expansive description of the foreign agent investigation (and, I suspect, of the financing behind the effort to fire Marie Yovanovitch and obtain dirt on Hunter Biden, which I’ll return to). I suspect the affidavit is closer in content to the one used to seize Rudy’s email in November 2019 than what was unsealed the other day.

The Instagram warrant obtained that same day necessarily used a different affidavit, partly because it included all the crimes under investigation (broadly, the campaign finance crimes and the suspected foreign agent crimes), but also because it was looking for a different kind of information: mostly, but not entirely, photos that Parnas had posted.

But there’s something really weird about it, which has made me obsess about Ivana Trump.

The warrant suggests SDNY learned about the Instagram account from this WSJ video.

As you’ll note, WSJ describes that the oldest thing on the account was an April 2015 photo of a dog, then this photo, showing Parnas and co-defendant David Correia with Ivana Trump, at what he billed as a “Fraud Guarantee pow wow.”

As WSJ notes, the next things in Parnas’ Instagram account are photos showing him getting access to Trump from very early on in Trump’s campaign, in 2015 (as I’ll return to, Parnas’ 2016 access peddling is something that the warrants focus on more than the coverage of Parnas ever did). Then there’s a break in the Instagram account until summer 2018, when it returns to its focus on political access. The Instagram shows Parnas’ work with Rudy to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden and the 2016 election. It ends (again, per WSJ), with their trip days after the Perfect Phone Call to Madrid, to continue that effort.

SDNY obtained this warrant just two days before the investigation shifted focus to Fraud Guarantee. When they obtained the warrant, they undoubtedly had all the questions they spent the next two months pursuing.

Yet SDNY limited the temporal scope of this warrant to postings starting on October 1, 2015 — effectively excluding only the photo of the dog and some event with Ivana trump six months before Parnas started insinuating himself into Trump’s political orbit, one pertaining to Fraud Guarantee.

To the extent materials are dated, this warrant is limited to materials created between October 1, 2015, which is the month in which it appears Parnas first posted a photo related to a political event, to the present.

Did Ivana have some pre-existing relationship with Lev Parnas, one that dates to months before Lev started serially insinuating himself into Donald Trump’s orbit?

And if she did, why didn’t SDNY want that photo?

SDNY Obtained Warrant(s) for Foreign Agent Charges before John Demers Reviewed the Perfect Transcript

Had DOJ followed its own rules in 2019, Donald Trump’s “perfect phone call” with Volodymyr Zelenskyy should have been linked to the ongoing criminal investigation into Lev Parnas. Instead, DOJ limited the review of the criminal referral of the whisteblower complaint in such a way that prevented investigators from making that link. The Parnas warrants recently liberated by NYT reveal that failure was even more damning than previously known.

On August 14, 2019, CIA General Counsel Courtney Elwood told National Security Division head John Demers that someone in the CIA had expressed concerns about the July 25 call. The next day, on August 15, 2019, Demers went to the White House to review the transcript of it.

Mr. Eisenberg and Ms. Elwood both spoke on Aug. 14 to John Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, according to three people familiar with the discussion. Ms. Elwood did not pass on the name of the C.I.A. officer, which she did not know because his concerns were submitted anonymously.

The next day, Mr. Demers went to the White House to read the transcript of the call and assess whether to alert other senior law enforcement officials. The deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and Brian A. Benczkowski, the head of the department’s criminal division, were soon looped in, according to two administration officials.

Department officials began to discuss the accusations and whether and how to follow up, and Attorney General William P. Barr learned of the allegations around that time, according to a person familiar with the matter. Although Mr. Barr was briefed, he did not oversee the discussions about how to proceed, the person said.

While DOJ was dawdling over what to do, on August 12, the whistleblower went to Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson and filed a formal complaint. ODNI made a criminal referral at the end of August. And then DOJ declined, almost right away, to investigate.

Ms. Elwood and Mr. Eisenberg learned only later about the complaint, filed on Aug. 12, and did not know it was sent by the same officer who had sent the information anonymously to her.

At the end of August, the office of the director of national intelligence referred the allegations to the Justice Department as a possible criminal matter. Law enforcement officials ultimately declined to open an investigation.

I have always pointed out the problem with this tale. Since 9/11, DOJ’s expectation is that when investigators obtain a tip about anything that might pertain to national security, they run it against FBI holdings to see if there’s a known link to any existing investigation.

Had DOJ’s investigators scrutinized the OCCRP story about Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman cited three times in the complaint, had they done searches on all the identifiers implicated by reference in the complaint, they should have found the ongoing investigation into Parnas and Fruman at SDNY. (On review, even the unclassified part of the complaint mentioned people, like Andriy Telizhenko, who were likely the focus of intelligence scrutiny already, though perhaps not yet at FBI.)

But investigators didn’t get the complaint. According to a public confession Kerri Kupec made in September 2019, they got only the call transcript.

“In August, the Department of Justice was referred a matter relating to a letter the director national intelligence had received from the inspector general for the intelligence community regarding a purported whistleblower complaint. The inspector general’s letter cited a conversation between the president and Ukrainian President Zelensky as a potential violation of federal campaign finance law, while acknowledging that neither the inspector general nor the complainant had firsthand knowledge of the conversation,” Kupec said.

Relying on established procedures set forth in the justice manual, the department’s criminal division reviewed the official record of the call and determined based on the facts and applicable law that there was no campaign finance violence [sic] and that no further action was warranted. All relevant components of the department agreed with this legal conclusion, and the department has concluded this matter,” Kupec concluded. [my emphasis]

They didn’t assess the complaint. They assessed the transcript.

That was always a self-evidently corrupt decision — a decision that, if Bill Barr (who definitely knew of the Parnas and Fruman investigation) and Jeffrey Rosen (who likely did) were involved would be provably an effort to prevent investigators from tying the President to Parnas and Fruman.

But the timeline looks worse given something revealed in the warrants from the investigation liberated by the NYT last week.

The indictment used to arrest Parnas and Fruman on October 9, 2019 only charged them for campaign finance crimes: Conspiracy to violate campaign finance law by donating — including to Trump’s PAC and Pete Sessions — in the name of their front company Global Energy Partners, false statements to the FEC about the donation to Trump’s PAC, filing a materially false document to the FEC about the same, and conspiracy to make cannabis-related political donations using foreign money. The Russian source of those funds, Andrey Muraviev was not yet public. And while the donation to Pete Sessions was intimately connected to the firing of Marie Yovanovitch, that wasn’t mentioned in the first indictment.

What appeared in that indictment was consistent with the first two warrants obtained against Parnas and Fruman. The first, served on Google and Yahoo on January 18, 2019, sought evidence of those foreign and straw donor crimes, along with money laundering and fraud. It cited contacts with Sessions’ office, with Ron DeSantis, and even (regarding what the investigation would ultimately show pertained to Fraud Guarantee), Rudy Giuliani. But even in the discussions of Sessions, there was no mention yet of Yovanovitch.

That began to change in the second warrant, served on Apple for iCloud content on May 16, 2019, the first one after Bill Barr would have started getting briefings. That warrant remained focused on those foreign and straw donor crimes, though added false statements for Parnas and Fruman’s claims to the FEC about what they were up to. It added Muraviev to the inquiry. It took out a request to look for communications with individuals who work at “[redacted].”

That second warrant affidavit included a three page section focused on Parnas and Fruman’s recruitment of Pete Sessions to help get Marie Yovanovitch fired. The most striking thing about that second warrant is that SDNY obtained it the day after public notice of her removal, which development it noted in the warrnt. The warrant affidavit appears to have removed a reference to an email sent to Rudy the day after the Campaign Legal Center first disclosed the Parnas and Fruman grift (perhaps upon discovering that it pertained to Parnas’ effort to recruit Rudy into Fraud Guarantee). Still, there was no mention in that second warrant — the one obtained the day after Yovanovitch’s ouster was confirmed — of any foreign agent ties.

On August 14, presumably blissfully unaware of all the efforts to cover up Trump’s extortion attempt in DC, SDNY attempted to get at least two warrants, one requiring Yahoo and Google to provide new email content, everything generated since the January 18 warrant, and another asking for permission to examine the previously obtained content for new crimes. I phrase it that way for two reasons: First, because those warrants were docket number 19 MJ 7593 and 7595; there’s undoubtedly at least one more, 19 MJ 7594, targeting something or someone else (possibly either Muraviev or Pete Sessions). And while Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman approved the warrant permitting SDNY to examine already collected content for new crimes, they bolloxed it somehow. As SDNY explained in an October 17 letter to Judge Oetken,

[T]he Government is not presently able to locate a copy of the August 14 warrant itself, which may be the result of a clerical error, although it is possible a warrant was not submitted in connection with the August 14 application. As such, the Government respectfully requests that the Court review the attached agent affidavit, which was sworn before Judge Pitman on August 14, and issue the attached warrant which would authorize the Government to seize the materials sought in the August 14 application.

But they did get that warrant, 19 MJ 7593, which required Yahoo and Google to provide new content, content that would be scrutinized under SDNY’s expanded focus.

For the first time, SDNY asked for permission to review Parnas and Fruman’s communications for evidence that they or others were unregistered agents of a foreign power under either FARA or 18 USC 951. Those warrants also asked to look for evidence of bribery (a prong of the investigation that appears to have been dropped after interviewing Sessions in the wake of the Parnas and Fruman arrest).

Normally, by the time a US Attorney’s office contemplates such charges, they involve NSD. According to Geoffrey Berman’s book, before SDNY charged Parnas and Fruman, they got Public Integrity’s approval, at 4AM in the middle of the night! It’s certainly possible the “Sovereign District of New York,” as people jokingly describe SDNY’s notorious independence, did not. But it certainly raised the stakes on the tie between Parnas and Fruman and the President.

By the time John Demers reviewed the transcript of Trump’s call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the topic of his call had already been made a national security investigation.

Garrett Ziegler’s Landscaping Problem

According to emails posted at BidenLaptopEmails dot com made available by Garrett Ziegler, sometime around May 31, 2017, someone set a Google alert for weekly landscaping work, which usually took place in the mornings. Many weeks, Hunter Biden would receive a Google alert on Wednesday, reminding him landscapers would show up the next day. Then the next day, his iCloud email would email his RosemontSeneca email (hosted by Google) with a reminder.

In the depths of his addiction — again, per emails made available by Garrett Ziegler — the only emails that Hunter Biden “sent,” the only sign of life on his email accounts, was that email. For weeks on end, the only communication “from” Hunter is that eerie repetitive notice: “Alert – FYI landscapers at CBR (usually in AM).” It’s like that Google alert is a phantom, always there in Hunter’s email box.

I’m not sure the technical explanation for it — though I expect that experts would be able to use the nature of those weekly alerts to determine what inboxes were really used to load up the laptop that found its way to John Paul Mac Isaac and from there, on a hard drive, to Rudy Giuliani and then, another hard drive, to Garrett Ziegler. The technical explanation may also explain why the FBI relied on the laptop for Google alert information rather than the information the FBI received from Google itself, as I laid out here.

“Alert – FYI landscapers at CBR (usually in AM).” There must be over 150 versions of either the Google alert or the email from Hunter’s iCloud email to Hunter’s RosemontSeneca email in the collection made available by Garrett Ziegler.

In fact, those emails, “Alert – FYI landscapers at CBR (usually in AM),” may doom Ziegler’s effort to defeat Hunter Biden’s hacking lawsuit against him.

Ziegler filed his response, along with a sworn but not notarized declaration from Ziegler himself, yesterday.

As to the claim that he hacked Hunter Biden’s phone — which I’ve noted is a key vulnerability for Ziegler — Ziegler admits he used a password to access the backup from a phone Hunter allegedly owned in 2019.

19. Paragraph 29 falsely casts my comments to imply thta I and Defendant Marco Polo “hacked” into Plaintiff’s iPhone backup file.

20. In the case of the iPhone backup file referred to in paragraph 29, I received a copy of an iPhone backup file which existed as part of the copied files.

21. Also contained on the external hard drive given to me were files containing passcodes, which are essentially similar in function to passwords designed to allow access to password-protected files. Although it took months of examination, we were able to locate the passcode which allowed access to the iPhone backup file. Those files existed on the external hard drive when it was first given to me.

But he argues that because the disk drive he received from an associate of Rudy Giuliani had the password for the phone on it, and because Hunter never owned the hard drive on which Ziegler received both sets of data, he did not “hack” anything.

Plaintiff selectively cites to Defendant Ziegler’s December 2022 remarks about decrypting a specific file which stored the passcode to the iPhone backup file, both of which were on Defendants’ copy of the Laptop. (Compl. at ¶ 29). The Complaint falsely suggests Defendants “hacked” into Plaintiff’s iPhone backup. (Zeigler Decl. at ¶ 19). Defendants received a copy of Plaintiff’s iPhone backup file which existed as part of the files. (Id. at ¶ 20). When Defendants received the external hard drive, it contained passcodes, which allowed access to the iPhone backup file. (Id. at ¶ 21).

[snip]

Moreover, Plaintiff does not allege unlawful access to a computer within the meaning of the CFAA. A computer user “without authorization” is one who accesses a computer the user has no permission to access whatsoever—an “outside hacker[ ].” Van Buren v. United States, 141 S. Ct. 1648, 1658, (2021). Here, Plaintiff admitted that Defendants accessed and used a hard drive that Plaintiff never possessed. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants accessed a hard drive provided by a third party which contains a copy (duplicates) of files. (Compl. at ¶ 18). Plaintiff does not allege that Defendants possessed or accessed Biden’s computer or original files.

Plaintiff alludes to his actual iPhone and iCloud account when he alleges that “at least some of the data that Defendants have accessed, tampered with, manipulated, damaged and copied without Plaintiff’s authorization or consent originally was stored on Plaintiff’s iPhone and backed-up to Plaintiff’s iCloud storage.” (Id. at ¶ 28). However, Plaintiff alleges no facts which demonstrate Defendants ever accessed any computer, storage, or service which Plaintiff either owns or has exclusive control over. Likewise, the Complaint also shows facts which conclusively prove that Defendants had no need to access any service or storage because the laptop copy in their possession admittedly contained all of the necessary information, including the passcode to view all of the files contained on the Biden Laptop regardless of encryption. (Id. at ¶ 18). Put simply, both the encrypted iPhone backup file and the passcode to open the iPhone backup file were on the Laptop copy.

Given that Hunter’s lawsuit also names a bunch of John Does, blaming his access to this backup on Rudy’s unnamed associate and Rudy and John Paul Mac Isaac may not help Ziegler.

In any case, Ziegler may hope he doesn’t have to rely on this argument. His response actually spends more time arguing that venue, in California, is improper than he does that using a password to access an encrypted backup is legal. The “work” Ziegler did to make ten years of Hunter Biden’s emails available took place in Illinois. He has no employees or board members in California. Fewer than 10% of Marco Polo’s supporters live in California (Ziegler doesn’t say what percentage of his donations they provide, however).

His venue argument and his hacking argument ignore a part of Hunter’s lawsuit, though, which alleges that Ziegler “directed illegal conduct to occur in California.”

Plaintiff is informed and believes that Defendant Ziegler intentionally directed illegal conduct to occur in California and has therefore subjected himself to jurisdiction in California.

Similarly, his response only mentions Hunter’s allegation that in addition to accessing that iPhone, he also accessed data in the cloud once.

Plaintiff accuses Defendants of “knowingly accessing and without permission taking and using data from” Plaintiff’s devices or “cloud” storage (Compl. at ¶¶ 40, 41), computer service (id. at ¶ 42), or protected computer (id. at ¶ 35) but fails to identify a single device Defendants accessed without authorization

That allegation is a key part of alleging that Ziegler broke the law in California.

40. Defendants have violated California Penal Code § 502(c)(1) by knowingly accessing and without permission taking and using data from Plaintiff’s devices or “cloud” storage, including but not limited to, Plaintiff’s encrypted iPhone backup to devise or execute a scheme to defraud or deceive, or to wrongfully obtain money, property, or data.

41. Defendants also have violated California Penal Code § 502(c)(2) by knowingly and without permission accessing, taking, copying, and making use of programs, data, and files from Plaintiff’s devices or “cloud” storage, including but not limited to, Plaintiff’s encrypted iPhone backup.

Ziegler denies accessing any computer in the possession of Hunter Biden. That falls short of denying that he hacked data owned by Hunter Biden.

22. Neither I nor any person associated with Marco Polo have accessed, or attempted to access, any computer, device, or system owned or controlled by Plaintiff. We are not hackers, we are simply publishers, and the Plaintiff is attempting to chill our First Amendment rights and harass us through a frivolous and vexatious lawsuit.

I think Ziegler has a problem with his description of where the iPhone backup came from in the first place: he says that the “laptop” was in Hunter Biden’s possession when the iPhone backup was saved to it on February 6, 2019.

The metadata concerning the duplicated iPhone backup file on our external hard drive indicates that the last backup made of the iPhone file to the plaintiff’s laptop, which he left at the repair show of John Paul Mac Isaac on April 12, 2019, occurred on February 6, 2019, while still in the plaintiff’s possession based upon all the facts known to me to be provably true beyond dispute.

Hunter may be able to prove that Ziegler, of all people, doesn’t believe that to be true, doesn’t believe that when that iPhone was backed up on February 6 — a day when someone presenting as Hunter was involved in a car accident in DC — Hunter was in possession of that laptop.

But the bigger problem Ziegler that has is that phantom landscaping reminder.

According to emails that Garrett Ziegler has made publicly available, an October 14, 2021 notice triggered by a Google alert was received on November 24, 2021, long past the time, per Ziegler’s declaration, he was in possession of this hard drive.

Again, I’m not sure how that happened technically. But if it involved either Apple servers or Google servers (or both, given that the notice was dated October 24, 2021), that would get you venue in California.

Hunter Biden may not have been in possession of Apple’s and Google’s servers in 2021, but accessing them using passwords stored on the hard drive — at least one password that Ziegler admits to using — would also constitute hacking.

Update, to answer a question below: The text of the email shows that the notice was October 14, but the email was received on November 24, 2021.

Candidate Trump Leaned on Michigan Canvassers to Deny Civil Rights

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

Yesterday The Detroit News reported Donald Trump and GOP party chair Ronna Romney McDaniel pressured Wayne County canvassers Monica Palmer and William Hartmann on November 17, 2020 to refuse to certify the election results.

The source of the recordings on which Detroit News based their report is not clear.

~ ~ ~

There’s conjecture this may have been material from the House January 6 Committee obtained from McDaniel’s own cell phone.

However the wording of the Detroit News article puts some distance between McDaniel and the recording, making it more likely the source was in the same space with the canvassers:

“We’ve got to fight for our country,” said Trump on the recordings, made by a person who was present for the call with Palmer and Hartmann. “We can’t let these people take our country away from us.”

Emphasis mine.

The distancing was even more pointed in the following paragraph, describing what sounds more like protecting a source from organized crime operations:

The News listened to audio that was captured in four recordings by someone present for the conversation between Trump and the canvassers. That information came to The News through an intermediary who also heard the recordings but who was not present when they were made. Sources presented the information to The News on the condition that they not be identified publicly for fear of retribution by the former president or his supporters.

Could this have been McDaniel’s work? Sure. Why was this released now, especially when she continues to defend her role at that time?

If it was from the J6 Committee, again, why now, and why the protections for the source?

Detroit News matched the recordings with the J6 Committee’s records:

The timestamp of the first recording was 9:55 p.m. Nov. 17, 2020. The time was consistent with Verizon phone records obtained by a U.S. House committee that showed Palmer received calls from McDaniel at 9:53 p.m. and 10:04 p.m.

This suggests the source wasn’t Palmer nor the J6 Committee. Detroit News also reported they checked with Palmer:

Palmer acknowledged to The News that she and Hartmann took the call from Trump in a vehicle and that other people entered the vehicle and could have heard the conversation. She said she could not, however, identify who entered the vehicle or might have heard the conversation.

Palmer told The News repeatedly that she didn’t remember what was stated on the phone call with McDaniel and Trump.

There’s another possible source which might prove difficult to validate: the older of the two GOP canvassers, William Hartmann, died in 2021. It’s possible this was a recording he made as an aid to prepare a document he used to attempt to reverse his certification of the vote. Was this recording released by someone associated with his estate? With the buffer placed between Detroit News’s report and the source, it’s tough to say.

While Detroit News checked with Trump campaign spokesperson Steve Cheung about the recordings, Cheung said,

Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, said Trump’s actions “were taken in furtherance of his duty as president of the United States to faithfully take care of the laws and ensure election integrity, including investigating the rigged and stolen 2020 presidential election.”

“President Trump and the American people have the constitutional right to free and fair elections,” Cheung said.

The Hill also followed up with Cheung while reporting on this same story:

In an emailed statement to The Hill, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said “[a]ll of President Trump’s actions were taken in furtherance of his duty as President of the United States to faithfully take care of the laws and ensure election integrity, including investigating the rigged and stolen 2020 Presidential Election.”

Wow. It’s as if Cheung was using a prepared script.

It’s a problematic script since the Executive Branch protects voters’ civil rights through the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section’s Election Crimes Branch with regard to and through the Civil Rights Division. These functions are supposed to act independently of the White House, and definitely without regard to a candidate or party.

Nothing in this story by either Detroit News or The Hill indicates Trump told the canvassers he was asking for an investigation into possible voter fraud by the DOJ or Michigan’s secretary of state and state attorney general. He and McDaniel simply leaned on two white MIGOP canvassers partially responsible for certifying a huge chunk of the state’s votes.

Worth noting the Wayne County board of canvassers’ meeting on November 17 ran from 6:00-9:32 p.m.; Trump is not mentioned specifically during the meeting. Palmer alone says she’s uncomfortable certifying the city of Detroit.

Which suggests Hartmann wasn’t initially obstructing the certification before Trump and McDaniel’s phone call 23 minutes after the canvassers’ meeting.

~ ~ ~

There are a few more points which should be taken into consideration with regard to the Detroit News’s report.

– Each of Michigan’s 83 counties has a bipartisan four-member board of canvassers; each board is split 50-50 between GOP and Democratic Party members. The two canvassers Trump called are white MIGOP members who represent Wayne County. If you’re from the Detroit Metro area you already know these two canvassers already provide over weighted representation to white voters as Wayne County is a minority-majority county with whites composing less than 48% of the county’s population.

– Trump’s use of the phrase, “”We can’t let these people take our country away from us” during the phone call is a dog whistle racist plea to white MIGOP members not to allow a minority-majority county decide the election for Joe Biden. Emphasis mine; “you people” and “these people” are phrases often used to reinforce othering of non-whites.

– The number of votes which would have been affected by Palmer and Hartmann’s refusal to certify was more than 1.4 million, or nearly 20% of Michigan’s total active registered voters (7.15 million in November 2020). Wayne County is the most populous in Michigan, which may explain why pressure was placed on Wayne and not a formerly-red-trending-blue county like Kent, home to Grand Rapids.

The Detroit News is a right-leaning news outlet; the source did not choose to share the recordings with the left-leaning Detroit Free Press, a Gannett-owned outlet, nor did they go to the Lansing State Journal in the state’s capital city (also a Gannett outlet) or the right-leaning political news outlet Gongwer.

– The report was published a week after preliminary court hearings were held in relation to criminal charges filed against MIGOP fake electors who attempted to throw the election for Trump with a forged certification. The electors are established MIGOP members who held roles within the party’s apparatus at the time of the election.

– After the call to the Wayne County canvassers, Trump summoned Michigan state legislators Mike Shirkey and Lee Chatfield, who at the time were the state senate majority leader and the state house speaker respectively; they were to meet with Trump in Washington DC on November 19. In testimony before the House J6 Committee, Shirkey said Trump didn’t make an explicit ask of the two legislators but instead trash talked about Wayne County and parroted unsubstantiated voter fraud claims. Trump also hosted a conference call with the two state legislators and both Rudy Giuliani and Ronna McDaniel during which Giuliani continued the false claims of voter fraud. Trump made multiple calls to Shirkey after the legislators’ visit to DC as well as tweets – a social media post on January 3 included Shirkey’s personal phone number resulting in more than 4,000 text messages.

– There is a schism within the MIGOP which may have encouraged the release of the recordings to the Detroit News. Trump-y former Michigan secretary of state candidate and current MIGOP chair Kristina Karamo has been under fire for mismanagement of the party’s finances and violations of election laws. A faction of the party has been trying to remove her as chair. How much of the party’s problems may be related to Trump’s support of losing-candidate remains to be seen; she has not been able to raise sufficient funds to support the party and pay its debts.

~ ~ ~

Trump meeting directly with state legislators in an effort to pressure the state to overturn the 2020 election looks as much like legitimate protection of voters’ civil rights as the phone calls to the Wayne County canvassers — as in not at all legitimate.

It looks like additional evidence of an attempt to deny the civil rights of a majority of Michigan voters in 2020 — violating 18 USC 241 just as Trump was charged by Special Counsel — with special animus toward the minority-majority community of Wayne County — including the city of Detroit.

Is the trashing of the MIGOP’s finances and operations by a Trump-endorsed former SOS candidate payback for failing to deliver the state by denying those rights? Is it a twist of the shiv that a Black MIGOP chair is destroying the state party?

______

(h/t to harpie for the article link in comments)

Luke Broadwater’s Attempt at Fact-Checking Covers Up Fabrications and IRS Sloppiness

NYT has two articles out fact-checking GOP lies in support of impeachment.

One, from Adam Entous, is really worth reading. It describes how a text that Hunter Biden sent his daughter Naomi, which joked about the fact that Joe Biden had made his sons work their way through college, has been misrepresented to instead suggest that Hunter was giving his father 50% of his diminished 2019 earnings.

Hunter felt dejected, and, while apparently under the influence of drugs, wrote a series of angry and often nonsensical messages to Naomi in which he threatened to cut her off financially.

“Find an apartment with Peter by next week,” Hunter instructed. “And send me the keys and leave all of my furniture and art. I love all of you. But I don’t receive any respect.”

Then he sent the text message that Republicans have used to suggest that Hunter’s foreign income was going to enrich his father.

[snip]

Hunter’s oft-told story about giving half of his salary to his father appeared to originate during his freshman year at Georgetown.

His roommate at the time recalled Hunter telling him and his twin brother “a million times” that then-Senator Biden encouraged him to work, saying, “You can keep half of the paycheck, but you have to hand over the other half for ‘room and board.’”

It was a story, and a theme, that Hunter continued to invoke, especially after he married Ms. Buhle and they had three daughters — Naomi, Finnegan and Maisy — all of whom attended Sidwell Friends, a costly Washington private school, where they were surrounded by wealthier families.

Hunter told close friends that he was worried that his daughters had become spoiled. According to family members, he would frequently tell them the story about how he had to work in college and pay half of his salary to his father, in hopes of encouraging them to be more self-sufficient.

In other words, Republicans are literally trying to impeach Joe Biden because he made his sons work their way through college, and at a time he was broke, Hunter tried to do the same with his daughters.

Note that the underlying back story Entous describes, in which Hunter attempted to find specialized medical care for his daughter Finnegan, shows that while in Fox News pundit Keith Ablow’s care, Hunter was somehow cut off from the digital world.

Then Ablow responds to his own email, which this time is marked [External], noting that “His [apparently meaning Hunter’s] email is screwed up,” and then saying he had texted Rock.

From: Keith Ablow <kablow[redacted]>
Sent: Thursday, January 3, 2019 11:40 AM
To: Positano [redacted]; rhbdcicloud
Subject: [EXTERNAL]Re: From Keith

CAUTION: External Email.

Rock
His email is screwed up

I texted you

The doctor responds — happy to help — and provides his contact. Ablow thanks him. Hunter responds to that, plaintively,

Guys are you getting my emails?

And though neither of the external interlocutors ever said a thing directly to Hunter, Ablow says, yes, suggesting they had gotten his emails, then instructs Hunter to contact the doctor and “send him the x-rays,” even though in the original email Hunter already sent 2 jpgs.

Hunter then tried to email the doctor directly, using the same email included in Ablow’s email (possibly even using the link from the doctor’s own email), and it bounces, “RecipientNotFound; Recipient not found by SMTP address lookup.”

Hunter’s digital rupture from the outside world is part of the back story to how his digital life got packaged up for delivery, eventually, to Congress. And it should raise provenance questions about every other aspect of this investigation.

Which brings us to the other NYT story, an attempt to fact check that was, instead a confession that NYT scribe Luke Broadwater either doesn’t care or doesn’t know how to assess evidence and claims for reliability.

Broadwater feigns fact-checking Republican representations of a text Hunter sent in 2017, claiming to be sitting next to his father while he was trying to strong arm a business associate, which is another communication that Republicans are sure proves Joe Biden was in business with his son.

Before I show you what Broadwater wrote, let me reconstruct how we have the claim in the first place. Gary Shapley provided the texts to Congress in May. He shared them, he claimed, as proof that investigators were denied the ability in August 2020 to obtain location data — he doesn’t say for whom — and to search the guest house at Joe Biden’s house.

For example, in August 2020, we got the results back from an iCloud search warrant. Unlike the laptop, these came to the investigative team from a third-party record keeper and included a set of messages. The messages included material we clearly needed to follow up on.

Nevertheless, prosecutors denied investigators’ requests to develop a strategy to look into the messages and denied investigators’ suggestion to obtain location information to see where the texts were sent from.

For example, we obtained a July 30th, 2017, WhatsApp message from Hunter Biden to Henry Zhao, where Hunter Biden wrote: “I am sitting here with my father and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled. Tell the director that I would like to resolve this now before it gets out of hand, and now means tonight. And, Z, if I get a call or text from anyone involved in this other than you, Zhang, or the chairman, I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction. I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father.”

Communications like these made it clear we needed to search the guest house at the Bidens’ Delaware residence where Hunter Biden stayed for a time. [my emphasis]

Already, at this point, the savvy interlocutor would have asked Shapley, “why do you need location data? You get about five different kinds of location information in an iCloud warrant. What more did you need?”

Which might have led Shapley to confess he really wanted to get a location warrant targeting Joe, not Hunter.

If these texts were ever introduced at trial, Hunter’s lawyers would likely point out that they were obtained in reliance on the laptop obtained from John Paul Mac Isaac. At the point they got those warrants in August 2020 — effectively obtaining text messages that were available on the laptop — the FBI still had never validated the laptop to make sure no one had tampered with it either before it got into the custody of John Paul Mac Isaac or while in JPMI’s custody. That is, the warrant to obtain these texts may well be a classic case of poisonous fruit, and the texts could be affected by an alteration done to Hunter Biden’s contact list in the period in January 2019 when he was staying in Keith Ablow’s property and seems to have been partially cut off from the digital world; his contacts were restored — from what, it’s not clear — on January 24, 2019.

As Shapley was walking Congressional staffers through these texts, he admitted that they weren’t WhatsApp messages themselves, they were summaries. He wasn’t sure who had done the summaries.

Q Okay. And these aren’t WhatsApp messages, these are summaries of WhatsApp messages, correct?

A Yeah, that’s correct. Because it was something about the readability of the actual piece, right? It was easier to summarize in a spreadsheet.

Q Okay. And who did the summary? Who prepared this document?

A It was either the computer analysis guy or [Ziegler], one or the other.

Who did the summaries matters, because whoever it was did a shoddy job. In one crucial case, for example, whoever did the summaries interjected their opinion about what a screen cap that showed in the message was. It is the only indication in the exhibit shared with Congress that identifies the first name of Hunter’s interlocutor.

This interjection — a parenthetical comment recording that this was “(believed to be Zhao)” but included inside quotation marks as if it was part of the screencap — is the only place where Zhao’s first name is identified. Elsewhere, he is always referred to as “Zhao” or “Z,” even in a summary also referring to “Zang” and “Zhang.” Nowhere in this “summary” is his WhatsApp identifier included, as it would be in reliable WhatsApp texts summaries (here, from Vladislav Klyushin’s trial). It’s not the only parenthetical comment included as if it were part of a direct quote, but as we’ll see, it is a critical one.

Even in spite of the inherent unreliability of this summary, the shoddiness of the underlying IRS work, Republicans love it.

Jason Smith took these unreliable summaries and fabricated them into texts, creating the illusion that they had a solid chain of evidence for these texts.

Smith’s tweets of these texts went viral.

In spite of the fact that Abbe Lowell has attempted to get Congress to correct this viral claim twice, Smith left it up.

The summary and the fabrications of the text and Smith’s use of the initials “HZ” matter because there’s a dispute between Republicans and their IRS source about the identity of the person involved.

Shapley said the texts involved Henry Zhao, consistent with Smith’s fabrication.

But in a later release, James Comer described the interlocutor as Raymond Zhao — which is consistent with the interjection in the summary (and other communications regarding this business deal).

On July 30, 2017, Hunter Biden sent a WhatsApp message to Raymond Zhao—a CEFC associate—regarding the $10 million capital payment:

As we’ll see, Broadwater predictably “fact checks” this as a dispute between Democrats and Republicans. It’s not. Before you get there, you first have to adjudicate a conflict between the guy who led the IRS investigation for more than two years, Gary Shapley, and James Comer. It’s a conflict sustained by the shoddiness of the underlying IRS work.

This is a story showing not only that James Comer and Jason Smith don’t know what they’re talking about, but are willing to lie and fabricate nevertheless, but even the IRS agents may not know what they’re talking about, and if they don’t, it’s because the standard of diligence on the investigation of Joe Biden’s son was such that they didn’t even include the identifier of the person to whom Hunter was talking, which would make it easy or at least possible to adjudicate this dispute.

This is a story that discredits the IRS agents — for their sloppy work and for their bogus claims to need location data to further investigate this and the conceit that it ever would have been appropriate to get location data for Joe Biden or search his guest home in August 2020. It is a story that shows that when faced with uncertainty created by the sloppiness of their IRS sources, Republicans instead just make shit up.

But here’s how Luke Broadwater describes the conflict:

‘I am sitting here with my father’

One WhatsApp message that has received much attention was provided by an I.R.S. investigator who testified before Congress under whistle-blower protections. In it, Hunter Biden invoked his father, who was then out of office, while pressing a potential Chinese business partner in 2017 to move ahead with a proposed energy deal.

“I am sitting here with my father and we would like to know why the commitment has not been fulfilled,” the message states. On its face, the message seemed to suggest Joe Biden was in league with his son pressuring for a payment to the family.

But Democrats have argued it is more likely an example of Hunter Biden’s bluster than an accurate statement of Joe Biden’s involvement in a shakedown. A lawyer for Hunter Biden says he does not remember sending the message.

The president has denied he was present at the time.

Broadwater turns this into an unknowable question about whether Biden was sitting next to Hunter, and claims it’s just about competing partisan arguments.

But this is a confession about Broadwater’s own abilities or work ethic, not a fact-check of truth claims. Because if you don’t understand or explain that the claim itself builds off provenance problems, you’re actively covering up several layers of shoddiness in this impeachment stunt.

If the point is to test the reliability of the impeachment inquiry, it’s that other story that needs to be told.

Bankrupt!

Rudy Giuliani admits he is bankrupt.

It’s unclear, given the Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition he filed today, whether it was his lying to cheat or his “scheme” to avoid paying taxes that was the final straw. He owes just shy of $1 million, to NY State and IRS, for two years of taxes.

Republicans have been quite clear that they believe that kind of tax negligence merits immediate incarceration — at least it does in Hunter Biden’s case.

In addition to the $148M judgement he owes Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, he also owes his co-defendant in the Hunter Biden lawsuit, Robert Costello, over $1.3M for past representation.

Ultimately, this is expected and a direct response to Beryl Howell’s order that he pay up immediately.

 

Rudy’s Seized Devices Were More Useful for Investigating January 6 than Marie Yovanovitch’s Firing

On April 28, 2021, the FBI seized up to 18 devices from Rudy Giuliani. On Tuesday, DOJ unsealed the affidavit behind that seizure.

The affidavit, read in conjunction with Barbara Jones’ Special Master reports, Rudy’s privilege log from the Ruby Freeman lawsuit, and a filing he submitted in that suit provide abundant evidence that the devices FBI seized on April 28, 2021 were more useful for investigating January 6 than any suspected FARA violations involved in the firing of Marie Yovanovitch.

And this goes well beyond Robert Costello’s claim that a number of the devices seized from Rudy were corrupted.

The affidavit, as written, was narrow: it only covered FARA violations tied to the role of Yuriy Lutsenko and other Ukranians in the firing of Ambassador Yovanovitch in spring 2019. While there is evidence cited in the affidavit from a broad period of time (for example, describing Rudy’s public admissions that he did certain things in early 2019 later that year), the last overt act described in the affidavit is of someone — probably Victoria Toensing — texting Rudy on May 9, 2019, complaining that people were asking about whether she had registered under FARA and denying that she had a client.

Remarkably, then, the affidavit asked for — and Judge Paul Oetken authorized — the authority to seize “any and all” devices at Rudy’s office and home almost two years after that last overt act.

Judge Oetken authorized that search and seizure even though one of the phones described in the affidavit — an Apple iPhone X that Rudy first started using on January 20, 2021 — could not possibly have been used in the suspected crime described in the affidavit. And three more of the devices described in it, including another iPhone, were only put in use later in 2019.

I’ve long argued that by September 2021, DOJ at least contemplated obtaining other warrants to access that content (because SDNY successfully argued to do the privilege review on all content that post-dated January 1, 2018). But given the scope of those devices, it looks likely that there was at least one other affidavit presented to Oetken in April 2021, one that would justify seizing those later devices.

This table shows (on the vertical axis) the devices that Rudy says were seized and (on the horizontal axis) the devices that FBI thought they’d find.

While Rudy’s own description of these devices (including the model number of the MacBook used in planning January 6, here listed as A22251) is as unreliable as everything else about him, the FBI didn’t find the two iPhone Xes — one used between January 8, 2018 and August 13, 2019, the other used between April 5 2018 and August 27, 2019, both marked in yellow above — that would have been Rudy’s primary phones during the events described in the affidavit.

Just three devices — two iPads and one iPhone 11 — clearly match the description of what the FBI expected to find.

All of them were, according to Rudy’s description (marked in the vertical “January 6 column”), among those used in planning January 6.

Whichever iPhone 11 they did find is almost certainly device that Special Master Jones labeled as device 1B05, the privilege review of which she described this way:

I next assigned for review the chats and messages that post-dated January 1, 2018 on Device 1B05, which is a cell phone. There were originally 25,481 such items, which later increased to 25,629 after a technical issue involving document attachments was identified. An initial release of non-designated items was made to the Government’s investigative team on November 11, 2021.1

Of the total documents assigned for review, Mr. Giuliani designated 96 items as privileged and/or highly personal. Of those 96 designated items, I agreed that 40 were privileged, Mr. Giuliani’s counsel withdrew the privilege designation over 19, and I found that 37 were not privileged. I shared these determinations with Mr. Giuliani’s counsel, and they indicated that they would not challenge my determination that the 37 items are not privileged. The 40 privileged documents have been withheld from the Government’s investigative team and the remaining 56 were released on January 19, 2022.

1 Additional non-designated items were released on January 19, 2022.

Those 25,000 chats were easily the most voluminous content turned over from any one device to the FBI. Of all the chats that Rudy attempted to withhold from that phone, he ultimately only succeeded in withholding 40 items. 40 chats or texts out of 25,000 total.

262 items in Rudy’s privilege log come from that phone. Another 127 come from a device, 1B09, also used to text about January 6 (including with Mark Meadows), which — given the date scope — must have been among the first devices Jones reviewed. That’s one possible source of a Ken Chesebro document included in the indictment but not identified in the January 6 Report.

And while Rudy withheld those documents from Ruby Freeman, since Jones only permitted Rudy to withhold 43 items total from DOJ, those must have been deemed non-privileged in the Special Master review. (I’ve noted before that there are easily 40 items that clearly relate to Rudy’s own lawyers.)

They were all turned over to DOJ, for use with whatever investigative teams had obtained warrants to access them, no later than January 21, 2022.

This is one thing Rudy accomplished by defaulting on discovery: Withholding from Ruby Freeman, and therefore from a public trial that would precede Republican primaries, documents that were turned over to DOJ in January 2022.

By April 2021 when — using warrants approved on Lisa Monaco’s first day on the job, but nevertheless a year after Bill Barr started obstructing this investigation — the FBI came looking for devices involved in Rudy’s suspected FARA violations tied to getting Marie Yovanovitch, they didn’t find the devices he would have been using at the time.

They did, however, find three devices on which Rudy planned January 6. And because of the way DOJ did the privilege review on those devices, those records would have been made available to any investigators with a lawful warrant no later than January 21, 2022.

Perjury Trapped: Rudy Giuliani’s Sync Sink

As I noted here, I’m just beginning to go through the warrants from SDNY’s Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani investigation the NYT liberated.

I want to start with a very minor point about the apparent inconsistencies between what SDNY found when they conducted searches on Rudy’s cloud and what Rudy claimed — purportedly under penalty of perjury — before Beryl Howell.

In the Ruby Freeman case — the first one, not her renewed suit to enjoin him from continued lies about her — Rudy claimed that he didn’t need to separately search his messaging accounts, because his phones were all synced to his iCloud.

All of my [redacted]@icloud.com iCloud data would have also been included in the TrustPoint data because I synced my iCloud to my devices.

But SDNY, when they searched his iCloud back in 2019, discovered that known messages were not there.

On or about November 4, 2019, the USAO and FBI sought and obtained from the Honorable J. Paul Oetken, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, a warrant (the “November 4 Warrant”) for records in iCloud accounts belonging to Giuliani and [Victoria Toensing].

[snip]

As discussed above, on November 4, 2019, the FBI and USAO sought and obtained a search warrant for, among other things, Giuliani’s iCloud account. However, the iCloud did not contain many of the text messages outlined above with Parnas and [Fruman] during the December 2018 to April 2019 time frame. Based on my training and experience, as well as my review of records provided by Apple, I believe the iCloud account did not contain text communications from early 2019 because Giuliani did not backup that content, or removed it from the backup, and not because it does not exist. Indeed, for the reasons set forth below, including Giuliani’s public statement that he has retained potentially relevant communications on his cellphones, there is probable cause to believe that, unlike the iCloud account, evidence of the Subject Offenses continue to be maintained on the Subject Devices.

But, according to Robert Costello, in a declaration that — unlike Rudy’s — was actually notarized and so worth something if you ignore the obvious spin in his representations of what SDNY told him — when SDNY reviewed at least seven of those devices, they were corrupted.

Rudy’s messaging wasn’t in his iCloud when SDNY looked in 2019. And it wasn’t in his phones when SDNY looked in 2021. And yet this year, he claimed the content in both places would be the same.

Preliminary Comments on Rudy and Lev Warrants

In the last few months, NYT asked to and did liberate the warrants in the Lev Parnas investigation and the expansion of the investigation into Rudy Giuliani on Lisa Monaco’s first day on the job.

The Rudy warrants are very tidy. They include:

The Parnas warrants are a godawful mess — the digital equivalent of someone throwing 1,000 pages incorporating 30 or so documents on the floor, intermixing them all, thereby confusing where one document begins and the next ends. Here’s what just half look like: SDNY repeatedly split affidavits across multiple documents.

Bad words have been said in the Wheeler home today as a result.

Very bad words. And loudly.

For now, these two affidavits regarding Parnas provide a key introduction:

  • February 28, 2020: This warrant affidavit regarding Fraud Guarantee — the only ongoing investigation after Barr intervened to shut down any investigation into Rudy and after Parnas agreed to cooperate with impeachment — summarizes many if not all of the earlier warrants targeting Parnas.
  • December 10, 2019: This warrant, for Parnas’ Instagram account, is (for the moment) the most intact warrant describing the investigation as it was before Barr shut down any natural development. Temporally, it ends with a description of Trump’s perfect phone call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

I suspect the Parnas docket may look like it does to obscure what happened to the investigation when Barr intervened. Notably, while both sets of warrants make it clear that the Bidens were part of the project, there is much less focus on it in the Rudy warrants.

All that said, reviewing the Rudy affidavit, I have zero doubt — zero — that this affidavit was intended to obtain content for more than just the Foreign Agent investigation into Rudy. I was always confident that DOJ had set up that possibility (relatedly, former DOJ spox Anthony Coley pointed to this Politico story as proof that Garland nay-sayers have always been wrong), but there are several signs in this affidavit (which I’ll return to) that was the idea.

That said, as I reported, many of the devices seized with the Rudy warrant were corrupted, making them useless for any investigation.

Colorado Accelerates Timeline and Scope of SCOTUS Review of Trump’s January 6 Conduct

Colorado just booted Trump from the ballot, building on the lower court ruling that no only was January 6 an insurrection, but Trump is an officer thereby disqualified to be President.

I’m not going to read the opinion closely — I’m sure the whole world will do that.

This ruling’s impact will be more important for the way it will accelerate and expand the scope of the Supreme Court’s review of Trump’s January 6 conduct. The state has stayed their decision until January 4, giving Trump time — but not much — to appeal.

Therefore, to maintain the status quo pending any review by the U.S. Supreme Court, we stay our ruling until January 4, 2024 (the day before the Secretary’s deadline to certify the content of the presidential primary ballot). If review is sought in the Supreme Court before the stay expires on January 4, 2024, then the stay shall remain in place, and the Secretary will continue to be required to include President Trump’s name on the 2024 presidential primary ballot, until the receipt of any order or mandate from the Supreme Court.

There’s a non-zero possibility this will lead SCOTUS to accelerate their consideration of the Absolute Immunity appeal, which is more important in the near and long term. After all, if Trump were found guilty, then states really could and should consider the 14th Amendment implications.

One more point: Because Trump will have appealed by January 4, he will be on the primary ballot, giving SCOTUS lots of time to consider this issue before the General. But it really does put the onus on SCOTUS to decide a lot of these issues quickly.

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