SSCI Confirms that Mueller Considered CFAA Charges for Don Jr.

One of the most useful things about the SSCI Report is how much content from the interviews and redacted portions of the Mueller Report it made public.

I’ll have several follow-ups talking about what it shows (beyond that DOJ is badly abusing the FOIA process to suppress damaging information) and what the difference choices about story-lines say about the investigation into Trump.

But for now, this disclosure is predictable, but important. Mueller considered CFAA charges for Don Jr’s use of a password obtained from WikiLeaks to access a non-public website.

WikiLeaks contacted the Trump Campaign directly, through Donald Trump Jr., on sev:eral occasions. On September 21, WikiLeaks used a direct message on Twitter to reach out to Trump Jr. for a comment about a website, “,” and provided Trump Jr. a password to access the website before it launched.1725 Trump Jr. responded, “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around.”1726 He then forwarded the message to senior Campaign officials in an email, and asked for their thoughts, indicating that he had visited the website:

Guys I got a weird Twitter DM.from wikileaks. See below. I tried the password and it works and the about section they reference contains the next pie in terms of who is behind it. Not sure if this is anything but it seems like it’s really wikileaks asking me as /follow them and itis a DM Do you know the people mentioned and what the conspiracy they are looking for could be? These are just screen shots but it’s a fully built out page claiming to be a PAC let me know your thoughts and if we want to look into it. 1727

Trump Jr. expressed concern about the webpage, though not about WikiLeaks itself: “The way they asked the question it almost seemed like there was some connection we should be aware of though. Do any of the political people recognize the names there?”1728 Some members of the Campaign responded to Trump Jr., but he did not communicate further with Wik1Leaks on the topic. 1729

(U) Email, Trump Jr. to Conway, Bannon, Kushner, Bossie, and Parscale, September 21, 2016 (DJTFP00023909-23911) (attaching screenshots of Twitter direct message from WikiLeaks). The email garnered some responses. Brad Parscale suggested setting up a competing website so that “searches come to us.” Email, Parscale to Trump Jr. et al., September 21, 2016 (DJTFP00023912). Jared Kushner forwarded the email to Hope Hicks without comment. Email, Kushner to Hicks, September 21, 2016 (DJTFP00023916-23918). The SCO declined to charge Trump Jr. for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act based on his unauthorized use of the password to access the website. See SCO Report, Vol. I, p. 179.

Let me be clear: It would have been a gross abuse of the CFAA to charge this, the kind of thing DOJ has tried in rare instances, to be rightly rebuked in legal commentary. Mueller made the right decision not to charge this.

But, as SSCI’s success at releasing this information makes clear, there’s no reason to redact this information (or other information discussing the various criminal theories used with the failson). Don Jr is not — as Billy Barr claimed when he described his privacy redactions — in any way a tangential third party to his father’s campaign. And the underlying conduct here has long been public. There’s no reason to hide the discussion of why Mueller (correctly) decided not to charge this conduct.

28 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    With the release of this report, I think the list of documented abuses of the classification system just got a lot longer.

    The obvious followup is for SSCI to nail down *who* made these decisions. Not a bland “The Justice Department” or “the CIA” but the very specific person, like “the deputy assistant AG for ratfking” with his/her name attached.

    We. Want. Names.

    Without names, there is no accountability. If names do get attached, then the next time someone thinks about screwing the system like this, they might think twice.

    • BobCon says:

      I agree we need the details. I suspect the side effect is that there will be some unfortunate patsies who got their arms twisted into being the ones who signed off — I think Barr is smart enough to know how to set people up for this.

      Maybe what needs to happen is giving someone filling in as an acting authority due to a void in the leadership structure the chance to submit a written account of what the hell was going on.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        As with most of Trump’s PRA records, we have to assume that at least portions of the DoJ’s records might look like the morning after Katrina. All things compliance are a dirty word for Trump. He thinks it’s a waste of time, and that its only purpose would be to expose him to liability.

        That makes records assessment and recovery an important separate project for Biden’s team. It should be properly authorized, staffed and resourced. A review would need to be done at more than the White House and DoJ. And it would need to be coordinated with the DoJ. Lord knows what it would find.

        • BobCon says:

          I’m hoping one place that gets properly staffed is security clearance review, which for years has been a mess.

          Quickly cutting off clearance for a bunch of the grifters who were counting on it for private sector cashout post Trump would be a good place to start.

  2. Peterr says:

    There’s no reason to hide the discussion of why Mueller (correctly) decided not to charge this conduct.

    Come now, Marcy. There are plenty of reasons to hide this discussion. No legal reasons, mind you, but plenty of other less-than-legal reasons:

    Can’t have folks thinking Mueller wasn’t a complete partisan hack.
    Can’t have folks thinking Don Jr. is a potential criminal conspirator.
    Can’t have folks thinking Don Jr. is too stupid to be a criminal conspirator.
    Can’t have folks thinking Jared is a potential criminal conspirator.
    Can’t have folks thinking Hope Hicks is tied into unsavory behavior.
    Can’t have folks thinking that the Trump campaign was trading backchannel information with Wikileaks.
    Can’t have folks thinking that the Trump campaign was not pure as the driven snow.
    Can’t have folks thinking that the whole Russia investigation was anything but a hoax.
    Can’t have folks thinking that it was not Hillary’s email servers but the Trump campaign’s email servers contain damaging information.

    Feel free to add your own.

    • Rugger9 says:

      In a way, I am rather surprised McConnell let this come out, even though Sen Burr says he’s not running in 2022 (yeah, right) and would be interested in protecting his legacy such as it is. McConnell would know how bad this could be, between the Lincoln Project, Meidas Touch and the various news organizations going off like Mika and Joe did.

      Because of the (expected) early voting it would seem to me that McConnell’s play would have been to delay this to November 6 in a Friday dump after the election, but to let it out now means many voters will be aware of this Volume V report when they vote early. In most other election years there would be time for some other October Surprise to drown these revelations out, but not this year.

      • Chetnolian says:

        I was surprised as well. But I refer you to the Politico Magazine interview today with Stuart Stevens on his (rather late) apostasy and upcoming book. He says “Mitch McConnell thinks Trump will be remembered as his fool, and I think the odds are pretty good it’s going to be the other way around.”. Maybe, just maybe, McConnell is starting to worry about that idea.

        • Fran of the North says:

          Stuart Stevens is in the decidedly uncomfortable position of having shilled for the devil, and recently come to Jesus. Sucks to be the guy who realizes you helped raw evil gain a dominant position. Karma is a stern task master.

          McConnell on the other hand is facing very public exposure: he thought he was calling the shots. Little did he understand that that trump owned him like a serf. Powerless and doting on the master’s command.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    In Marcy’s shorthand review of this report on twtr, she remarks about a Trump stay at the Ritz Carlton, Moscow, in connection with a beauty pageant. Now, Trump is famous for his glitz and faux glamor. But in post-Soviet Russia, as even the least experienced consultant would tell you, “normal” people with money play it down. Open displays of wealth are invitations for either the tax man or one or more of several organized crime families to come calling. Crime and violence often follow.

    Being understated keeps you, your family, and your business alive and holding at least some of your money. Trump, OTOH, is attracted to people who like to dazzle and go big. In Russia, the odds are high that those who do have connections that let them to get away with it. That means the mob, senior government officials, or both. By definition, then, Trump’s favorite Russians would be of interest to law enforcement. That’s not news, but it’s worth saying again, since this SSCI report will bring forth a torrent of lies from Trump.

    • Jenny says:

      Thank you Marcy again for putting together the puzzle pieces – an art form.

      earlofhuntingdon, what comes to mind is “From Russia with Love.”

      The solution is to remove the “black sharpie” cover up to expose the names.

      David Corn on Twitter: 10:57 AM · Aug 18, 2020
      In a section on Russian “kompromat,” the bipartsan Senate intel committee report notes that Trump “may have” begun an affair with a Russian woman during a trip to Moscow in 1996.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        No doubt, one of a long string of affairs. Which of them held the most potential for leverage, I wonder. At the time, Trump was a doofus millionaire, addicted to his dad’s money, but losing it at every turn. There’s probably a class at one of the Russian intel schools about how to use that sort of mark: the dim-witted, arrogant, self-obsessed, over-the-top personality who equates money with value, and who will do anything to keep the well from going dry.

        The honey pot might have been useful as a way to line Trump up for later use. Not using embarrassing intel – with only the implied obligation of owing a favor in return, which Trump might easily miss – could be useful with him. Reinforce that with a string of Russians buying Trump’s crap properties for cash, no strings attached (at first). Trump would be awash in Russian money. His ego would imagine he was worth it and that the condition would be permanent. He wouldn’t notice his dependence until someone asked a wee small favor, to keep the tap open. After that, the water would run up hill.

        The capstone of such a set-up would be Russian pressure behind DB’s odd choice to keep lending Trump large sums of money. It would mean the Russians had Trump by the short hairs, and they would be unlikely to let go without pulling everything out. But neither SSCI nor Mueller followed the money.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          SDNY or Cy Vance? Vance may be, although he’s not the most courageous soul, but both are keeping mum. That probably has Trump worried. It should, because that’s what could cause him the most trouble post-presidency. (He doesn’t think there will be a post-presidency for him.)

          The SSCI report, though, suggests he may have some lies to Congress that would still be within the statute of limitations for a few years. So, too, with any federal conspiracies, if acts in furtherance of them are recent. (The conspiracy extends until the last conspirator commits the last act in furtherance of it. Only then does the SoL begin to run.) But I just don’t think establishment Dems would go there.

        • Alan Charbonneau says:

          “dim-witted, arrogant, self-obsessed, over-the-top personality who equates money with value, and who will do anything to keep the well from going dry.“

          Yes, and few are more of the above than Trump. Look at what happened to Manafort and the idiotic decisions he made to try and stay wealthy. Regardless of how stupidly he acted at times, he is well-educated and a lot smarter than Trump; his addiction to money made him look far less intelligent than he likely is.

          Now think about someone with the same qualities but a much lower IQ. “Rube” doesn’t begin to describe how vulnerable Trump was to kompromat.

        • P J Evans says:

          Trmp is both stupid *and* ignorant, despite what should have been a fairly good education. (Ignorance can be fixed, but stupid goes clean to the bone.)

  4. 580nyc says:

    Somehow it was OK for Comey to weigh-in on Hillary just before
    the election thereby dooming her presidential bid.
    Trump and his band of thieves and con-artists always seem to get over.

  5. Rugger9 says:

    It starts: The DJT campaign has sued New Jersey about their mail-in process, expect more of these.

    Louis DeJoy has also told the postal employees that they cannot be legal witnesses for mail in ballots. I’m not sure how this quietly issued decision could even be legal, given that the states would need to revise their language from the current “anyone over 18” phrasing. This also restricts their powers as ordinary citizens/residents in the USA which (under the “equal protection” part of the 14th Amendment) is unenforceable. If it were me I would sign it anyway (since the states determine eligibility) and make Louie find out and fire my arse, but I’m annoying that way.

    • ducktree says:

      Hmmmm, for an absentee ballot in California a witness’ signature is only required if the voter is signing with an “X” instead of their own signature. . .

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      A witness’s signature (see also, Louisiana) is funny, given how much effort we spend to keep voting private and confidential. It’s one more piece of spaghetti Team Trump is throwing at the wall to suppress the vote. But there will be one or more states where a handful of votes is critical.

      Plus, a predictable Trump litigation strategy – he always litigates, to get even and to delay an opponent’s win – will be to claim that all these things put together somehow casts a shadow on the election – and his defeat – causing the whole thing to be thrown out. It should not be enough to win, but it will muck things up for some time, which is also standard Trump technique.

    • Fran of the North says:

      “As your employer, I’m telling you that you don’t have time to spend talking with the customers, much less checking drivers licenses and what all to make sure that who is signing the ballot is the registered voter.

      Deliver the mail. Nothing else.

      Which part of ‘You’ve got more mail to deliver today than you can get done in your 8 hour shift’ did you not understand??? ”

      Ain’t no legal issues involved.

    • John Paul Jones says:

      For me a key part of the Mother Jones article is this:

      “The password shared without authorization by WikiLeaks had been created for an embargoed press release sent on September 19 to journalists at roughly a dozen major news organizations who agreed to keep the information about the project private until after the following morning’s launch. It is unclear how WikiLeaks learned about the existence of our site prior to the launch—we had not yet publicized it to anyone other than the group of journalists.”

      Mother Jones was clearly bothered that (at least) one of their dozen journalists couldn’t be trusted. Assange has often defended his work by claiming that he’s a journalist. This would seem to definitively undermine that claim, showing his sneering dis-respect for the the rules journalists live by. (And of course, the same is true of whichever of the dozen blabbed to Assange.)

      • Coyle says:

        For me, the big takeaway is the fact that Wikileaks, at least in this instance, appears to have actively tried to sabotage an anti-Trump web site before it even went public. Needless to say, real news organizations do not launch or coordinate DoS and doxxing attacks against other news sites. Also makes you wonder how many of the attackers had Eastern European IP addresses.

  6. Zinsky says:

    This is very interesting and pulls back the curtains even more on Wikileaks involvement in the 2016 election malfeasance. It appears to be a lot deeper and more insidious than I had originally thought. The link provided by Coyle provides even more backstory – thank you!

    Since emptywheel attracts a lot of legal eagles and people who are comfortable researching cold legal cases – here is a mystery and a challenge: Is Ghislaine Maxwell the witness referred to in the complaint below as “Tiffany Doe”? If not, who is “Tiffany Doe”? Why was this complaint dropped or was it put under seal?

    Article from 2016 about complaint:

    Actual complaint:

    I think the QAnon folks should be alerted that we have found one of the violent pedophiles that they are looking for whom they believe are running the government and he is the President of the United States!

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      I’m not a lawyer, but Tiffany Doe is not Ghislaine Maxwell. Tiffany Doe’s declaration includes “I originally met Jeffrey E. Epstein in New York City in 1990 when I was the age of 22”. That would indicate a birth year circa 1968. Maxwell was born on Christmas Day, 1961. I have no idea who she might be.

  7. graham firchlis says:

    Speaking of legal trouble….

    Steve Bannon and associates indicted and arrested by feds for fraud and embezzlement, stemming from his Build the Wall fundraising.

    The Trump Tower Of Power is cracking.

  8. biff murphy says:

    Hope you’re all doing well in Ireland!

    That shithead jr. in the picture holding that poor animals tail should be jailed for that.
    That he was “too stoopid” to be charged doesn’t dismiss the fact the he’s a dangerous piece of shit.

Comments are closed.