Mike Flynn’s “Wiped” Phone

Back in October, I noted that Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson had written a 285-page report complaining that the FBI had obtained records from the GSA as part of the Mueller investigation. I further pointed out that one of their central complaints, that the FBI hadn’t obtained a warrant, was almost certainly refuted by the public record.

[T]he craziest thing is how the report confesses that they are unaware of any legal process for these files.

Although the FBI’s August 30, 2017 cover email referenced applying for a search warrant, the Committees are aware of only one court-ordered disclosure of records, specifically, information related to the transition records of Lt. Gen. Flynn, K.T. McFarland, Michael Flynn’s son, and Daniel Gelbinovich.128

128 Order, In re Application of the U.S. for an Order Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2703(d) Directed at Google Related to [the transition email accounts for those four individuals], 1:17-mc-2005 (D.D.C. Aug. 18, 2017) [GSA004400- 4404] (ordering the disclosure of customer/subscriber information but not content).

At one level, they’re being coy in that they claim to be interested in court-ordered disclosure. A document recently released via the Jeffrey Jensen review reveals that in February 2017, star witness and pro-Trump FBI Agent was obtaining some of this information using NSLs. Another document explains why, too: because one of the first things FBI had to do to understand why Flynn had lied to them was to determine if he was coordinating his story with those at Mar-a-Lago.

The lie that he didn’t even know Obama had imposed sanctions was not one of Flynn’s charged lies, but it was his most damning. He lied to hide that he had consulted with Mar-a-Lago before picking up a phone and secretly undermining sanctions in “collusion” with Russia.

Crazier still, Chuck and Ron didn’t go to the first place one should go to understand how legal process worked, the publicly released Mueller warrants. The warrant to access the devices and email of at least the original nine (plus one other person) is right there in the docket.

GSA transferred the requested records to the FBI, but FBI didn’t access them until it had a warrant.

In other words, this 285-page report is effectively a confession from Chuck and Ron that two Committee Chairs and a whole slew of staffers can’t figure out how to read the public record.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the very same day Grassley and Johnson released their report, the government submitted its proposed redactions in the Mike Flynn warrants that Flynn’s attorneys had been stalling on. Those finally got released on November 10. Two of the warrants prove I was correct.

An August 25, 2017 warrant obtaining the GSA emails and device content of Mike Flynn, KT McFarland, and Daniel Gelbinovich explains,

As described below, each of the Target Email Accounts and Target Devices was provided by the General Services Administration (GSA) to one of three members of then-President Elect Donald J. Trump’s transition team after the 2016 presidential election: MICHAEL T. FLYNN, Kathleen T. McFarland, and [Gelbinovich]. At the FBI’s request, the GSA provided the Target Email Accounts and Target Devices to the FBI, which is maintaining them at the FBI’s Washington Field Office located at 601 4th Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20535. While the FBI might already have all necessary authority to examine the property, I seek this additional warrant out of an abundance of caution to be certain that an examination of the property will comply with the Fourth Amendment and other laws.

Much later, the affidavit addresses another concern raised by the Senate report, that the devices had been preserved improperly. Not true.

Like Peter Strzok and Lisa Page’s cell phones, they were wiped.

Information provided by the GSA indicates that the Target Devices were “wiped” after they were returned to GSA following the transition period.

They were wiped even though there was an active criminal investigation into Flynn.

A September 27, 2017 warrant for the emails and devices of Keith Kellogg, Sarah Flaherty, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, and Jared Kushner explains further.

Based on information provided by the GSA, when email accounts and devices including the Transition Team Email Accounts and Subject Devices were issued to members of the Transition Team, recipients were required to certify that the “Government property” they had received was being provided “in connection with [their] role with the President-elect/Eligible Candidate Transition Team”; that it needed to be returned when they were no longer working for the Transition Team; and that they agreed to abide by the IT Acceptable Use Policy. In addition, the laptop computers issued by GSA to members of the Transition Team included a visible banner upon turning on the computers that stated: “This is a U.S. General Services Administration Federal Government computer system that is FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY. By accessing and using this computer you are consenting to monitoring, recording, auditing and information retrieval for law enforcement and other purposes. Therefore, no expectation of privacy is to be assumed.” [emphasis added)

Curiously, this warrant reveals that not all of these phones were wiped.

Information provided by the GSA indicates that some of the Subject Devices were “wiped” after they were returned to the GSA following the transition period.

If Mike Flynn’s phone (along with KT McFarland’s) was wiped, but those of other senior officials were not, even though the White House had learned of a criminal investigation into Flynn in the earliest days of the Administration, it would suggest that the most damning phones may have been selectively wiped.

I’ll describe in a follow-up some of the damning details that wiping the phones might have attempted to hide.

21 replies
  1. harpie says:

    Oh look! There’s Emily Murphy [from the report]:

    At the time of the events highlighted by this report, Denise Turner Roth, an Obama appointee, was Administrator of GSA until Timothy Horne’s appointment as acting Administrator on January 20, 2017. Mr. Horne served until Emily Murphy was sworn in as GSA Administrator on December 12, 2017. 4 […]

    On December 19, 2017, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs received a letter from Kory Langhofer, Trump for America’s General Counsel, explaining that the GSA provided Trump for America’s records to the Special Counsel without giving prior notice, obtaining its consent, or providing it an opportunity to review the records for privilege or relevance.7 […]

      • harpie says:

        Yes, but that’s when the committee was notified of the alleged problem by Trump’s campaign lawyer, who somehow found out from???, initiating the report.

        • AMG says:

          oh damn, i was following that whole story very closely for a while – i was on a road trip when i first saw the “langhofer” letter in the news and read the letter.

          apologies for not having a clear memory of all of the details but the langhofer letter itself lays it all out pretty clearly:

          “After Inauguration Day on January 20, 2017, TFA wound down the bulk of its activities, vacated the premises provided by the GSA, and returned to the GSA the computer and telephone equipment that TFA had used during the transition period. Shortly thereafter, the GSA asked TFA for direction on the disposition of PTT data. TFA directed the GSA to handle PTT data in a manner consistent with the MOU and the reported disposition of data from President Obama’s presidential transition in 2008; computing devices were to be restored to original settings and reissued to federal personnel and, to the extent that PTT records were not required for the winding down of TFA’s affairs, the PTT email archives were no longer to
          be preserved.”

          “Approximately two months later, TFA became aware of certain requests concerning PTT records.”
          (* pretty sure this was the FBI knocking on the door)

          “TFA promptly instructed the GSA, as the custodian of certain TFA records including PTT emails hosted on GSA servers, and others to preserve PTT records. Because of TFA’s prompt reaction, all PTT emails have been preserved.”

          on may 12, a few days after comey gets fired, trump appoints richard beckler as GSA general counsel and beckler’s first order of business is to establish that PTT records belong to PTT and if the FBI wants them, they need to talk to TFA and NOT GSA.

          meanwhile, beckler gets sick in august and goes into the hospital.

          during that time, the FBI comes knocking again – no subpoena, just a letter asking for the goods, 2 letters actually – aug 23 and aug 30 (aug 23 asked for records on 9 PTT members responsible for national security and policy
          matters and aug 23 asked for the goods on four additional senior PTT members.

          and a career GSA employee handed them right over, no muss, no fuss.

          funny thing is, it took trump’s folks 3.5 months to learn about it.

          here’s a copy of the letter:

      • Rayne says:

        Murphy worked as senior advisor to Timothy Horne before she was nominated to GSA Administrator on September 2, 2017, and approved by the Senate on December 5.

        What I can’t find is the date Murphy began as senior advisor let alone the date she started for GSA in any role.

        If somebody’s on LinkedIn and can look this up it’d be helpful.

        • Tracy Lynn says:

          Here’s what I found about Emily Murphy on Linkedin:

          Total Duration 3 yrs 11 mos

          Title Administrator
          Dates Employed Dec 2017 – Present
          Employment Duration 3 yrs
          Location Washington D.C. Metro Area

          Title Senior Advisor
          Dates Employed Apr 2017 – Dec 2017
          Employment Duration 9 mos
          Location Washington D.C. Metro Area

          Title White House Liaison
          Dates Employed Jan 2017 – Apr 2017
          Employment Duration 4 mos
          Location Washington D.C. Metro Area

          House Committee on Armed Services
          Professional Staff Member

          House Committee on Armed Services
          Dates Employed May 2016 – Jan 2017
          Employment Duration 9 mos
          Location Washington D.C. Metro Area

          • P J Evans says:

            I can get 3 years 7 months out of that, but not 3 years 9 months, assuming “senior advisor” is an actual GSA job title.

            • Rayne says:

              Senior advisor is the title reported by several news outlets over the course of 2017.

              I’m guessing she may have been tapped during the transition for the WH Liaison role, overlapping with her House Committee on Armed Services role.

              But she probably doesn’t want to share that on LinkedIn, assuming she was compensated by the transition, hmm? Why she’d look positively hypocritical!

          • Rayne says:

            Thanks for the detail — she stretches dates a bit, doesn’t she? I don’t know how she got 9 months out of May 2016-Jan 2017. And as PJ notes, the overall time at GSA is a bit loose-goosey.

            Much appreciate the assist.

  2. BobCon says:

    The CNN profile of Murphy by Kristen Holmes is one of the most embarassing pieces recently, and that says a lot. That Holmes and her editor fell for what was obviously a prepackaged rehab job set up on Murphy’s account is bad enough. Granting anonymity to her backers is also awful. What is inexcusable is the bothsides framing and backing the claim that there is ambiguity in her duty to start transition activities. CNN falling for this junk is terrible journalism.

    And what is deeply puzzling from even the sycophantic pseudo-savvy press perspective is that you write the fawning beat sweetener when someone is coming in, not when they are weeks from being thrown out. CNN can’t even manage to do the cheeseball Beltway press bit right.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Going out in a hail of recriminations over illegally withholding her certification to begin the formal transition process – and thereby willingly endangering lives to further her career.

      That that is not an error made under pressure is shown by her having served Donald Trump’s personal interests since becoming administrator. The Trump hotel lease review and the FBI headquarters move scandal being among her most public acts.

      • BobCon says:

        Holmes and CNN are guilty of the worst kind of reporting where they solely go by the word of sources and are either unwilling or too useless to look at the record. The claim that she is largely apolitical and not a Trump backer is impossible.

        And looping back to Flynn’s phone, CNN’s framing of Murphy this way works to deflect serious reporting that GSA is, in fact, a highly politicized agency and not a place being run by, as CNN stupidly puts it, a “technocrat.”

        Of course they are capable of monkeying with evidence.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          indeed. The reporting CNN put its name to is so one-sided, it eviscerates CNN’s claim to objectivity or even bothsidesism.

        • subtropolis says:

          Donald Trump doesn’t need Emily Murphy to ensure that his minions’ devices have been wiped. He’s long understood how these things work.

          • Rayne says:

            Yeah. Sure. That’s why his campaign manager and his former personal attorney had multiple communications devices loaded with material seized during raids.

    • John Paul Jones says:

      Laurence O’Donnell called out both CNN and Murphy on Wednesday night, noting that almost every word was “a lie.” Disappointing that other outlets didn’t bother to call Holmes out. The weird thing was, you could kind of tell from her face as she reported that she knew damn well it was all bullshit.

      But she went ahead and shovelled anyway. It would’ve been better to frame the report as – “This is the crap they’re handing me. None of it is true, as we can see from the public record.”

  3. subtropolis says:

    Are you certain that someone at GSA wiped the device? I’d think that Trump would have insisted that Flynn take care of that before handing it in.

    • blueedredcounty says:

      I think you are attributing a level of technical acumen and awareness that is beyond Trump. Which I believe is what Rayne is referencing in her above response, and is also referenced by several other people.

Comments are closed.