Bill Barr Hid Evidence of a Bribery for Pardon Investigation During the Election

Beryl Howell just partially unsealed an opinion she wrote on August 28, permitting DOJ to access some attorney’s communications in a bribery-for-pardon scheme. It’s unclear who the targets of the investigation are — though their names are too short to be Rudy Giuliani.

But one thing is clear: Judge Howell asked DOJ to tell her whether the opinion could be unsealed.

The order associated with that opinion directed the government to submit a “report advising whether any portions of the accompanying Memorandum Opinion may be unsealed to the public in whole or in part and, if so, proposing any redactions.”

DOJ did not respond until November 25, and in their response, they asked her to keep the entire thing under seal.

On November 25, 2020, the government submitted a status report requesting that the Court “maintain the Memorandum Opinion under seal” because it “identifies both individuals and conduct that have not been charged by the grand jury” and declining to suggest any redactions for a publicly available version.

She made them go line by line to get the redactions issued with this opinion.

So basically Barr hid that someone tried to bribe Trump for a pardon through the entire election.

Update: Howell gave them 90 days so Barr didn’t intentionally hold it.

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74 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    This WH needs to be extirpated completely, in order to discourage the others. Even given the proclivities of DJT’s grifting instincts it is remarkable how blatantly repulsive this alleged conduct is. And, I have no doubt more than a few GOP Congresscritters were complicit or actively involved (looking at you, Lindsey) to keep a lid on the pot.

    • Nehoa says:

      I looked up the meaning of “extirpated” just to make sure I understood it correctly. Oxford dictionary: root out and destroy completely.
      “the use of every legal measure to extirpate this horrible evil from the land”
      I like it!

      • harpie says:

        Yes…great word, and even better context!
        [When “Decimate” is just NOT strong enough].

        ? Extirpate = 10(Decimate) ?

        • Fraud Guy says:

          Forget the source, but recall a comment about the bloody-mindedness of the Roman Empire: “How many languages have a term for killing one out of ten people?”

          • Joe says:

            Yes, but everyone thinks decimate means killing 9/10 and leaving 1/10. It makes you wonder whether the Roman Empire themselves were like, “No, you misunderstand. We only plan to kill 1/10.” And the Visgoths were like, “That makes us feel so much better!”

            • ducktree says:

              This year, I’m gonna ask Santa (and Rayne and bmaz and Marcy) for a “like” button on the comments section …

              Although ~ I have not been especially good this year, so may be too presumptuous an ask.

              • Rayne says:

                Folks have remarked before on how much they’d appreciate a Like/Dislike button on comments, but…is the button worth the additional risk to the site’s security along with the cost and hassle to add/maintain? Like/Dislike is a plugin feature; every plugin increases risks as well as maintenance headaches. What if the developer/provider of the plugin goes belly up or stops servicing the plugin? What if adding the plugin exposes every commenter and the site to a new vulnerability?

                IMO we need to consider the least invasive tool for expressing appreciation — just Reply and tell the commenter Thanks.

                • Valley girl says:

                  Thank you for the info, Rayne.

                  Also, this would clutter up the site. And, after all, the comment sections are not meant to be a popularity contest, imho. My 2 cents.

  2. Jim White says:

    On Twitter, my speculation is that the data from more than 50 devices might be from the haul from Michael Cohen’s home and office. DOJ would have had these materials close to two years by the time of the August filing. And I’m wondering if it relates to Turkey offering to pay for Flynn’s pardon.

    Given the back and forth on redaction you document, if it is about Flynn, having the pardon actually happen may have been the final straw for the judge to unseal.

    Another possibility for the data source could be the Parnas, et al. searches, but I’m not sure if we get to enough devices there. DOJ would have had those materials just short of a year. In that is the source, though, the bribery may well have been Firtash trying to buy his pardon.

    • subtropolis says:

      But the Cohen raid was so long ago, I can’t imagine that his devices contained emails discussing this.

      The document mentions something about “after [redacted] surrendered to the [Bureau of Prisons]” so it could well be him. However, George Nader seems a likely candidate, also. He has access to a lot of money, and knows something about lobbying the right people.

      Giuliani is probably involved, too, imho. Probably the bag man. We know there’s an open investigation into him; don’t know whether he’s had any of his devices seized.

    • harpie says:

      Marcy retweeted a screenshot posted by
      https://twitter.com/SollenbergerRC/status/1333922573881630720
      showing that the convict’s last name seems to end with an “s”, but also says it can’t be Parnas because he’s not in BOP custody.

      It might also be interesting to know the approx 13-space name of the person “who is not an attorney” to whom each of the e-mails was “directed, copied or forwarded”. [see page 14]

      • Peterr says:

        Gates? He pled guilty and served 45 days, so it’s not like he’s rotting away in prison, but if Manafort was the one pushing for a pardon, Gates’ name would have come up in the course of things.

        Per Gates’ wiki, here’s the timeline (reordered here to put them in chronological order)

        During this proffer session interview, on February 1, Gates lied to FBI investigators, and this false statement made by Gates was incorporated into the plea bargain that he subsequently entered into. . . .

        On February 7, 2018, three of Gates’s attorneys cited “irreconcilable differences” with their client in court hearing with Judge Amy Berman Jackson in their motion to withdraw as Gates’s counsel. . . .

        On February 22, 2018, Mueller revealed new charges in the Manafort and Gates case, filed on February 21. . . .

        On February 23, 2018, Gates pleaded guilty to one count of false statements and one count of conspiracy against the United States. The plea bargain included an agreement to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.

        Note, too, that the initial case against Gates was before Amy Berman Jackson in DC, while these charges were filed in EDVA. Howell is in the DC circuit, so if this information against Manafort came in the course of a DC-based case, it makes sense that they’d bring this pardon/bribery information to a DC judge. (Insert IANAL disclaimer here.)

        Note, too, that IIRC, between Manafort and Gates, they had a ton of devices seized.

        Note as well that “Paul Manafort” has thirteen characters.

      • Alan Charbonneau says:

        It is hard to tell how many characters are used. The document is written in a variable-space font (Georgia, I think) and it the name was in all capitals, it may be only 10 or 11 letters long.

      • Chris.EL says:

        Someone on Twitter mentioned Joe Exotic. Wikipedia has his 2018 mugshot.

        Exotic’s birth name is approximately 13 characters: Joseph Allen Schreibvogel
        March 5, 1963 (age 57)
        Garden City, Kansas, U.S.

        Trump has already weighed in; opining: “… what did he do?”…

        Trump’s all in on killing; but the coward will never get his own hands dirty. There will always be someone carrying the wipes.

      • harpie says:

        This is the 12 letter + 1space name I was thinking of:
        J-A-R-E-D K-U-S-H-N-E-R

        [via Justin Hendrix]:
        https://twitter.com/ilyamarritz/status/1334277041856897024
        6:23 PM · Dec 2, 2020·

        [WaPo]: “While the Justice Department has traditionally received clemency petitions, the new process involves direct submission of applicants to the White House Office of American Innovation, which is led by Kushner” [WaPo via Vicky Ward]

      • notmaz says:

        Chris Collins, the incarcerated Republican Congressman, seems a reasonable for. I don’t understand the jargon or context of the rest of that document to say if Collins fits. But he does have motive and means, i guess.

        [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name since your first comment on November 22. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  3. N.E. Brigand says:

    I popped in here about an hour ago to ask if all of today’s news might somehow be the same news, which is to say, to ask if the pardon was for Flynn, but it just doesn’t quite make sense, so I didn’t follow through. But as you subsequently noted on Twitter, the Nov. 25 timing is remarkable!

  4. Melissa Anderson says:

    I wondered about Cohen (for the seizure), Parnas and Sater, as well as Flynn and Stone. On page 15, at the bottom, it mentions that the person had already reported to BOP custody. Doesn’t that eliminate Flynn? I may have missed something (and perhaps conditions of his release on bail still required that BOP surrender?). I’m sure someone smarter and more qualified than I has an answer!

  5. John Langston says:

    Judge Howell presided over Roger Stone’s case. It seems doubtful that Stone (or Flynn) had access to enough ca$h to make meaningful political contributions. OTOH, they likely had information and knowledge of political embarrassment but that would lead more towards extortion rather than bribery.

    It’s not clear whether the “pardon” was enacted or only brought to consideration. It’s not known who was involved at the “White House” or how high it went.

    For sure this info wasn’t brought to the public in August. Heck, it might not be any worse than firing Comey to stop the “Russia thing” or extorting the President of Ukraine.

    The only bet I would make is that someone will be thrown under the bus (and might need a pardon later and proclaimed to be a hero after this fiasco is pronounced a “hoax”) (but with 6 weeks left, time isn’t on the side of culprit/hero or the Prez).

    “Time, time, time is on *our* side” (l’ll go with the Stone’s cover)

    • John Langston says:

      Later reports show that the individual is in custody of prison bureau. I would assume that negates of Flynn and Stone? Most likely, someone not involved in Mueller investigation. Just been spit balling this.

      • Chris.EL says:

        Someone on Twitter mentioned Joe Exotic. Wikipedia has his 2018 mugshot.

        Exotic’s last name at birth is approximately 13 characters: Joseph Allen Schreibvogel

        Schreibvogel is incarcerated; sentenced to 22 years!

        Wikipedia’s account of his crimes include murder for hire, violations of Endangered Species Act, animal cruelty.

        All areas that Trump does not **give a fuck** about.

        Trump has already weighed in; opining: “… what did he do?”…

  6. MattyG says:

    Who in the Russia scandal would need to *pay* DT for a pardon? DT is desperate to grant enough of them to cover *his* own arse. How many convicted high rollers in DTs circle *not* involved in the scandal are there floating around?

  7. Stephanie Smith says:

    My guess is that it relates to George Nader, the pedo arrested at Dulles in the spring. He is extremely wealthy and has many connections in the Middle East. He was also present at the meeting in the Seychelles. The same meeting Eric Prince perjured himself in front of Congress during his house testimony. Nader was a witness in the Russia investigation, and was in deep with the DJT administration. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. I would guess he’s not wanting to spend 10 in federal prison.

  8. obsessed says:

    If Rudy Giuliani is too long, I suppose Elliott Broidy is as well, right? Or is it just the last name? This makes Blago seem tame.

  9. TJ says:

    Nadar fits all the unredacted information. He also has access to millions of dollars through his Putin contacts.

  10. jplm says:

    Footnote 6 suggests that the someone has previously made substantial campaign contributions.

    Footnote 9 mentions free work undertaken on behalf of someone’s case whether it be the same someone as footnote 6 or another party (in footnote 9 the apostrophe being used without the ‘s’ would indicate a name ending with the letter s as Savage Librarian has previously pointed out and Peterr has already speculated could be Gates) So speculating who provided free advice to Gates might be another lead.
    Better than an Xmas 1000 piece puzzle.

  11. harpie says:

    Scott Stedman thread linking to
    https://twitter.com/ScottMStedman/status/1333930419029372928

    Andrew Prokop

    […] Okay, after reading it again it looks there are four people involved.
    1) The Pardonee (in Bureau of Prisons custody)
    2) Lobbyist 1 (described as an “attorney-advocate”)
    3) Lobbyist 2 (not a lawyer, said to have “political connections”
    4) The briber (a campaign donor) […]

    AND Josh Rudes [Fellow for Malign Finance at @SecureDemocracy and @GMFUS. Alumnus of @IMFNews, @WHNSC, @USTreasury, @jpmorgan, @Harvard, and @babson. Biden Democrat.]
    https://twitter.com/JoshRudes/status/1333938951183327234
    8:00 PM · Dec 1, 2020

    LEFT: Red letters show that [Jho] “LOW” would fit perfectly as the mysterious bribery-for-pardon defendant.

    RIGHT: @bradleyhope & @TomWrightAsia explain in Billion Dollar Whale that Jho Low aims to emulate what he sees as Marc Rich’s purchase of a pardon. Broidy was charged weeks ago. [screenshots]

    • harpie says:

      Andrew Prokop via Marcy:

      https://twitter.com/awprokop/status/1334683553649528833
      9:18 PM · Dec 3, 2020

      The NYT reveals:
      1) The Pardonee: Hugh Baras
      2) Lobbyist 1 (attorney-advocate): Abbe Lowell
      3) Lobbyist 2 (political connections): Elliott Broidy
      4) The would-be briber: Sanford Diller (no sign yet bribe was paid, he’s since died)
      https://nytimes.com/2020/12/03/us/pardon-elliott-broidy-abbe-lowell.html

      The story places the events under investigation as taking place in 2017. They came to light in the broader investigation of Broidy. (Since then, Diller died, Baras completed his prison sentence and is now out, and Broidy pleaded guilty in the other case).

      A great scoop from @nytmike @kenvogel @ktbenner @adamgoldmanNYT and overall a reminder that dubious activity in search of a pardon from Trump did not only start recently. Happened in year 1 of the admin

    • harpie says:

      Here’s Dan Friedman [via Laura Rozen] with some of the pretty SWAMPY DETAILS:

      https://twitter.com/dfriedman33/status/1334718076756103169
      11:36 PM · Dec 3, 2020

      The big loser in this expose seems to be Abbe Lowel. Diller’s dead. Baras has served his time. Broidy’s already taken a zillion PR hits. But this suggests that DOJ at least suspected Lowell, a renowned defense lawyer, of illegally lobbying the WH.

      Notably, Lowell represents GOP fundraiser Nickie Lum Davis. In August Lowell negotiated with DOJ a deal in which Davis pleaded guilty to aiding/abetting illegal lobbying for Malaysia (to kill DOJ’s IMDB investigation) and providing evidence against Broidy. [link] [MORE]

      Also Reid Weingarten represents Lowell, whose client Nicki Davis pleaded guilty to a crime related to Malaysian-funded efforts to get the Trump admin to extradite Guo Wengui to China. Weingarten also represents Steve Wynn, who pushed for Guo’s extradition too. Small world. [screenshots]

      Since I’ve veered into 1MDB, worth noting that Broidy and Lowell are among many prominent US lawyers/politicos who’ve made lots of money from Jho Low, the alleged architect of the looting of Malaysia’s state 1MDB fund. [LINK]

    • harpie says:

      Oh, yeah, and Abby Lowell is a KUSHNER lawyer:

      https://twitter.com/lrozen/status/1334696565496303616
      10:10 PM · Dec 3, 2020

      NYT on alleged bribery for pardons probe: people said it concerned efforts by Kushner lawyer Abbe Lowell, fund-raiser Elliott Broidy, & billionaire SF real estate developed Sanford Diller on behalf of Berkeley psychologist, Hugh L. Baras, who died in 2018 […]

      That’s interesting. Until recently Bannon’s lawyer Bill Burck is one of Broidy’s attorneys [screenshots]
      Burck recently stopped being Bannon’s lawyer after Bannon called for the FBI director to be beheaded […]

      That’s 12 letters + 1 space JARED KUSHNER
      https://www.emptywheel.net/2020/12/01/barr-hid-evidence-of-a-bribery-for-pardon-investigation-during-the-election/#comment-869756

  12. graham firchlis says:

    EW has a comment up at the bottom of her Durham Special Counsel essay, ([email protected]), reporting “some” are suggesting it is Elliott Broidy and ruling out several others. Makes sense.

    Could be a useful formal addendum to this essay.

  13. The Old Redneck says:

    Reading the tea leaves here.
    DOJ’s initial response shows their people hoping Howell would just let the whole thing remain under seal and forget about it. When she made it clear that she wouldn’t do that, they grudgingly did the redactions.
    She must have then concluded releasing this to the world was in the public interest, even with all the massive redactions.

  14. PeterS says:

    There has to be a good chance this was a scam, operated by someone who claimed to have much more influence with Trump than they really had. Trump has been surrounded by grifters all along.

    • Jan says:

      That makes sense out of my original question, why would Barr’s DOJ pursue this suit? Supposedly nothing makes Trump madder than someone trying to grift off his grift.

  15. Joe F says:

    Quick question, if a pardonee (Rudy or Kids) continue the criminal behavior that they have been pardoned for, would that not unravel the underlying pardon? The three precedents for pre-emptive pardons all assumed the criminal activities had ended. I think all of them would be unable to immediately untangle themselves from the criminal behavior and would continue immediately following pardon. Thoughts?

    • Chris.EL says:

      searching for “Trump pardons pending” on Twitter yields many hits.

      Also led to this story out of Cleveland, “FBI raids offices at downtown One Cleveland Center building tied to Ukrainian oligarch
      Updated Aug 05, 2020; Posted Aug 04, 2020”

      Could this be the donor?

      Since Joe Exotic has been openly lobbying loudly and kissing Trump’s rumpy-bumpy over and over; also this is type of thing Don Jr. would hop in on too! (One can’t really describe Don Jr. discreetly as a connected son of political big-wig.)

      So glad there is bribery involved so this horrible dirt bag stays in a cage for 22 years. Throw him a bone.

      • bmaz says:

        Honestly never thought I would ever see “Joe Exotic” bullshit on this blog. No kudos for bringing it.

        • Chris.EL says:

          Agree that the J.E. persona, etc. is BS; never spent a millisecond looking into him or watching the documentary.

          *What does interest me* is someone who conceived and executed these crimes, was charged, tried, convicted, sentenced now happily maneuvers to avoid the consequences of his actions!

          I’ll go now.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Trump is raking in $50-60 million a week for his Super PAC(s) by continuing his theater of the absurd, claiming he was stabbed in the back by the Deep State and that he really won the election.

    Since he’s using Super PAC(s), he can legally use the money for personal expenses and even take it as income, so long as he discloses and declares it (a sequoia-size loophole Congress should shut). WTF would he ever stop making those claims and concede or admit he’s not going to run again? It’s his best grift yet.

  17. Coyle says:

    With all due respect, Trump’s “best” grift may have been convincing the IRS to grant him a $900 million tax offset after his casino empire went bust in the mid-1990’s. But I take your point. The man is truly the Warren Buffet of abject failure.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I suspect he’s never made $50-60 million a week for any stretch of time in his life. If he riles up his base enough to keep the money coming in for several months, he’ll beat the tax grift. Besides, tax grift avoids an expense. It often takes years to realize the nominal amount. The Super PAC grift is cash money.

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