Five Percent of Mueller Pre-Grand Jury Interviews Pertain to Still Ongoing Investigations

The other day, I asked Jason Leopold where the Mueller FOIA release was this month. DOJ remains under obligation to hand over hundreds of pages a month in response to his FOIA, and they usually hand it over in the first days of the month.

He shared this month’s release, which makes it clear DOJ did something pretty dickish to him. DOJ turned over notice it was withholding 696 consecutive pages of materials, all of which invoke the b73 exemption for grand jury materials. Effectively, DOJ just dumped a bunch of interviews conducted before grand jury testimony, all of which DOJ has been withholding under that grand jury exemption, to fulfill their monthly obligation.

And because these are consecutive pages, we can’t glean information from them in the same way we can pages (such as those pertaining to Steve Bannon’s January 2019 Grand Jury appearance) turned over as part of other releases.

But there is, however, one detail that we can learn from this. Of the 696 grand jury related pages DOJ withheld, 40 of them also invoke the b7A exemption for an ongoing investigation.

That means that, in addition to the grand jury exemption, more than 5% of the pages were also withheld for ongoing investigations. We have no idea if these interviews are representative of the total. We also can’t see how many individual interviews these records include. But of this batch, it’s over 5%.

To be sure, given what we’ve seen of late, I don’t think that means we’re going to see indictments based on the Trump cases. While individual pages of the Stone, Bannon, and Flynn materials released in the last year reflect ongoing investigations, a whole lot of Sam Patten’s materials do (or at least did, last summer).

Patten, you’ll recall, was sort of a mirror image for Konstantin Kilimnik to Paul Manafort, another American political consultant that he used to access US networks. Patten was referred to Mueller by the Senate Intelligence Committee because he lied in his interview with the Committee. After that he entered into a cooperation agreement where he shared a whole bunch of what he had learned about how Russia interferes in Ukrainian politics (and through that, in US politics).

That is, my guess is that a bunch of these ongoing investigations pertain to stuff like counterintelligence investigations leading to the Treasury sanctions imposed yesterday, including one person who had worked with Kilimnik to interfere in the 2020 US elections.

Whatever it is, though, the only value of DOJ pulling this dickish move is to give a sense of how much of this material remains ongoing.

18 replies
  1. tinao says:

    Okay Legal Beagles, how much of a stretch of the imagination is it to hope someone is trying to tie consecutive trump crimes from Mueller onward together? And let’s not forget individual 1 in the Stormy case. An oh yeah, I am a dog lover!

  2. joel fisher says:

    Seems like if there was an active, ongoing investigation it would involve a now pardoned target resisting a grand jury subpoena. Something, I think, that would be playing out in public. What is DOJ doing with the docs?

    • Peterr says:

      Some of those pardons were for very specific offenses (alleged or proven in court), rather than a blanket “for any offenses they may have committed.” The folks in the first category could easily be on the hook for crimes other than those for which they were pardoned.

      Paul Manafort falls into the first category, by the way, and I could easily see him being a figure in any active counterintelligence investigation, given his contacts with Kilimnik.

      • joel fisher says:

        You’re right, I’m just sayin’ it’s an issue we’d be hearing about if any of the pardonees were under subpoena.

      • Wombat says:

        IF there were pocket pardons, would anyone other than TFG necessarily have to know? Would anyone at DOJ, and by extension Garland, already know of their existence?

        • Tom R. says:

          While we are taking a stand against nonsense and scurrility, please explain why you are aspersing Rachel Maddow with “pøcket p@rdons”.

          Full show transcripts are online. I find no mention of this topic anywhere on the MSNBC network, with one exception where a guest on a non-Maddow show accidentally used the wrong word during a discussion of blanket pardons, in the context of somebody /not/ getting one.

          If you have actual evidence of anybody on MSNBC promoting “pøcket p@rdons” please explain.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          You may have a point about bringing receipts or an explanation that the comment was a metaphor for allegedly unsupported claims.

          But if you have an association with the RMS or MSNBC, cough it up, because your comment sounds like an angry gofer or producer.

        • Eureka says:

          (1) More than one woman in the universe at once can be (differently) valorous or credible.

          (2) Since it’s primarily, if not exclusively, dudes (per base rate and fact) who’ve fueled fodder like and about “pocket pardons”, your contrast would be more valid as a criticism of the topic at hand, rather than a reflexive statement on purity and order, had you cited one.

          Here, I’ll go: This is emptywheel, not a Michael Cohen interview! (emoji)

          FTR, a bunch of other guys talking about it (some employed by or who guest on MSNBC, as the conversation has turned):

        • Eureka says:

          As you’ll note from the Mediaite concatenation, Lawrence O’Donnell was pointedly pushing the idea of Trump (others) holding secret pardons. This was his bone, and still after he’d hosted former US Pardon Attorney Margaret Colgate Love, who tried to disabuse him of that notion (implausibilities and never-befores having lost their rhetorical power upon meeting Trump):

          More dudes, editorial at The Hill:

          Direct your guffaws at these men for spinning up men, then.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The term is a borrowing from the term “pocket veto,” but it’s not a good analogy or even a thing.

          Normally, a president has ten days to sign a bill, veto it, or return it to Congress with his objections. If he does nothing, the bill automatically becomes law. The pocket veto is a workaround. It works only if Congress is not in session during those ten days to receive the return of the bill, in which case, the bill becomes void.

          A “pocket pardon” is just wordplay. It would be a secret pardon, which the president virtually keeps hidden in his pocket. Sadly for conspiracy theorists, there is no such thing. A pardon has to be published to have legal effect. It’s part of the “no secret laws” priority, a leg upon which representative government rests.

        • CJ says:

          I keep trying to popularize the term “pardons in pectore”, after the process by which the Pope creates secret cardinals (who may or may not know that they’ve been elevated, and whose elevation ceases if the Pope dies while they’re unpublished), but to no avail … so far.

  3. dwfreeman says:

    Patten’s essential back story, not the one he hides with dry bibliography details on Linked In, began with creation of an idealist organization in Moscow, the brainchild of late GOP Arizona Sen. John McCain. It was his idea to start the International Republican Institute, an office aimed at infusing local politics in Russia with democratic values.

    That is where a young man, Konstantin Kilimnik, a Kyiv-born military linguist student, got his first job and met Sam Patten, an idealistic Mainer, Georgetown grad, small town journalist, Susan Collins Senate aide and Bush state presidential campaign director, who evolved into a pay for play international political consultant, specializing in work in Middle East and Kazakhstan oil sector politics before going into business with Kilimnik in Washington, DC as partners in Begemot Ventures International in February, 2015, a business with only foreign clients.

    Patten is essentially the GOP version of Hunter Biden (minus his personal issues) and as Dr. Wheeler reports, one who holds a mirror image relationship with Paul Manafort. Kilimnik met both through their Ukraine travels in Russian influence peddling and Kremlin oligarchy connections who came into contact with Kilimnik thanks to Patten. Hence their longterm connection and friendship. Kilimnik is nothing, if friendly, fiercely loyal, tough and completely aligned with Russian interests despite what his friends thought.

    I doubt Patten ever voted for Hillary considering he worked for Steve Bannon, Cambridge Analytica during Trump’s campaign and tried to disavow the polling data Kilimnik obtained from Manafort and passed along to Deripaska whom Kilimnik and Manafort both worked for in direct line with Putin.

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