Boris Epshteyn Enters the Three-Person Chat
Yesterday, both NBC and the Guardian reported that Christina Bobb was interviewed by investigators last Friday. The stories describe that her testimony confirms what we already knew, generally: Evan Corcoran did the search and wrote the declaration but Bobb signed it. Here’s NBC.
Bobb, who was Trump’s custodian of record at the time, did not draft the statement, according to the three sources who do not want to comment publicly because of the sensitive nature of the sprawling federal investigation.
Instead, Trump’s lead lawyer in the case at the time, Evan Corcoran, drafted it and told her to sign it, Bobb told investigators according to the sources.
Before Bobb signed the document, she insisted it be rewritten with a disclaimer that said she was certifying Trump had no more records “based upon the information that has been provided to me,” the sources said of what she told investigators. Bobb identified the person who gave her that “information” as Corcoran, the sources said.
“She had to insist on that disclaimer twice before she signed it,” said one source who spoke with Bobb about what she told investigators.
The source said she spoke freely without an immunity deal.
“She is not criminally liable,” the source said. “She is not going to be charged. She is not pointing fingers. She is simply a witness for the truth.”
“People made [Bobb] the fall guy — or fall gal, for what it’s worth — and it’s wrong,” the source said. “Yes, she signed the declaration. No one disputes that. But what she signed is technically accurate. … The people who told her to sign it should know better.” [my emphasis]
In addition to describing that Corcoran did the search, the Guardian corrects a point NBC made: Bobb wasn’t, actually, the custodian of records, which makes the decision to have her sign the declaration all the more suspect.
The certification was drafted by Corcoran, who also searched Mar-a-Lago for documents demanded by the subpoena, and sent it to Bobb before the justice department’s counterintelligence chief, Jay Bratt, arrived on 3 June to collect a folder of responsive records, the sources said.
It was not clear why Bobb was willing to sign the declaration – as required by the subpoena in lieu of testimony – as the “custodian of records” when she never fulfilled such a role, the sources said, and appeared to know there was risk in attesting to a search she had not completed.
It is common for people friendly to a criminal suspect to immediately tell the press what they told investigators, so these stories are unsurprising.
They’re interesting in their form, however.
First, normally these stories are based on someone’s lawyer quietly telling the press the substance of her interview (which, because Bobb testified to investigators, not the grand jury, her competent attorney would have attended and taken notes). Here, Guardian seems to explicitly rule out Bobb’s attorney (though not, perhaps, someone who is not specifically the “criminal defense attorney”).
Bobb and her criminal defense attorney also did not respond to requests for comment, though Bobb has told associates since the FBI’s search of the property on 8 August that the certification she signed was truthful, the sources said.
NBC doesn’t rule that out.
Represented by Tampa attorney John Lauro, Bobb gave her testimony Friday in Washington and spoke to federal investigators, not the grand jury investigating Trump, the source with knowledge of her testimony said.
Regardless of whether someone close to John Lauro was one source for this story, at least two more people, aside from the typical lawyer source that would be all such stories normally require, have knowledge and are blabbing to the press. It’s totally okay for a lawyer to share this, but having three different people share knowledge of the interview means Bobb has shared details with people who are not her lawyer — something that sounds more like witnesses comparing stories.
The entire point of going to the press, after all, is it’s a way to share details without directly sharing details with other potential witnesses. These stories almost make it sound like people spent the weekend comparing notes.
More interestingly, this effort to share her testimony includes, in each story, that investigators asked about Boris Epshteyn, whose phone the FBI happens to have seized last month based off what is believed to be a January 6 warrant.
Bobb also spoke to investigators about Trump legal adviser Boris Epshteyn, who she said did not help draft the statement but was minimally involved in discussions about the records, according to the sources.
Epshteyn’s cellphone was seized last month by the FBI, according to a New York Times report, citing sources familiar with the matter. Two sources confirmed to NBC News that his phone was seized.
Since the phone was seized, more stories (including both of these) have started claiming Epshteyn played some kind of legal role in Trump’s entourage. That’s a bit nutty, because for six years of association with Trump, Epshteyn has served as a propagandist and a political organizer, not a lawyer. But these stories and a few recent ones are labeling him as a counsel even as Bobb, who claims to be a Trump lawyer but not on this topic, proves one can be a JD and not be acting as an attorney at any given time. For whatever reason, we’ve heard nary a peep about privilege claims from Epshteyn regarding the earlier seizure, but these stories, at least, seem to want to retroactively claim this stuff involves a privilege claim.
Bobb’s testimony will clarify for DOJ, I guess, about how broadly they need to get Beryl Howell to scope the crime-fraud exception.
All that’s just tea leaves about how to read these kinds of stories.
The piece of news, however, is that DOJ appears to have gotten Bobb to specify precisely what caveat she demanded in the statement, which reads as follows:
I hereby certify as follows:
1. I have been designated to serve as Custodian of Records for The Office of Donald J. Trump, for purposes of the testimony and documents subject to subpoena #GJ20222042790054.
2. I understand that this certification is made to comply with the subpoena, in lieu of a personal appearance and testimony.
3. Based upon the information that has been provided to me, I am authorized to certify, on behalf of the Office of Donald J. Trump, the following:
a. A diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida;
b. This search was conducted after receipt of the subpoena, in order to locate any and all documents that are responsive to the subpoena;
c. Any and all responsive documents accompany this certification; and d. No copy, written notation, or reproduction of any kind was retained as to any responsive document.
I swear or affirm that the above statements are true and correct to the best of my knowledge. [both emphases mine]
Both stories appear to confirm that Bobb insisted on the bolded language limiting the declaration to the “information that [was] provided to [her].” That suggests she’s not the one (I had mistakenly suspected) — and she just told DOJ she’s not the one — who included the language limiting the declaration to documents moved from the White House to Florida.
The subpoena didn’t ask for all records bearing classification marks that got moved from the White House to Florida. The subpoena asked for, “Any and all documents or writings in the custody or control of Donald J. Trump and/or the Office of Donald J. Trump bearing classification markings.” The letter Jay Bratt sent to Evan Corcoran specifically envisioned custodians of record all over the country going to their local FBI office to drop documents off.
the custodian may comply with the subpoena by providing any responsive documents to the FBI at the place of their location
That caveat — limiting the declaration just to those documents in Florida — was an even more damning caveat than the one Bobb insisted on. The one Bobb insisted on was just testament to the obvious refusal by anyone with personal knowledge of the search to sign a declaration affirming its diligence. It was basically a big flag saying, “This declaration is toilet paper!!”
But the caveat limiting the declaration to just the documents in Florida is a different flag, one saying, “There are documents in other states!!!”
And that caveat was written not by someone ignorant of the whole scam, like Bobb says she was, but by someone who at least believed there was a good chance there were documents in other states.
On Thursday, the day before Bobb’s interview, outlets started reporting that Jay Bratt had told Trump’s people that they suspected he still had more documents. NYT’s version of that describes that as the source of tension between Evan Corcoran and Jim Trusty on one hand, and Chris Kise, on the other.
The outreach from the department prompted a rift among Mr. Trump’s lawyers about how to respond, with one camp counseling a cooperative approach that would include bringing in an outside firm to conduct a further search for documents and another advising Mr. Trump to maintain a more combative posture.
The more combative camp, the people briefed on the matter said, won out.
After the call from Mr. Bratt, who has led the Justice Department’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of the documents, Mr. Trump initially agreed to go along with the advice of one of his lawyers, Christopher M. Kise, who suggested hiring a forensic firm to search for additional documents, according to the people briefed on the matter.
But other lawyers in Mr. Trump’s circle — who have argued for taking a more adversarial posture in dealing with the Justice Department — disagreed with Mr. Kise’s approach. They talked Mr. Trump out of the idea and have encouraged him to maintain an aggressive stance toward the authorities, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Bloomberg’s version of this story describes that Trump’s lawyers are worried DOJ will require more declarations, which might be a trap!
But the department’s communications have generated doubt and debate for Trump’s lawyers about whether the department actually knows documents are missing and wants the lawyers to make written declarations in response. Some of Trump’s lawyers apparently view that as a potential trap that could land them in legal jeopardy, further exacerbating tensions on Trump’s team.
Based off Bobb’s testimony on Friday — which Bobb seemed to have been inviting for weeks — DOJ may have already set that trap.
Update: In a piece suggesting, without evidence, that Bobb is a subject in this investigation, not a witness, NYT provides more detail of Epshteyn’s role.
Trump lawyer, Boris Epshteyn, contacted her the night before she signed the attestation and connected her with Mr. Corcoran. Ms. Bobb, who was living in Florida, was told that she needed to go to Mar-a-Lago the next day to deal with an unspecified legal matter for Mr. Trump.
Curious: if she wasn’t the Custodian of Records, why did Bobb certify that she was “designated to serve as Custodian of Records…”?
A “custodian of records” can be about anybody with knowledge and ability to testify. Can be a lawyer. Can be a secretary. Can literally be a records department person. It is not a magical title, just an ability to testify.
That would be the legal threshold, but NARA had been provided a list of Custodians by Individual-1 who amended it later to his liking. That would seem to imply that Bobb’s capitalization wasn’t accidental but instead she was an official point of contact. I think it would be worth asking Bobb to show her credentials (appointment letter, etc.) as Custodian.
Likewise, this mention of Boris appears to me as an attempted foundation for a future A-C privilege claim to shut down the use of the stuff found on Epshteyn’s phone. I would think that claim would have been made at seizure, not months later. If Boris is an alleged attorney, then Boris can produce his contract.
We’ve seen lots of bad lawyering out of TFG’s crew, but no real professional I know would ever sign something like this even with a disclaimer.
The community here has long suspected there are documents squirreled away in other TrumpOrg properties, and this declaration is the Freudian slip that proves the point. The declaration by itself probably won’t be enough for a search warrant but may be supporting evidence showing intent to deceive because Individual-1 tried to re-frame the scope of the subpoena. Otherwise, why be specific about only Florida?
Trump’s nominal “custodian of records” for “the Office of Donald J. Trump,” wtf that is, is/are not the same people Trump has designated to the NARA as his representatives, whom he has permitted to access his Presidential Records – that are in the proper care and custody of the Archivist.
The former is, in Lewis Carroll fashion, a made up title that means whatever Trump says it means when he says it. Like the rules of Calvinball, its meaning probably changes every time he says it.
As I understand it, Bobb wasn’t really the custodian of records, although that’s what the document she signed says she was. That’s a problem. Another is that Bobb may not have been acting as Trump’s lawyer in making that declaration, but it doesn’t absolve Bobb of her ethical responsibilities as a lawyer.
At some point during this tug of war, Trump designated Kash Patel and John Solomon(!) as custodians of records. As I understood it, they retained this designation as of the June 3 retrieval, if not also the August 8 search.
My understanding is that Patel and Solomon are two of Trump’s designees, authorized to access his Presidential Records, pursuant to the PRA and rules established by the Archives. Those records are not legally supposed to be anywhere else.
Custodian of records has nothing to do with NARA representative.
Her signed document was sufficient, there is no need for separate signed authorization. Has nothing necessarily to do with NARA representatives.
Glad you raised that issue because it stood out to me as well. If these lawyers are working without a contract. Then they’re a bunch of idiots because Deadbeat Donnie is a professional schnorrer.
That’s another one for my Yiddish vocabulary, thank you.
Here’s Groucho Marx to help with your Yiddish vocabulary and the proper use of the term:
A contract? A contract is nothing to Trump. Anybody who who works for him who doesn’t get the money upfront is an idiot!
Glad you raised that issue because it stood out to me as well. If he’s working without a contract, then Boris the Liar is a moran (sic) because Deadbeat Donnie is a professional schnorrer.
“Custodian of Records for The Office of Donald J. Trump, for purposes of the testimony and documents subject to subpoena #GJ20222042790054.”
Bobb was Custodian of Records just for the purpose of signing the response and she disavowed any personal knowledge of the records. DOJ should have rejected the reply as non responsive. It was the standard Sgt Schultz “I know nothing” response, written by second tier lawyers.
DOJ needs to send another demand to Kise as lead atty (who doesn’t want to be personally destroyed) for all US docs marked secret held/controlled by trump at all locations with a drop dead date. I’m sure trump and Kise won’t sign , there probably won’t be any responsive reply (again) which should lead to further FBI searches. By defining the search parameter as all locations in multiple states DOJ should be able to avoid Cannon interference.
The FBI was entitled to accept the certification at face value. Lying to a federal official is a felony and it was not obvious on its face that Bobb was not de facto the Custodian of Records. The press seems to regard that as still in dispute; rather, its sources do. That the certification was so narrowly drawn means there’s a lot more work to do.
The existing subpoena is sufficient. If Trump remains in non-compliance, that’s another legal exposure for him. The FBI’s problem is that it needs evidence that there are those records that Trump has refused to return and evidence of where they are, in order to get a search warrant for those premises.
It’s what Martha Stewart was actually convicted of, not inside trading.
The caveat is interestingly placed: “3. Based upon the information that has been provided to me, I am authorized to certify, on behalf of the Office of Donald J. Trump, the following…”
It could mean what she says it means — that someone told her a complete search was performed and turned up nothing.
But the way it’s constructed also means she also had no idea herself what her own authorization was, on who’s behalf she was acting, nor the limits and universe of events she could detail.
USA Today is reporting this tidbit about what Bobb initially told Corcoran, from someone Bobb then confided to about:
“ “Wait a minute – I don’t know you,” Bobb said in an exchange with Corcoran, according to a person who she later told about the request, the report said.”
This suggests the wider-encompassing construction of her caveat might have been to deflect that she didn’t even know who was on her own team.
You would think that there would be some head’s up or communication between Trump’s legal minds. Did Bobb not think to ask “who else are we working with?” That’s basic team communication.
Why was grand jury doc subpoena to records custodian of Office of DJT, for docs held by BOTH Office, AND by Trump as an individual? Why not two subpoenas, one to the office, and one to the individual.
It’s like asking Tesla’s record keeper for docs Musk was personally holding. Why would an agent of a corporation have any authority over docs held by an individual?
“To: Custodian of Records, OFFICE of Donald J. Trump… all documents… in the custody or control of Donald J. Trump AND/OR the Office of
Judge Beryl Howell also noted the grand jury subpoena was to Trump’s “post-presidential office”, but not to Trump personally, even though it asked for docs held both by individual person Trump, and by Office of DJT.
Meh, the subpoena was sufficient.
The immediate issue is that any non-President/frmr.-President Custodian of Records, OFFICE of Donald J. Trump would in no way be in any position to assert (retroactive) Executive privilege on anything; they have always been and are a regular ordinary citizen with respect to any documents under their custodianship and requests for them.
Thank you Dr Wheeler for teaching me how to read these “sources with knowledge of the interview” stories, I’m ashamed that I read them so credulously in the past. Your article made me think of some questions:
1. Is it likely that Judge Cannon uses these press stories to imply that DOJ is the one leaking to the press?
2. Thanks bmaz for explaining about the Custodian of Records designation in your comment above. Does this imply that DOJ would know a priori who to interview next (i.e. other COR people) at other properties?
3. I should prefix this question by acknowledging that I have young kids so I know how to parse caveats quite well. But it just struck me that the attestation is that a diligent search was made of the “boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida”. What’s to have stopped someone from moving documents to a box *that wasn’t moved from the White House* (like maybe a freshly purchased box, or a plastic bag in a drawer, or some other container that’s not a box, or if the box made a stop in some other state before going to Florida) and then not searching said container? And could that possibly mean that there are important documents (like perhaps the missing classified documents) in some non-box container still somewhere in Mar-a-Lago that wasn’t in the search warrant?
Remember that the most sensitive docs — as well as most of the empty folders — were in a leatherbound box in Trump’s office.
Totally! So Corcoran probably didn’t search the leatherbound box because it wasn’t a box that was moved from Florida. But the FBI didn’t search, for example, under the mattress in Trump’s favorite bedroom, right? Or the bookshelf in his favorite bathroom? I’m sure I sound like Detective McSmogg.
BTW I love how you included the “It’s a trap” video.
So if I get this right, all that the person who drafted that declaration had to do was temporarily empty all the boxes that were shipped from the WH, make a diligent search of the boxes, and then put the contents back, and the declaration would still be technically true? (Also obstruction, but still technically true.)
Do you think that details and photographs of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder were located in the leather box?
Now, why would you ask that?? Have any basis whatsoever?
Covering up that murder wouldn’t really take such a concerted effort. All they had to do was move people off the investigation on to more “important” things before they had a chance to interview people. IIRC, he wasn’t a US citizen, so the clamor was mostly from people who didn’t matter to the GOP, such as journalists and people who value human rights.
I guess my point here is that I kind of doubt such documents exist.
Furthermore, the phrasing “boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida” also excludes anything that might have made a stop somewhere else along the way, even if in Florida at the time the search was conducted. So that caveat opens an even bigger hole than stated in the main text.
The declaration was required in lieu of testimony, but that can’t mean any declaration was acceptable, can it? This one was obviously watered down. Was DOJ obligated to accept the declaration as if it was responsive? If not, why did they?
I think the FBI took this “toilet paper” as a piece of evidence of conspiracy to obstruct.
Beat me to it! Exactly so — FBI’s acceptance of it doesn’t mean they accepted it as responsive to / satisfying the subpoena.
I apologize for this, but “using toilet paper to obstruct” describes the Trump responses to DoJ more perfectly than other phrase I can imagine.
And now, I will go pour bleach in my left ear until it runs out my right ear. Sheesh!
With regard to the possibility that DOJ is laying traps, it may be worth remembering that the August 8 search appeared to have been motivated in part by information provided by sources in Trumpland. So the Feds may know exactly what kind of trap they’re setting.
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The declaration was equivalent to depicting a vast landscape extending to the horizon by use of three photos of different 10′ X 10′ areas, as noted by Ms. Wheeler. The photos might be accurate, but they might not depict the forests, foothills and streams in the landscape.
Thanks to Marcy Wheeler for her commentary.
To me the biggest takeaway here is TFG, and more than one of his attorneys, were unwilling to sign such a declaration themselves. Why? Because they knew it wasn’t true. So they tried to get a low-level attorney to put their name on it and assume the jeopardy it carried. That smacks of some kind of fraud and/or obstruction to me. Smart of her to demand the disclaimer as it acts as a safety net for her, and as stated makes the declaration worthless. The real troubling part here for me is why didn’t the DOJ immediately reject their qualified non-declaration and demand a concrete one? I think a whole lot of this shell game and legal language gymnastics being used here by TFG to delay and obstruct could be eliminated if they simply demand TFG himself declare unequivocally he has returned all classified files and did not retain nor disseminate any copies whatsoever. Make him stand in court, in front of a judge, under oath and say it.
And Trump will respond with pleading the fifth and we are back to where we are now
Not in a civil action, which this still is.
Just curious, in this civil case, what are the penalties if he is actually convicted? Monetary only?
Or because the civil case is brought by him, it will just dissolve quietly?
And another new investigation is started internally for obstructing this civil case?
Trump’s civil action could only be withdrawn by order of the court or by agreement with the party he sued, the USG.
But Trump’s suit is a collateral attack on a criminal investigation, an unusual approach. It is highly unlikely to end as a civil matter.
It would be poetic justice if this civil suit ends up causing Trump some jail time, because of the additional obstruction aspect.
Getting ahead of myself here…
Would this hypothetical certification go towards satisfying the subpeona? That would make it a criminal matter and not part of Trump’s efforts to get “his” documents back.
Bobb’s certification is not hypothetical. That its artful gaps left her potentially exposed criminally, or to be a witness to crimes committed by her colleagues and client, would be one reason for her cooperation with the DoJ.
Why would the flawed production “go towards satisfying” a subpoena, given that it was so flawed, a subsequent search was authorized under a judicial warrant, which disclosed a significant failure to comply?
Trump’s civil suit is a collateral attack on a criminal investigation. In both cases, Trump wants “his” documents back, or to prevent the DoJ from using them in court.
I suspect we are talking about 2 different things. I was referring to the demand that Trump that NeoGeoHa hypothesized.
I have an entirely different take on the possible topics of Christina Bobb’s interview with the DOJ
Because she is a JAN 6 SEDITIONIST who was in the War Rooms with Giuliani, Luelsdorf, Epshteyn, Stone, Bannon, Flynn, Lewis, Eastman, Navarro, Waldron, Kerik, and others.
In addition to her immediate proximity to the seditious conspiracy, she followed Trump to MAL, and so she is also likely to have info on the wire fraud racketeering involving America First and Save America.
In addition, Bobb is one of a handful of people who could have given the names of the FBI agents and the judge to Garrett Zeigler, in furtherance of Trump’s terrorism scheme against the judge, the FBI, in which Trump put out the stochastic terrorist threat incitement and Zeigler doxxed them all, in violation of 18 USC 119. Conspiracy and endangerment of a federal official.
And yes, she is on the hook for obstruction too if they find any evidence that she knew there were additional classified documents at MAL.
So they had a LOT to discuss with Bobb, as in: You should tell us everything that you know about each of these garbage piles of felonies because we could pick ONE of them and erase your child bearing years with a lengthy prison sentence.
The Jan 6 Committee has evidence of Bobb’s involvement in the War Rooms. In fact, they have text messages from her to other conspirators AND photos and video of her on the scene with multiple names that I gave above. The surfacing of Epshteyn is particularly telling.
Of course they wouldn’t talk to the press about the other crimes I mentioned. The press has been ASLEEP with regard to these other crimes connected to Bobb.
Maggie Haberman wants to sell her book. Why report about things that distract from that?
As Judge Smails would say: “Top-notch, top-notch!”
Do you have evidence for any of that?
And last warning to you to differentiate your user mame
Seriously, where does all this info come from?
he Select Committee’s investigation has revealed credible evidence that you publicly promoted claims that the November 2020 election was stolen and participated in attempts to disrupt or delay the certification of the election results based on those claims. In addition, you were reportedly involved in efforts to draft an executive order for President Trump that would have directed federal agencies to seize voting machines in numerous contested states to collect evidence of purported election fraud.1 According to public reporting, you were also present in the “war room” of Rudy Giuliani’s legal team in the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021.”
“Trump has used Save America to pay legal fees to attorneys including Christina Bobb, Lindsey Halligan, and the law firm employing M. Evan Corcoran, who represents Trump as well as former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon.”
Seeing Paulka’s post below your original post, you might be asking the right questions about DOJ/Bobb, but consider the following; there are probably multiple different teams within the DOJ investigating Trump, based out of multiple different jurisdictions. So either the DOJ teams traveled to Bobb or Bobb traveled to speak to them. Do you have any evidence this is the case? Also, how many days did Bobb spend speaking to the DOJ?
Thomas, your phrase, “erase your child bearing years with a lengthy prison sentence,” sent me looking for information on the unequal impact of long-term sentences on women of childbearing years. Curiously, I didn’t find much; only this abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6987912/
On page 20:
For those interested, the abstract also touches on both forced sterilization and lack of access to contraceptives and abortion (and this is from 2020, before the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade), as well as the (appalling) treatment of pregnant women and mothers of newborns.
If anyone has links to additional information/discussions on this topic, would you mind sharing them? Thanks!
That quote is from page 7, not 20! Sorry.
The phrase “the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida” would encompass boxes that were subsequently moved from Florida elsewhere, such as to Bedminster or Trump Tower. That being the case, I think it overstates matters to claim that Bobb’s representation about boxes that were diligently searched covered only boxes located in Florida when the subpoena was issued.
Any boxes moved from the White House directly to another location would be outside the scope of Bobb’s statement. Perhaps more significantly, as noted in previous comments, Bobb’s statement makes no representation that a search was conducted for documents that may have been removed from the boxes that came from the White House.
Many or all of the materials Trump took from the WH apparently first went to a staging area in Virginia. If one were being Jesuitical, one could say that nothing was moved to Florida (or elsewhere) from the White House. Trump has made a career out of that sort of fine parsing.
That’s the kind of parsing that no court is going to accept. The boxes originated in the WH and eventually arrived at MAL. Where they went in between has no effect on that fact. There might be a second question of what might have happened to them in between, but that’s a separate question and I haven’t seen any indication that they are suggesting something happened to them at the staging area (where there will be witnesses to depose if so)
(note to moderator: name changed to fit new 8 character rule, will this one work?)
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Yes, fine, and thank you.
Of course, no court would agree with that parsing. That doesn’t normally stop Donald Trump from making such arguments. But here, I think he’s out of his league.
Bobb’s useless declaration functions as a delay. Trump has delay pawns obstructing the DOJ and he uses them well.
That Trump did not take all documents to MAL, or had moved some from there afterwards, was, if not assumed, then likely suspected. IANAL but it’s surprising a follow-up search at his other locations hasn’t happened.
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The construction of section 3 of Bobb’s statement, which begins “Based upon the information that has been provided to me, I am authorized to certify…” is confusing to me. Is she stating that the information provided to her authorizes her to make a response, or that all of the subsequent claims are magically covered (and rendered meaningless) by the opening qualification? “Yeah, uhm, like, I’m the custodian today and all the stuff I say here may be true, but even though I signed this thing I’m not really responsible, so there!”
Looking through NARA training materials, it’s clear that the responsibilities of a custodian of records are not trivial and can’t be satisfied as an afterthought. With their “maybe it is, or maybe it isn’t” responses to legitimate inquiries, Ms. Bobb and Team Trump lean heavily upon kindergarten tactics, but will judges (other than Cannon and Thomas, to name just two among an apparently deep bench of Titan Arums) let them skip away without accountability?
Trump’s designated representatives to NARA have nothing to do with Trump’s private designation of a personal custodian of records for his, “The Office of Donald J. Trump.” Apples and oranges.
Bobb’s certification might be accurate, it is misleading, and it fails to respond to the set of materials the subpoena demanded be returned. As EW pointed out, at least two people added language to restrict the certification, only one of whom was Bobb.
Bobb limited her certification to “information received,” which didn’t fool anyone at the FBI. One or more other people added additional caveats, which made the certification even less responsive. Bobb and those other people are now fact witnesses.
Wait 2 people added language? Are you referring to the language about only applying to boxes taken to mal from WH? Is that language necessarily added and not a part of what Corcoran wrote?
It helps to read the post. Ignoring indented quotes, about para. 13, starts, “Both stories appear to confirm….”
Well, I believe the correct interpretation of Ms. Bobb’s insistence is that she did not add the language on WH to MAL. She makes no comment that someone else ADDED the language to the certification. This post presents no argument that someone added the language as it may have been put there by Corcoran. If there is evidence that someone else added that language to Corcoran’s draft, it is not in this post.
And you know what was in Bobb’s head exactly….how? Excepting what actually is in Marcy’s post.
“Both stories appear to confirm that Bobb insisted on the bolded language limiting the declaration to the “information that [was] provided to [her].” That suggests she’s not the one (I had mistakenly suspected) — and she just told DOJ she’s not the one — who included the language limiting the declaration to documents moved from the White House to Florida.”
In what way does the above state that the language regarding WH to MAL was added and not in the original document penned by Corcoran?
Personally, I think what happened was Corcoran penned the certification but was smart enough not to sign it, went to Bobb who was granted the Custodian designation and she insisted on the “Based on…” language, it was taken to Trump who gave his verbal blessing and Bobb signed it. That scenario seems to cover all the known facts and is a KISS scenario.
As applied to Trump, KISS needs to incorporate his narcissism, his lack of a normal rational process, and his criminal mindset.
The point of the post is that Bobb added the “out” tabout “based on information provided to me,” and that someone else “included” the language limiting the certification to records delivered to MAL from the WH. It could have been in the original or a later draft written by Corcoran, or included by someone other than Bobb.
If Bobb knew that Trump was still holding classified documents, irrespective of their location or provenance, then it seems to me that her statement in 3.c (“Any and all responsive documents accompany this certification”) would constitute perjury notwithstanding the qualification in 3.a, unless you read the previous qualification very aggressively to mean that she may know of other documents being withheld but she isn’t authorized to disclose that fact.
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The point of having Bobb sign the certificate was almost certainly because she had no actual knowledge. In part, that would have been because – although named the Custodian of Records of the Office of Donald J. Trump, wtf that is – she wasn’t really his records custodian, and did not conduct a “diligent” or any other search of its or his records. Corcoran might have done that search, but knew enough not to sign it, though he seems to have been one of the certificate’s editors.
This is not a new tactic or one Trump made up. It’s basic Roy Cohn hide the eight ball stuff. But Trump does think he’s mastered it, which is a tell that he might have been the ultimate author of that certification.
Bobb signing it, though, has put her in enough jeopardy that she seems to be cooperating with the DoJ. That’s not her throwing anyone under the bus, as some reports have it. If anything, she’s spilling the beans about who threw her under the bus.
You really think Dotard is smart enough to draft it that language. My money is one of these lawyers who’ve yet to produce a contract or invoke privilege, aka Boris the Liar.
Trump is famously ignorant, but he became President, something no one here has done. He does know a lot about very few things, all tied to manipulating others and, especially, the legal and tax systems.
Ever hear of Michael Cohen? Trump needn’t have written the precise language he wanted, but he would most likely have approved the final draft.
“Mr. Trump initially agreed to go along with the advice of one of his lawyers, Christopher M. Kise, who suggested hiring a forensic firm to search for additional documents, according to the people briefed on the matter.”
I don’t believe this ever happened. I don’t believe that Trump was initially fine with the idea of a 3rd party search. However, in presenting it in this way, the NY Times allows themselves to be a vehicle for the idea that Trump would have been comfortable with the search. I think it is much more likely the story of this ‘dispute’ was invented to convey that false premise.
I think that’s right. Trump would never have agreed to a third-party search – ever – not even if done by a firm reporting to his lawyer, in an attempt to cover it with A/C privilege. It would create a record, a snapshot of what was where and when, which would inevitably bite him in the ass.
I’ve also found this difficult to imagine, except under the circumstance that Kise scared the hell out of Trump by conjuring the potential damage should he dig in his heels. Trump notoriously listens to the last person who talked to him, but I bet his next call was to Tom Fitton, who then did all he could to pressure the Corcoran/Trusty phalanx to bolster resistance.
I suspect the DOJ will have a judge authorize additional searches of Trump properties in one or more states for Wednesday November 8. Or tonight.
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Let’s follow up on the “big flags”. The exceedingly porous “certification” signed by Bobb seems too clever by half. By adding all those flags Bobb lowers her risk of signing something untrue, but this comes at the cost of not complying with the subpoena. The “certification” does not come close to complying with the May 11th in-lieu-of letter from Bratt. Everybody involved must have known this at the time.
The subpoena is directed to the Custodian of Records, so this label is not mere fluff. In paragraph 1 of the “certificate”, Bobb applies this label to herself. Oops.
There has been considerable discussion of treating this as obstruction, which is fine as far as it goes, but not the whole story. Why not demand an immediate fully-compliant certification? Why not pursue sanctions for blatant failure to comply with the original subpoena?
References collected here:
Nothing Bobb stated appears untrue. It would almost but not entirely be pointless to subpoena Bobb’s testimony; she can presumably only offer up the same information in her certification, albeit with details she’s also already now sharing with DoJ.
Force a full-compliant certification? Bobb is in no position to even be able to give that. Any check at this point she could personally perform could also be fully truthful and still loaded with similar caveats.
I like Digby a lot, but I have to quibble over this description about any reluctance, assuming admissible evidence supports it, to indict Donald J. Trump:
There are many in Latin America and Europe who are not so squeamish. Nor is the issue “criminalizing political behavior.” It is criminalizing criminal behavior, otherwise known as holding political leaders to the same standards to which they hold average citizens and the undocumented workers – those who put food on our tables, build and clean our houses, obey the law and pay more taxes than many of our wealthiest citizens.
The threat to hold him accountable fifty years ago moved the famously stubborn Richard Nixon to resign. (Sadly, it moved Gerald Ford to pardon him, which has haunted us ever since.) We’ve come a long way, baby, when the party of Nixon has built itself around preventing just such consequences for its leader – and, by extension, itself.
Part of me hopes Trump stole the Kennedy stuff that they wouldn’t declassify. He’s so hilariously stupid, it’s something he would do.
It’s not even a trap. Its insisting on actual compliance rather than toilet paper compliance.
Thank you, Marcy and EW crew.
Slightly off topic: I read and enjoyed Franklin Foer’s piece in The Atlantic this morning, if for no other reason than I can link to it, along with Marcy’s “Whinging” essay and Teri Kanefield’s “FAQs (Sticky)” when I encounter the usual suspects.
The Inevitable Indictment of Donald Trump
It’s clear to me that Merrick Garland will bring charges against Donald Trump. It’s just a matter of when.
By Franklin Foer
“It struck me that Garland isn’t just by-the-book. In some profound sense, he is the book.”
“Any indictment he brings against Trump will have survived his scrutiny, which means that it will have cleared a high bar.”
I don’t know that it is inevitable. Not at all. And Trump remains far more defensible than people, including Franklin Foer, think. It is one thing to say it here or in the Atlantic, and a far different one to do it in a criminal jury trial. I do not think people who don’t do it for a living really understand those dynamics.
Fair enough. I appreciate the unusually mild rebuke.
I don’t think it is “inevitable” either.
Admittedly, I have great respect for AG Garland. He reminds me of my father’s law career and outlook.
In terms of “I do not think people who don’t do it for a living really understand those dynamics” (bmaz).
Yes. You have made this clear.
I do not have expertise in nat sec.
And it’s been a minute since I practiced law.
I did, however, find the piece interesting.
Was not meant to be a rebuke at all, just a general reminder. If charged, depending on where, Trump could be convicted, acquitted or hung up. Depends on the jury and the trial. But nobody knows that until it plays out. Also depending on who his attorneys are. But he is defensible.
The only thing we know for sure, is that we don’t know if fg will be held accountable.
As a civilian now, I fully recognize that I am more inclined to cling to a more general definition of “defensible”, rather than a legal one.
I come to EW to be reminded.
…and the well placed expletives.
somewhat off topic, but has anyone found the nyt’s report of drumpf’s last minute interest in gaining access to russian collusion documents (through extorting the NARA) at all telling that maybe he’s doing this on behalf of his little friend in the Kremlin? why did he literally wait until the last minute to try to get access to these incriminating documents?
It appears to me that the first clause of Bobb’s “certification” unequivocally rendered it wholly unreliable hearsay, and thereby probative of nothing, that would have been immediately evident to any DOJ lawyer that received it. Indeed, it came pretty close, if not reaching the level of an implied admission that Trump had failed to disclose all responsive documents. Consequently, I fail to see why this “certification” has resulted in so much speculation.
“Hearsay” is out-of-court testimony that is inadmissible to prove the truth of what it assserts. (FRE 801-807.) There is a long list of exceptions. Even if inadmissible to prove the truth of a statement, there is a long list of other purposes it can be used for.
Bobb’s certification is important for many reasons beyond whether Trump had delivered up all materials in his possession called for in the subpoena, something that the face of her certificate does not pretend to do.
What proposition was the “certification” to have established other than that Trump had returned everything DOJ requested?
Whatever its limitations, the use of scare quotes to describe Bobb’s signed statement does not make it less of a certification.
That’s important for the government’s potential use of it. It is so flawed that rather than support the argument that Trump complied with the subpoena – it’s normal and intended use – it is evidence of his non-compliance, even with respect to just the documents Trump illegally held at MAL.
It is evidence of intent. It may be evidence of conspiracy or obstruction. It certainly makes Bobb and Corcoran, and anyone else involved in its drafting, fact witnesses.
Yes, I think it makes the lawyer a witness, and likely counts as evidence of Trump’s deliberate non-compliance. I just think that all the talk that somehow this certification misled DOJ is preposterous. That it likely reflects a preposterous effort to do so, perhaps devised by the master himself, of course is quite a different matter.
I’m curious, where is the line here between witness and suspect? If this certification was part of Trump’s strategy of non-compliance/obstruction, then by signing it (even with the caveat she added) would Bobb not be a party to that obstruction? If not, what would be required to cross that line?
We can rely generally on some DoJ terms: a subject of a grand jury investigation is anyone who has information within the scope of a grand jury investigation and could run spectrum of witnesses, apparent victims, and proto-suspects/perpetrators. A witness is a subject who generally has low risk of being prosecuted. Once a subject achieves high enough confidence as committing crime, they may become a target which allows prosecutors to handle them differently from subjects or witnesses.
So far, while there are reports of being a criminal investigation taking place, no one appears yet to be any target.
In a grand jury investigation, these designations can be fluid as the investigation turns up additional information: witnesses can become targets. and targets might ultimately not be indicted, or even to have an indictment pursued.
So while there may be some lines between witness vs. target, they’re not necessarily strong, especially if witnesses themselves engaged in suspect behavior.
I haven’t studied the apposite law, so couldn’t definitively answer that. However, in general I would imagine that even if the act was obstructive, or was intended to be by some third party, if she could make a case that she participated thinking that no reasonable DOJ recipient of the certification could possibly have been deceived, which to me seems highly credible, I doubt she would have violated the law.
Surprised surprising? The what is now known to a significant extent.
It appears that Bratt was not going to be leaving Mar-a-Lago in June without some signed statement from someone within the Trump organization indicating the level of compliance to subpoena #GJ20222042790054. This is that signed statement, signed by Bobb. The speculation it has generated is to who, who within the Trump organization, did or did not do due diligence in complying with GJ20222042790054. Further, it is also speculation as to the scope that that they went in that direction…whoever that ‘they’ within the Trump organization were/are/is. The what is already known to a significant extent.
Does your skewing tongue lose a favor
or boost a boast overnight?
If a frother says “don’t skew it,”
Do you allow it in spite?
Can you ditch it on your consults?
Can you heave it left and right?
Does your skewing tongue lose a favor
or boost a boast overnight?
“Muppets – Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour (On the Bedpost Overnight?)”
Thank you Dr. Marcy.
“Boris Epshteyn Enters the Three Person Chat.” The more the merrier or threes a crowd?
This NYT paragraph smells very strongly of underbussing:
Trump lawyer, Boris Epshteyn, contacted her the night before she signed the attestation and connected her with Mr. Corcoran. Ms. Bobb, who was living in Florida, was told that she needed to go to Mar-a-Lago the next day to deal with an unspecified legal matter for Mr. Trump.
It reads as if “they” (unclear whether this was Corcoran or Epshteyn or both) selected Bobb and got her to go to Mar-a-Lago solely for the duty of signing the certification. Corcoran was also at Mar-a-Lago that day, as I understand it. So why didn’t he sign it himself? I can’t see any reason other than that he knew it was false. So he got a cut-out to sign it for him, and Bobb was a conveniently placed member of Team Trump who was also a lawyer (it’s unclear, to me why they wanted a lawyer, but clearly they did).
Now it seems to me that Bobb is smart enough to figure this out at the time. Certainly she was smart enough not to sign anything false, so she got that disclaimer put in which renders it true-ish (or at least not readily provably false). But wouldn’t she have realised that this palaver made her a fact witness to conspiracy obstruction and possibly worse? Maybe she’d had enough of Team Trump by June, could see the writing on the wall and knew she was already in jeopardy for her part in Jan 6th. Perhaps she saw this subpoena/certification runaround as possible negotiating material, for the feds when they inevitably came knocking. If so, she may have a number of fascinating stories to tell them.
By the way, I can’t figure out how to mark up that NYT quote. What markup language do these comments use?
[blockquote]Text here[/blockquote] but using greater/lesser signs instead of [ ]
Edit: trying to get the signs to show…can’t figure it out. > <. Hmmmmm!
Useful reference: https://wordpress.com/support/beginning-html/#some-html-basics
So it looks like none of my edits got through, unfortunately*. Use the greater/lesser than signs instead of the [ ] brackets.
Useful link: https://wordpress.com/support/beginning-html/
*They show while I’m editing this one. Very odd!
Epshtyn is the Forrest Gump of Russian assets. He is everywhere. A fixer and propagandist. Also standing on a stage with Rudy and the Kraken making outlandish election fraud claims. He is embedded in Network newsrooms and local Sinclair media across the country. Hiding in plain sight.
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