May 20, 2024 / by 

 

Right Wing Propaganda Fail: Julie Kelly’s Troubles with Ten and Two

As I laid out in this post, Julie Kelly is an important right wing propagandist who has ginned up quite a lot of attention from accused fraudsters for her willingness to lie about Jan6ers and Donald Trump. Her propaganda may have given Aileen Cannon cover to delay trial for Trump’s alleged unlawful retention of National Defense Information, including a nuclear document.

I say she’s a propagandist willing to lie based on an extended discussion we had in 2021 about January 6ers charged with assaulting cops (at a minimum, 18 USC 111(a)). She reviewed my (incomplete) list, challenged a number of people on it — for example, people who had been charged with 18 USC 111 via complaint but charged with something else, like 18 USC 231, upon indictment. There were 112 people on the list. Nevertheless, Julie never retracted her false claim — a foundational one in Jan6 hagiography — that fewer than 100 Jan6ers had been charged with assaulting cops. Having been presented with proof she was wrong, she simply continued to tell the same lie, downplaying the alleged (and since then, adjudicated) violence of the Jan6ers she was claiming were peaceful protestors.

Because trolls keep pointing to her latest work, in which she accused the FBI of doctoring the initial photo released from the Mar-a-Lago search, I wanted to point out how Julie continues to struggle with numbers, this time the difference between ten and two, and as a result has badly deceived all those poor trolls.

She claims that Jay Bratt lied in his description of what the FBI found at Mar-a-Lago, in which he referred to the famous photo from the search, which Bratt specifically described as a photo of documents and classified cover sheets found in a container seized in Trump’s office.

Jay Bratt, who was the lead DOJ prosecutor on the investigation at the time and now is assigned to Smith’s team, described the photo this way in his August 30, 2022 response to Trump’s special master lawsuit:

“[Thirteen] boxes or containers contained documents with classification markings, and in all, over one hundred unique documents with classification markings…were seized. Certain of the documents had colored cover sheets indicating their classification status. (Emphasis added.) See, e.g., Attachment F (redacted FBI photograph of certain documents and classified cover sheets recovered from a container in the ‘45 office’).”

The DOJ’s clever wordsmithing, however, did not accurately describe the origin of the cover sheets. In what must be considered not only an act of doctoring evidence but willfully misleading the American people into believing the former president is a criminal and threat to national security, agents involved in the raid attached the cover sheets to at least seven files to stage the photo.

Classified cover sheets were not “recovered” in the container, contrary to Bratt’s declaration to the court. In fact, after being busted recently by defense attorneys for mishandling evidence in the case, Bratt had to fess up about how the cover sheets actually ended up on the documents.

Here is Bratt’s new version of the story, where he finally admits a critical detail that he failed to disclose in his August 2022 filing:

“[If] the investigative team found a document with classification markings, it removed the document, segregated it, and replaced it with a placeholder sheet. The investigative team used classified cover sheets for that purpose.”

But before the official cover sheets were used as placeholder, agents apparently used them as props. FBI agents took it upon themselves to paperclip the sheets to documents—something evident given the uniform nature of how each cover sheet is clipped to each file in the photo—laid them on the floor, and snapped a picture for political posterity. [Italics Julie’s, bold emphasis mine]

Julie’s passage starts by quoting from Bratt’s description of the photo in his August 2022 declaration. The contents of the container in question are clearly identified in the picture as 2A — that is, the contents of box 2. In his declaration, Bratt specifically identifies that the box was recovered in the office. Until DOJ learned of the box of presidential schedules Chamberlain Harris had under her desk in various places, that was the only box known to be seized from the office (though some albums and loose documents were found as well).

Then, Julie nods to, but does not cite, Stan Woodward’s description of the appearance of slip sheets in boxes of unclassified documents when she describes Bratt as, “being busted recently by defense attorneys.” I quoted Woodward’s filing at length here.

She then quotes from Jay Bratt’s description of something other than that photo: of how, as the FBI searched individual boxes, the FBI inserted a replacement — sometimes a classified cover sheet, but after they ran out of those, a handwritten piece of paper — when it pulled the classified documents from the boxes. Here’s more of what Bratt said.

The filter team took care to ensure that no documents were moved from one box to another, but it was not focused on maintaining the sequence of documents within each box. If a box contained potentially privileged material and fell within the scope of the search warrant, the filter team seized the box for later closer review. If a box did not contain potentially privileged documents, the filter team provided the box to the investigative team for on-site review, and if the investigative team found a document with classification markings, it removed the document, segregated it, and replaced it with a placeholder sheet. The investigative team used classified cover sheets for that purpose, until the FBI ran out because there were so many classified documents, at which point the team began using blank sheets with handwritten notes indicating the classification level of the document(s) seized. The investigative team seized any box that was found to contain documents with classification markings or presidential records.

So Julie relies on (1) a description of a photo of the documents with classification markings removed from box 2 on August 8, 2022, (2) Woodward’s description of what boxes from which documents with classification markings have been removed currently look like, and then (3) Bratt’s description of the search process used in August 2022. From that, she declares that Bratt’s description of some contents of a single box doesn’t match his description of a process used to search boxes and therefore the evidence in the picture must have been doctored.

Already, poor Julie has a problem. First, Bratt’s descriptions are of different things. The August 2022 declaration describes what they found at Mar-a-Lago after pulling documents with classification markings from boxes. The recent response describes what the FBI did when pulling documents with classification markings from boxes.

Woodward, too, describes something different than what Bratt described in August 2022. In the filing that Julie doesn’t cite, Woodward describes what boxes from which documents with classification markings have already been removed currently look like. Again, there is a difference between what remains in boxes versus what got pulled from boxes.

Plus, Bratt’s description is consistent with the picture; Julie’s is not.

Bratt said that a subset of the documents did have cover-sheets — the bit that she italicizes. Julie simply asserts, as fact, that the FBI attached the seven cover sheets that appear in the picture (but for what she imagines is a doctored photo, did not attach cover sheets to the other documents in the picture). To match Bratt’s later description, all the documents with classification markings in the picture would have cover sheets, which also would have made a more damning photo. Julie doesn’t consider the possibility that the seven or so cover sheets in the picture which she describes to be attached to documents were among those documents that Bratt described that did have cover sheets. She doesn’t puzzle through why, if the FBI were trying to make things look as bad as possible, they didn’t put cover sheets on everything.

And to reiterate, this picture does not depict what Julie thinks she’s describing at all; what she’s describing is what got left after the classified documents were segregated from ones without classification markings. What the picture shows on the floor is only documents with classification markings.

It gets worse.

Poor Julie the propagandist states as fact that, “Classified cover sheets were not ‘recovered’ in the container.”

As I noted here, Stan Woodward bases his description of the troubling box with documents out of place as item 10. He describes, “Box A-15 is a box seized from the Storage Room and is identified by the FBI as Item 10.”

The inventory certified as part of the Special Master process back in September 2022 describes item 10 (identified as box A-15 in the warrant return) this way:

It is, as I noted, the box with the biggest number of classified documents in it, but they were classified at a lower level — Confidential and Secret.

The inventory describes nothing about cover sheets.

But that’s not the box in the picture!! That’s not the box Jay Bratt described back in August 2022!

The box in the picture is box 2, a leatherbound box found in the office.

Here’s how the uncontested description from the Special Master inventory describes that box, the one that Jay Bratt was actually talking about. [my red annotation]

The inventory describes that, in addition to 24 classified documents — 7 of them Top Secret, of which just five are reflected in cover sheets in the picture — there were also 43 empty classified folders.

And yet poor Julie states as fact that, “Classified cover sheets were not “recovered” in the container.” While folders and these cover sheets are different things, they serve to cover classified documents. There were 43 empty classified folders in box 2.

Remember: Tim Parlatore admitted that Trump retained at least one classified cover folder when he was trying to explain why his search team found one marked “Classified Evening Summary” in Trump’s bedroom. Is Julie calling Parlatore a liar now too?

In any case, Julie is talking about an entirely different box, one that the inventory doesn’t record as having any classified cover sheets in it. Based on a claim that item 10 (box A-15) didn’t have cover sheets, Julie stated as fact that item 2 didn’t either.

She simply made it up.

Based on the uncontested inventory, the FBI could have made that picture far more damning than they did, had they paper clipped cover sheets to “each” document with classification marks, as Julie claims they did. They could have put cover sheets on two more Top Secret documents for the picture and added cover sheets on up to 12 more Secret documents. They could have stacked up those 43 empty folders that once had documents in them, but no longer did on August 8, 2022. Instead, they took a picture showing that some of those documents had cover sheets and some did not, which (accurate or not) is precisely what Bratt described, apparently leaving out the 43 damning empty folders altogether.

Poor Julie took a description of a box found in the storage closet, treated it as a description of a box found somewhere else, and then simply never bothered to check what that box — the box Jay Bratt was actually referring to — actually contained.

Julie the propagandist suggests that if the picture were accurate — if there really were seven documents that still had cover sheets in the box that Jay Bratt was actually describing — then it would accurately support an argument that, “the former president is a criminal and threat to national security.” And wow, that may be a problem, conceding that that picture supported an argument that Trump was a national security threat! Because nothing Julie claims in her post describes this box. And her claims that the FBI made this picture as damning as possible is debunked when you look at the actual contents of the box (or even, the picture itself).

So instead, she described something entirely different — something entirely unrelated to the box contents in this picture — and claimed the FBI, and not Julie the propagandist herself, was engaged in deception.

Update: Julie now says that in spite of all the proof she got caught lying, she must still be right because the paperclips in the picture are tidy.


How We Got to a Place Where Right Wingers Cheer Stealing Nuclear Documents

When Aileen Cannon issued her order delaying Trump’s stolen documents trial indefinitely, I posted this on Xitter.

The post was factual. Trump nominated Judge Cannon on May 21, 2020. Judge Cannon’s order ceded to the requests of Trump and his co-defendants for hearings on all sorts of requests that, before any other judge, would be deemed frivolous. She adopted deadlines Trump asked for last year. The order undoubtedly delayed accountability in this case, with the next deadlines set for a month after the original trial date. And Trump is alleged to have stolen nuclear documents. In the original 15 boxes returned in January 2022, there were three documents classified FRD, for a total of 57 pages and charged document 19, which was seized on August 8, 2022, is also classified FRD, formerly restricted, a classification used for nuclear stockpiles and targeting. All would have been covered by the Presidential Records Act and so belong to the US Government; Trump could declassify none of them on his own.

By 11 my time (plus-5 from ET), it had gone viral, with 200k views, 47 QTs, 4.4k likes, 1.6k RTs, and 300 responses.

The post is a good way to start thinking about the information economy that led us to a place where a Republican judge helps delay accountability for stealing nuclear documents and storing them in a closet normally storing campaign swag. This information economy creates an environment in which a former prosecutor like Aileen Cannon either believes, or claims to believe, outlandish claims of bias and ill-treatment solely because career national security officials — rebranded by Trump as the Deep State — did their job.

Take the responses. In addition to a bunch of lefty responses — including a bunch imagining there was some quick fix switch that Jack Smith can hit to remove Aileen Cannon — there were a range of MAGAt responses, including a bunch doubting that there were really nuclear documents.

One of those was a full Pepe meme invoking Obama’s birth certificate.

Several used the superbly inane retort MAGAts like to use with me: that my moniker should be “emptyhead” instead of “emptywheel.”

Several of the responses in the thread came from Alexander Sheppard, a Jan6er convicted of obstruction whom John Bates ordered released part way through a 19-month sentence pending the outcome of Joseph Fischer’s challenge to the application of 18 USC 1512(c)(2) over government objections that Sheppard still insists he’s a political prisoner.

This kind of viral response on Xitter is the point — right wingers have deliberately stoked such toxic viral responses for years. This is the kind of “engagement” Xitter’s billionaire owner has chosen to foster.

The point is not rational discussion, but instead the replacement of it with brainless mob-think, a mob-think designed to reinforce unquestioning partisan identity, a mob-think designed to drown out rational consideration of what it means that Judge Cannon has intervened in this way.

A mob-think that can be wielded to drown out the basic fact that Trump is accused of refusing to give back a nuclear document.

Of course, Elon Musk’s decision to grant people with a certain sized following, which includes me, checkmark status some months ago helps to ensure that anything I say will be visible to and therefore subject to this kind of mob treatment. Because of that involuntary checkmark, anything I say will be a magnet for this kind of mob response.

One reason the comment went viral is because of a few QTs from right wing influencers, not least Julie Kelly, who plays a key role in the right wing propaganda world. (The first post here is a QT, claiming that I am an example of the people invoked in her prior Tweet who (she falsely claims) hasn’t covered things I have covered; that is, Julie made my post go viral based on an outright lie, on top of the lie that I have never advocated that Smith ask Cannon to recuse because I doubt it would work.)

Julie has spent her time since January 6 running a PR campaign for the defendants, falsely claiming they were treated differently than other similarly situated defendants. I have repeatedly showed that Julie has refused to correct lies she has told about the number of January 6 defendants charged with assault and in some but by no means all cases, detained pre-trial. I’ve also had to explain really basic things to poor Julie, like how white people get charged with terrorism.

Julie has moved on from January 6 to Trump’s cases, providing the same kind of inflammatory, factually flawed claims she did for men who attacked cops. And she’s effective. Indeed, she spun the latest development that Aileen Cannon may use as political cover for shutting down the prosecution of a guy who stole nuclear documents. Julie has claimed that because FBI replaced certain documents with slip sheets, all the slip sheets were planted there by the FBI. That’s not remotely what the evidence shows (indeed, the evidence shows that a number of boxes had cover sheets without any documents, something even Tim Parlatore has backed). Nor does it convey the one place where altered box order will matter, which is for Trump — except that the altered document order shown thus far is almost certainly not implicated in any of the charged documents, because it involves Confidential, not Top Secret, documents.

Here is Julie’s coverage of the Robert Hur report, in which she spins Biden granting permission for the FBI to just come and grab boxes as somehow worse than Trump stalling, refusing to let the FBI actually look in boxes when they arrive, then withholding boxes and boxes.

Unlike the expansive raid of Mar-a-Lago, however, the bureau came unprepared. “The FBI dispatched two agents to retrieve the boxes in the garage the following day,” Hur wrote of the FBI’s visit to Delaware on December 21, 2022. “[The] agents conducted a limited search of the garage intended to determine whether it contained other classified documents. The two agents lacked sufficient resources to conduct a comprehensive search of the entire garage given the volume of material stored there.”

Authorities waited for Biden’s consent–he apparently did not want to turn over his notebooks–to search his home; agents were sent to Delaware on January 20, 2023. One item retrieved by the FBI, according to Hur, was Biden’s 2009 “handwritten memo [to President Obama detailing his opposition to the troop surge in Afghanistan] that contains information that remains classified up to the Secret level.”

But Biden and his associates will be spared prosecution. The same media echo chamber that raged for months about Trump’s threat to national security instead is condemning Hur for his “gratuitous” remarks about Biden’s faulty mental faculties.

In the meantime, Trump and his co-defendants are preparing for a tentative May 20 trial date in Florida, embroiled in costly and time-consuming legal battles with the DOJ.

Another example of the two-tiered standard of justice in Joe Biden’s America.

In spite of Julie’s close coverage of the Hur report, she has not told her rubes that the FBI similarly reordered documents in the most important box seized from Biden, nor gone back to admit that the problem she is now misrepresenting — that there were so many classified documents at Mar-a-Lago that FBI ran out of slip sheets — is evidence that the FBI was similarly unprepared for the Trump search.

Julie has similarly spun documents that show Mark Meadows was significantly responsible for getting the Biden White House involved in efforts to retrieve documents (because he tried to reach out to WHORM personally), and show key players at NARA hesitating before asking for further involvement of DOJ as the opposite, an aggressive effort to get Trump.

It doesn’t have to be true. It only has to feed the rubes.

And by feeding the rubes shamelessly false claims, Julie has become quite the celebrity, speaking at CPAC and regularly appearing on Steve Bannon’s show. Bannon knows a useful propagandist when he sees one!

Now, I’m not begrudging Julie the fame she has carefully cultivated with her shamelessness. She has earned it! The right wing propaganda network — the deliberate fostering of lies masterminded by people like accused fraudster Bannon — always rewards people who will tell the rubes what they want to hear.

What I’m trying to explain is how her role gives Aileen Cannon cover to do truly astonishing things, like entertain the notion that  putting a non-partisan in charge of the investigation of Trump for classified documents while putting a Trump appointee who had already deprived a Trump target of due process in charge of the Biden investigation is instead proof of selective prosecution against Trump.

In addition to that premise — that investigating Trump in the same way as investigating Biden is proof of selective prosecution against Trump — Aileen Cannon’s order yesterday and earlier orders signalled she is entertaining the following claims:

  • That Walt Nauta, who doesn’t claim to have sorted through any documents, must have the ability to sort through classified documents
  • That because the document investigation, which included crimes in DC, started in DC, and used DC SCIFs for the investigation, it’s proof that Jack Smith was deliberately attempting to bypass SDFL
  • That because Mark Meadows and Pat Philbin got the White House involved in document response, it’s proof that Biden improperly intervened
  • That even though multiple Trump-friendly witnesses testified that Trump didn’t even know Tom Fitton’s Clinton socks theory until 2022, he should be able to argue to jurors he applied it in 2021
  • That because NARA informed DOJ about classified documents, the same way they did with Joe Biden, it’s proof that NARA are part of the prosecution team as opposed to the victim
  • That because Trump’s surveillance system uses difficult software and one of the defense lawyers only uses an iPad, prosecutors have failed to meet discovery obligations
  • That Trump has immunity to steal nuclear documents that he couldn’t even declassify on his own

These are all, individually and collectively, crazy. It’s unclear whether Cannon truly believes them or simply doesn’t care. She has chosen to treat Trump’s claims according to the reality his propaganda bubble has created rather than the actual facts before her.

A lot of the responses to my Tweet were lefties imagining that Jack Smith has some kind of button he can press to get Aileen Cannon replaced; he doesn’t.

But even if he did, it wouldn’t solve the problem. Because the problem before us is that Trump’s mob and his judges have been trained to believe that applying any law to him amounts to a two-tiered system of justice by a very comprehensive propaganda machine.

Trump’s propaganda machine has drowned out facts and replaced it with grievance.

And until something starts cutting through that grievance, mere trials aren’t going to fix this.


Aileen Cannon Bows to Donald Trump

Aileen Cannon has made official what has been obvious for some time. She has no intention of moving forward on Donald Trump’s stolen documents trial with any kind of order or speed.

The Court also determines that finalization of a trial date at this juncture—before resolution of the myriad and interconnected pre-trial and CIPA issues remaining and forthcoming—would be imprudent and inconsistent with the Court’s duty to fully and fairly consider the various pending pre-trial motions before the Court, critical CIPA issues, and additional pretrial and trial preparations necessary to present this case to a jury.6 The Court therefore vacates the current May 20, 2024, trial date (and associated calendar call), to be reset by separate order following resolution of the matters before the Court, consistent with Defendants’ right to due process and the public’s interest in the fair and efficient administration of justice.

Instead, she will entertain every one of his frivolous motions for months and months and months.

Again, none of this is surprising. But it is Cannon’s commitment to let a man accused of stealing hundreds of classified documents potentially regain the White House with no accountability for his alleged theft.


400 Rich People Pay $40K to Hear Trump Glorify Cop Assailants

On Saturday, a bunch of people paid a lot of money — at least $40,000 apiece, and one or two people took Trump up on an offer to speak if they gave $1 million — to hear Trump glorify cop assailants.

Both WaPo (with bylines from Marianne LeVine, Josh Dawsey and Maegan Vazquez) and NYT (Maggie Haberman and Shane Goldmacher) dutifully gave Trump the headline he would have wanted.

Biden = Gestapo

By doing so, they accept as a both-sides question whether legal investigations Biden has nothing to do with make him a Nazi.

Five paragraphs in, NYT describes that Trump featured the recording made with then-accused, now convicted, January 6 felons; Maggie describes those detainees as “people arrested in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.”

Mr. Trump entered the event to the recording of the national anthem that he made with a group of people arrested in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob seeking to disrupt the certification of Mr. Biden’s electoral college win. Mr. Trump praised the song.

There’s no mention that most of these men assaulted cops and one of the handful who didn’t is a Nazi who likes dressing up as Hitler.

400 rich people paid what could be an average person’s annual salary to watch Trump glorify violent cop assailants, and NYT didn’t mention the violence part. WaPo didn’t mention the video at all and only mentioned political violence when describing the Biden campaign response.

NYT did describe that Trump celebrated Rod Blagojevich and WaPo described Trump claiming that Henry Cuellar was only charged with bribery because he is tough on the border.

Compare that treatment to USA Today Zac Anderson’s, which focuses the entire story on the recording and includes three paragraphs discussing the significance of Trump’s focus on it and two more explaining how we can be sure most of the singers were accused of assault.

The recording is part of Trump’s efforts to whitewash what happened when a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.

The attack on the Capitol led to Trump’s second impeachment and contributed to felony charges being filed against the former president for efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Yet Trump has embraced the Jan. 6 defendants on the campaign trail, calling them “unbelievable patriots” and “hostages” who have “been treated terribly and very unfairly.”

[snip]

It’s not clear which Jan. 6 defendants participated in the recording that Trump plays at his rallies, but many of the defendants held in the Washington, D.C., jail around the time when the recording apparently was made were accused of assaulting officers.

An analysis published by Just Security, an online forum hosted by the New York University School of Law, found that the vast majority of Jan. 6 defendants held in the D.C. Jail on March 13, 2023, were accused of assaulting officers. An individual who advised the group that made the recording told the Washington Post that it was made in February of 2023 at the D.C. jail, but said she did not know who the singers are.

USA Today also managed to avoid taking Trump’s bait to equate Biden with the Gestapo, not even in the body of the story.

400 people paid a lot of money to watch Trump celebrate men who assaulted cops. All 400 of those people are directly supporting  a culture of political violence. They need to be held accountable for their role in supporting political violence.

When that part gets suppressed — when those 400 people are given a pass for the political violence their dollars help to fund — it normalizes political violence.

That, not Trump’s manipulation of easy marks to get a headline detrimental to Joe Biden, is the story.


Fridays with Nicole Sandler

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The Evolving Media Strategy of Lev Parnas

In advance of revisiting my work on the many ways Bill Barr intervened to protect — and participated in — Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine capers, I want to first examine Lev Parnas’ recent media efforts, to include his House testimony and his recent book. After years of insinuating Barr had a role in Rudy’s capers, Parnas’ expanded story situates Barr more centrally in events, so I want to point out some gaps in his story and questions the fuller story raises.

Make of them what you will.

The limits of firsthand experience

First, note that Parnas’ book is not all based on firsthand experience. He has a co-author, Hells Angels chronicler Jerry Langton. That, plus sourcing choices about the book, make it difficult, at times, to understand where Parnas’ first-hand witness ends and where research begins.

One notable example is where Parnas and Langton tell an incomplete story about the Russian investigation. The purpose of the explanation is, at least in part, to explain why Parnas adopted Trump’s claims about the Russian investigation but no longer does; it is one of many attempts to disavow past beliefs.

Here’s one example of the uneven treatment that results.

Once the allegations of Russian interference became part of the national consciousness, Trump began to repeatedly and falsely claim that he had never done business in Russia, despite his many tweets to the contrary and the fact that his 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Russia had been broadcast worldwide by NBC, Telemundo and Channel One, showing Trump sitting right beside Azerbaijani oligarch Aras Agalarov in the front row of the audience. Trump even told CBS News: “I have nothing to do with Russia. Nothing to do. I never met Putin. I have nothing to do with Russia whatsoever.” His lawyer, Michael Cohen, said that Trump called him right after that claim to check up on the status of Trump Tower Moscow.

Days later, the FBI would begin its own investigation into links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Trump addressed the accusations again the same day at a news conference, saying: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Not only did that indicate that he was indeed looking for dirt on Hillary, but he was widely accused of “urging a foreign adversary to conduct cyberespionage” on another American, which is a serious crime.

The passage puts Trump’s Russia “are you listening” quip at the beginning of the Russian investigation, albeit with a focus on Michael Cohen’s comments, with no acknowledgment of whether it relies on Cohen’s public comments, court records, or on personal comments from Cohen, with whom Parnas has developed a personal relationship.

But the construction suggests a temporal tie between the presser and the investigation.

There’s no mention of George Papadopoulos here, and therefore of a Coffee Boy who ran his mouth to a stranger. It hides the genesis of the investigation. One effect of that is that Parnas absolves himself of addressing a lot of the bullshit about the origin of the investigation offered by Republicans, bullshit that he was party to. Parnas focuses more on Barr’s bullshit about the Russian investigation than that of his one-time allies.

This lack of clarity on sourcing leaves the provenance of more interesting descriptions about events to which Parnas was not a witness, but of which he might have inside information, uncertain. For example, is this an obscure public reference, or something Parnas learned from his right wing buddies?

Meanwhile, [Jeff] Sessions had been asking staffers for disparaging information against Comey and told them that he expected to see at least one anti-Comey article in major media every day.

Similarly, in critically describing John Solomon’s false claims about Yuriy Lutsenko, Parnas provides a claim that Lutsenko had grown close to Paul Manafort.

Solomon then portrays Lutsenko as an anti-corruption hero, as he had been instructed. Although along with letting Kilimnik sneak away, Lutsenko had been fired, dismissed, suspended, jailed (he was pardoned, officially for health reasons) and gotten chummy with Manafort.

This is a really important detail I had not known: but where does it come from? Parnas does not say. And it matters.

Everyone’s mob past

One thing Parnas does attribute to firsthand knowledge, however, is familiarity with the mob (in both senses of the word). Indeed, he offers himself up as a native of the same Brooklyn (and Queens) world that Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump all arose from and unashamedly suggests growing up in such a place means you have mob ties.

Parnas lays all this out in matter-of-fact terms.

Parnas describes the mob ties of his ex-wife.

The girl that I was dating (who I would later marry and have a daughter, Zarina, with) had an uncle named Arkady Seifer. He was a very important man in our community. Seifer had been in prison four times and was connected to the Franchese, the Colombo and the Genovese families — among others. And everybody knew exactly how he made his money — the gas tax.

Seifer and I became quite close very quickly and I found myself referring to the old gangster as my uncle. After I gained his confidence and trust, Seifer let me in on his gas scam.

He describes how he came to call neighborhood boss Butch Montevecchi his uncle.

I translated what he said into English for a neighborhood boss, Ernest “Butch” Montevecchi. At the time, everybody knew Butch. He was strikingly handsome with dark hair and green eyes. He ran Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay, and Little Odessa, for the Italians. Later, he’d become so close to me and my family that he served as something of a surrogate father for me, and I started to call him my uncle.

He describes how, during the collapse of the Soviet Union, Parnas used his legally sound US citizenship as a means to ferry stuff into the collapsing Russian empire.

All of the clients were over-the-top excited that I could actually go back to whichever old Soviet republic they had come from. Not only could I import products and perhaps make them rich, but I could also get in touch with friends and relatives they hadn’t heard from in decades.

All of them had gifts for me to give to their loved ones overseas. I limited the haul to two suitcases, not only because I couldn’t carry any more, I didn’t want to arouse too much suspicion. They rapidly filled up with things like jeans, watches and other Western items that would be status symbols over there.

[snip]

Some of the people ultimately became my partners because we saw that it was obvious that our individual skills and contacts could benefit all of us. The people who had entrusted me to visit their contacts came from a variety of places, and an itinerary for me was quickly put together. First, I’d go to Moscow and St. Petersburg (officially Petrograd, but nobody ever called it that). Then it was on to Ukraine, where I’d stop at Odessa (now Odesa) and Kiev (now Kyiv). Finally, I would go to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. I was fluent in Russian, so I was confident that I’d be understood in all of those places.

Parnas described how this business venture put him in the service of a number of mobsters and oligarchs, including some he helped enter the US. Buy the book!

That story continues seamlessly to Parnas’ gradual insinuation in Trump world, in which the owner of Lique had a role.

Later on that week, I was talking with my friend, Alex Podolnyy, on his boat. It was moored behind his restaurant, Lique. It was nighttime and I was smoking a joint on deck. Before long, I was approached by two excited-looking, well-dressed men who were Alex’s friends. They introduced themselves as Ted and Robert and joined me on the boat. They seemed friendly and they knew Alex, so I didn’t mind sharing a joint with them.

As I’ve noted, SDNY’s affidavit for Parnas’ Instagram inexplicably excluded a picture of Parnas and Ivana Trump at Lique from the scope of their review.

And from there, Parnas got access through Brian Ballard. Over a long passage, he tells the story of how he pitched former head of Ukrainian’s Fiscal Service, Roman Nasirov (who awaits trial on corruption charges), to Brian Ballard and then got Nasirov and another foreigner into the Inauguration.

Later that day, I set up a meeting for Ballard and Nasirov. The Ukrainians were eager. When Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko found out that Nasirov had an opening into Trump’s future administration with Ballard through me, he pressed Nasirov to make it happen. At the time, Ukraine had almost no relationship with the U.S. and even that was in danger of being erased as the Ukrainians were seen as being pro-Hillary. I explained the situation to Ballard. I told him that it wasn’t the president who was in favor of Hillary, just some loud members of his administration. Besides, Ukraine was a sovereign nation and they needed to have some relationship with the U.S. If they hire you, I told Ballard, they could get it done.

[snip]

The first person in the new power structure I sought out was prominent lobbyist Brian Ballard. Right after the win, I set up a meeting with Ballard — and his right-hand-man, Lukis. Although we talked on the phone, I preferred face-to-face meetings and would always see Ballard when he was in Florida.

Ballard was no dummy, he wanted to talk with me about what I knew and where I had contacts. Ballard wanted what I had, so it didn’t take much to make a deal. I would put Ballard in touch with the right people for 20 percent of any deals he made with them.

Although there was some thrill associated with making such high-level deals, I was really in it for the money. I had just had my big fallout with Hudson Holdings and had filed the lawsuit, so I needed to get paid. I knew just where to go.

Nasirov was a major player in the Ukrainian government and eager to talk with Ballard in order to improve Ukraine’s relationship with Washington. Because Ukraine’s support of Obama and Clinton had greatly offended the new crop of Republicans, he was almost desperate to get on Trump’s good side.

So I arranged to meet Nasirov at one of Igor’s Kyiv nightclubs, Buddha Bar. I flew there on December 1, 2016 to spend a week in Ukraine. When I arrived at Buddha Bar, Igor told me that the first floor was closed for a private party, so I’d have to meet Nasirov upstairs.

These descriptions make for great color. And I don’t doubt Parnas’ claims that everyone else he was dealing with was wowed if not working with the mob.

But the descriptions are notable for two other reasons. They address some — but not all — of details publicly released from his investigation.

But then the descriptions stop.

For example, Nasirov is mentioned just five more times in the book after this long introduction. Parnas explains how, just after Trump encouraged his efforts to dig up dirt with Rudy, Nasirov gave him the introduction to Viktor Shokin.

It was in that kind of weather that I landed in Kyiv to find Shokin. It wouldn’t take long for him to turn up. Everybody who was anybody in Kyiv knew me or at least knew of me. If I put the word out that I wanted to see Shokin, it would get to him.

It didn’t take long, I got a call from Nasirov. Of course he knew Shokin, he told me, they were old friends. He’d be more than happy to take me to see him. Shokin had a place just outside Kyiv.

Then there’s acknowledgment that Nasirov ran against Zelenskyy (and Poroshenko) in 2019. And that’s it. He’s the guy who hooked Parnas — and through him, Rudy — up with Shokin, but Parnas never returns to that relationship. That’s important because, as a letter that Parnas’ attorney failed to properly redact revealed, Nasirov was identified as a subject of the investigation into Parnas.

One person who is never mentioned is Alexander Levin who, like Nasirov, shows up in the warrants targeting Parnas, whose name was exposed in that same Joseph Bondy letter after Rudy phones were seized. As Savage Librarian first noted, a person of the same name and roughly the same vintage was charged in 2021 and will soon stand trial for money laundering in association with a series of safe deposit thefts across Europe; this motion in limine provides a glimpse into his background.

And the mobsters? Most of them are replaced in the story by Rudy Giuliani, as if never the twain shall meet.

Parnas never describes when his association with a bunch of sketchy types ended, if they did. That’s especially notable given Parnas’ description of the men he met at Otisville (the same prison at which Michael Cohen did time).

Once I was introduced into the camp’s general population, I was surprised at how many of the guys I already knew. There were friends of friends, old acquaintances and guys I did business with. There were even some people from the old neighborhood — Jews, Italians and Russians. In fact, they had been watching the news and knew I was coming, so they put together a welcome-to-prison gift package to make my life a little easier. They bought me the things that they had found essential behind bars — toothpaste, slippers, a comfortable sweat suit and other useful items they had bought from the commissary.

Suffice it to say Parnas never makes it clear if — and if so when — he broke from the mobbed up old neighborhood or whether they had a role in his work for Donald Trump’s lawyer.

Igor

Which brings us to Parnas’ treatment of his co-defendant Igor Fruman, who is not from Brooklyn, but instead from South Florida, where all this went down.

As Parnas describes it, they were mutual acquaintances through Jewish charities until Igor reached out because of Parnas’ access to Trump.

I knew Igor Fruman through common friends. Born in Belarus, his family emigrated to Detroit when the USSR was shedding even more Jews, Igor was six years older than me and had moved to South Florida, where the Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian communities were tight. Still, he spent most of his time in Ukraine where he made his money.

I knew about Igor from various Jewish charities we were both involved in and mutual friends, but we weren’t really friends at the time. Igor became interested in me because of the pictures I was posting of myself with Trump on social media and because I was hosting events for Russians for Trump. Igor wanted to get deals done in the petroleum industry and thought I could help.

He owned two popular nightclubs in Kyiv, Mafia Rave and the more upscale Buddha Bar. Both places were very popular with well-heeled men from both the West and East. They mingled at Buddha Bar, got to know each other and made deals, often huge deals.

Parnas claims that Igor’s famous recordings of a few meetings with Trump — including a later one where Parnas offered up, in 2018, that Marie Yovanovitch was disloyal to Trump — were a surprise to him as well.

When I first started going to these events, I was all eyes and ears. All I wanted to do was learn. And to make contacts. My brain was recording everything so that I could sift through it all for what was valuable. I remember it all vividly, but I don’t have to — it was all recorded.

Although we weren’t officially allowed to take pictures or video, Igor surreptitiously caught it all on his phone without anyone realizing it. Even me.

All he had to do was keep the phone out of sight. Because of that, all his videos contain long shots of things like the backs of chairs, ceilings and water glasses. It was far more important to him to record what was said and who was there rather than it was to make it look any good. Back in Ukraine, he’d play the videos to important people in his bars. To the people there, Igor was just a nightclub owner. So, when he said that he was spending time with Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, nobody believed him. But with the videos, he could prove that he had access to the very top. It made for good business.

[snip]

So, I was very excited to head to dinner at the Trump International.

Again, Igor managed to catch it all for posterity despite the usual warnings about using cameras or recording devices.

Playing to the audience, I mention that a lot of European countries are back-stabbing us. I knew he’d love that. The crowd falls silent and seems to be very interested in what I have to say. I discreetly mumble something about the U.S. taking over, then tell Trump that the biggest problem I saw for Ukrainian-American relations is the ambassador.

As Parnas describes it, the tie to Nasirov went through Igor’s mobbed up Ukrainian clubs.

I knew someone who might want to become an investor. It was Ukrainian politician Roman Nasirov, who I knew from Igor’s nightclubs. He was then Chairman of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine (something like Secretary of the Treasury), and was considered the third-most powerful man in the Ukrainian government.

The tie Yuriy Lutsenko, who just happened to show up in New York after they reached out to Shokin for dirt on the Bidens, went through Igor.

And that’s when a gift dropped right into our laps. At the end of January 2019, about a week or so after we spoke with Shokin, I learned from Igor that one of his friends — Gyunduz Mamedov, the Prosecutor General of Crimea — was in New York on personal business with the current top prosecutor in Ukraine, Yuriy Lutsenko, and Glib Zagoriy, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and a pharmaceutical tycoon.

Igor was also friends with Andrii Artemenko, who in turn set them up with Andrii Derkach and Andrii Telizhenko.

In September, I got a call from Andrii Artemenko, who was a friend of Igor’s. He told me that he had some guys with real, hard evidence that would prove all of our theories once and for all. Naturally, I was intrigued. But once he told me that the guys were Derkach and Telizhenko, I told him that we were cool, I’d pass. Not long after, Giuliani text me and asked: “Who’s this Artemenko?” He had, of course, known Artemenko, but had a habit of forgetting names, especially Eastern European ones.

I told him not to deal with Artemenko, he was peddling Russian disinformation. In fact, I gave him other names of guys who were doing the same thing. Of course, I later learned that he was enthusiastically dealing with Artemenko, as well as Derkach and Telizhenko.

Parnas tells two stories about how they got set up with Dmitry Firtash, one in Paris, seemingly arranged by Firtash because of his legal plight.

He probably first called Manafort, but he was already out of the picture. By the time Firtash needed him, he was already serving time. So Firtash had instead retained American lawyers Lanny Davis and Dan Webb.

On a trip to Paris, Rudy and I had a meeting with a Ukrainian we knew from one of the bars my business partner Igor Fruman owned in Kyiv. Igor considered him a close friend, but he hadn’t seen him in a long time. Unbeknownst to us, he was Firtash’s right-hand man.

He introduced us to Firtash. We wanted to talk to Firtash because we knew that he was connected to Mykola Zlochevsky, owner of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine’s biggest oil and gas company. He told us that he had heard things about Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, bad things. Things we might be interested in. He recommended that we talk to Firtash about it. He wasn’t the first person we talked to, but we believed that he had a great deal of pull with the Ukrainian government. We believed that he could get us what we wanted — a Ukrainian investigation of the Bidens.

He describes the second one to have taken place in Madrid (this may be wrong; it may be the same meeting), where they went after Paris (though they met Kholodnytskyi in Paris first).

After our meeting with Kholodnytskyi, we happened to run into another friend of Igor’s at our hotel in Madrid. Everyone knew him as Little Dimitri because he worked for Firtash and we didn’t want to confuse the two. We spoke about why we were there and how important it was for us to get any compromising information on Joe Biden. He told us that the guy we wanted to talk to was Firtash and that he could introduce us. He didn’t need to explain to us who Firtash was.

Parnas was definitely the one trying to network his way through Trump’s world, but at least as Parnas depicts it, the key Ukrainian relationships — first Nasirov, then Shokin, then Lutsenko, then Firtash, and through Artemenko, Derkach and Telizhenko — all went through Igor. Parnas’ explanation of the foreign donations from Andrey Muraviev also blames Igor for intermixing those funds with other funds.

If SDNY learned that (there’s no hint they did, or if they did, that they believed Parnas), you’d think they would have focused more closely on Fruman than on Parnas.

Instead, the investigation treated Parnas as the brainchild of all the crime.

A continued unpersuasive explanation for his Marie Yovanovitch attacks

Against this backdrop, Parnas’ explanations for taking out Yovanovitch are wildly unpersuasive.

In his congressional testimony, Parnas claimed that he was “smeared” by a plot to get rid of Marie Yovanovitch.

When I was arrested, I was initially accused of being involved in a plot to remove Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine whom Trump had fired in April 2019. I was smeared by this false information, and also untrue claims that I was fleeing the country.

As my case continued, the Department of Justice decided they had no interest in Ukraine, sanitizing their marquee claims about Ambassador Yovanovich from my indictment. Instead, I was prosecuted for federal campaign finance and unrelated fraud charges.

In his book, Parnas would call what were primarily FARA charges “espionage” charges and vastly exaggerate the sentencing exposure either FARA or 18 USC 951 would bring.

By my read, this is a misstatement of what happened (one potentially necessitated by Parnas’ claim that SDNY was part of Bill Barr’s attempt to silence him and Igor or at least neutralize the threat the posed to Trump and Barr personally). By my read, the inclusion and then exclusion of the FARA charges had everything to do with the attempts to include Rudy in those charges and Barr’s tampering in that effort. There are probably a number of reasons why SDNY ultimately couldn’t pursue those charges: the corruption of Rudy’s phones, the provable role Trump had in this process, lasting damage Barr did, and Victoria Toensing’s attorney-client privilege with Dmitry Firtash.

But SDNY’s declination in no way debunks the claim that Parnas was involved in a plot to oust Yovanovitch. In his book he explicitly calls his attacks on Yovanovitch “slander.”

Nobody at the embassy knew what the game was. Yovanovitch was too professional to have said disrespectful things about the President, certainly not that he was going to be impeached. But I had been the source of a constant flow of slander against her. It was a big playground game. We’d go visit important people in Ukraine and tell them how bad Yovanovitch was. That would be followed by a visit by someone from the State Department who would tell the same people that we were lying. I would then double back and talk to the same people again, assuring them that Yovanovitch was anti-Trump and could be dangerous for Ukraine. Then the embassy staff would visit those same people again, telling them that we were nobodies who didn’t know what we were talking about. I had more time, so I usually got in the last word.

Parnas’ attempts to deny that there was a plot are important because, in Parnas’ telling, why he came to oppose Yovanovitch is inconsistent. As he describes telling Anderson Cooper in 2020, as he tried to avenge his arrest by cooperating in impeachment, he was reflecting the views of Republicans.

We discussed the Yovanovitch situation. He asked me if I had a problem with her. I told him I didn’t know her personally, but since the Trump people hated her so virulently, I came to the opinion that she had to go.

That’s, of course, nonsense. When Parnas targeted her in 2018, almost no Republicans would have heard of her.

He attributes the animus he expressed in 2018, which likely led Republicans to start examining Yovanovitch more closely,  to the opinion of “Ukraine’s wealthy and those who planned to be,” people Parnas implicitly describes to be aiming to cozy up to “power brokers in Russia.”

She was unpopular with Ukraine’s wealthy and those who planned to be.

They were well aware that any serious investigations would easily expose them and their alignment, if not outright fealty, to the power brokers in Russia, not their own country (including more than a few elected politicians). With my many connections in various fields, there was a consensus about Yovanovitch — she had to go. And, when they found out I was American, they couldn’t wait to tell me about how bad Yovanovitch was for Ukraine, without giving too many specifics, of course.

She was unpopular with Ukraine’s wealthy and those who planned to be. They were well aware that any serious investigations would easily expose them and their alignment, if not outright fealty, to the power brokers in Russia, not their own country (including more than a few elected politicians). With my many connections in various fields, there was a consensus about Yovanovitch — she had to go. And, when they found out I was American, they couldn’t wait to tell me about how bad Yovanovitch was for Ukraine, without giving too many specifics, of course.

The rest of the book describes a progression: Shokin blamed Yovanovitch for denying him a US visa whence he could plot against the Bidens, which led Rudy to blame Yovanovitch, which led Trump and his failson and John Solomon and everyone else to pile on.

But the actual people behind that original animus are never named, possibly because tying that animus to the mobsters and oligarchs with whom Parnas networked would substantiate a plot, just a different plot, than the one SDNY laid out.

Relatedly, Parnas suggests that Pete Sessions was already working on replacing Yovanovitch when Parnas repeated this story to him and donated that money that, Parnas claims, Igor had mixed in with their other funds. Parnas was just the mule for a letter to Trump.

In short, the campaign against Yovanovitch is presented as always-already in progress, even though there’s no evidence that it started in the US before that Parnas comment in 2018.

A different approach to Dmitry Firtash’s equities

This post is meant to set up one on Barr. We get there via Dmitry Firtash.

Parnas manages to focus more closely on Bill Barr’s role in all of this by expanding, from earlier instances, on how he describes the Firtash relationship.

When he wrote James Comer last year, he probed for a subpoena that would provide a way to breach any privilege claim.

Thereafter, as I became an interpreter between Firtash’s new legal team and Firtash, most of the conversations in which I participated were potentially privileged; however, I believe this information may be made available to the House Oversight Committee through a Congressional subpoena.

He didn’t get that subpoena.

When invited to testify without subpoena, Parnas made no mention of Firtash in his prepared congressional testimony. But in the hearing, Ro Khanna cued Parnas to describe his second-hand understanding that Barr was willing to trade campaign help for lenience from DOJ.

Ro Khanna: Did Bill Barr know that you were involved in getting this dirt?

Parnas: Absolutely. Bill, Bill Barr was informed of our investigation from the day he took office.

Khanna: Did you ever have a conversation with Bill Barr being lenient towards Dmitry, in Bill Barr’s role as Attorney General?

Parnas: I personally did not but I was witness to Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, having a conversation with Bill Barr about Dmitry Firtash.

Khanna: What did they say to Bill Barr?

Parnas: Basically, they were telling him that the charges were false, and that he needs to drop the charges and, basically, end the case.

Khanna: And why did they tell him to drop the charges on this Russian [sic] oligarch?

Parnas: Because Dmitry Firtash was going to help us getting dirt on the Bidens, or whatever else the Trump campaign needed.

Khanna: So my understanding is you have the Trump campaign telling you to talk to a Russian [sic] oligarch to get dirt, on the President of the United States for political reasons, and then someone from the Trump campaign is talking to the Attorney General to drop the charges because this foreign national is helping get dirt on a political candidate?

Parnas: Absolutely.

Khanna: Did Bill Barr indicate any willingness to drop the charges?

Parnas: After the meeting that Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova had with DOJ, they came back and informed me that “we’re going to Vienna” because, to tell Dmitry Firtash everything is going to be okay.

While Parnas’ focus on Firtash at the hearing had the appearance of accident, Firtash is a central focus of Parnas’ book. The first pages of Parnas’ book describe meeting — alone, apparently — with Firtash, in what would be the penultimate visit to finalize a quid pro quo.

As my car approached its destination, I watched as a black — no doubt armored — Mercedes SUV with opaque black windows blocked the one-way street behind me. Closer to the massive iron gates in front of the property, another big black SUV blocked the road ahead.

It didn’t unsettle me at all, I’d been through the same routine on the previous trips I had made to this house and others like it. I also knew that the guys protecting Dmytro Firtash seriously outgunned anyone who might want to hurt him. And he was on our side.

As we turned down the only open lane toward the main building, we drove past a legion of security guards in black with dark sunglasses and AK-47s. Nothing out of the ordinary.

The chapter then maps out how, at a hush hush meeting at John Dowd’s in Chatham, MA, as news of the Perfect Phone Call started to break, Trump’s team promised to protect Parnas.

A black SUV with security took me to Chatham, Massachusetts, on the “elbow” of Cape Cod. Firtash paid for all of it. There was a conference call set up by Trump’s legal team at Dowd’s beach house. Dowd told me that the reason we met on Cape Cod was to keep the media away from me.

[snip]

In Dowd’s home office, he set up a conference call with Giuliani, Jay Sekulow (another of Trump’s attorneys), Toensing and diGenova. There might have been other lawyers, but I didn’t hear any. Dowd laid out the plan, and it was simple: stonewall. He instructed us all not to say anything to Congress and not to worry about subpoenas because we’d only get letters requesting our appearance, which we could ignore. Trump, he said, would tell them to go fuck themselves and everybody else was to follow suit. [my emphasis]

So, even as Congress was investigating, Parnas continued to pursue the quid pro quo with Firtash. Parnas went from this meeting back to DC to tie up loose ends for the big Fox News reveal.

On October 6 (two days before the beginning of Yom Kippur), I flew to Washington to discuss the trip to Vienna with Giuliani and Toensing.

Giuliani told me that he wanted to meet Shokin and that it might also be a great idea to bring Fox News personality and ardent Trump supporter Sean Hannity to interview him.

That was a key part of the plan. Team Trump had not been very successful at getting our message into what Trump called “fake news” and the “lame stream media,” so we depended on Fox News and like-minded outlets for any publicity. Not only would millions of Americans see the interview, but it being on Fox News would lend us an air of credibility among many people.

Just before we left for Vienna, I received a phone call from Firtash warning me that Shokin had become anxious about the interview, and was threatening to back out.

I called Shokin. He answered, but he was tense, even panicky. He told me that he was sure “they” were going to kill him. He was absolutely convinced that he would be poisoned, just like Viktor Yushchenko, who had angered Putin while running for the Ukrainian presidency. There was no way, he said, that he would get on a plane no matter what.

Firtash told me not to worry. He’d see to it personally that Shokin was flown to Vienna safely and would be present for a live interview with Fox’s Hannity.

Part of the deal was that we’d also get Shokin’s sealed testimony to the Viennese court and the hard drive from the laptop Hunter Biden used when he was working in Ukraine. It was supposed to have come from Alexander Gorbunenko, who was CFO of Burisma when Hunter worked there. If there was any evidence of him doing anything illegal in Ukraine, we were sure we’d find it there.

This is the Lev Parnas post, not the Bill Barr post. We can discuss the potential significance of this — the inconsistency between John Paul Mac Isaac’s timeline and the FBI’s, Will Levi writing Barr that a laptop was on its way to him immediately after IRS got a warrant for the laptop ascribed to Hunter, the reported closure of the Mykola Zlochevsky investigation and the use of it to elicit Alexander Smirnov’s false bribery allegation, the limitations imposed on SDNY’s ongoing investigation into Rudy’s influence campaign, the Brady side channel, including Brady’s inquiries into investigations in Chicago, where the Firtash investigation was — in the Bill Barr post.

I’ve got cautions about Parnas’ credibility, and SDNY repeatedly said he was lying about all this (and Parnas sustains some of what SDNY surely treated as lies — for example about Yovanovitch — in this book). But Barr’s a liar too, he affirmatively prevented SDNY from learning some of this, and his own actions are consistent with what Parnas claims.

It’s about motive.

Parnas’ motive has always been transparent. For all his claims to be cured of membership in the Trump cult, that would never have happened if Rudy and Trump and John Dowd hadn’t reneged on their promise to protect him.

I was led into a room where Dowd was sitting behind a table and Downing was standing beside him. Immediately, I started asking questions. I wanted to know why I was still behind bars while Igor was free. I wanted to know what Trump was going to do for me.

Suddenly, Dowd slammed his fist down on the table and shouted at me: “Who do you think you fucking are? Trump is President and he will do whatever he damn well wants to do!”

But in a book that engages in a lot of casual mob-talk, I want to know about the evolving treatment of Firtash.

Firtash had a real attorney-client relationship with Victoria Toensing, however corrupt (Lanny Davis is no better). And for years, Parnas respected that (in part, presumably, because it kept SDNY away from this material, though the statute of limitations on these activities have not quite expired).

I’m all in favor of hearing this story. But what does Firtash feel about it?

 


Joseph Ziegler Allegedly Chased Doctored Laptop Evidence

Following the news that Fox News has complied with one of Hunter Biden’s demands by taking down a six-part fictionalized series on Joe Biden’s son, Sarah Fitzpatrick, one of the journalists who first reported on Hunter Biden’s threats to sue Fox news yesterday, has a new scoop out.

A retired Secret Service agent implicated in the most clearcut laptop related fabrication, Robert Savage, is suing the NYPost, reporters who claimed that he had helped run cover-ups for Hunter Biden in LA, and the US affiliate of the Daily Mail. (NYP, Associated Newspapers)

A former Secret Service agent sued two news organizations for defamation Tuesday and accused them of publishing stories based on fabricated text messages that he says falsely linked him to Hunter Biden.

Robert Savage, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Secret Service and the Special Agent in Charge of the agency’s Los Angeles Field Office from 2015-2017, filed the lawsuits in New York against the New York Post and two of its reporters, and the owner and publisher of the Daily Mail.

Savage alleged that the reporters and publications recklessly disregarded information that the text messages, which came from a laptop that purportedly belonged to Hunter Biden, were fabricated. Despite that, they published articles and tweets in 2021 and 2023 that suggested Savage communicated with and met and met with Biden in Los Angeles.

“Rob has not and has never met Hunter Biden, does not know Hunter Biden, has no connection with Hunter Biden, and has never corresponded with Hunter Biden,” Savage’s attorney, Mark Goidell, told NBC News.

The lawsuit itself is not the big part of the story: It’s that someone presenting as Joseph Ziegler questioned Savage about the incident.

In March 2022, Savage was visited at his home by an FBI agent and an IRS agent who said they wanted to ask him questions about his association with Hunter Biden and the laptop. Savage was also served with a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorneys Office in Delaware, which later charged him with tax and gun charges.

NBC News obtained security footage of the interaction, copies of the business cards left by the agents and a copy of the subpoena.

The IRS agent identified himself as Joseph Ziegler, who testified as a whistleblower to a House committee investigating Hunter Biden in 2023. Ziegler alleged that the Department of Justice prosecutors limited his investigation of Hunter Biden, a charge that DOJ officiales denied. Ziegler’s attorney declined to comment.

Goidell said that the law enforcement agencies appear to have ended their investigations of the alleged text exchanges between Savage and Biden.

It has long been known that there was fabricated data on at least some versions of the hard drives created from the laptop. But it has been unclear whether those fabrications existed on the copy shared with the FBI.

If Joseph Ziegler really did visit Savage, it means one of two things: Either there is fabricated data on the FBI laptop and investigators have known that since 2022, or that Ziegler allowed himself to be tainted by the publicly released claims about the laptop, complete with fabricated data.

Remember, in August last year, when David Weiss’ purportedly sheep-dipped prosecutors told Abbe Lowell they were going to pursue felony charges against Hunter Biden, they confidently bragged that they had backstop for all the data on the laptop. They said that four months before they first obtained a warrant to access the laptop for evidence relating to gun crimes.

Their confidence turned out to be misplaced; in filings before Judge Noreika that persuaded her they had plenty of evidence against Hunter Biden, they relied on evidence that appears only to be available from the laptop.

And Savage’s lawsuit strongly suggests that prosecutors are sitting on evidence that they know the laptop is unreliable.

Update: This post has been updated, among other things, with links to the lawsuits.


Fox News and the Joint Tortfeasors

As CNN and NBC have reported, Hunter Biden is threatening to sue Fox News.

The threatened complaints do not amount to a broad defamation claim. Rather, the letter sent by Geragos attorney Tina Glandian makes the following complaint:

  • Both before and after the Alexander Smirnov lawsuit, Fox News claimed that he and his father had accepted a bribe, recently doubling down on Smirnov’s claim.
  • For a fictionalized series called The Trial of Hunter Biden, Fox commercially exploited Hunter’s image.
  • For the same series, Fox News used revenge porn.
  • For the same series, Fox News violated Hunter’s copyright.

I’ve already seen lots of opinion about how wise or unwise this is, most ignoring the narrowness of the defamation claim. The entire claim about the fictionalized series is that Fox presented it as fiction, and therefore cannot be said to be reporting on the news.

Still, I’m agnostic, at this point, about the wisdom of this.

I’m interested, however, in another detail. It’s not just Fox News that Geragos is threatening to sue. They’re threatening to sue other tortfeasors — the people with whom Fox News worked to harm Hunter Biden. Here’s what the protective demand looks like.

As we anticipate that litigation against FOX, as well as its joint tortfeasors is imminent, we hereby formally demand that FOX and its predecessors, successors, parents, subsidiaries, divisions, affiliates, employees, hosts, anchors, commentators, columnists, reporters, journalists, officers, directors, partners, attorneys, accountants, and agents, including but not limited to Jesse Watters, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Dana Perino, Miranda Devine, Laura Ingraham, and Maria Bartiromo, preserve all documents potentially relevant to the allegations in this letter including any documents which relate to the allegations in this letter in the broadest sense dating back to at least January 1, 2019. To be clear, such documents include but are not limited to all communications related to (i) strategy meetings at BLT Steak in Washington, D.C. and/or “BLT Team” meetings or communications; (ii) Skype interviews between Ukrainian officials and a Congressman Devin Nunes senior staff member; (iii) the meeting in a FOX News conference room in New York City on October 8, 2019 between and among Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani, John Solomon, Joseph diGenova, and/or Victoria Toensing; (iv) the procurement, use, and publication of images of Mr. Biden including the use of intimate images purporting to depict him; (v) the “Salacious Pics Package” and/or “Salacious Pics Package_EDITED” folder allegedly on the laptop obtained by Mr. Mac Isaac; (vi) the planned interview of former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin by Sean Hannity in Vienna, Austria in or around late October 2023; and (vii) Fox Nation’s six-part “mock trial” entitled “The Trial of Hunter Biden; (viii) the indictment returned against Alexander Smirnov on or about February 14, 2024.

This preservation demand includes internal communications regarding the foregoing subjects between and among FOX employees, hosts, anchors, commentators, columnists, reporters, journalists, officers, directors, partners, attorneys, accountants, and agents, as well as FOX’s communications with third parties including but not limited to John Paul Mac Isaac, Colonel Steve Mac Isaac, Rudy Giuliani, Robert Costello, Guo Wengui (and/or Ho Wan Kowk and/or Miles Guo), GTV, Vish Burra, Jack Maxey, Vincent Kaufman, John Solomon, Steve Bannon, Tim Murtaugh, and Igor Fruman, Lev Parnas, Dmitry Firtash, then-Congressman Devin Nunes, Senator Ron Johnson, Joseph diGenova, Victoria Toensing, Derek J. Harvey, then U.S. Attorney General William Barr, and other U.S. Department of Justice officials. [my emphasis]

There are a lot of other tortfeasors included in this list.

This discovery overlaps with what Hunter has already gotten from John Paul Mac Isaac (to say nothing if Robert Robinson allows Hunter’s countersuit to go forward), as well as the lawsuit of Rudy and Robert Costello.

But it fills in some of the most important bits — bits that have little to do with the two alleged complaints, per se, but bits that would be relevant in any dispute about whether Fox knew its claims of bribery were not just false, but a deliberate fabrication.

This discovery demand also asks for communications with a number of people, like Devin Nunes and Derek Harvey, who would be untouchable via direct suit. And if Hunter managed to get discovery at all — a very big if — it might threaten to expose ties between Sean Hannity, Dmitry Firtash, and Bill Barr, among others.

Update: The six-part fictional series is in the process of being deleted (click through for links).

Fox News appears to be taking Hunter Biden’s lawsuit threat quite seriously.

The network has quietly pulled down its six-part “mock trial” series from its digital streaming service Fox Nation after lawyers for the presidential scion warned the network of their intention to sue for defamation.

Besides quietly taking down The Trial of Hunter Biden from its streamer, the network also deleted a promotional video promising Fox News viewers an “inside look” at the “mock trial,” which was presided over by former reality-TV star Judge Joe Brown.

This would dramatically limit the surface area that Hunter would have for lawsuit as, without the fictional narrative, only the post-Smirnov claims of bribery would be actionable.


Kaitlan Collins Ignores Bill Barr’s Role in the Effort that Framed Joe Biden

Kaitlan Collins did an interview with Bill Barr the other day, offering him a platform to make weakly-rebutted claims that Democrats were worse than a man who attempted to overthrow democracy.

The interview provided a remarkable opportunity to question Barr about his role in an important scandal that has become public since his last interview with Collins: the Scott Brady side channel to ingest dirt on Hunter Biden, a side channel that FBI informant Alexander Smirnov used to frame Joe Biden with false allegations of bribery. Not only didn’t Collins even ask Barr about his role in setting up that opportunity, but she allowed Barr to lie to her face, falsely claiming that Trump never demanded that Barr intervene in particular investigations.

Days after one such instance documented in Barr’s memoir, when Trump called Barr to yell about Hunter Biden, DOJ ordered prosecutors investigating Joe Biden’s son to pursue Smirnov’s allegations.

Since Barr’s last appearance, we’ve learned more about the Brady side channel

Not long before Bill Barr’s last appearance on Kaitlan Collins’ show last August, he made a little noticed intervention in the House inquiry attempting to substantiate something against Joe Biden.

On June 7, 2023 — the same day David Weiss and Hunter Biden’s lawyers settled on language that should have resolved all criminal investigations of him — in an on-the-record interview with Margot Cleveland, Barr accused Jamie Raskin of lying about what members of Congress had been told about an FD-1023 informant report, now known to be a fabricated report from Alexander Smirnov.

Barr told Cleveland that the investigation into the FD-1023 — an investigation that the Smirnov indictment identifies as a bribery assessment — wasn’t shut down in August 2020 but instead was forwarded to David Weiss to investigate further.

“It’s not true. It wasn’t closed down,” William Barr told The Federalist on Tuesday in response to Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin’s claim that the former attorney general and his “handpicked prosecutor” had ended an investigation into a confidential human source’s allegation that Joe Biden had agreed to a $5 million bribe. “On the contrary,” Barr stressed, “it was sent to Delaware for further investigation.”

An anonymous source for the same article (often, reporters will give a source anonymity in an article where they are otherwise quoted) had knowledge that the lead to Smirnov didn’t come directly from Rudy Giuliani.

Not so, according to an individual familiar with the investigation who told The Federalist that the CHS and the FD-1023 summary of his statement were both “unrelated to Rudy Giuliani” and “not derived” from any information Giuliani provided.

Barr’s comments led House Republicans to pursue the FD-1023 even more aggressively. They pointed to it as yet another (subsequently debunked) claim that David Weiss had blown the investigation into Hunter Biden. This was the smoking gun that was going to take down Joe Biden and his kid!

That effort appears to have contributed to Weiss’ decision to renege on Hunter Biden’s plea deal.

On July 10 — just weeks after David Weiss’ office assured Chris Clark, on June 19, that there was no ongoing investigation into Joe Biden’s kid — Weiss told Lindsey Graham that there was an ongoing investigation into the FD-1023 he had been ordered to investigate 32 months earlier.

Then, on July 23, just days before Hunter Biden’s plea hearing was scheduled, Chuck Grassley released a leaked copy of the FD-1023 itself.

Three days later, in Hunter Biden’s plea hearing, when Maryellen Noreika asked Leo Wise about the scope of the immunity offered to Hunter Biden, he stated there was an ongoing investigation, one in which FARA charges might still be on the table; that claim directly conflicted with the assurances offered to Hunter’s attorney on June 19.

THE COURT: All right. So there are references to foreign companies, for example, in the facts section. Could the government bring a charge under the Foreign Agents Registration Act?

MR. WISE: Yes.

THE COURT: I’m trying to figure out if there is a meeting of the minds here and I’m not sure that this provision isn’t part of the Plea Agreement and so that’s why I’m asking.

MR. CLARK: Your Honor, the Plea Agreement —

THE COURT: I need you to answer my question if you can. Is there a meeting of the minds on that one?

MR. CLARK: As stated by the government just now, I don’t agree with what the government said.

THE COURT: So I mean, these are contracts. To be enforceable, there has to be a meeting of the minds. So what do we do now?

MR. WISE: Then there is no deal.

As Judge Noreika described in an opinion rejecting Hunter Biden’s claim that David Weiss had reneged on this deal, prosecutors “appeared to revoke the deal” at that moment. In the wake of the release of the FD-1023 and Barr’s claims that Weiss had been ordered to pursue that lead, David Weiss “revoked” the deal in order to chase allegations that might substantiate a FARA charge. In spite of the fact that Judge Noreika described that Wise appeared to revoke a signed deal, in spite of the fact that she had an uncontested claim before her from Chris Clark that Weiss’ office had told him on June 19 there was no ongoing investigation, Noreika did not conclude that Weiss had reneged on the terms of a deal.

On August 29, investigators working with newly-minted Special Counsel David Weiss interviewed Smirnov’s handler. They learned that Smirnov’s travel records were entirely inconsistent with the claims Smirnov had made. They should also have learned that a photo Smirnov shared with his handler in May 2020 was a long-debunked hoax first spread by Tucker Carlson in the same time period that Rudy Giuliani launched his 2020 disinformation campaign against Joe Biden.

Nevertheless, on August 29, the same day they should have realized they were chasing disinformation, Weiss’ prosecutors told Abbe Lowell they were chasing felonies against Joe Biden’s kid.

As they were doing so, more evidence about the side channel became public. On September 27, Gary Shapley released an email corroborating one thing Barr told Cleveland: DOJ had sent that lead over to David Weiss for further investigation. Pittsburgh AUSAs briefed Weiss’ team on October 23, 2020, just days before the election.

Two days later, on September 29, Weiss’ investigators interviewed Smirnov, only to find him beginning to change parts of his story while claiming to know of another disinformation campaign, involving high level Russian spies, targeting Joe Biden in 2024. At this point, it wasn’t just a hoax. It might be a Russian-backed hoax.

It should have been clear years earlier, but by that point, it was clear that Smirnov, someone who belatedly informed his FBI handler about ties with Russian spies, had exploited the Brady side channel set up to ingest dirt Rudy Giuliani solicited overseas, including from known Russian spies, to frame Joe Biden.

On October 23, Brady provided far more details about that side channel in testimony to Congress, testimony that was available almost immediately (but which few mainstream outlets chose to read).

Barr came up, by name, 33 times, such as when Brady described updating the Attorney General on his efforts, in person, twice. Or when describing not what Brady’s actual instructions from Barr were, but what Barr had publicly said his instructions were (the logging of the assessment as a bribery assessment discredits Brady’s claims about his task). Or when Brady got caught falsely claiming the effort wasn’t secret until Lindsey Graham blew the secret after Trump was acquitted for demanding such bribery allegations from Ukraine. Or when questioned about whether Barr was included among the people who “Would feel more comfortable if [Brady] participated,” in an interview of Rudy personally, “so we get a sense of what’s coming out of it.” Or when trying to explain why he reached out to the FBI’s Legat in Ukraine to ask for help from Ukraine’s Prosecutor General. Or when Brady offered several of his never-plausible explanations of something that remains among the most important questions about this scheme: how his team came to focus on a single line in an informant report about Mykola Zlochevsky and, from that, decide they had to interview Smirnov directly.

Q According to public statements by Attorney General Barr, your office in vetting the information provided by the CHS for the FD-1023, you went back and developed more information that apparently had been overlooked by the FBI.

Is that an accurate statement?

A I can’t say “overlooked.” I don’t know that I agree with that characterization because I don’t know what — again, because this was referenced in a previous CHS report, I don’t know what the focus of that investigation was. So it might have been ancillary information that wasn’t directly related to what they were looking at in 2017. But it had not been developed. It’s fair to say that it had not been looked into or developed any further.

[snip]

Chairman Jordan. Okay. January 3rd, 2020. And then what I am understanding is, right, throughout the winter and spring, you’re asking the FBI for information they have regarding Ukraine and Hunter Biden, you’re requesting that you get information they may have?

Mr. Brady. We’re trying to identify investigative leads, and from the information we had received from the public, including information about Hunter Biden and Burisma, and then asking the FBI — and we were also tasked with coordinating this is public from Attorney General, Attorney General Barr, how to coordinate also with intelligence services. And so we were interfacing with them relating to that tasking. It wasn’t everything that they had because certainly Delaware with the grand jury investigation would have had a lot of information relating since it began in 2019.

Bill Barr was, according to the guy he tasked with it, Scott Brady, all over this side channel. Even Bill Barr claims he knew the circumstances of how Brady sought out an informant used in an investigation that had only weeks earlier been shut down by DOJ to shift the focus, away from Zlochevsky’s suspected bribes, and onto the man he might have bribed, Joe Biden.

Bill Barr set up a side channel, during an impeachment of Donald Trump for demanding that Ukraine investigate the Bidens for corruption, that tried to find basis to investigate the Bidens for corruption.

Nothing about Brady’s pursuit of Alexander Smirnov — digging to find a one-line mention of Joe Biden’s kid and from that demanding to interview the informant — matches the public explanation of the side channel: accepting and vetting information from the public, first and foremost from Trump’s personal lawyer. These are all things that Kaitlan Collins had a unique opportunity to query Barr on. Bill Barr claims to know that the Smirnov tip didn’t come from Rudy. How does he know that? Where did it come from? How did Brady and Barr come to decide to interview the FBI informant who happened to be floating false claims of bribery based on already debunked hoaxes? Were Brady and Barr witting participants in the effort to frame Joe Biden, one made in 2020 and renewed for the 2024 campaign, or did they just get used? If they got used, do they owe Biden an apology?

That would have been a laudable use of CNN’s exclusive interview with the former Attorney General.

Bill Barr lies to Kaitlan Collins’ face

Collins did none of that. Instead, among the other lies Barr told (a few of which CNN’s panel debunked after Barr left), she let Barr tell this lie — that Trump never pressured him directly, but instead only pressured Barr by tweet — uncorrected.

Did Trump expect his A.G. to go easy on his friends?

BARR: I don’t know. I don’t know what he expected.

COLLINS: What was your experience?

BARR: My experience was by the time I came in, he did not — he did not push me to do one thing or another, on these criminal cases. Now, he tweeted, and made his public views on things known. But he never talked to me about them directly.

COLLINS: So, he did not have you in his pocket, you would argue?

BARR: It’s not a question of arguing. I did what I thought was right.

COLLINS: And you never felt any direct pressure from him, on what investigations the DOJ was carrying out.

BARR: No. He did not directly pressure me. Yes, as I say, he was out there tweeting and doing things that were embarrassing, and made it hard for me to run the department.

COLLINS: That sounds like pressure. [my emphasis]

Barr’s own memoir describes Trump pressuring him directly, just days before Richard Donoghue, acting as PADAG, ordered David Weiss’ team to accept a briefing from Scott Brady.

In mid-October I received a call from the President, which was the last time I spoke to him prior to the election. It was a very short con-versation. The call came soon after Rudy Giuliani succeeded in making public information about Hunter Biden’s laptop. I had walked over to my desk to take the call. These calls had become rare, so Will Levi stood nearby waiting expectantly to see what it was about. After brief pleasantry about his being out on the campaign trail, the President said, “You know this stuff from Hunter Biden’s laptop?”

I cut the President off sharply. “Mr. President, I can’t talk about that, and I am not going to.”

President Trump hesitated, then continued in a plaintive tone, “You know, if that was one of my kids—”

I cut him off again, raising my voice, “Dammit, Mr. President, I am not going to talk to you about Hunter Biden. Period!”

He was silent for a moment, then quickly got off the line.

I looked up at Will, whose eyes were as big as saucers. “You yelled at the President?” he asked, confirming the obvious. I nodded. He shook his head in disbelief.

Barr’s memoir is largely transparent CYA, especially for his efforts to protect Rudy’s information operations (descriptions of which in the memoir do not match public records), so this may simply be an attempt to spin damning notes Levi took of the call. But it undoubtedly counts as direct pressure from Trump regarding the Hunter Biden investigation.

Plus, Trump’s pressure on DOJ to investigate Hunter Biden was not a one-off. According to contemporaneous notes from Donoghue, Trump harangued Jeffrey Rosen and Donoghue about the Hunter investigation in the December 27, 2020 call otherwise focused on demanding DOJ support for his false election claims, the call where Trump first floated replacing him with Jeffrey Clark.

Rather than hard questions about Barr’s role in an effort that framed Joe Biden, then, this false claim went uncorrected.

Bill Barr is not a hypocrite; he fully backs criminalizing Democrats

The aftermath of all this was stunning.

Some of the panelists Anderson Cooper had on after the interview fact checked some of Barr’s false claims. Both Cooper and Carl Bernstein noted, for example, that crime has gone down under Biden.

But they nevertheless fawned over what they claimed was Barr’s moral compass.

Bernstein, citing a speech in which Barr used a right wing view of religion to attack progressives, hailed the former Attorney General as “a real moralist;” Cooper agreed.

Bernstein described that Barr was “dedicated to the rule of law” but exhibited hypocrisy for choosing Trump over someone who abides by it.

It’s a kind of hypocrisy. Attorney General, dedicated to the rule of law, and then he talks about how Trump has no dedication to the rule of law.

Karen Friedman Agnifilo claimed that Barr’s loyalty to the far right was a newfound thing, one that replaced care for law and order.

[H]e’s really not thinking about things that really mattered to him before, like law and order.

This is not a new thing! Barr cares about authority — the kind of authority that sends federal agents across the country to police protests blocks removed from federal property. But Barr sees the law just as Trump does, as a means for partisan gain, a tool to use to defeat his hated “progressives.”

Bill Barr interfered in the Lev Parnas investigation to prevent it from incorporating Rudy’s solicitation of known Russian spies for campaign dirt, then set up a way that Rudy could share that dirt in a way that might get funneled into the investigation into Joe Biden’s kid. That effort ended up framing Joe Biden. And CNN doesn’t seem to care, or perhaps even know that.

CNN has largely circumscribed the effort to frame Joe Biden

Ultimately, Kaitlan Collins is not entirely to blame that she let Bill Barr lie to her face rather than grilling him about his role in framing Trump’s opponent.

I think she actually makes more of an effort to be personally informed than a number of her peers. But she’s always reliant on the prep that CNN’s own reporters do. And on this story, they’ve been remarkably incurious about the role that Barr’s decision to set up a way to ingest Rudy’s dirt led to the framing of Joe Biden.

For example, here’s how CNN described the process months after these details were first available, in the wake of Smirnov’s arrest.

In June 2020, the Pittsburgh-based US attorney at the time, Scott Brady, was tasked by Justice Department officials with helping to review information from the public “that may be relevant to matters relating to Ukraine.” As part of their review, FBI Pittsburgh opened an assessment into the document that memorialized Smirnov’s 2017 discussion with Burisma executives.

It is at this point, prosecutors allege, that Smirnov first made the explosive allegations about the Bidens. Smirnov told the FBI that Burisma executives admitted to him in 2015 and 2016 that they hired Hunter Biden to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems,” and that they had paid $5 million to each Biden.

The FBI asked Smirnov to hand over documents to determine whether the information he provided was accurate. Prosecutors say that two months later, the FBI members and DOJ leadership concurred that their assessment of Smirnov’s claims be closed.

But, according to his own private testimony last year to the House Judiciary Committee, Scott Brady claimed he was “able to corroborate certain information that was represented by the CHS and is memorialized in this 1023,” including through some travel records that Smirnov had provided.

Prosecutors now say that Smirnov’s travel records are going to be used as evidence against him in his criminal case, proving that he lied about his meetings with Burisma executives.

Brady said he believed that there was a “sufficient indicia of credibility” into aspects of the 1023, and briefed Weiss on the document, according to the interview transcript. Brady said he asked the FBI to give the document to Weiss’ office.

Weiss apparently kept that investigation open through July 2023, when the FBI approached his team about “allegations related to” Smirnov’s claims. By then, Smirnov’s allegations, though not publicly attributed to him, were thrust into the political spotlight by Republicans who relentlessly promoted his Biden bribery story. [my emphasis]

CNN pitches this as a problem inherent to using informants, and not a problem created when the Attorney General sets up a dedicated side channel to search for dirt on the son of his boss’ rival.

Barr, Seth DuCharme, and Richard Donoghue are systematically excluded from this description, first by use of the passive voice to describe who tasked Brady, and then claiming that Brady asked to brief Weiss rather than that part of his tasking was making recommendations. It ignores how Jeffrey Rosen’s office intervened to force this information onto David Weiss. And it ignores Barr’s public dispute — which conflicts with the Smirnov indictment — that everyone concurred in the decision to close the investigation.

And by ignoring Barr’s intervention, it ignores Barr’s role in stoking the focus on the Smirnov allegation last year.

Likewise, while it describes Brady’s claims to have used travel records to vet Smirnov’s claims one paragraph before describing that prosecutors claim travel records prove Smirnov lies, CNN doesn’t lay out the significance of that conflict. Days after this story, Jerry Nadler referred Brady’s representations to (at least) DOJ IG for investigation.

And CNN simply punts on the problem with this whole story: that Weiss was ordered to investigate Smirnov’s tip in 2020, and then after pressure from Republicans (including Barr), reneged on a plea deal and obtained Special Counsel status so he could investigate it again. It ignores how that makes Weiss a witness in the effort to frame Biden, one whose conflicts prevent him from asking the questions that Collins didn’t either: How did Brady find Smirnov and did anyone know he was spreading obvious disinformation?

CNN’s coverage of Hunter Biden’s claims of how it affected the plea deal likewise misses the 2020 orders to share the tip.

The most newsworthy thing Bill Barr has done since Collins’ last interview with him was help someone claiming high level ties with Russian spies frame Joe Biden. But CNN, including Collins, has no interest in that. They even let him lie, uncorrected, about a directly relevant point!

Rather than explore whether Barr wittingly helped to frame Joe Biden or simply got used by a guy now claiming high level ties to Russian spies, CNN instead chose to portray Barr as a man of law and order who simply sold out purported values out of partisan gain.

And that’s why it was so easy for Barr to use CNN to spin his false claim about caring about the rule of law.


Fridays with Nicole Sandler

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/2024-presidential-election/page/2/