Alexander Smirnov Shared an Already-Debunked Fox News Hoax with His FBI Handler

There’s a mistake that many people covering the Alexander Smirnov case make. This is one example, but similar examples appear everywhere (including in claims made by Democrats in Congress yesterday).

Parnas noted the recent indictment of former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, who is accused of providing false intelligence about the president and his son during the 2020 presidential campaign. Prosecutors said the information Smirnov shared about the Bidens came from “officials associated with Russian intelligence” and that he was peddling “new lies that impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November.”

The error is in claiming that prosecutors have said that the false claims Smirnov made in 2020 came from Russian intelligence.

Prosecutors have said that Smirnov attributed claims made last September in his FBI interview to Russian spies. That’s the claim that the Russians recorded calls that Hunter Biden made from a hotel in Kyiv.

51. The Defendant also shared a new story with investigators. He wanted them to look into whether Businessperson 1 was recorded in a hotel in Kiev called the Premier Palace. The Defendant told investigators that the entire Premier Palace Hotel is “wired” and under the control of the Russians. The Defendant claimed that Businessperson 1 went to the hotel many times and that he had seen video footage of Businessperson 1 entering the Premier Palace Hotel.

52. The Defendant suggested that investigators check to see if Businessperson 1 made telephone calls from the Premier Palace Hotel since those calls would have been recorded by the Russians. The Defendant claimed to have obtained this information a month earlier by calling a high-level official in a foreign country. The Defendant also claimed to have learned this information from four different Russian officials. [my emphasis]

The reference in the detention memo to Russian spooks, relied on by NBC to substantiate the claim, appears to be a reference to this story, one Smirnov told in 2023. David Weiss appears to be sure that Russian spooks really did tell Smirnov this; he used it to justify detention.

Thus, Smirnov’s efforts to spread misinformation about a candidate of one of the two
major parties in the United States continues. The Court should consider this conduct as well
when evaluating his personal history and characteristics. What this shows is that the
misinformation he is spreading is not confined to 2020. He is actively peddling new lies that
could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November.

I’m not entirely convinced Smirnov’s Russian spook buddies did tell him this.

After all, prosecutors laid out why it cannot be true that Russia really got recordings of Hunter in the hotel. Hunter has never been to Kyiv, much less this hotel.

If Russian spies actually told Smirnov this, it would either be false, intended to deceive Smirnov, or based on a deep fake.

But I also think it’s possible that, during the September interview, Smirnov started to realize that the FBI had caught him lying, and so invented the story — based on what I understand to be a widely-understood assumption about the Premier Palace — to appear to be useful to the FBI. When you’re a snitch, you’re generally safe doing whatever so long as you remain useful. So Smirnov may have just tried to protect himself by inventing something useful.

As I tried to show here, there’s actually some reason to believe he subsequently created a reporting trail retroactively on this, as if he hadn’t ever made this claim to his handler before his FBI interview and so had to report it prospectively to the handler to cover the claim he made to the FBI. The timeline shows that Smirnov attributed something to four Russian spies in September 2023, but then told his handler he learned it as if it were new in December 2023.

I don’t believe any court filings have yet attributed Smirnov’s false claim in 2020 to Russian spooks.

Indeed, he didn’t have the ties to Russian spies in 2020 he claims to have now. While Smirnov appears to have had ties to Russian Official 5 in 2020 — the guy he flipped for a different, probably Israeli, intelligence service in 2002 but didn’t tell his handler about until 2019 — and through him, Russian Official 6, many of his more senior ties to Russian spooks appear to post-date 2020.

A far more relevant tie in 2020 is his professed tie to Viktor Shokin, going back to 2016.

50. The Defendant told investigators that he had asked the then-Ukrainian President to arrange a meeting between himself and the then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General to talk about Burisma. The Defendant told investigators that this meeting occurred before the then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General resigned, which was early 2016. The Defendant also told investigators this meeting occurred before his meeting with Burisma Official 1 in the coffee shop in a German speaking country. The Defendant told investigators that after he met with the thenUkrainian Prosecutor General, he met with the then-Ukrainian President. The Defendant did not provide any of this information to the Handler in 2020.

Still, one way or another, I don’t believe any court filing tells us who got Smirnov to lie in 2020. It’s one reason I keep insisting that learning how Scott Brady came to look for him may be the most important investigative question, not least because David Weiss has an enormous disincentive to chase that down.

All the more so given the backstory to this photo, which appears in the indictment. After Smirnov promised his handler that he would prove Joe Biden had received a bribe, Smirnov told his handler this picture showed Joe and Hunter Biden with Mykola Zlochevsky.

 

Nancy Mace used the same photo in yesterday’s hearing in an attempt to corroborate serial fraudster Jason Galanis‘ story.

It’s actually not, at all, clear where the picture came from — I’m not even aware that it came from “the laptop.”

But it was first published by Tucker Carlson, then adopted by Fox News, as part of Rudy’s propaganda campaign in 2019, as impeachment began to roll out.

Don Jr posted it.

Then Trump referenced it on Xitter.

The claim was debunked repeatedly: by PolitiFact on October 8, by CNN, and then by USAT after it went even more viral after the release of “the laptop” in 2020 (and therefore after Smirnov’s claims).

And yet, even though this photo had gone viral in 2019, in conjunction with Trump’s impeachment rebuttal, Smirnov made the same claim again in May 2020.

And his handler either didn’t realize or didn’t care that Smirnov was recycling a widely debunked lie, nor is there any evidence the handler pointed out to Scott Brady that it discredited Smirnov’s other claims.

Sedition Hunters will tell you that the FBI is nowhere near as good at using facial recognition as they are (which may not be a bad thing). But the notion that an informant would share such a widely disseminated photo and no one at the FBI would figure out it had been used by Trump and his backers as part of a false propaganda campaign the year before?!?!

Really???

I’ll repeat again: the investigation into this attempt to frame Joe Biden needs to be removed from David Weiss’ purview and put in the hands of someone who’ll review how the FBI let itself get fooled by a widely disseminated piece of propaganda, and why the Attorney General ensured that such embarrassing propaganda got funneled to an ongoing investigation into Joe Biden’s kid.

Because this is just embarrassing.

Alexander Smirnov may have gotten the false claim he made in 2020 from Russian spies. He may have gotten it from Viktor Shokin.

Or maybe he just got it by watching Fox News.

Update: Noted that the USAT rebuttal came after Smirnov’s claims; the others came before.

Judge Mark Scarsi Orders Briefing on Whether David Weiss Is David Weiss

I don’t think Judge Mark Scarsi is going to be very sympathetic to Hunter Biden’s arguments.

But I will give him this: The judge works quickly and attentively.

Just days after Hunter Biden submitted his reply briefs, Judge Scarsi noticed that Hunter’s attorney Abbe Lowell raised two issues in his replies to two technical motions to dismiss that Lowell had not raised in his original motions. Scarsi issued an order offering David Weiss the opportunity to file 5-page sur-replies to each and also ordered Lowell to submit three exhibits he mentioned if he wanted those to be considered as part of the record.

One new issue pertains to whether Weiss is estopped (pages 4-6) from arguing that Hunter was a resident in California in 2017 and 2018 after asserting he was a resident of DC in the DE tax information (I’m not convinced the record on that point backs Lowell).

A more interesting — but related one, one I have raised — has to do with whether two tolling agreements that Hunter signed with the US Attorney for Delaware and DOJ Tax Division apply in the case of an indictment obtained by Special Counsel David Weiss.

I. THE TOLLING AGREEMENTS DO NOT TOLL THE SOL BECAUSE THE SC IS NOT A PARTY TO THOSE AGREEMENTS

The SC’s reliance upon two tolling agreements with Biden is misplaced because the SC is not a party to those agreements. Those agreements are between Biden and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware and the Tax Division at Main Justice (which acts through specific U.S. Attorney’s Offices). At the time Biden entered into these tolling agreements, he knew he was being investigated for tax violations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware, District of Columbia, and the Central District of California, but he entered tolling agreements only with Delaware. Venue and statute of limitations considerations would be unique as to each District.

Similarly, Biden did not enter into any tolling agreements with the SC, as no SC had even been appointed to investigate him when these tolling agreements were signed. The fact that the U.S. Attorney for Delaware David Weiss was subsequently appointed as SC—as opposed to someone else—does not mean the SC’s Office suddenly became a party to those prior agreements. The agreement is with the office, not the man (who did not sign these agreements in any event; AUSA Leslie Wolf signed on behalf of the Office and she is not a member of the Special Counsel’s Office). Weiss’s U.S. Attorney team is separate from his SC team, complete with distinct websites, email addresses (which they insist be used in place of their USAO addresses), stationary, and, more importantly, different responsibilities. Surely, the Delaware Office would not claim that such agreements become void whenever the U.S. Attorney leaves the office. Nor could anyone claim the State of Delaware would be a party to such an agreement if Weiss had become Attorney General of the state instead. Similarly, if John Doe had been named SC, instead of Weiss, there would be no basis for Doe to claim he inherited the tolling agreements entered into by Weiss or any other U.S. Attorney.

Tolling agreements are contracts, and the entry into those agreements by one U.S. Attorney’s Office does not typically bind other government entities absent language saying so. See, e.g., United States v. Viola, 562 Fed. App’x 559 (9th Cir. 2014) (Probation not bound by U.S. Attorney’s plea agreement); see also SOS Co. v. E-Collar Techs., 2017 WL 5714716, at *5 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 17, 2017) (tolling agreement did not apply to non-party that was not the alter ego of a party); Osman v. Young Healthcare, 2023 WL 2021703, at *7 (E.D. Va. Feb. 15, 2023) (tolling agreement with Department of Labor with respect to certain named plaintiffs’ claims did not extent to unnamed plaintiffs); United States v. FedEx Corp., 2016 WL 1070653, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 8, 2016) (finding tolling agreement with one company did not apply to a related company, even where government believed the agreement covered all related entities); Morning Star Packing v. Crown Cork and Seal, 2004 WL 7339592, at *7 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 3, 2004) (tolling agreements cannot be extended to new parties). The general rule is that agreements entered into by one U.S. Attorney’s Office binds only that office, unless stated otherwise. United States v. Annabi, 771 F.2d 670, 672 (2d Cir. 1985) (“A plea agreement binds only the office of the United States Attorney for the district in which the plea is entered unless it affirmatively appears that the agreement contemplates a broader restriction.”).2 Federal prosecutors in one office, for example, may prosecute a defendant who is immunized by an agreement with another office. See, e.g., Sertich, 649 F.3d 545, at *1 (ND Ind. Prosecution not barred by CDCA plea agreement); United States v. Laskow, 688 F. Supp. 851, 853 (E.D.N.Y. 1988) (finding EDNY prosecution not barred by CDCA plea agreement).3 What is good for the goose is good for the gander. The same rules that hold one U.S. Attorney’s Office not bound by plea agreements reached with other Offices mean that one Office cannot seek the benefits of tolling agreements reached by other Offices. Prosecutors should not be allowed to elect whether they are or are not bound by agreements between other Offices and defendants, depending on what suits them. Moreover, as with plea agreements and diversion agreements, any ambiguities in tolling agreements are construed in the defendant’s favor. See, e.g., United States v. Spector, 55 F.3d 22, 26 (1st Cir. 1995); United States v. Goyal, 2007 WL 1031102, *3 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 3, 2007).

2 The Diversion Agreement made with respect to Biden illustrates the difference. It provides: “This Diversion Agreement (the ‘Agreement’) is entered into between the United States of America, by and through the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware, and Robert Hunter Biden (“Biden”), collectively referred to herein as ‘Parties,’ by and through their authorized representatives.” (DA ¶1.) Thus, in the Diversion Agreement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is executing the agreement on behalf of the United States. By contrast, the tolling agreements indicate that the party is the U.S. Attorney’s Office, but not the United States as a whole. Compare United States v. Sertich, 649 F.3d 545, at *1 (9th Cir. Oct. 24, 1995) (unpublished) (explaining an agreement that is confined to a particular U.S. Attorney’s Office binds only that office, as opposed to a more general agreement that binds the United States as a whole), with Thomas v. INS, 35 F.3d 1332, 1335 n.1 (9th Cir. 1994) (explaining an agreement made on behalf of the United States government, as opposed to a sub-part, applies to the government as a whole); United States v. Harvey, 791 F.2d 294, 301−03 (4th Cir. 1986) (explaining that an agreement entered into on behalf of the United States, as opposed to just a particular U.S. Attorney’s Office, binds the United States as a whole); see also Morgan v. Gonzales, 495 F.3d 1084, 1091 (9th Cir. 2007) (“As a general matter of fundamental fairness, promises made by the government to induce either a plea bargain or a cooperation agreement must be fulfilled. . . . A United States Attorney is authorized to enter into cooperation agreements and, in so doing, to make promises that are binding on other Federal agencies.”) (citations omitted).

3 By analogy, Andrea Gacki recently transitioned from her role as Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control to being Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. It is difficult to imagine that anyone would think the agreements reached by OFAC under her watch no longer bind OFAC or that FinCEN is now bound by those OFAC agreements.

As I may follow-up, David Weiss is engaged in a number of such shell games, picking and choosing where his legal persons carry over and do not, and where his biological person can avoid accountability.

A far more urgent one than these tolling agreement pertains to discovery: Weiss seems to imagine that by becoming Special Counsel, he avoids discovery into materials held by or known to US Attorney David Weiss, including his conversations with (most pertinently) Los Angeles US Attorney Martin Estrada (who, after reviewing the merits of the case, decided not to join it), DC US Attorney Matthew Graves, and DOJ Tax Division (the last of which is a party to the tolling agreement). This is actually the opposite of how Jack Smith has operated and how the Crossfire Hurricane to Robert Mueller to Jeffrey Jensen inquiry operated with discovery, which carried over as one legal entity became another. I asked Weiss’ office some time ago whether they were adhering to the standard used by other Special Counsels but got no response.

It’s an interesting legal question, so I do look forward to Weiss’ legal commitment to a shell game.

Lowell did submit the three exhibits, which show Weiss withdrawing the plea offer, Chris Clark asking for time to consider it, and Derek Hines emailing the docket entry showing the request to withdraw the plea offer.

Update: I changed my mind, above. Lowell is absolutely right on the estoppel claim. The tax information filed in Delaware describes that Hunter’s residency was in DC in 2017 and 2018. It was signed by Leo Wise, so he can’t very well claim that he, personally, has not made that assertion before.

David Weiss Does Not Contest He Reneged on Hunter Biden’s Plea Agreement to Chase Russian Lies

David Weiss has now had five opportunities to contest former Hunter Biden attorney Chris Clark’s declaration that on June 6, Weiss personally discussed language to provide Hunter immunity from further prosecution, and after that language was incorporated into the plea deal, on June 19, Weiss’ First AUSA told Clark that there was no ongoing investigation into the President’s son.

I requested to speak directly with U.S. Attorney Weiss, whom I was told was the person deciding the issues of the Agreement. Later that afternoon, on June 6, 2023, I spoke directly with U.S. Attorney Weiss. During that call, I conveyed to U.S. Attorney Weiss that the Agreement’s immunity provision must ensure Mr. Biden that there would be finality and closure of this investigation, as I had conveyed repeatedly to AUSA Wolf during our negotiations. I further conveyed to U.S. Attorney Weiss that this provision was a deal-breaker. I noted that U.S. Attorney Weiss had changed the deal several times heretofore, and that I simply could not have this issue be yet another one which Mr. Biden had to compromise. The U.S. Attorney asked me what the problem was with the proposed language, and I explained that the immunity provision must protect Mr. Biden from any future prosecution by a new U.S. Attorney in a different administration. The U.S. Attorney considered the proposal and stated that he would get back to me promptly.

Later that same evening on June 6, 2023, at or around 5:47 PM EST, AUSA Wolf emailed me proposed language for the immunity provision that read: “How about this- The United States agrees not to criminally prosecute Biden, outside of the terms of this Agreement, for any federal crimes encompassed by the attached Statement of Facts (Attachment A) and the Statement of Facts attached as Exhibit 1 to the Memorandum of Plea Agreement filed this same day.” (Emphasis in original.)

[snip]

Shortly after that email, I had another phone call with AUSA Hanson, during which AUSA Hanson requested that the language of Mr. Biden’s press statement be slightly revised. She proposed saying that the investigation would be “resolved” rather than “concluded.” I then asked her directly whether there was any other open or pending investigation of Mr. Biden overseen by the Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Office, and she responded there was not another open or pending investigation.

David Weiss is silent about proof that he reneged on immunity agreement made in June

Weiss has filed five responses to Hunter Biden claims that address how Weiss reneged on this agreement to immunize the President’s son from any further prosecution:

None of them contest those two claims from Chris Clark: That David Weiss was personally involved on June 6 before Lesley Wolf sent language immunizing Hunter for everything “encompassed” by the plea and diversion, and that Shannon Hanson assured Clark on June 19 there were no ongoing investigations.

Instead, these filings simply shift focus temporally. The responses to the selective and vindictive claim focus on earlier negotiations to falsely suggest that David Weiss did not personally buy off on language sent out on June 6.

For example, in an email to defense counsel dated May 18, 2023, about “a potential nontrial resolution,” Document 60-6 at p. 2, the AUSA stated, “As I said during our call, the below list is preliminary in nature and subject to change. We have not discussed or obtained approval for these terms, but are presenting them in an attempt to advance our discussions about a potential non-trial resolution . . .” The following week, in an email to defense counsel dated May 23, 2023, Document 60-9 at p. 3, the AUSA stated, “As we indicated in our emails and discussions we did not have approval for a pre-trial diversion agreement. As you know, that authority rests with the US Attorney who ultimately did not approve continued discussions for diversion related to the tax charges.” In response to this email, defense counsel wrote, “Ok. My client has asked that I speak to you further. Are you able to speak? I may have some slight flexibility.” Far from an agreement or an agency determination that these charges should not be brought, as the defense suggests in their briefing, these discussions merely indicate the parties were engaged in plea discussions at the line prosecutor level and the AUSA repeatedly disclosed that such discussions were subject to review and approval by the U.S. Attorney. [emphasis original]

The response to the IRS agent claim argues that because Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler had “ceased to have any role in the investigation” when the actual charging decisions were made in September and December, their media campaign could not have caused the earlier decision to renege on the plea deal and endorse precisely their charging decisions.

Here, the defendant does not argue that Shapley and Ziegler used any law enforcement technique that resulted in the charges currently before the court. In fact, the conduct he complains of occurred after Shapley and Ziegler ceased to have any role in the investigation.

Never mind that the claim conflicts with a Joseph Ziegler affidavit, which claims that, “As seen in these emails, we have continued to assist and turnover the Hunter Biden casefile to the new team,” and the related emails showing him still handing off documents on September 1 (though given document metadata, Ziegler continued to access and release to Congress records after that). What matters are not the charging decisions made in September and December but the earlier decision to renege on the plea deal.

What matters is that when Leo Wise stated, on July 26, that prosecutors could bring FARA charges against Hunter Biden, he was reneging on the terms of the signed plea deal.

What matters is that when David Weiss told Lindsey Graham on July 11 that Alexander Smirnov’s FD-1023 was part of an ongoing investigation, he signaled that he had decided to renege on the plea deal even before the plea hearing to chase the claim that the President of the United States had received a bribe, and that decision had nothing to do with Maryellen Noreika’s concerns about the structure of the diversion agreement.

Indeed, Abbe Lowell submitted proof that that was the intent all along, to renege on the plea deal. Weiss had submitted a heavily redacted copy of a letter Chris Clark wrote in response to Weiss’ proposed way to address Judge Noreika’s concerns, claiming that it showed that prosecutors did not, as Lowell had claimed, immediately demand a felony plea. Weiss was right, to a point. At that point Weiss was not demanding felony pleas. In his selective and vindictive reply, a declaration, and a timeline submitted yesterday, Lowell explained that Weiss started demanding felony pleas later than that, on August 29.

After the exchange cited by DOJ where Biden rejected its counterproposals, DOJ informed Biden the deal was off and made clear it would accept or charge felonies during a meeting with Biden’s counsel on August 29, 2023.

But those same papers and the unredacted copy of Clark’s response letter in question showed what happened instead: David Weiss’ first response to the concerns Judge Noreika expressed at the plea colloquy — partly how the diversion agreement worked with the plea, but also Wise’s claim that he could charge Hunter with FARA even though Hanson had said that would not happen a month earlier — was to eliminate any judicial protection and remove the immunity language entirely.

Second, the Government has proposed, without explanation, completely deleting the immunity provision in Paragraph 15 of the Diversion Agreement. We decline to amend the parties’ existing agreement on immunity. We will rely on this provision, as contained in the bilateral agreement that was signed and entered into between the parties.

The same letter showed that Hunter’s team believed the diversion remained in effect.

[W]e are fully prepared to continue proceeding with the terms of the Diversion Agreement, as executed. If the Court should determine that the breach provision in Paragraph 14 of the Diversion Agreement should be amended, then we would be fine with that, and at such time we would entertain making formal, written modifications pursuant to Paragraph 19. Otherwise the parties remain bound to the terms of the agreement that was signed and entered into.

This “offer” Weiss made, then, amounted to torching the signed plea deal and diversion agreement entirely.

This is the background to — as Lowell described — Weiss’ demand that Hunter either accept that useless deal immediately, before — minutes later — Weiss rolled out his Special Counsel authority.

8/9/23: DOJ responds to Biden’s counsel’s August 7 letter, and argues that neither the PA nor DA are in effect, and neither side is bound. In that letter, DOJ withdraws the PA and the DA it offered Biden on July 31, 2023, and withdraws the PA and the DA presented to the Court on July 26, 2023.

DOJ notifies Biden’s counsel that it intends to move to dismiss the tax information without prejudice and pursue charges in another district where venue lies, and requests Biden’s counsel’s position by no later than August 11, 2023.

8/10/23: Biden’s counsel emails AUSA Wise to inform him they are discussing DOJ’s August 9 letter and the options with Mr. Biden. Biden’s counsel asks if they may respond to DOJ’s requested position by Monday (August 14) instead of by Friday (August 11). Alternatively, Biden’s counsel proposes having a conference with the Court.

8/11/23: At Noon (12:00 pm), AUSA Wise replies to Mr. Clark’s email that the United States declines to extend the time in which it asked for Biden’s position on the motions identified in its August 9 letter, and further declines to have a conference with the Court.

Approximately five minutes later, at 12:05 pm EST, before Biden’s counsel could even respond to DOJ or discuss it with Mr. Biden, DOJ moves to dismiss the criminal tax Information without prejudice against Biden, so that tax charges can be brought in another district.

David Weiss replaced Lesley Wolf, and by doing so, has tried to get away with letting Leo Wise and Derek Hines to renege on the terms of a plea deal he himself signed, as if his signature wasn’t on the deal.

And he did so, it is now clear, to chase a Russian information operation. David Weiss got his ass handed to him by Russian spies and to hide his embarrassment, he’s trying to claim that he didn’t renege on a signed plea.

Neither Weiss nor Lowell has yet addressed Smirnov directly

For reasons I don’t understand, Lowell has not filed any motion specifically addressing the role of Alexander Smirnov in all this, in either Delaware or Los Angeles. As a result, the sum total of discussion about the role of the Smirnov claim in Hunter’s prosecution consists of the following:

First, in Lowell’s Reply Motion to Compel in Delaware, he noted that he had asked for things pertinent to the Scott Brady side channel, and the treatment of the Smirnov allegations made that discovery all the more important.

The fact that Special Counsel Weiss, beginning in July 2023, then elected to chase the goose making these unsubstantiated claims— after several DOJ and FBI officials agreed the matter should be closed—is all the more justification for granting Mr. Biden’s request for these DOJ materials.

In response, Weiss tried to anticipate mention of Smirnov in Lowell’s Reply. imagining that because Weiss is prosecuting Smirnov, it debunks the claim Hunter made in his deposition that Congressional Republicans were duped by a Russian disinformation campaign.

He claimed, “Smirnov, who has made you dupes in carrying out a Russian disinformation campaign waged against my father, has been indicted for his lies.”12 While the defendant testified to Congress that the Special Counsel had undermined the impeachment inquiry conducted by House Republicans, to this Court he argues instead that the Special Counsel is working at the behest of House Republicans. Motion at 13. Which is it? Indeed, the defendant has no evidence to support his shapeshifting claims because the Special Counsel continues to pursue the fair, evenhanded administration of the federal criminal laws.

That same day, in Delaware, Lowell cited the newly-released Scott Brady transcript to argue that Weiss, by continuing to prosecute Hunter, is doing just what Russia wanted with the Smirnov operation: to gin up a prosecution of Hunter.

From the filings in Smirnov and other disclosures, it turns out that a Russian intelligence operation has the same goal of spreading disinformation to influence the U.S. presidential election in Russia’s favor.

[snip]

Mr. Wise explained that Smirnov’s “disinformation story” is part of a Russian intelligence operation “aimed at denigrating President Biden” and “supporting former President Trump.”

[snip]

This case illustrates the very continuing harm identified by the Special Counsel. The Special Counsel tells us Russian intelligence sought to influence the U.S. presidential election by using allegations against Hunter Biden to hurt President Biden’s reelection. 3 And what did the now-Special Counsel do? The Office abandoned the Agreement it signed and filed felony gun and tax charges against Mr. Biden in two jurisdictions, which public records and DOJ policy indicate are not brought against people with similar facts as Mr. Biden. In these actions, the Special Counsel has done exactly what the Russian intelligence operation desired by initiating prosecutions against Mr. Biden.

In yesterday’s filing in Los Angeles, however, Lowell was still pretty circumspect about Smirnov.

In the section describing how Weiss had reneged on a signed deal, he attributed Weiss’ decision to renege on the deal to his pursuit of the Smirnov allegations. Then, in the section on Congress’ usurpation of prosecutorial function, Lowell laid out how stupid it is for Weiss to claim the charges against Smirnov, over three years after Weiss first got this referral, is proof that Weiss didn’t bow to pressure from Congress.

DOJ also chooses this part of its brief to argue its indictment of Alexander Smirnov suggests it is not a puppet of the GOP (perhaps DOJ’s whole inspiration for bringing that indictment). (Id.) Biden never suggested DOJ is a puppet of the GOP, but that DOJ has caved to political pressure several times in ways that specifically violate Biden’s rights. And DOJ indicting someone who falsely accused Biden of serious crimes does not prove it is treating him fairly. Instead, it calls into question why DOJ reopened long debunked allegations by Smirnov in July 2023 (as it was reneging on its agreements with Biden) when, having gone down that rabbit hole, DOJ was then forced to defend its actions by charging Smirnov with offenses it could have bought years earlier.

Lowell doesn’t make several details of the timeline explicit.

First, on the same day that Weiss sent Lindsey Graham that letter stating that the FD-1023 was part of an ongoing investigation, July 11, Shannon Hanson described that “the team,” on which she did not include herself at that point, was in a secure location. As I’ve noted, there was no reason for “the team” to be in a SCIF in preparation for the plea deal. There’s nothing classified about it. It’s evidence that, before Wise reneged on the scope of the plea deal on July 26, “the team” had already decided to chase the Smirnov allegation.

My hunch is that we’ll learn that whatever Weiss told Merrick Garland about needing Special Counsel status (note, he bypassed Brad Weinsheimer to get it), he did not represent the plea negotiations as the current record suggests they happened. My hunch is that Weiss may have claimed Hunter was being a good deal more intransigent then simply demanding that a plea be worth the toilet paper it was written on in the first place.

But to get Special Counsel status, Weiss likely claimed he was going to investigate Joe Biden.

While it’s true that Garland assured Weiss he could get Special Counsel status whenever he asked, investigating the President is the only thing that presents the kind of conflict that would require full Special Counsel status. And, as I’ve noted, Weiss grounds his authority to prosecute Smirnov in the language in the Special Counsel appointment permitting him to investigate anything that comes out of the investigation authorized with the appointment itself, which must, then, have included Joe Biden as well as his son.

Lowell made this point in his Notice of Authority submitted in Delaware.

The connection between the reopening of the Smirnov allegations and the then-U.S. Attorney’s Office’s total rejection of the Agreement it made has, at the least, the appearance of catering to the shouts of extremist Republicans to scuttle the deal and keep an investigation into Mr. Biden alive.

But he has not done so in Los Angeles.

On August 29, prosecutors expressed overconfidence about their investigation

Lowell has declined to do so even though the timeline he lays out — how, on August 29, prosecutors demanded felony pleas — intersects closely with the Smirnov one. Lowell’s declaration describes that at 11AM on August 29 — in what appears the first meeting after Weiss got Special Counsel status and after Judge Noreika dismissed the tax indictment — Leo Wise fully retracted all offers that had been discussed to that point.

3. On August 29, 2023 at approximately 11:00 AM, I (along with my law partner, Christopher Man) met with Assistant United States Attorneys Leo Wise and Derek Hines at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Wilmington, Delaware. The meeting lasted approximately one hour. Our position was that the Diversion Agreement was in effect, and we sought to work with the government to effectuate the substance of the proposed Plea Agreement by addressing the procedural concerns the Delaware court raised on July 26, 2023.

4. During that meeting, Mr. Wise stated, in sum and substance, that DOJ was no longer willing at this point in time to (i) carry out the misdemeanor tax agreement it had made; (ii) commit to a “no jail” recommendation for Mr. Biden that it also had made; and (iii) maintain the parties’ agreed-to immunity provision. While Mr. Wise said he was only in a “listening mode,” the only type of charge even mentioned at the meeting were felonies, which are exactly what the Office filed about two weeks later in the District of Delaware.

At that same meeting, Lowell requested that he get an exact copy of the laptop.

The defendant’s counsel met with government counsel in Wilmington on August 29, 2023, and made a specific request for an exact forensic copy of the laptop and external hard drive. His defense counsel reiterated this request in an email dated September 25, 2023, in which defense counsel stated “we want to ensure the data we receive is an identical copy as you have it and that the data will retain its native forensic properties (e.g., time and date stamps, file paths, operative system characteristics, user profile information, etc.)” and that the “data loaded on the hard drive is complete and identical in every shape and manner to that obtained by the FBI when it acquired possession” of the laptop and hard drive. The government accommodated this request.

And prosecutors also claimed (erroneously, it now appears) that they had clean sources for everything otherwise found on the laptop.

As to the meeting between Mr. Biden’s counsel and prosecutors in Wilmington on August 29, 2023 (Opp. at 19), Mr. Biden notes that prosecutors indicated, during that meeting, that they possess “independent sources” for any material on the laptop device that would be helpful to the prosecution’s case, presumably referring to material subpoenaed from third parties, such as Apple, Inc. or various cellphone carriers. For this reason, it was curious to Mr. Biden’s counsel when reviewing the prosecution’s response that it elected to cite to and quote from messages and photos contained on the device it possessed (lacking any Bates stamps) rather than from those “independent sources” included in the discovery produced to the defense.

That same day prosecutors mistakenly claimed they wouldn’t have to rely on the laptop to prosecute Hunter Biden, also on August 29, Smirnov’s handler described that he and Smirnov reviewed the allegations against President Biden after the FD-1023 leaked and Smirnov stood by his claims.

43. On August 29, 2023, FBI investigators spoke with the Handler in reference to the 2020 1023. During that conversation, the Handler indicated that he and the Defendant had reviewed the 2020 1023 following its public release by members of Congress in July 2023, and the Defendant reaffirmed the accuracy of the statements contained in it.

Did representations from Smirnov’s handler contribute to prosecutors’ hubris in imagining they had all the evidence they needed against the President’s son? Did they initially pursue particularly draconian charges against Hunter in hopes they could get him to flip against his father?

At some point — the indictment doesn’t reveal whether the handler only came clean about Smirnov’s lies in the following weeks — Smirnov’s handler provided the messages and travel records that made it clear Smirnov was lying.

44. The Handler provided investigators with messages he had with the Defendant, including the ones described above. Additionally, the Handler identified and reviewed with the Defendant travel records associated with both Associate 2 and the Defendant. The travel records were inconsistent with what the Defendant had previously told the Handler that was memorialized in the 2020 1023. The Defendant also provided email communications with both Associate 2 and Burisma personnel beginning in 2017 to the Handler, which the Handler reviewed with the Defendant and shared with FBI investigators.

On the day Weiss discovered Smirnov was lying, he should have called up Merrick Garland, told him he had to recuse from both the Smirnov investigation and — because of the apparent role of the Smirnov 1023 in his decision to renege on the plea agreement — even the Hunter Biden one. On that day, Weiss became a witness to a potential criminal conspiracy.

Weiss’ false claims about discovery into the side channel

Weiss did not do that.

Instead, at least in the months before the Smirnov indictment, he prevaricated over discovery.

On November 7, over a month after the FBI interviewed Smirnov and confirmed his lies, David Weiss told the House Judiciary Committee Chief Counsel Steve Castor that the side channel would only show up in his eventual report.

Q Brady told us that he had such trouble getting ahold of you and your office, that he had to go through the PADAG, and basically the PADAG had to intervene and instruct your office to take a meeting with him.

A Is that a question?

Q Yes. Why wouldn’t you meet with Mr. Brady?

A I’m not at liberty to discuss that at this time. I look forward to the opportunity to addressing this in the special counsel’s report at the appropriate time.

Weiss committed that Brady’s role in this would only appear in the final report after a number of details of Brady’s claims to have vetted the Smirnov claim — which Jerry Nadler referred to both Michael Horowitz and Merrick Garland for potentially criminal investigation — had been publicly aired.

Then, on November 15, Lowell asked for discovery that would cover the side channel and also permission to subpoena those, like Bill Barr, who continued to engage in discussions of the side channel as private citizens, without protection of prosecutorial immunity.

The response to the latter, written in December by then newly promoted “Principal Senior Assistant Special Counsel” Leo Wise, repeats Weiss’ silence about his decision to renege on the plea deal. Given the accumulating evidence that Weiss reneged on the plea deal in order to chase the Smirnov allegation, such silence is deafening.

It blows off the request for a subpoena to Bill Barr — who made public representations about the side channel the day after Weiss agreed to immunize Hunter against further investigation, the agreement on which Weiss reneged — by emphasizing that as former Attorney General, Barr could have no influence on Weiss’ actions.

Defendant asks the Court to enter an order directing subpoenas, which seek broadly worded categories of documents across seven years, to former President Donald J. Trump, former Attorney General William P. Barr, and two other former officials in the U.S. Department of Justice. Defendant contends that the requested material “goes to the heart of his pre-trial and trial defense that this is, possibly, a vindictive or selective prosecution that arose out of an incessant pressure campaign that began in the last administration, in violation of Mr. Biden’s constitutional rights.” ECF 58, at 14. It is worth noting from the outset that defendant misunderstands the difference between pretrial arguments to dismiss an indictment and trial defenses. It is black-letter law that claims of vindictive and selective prosecution are not trial defenses and may only be brought and litigated pretrial. They are not defenses and, therefore, are never argued to trial juries.

In any event, both vindictive- and selective-prosecution claims turn on the actual intent of the specific decisionmaker in a defendant’s case: here, the Special Counsel. But not only does defendant’s motion fail to identify any actual evidence of bias, vindictiveness, or discriminatory intent on the Special Counsel’s part, his arguments ignore an inconvenient truth: No charges were brought against defendant during the prior administration when the subpoena recipients actually held office in the Executive Branch.

And in response to the request for a subpoena to Richard Donoghue, the response noted that Donoghue ordered that, “the Delaware investigation receive the information from the Pittsburgh team, which was being closed out.”

Against this backdrop, the gaps in defendant’s motion become glaring: absent is any credible argument that (a) one of the subpoena recipients, rather than the Special Counsel, made the decision to prosecute the defendant and that the Special Counsel merely followed an order, or (b) that the Special Counsel himself has treated similarly situated individuals differently or decided to prosecute for discriminatory purposes. In fact, throughout the defendant’s entire constructed narrative, he barely refers to the actions or motives of the then-U.S. Attorney, nowSpecial Counsel, much less makes Armstrong’s “credible showing” of disparate treatment, discriminatory intent, or retaliatory motive on his part. Nor has defendant addressed the impact of the sitting Attorney General’s subsequent determination that, “to ensure a full and thorough investigation” of these matters, it was necessary to confer the additional jurisdiction and independence outlined in 28 C.F.R. § 600.04–600.10. See Order No. 5730-2023.

Defendant’s attempts to manufacture discriminatory treatment or intent on behalf of the U.S. Attorney fall apart under the most minimal scrutiny. First, defendant obliquely references that “IRS files reveal that [Richard Donoghue] further coordinated with the Pittsburgh Office and with the prosecution team in Delaware, including issuing certain guidance steps regarding overt steps in the investigation.” ECF 58, at 2-3 & n.3. Looking behind the defendant’s ambiguously phrased allegation reveals the actual “overt steps” involved: (1) the U.S. Attorney making an independent assessment of the probable cause underlying a warrant and (2) a direction by Mr. Donoghue that the Delaware investigation receive the information from the Pittsburgh team, which was being closed out. See ECF 58, at 3 n.3 (citing memorandum of conference call). Assessing the validity of a warrant and merely receiving information from other investigating entities does nothing to show any disparate treatment or animus. Next, defendant alleges that “certain investigative decisions were made as a result of guidance provided by, among others, the Deputy Attorney General’s office.” ECF 58, at 3 n.4. In fact, the source cited revealed that the guidance was simply not to conduct any “proactive interviews” yet. Likewise, defendant’s last attempt to create a link involved guidance not to make any “external requests (outside of government),” which followed the long-standing Department of Justice policy to avoid overt investigative steps that might interfere with ongoing elections. See ECF 58, at 3 n.5; cf., e.g., Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses 40 (2d ed. 1980). In other words, the most defendant claims is that the Deputy Attorney General’s office was aware of and involved in some specific investigatory decisions in the most banal fashion possible—by waiting to take specific investigative steps at certain times out of caution.

None of these contacts or events provides any evidence involving either the disparate treatment of similarly situated individuals or a discriminatory intent behind the U.S. Attorney’s prosecutorial decision. [my emphasis]

The existence of the side channel alone is testament to disparate treatment of Hunter Biden. Importantly, Donoghue is a fact witness about what Weiss did in 2020.

The response to Lowell’s request for discovery on the side channel, a request that explicitly applied to the diversion agreement as well, was even more non-responsive. It simply ignores Bill Barr’s role entirely.

It’s the response to the subpoena that looks particularly damning, though.

As I’ve noted, there are some key gaps in the Smirnov indictment. First, in describing who set up the side channel in the first place, Weiss claimed Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen set it up, when Brady testified that Barr was personally involved (as Barr’s public comments make clear).

22. In June 2020, the Handler reached out to the Defendant concerning the 2017 1023. This was done at the request of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office (hereafter “FBI Pittsburgh”). In the first half of 2020, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania (hereafter “USAO WDPA”) had been tasked by the Deputy Attorney General of the United States to assist in the “receipt, processing, and preliminary analysis of new information provided by the public that may be relevant to matters relating to Ukraine.” As part of that process, FBI Pittsburgh opened an assessment, 58A-PG-3250958, and in the course of that assessment identified the 2017 1023 in FBI holdings and shared it with USAO WDPA. USAO WDPA then asked FBI Pittsburgh to reach out to the Handler to ask for any further information about the reference in his 2017 1023 that stated, “During this call, there was a brief, non-relevant discussion about former [Public Official 1]’s son, [Businessperson 1], who is currently on the Board of Directors for Burisma Holdings [No Further Information]”

The silence about Barr’s role is particularly telling given persistent misrepresentations of Hunter Biden’s discovery asks about Barr.

More tellingly, the indictment doesn’t confess that Donoghue ordered Weiss to look at the FD-1023 in 2020, days after Trump called up Bill Barr and screamed at him for not investigating Hunter Biden more aggressively.

40. By August 2020, FBI Pittsburgh concluded that all reasonable steps had been completed regarding the Defendant’s allegations and that their assessment, 58A-PG-3250958, should be closed. On August 12, 2020, FBI Pittsburgh was informed that the then-FBI Deputy Director and then-Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States concurred that it should be closed.

Leo Wise’s description of this process at Smirnov’s first detention hearing was even more dishonest.

[T]he FBI in Pittsburgh took some limited investigative steps, but their steps were limited by the fact that they were only conducting an assessment, which under FBI policies is not an investigation. And it prevents, for instance, the use of compulsory process like grand jury subpoenas or the compulsion of testimony. So based on that limited review, the FBI closed its assessment in August.

Weiss has a problem.

He was ordered to investigate this in 2020, and did nothing, possibly because Lesley Wolf knew the entire side channel project was corrupt. But if that’s why Weiss did nothing in 2020, it makes his decision to renege on a plea deal to go chase this lead inexcusable.

He ignores his earlier receipt of this tip in the indictment to create the illusion that he investigated the FD-1023 for the first time starting in July.

But in the opposition for subpoenas in December, Leo Wise acknowledged that Donoghue issued that order in 2020.

Weiss is saying one thing in the Smirnov prosecution and saying something else in an effort to hide Smirnov discovery from Hunter Biden.

And he’s saying those conflicting things after telling Congress that Brady’s role in this would show up only in his closing report, and not in follow-up indictments for false claims to Congress.

Realistically, the investigation into how Smirnov allegedly framed Joe Biden should go in at least three directions: First, into Russia and Ukraine (and possiblyIsrael)’s specific role in his alleged lies, such as whether Andrii Derkach had ties to Smirnov in 2020. As part of that, the FBI will need to investigate why Smirnov didn’t disclose his earlier ties to Russian Official 5 to his handler, whom he flipped for a third country in 2002, until 2019.

The investigation needs to figure out how Scott Brady came to look for Smirnov’s earlier FD-1023 in the first place, because his claimed explanation makes no sense. It’s possible that arose from some mutual tie between Smirnov and Rudy Giuliani and could implicate Rudy personally. At the first Smirnov detention hearing, Wise at least mentioned Rudy Giuliani’s role in all this, suggesting Weiss’ team might fancy they’re pursuing that angle, at least. But they have no business doing so, because that implicates Weiss’ contacts with Brady. Again, he is a direct witness.

But just as importantly, the investigation needs to examine why Brady claimed the tip had been vetted in 2020, and why Brady created the impression with Congress that Smirnov’s travel records matched his claims, rather than debunked them. The investigation needs to examine whether Barr, or the indictment, is telling the truth about what Weiss was supposed to do with the lead in 2020. Neither Brady nor Barr are immunized as prosecutors anymore. And there’s no reason their attempts to influence the criminal investigation into Joe Biden’s son in advance of an election should evade scrutiny.

That goes right to the heart of why Weiss reneged on the plea deal. It goes to all the discovery and subpoenas that Weiss has already refused, claiming that it had no bearing on diversion or a vindictive prosecution claim. It goes to Weiss’ wildly unsound decision to remain on the case after he became a witness in it.

As it turns out, it has everything to do with Hunter’s diversion and vindictive prosecution claims.

Hunter Biden’s Replies to His Motion to Dismiss

I was laughing that David Weiss’ prosecutors would get sloppy with Roger Stone references in a case I was covering closely. It got me two citations in Hunter’s reply on selective prosecution.

8 Stone, No. 21-cv-60825, DE 1 ¶¶ 40-53 (accusing Stone of seeking to shelter his wealth from criminal forfeiture); Bill Barr Repeatedly Lied, Under Oath, About Judge Amy Berman Jackson, https://www.emptywheel.net/; United States v. Stone, Case 1:19-cr- 00018-ABJ DE 260 (Verdict Form). It is particularly ironic that DOJ would try to use Biden’s gun charge under a statute expressly reserved to protect public safety—to justify criminal tax charges when only Stone was charged with endangering anyone.

9 DOJ acts like, rather than honestly describe his struggles, Biden published his memoir to brag about his crimes, which is particularly absurd considering the memoir mentions neither the gun he is accused of purchasing nor his failure to pay his taxes.

10 See Marcy Wheeler, David Weiss is Smoking Roger Stone’s Witness-Tampering Gun, Emptywheel (Mar. 11, 2024), https://www.emptywheel.net/2024/03/11/david-weiss-is- smoking-roger-stones-witness-tampering-gun/. This included an introduction repeating the false claims at the core of his 2019 convictions for threats and intimidation, and Stone even litigated whether his memoir was covered by the gag order the judge issued in response to his threats. See Stone, No. 1:19-cr-00018, DE61 (S.D. Fl.).

As I’ll lay out later, it’s now crystal clear that David Weiss reneged on the plea deal in order to chase Alexander Smirnov’s lies.

Here are the reply motions:

How Josh Dawsey Downplays Paul Manafort’s Ties to Alleged Russian Spies

Josh Dawsey’s report that Trump plans to hire convicted money launderer and former business partner of an alleged Russian spy Paul Manafort to work on his campaign — possibly to help fundraising!!! — makes all the years of shitty coverage of the Russian investigation an urgent problem again.

The job discussions have largely centered around the 2024 Republican convention in Milwaukee in July and could include Manafort playing a role in fundraising for the presumptive GOP nominee’s campaign, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations.

Dawsey gets big and little things wrong in his report. For example, he claims that Manafort was sentenced to around four years in prison after which he was released under COVID protocols.

Manafort was found guilty of hiding millions he made lobbying on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians in overseas bank accounts, then falsifying his finances to get loans when his patrons lost power. He was originally sentenced to about four years in prison but was released early to home confinement due to the coronavirus before he was pardoned by Trump.

In reality, Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Manafort to 73 months (60 months concurrent with his EDVA sentence, and 13 months consecutive to that; his release to home confinement did not adhere to the priorities for release at the time).

 For the reasons stated on the record in open Court Defendant’s 540 Motion for Reconsideration is DENIED. Count 1ssss: Sentenced to Sixty (60) months incarceration. The sentence is to run concurrent to Thirty (30) months of the sentence previously imposed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia which has already accounted for the credit defendant is due for time served. Special Assessment of $100.00 was imposed. Count 2ssss: Sentenced to Thirteen (13) months incarceration, to be served consecutively to the sentence on Count One (1).

Predictably, though, it is in downplaying the import of Manafort’s ties to Russian spies where Dawsey really fails.

During the 2016 campaign, Manafort also allegedly shared Trump campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian who the U.S. government said had ties to Russian intelligence. The special counsel accused Manafort of lying to the FBI about his interactions with Kilimnik, even after Manafort had said he would cooperate and provide truthful information.

Manafort also allegedly worked with Kilimnik to spread Russian disinformation that it was actually Ukraine who interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

In a report issued in 2020, the Senate bipartisan committee that investigated Russian interference found that “Manafort’s presence on the Campaign and proximity to Trump created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump Campaign.”

First, there is absolutely no dispute that Manafort sent campaign data to Kilimnik to share with his Ukrainian backers and Oleg Deripaska. Manafort simply maintained that he only instructed Rick Gates to share public data (Kilimnik’s other business partner, Sam Patten, said Manafort shared internal data). But the polling data has never been the key point. They key point was, weeks before the Russians started stealing Hillary’s internal modeling, Manafort told Kilimnik how he planned to win the race in the swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and also Minnesota — where Trump ultimately did win it.

Dawsey of course is silent about the other two undisputed aspects of the August 2, 2016 meeting. Kilimnik pitched Manafort on a plan to carve up Ukraine (Manafort ultimately admitted that Kilimnik did; he just claimed he didn’t buy into the plan at that point). And Manafort talked about how to get paid by his Ukrainian backers and get his debt with Oleg Deripaska relieved.

That is, the meeting at least maps the outline of a quid pro quo: a commitment to carve up Ukraine in exchange for millions and help winning the election.

And Robert Mueller didn’t just accuse Manafort of lying during the period when he was supposed to be cooperating. Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that he had.

Paul Manafort lied to cover up what really happened between him and Konstantin Kilimnik, and Donald Trump pardoned Manafort to reward those lies.

Finally, it’s not that, “U.S. government said [Kilimnik] had ties to Russian intelligence.” In 2021, after Kilimnik allegedly interfered in a second US election, Treasury stated as fact that Kilimnik was Russian intelligence.

Konstantin Kilimnik (Kilimnik) is a Russian and Ukrainian political consultant and known Russian Intelligence Services agent implementing influence operations on their behalf. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy. Additionally, Kilimnik sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In 2018, Kilimnik was indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice regarding unregistered lobbying work. Kilimnik has also sought to assist designated former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. At Yanukovych’s direction, Kilimnik sought to institute a plan that would return Yanukovych to power in Ukraine.

Kilimnik was designated pursuant to E.O. 13848 for having engaged in foreign interference in the U.S. 2020 presidential election. Kilimnik was also designated pursuant to E.O. 13660 for acting for or on behalf of Yanukovych. Yanukovych, who is currently hiding in exile in Russia, was designated in 2014 pursuant to E.O. 13660 for his role in violating Ukrainian sovereignty. [my emphasis]

We also know, from the Charles McGonigal sentencing materials, that by 2017, the Intelligence Community had judged Oleg Deripaska to be “associated” with a Russian intelligence agency, too.

Among other things, in May 2017, McGonigal received a then-classified email stating that Deripaska was associated with a Russian intelligence agency, and possibly involved in that agency’s coup attempt in another country. (PSR ¶ 19).

By context, the agency must be GRU and the attempted coup must be Montenegro, a country implicated in McGonigal’s other prosecution — one where Manafort had an extensive history with Deripaska and one mentioned in Andrew Weissmann’s Team M report.

Donald Trump is considering hiring the former business partner of two alleged Russian spies, admitted money launderer Paul Manafort, to help with fundraising.

Way back in 2021, Avril Haines committed to declassifying parts of the SSCI Report that remained then, and still remain, redacted. It’s time to unseal those details describing why the spooks were so convinced that Kilimnik was, himself, a Russian spy.

Related posts

Deza: Oleg Deripaska’s Double Game

The Ongoing Investigation into Paul Manafort’s Handlers

Four Stories about Paul Manafort from Andrew Weissmann’s Team M

Paul Manafort Remains a Bigger Scandal than Hunter Biden

 

Eight Possible Explanations — Many Bad, Some Good — for SDNY’s Delay in Turning Over Cohen Files

As Adam Klasfeld and others reported yesterday, Trump is asking to delay his New York trial on charges that he engaged in fraud to cover up the hush payments he made to get elected in 2016. Trump is asking for the delay because the Southern District of New York just provided stacks and stacks of discovery he subpoenaed in January. Alvin Bragg has consented to a 30-day delay, but Trump is asking for a 90-day delay of the trial that was supposed to start on March 25.

In their letter explaining the situation, NYDA attorneys described that last year, they asked SDNY for the “full grand jury record” associated with Michael Cohen’s campaign finance conviction. Instead, SDNY provided “a subset.”

The People diligently sought the full grand jury record related to Cohen’s campaign finance convictions from the USAO last year, including exculpatory material and (1) grand jury minutes and tapes; (2) witness lists and other documents identifying the names or identities of grand jury witnesses; (3) any grand jury subpoenas and documents returned pursuant to those subpoenas; (4) exhibits presented to the grand jury; (5) to the extent within the scope of Rule 6(e), summaries of witness interviews occurring outside the grand jury; and (6) to the extent within the scope of Rule 6(e), search warrant affidavits or other applications that contain evidence from the grand jury, and evidence seized pursuant to those warrants. In response, the USAO produced a subset of the materials we requested, which we timely and fully disclosed to defendant on June 8, 2023, more than nine months ago. [my emphasis]

On January 18 of this year, Trump subpoenaed additional materials, and consented to several delays. On March 4, SDNY provided the initial tranche, which was 73,000 pages, of which less than 200 pages pertained to the case. Last week, SDNY provided a second tranche. And they say they’ll provide a third next week.

Regarding the 73,000 pages of records produced by the USAO as of the date of defendant’s motion, the People’s initial review indicated that those materials were largely irrelevant to the subject matter of this case, with the exception of approximately 172 pages of witness statements that defendant would have adequate time to review and address before trial. Yesterday afternoon, however, the USAO produced approximately 31,000 pages of additional records to both the People and the defense in response to defendant’s subpoena, and also indicated that an additional production would follow by next week. [my emphasis]

Those 31,000 pages provided last week includes stuff from Cohen’s grand jury file that NYDA had asked for last year.

Based on our initial review of yesterday’s production, those records appear to contain materials related to the subject matter of this case, including materials that the People requested from the USAO more than a year ago and that the USAO previously declined to provide.

NYDA say they’re ready to go on the 25th, but would consent to a 30-day delay. Surely, though, they’ve seen enough that they want to be prepared to rebut anything Trump found in the documents.

Update: NYDA has submitted a follow-up. The total universe of this production amounts to 119,000 pages of discovery. Of that, just a subset of 31,000 pages covers stuff related to the case, and of that subset, some of it was already provided to Trump. Trump is disputing that, but at this point, he and his lawyers have been crying wolf for a year. 

It’s not yet clear what’s in the 100,000-page plus discovery or why SDNY refused to turn it over, besides their unshakeable arrogance.

But there are a number of possible explanations, most terrible, at least three defensible. They include:

  1. Covering up Bill Barr’s fuckery
  2. Covering up Ed O’Callaghan’s fuckery
  3. Hiding details regarding the retraction of Robert Mueller’s scope
  4. Hiding details of Cohen’s tax crimes
  5. Hiding details of Barr’s further fuckery
  6. Protecting a Bill Barr investigation
  7. Protecting a Viktor Vekselberg investigation
  8. Protecting a Trump tax investigation

Much of these would serve to shield (or, ultimately, delay) SDNY or DOJ embarrassment generally. Some, though, would serve to protect real investigations that we know happened.

Covering up Bill Barr’s fuckery

What Trump undoubtedly was seeking when he subpoenaed SDNY was evidence of known Bill Barr fuckery, which would help the former President argue that he never committed a federal campaign finance crime and would hurt the theory of the case. Geoffrey Berman described much of this in his book.

In February 2019, days after being confirmed, Bill Barr tried to unprosecute Cohen.

While Cohen had pleaded guilty, our office continued to pursue investigations related to other possible campaign finance violations. When Barr took over in February 2019, he not only tried to kill the ongoing investigations but—incredibly—suggested that Cohen’s conviction on campaign finance charges be reversed. Barr summoned Rob Khuzami in late February to challenge the basis of Cohen’s plea as well as the reasoning behind pursuing similar campaign finance charges against other individuals. Khuzami was told to cease all investigative work on the campaign finance allegations until the Office of Legal Counsel, an important part of Main Justice, determined there was a legal basis for the campaign finance charges to which Cohen pleaded guilty—and until Barr determined there was a sufficient federal interest in pursuing charges against others.

Barr headed the Office of Legal Counsel in 1989 through the middle of 1990. He knew its powers, and as Trump’s attorney general he knew how to use it as a cudgel to accomplish his goals.

The directive Barr gave Khuzami, which was amplified that same day by a follow-up call from O’Callaghan, was explicit: not a single investigative step could be taken, not a single document in our possession could be reviewed, until the issue was resolved.

And if Main Justice decided there was no legal basis for the charges? The attorney general of the United States would direct us to dismiss the campaign finance guilty pleas of Michael Cohen, the man who implicated the AG’s boss, the president.

Barr attempted to put Richard Donoghue in charge of the matters — the Cohen case — that Berman was recused from. (Remember that Barr would also put Donoghue in charge of what should have been follow-on investigations of Rudy Giuliani’s dalliance with Russian spies.)

One way for Barr to accomplish that would have been to put the Cohen case in the hands of someone to whom he felt closer. About a week after our office tussled with Barr and Engel, Barr attempted to do just that. Word was passed to me from one of Barr’s deputies that he wanted Richard Donoghue, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York (who would later transfer to Main Justice to work under Barr), to take over supervision of anything I was recused from.

By Berman’s description, none of those efforts succeeded.

But according to the NYT, Barr did get OLC to write a memo questioning the basis for prosecuting someone for covering up public details (this doesn’t show up in Berman’s book).

At one point during the discussions, Mr. Barr instructed Justice Department officials in Washington to draft a memo outlining legal arguments that could have raised questions about Mr. Cohen’s conviction and undercut similar prosecutions in the future, according to the people briefed on the matter.

[snip]

The New York Times reported previously that Mr. Barr had questioned the legal theory of the campaign finance charges against Mr. Cohen, but it was not known that the attorney general went so far as to ask for the draft memo or had raised his concerns more than once.

The memo, written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, addressed the Southern District’s somewhat novel use of campaign finance laws to charge Mr. Cohen. Before Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea, the only person known to face criminal charges for payments meant to keep negative information buried during a political campaign was the former senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who was not convicted.

Mr. Barr argued, among other things, that such cases might be better suited to civil resolutions by the Federal Election Commission than to criminal prosecutions, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

[snip]

There is no indication that the Justice Department planned to issue a formal opinion on the campaign finances charges. Such a step, if taken, might have raised questions about the validity of the case against Mr. Cohen and affected any future effort to investigate Mr. Trump or others in his circle for similar conduct.

This memo is undoubtedly what Trump wants. He would use it to suggest that he was never in danger of prosecution for the hush payments, and therefore his fraud to cover them up cannot be a felony.

Covering up Ed O’Callaghan’s fuckery

Trump is also, undoubtedly, seeking details of then PADAG Ed O’Callaghan’s fuckery.

Once SDNY did charge Cohen, O’Callaghan intervened to demand that SDNY take language out of Cohen’s statement of offense making it clear that Individual-1 was part of the crime.

Consistent with DOJ guidelines, we first submitted the information to the Public Integrity Section at Main Justice. They signed off.

We then sent a copy to Rod Rosenstein, informing him that a plea was imminent. The next day, Khuzami, who was overseeing the case, received a call from O’Callaghan, Rosenstein’s principal deputy.

O’Callaghan was aggressive.

Why the length, he wanted to know. He argued that now that Cohen is pleading guilty we don’t need all this description.

Khuzami responded, What exactly are you concerned about?

O’Callaghan proceeded to identify specific allegations that he wanted removed, almost all referencing Individual-1. It quickly became apparent to Khuzami that, contrary to what O’Callaghan professed, it wasn’t the overall length or detail of the document that concerned him; it was any mention of Individual-1. Khuzami and O’Callaghan went through a handful of these allegations, some of which Khuzami agreed to strike; others, to ensure a coherent description of the crime, he did not.

Berman’s prosecutors stayed up all night cutting the Information from 40 pages to 21.

The team was tasked with the rewrite and stayed up most of the night. The revised information, now twenty-one pages, kept all of the charges but removed certain allegations, including allegations that Individual-1 acted “in concert with” and “coordinated with” Cohen on the illegal campaign contributions. The information now alleged that Cohen acted in concert and coordinated with “one or more members of the campaign.” But in the end, everything that truly needed to be in the information was still there.

Cohen included those details in his verbal allocution anyway.

The most consequential details that O’Callaghan wanted removed still wound up in the public record, simply because Cohen acknowledged them in open court. He testified that Trump not only knew about the six-figure payoffs designed to keep Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal from going public but had orchestrated them.

With regard to McDougal, Cohen said that he and “the candidate worked together to keep an individual with information that would be harmful to the candidate and to the campaign from publicly disclosing this information. After a number of discussions, we eventually accomplished the goal by the media company entering into a contract with the individual under which she received compensation of $150,000.”

As for Stormy Daniels, Cohen admitted that he had, “in coordination with, and at the direction direction of, the same candidate, [arranged] to make a payment to a second individual with information that would be harmful to the candidate and to the campaign to keep the individual from disclosing the information. To accomplish this, I used a company that was under my control to make a payment in the sum of $130,000.”

Any paperwork describing this dispute will not help Trump as much as an OLC memo saying his hush payments weren’t a federal crime. But he will use them to suggest that Rod Rosenstein didn’t think Trump was a part of it.

Hiding details regarding the retraction of Robert Mueller’s scope

Another thing that Cohen’s case file would disclose that might embarrass DOJ is how Rod Rosenstein constrained Mueller’s scope after initially permitting him to prosecute crimes he could use to flip people.

Remember that Mueller was permitted to prosecute both Paul Manafort’s tax crimes and Mike Flynn’s Turkey FARA crimes; he used those other crimes to (attempt to) flip Trump’s aides. But around the same time as Rosenstein issued his second scope memo (November 2017), he seems to have changed this approach.

In his book, Berman explained that by the time Mueller was investigating Cohen, Rosenstein was only permitting Mueller to investigate the Russian-related conduct. So when Mueller found Cohen’s taxi medallion and other crimes, they had to find a way to hand it off while still hoping to use those crimes to flip people.

At first, Mueller prosecutor Andrew Goldstein asked Berman to partner on the case, which would allow Mueller to be involved in an attempt to flip Cohen.

Goldstein informed Martins and Capone that Mueller was investigating Michael Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, for bank fraud relating to his taxi medallion business. Mueller wanted to pursue the Cohen investigation—but in conjunction with a US attorney’s office—because it fell outside his mandate. The idea was that we would be the partner to Mueller’s team.

Berman refused that request, because he didn’t want to sacrifice SDNY’s cherished independence. In the end, Mueller only got a request that a Mueller prosecutor could be involved in any discussion of cooperation.

The next day Goldstein got back to us. He backed off the requirement of a joint investigation and agreed that the Southern District would conduct the investigation as we saw fit. He asked for just one thing: if SDNY and the FBI had discussions with Cohen or his lawyer about cooperation, we would inform Goldstein and allow someone from the Mueller team to be present. I did not believe that such an accommodation would impinge on our independence or link our reputation to Mueller’s.

These disclosures, if they’re included in the documents turned over, wouldn’t help Trump all that much (and therefore might not be made public). But they’re another instance showing how Rod Rosenstein intervened to protect Trump.

Hiding details of Cohen’s tax crimes

Something else that SDNY might not want to turn over would pertain to the viability of the crimes to which Cohen ultimately pled guilty.

Remember: Every time he gets asked about why he pled guilty, he claims he pled guilty to more than what he had done, and he did so because of SDNY’s threats that they would include Cohen’s spouse if he didn’t plead.

SDNY would absolutely attempt to withhold details that addressed this issue, particularly if they confirmed Cohen’s claims.

They would only help Trump if they confirmed SDNY’s side of the story (and to be sure, there is abundant SDNY documentation documenting their belief that they believe Cohen’s lies extended before and after his guilty plea).

Hiding details of Barr’s further fuckery

After first trying to make Cohen’s prosecution go away, Barr later tried to make it worse, by sending Cohen back to prison from his COVID furlough because he started writing a book about what a crook Trump was. As Cohen claimed in an emergency motion to get out of jail, Cohen described that he was issued a gag order he would have to sign if he remained out on furlough, and when he refused, he was sent back to prison.

Michael Cohen is currently imprisoned in solitary confinement because he is drafting a book manuscript that is critical of the President of the United States—and because he recently made public that he intends to publish this book shortly before the upcoming election.

[snip]

While he was on furlough, Mr. Cohen publicly announced that he was putting the finishing touches on a tell-all book about his decade-long experience with President Trump. Just one week later, on July 9, 2020, BOP officers under the direction of Respondents presented Mr. Cohen with an unconstitutional demand: As a condition of his release—a release BOP already had determined was necessary for his health and safety—Mr. Cohen had to agree to a complete bar on speaking to or through any media of any sort.

Mr. Cohen expressed that this condition would bar him from making any progress on his book draft, making a pre-election publication date unlikely. But, because he was fearful for his life should he be remanded to prison, he did not refuse. Instead, he and his lawyer sought both to clarify the meaning of the condition, and to tailor it more narrowly to the BOP’s stated reason for including it; namely, to avoid glamorizing or bringing attention to his upcoming home confinement status. BOP officials refused those requests. Instead, they remanded him into solitary confinement in Respondents’ custody, where he remains.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein found Cohen’s claims persuasive. When he released Cohen shortly thereafter, Hellerstein ruled that the purpose of Cohen’s jailing was retaliatory (here’s the transcript, which shows BOP and SDNY’s rebuttals).

“I make the finding that the purpose of transferring Mr. Cohen from furlough and home confinement to jail is retaliatory, and it’s retaliatory because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish a book and to discuss anything about the book or anything else he wants on social media and with others,” U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said during a teleconference Thursday morning.

Cohen secured an emergency temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, ordering the government to immediately release him and be allowed to resume his home confinement.

“How can I take any other inference other than it was retaliatory?” Hellerstein mused, summarizing the terms of the government’s home-confinement agreement as telling Cohen: “You toe the line about giving up your First Amendment rights or we’ll send you to jail.”

“I’ve never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge,” the Clinton appointee added.

“In 21 years of being a judge, and sentencing people, and looking at the terms and conditions of supervised release, I have never seen such a clause.”

There’s undoubtedly paperwork related to this in Cohen’s case file, including paperwork that might match SDNY’s claims that this was not retaliation. But there could well be paperwork that shows — as was also alleged in the decision to free Paul Manafort from a prison not experiencing a COVID outbreak — involvement from Barr.

Protecting a Bill Barr investigation

You probably won’t believe me. But DOJ actually investigated some of Bill Barr’s fuckery. One such investigation was publicly reported: a DOJ IG investigation into Roger Stone’s sentencing.

There was at least one other aspect of Bill Barr fuckery that DOJ investigated which is not public.

Both investigations were active in the year since NYDA asked for materials on this case.

I have no idea whether Barr’s fuckery on the Michael Cohen case was part of either investigation into his fuckery. But if it was, then any delay in releasing materials would be justified to protect an ongoing investigation.

Protecting a Viktor Vekselberg investigation

You cannot separate the investigation into Trump’s 2016 hush payments from payments that Viktor Vekselberg’s Columbus Nova made to Michael Cohen. That’s because, after Cohen’s bank issued a Suspicious Activity Report on the payment to Stormy Daniels, they looked at how the other things Cohen did with his Essential Consultants account, which he had claimed was for domestic real estate purposes, deviated from his claims about the account.

And one thing he did with that account was to receive $400,000 from a company owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

22. According to records obtained from Bank 1 through June 1,2017, in the first fìve months of 2017, the Essential Consultants bank account received five deposits, each in the amount of $83,333 (for a running total of $416,665). The funds for all five deposits-four of which were wire transfers and one by check-came from an account at another bank held in the name of Columbus Nova, LLC.

23. Public records show that Columbus Nova, LLC is an investment management firm controlled by Renova Group (“Renova”), an industrial holding company based in Zurich, Switzerland. According to public news accounts, Renova is controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, a wealthy Russian national. Public news accounts also report that Vekselberg is an oligarch with various connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin and publicly met with Putin as recently as in or around March 2017.

7 According to the news articles, Vekselberg and Renova currently are involved in various infrastructure projects in Russia, such as the building of an airport in Rostov in advance of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which is to be held in Russia. Vekselberg has been involved in various symbolic acts seen to be in the Russian national interest, such as the purchase and repatriation of historic Faberge eggs.8

Mueller investigated these payments to determine whether they explained why Trump tried to back out of sanctions on Russia, etcetera etcetera. From the first warrant, then, the Stormy Daniel investigation implicated any investigation into Vekselberg’s efforts to pay for access in the US.

We know that, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, DOJ has ratcheted up sanctions-related investigations into Vekselberg’s associates. In January 2023, DOJ unsealed details of arrests pertaining to Vekselberg’s yacht; those prosecutions are active and are being run out of DC.

And in February 2023 — around the time when NYDA asked for the Cohen file — SDNY rolled out money laundering charges against Vekselberg’s US-based fixer, Vladimir Voronchenko, whom they claimed was a fugitive.

Voronchenko may be a fugitive, but the docket in his case has the look of a docket with a whole bunch of interesting things going on, albeit all sealed.

I don’t know what explains the skips in docket numbers, from 3 to 18, from 18 to 27, and from 27 to 32. But as of December, they SDNY was still stuffing the vault with … something.

If the investigation into Vekselberg would in any way be compromised by the release of Cohen’s case file, it would explain — and easily justify — delaying their release. Particularly if the investigation into Vekselberg’s associates implicated people close to Trump or other prominent Republicans.

Protecting a Trump tax investigation

During both the tax and fraud trials of Trump Organization, there were hints that SDNY had — finally — picked up some of the financial allegations NYS dug up and turned them into federal investigations, including obtaining testimony from some of the same witnesses.

If that happened, it could explain a justifiable delay of providing those files to Trump.

Obviously, most possible explanations for a delay in turning over these files involve someone’s embarrassment, whether SDNY itself, or DOJ more generally. I grant that it’s extremely likely that an attempt to avoid embarrassment explains the delay.

But there are several confirmed and one suspected investigation that also might explain, and entirely justify, a delay. We just don’t know yet.

Update: Judge Merchan has delated the trial start for 30 days from today and scheduled a hearing about the claimed discovery violation.

A Third Tie between Trump World and Alexander Smirnov

Before I point to a report on third known link between Alexander Smirnov — the FBI informant whose allegedly false claims about Joe Biden were laundered through a process Bill Barr set up for Rudy Giuliani in 2020 — and Donald Trump, let me lay out several details that are important to assessing the import of such ties.

  • Smirnov was admonished on the limits of permission to engage in Otherwise Illegal Activities on at least five occasions, including on August 7, 2020. That’s what the FBI does before they pre-approve you committing a crime because they want to learn about the other people committing crimes involved. For any given sketchy business someone reports Smirnov to have engaged in, there’s a distinct possibility he was engaging in it because the FBI was interested in the other people engaged in the business.
  • Smirnov’s ties to Russian spies go through at least one other intelligence service — probably Israel. But, at least for the last six months, he has been hanging out on the megayachts of Russian Oligarchs, almost certainly in Dubai, where, according to him, he was part of a plan to end the Ukraine war and elect Donald Trump.
  • One unanswered question that will be key to understanding how Smirnov attempted to frame Joe Biden is to identify how MAGAt US Attorney for Pittsburgh Scott Brady came to chase an otherwise unremarkable earlier Smirnov informant report mentioning Hunter Biden in passing. Given that Brady’s project catered to Rudy, any link involving Rudy as well would be significant.
  • But we may not discover that unless something dramatic happens, because David Weiss has no business overseeing this investigation, as he’s a direct witness to the involvement of Brady and Bill Barr. Indeed, as Hunter Biden attorney Abbe Lowell recently pointed out, Weiss has misrepresented his involvement in the Smirnov lead, going back to 2020, and by chasing this lead and extending the prosecution of Hunter Biden, he is effectively doing Russia’s bidding.

We already know of two ties between Trump world and Smirnov. His cousin, Linor Shefer, has ties to Trump through a Miami Real Estate developer.

Shefer, a 38-year-old Israeli-American, was a former contestant on the Israeli version of reality show Big Brother, and in 2014 won the Moscow beauty pageant ‘Miss Jewish Star’.

According to her LinkedIn page, she has been an ‘Inhouse Consultant’ for Dezer Development in Miami, Florida since 2022.

Dezer partnered with Trump’s organization to develop the $600 million Trump Grande Ocean Resort and Residences and $900 million Trump Towers. The company is run by Gil Dezer, and founded by his Israeli-American billionaire father Michael, who is a Trump donor.

And Smirnov has ties to Sam Kislin, who not only has long-standing ties to Rudy and Trump, but who came under some scrutiny during the 2019 impeachment.

Around 2021, on the beach at a private club in Boca Raton, Smirnov pitched Kislin on founding a company together that would market electric-car batteries and capture federal subsidies, Kislin said.

Smirnov told him he also could use his FBI ties to help him unfreeze more than $21 million in infrastructure bonds that belonged to Kislin but which Ukrainian authorities deemed had been issued illegally, embroiling Kislin in a corruption probe, Kislin said.

Kislin had for years been seeking to unfreeze the funds, traveling to Ukraine and meeting with officials there. His travel there coincided with efforts by Giuliani and his associates to push the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden, and in 2019, Kislin was subpoenaed by House impeachment investigators who were looking into those efforts. Kislin’s lawyer said he didn’t have relevant information, and he didn’t ultimately testify.

Smirnov set his fee for recovering Kislin’s $21 million at $1 million, according to Kislin, who said he paid Smirnov $224,000—partially as an advance and partially as an investment in the car-battery company, incorporated in Nevada in May 2021 as Quantum Force.

After a little over a year, Quantum Force dissolved and registered by the same name in a different state—this time without Smirnov listed in the corporate records.

When a solution to Kislin’s problem in Ukraine failed to materialize, Kislin said he deduced that Smirnov had taken him for a ride.

The Guardian points to a third — one through another of the sketchy businesses with which Smirnov worked, which includes a Middle East real estate tie:

Back in 2020, Smirnov was paid $600,000 by a company called Economic Transformation Technologies (ETT), prosecutors said. That same year, Smirnov began lying to the FBI about the Bidens, according to the indictment.

ETT’s CEO is the American Christopher Condon, who is also one of three shareholders in ETT Investment Holding Limited in London. Other shareholders in the UK include Pakistani American investor Shahal Khan and Farooq Arjomand, a former chairman and current board member of Damac Properties in Dubai who is also listed as an adviser on ETT’s American website.

[snip]

The exact business model of Texas-based ETT is murky. Its mission statement reads in part: “ETT set up the chess board to bring in top notch executives from those sectors to help implement its vision of love and social impact to improve the quality of human existence through the application of ‘new age’ technologies.”

The current CEO, Condon, is a California man who has been involved in several civil lawsuits, including a civil Rico case in 2010 that he won on appeal. Condon’s official biography says he is “a former professional tennis player, financial advisor, and currently is an entrepreneur focused on social-impact projects, public-private partnerships, and creating smart communities that benefit both individuals and governments”.

Condon, Arjomand and Khan registered ETT Investment Holding Limited in the UK on 6 March 2020. Khan, an investor who purchased the Plaza Hotel in 2018, and Arjomand have ties to Donald Trump through Trump associates and Damac, a major Middle East developer that has partnered with Trump for a decade. Arjomand, Khan and Condon owned 34%, 33% and 33% of ETT Investment Holding Limited respectively, according to UK business filings. No other information on the UK company is readily available.

The WSJ story — the same one that focused on Kislin — already laid out some sketchy aspects of Smirnov’s ties to ETT, and states that the relationship began in 2019.

Smirnov helped another company—Texas-based Economic Transformation Technologies, a software platform focused on “sovereign economic performance”—solicit investors starting around 2019, former associates said.

Smirnov was aware of concerns among investors and employees about some of the company’s practices, one of the associates said. The company was failing to pay some of its bills and several of its employees despite spending lavishly on travel and maintaining its exorbitant rent in the Dallas Cowboys headquarters, former associates and investors said.

Still, Smirnov brought in investors to meet with the company’s chairman, Christopher Condon, and other company executives—among them Kislin, who didn’t ultimately invest. Condon described Smirnov to associates as a “Russian friend of ours” who was skilled at fundraising, a former associate said.

It described that Condon knew of Smirnov’s FBI ties.

Smirnov’s FBI connections often came up in conversation as he hawked his services. Condon, the ETT chairman, also told people that Smirnov had “friends” in the FBI and described him as his protector who could help shield him from investigations, former associates said. Condon’s lawyer said Condon didn’t know the extent of Smirnov’s FBI involvement, and Condon denied describing Smirnov as a protector.

There are a lot more details of the Trump ties of Khan and Arjomand in the Guardian piece. What’s not included in there is the date in 2020 that ETT paid Smirnov. Particularly given Condon’s other sketchy ties, if that payment was anywhere close to August 2020, when we know Smirnov was given permission to engage in otherwise illegal activity, it may be his business ties were done with the knowledge and permission of the FBI.

Of course, the people with whom he engaged in OIA could well have a link to Scott Brady’s discovery of Smirnov. That’s why it is so problematic that Weiss, a witness, is leading this investigation.

In a status hearing for Hunter Biden yesterday (at which his gun trial was tentatively scheduled for the first two weeks of June), prosecutor Derek Hines suggested the Smirnov trial is still set to go starting on April 23, in spite of a recent CIPA filing. Also yesterday, Judge Otis Wright denied Smirnov’s bid to be released to San Francisco to receive glaucoma care.

Update: Fixed spelling of Shefer’s first name.

Update: CBS has a story describing a past complaint that Smirnov is a fraudster and a liar. Again, it’s hard to distinguish, without knowing more, whether for the FBI, that was the point.

Smirnov surfaced as a key secret witness in a sweeping racketeering case in California in 2015. In that case, the Justice Department brought charges against 33 defendants with ties to Armenian organized crime groups. Among the charges were money laundering, health care fraud and even a murder-for-hire.

Smirnov’s information contributed to the case against a married couple, Tigran Sarkisyan and his wife Hripsime Khachatryan, charged with conspiring with others to use fake identities to collect tax reimbursements from the federal government. The couple eventually pleaded guilty to a single count of racketeering in May 2017. In a 2018 sentencing memorandum, the couple’s lawyers flatly accused Smirnov of deceit.

“The [Confidential Human Source] was known to the United States as a liar and fraudster,” the sentencing brief states.

A footnote in the document states that the government was provided with the notes of their private investigator’s interview with a close associate of Smirnov who repeatedly called him a “liar.”

[snip]

Benincasa believes federal prosecutors realized they had a problem. According to Benincasa, the prosecutors had originally indicated they would be seeking a 10-year sentence as part of any plea deal. But after the lawsuit was filed, the government softened its position. Benincasa said he believes prosecutors wanted to avoid seeing Smirnov deposed in the civil case and possibly have his identity as an informant exposed. In the end prosecutors asked for 21 months, an unusually sharp reduction from the original 10 years that Benincasa says they were seeking. The judge ultimately sentenced the couple to 15 months.

The “Waiting for Mueller” Mistake and the Right Wing Bubble

Simon Rosenberg didn’t panic about a 2022 Red Wave. As analysts everywhere were wailing that the Sky Was Falling, he was quietly confident.

Keep that in mind as you listen to this conversation he had with Greg Sargent. I have about the same cautious optimism as Rosenberg (I was less confident than he was in 2022) on this year’s election, but he’s a pro who works from fundamentals, not just last week’s poll results.

Among other things, he talks about how any of six big negatives for Trump could blow the election for him:

  1. He raped E. Jean Carroll in a department store dressing room
  2. He oversaw one of the largest frauds in America history and that he and Rudy Giuliani through all their various misdeeds own over $700M dollars
  3. He stole American secrets, lied to the FBI about it, and shared these secrets with other people
  4. He led an insurrection against the United States
  5. He and his family have corruptly taken billions from foreign governments
  6. He is singularly responsible for ending Roe and stripping the rights and freedoms away from more than half the population

I would add two more: First, Trump routinely defrauds MAGAt supporters. Over the last week, he turned the RNC into a means to do so on a grander scale. Republicans need to hear that they’re being taken to the cleaner by Trump — and by Steve Bannon, whose trial for doing so will also serve as backdrop to this election season.

More tellingly, Rosenberg addressed this detail when he described how Biden’s two big negatives have resolved (my biggest complaint about this interview is it didn’t address Gaza, the unmentioned third), not when he addressed Trump’s scandals.

The Biden crime family story, we just learned in the last few weeks, was a Russian op that was being laundered by the Republican party that blew up in their face.

Rosenberg treated the manufactured “Biden crime family” that was actually a Russian op laundered by the GOP as a resolved Biden negative after he made this point, the most important in the interview, in my opinion.

We have to learn the lesson from waiting for Mueller. Waiting for Mueller was a mistake by the Democratic Party. It prevented us from prosecuting the case against Trump and his illicit relationship with the Russian government that was out there all for us to see. Right? The Russians played a major role in his election in 2016. This is not in dispute in any way. And so I think now what we need to do is not wait for Jack Smith or wait for Merrick Garland. We need to use what’s in front of us and prosecute this in ways that we know is going to do enormous harm.

No superhero will come tell any one of these stories for Democrats. Trump’s opponents have to tell the story of Trump’s corruption. They cannot wait for Mueller. Or Jack Smith.

One of many reasons I’m so focused on the Hunter Biden story is that it is actually what proves the continuity of that story of Russian influence that Democrats failed to tell. Trump asks for Russian help in 2016 and gets it. As part of a campaign in which Rudy Giuliani solicited Russian spies for dirt on Hunter Biden, Trump withheld security support from Ukraine to get the same. Even after that, Trump’s DOJ created a way to launder the dirt Rudy collected from known Russian spies to use in the 2020 election. That campaign created the shiny object that has created the “Biden crime family” narrative. Like Russia’s role in the 2016 election, none of this is in dispute. It’s just not known.

You cannot wait for Robert Mueller or Jack Smith to tell this narrative. But for four months this entire story — this arc — has passed largely unnoticed, even as Trump took steps to deliver Ukraine’s bleeding corpse to his liege, Vladimir Putin.

Those who want to defeat Trump — and honestly, Republicans like Liz Cheney and Amanda Carpenter have been doing a better job of this than most Democrats — have to make sure this story gets told.

This is what I’ve been trying to say over and over and over. The reason why the moderate press hasn’t been telling the story of Trump’s role in the insurrection, of his ties to militia members and his direct inspiration for the most brutal assaults on cops on January 6 is because all their TV lawyers have been whinging instead about their own misunderstanding of the January 6 investigation. They haven’t been telling the story of what we know.

They have been complaining that Merrick Garland hasn’t compromised the investigation to tell them them more, turning Garland into their villain, not Trump.

In the few minutes after I posted these comments on Twitter, commenters have:

  • Complained that the full Mueller Report hasn’t been released, when really they’ve simply been too lazy to understand that the most damning bits have been released.
  • Bitched that Merrick Garland hired Rob Hur, rather than bitching about Rob Hur telling a narrative even after his own investigation had debunked it.
  • Complained about a delay in the January 6 investigation that didn’t happen.

Kaitlan Collins’ interview with Brian Butler, a former Trump employee whose testimony badly incriminated his one-time best friend, Carlos De Oliveira, has been drowned out by all the complaints.

The story barely made a blip. It’s not just the NYT that buries important Trump stories under complaints about Biden, it’s Democratic supporters.

Rosenberg went on to describe how Democrats need to improve this. He noted that the Right Wing noise machine provides them a great advantage on this front, one that Biden will have to spend to combat.

We have to recognize, Greg, that the information environment in the United States is really broken right now and that the power of the Right Wing noise machine to bully and intimidate mainstream media into being complicit in advancing some of their narratives is something that needs a campaign that has half a billion dollars in it to be able to draw even on. What we’ve learned is there is a structural imbalance in the information game between the two parties, that the Republicans have a significant advantage over us in a day-to-day information war.

This is true. But the insularity of the Right Wing noise machine can be made into a weakness for Republicans, even before spending the money. Because right wingers so rarely try to perform for a mainstream audience, as soon as they do — whether it is rising star Katie Britt or Kentucky redneck James Comer — they look like lying morons.

And in the face of that Right Wing noise, Democrats need to be disciplined.

The Biden campaign’s going to have to be wildly disciplined. They can’t chase the daily story. They’re going to have to pick the two or three things they know from research are the things that are a rubicon with the electorate.

[snip]

It’s going to be incumbent upon them to not allow the Trumpian mania and madness sort of push them around every day. They’re going to need to develop an offensive strategy both on what we’re selling and on what we’re indicting him with.

Rosenberg laid out the six bullets; I added two more. Trump will try to distract from that with daily outrages, with spectacle.

Trump — abetted by social media — will try to distract from that argument by demeaning all ability to make, or understand, coherent arguments.

I’m less sanguine than Rosenberg that even discipline is enough to overcome Trump’s circus. Therein lies the challenge.

But he’s right that those who want to defeat Trump have to make that case themselves. Neither Jack Smith, nor the NYT, will save you.

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