February 17, 2019 / by 

 

Dan Coats Still Refusing to Provide the Evidence that Russia Didn’t Affect the Election

Last month, I noted a troubling exchange between Martin Heinrich, Dan Coats, and Richard Burr in the Global Threats Hearing.

Martin Heinrich then asked Coats why ODNI had not shared the report on election tampering even with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Heinrich: Director Coats, I want to come back to you for a moment. Your office issued a statement recently announcing that you had submitted the intelligence community’s report assessing the threats to the 2018 mid-term elections to the President and to appropriate Executive Agencies. Our committee has not seen this report. And despite committee requests following the election that the ODNI brief the committee on any identified threats, it took ODNI two months to get a simple oral briefing and no written assessment has yet been provided. Can you explain to me why we haven’t been kept more fully and currently informed about those Russian activities in the 2018–

Chairman Richard Burr interrupts to say that, in fact, he and Vice Chair Mark Warner have seen the report.

Burr: Before you respond, let me just acknowledge to the members that the Vice Chairman and I have both been briefed on the report and it’s my understanding that the report at some point will be available.

Coats then gives a lame excuse about the deadlines, 45 days, then 45 days.

Coats: The process that we’re going through are two 45 day periods, one for the IC to assess whether there was anything that resulted in a change of the vote or anything with machines, uh, what the influence efforts were and so forth. So we collected all of that, and the second 45 days — which we then provided to the Chairman and Vice Chairman. And the second 45 days is with DHS looking, and DOJ, looking at whether there’s information enough there to take — to determine what kind of response they might take. We’re waiting for that final information to come in.

After Coats dodges his question about sharing the report with the Committee, Heinrich then turns to Burr to figure out when they’re going to get the information. Burr at least hints that the Executive might try to withhold this report, but it hasn’t gotten to that yet.

Heinrich: So the rest of us can look forward — so the rest of us can then look forward to reading the report?

Coats: I think we will be informing the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of that, of their decisions.

Heinrich: That’s not what I asked. Will the rest of the Committee have access to that report, Mr. Chairman?

[pause]

Heinrich: Chairman Burr?

Burr; Well, let me say to members we’re sort of in unchartered ground. But I make the same commitment I always do, that anything that the Vice Chairman and myself are exposed to, we’ll make every request to open the aperture so that all members will be able to read I think it’s vitally important, especially on this one, we’re not to a point where we’ve been denied or we’re not to a point that negotiations need to start. So it’s my hope that, once the final 45-day window is up that is a report that will be made available, probably to members only.

Coming as it did in a hearing where it became clear that Trump’s spooks are helpless in keeping Trump from pursuing policies that damage the country, this exchange got very little attention. But it should!

DOJ missed its 45 day plus 45 day deadline of reporting whether any election tampering had had an effect. But just by one day. The day after their deadline, the Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker and serial liar Kirstjen Nielsen gave Trump a report claiming that any tampering had not had any impact on the election.

Although the specific conclusions within the joint report must remain classified, the Departments have concluded there is no evidence to date that any identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political/campaign infrastructure used in the 2018 midterm elections for the United States Congress. This finding was informed by a report prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) pursuant to the same Executive Order and is consistent with what was indicated by the U.S. government after the 2018 elections.

While the report remains classified, its findings will help drive future efforts to protect election and political/campaign infrastructure from foreign interference.

Then, today, CyberComm boasted that that they had helped deter Russia during the midterms.

Senators from both political parties on Thursday praised the military’s cyber force for helping secure last year’s midterm elections, with one suggesting it was largely due to U.S. Cyber Command that the Russians failed to affect the 2018 vote.

“Would it be fair to say that it is not a coincidence that this election went off without a hitch and the fact that you were actively involved in the protection of very important infrastructure?” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) asked Gen. Paul Nakasone, the command’s leader, at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Military officials have said new authorities, approved over the last year, enabled CyberCom to be more aggressive — and effective — in what they privately say was an apparent success. Nakasone, who also heads the National Security Agency, stopped short of saying it was CyberCom that made the difference, telling Rounds that safeguarding the election was the agencies’ “number-one priority.”

But ODNI is still not providing SSCI — the people who are supposed to see such evidence — proof. Heinrich wrote Dan Coats a letter, signed by every member of SSCI,

Your office a statement in December that you had submitted the Intelligence Committee’s report assessing threats to the 2018 elections to the president and appropriate executive agencies. This month, the acting Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security announced they had submitted their joint report evaluating the impact of any foreign interference on election infrastructure for the infrastructure of political organizations during the midterm elections.

While the agencies provided brief unclassified summaries of the reports’ findings, the Select Committee on Intelligence has not been provided either report. We request that you provide to all Committee Members and cleared staff both classified reports required by EO 13848 as soon as possible. Those reports are necessary for the Committee to meet its mission and charter to conduct vigorous oversight over the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government.

They’re clearly hiding something. The question is whether it’s that Trump didn’t try to prevent tampering, or that some of the efforts — included the known effort to hack Claire McCaskill — actually did have an effect.

 


Roger Stone and the Dozens of Search Warrants on Accounts Used to Facilitate the Transfer and Promotion of Stolen Democratic Emails

In response to Roger Stone’s bid to get a new judge, the government has submitted a filing explaining why his case is related to the GRU indictment. It explains that Stone’s alleged false statements pertained to an investigation into links between the Russians who stole Democratic emails, entities who dumped them, and US persons like Stone:

The defendant’s false statements did not arise in a vacuum: they were made in the course of an investigation into possible links between Russian individuals (including the Netyksho defendants), individuals associated with the dumping of materials (including Organization 1), and U.S. persons (including the defendant).

More interestingly, it makes clear that Stone’s communications “with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1” were found in some of the accounts used to transfer and promote the stolen emails.

In the course of investigating that activity, the government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release. Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1.

To be clear: We know that Stone had (innocuous) DMs with both Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks. So this passage is not necessarily saying anything new. But given that Stone’s indictment obscures precisely who his and Jerome Corsi’s go-between with WikiLeaks is, it suggests there may be more direct Stone communications of interest.

Stone will get a sealed description of what those warrants are and — eventually — get the warrants themselves in discovery.

The relevant search warrants, which are being produced to the defendant in discovery in this case, are discussed further in a sealed addendum to this filing.

Meanwhile, Amy Berman Jackson has issued a very limited gag in Stone’s case, prohibiting lawyers from material comments on the case, but gagging Stone only at the courthouse. That said, her gag includes lawyers for witnesses, which would seem to include Jerome Corsi lawyer Larry Klayman.

Counsel for the parties and the witnesses must refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case

ABJ does give Stone the following warnings to shut up, however.

This order should not be interpreted as modifying or superseding the condition of the defendant’s release that absolutely prohibits him from communicating with any witness in the case, either directly or indirectly. Nor does this order permit the defendant to intimidate or threaten any witness, or to engage or attempt to engage in any conduct in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1512.

Finally, while it is not up to the Court to advise the defendant as to whether a succession of public statements would be in his best interest at this time, it notes that one factor that will be considered in the evaluation of any future request for relief based on pretrial publicity will be the extent to which the publicity was engendered by the defendant himself.

So the biggest news here might be that Larry Klayman has to shut up.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 


The Unseen Aspects of Paul Manafort’s Lies and Truth-Telling Are as Telling as the Ones We’ve Seen

As noted, yesterday Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Mueller’s team had proven Paul Manafort lied in three of the five areas they accused him of lying about:

  • The kickback scheme via which he got paid
  • Meetings with Konstantin Kilimnik to share polling data and discuss a “peace” deal with Ukraine
  • The role of a 7-character named person in an attempt to salvage Trump’s campaign being investigated in another district

The ruling is damning, and Manafort now may face what amounts to a life sentence (though, in her order ABJ noted that whether she’ll give him credit for acceptance of responsibility at sentencing depends “on a number of additional factors”).

Yet, in spite of the mounting evidence that Manafort shared polling data at a meeting where he also discussed a Ukrainian peace deal (a backdoor way of giving Russia sanctions relief), in spite of how damning this breach discussion has been, ABJ’s ruling is still just one step in an ongoing process.

I say that for several reasons that have to do with what we didn’t see as part of this breach determination.

We’re only seeing half of Manafort’s cooperation

First, we’re only seeing material relating to half of Manafort’s cooperation. In his declaration on the breach determination, FBI Agent Jeffrey Weiland described Manafort’s cooperation to include 14 sessions:

  • 3 pre-plea proffer sessions: September 11, 12, and 13
  • 9 debriefing sessions: September 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, October 1, October 5, October 11, and October 16
  • 2 grand jury appearances: October 26 and November 2

If I’ve tracked everything properly, the descriptions of Manafort’s lies only include material from some of those sessions:

  • 3 pre-plea proffer sessions: September 11, 12, and 13
  • 5 debriefing sessions: September 20, 21, October 1, October 5, and October 16
  • 1 grand jury appearance: October 26

That means there are three debriefing sessions and a grand jury appearance we haven’t heard anything about yet:

  • 3 debriefing sessions: September 25, 26, 27, and October 11
  • 1 grand jury appearance: November 2

In the breach hearing, Richard Westling claimed that the material we’ve seen constitutes just a “small set” of the topics covered in Manafort’s cooperation and he says some of the other topics were “more sensitive topics.”

WESTLING: And I think, you know, the last point that I would make is that given that relatively small set of areas where this occurred, whether even the allegations are being made, you know, we note that there’s not really a lot to explain. There’s no pattern, there’s no clear motive that would suggest someone who was trying to intentionally not share information. And many of the more sensitive topics that we’re aware of from a — all of us paying attention to what’s gone in the news cycle over the last many months, you know, are things where these issues didn’t come up, where there wasn’t a complaint about the information Mr. Manafort provided. And so we think that’s important context as we get started here today.

THE COURT: Do I have — and I don’t think I need them for today, but I’m certain that what you just said is also going to be a part of your acceptance of responsibility argument and argument at sentencing. Do I have the 302s from 12 days of interviews? Do I have everything, or do I only have what was given to me because it bore on the particular issues that I’m being asked to rule on today?

MR. WEISSMANN: Judge, you do not have everything. We are happy to give you the — all of the 302s. We just gave you — you have, I think, the majority of them, but not all of them.

THE COURT: Okay. And I don’t know that — if I need them. But, it’s hard to assess — and I certainly don’t think they should be a public part of any sentencing submission. But, if you want me to put this in context of more that was said, it helps to have it.

Now, it’s possible that Manafort did tell the truth about these more sensitive topics. It’s possible that (for example, with regards to Trump’s foreknowledge of the June 9 meeting), Manafort lied but prosecutors don’t have proof he did. Or it’s possible they know he lied about other issues but for investigative reasons, don’t want to share the proof they know he lied.

One of the other topics Manafort would have been asked about — which Westling’s reference to “what’s gone in the news cycle over the last many months” may reference — pertains to Roger Stone’s actions.

ABJ asked for — and presumably has or will obtain — the rest of the 302s from Manafort’s cooperation, so she may end up agreeing with Manafort’s lawyers that some of his cooperation was quite valuable.

Mueller was interested in Manafort’s cooperation, in part, to obtain intelligence

As I’ve noted before, Andrew Weissmann described Manafort’s cooperation to be somewhat unusual for the extent to which Mueller was seeking intelligence, rather than criminal evidence. Though he makes clear that that was true, as well, of Rick Gates’ early cooperation.

[T]here’s enormous interest in what I will call — for lack of a better term — the intelligence that could be gathered from having a cooperating witness in this particular investigation

[snip]

And with Mr. Gates, we also wanted to make sure that we could get information, and we thought that there was — I think there was certainly a significant issue. And we dealt with it by having the defendant plead to something in addition to take — to have the ramification for it. But that is to show, I think, an example of wanting the intelligence, but dealing with what we considered to be, you know, unacceptable behavior from the Government, particularly from somebody whose information we would rely on, and potentially ask the jury to rely on.

So we may never see a great deal of what Manafort was asked about.

Mueller is still protecting an ongoing investigation

That said, Mueller is still protecting both his and the other DOJ ongoing investigation. We know what Mueller is protecting from the redactions in the transcript.

ABJ noted that much of what they discussed at the breach hearing could be unsealed, while noting that Mueller felt more strongly about keeping some things secret.

I think a large portion of what we discussed could be public. I think there are certain issues where you probably only need to redact out names and turn them back into entities. And then there are may be one or two issues where we’re really talking about something that was completely redacted at every point prior to this and will continue to be. And, hopefully, you’ll both be on the same page about that with respect to what of the investigation is not yet public. I think the Office of Special Counsel has the stronger point of view about that.

Certainly, all the names had to be redacted, under DOJ guidelines prohibiting the publication of anyone’s name who has not been charged. Likewise, the other investigation is not Mueller’s to reveal (in any case, it seems to be still active, even if Manafort’s refusal to cooperate may have protected the target of it).

But more of the rest of the discussion could have been unsealed if Mueller didn’t have ongoing interests in the topics. Those topics include Manafort’s ongoing communications with the Administration, Ukrainian peace deal/sanctions relief, and his sharing of polling data (though there’s one reference to sharing polling data on page 19 that may have gotten missed by the censors). Mueller redacted those things even though Weissmann makes clear that they believe the polling data goes to the core of what they are investigating.

MR. WEISSMANN: So — so, first, in terms of the what it is that the special counsel is tasked with doing, as the Court knows from having that case litigated before you, is that there are different aspects to what we have to look at, and one is Russian efforts to interfere with the election, and the other is contacts, witting or unwitting, by Americans with Russia, and then whether there was — those contacts were more intentional or not. And for us, the issue of [2 lines redacted] is in the core of what it is that the special counsel is supposed to be investigating.

Note his use of the present progressive. They’re still trying to answer the question about whether that August 2 amounts to witting conspiracy with Russia.

Mueller is still sitting on information about the shared polling data

It may well be that, given Manafort’s refusal to cooperate on this issue, Mueller will never be able to charge Trump’s campaign for sharing polling data with Russia in the context of sanctions relief.

But they are sitting on more information than came out publicly in this breach discussion. Starting on page 93 of the transcript, ABJ, on her own, brings up other information she has seen, that pertains to the topic.

THE COURT: I need to ask the Office of Special Counsel about something ex parte because — and so I apologize for that, but I need to do that. And it may be after I talk to them, they tell me there’s no problem with sharing it with you. But I have received information in this case, in this binder, and in other means, and I just want to make sure I understand something. And so, I can’t — I need to ask —

MR. DOWNING: We would object. But we don’t know he —

THE COURT: I note your objection. And I will deem your objection also to be a request that what we’re about to discuss be revealed to you. And that will be the first thing I’m going to ask. And we can do it at the end, after we’re done, or you can just have him come to the bench for a minute.

The ex parte discussion on this topic is fairly short. But after the lunch break, Weissmann tells ABJ that the material she was thinking of remains redacted. But he does point her to two Gates 302s from early in his cooperation that seem to provide some of the same information.

THE COURT: All right. Let me start with you, Mr. Weissmann. Is there anything further you can add to what we talked about, that you can add publicly?

MR. WEISSMANN: Yes. Yes, Your Honor. So, we haven’t finished our review, but we believe that the material that you asked about was redacted.

THE COURT: Okay.

MR. WEISSMANN: However, I would like to direct your attention to two exhibits in the record. If you recall, I mentioned that I recalled that Mr. Gates had, very early on in his cooperation, given us information about [redacted]. And there are two 302s that are dated in, I believe, both in January of 2018. So before he actually pled guilty, so in connection with his proffers. So, the first one is Exhibit 222. And if you look at page 17 of that exhibit, there’s a long explanation of communications with [redacted] that refer to [redacted] at the direction of Mr. Manafort. And then if you look — and that is dated January 31st, 2018. And that was, of course, provided to counsel in connection with the Eastern District of Virginia trial. And Exhibit 236, and I believe I referred you previously to page 3, and I would also refer you to page 5. Both of those refer to [redacted] and also refer to the discussions of the — discussions of [redacted] at the August 2nd, 2016 meeting.

THE COURT: All right. I will look at all of that. So for right now, I’m going to leave the little conversation that we had ex parte, ex parte with your objection noted.

MR. WEISSMANN: Judge, we will continue to look to see if there is any portion that was unredacted to confirm that.

Given the issues she has presided over, this may pertain to one of the search warrant affidavits that Manafort tried to get completely unsealed last year, but which ABJ suggested pertained to other people.

In any case, there’s more on the sharing of polling data that ABJ knows about, this is relevant to its importance, but that does not appear in the unsealed transcript.

Mueller didn’t reveal all the evidence of Manafort’s attempts to contact the Administration

Finally, there appear to be communications between Manafort and Administration officials that Mueller did not release as part of this process. The government stated that clearly in a footnote (on page 27) of its breach declaration.

This is not a complete listing of such contacts Manafort had with Administration officials. Further, for the purpose of proving the falsity of Manafort’s assertions in this section, the government is not relying on communications that may have taken place, with Manafort’s consent, through his legal counsel.

And, in a bid to refute Manafort’s claim, in the redaction fail filing, that, “Mr. Manafort was well aware that the Special Counsel’s attorneys and investigators had scrutinized all of his electronic communications” because “Mr. Manafort voluntarily produced numerous electronic devices and passwords at the request of the Government,” Agent Weiland states that the FBI had found more than 10 devices or documents for which Manafort hadn’t shared a password.

Defendant said in his pleading that he has provided electronic to the government. However, although he has provided some electronic data, passwords, and documents, in more than ten instances he did not provide passwords to access his electronic communications, thumb drives, or documents.

Mueller’s team remains coy about how many of those 10 accounts, thumb drives, or documents they’ve been able to access without his assistance.

And Greg Andres provides some hints about what those other conversations involve: Manafort providing information about the investigation.

MR. ANDRES: Sure. Judge, throughout the interviews with Mr. Manafort and some of the issues we’ve discussed today, you see that he constantly either minimizes the information he has about the administration or any contact with the administration. So there’s an issue whether or not during his cooperation he’s communicating with [15 character redaction] or providing information about the questions or other things that are happening in the special counsel investigation, whether he’s sharing that with other people. And this is another example of Mr. Manafort —

THE COURT: That hasn’t been given to me as we’re troubled by this or he wasn’t truthful about that, so I don’t see how to put this in the context of that because I don’t know about that.

MR. ANDRES: Well, so for example, in the No. 4, the one that Mr. Manafort — that Mr. Weissmann just talked about with respect to the [redacted, other investigation], you see Mr. Manafort changing his story so as not to implicate either [redacted] or someone in [redacted]. I think, with respect to this issue, again, Mr. Manafort is trying to distance himself from the administration and saying he’s not having contact with the administration at a time when he’s under at least one indictment.

THE COURT: But you’re not suggesting right now that there’s more information in here about other efforts to distance himself from the administration or to deny a relationship or to deny reporting back to them?

MR. ANDRES: We’re not relying on any other evidence of that issue.

Particularly given that Manafort, between his early September proffers and his October 5 lies about the other investigation, managed to match his own testimony to that of the Trump associate being targeted in it, those communications may even date as recently as last fall (though that would mean he was communicating with the Administration from jail).

The fact that Mueller has other communications between Manafort and the Administration — but chose not to bolster their argument that Manafort lied about ongoing communications with the White House — suggests protecting what he wants to do with those communications is more valuable than convincing ABJ that Manafort lied about this topic (and, indeed, this is one of the two topics where she did not rule for the government).

For all the debate about whether Mueller is almost done or not, the things we didn’t learn about during this breach discussion are just as interesting as the things we did learn about. They suggest that all the discussion about cooperation deals (including my own) often forgets that Mueller is seeking both criminal evidence and intelligence on what the Russians were doing. They also suggest that Manafort may have provided testimony that bears on other parts of the investigation we’ve recently learned about (which might include Stone, or the Trump Tower deal) — but we can’t be sure whether Manafort told the truth, or whether he lied but Mueller either can’t prove or doesn’t want to reveal that he knows Manafort lied. They suggest that Mueller would still like to make the case, in whatever form, that Manafort intentionally gave the Russians polling data with the understanding that he’d push a Ukrainian peace deal that amounted to sanctions relief — but Manafort’s refusal to cooperate on this point might thwart that effort. Finally, they make it clear that Manafort remained a part of an effort to obstruct this investigation, including via means that bypassed the Joint Defense Agreement Trump has exploited.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 


Amy Berman Jackson Rules that Manafort Lied about Possible Criminal Activity Related to Donald Trump’s Campaign

Amy Berman Jackson has issued her ruling on whether Paul Manafort breached his plea agreement. She ruled that, for the purposes of acceptance of responsibility, Mueller’s team proved he had lied on three of the five topics they laid out: about his kickback scheme with a SuperPAC that was probably illegally coordinating with Trump’s campaign, about another investigation pertaining to someone’s efforts to save Trump’s candidacy, and when Manafort claimed he didn’t hand Konstantin Kilimnik polling data on the same day they talked about sanctions relief.

I. OSC has established by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant intentionally made false statements to the FBI, the OSC, and the grand jury concerning the payment by Firm A to the law firm, a matter that was material to the investigation. See United States v. Moore, 612 F.3d 698, 701 (D.C. Cir. 2010).

II. OSC has failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that on October 16, 2018, defendant intentionally made false statements concerning Kilimnik’s role in the obstruction of justice conspiracy.

III. OSC has established by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant intentionally made multiple false statements to the FBI, the OSC, and the grand jury concerning matters that were material to the investigation: his interactions and communications with Kilimnik.

IV. OSC has established by a preponderance of the evidence that on October 5, 2018, the defendant intentionally made false statements that were material to another DOJ investigation.

V. OSC has failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that on October 16, 2018, defendant intentionally made a false statement concerning his contacts with the administration.

That she didn’t rule that he had lied on the other two doesn’t help him much. While he tried to walk back his admission that he conspired with suspected GRU-asset Konstantin Kilimnik on witness tampering last year, ABJ effectively just ruled his efforts to walk back that guilty plea were only half-hearted.

And while prosecutors didn’t prove he lied about ongoing communications with Trump, they also didn’t show all their cards there, withholding some of the other communications they know about. Effectively, though, ABJ has just ruled that Manafort breached his plea agreement because he continues to lie about possible criminal activity related to Trump’s campaign.

Mind you, Manafort may not mind this outcome, much. After all, according to Andrew Weissmann, he lied (especially about sharing polling data) because he figured it was his best hope for a pardon. Admitting to the full details about the polling data he shared with the intent it be passed on to his Ukrainian and Russian paymasters, according to Weissman, “would have, I think, negative consequences in terms of the other motive that Mr. Manafort could have, which is to at least augment his chances for a pardon.”

So he may be sentenced to 20 years next month, but so long as he continues to lie about the crimes committed during Trump’s campaign, he might get a pardon.


Bamford’s Silence about How Maria Butina Got Thrown Back into Solitary

A number of people have asked me what I make of this piece from James Bamford, pitching the case against Maria Butina as a grave injustice, just after Paul Erickson (who may be the real intended beneficiary of this piece) was charged in the first of what is likely to be two indictments, and as the government extends her cooperation by two weeks.

There are parts that are worthwhile — such as his argument that because Butina didn’t return a bragging email from JD Gordon, it suggests she wasn’t trying to recruit him.

There are other parts I find weak.

Bamford oversells the degree to which the press sustained the serial honeypot angle — after all, some of us were debunking that claim back in September, when he appears to have been silent — without mentioning the fact that Butina first started proffering cooperation with prosecutors, presumably against Paul Erickson and George O’Neill, on September 26. The word “visa” doesn’t appear in the article’s discussion of Butina’s status as a grad student, leaving unrebutted the government’s claim that Butina chose to come to the US as a student because it provided travel privileges that served her influence operation. Bamford (who hasn’t covered the Mueller investigation) grossly overstates the significance of Mueller’s choice not to integrate Butina’s case into his own investigation. He also falsely treats all counterintelligence investigations into Russia as one ongoing investigation (see this post for my ongoing complaints about virtually everyone doing the same). He suggests that Butina will need to be traded for Paul Nicholas Whelan, when the government has already said she’ll be deported once she serves her sentence (which will likely be time served). He quotes Putin’s interest in Butina’s case, without noting that Russia has only shown the interest they showed in her in one other defendant, Yevgeniy Nikulin. And those are just a few of the details with which I take issue.

But these passages, in particular, strike me as problematic.

Since August 17, Butina has been housed at the Alexandria Detention Center, the same fortresslike building that holds Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. On November 10, she spent her 30th birthday in solitary confinement, in cell 2F02, a seven-by-ten-foot room with a steel door, cement bed, and two narrow windows, each three inches wide. She has been allowed outside for a total of 45 minutes. On December 13, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian Federation. She faces a possible five-year sentence in federal prison.

[snip]

On November 23, 2018, Butina went to sleep on a blue mat atop the gray cement bed in her cell, her 81st day in solitary confinement. Hours later, in the middle of the night, she was awakened and marched to a new cell, 2E05, this one with a solid steel door and no food slot, preventing even the slightest communication. No reason was given, but her case had reached a critical point.

That’s true not just for the way Bamford obscures the timeline here — suggesting she was always in solitary — but because by obscuring that timeline, Bamford serves to hide that it was Bamford’s own communications with and about Butina that got her thrown back into solitary.

Butina’s lawyers laid out her protective custody status in a filing on November 27.

In addition to general population prisoners, the Alexandria detention center houses federal detainees awaiting trial before this court in “administrative segregation,” more commonly known as solitary confinement. This form of restrictive housing is not a disciplinary measure, but is purportedly used by corrections personnel to isolate inmates for their own protection or the safe operation of the facility.

[snip]

Between her commitment at the Correctional Treatment Facility in Washington, DC and then Alexandria detention center, Ms. Butina has been isolated in solitary confinement for approximately 67 days straight. Despite a subsequent release into general population that came at the undersigned’s repeated requests, correctional staff reinstated her total isolation on November 21, 2018 although no infraction nor occurrence justified the same.

The timeline they lay out makes it clear Butina was in protective custody from July 15 to around September 21, but then placed in the general population. The timeline is absolutely consistent with Butina agreeing to cooperate in order to get placed in general population (the motion to transport her was submitted September 21, so at the same time she was placed in the general population). The fact that the government uses solitary to coerce cooperation from prisoners deserves condemnation, and that definitely seems to have been at play here.

But even at a time she had active orders to be transported for cooperation (the court authorized a second request for transfer from late October through the time she pled guilty), Butina was placed back in solitary. The timeline her defense attorneys lay out, however, suggests that Bamford was incorrect in stating she was in solitary on her birthday on November 10. She wasn’t moved back to solitary until November 21.

On the afternoon of November 21, 2018, counsel received a never-before urgent phone call from a jailhouse counselor regarding Ms. Butina. The basis for that call was her return to solitary confinement. The undersigned called Chief Joseph Pankey and Captain Craig Davie in Alexandria in response. After conferring with them, however, it has become clear that the facility’s use of administrative segregation is a false pretext to mask an indefinite solitary confinement that is unjust and without cause.

Staff purported to base their decision to segregate on Ms. Butina referring a fellow inmate to her lawyers (that is, she gave her lawyers’ phone number to a fellow inmate), but staff did not find a disciplinary violation—major or minor. Chief Pankey and Captain Davie then resorted to the decision being “for her safety,” knowing that administrative segregation disallows an appeal internally.

As of the date of this filing, Ms. Butina has now been in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day for 6 consecutive days with no prospective release date. According to at least one deputy, the move to solitary confinement has also not been entered into the Alexandria detention center computer system, and Ms. Butina’s status is disclosed only by a piece of tape with handwriting attached to the guard stand.

And that’s important because of a detail that Bamford remains utterly silent about.

As laid out in a hearing transcript, around that time, the government recorded calls from Butina to “certain journalists” suggesting the journalist consult someone who had her lawyers’ first name.

DRISCOLL: The conflict raised by the government, I think the government does not think there’s been any violation of order by defense counsel, but due to circumstances regarding recorded calls that the government had of Ms. Butina and to certain journalists, the government raised the concern to us; and we wanted to raise it with the Court so that there would be no question when the plea is entered that the plea is knowing and voluntary, and we wanted to kind of preemptively, if necessary, get Ms. Butina separate counsel briefly to advise her on her rights, to make sure that she got her constitutional right to conflict-free advice.

[snip]

MR. KENERSON: The basic nature of the potential conflict is that this Court, I think, issued in an order back in September regarding Local Rule 57.7. The government has some jail calls from Ms. Butina in which she is talking to a reporter numerous times on those calls. She makes some references on those calls to individuals who could be — we don’t know that they’re defense counsel, but shares first name with defense counsel potentially acting as go-between at a certain point. That’s part one of the potential conflict. Part two is —

THE COURT: Wait. So, wait. Stop. Part one is a potential conflict. Do you see a conflict because you believe she’s acting at the behest of her attorneys or as a conduit for her attorneys to violate the Court’s order?

MR. KENERSON: It’s — someone viewing that in the light least favorable to defense counsel might be able to argue that this is some quantum of evidence that defense counsel possibly were engaged in assisting Ms. Butina in violating the Court’s order.

THE COURT: All right. But that goes to whether counsel, with the aid of his client, violated my — and I’ll use the colloquial term for it, my “gag order.” How does that go to — and maybe you’ll tell me; I cut you off. But how does that go to the voluntariness of her plea?

MR. KENERSON: So if there is an allegation that defense counsel assisting her somehow in violating the, again, to use the colloquial term the “gag order,” that would give defense counsel a reason to want to basically plead the case to avoid that potential violation from becoming public. And curry favor with the government.

Driscoll went on to explain why his client was talking to a journalist with whom she had a friendship that “predates all of this” in spite of her being subject to a gag order.

The circumstances, just so the Court’s aware, Ms. Butina has a friendship with a particular journalist that predates all of this. The journalist was working on a story about Ms. Butina prior to any of this coming up, prior to her Senate testimony, prior to her arrest, and had numerous on-the-record conversations with her prior to any of this happening. At the time the gag order was entered, I took the step of informing the journalist that, although he could continue to talk to Ms. Butina, he could not use any of their post gag-order conversations as the basis for any reporting, and the journalist has not, in any event, made any public statement or done any public reporting on the case to date.

Bamford’s own description of “a number of long lunches starting last March at a private club in downtown Washington, D.C.” make it clear he is the journalist in question.

Judge Chutkan was none too impressed with Driscoll’s advice.

THE COURT: Well, putting aside the questionable advisability of having your client talk to a reporter while she is pending trial and there’s a gag order present — and I understand you told the reporter that they couldn’t make any public statements, but as a former criminal defense attorney myself, I find that curious strategy.

Now, to be clear: Bamford never did publish anything on Butina during the period when the gag was in place (Chutkan lifted the gag on December 21). Even if Bamford had published something during that period, so long as Bamford did respect Driscoll’s advice that their ongoing conversations should be off the record, there was nothing Bamford could publish that would directly reflect her own statements.

And there’s very good reason to question whether the government threw Butina back into solitary because Bamford was reporting on her treatment. That is, it’s not outside the realm of our criminal justice system that Butina was placed back in solitary because a reporter had been tracking her case since before the investigation became public.

Instead of laying out the case for that, however, Bamford instead hides his own role in the process.

To be honest, I think the story is better understood as one about Paul Erickson and not Maria Butina. This story won’t help her at sentencing — that’s going to be based on her cooperation, not what a journalist who has already antagonized the government says about her. But it may help to spin Erickson and George O’Neill’s interest, as well as that of the NRA.

The public record certainly sustains the case that the government used solitary to induce Butina to cooperate — presumably to cooperate against Erickson and O’Neill. That certainly merits attention.

But then the government also used solitary to cut off Butina’s communications with Bamford himself. If it’s this story the government was retaliating against, Bamford should say that, rather than obscuring it.

This is a story about America’s reprehensible use of solitary confinement. But it doesn’t explain a key part of that process here. Given that the story seems to most benefit Erickson, I find that silence remarkable.


On SSCI’s Investigation: Manafort “Conspired” Whether or Not Trump Also “Colluded”

I’d like to point out something about this NBC report headlined, “Senate has uncovered no direct evidence of conspiracy between Trump campaign and Russia,” but instead showing,

investigators disagree along party lines when it comes to the implications of a pattern of contacts they have documented between Trump associates and Russians — contacts that occurred before, during and after Russian intelligence operatives were seeking to help Donald Trump by leaking hacked Democratic emails and attacking his opponent, Hillary Clinton, on social media.

I sometimes beat up on Ken Dilanian and I don’t mean to do so here. Putting the headline and lead aside, his report shows the disagreement here, and he even references Mark Warner’s recent focus on Paul Manafort’s sharing of polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik (though it’s not clear he asked Richard Burr about the report).

After it recently emerged that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared campaign polling data with a man the FBI says is linked to Russian intelligence, Warner called that the most persuasive evidence yet of coordination.

“This appears as the closest we’ve seen yet to real, live, actual collusion,” he said on CNN.

No evidence has emerged, however, linking the transfer of polling data to Trump.

Natasha Bertrand says the report soft-pedals the Democrats’ belief.

Senate Intelligence Committee aide tells me, re: NBC story, that right now there is “a common set of facts” that the panel is working with, “and a disagreement about what those facts mean.” They add: “We are closer to the end than the beginning, but we’re not wrapping up.”

But I think something else is going on, in addition to any downplaying Democrats’ views.

It’s that the report shifts back and forth between “conspiracy” and “collusion.”

After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.

[snip]

“If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an interview with CBS News last week.

[snip]

“We were never going find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude,’” one Democratic aide said.

[snip]

House Republicans announced last year they had found no evidence of collusion, but their report came under immediate criticism as a highly partisan product that excluded Democrats.

[snip]

“Senator Richard Burr, The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, just announced that after almost two years, more than two hundred interviews, and thousands of documents, they have found NO COLLUSION BETWEEN TRUMP AND RUSSIA!” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Is anybody really surprised by this?”

[snip]

“This [sharing polling data] appears as the closest we’ve seen yet to real, live, actual collusion,” he said on CNN.

[snip]

The final Senate report may not reach a conclusion on whether the contacts added up to collusion or coordination with Russia, Burr said.

Democrats told NBC News that’s a distinct possibility.

“What I’m telling you is that I’m going to present, as best we can, the facts to you and to the American people,” Burr told CBS. “And you’ll have to draw your own conclusion as to whether you think that, by whatever definition, that’s collusion.”

The story promises to talk about conspiracy, but then ends up talking about “collusion,” going so far as quoting Burr saying you need to draw your own conclusion about what you think the definition of “collusion” is.

That’s an important distinction, especially in a report that talks about Paul Manafort, not least because Manafort has already pled guilty to conspiring with Konstantin Kilimnik, albeit for covering up crimes in 2018 rather than committing them in 2016.

And while Burr complains we can’t know his or any of the other flunkies’ motives, Andrew Weissmann made it clear that Manafort told the grand jury he didn’t have just one motive when he handed highly detailed, recent polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik to be handed over to his Ukrainian and Russian paymasters.

And I think that in the grand jury, Mr. Manafort said that from his perspective, [sharing polling data] which he admitted at that point was with — he understood that it was going to be given by [redacted] to the [redacted] and to Mr. redacted 9 character name], both. That from his perspective, it was — there was no downside — I’m paraphrasing — it was sort of a win-win. That there was nothing — there was no negatives.

[snip]

My answer, with respect to the Court’s question about what it is — what the defendant’s intent was in terms of what he thought [redacted] I was just trying to answer that question, even though that’s not one of the bases for saying there was a lie here. And so I was just trying to answer that question. And what I meant by his statement that there’s no downside, is that can you imagine multiple reasons for [redacted]. And I think the only downside —

THE COURT: You meant no downside to him?

MR. WEISSMANN: Yes.

THE COURT: You weren’t suggesting that there was nothing — there’s no scenario under which this could be a bad thing?

MR. WEISSMANN: Oh, sorry. Yes. I meant there was no downside — Mr. Manafort had said there was no downside to Mr. Manafort doing it.

[snip]

MR. WEISSMANN: And meaning all of this is a benefit. The negative, as I said, was it coming out that he did this.

This August 2, 2016 data hand-off occurred in the specific context of Manafort trying to get whole on his $20 million debt to Oleg Deripaska. The data was also going to some Ukrainian oligarchs that Manafort expected to pay him $2.4 million in November 2016. And all that’s aside from whether Manafort expected the Russians to do anything with the data that might help Trump.

He was badly underwater, and — according to his grand jury testimony, at least as described by Weissmann — he clandestinely handed off recent detailed polling data to a guy connected to the agency that was still hacking Hillary Clinton, to be shared with a bunch of oligarchs who could help him reverse his financial fortunes.

It seems there’s a conspiracy there one way another. Either Manafort effectively stole Trump’s campaign data and traded it to foreigners for monetary gain. And/or Manafort handed over that data expecting that the campaign would get a thing of value from the foreigners he was sharing it with.

Richard Burr would seem to argue that’s not “collusion” unless Trump knew about it (whether he did is one of the questions Mueller posed to Trump).

But it is a conspiracy, an agreement with Konstantin Kilimnik to commit one or more crimes, right there in the middle of the election season. Whether Mueller will charge it or do something else with it remains to be seen. But it is fairly clearly a conspiracy, down to the clandestine arrivals and departures from the dark cigar lounge.

Ultimately, Burr’s retreat to that word “collusion” is a tell. Because, given the public facts in this case, Republicans should be outraged that Trump’s campaign manager was so disloyal he shared highly sensitive data with potentially malign actors. Republicans should be outraged that Trump’s campaign manager was putting his own financial imperatives ahead of sound campaign practice.

But they’re not. For some reason, Republicans are not squawking about the explanation for this data hand-off that would suggest the campaign didn’t expect to benefit.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 


FBI Finally Moves to Fix Its Text Retention Problem — and Mobile Phone Security

Back when DOJ IG released a report explaining its efforts to ensure it had reconstructed all of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page’s text messages, I pointed out that most people were missing the really important part of the story: FBI was making do with a vendor who — even after that scandal — still missed 10% of texts.

And in trying to invent an obstruction claim out of normal bureaucratic thriftiness, they are ignoring the really damning part of the IG Report. The government contractor whose “bug” was responsible for the text messages that weren’t originally archived (but which were later recovered) still can’t ensure more than 90% of FBI’s texts are recovered.

Among the other excuses FBI offers for implementing a fix to a 20% failure with one that still results in a 10% failure is to say, “complete collection of text messages is neither required nor necessary to meet the FBI’s legal preservation obligations” (which goes back to how they’re requiring retention via policy, but not technologically-assisted procedure). The FBI also says that it “is not aware of any solution that closes the collection gap entirely on its current mobile device platforms,” which makes me wonder why they keep buying new Samsungs if the Samsungs aren’t serving their needs? Aside from the question of why we’d ask FBI Agents to use less secure Korean phones rather than more secure American ones (note, Mueller’s team is using iPhones)?

This is a huge problem in discovery in criminal prosecutions. Just as an example, DOJ claims it didn’t have texts between the Agents who were officially staking MalwareTech out in Las Vegas before they arrested him in 2017 and … other Agents. But if FBI doesn’t actually competently archive those texts, how can they make that claim?

More troubling still, FBI didn’t have a handle on what privileges their unnamed and squirrely data retention vendor had onto FBI Agents’ phones.

As DOJ IG was trying to puzzle through why they couldn’t find all of Strzok and Page’s texts, the unnamed vendor got squirrelly when asked how the retention tool interacts with administrative privileges.

Upon OIG’s request, ESOC Information Technology Specialist [redacted] consulted with the FBl’s collection tool vendor, who informed the FBI that the collection application does not write to enterprise.db. [Redacted] further stated that ESOC’s mobile device team and the vendor believed enterprise.db is intended to track applications with administrative privileges and may have been collecting the logs from the collection tool or another source such as the Short Message Service (SMS) texting application. The collection tool vendor preferred not to share specific details regarding where it saves collected data, maintaining that such information was proprietary; however, [redacted] represented that he could revisit the issue with the vendor if deemed necessary.

Maybe it’s me, but I find it pretty sketchy that this unnamed collection tool vendor doesn’t want to tell the FBI precisely what they’re doing with all these FBI Agents’ texts. “Proprietary” doesn’t cut it, in my opinion.

DOJ IG has now done what I was hoping they would: use the Strzok-Page incident as an opportunity to identify recommendations to fix the problem more generally. Most alarmingly, it says that the Subject Matter Expert it consulted in this process identified security vulnerabilities in its collection process.

[D]uring the OIG’s forensic examination of FBI mobile devices that were used by the two employees, the OIG discovered a database on the mobile devices containing a plain text repository of a substantial number of text messages sent and received by those devices.

Neither ESOC nor the vendor of the application was aware of the existence, origin, or purpose of this database. OIG analysis of the text messages in the database compared to ESOC productions of text messages during the same time periods when the collection tool was functional identified a significant number of text messages found in the database that were missing from the ESOC production. Furthermore, the Subject Matter Expert with whom the OIG consulted in connection with its forensic analysis of the devices identified additional potential security vulnerabilities regarding the collection application. The OIG has provided these findings to the FBI.

Remember: these phones were used by people read into the most sensitive counterintelligence investigations. They weren’t texting a lot about those investigations on those phones, but they were texting unclassified information about the investigations.

So now, two years after these texts were identified, DOJ’s Inspector General is recommending that FBI fix what even I recognized was a security vulnerability — as well as the other, unnamed ones their SME identified.

Coordinate with the collection tool vendor to ensure that data collected by the tool and stored on the device is saved to a secure or encrypted location.

Verify and address the security vulnerabilities identified by the Subject Matter Expert with whom the OIG consulted, which have been provided to the FBI. Current and future mobile devices and data collection and preservation tools should be tested for security vulnerabilities in order to ensure the security of the devices and the safekeeping of the sensitive data therein.

Accused defendants should not have to guess whether or not the FBI Agents investigating them discussed their case via texts that have disappeared forever. And the country, generally, should not have to worry that the phone of its top counterintelligence Agent might be compromised because of a dodgy vendor FBI hired to collect (some of) his texts.

Sadly, DOJ IG doesn’t include another recommendation that seems like a no-brainer: that FBI switch to iPhones over the Samsungs they currently issue, both because iPhones have better security, but also because there is better visibility on the supply chain.


A Primer on How to Read: So the NYT Can Stop Telling Paul Manafort’s Lies

NYT Continues to Tell Paul Manafort’s Lies for Him

It has been two and a half days since I pointed out that their single anonymous source — described as “a person knowledgeable about the situation” — lied to the NYT last month when it reported that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates shared poll data, “most of which was public,” “in the spring” with Konstantin Kilimnik.

Both Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Mr. Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, according to a person knowledgeable about the situation. Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person.

The NYT has not corrected the error and identified who turned them into a vehicle for significant propaganda.

Instead, two of the same journalists, plus Scott Shane, wrote a story they say is based on “A closer look at the transcript” focusing on the Ukrainian stuff that had already been revealed in significant detail last month.

In it, they correctly identify roughly where the beginning of the poll sharing discussion starts, but describe a lie that Manafort corrected — the same lie the NYT continues to tell — as the final testimony of Manafort.

The transcript suggests that Mr. Manafort claims that he wanted only public data transferred. But Mr. Weissmann told the judge that the question of whether any American, wittingly or unwittingly, engaged with Russians who were interfering in the election relates to “the core” of the special counsel’s inquiry.

They don’t mention that the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, Andrew Weissmann, and even Manafort’s lawyer Richard Westling, all acknowledge this was not just public polling data.

And then they present a comment by ABJ that was about Manafort’s poll sharing lies and suggest (in a story focused on the Ukraine peace deal) it generally relates to Manafort’s comments on Kilimnik.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson seemed to agree with prosecutors that whether Mr. Manafort lied about his contacts with Mr. Kilimnik was important, saying at one point, “I am, actually, particularly concerned about this particular alleged false statement.”

Because the NYT is struggling so much, as a service to them (and in hopes they expose whoever lied to them), I’m going to provide a primer on how to read redacted documents so they don’t have to continue to be a mouthpiece for Paul Manafort.

Identify How this Document Fits into the Pattern

We have a lot of tools with which to read Manafort’s breach hearing transcript, largely because it is part of a series. As I noted in my post laying out the lies NYT continues to tell, there are four prior versions of this discussion.

The hearing is a discussion about the arguments made in all these earlier documents, particularly the last two, which means we can look to them to understand what we’re seeing in the transcript.

All four discuss the same five topics. Though, as Judge Amy Berman Jackson notes, the lawyers have not remained consistent in the order in which they discuss them. (Note to Judge ABJ: I was also annoyed by that. Thanks for razzing them about it!)

This morning I’m going to organize myself by the issues the way they were numbered in the initial declaration. It was great because in every pleading, you all numbered the five issues into different orders. So I can’t really call them Issue No. 1 and Issue No. 2, but that’s the template I’m going to use. And what I’m going to do is, I’m going to hear from both sides on each issue before I move on to the next issue.

Thankfully, ABJ is more helpful at providing guideposts than the lawyers, though to clarify, when ABJ says she’s using the “initial declaration,” she’s referring to this FBI declaration, not Mueller’s original breach filing. You can tell that’s the case because it’s called a “declaration” and because it starts the same way ABJ does, with Manafort’s lies about the kickback payment.

The Structure and Content of Past Filings

To read a document that is the fifth in a series it’s helpful to map its structure and understand how that structure compares to previous iterations in the series.

I laid out the structure of the declaration ABJ says she’s following in this post. Here’s an updated version in which I’ve included some of what past documents refer to as proof and timing.

I) Kickback to/from Rebuilding America Now (0-series exhibits)

Firm A to receive 6% commission from Firm B (12/7)

After a break, it became clear that the government’s facts were incorrect – it was a $125,000 payment. (1/8 filing)

Manafort explained that it was unclear to him how this payment was recorded by his accountants and he believed the original plan was to report the payment as a loan, but that it had actually been reported as income on his 2017 tax return. The Government has indicated that Mr. Manafort’s statements about this payment are inconsistent with those of others, but the defense has not received any witness statements to support this contention. (1/8 filing)

Three false statements, first that the other people had paid him, then conflicting statements from the others (but Manafort recording the payment as income), finally that it was a loan (supported by loan documents provided at that time) (1/15 filing)

Three false statements, the last being that it was a loan

II) Konstantin Kilimnik’s role in witness tampering (100-series exhibits)

During a proffer session with the OSC on October 16, 2018, Mr. Manafort acknowledged that he and Mr. Kilimnik agreed to reach out to the witnesses. Mr. Manafort was asked to agree that Mr. Kilimnik, too, possessed the requisite state of mind to legally establish his guilt. Mr. Manafort balked at this characterization, because he did not believe he could confirm what another person’s internal thoughts or understandings were, i.e., another individual’s state of mind. (1/8 filing)

Kilimnik didn’t think he had exerted pressure (1/15 filing)

Manafort expressing Kilimnik’s views (1/23)

III) Interactions with Kilimnik (200-series exhibits)

a) Discussions of the Ukraine Peace Deal

Manafort “conceded” that he discussed or may have discussed a Ukraine peace plan with Mr. Kilimnik on more than one occasion (1/8 filing citing 12/7 one)

Issues and communications related to Ukrainian political events simply were not at the forefront of Mr. Manafort’s mind during the period at issue and it is not surprising at all that Mr. Manafort was unable to recall specific details prior to having his recollection refreshed. (1/8 filing)

Beginning August 2 and continuing until March 2018 Kilimnik and Manafort communicated about Ukraine peace plan. Three discussions were in person (1/15 filing)

Manafort freely brought up August 2 meeting, didn’t think one plan would work

1) August 2 meeting

Manafort would have given the Ukrainian peace plan more thought, had the issue not been raised during the period he was engaged with work related to the presidential (1/8)

Discussed at September 11 and 12 debriefings, then in grand jury on October 26, he admitted he saw the email (1/15 filing)

2) December 2016 meeting

Discussed September 11, September 21, October 26 (1/15)

3) Madrid meeting

Admitted it after shown evidence (12/7)

After being told that Mr. Kilimnik had traveled to Madrid on the same day that Mr. Manafort was in Madrid, Mr. Manafort “acknowledged” that he and Mr. Kilimnik met while they were both in Madrid (1/8 filing, citing 12/7 one)

September 11, 12, 13, October 26 (1/15)

Manafort lied, claimed it was about a business investment, then was shown something, and then admitted it (1/23)

4) A 2018 proposal

Not brought up prior to GJ (1/23)

b) Manafort’s false statements about sharing polling data

Email and testimonial evidence (12/7)

The same is true [he needed his memory refreshed] with regard to the Government’s allegation that Mr. Manafort lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign.

Evidence = interviews (plural) with gates, Gates on his access, multiple emails, on the morning of the meeting (at which Gates came late) (1/15 filing, ¶¶53-36)

Whether he told anyone to do something, SCO relies on Gates’ testimony (1/23)

IV) Another DOJ investigation (possibly that of PsyGroup or the hush payments) (300-series exhibits)

Another district (12/7)

Manafort provided the government with information pertinent to an investigation in another district prior to entering into the plea agreement in this case but then, in post-plea proffer meetings with other prosecutors not associated with the OSC, provided a different version of the same events. (1/8 filing)

One version on September 13, another on October 5, largely retracted second version; series of text messages, prior to leaving campaign (1/15)

Corrected in same interview (1/23)

V) Manafort’s contact with the Administration (400-series exhibits)

Text May 26, 2018 (12/7)

There is no support for the proposition that Mr. Manafort intentionally lied to the Government. The first alleged misstatement identified in the Special Counsel’s submission (regarding a text exchange on May 26, 2018) related to a text message from a third-party asking permission to use Mr. Manafort’s name as an introduction in the event the third-party met the President. This does not constitute outreach by Mr. Manafort to the President. The second example identified by the Special Counsel is hearsay purportedly offered by an undisclosed third party and the defense has not been provided with the statement (or any witness statements that form the basis for alleging intentional falsehoods). (1/8 filing)

May 2018 effort, targets (1/15)

Misread text messages, Gates claim (1/23)

By mapping out what the prior versions of the series look like, we can put this transcript into the structure ABJ has told us we’re dealing with, to identify with certainty which discussion is which.

The Structure of the Breach Hearing Transcript

Now we can identify the structure of this document, which will help us identify the boundaries between these parts of the discussion.

After some introductory legal discussions, ABJ teaching Andrew Weissmann how to use a microphone, and then Weissman framing why they think Manafort is a lying turd trying to get a pardon but honestly they did engage in a good faith effort to get him to cooperate, the substantive discussion starts.

ABJ tells us she is using the “way they were numbered in the initial declaration” and she’ll hear from both sides before she moves on to the next issue.

So here’s what the structure of the breach hearing looks like. Importantly, while Weissmann addresses a few issues at the beginning (which are noted), otherwise the discussions have clear start and end points, meaning we know that what appears between those start and end points pertain to the topic at hand.

I. Kickback to/from Rebuilding America Now

Start: Page 25, line 18: “With respect to the $125,000 payment by”

End: Page 47, lines 6-9

THE COURT: All right. I think you made that clear. And I think I understand everybody’s point of view about this, and what the evidence is. But, there’s some aspects of the evidence I’m going to need to re-review.

Also page 14-15, 20

II. Konstantin Kilimnik’s role in witness tampering

Start: Page 47, lines 10-12

All right. So let’s go on to what is II, or the second subject touched upon in the declaration, which is Mr. Kilimnik’s role in the obstruction conspiracy.

End: Page 63, lines 3-5

THE COURT: All right. Well, I don’t think I need any more of your telling me what it says because I’m going to read it again.

Also pages 14, 20

III. Interactions with Kilimnik

Start: Page 63, lines 5-8

So let’s go on to III, the interactions with Kilimnik, which I think I’m going to break up a little bit into the Ukraine stuff and the [polling] stuff.

a. Discussions of the Ukraine Peace Deal

Start: Page 63, lines 9-10:

With respect to the first, sort of, subtopic here, the discussions concerning the [redacted] Ukraine

End: Page 82, lines 9-13:

THE COURT: Right. But, I think what gives them cause to be theorizing is the fact that it’s described differently on different occasions, and described inconsistently with the communications between Mr. Kilimnik and Mr. Manafort, and that leads them to wonder.

b. Manafort’s false statements about sharing polling data

Start: Page 82, line 14-15:

But, I think we can go on to the question of the [polling]

End: Page 110, lines 13-17:

THE COURT: All right. I mean, when I asked you, do you want to hear from him, you said you wanted to file something. I just want to make sure you’re saying we’re done; when this record is concluded, we’re done with the record.

MR. DOWNING: Correct.

Also, pages 18-19,

IV: Another DOJ investigation

Start: Page 110, lines 20-21:

Okay. I think we can go on to category IV, the other DOJ investigation.

End: Page 121, line 18:

THE COURT: All right.

V: Manafort’s contact with the Administration

Start: Page 121, line 18-19:

Well, that leads me into No. 5, the contacts with the administration.

End: Page 132, line 5-6:

THE COURT: All right. That covers all the subject matter areas.

Validate the Model

Now it helps to make sure this model does match the prior model.

Unfortunately, the issue that NYT is perpetuating Manafort’s lies about — the sharing of polling data — is one for which we don’t have that many signposts in past filings (because this discussion is so heavily redacted). But the key dispute is clear from past filings. The government maintains the evidence includes Gates’ testimony and email evidence, while Manafort would like ABJ to believe the government is relying exclusively on Gates’ testimony.

The same is true [he needed his memory refreshed] with regard to the Government’s allegation that Mr. Manafort lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign.

Evidence = interviews (plural) with Gates, Gates on his access, multiple emails, on the morning of the meeting (at which Gates came late) (1/15 filing, ¶¶53-36)

Whether he told anyone to do something, SCO relies on Gates’ testimony (1/23)

Thankfully, this is a place where Weissmann’s earlier comments provide another point of validation. At the beginning, he uses the polling data as an example to refute the defense claim they had engaged in a “gotcha,” by not providing them Gates’ prior statements on the issue.

But, I wanted to address that that’s not — this is an unusual case. This is an unusual case. Not because we did that, it’s an unusual case because of the volume of evidence that the defendant had. As the Court knows, there was a trial in the Eastern District of Virginia. And as the Court knows, there was a discovery order in this case. There, the vast, vast majority of information was available to the defendant. And as one of the submissions having to do with bail conditions and — or, prison location, what’s in the record is that the defendant, on tape, in prison, says yes, he has been through all of that discovery. So, for one example of that, all of the Gates 302s that were extant in September of last year were something that had been disclosed to the defendant. So, the defendant was very well aware of what Mr. Gates had said about sharing of polling data, and that it was something that was not — not simply a matter of [redacted]. And it sort of [redacted].

In the section devoted to the topic, we see several of the things that show up earlier: Manafort ordering Gates to do something, and the reliance on Gates’ testimony.

Whether he told anyone to do something

Manafort asking Mr. Gates

[snip]

THE COURT: And because Mr. Manafort told Mr. Gates to do it?

MR. WESTLING: That’s what Mr. Gates says, yes.

THE COURT: In an e-mail.

MR. WESTLING: But I think that the e-mail says, Please print this. That’s all it says.

THE COURT: Doesn’t it say bring it to the meeting?

MR. WESTLING: I’m sorry?

THE COURT: Doesn’t it say bring it to the meeting?

MR. WESTLING: It says related to a scheduling meeting. Doesn’t say anything about a meeting with Mr. Kilimnik, it doesn’t say anything about — just on the same date.

[snip]

THE COURT: The only thing I said that corroborated his testimony about this matter was the e-mail within — related to on this date. Is that correct?

MR. DOWNING: Yes.

THE COURT: And you’re saying read more carefully, Judge, because it doesn’t say [redacted] to the meeting. So I will do that, but —

MR. DOWNING: I doesn’t say that, Your Honor —

THE COURT: — I do believe that that is corroborative.

Reliance on Gates’ testimony

they believe because Mr. Gates says so and because it’s referred to in Mr. Kilimnik’s various emails

Multiple references to whether they’ve gotten the 302s in question

Kevin Downing’s repeated attempt to suggest Gates couldn’t be credible because the jury didn’t find him credible (even while being careful to avoid having Gates testify to refute that).

Weissmann’s description of the earlier 302s they had in time for the EDVA trial.

Process New Information

Having now validated that that discussion pertains to the sharing of polling data question, we can now turn to what else new we learn in it.

There’s Weissmann’s description of Manafort telling the grand jury he understood someone was going to be sharing the data with some entity and some individual and that  considered that a win-win for himself (which is why I say Manafort sold Trump out, because he figured even if this didn’t help Trump win, he would still curry favor with his Ukrainian and Russian paymasters).

which he admitted at that point was with — he understood that it was going to be given by [redacted] to the [redacted] and to Mr. [redacted], both. That from his perspective, it was — there was no downside — I’m paraphrasing — it was sort of a win-win. That there was nothing — there was no negatives.

There’s ABJ’s question about why the pollster was getting paid so much if this was no big deal.

And if that’s true, then why was [redacted] being paid so much

Westling responds by trying to argue that it’s no big deal because the data is so detailed it would be so incomprehensible to him.

This is very detailed [redacted] on a level that is very focused

Which ABJ says is why the polling data is so important.

THE COURT: But if I determine that it is established by the record and in his statement — but that’s what makes it significant and unusual.

Whereupon Westling (again, this is Manafort’s defense attorney!!!!) says that sharing data would be beneficial if it were something more public, effectively refuting the claim Manafort tried to make, which is the claim the NYT refuses to correct.

if the goal were to help Mr. Manafort’s fortunes, that some other kind of [redacted] something more public,

Then, in an effort to suggest this was just about the campaign meeting that morning, Westling says this was the most recent data.

it was the most recent, from what we can tell, the most recent

Then ABJ corrects Westling’s claims about timing, noting that Gates specifically tied this to the Havana Club meeting.

THE COURT: Didn’t he say it happened at the meeting where they had to leave by different doors and all that? Doesn’t he connect [redacted] to the meeting and the Havana Club and the coming and going

Weissmann explicitly supports this timing later in the hearing (with what seems to be a description of Manafort walking Kilimnik through what the data showed).

And then Mr. Gates, in — I think I referred you to 236, on page 3, Mr. Gates talks about the August. 2nd meeting and actually has Mr. Manafort walking Mr. Kilimnik through

And Weissmann returns to this, once again making it clear the data sharing happened on August 2.

Both of those refer to [redacted] and also refer to the discussions of the — discussions of [redacted] at the August. 2nd, 2016 meeting.

ABJ also notes there is some kind of ex parte information that she has seen that the government can’t share with the defense.

THE COURT: I need to ask the Office of Special Counsel about something ex parte because — and so I apologize for that, but I need to do that. And it may be after I talk to them, they tell me there’s no problem with sharing it with you.

This information seems to give ABJ further confidence that the government is telling the truth here.

The NYT Continues to Tell Paul Manafort’s Lies

So to repeat: both ABJ and Andrew Weissmann make it clear that on the morning of August 2, 2016, Manafort told Gates to print out some polling data. Later that day, they clandestinely meet with Konstantin Kilimnik, where they discuss both a “peace” deal in Ukraine — which Manafort admits amounts to sanctions relief — and the polling data. Indeed, Weissmann claims that Gates said Manafort walked this guy, with ties to the same Russian intelligence agency that was still hacking Hillary Clinton, through that very complex and recent polling data.

And the fact that the data was so complex, according to ABJ, is “what makes it significant and unusual.” Indeed, even Manafort’s own lawyer suggests this is not public information, which is one of the things he tries to argue would suggest Manafort wasn’t trying to benefit himself.

When the NYT says this:

The transcript suggests that Mr. Manafort claims that he wanted only public data transferred. But Mr. Weissmann told the judge that the question of whether any American, wittingly or unwittingly, engaged with Russians who were interfering in the election relates to “the core” of the special counsel’s inquiry.

They are not telling their readers that Richard Westling, in an attempt to defend Manafort, made it very clear this was not public data.

And when the NYT suggests that this comment pertains to Manafort’s interactions with Kilimnik generally,

Judge Amy Berman Jackson seemed to agree with prosecutors that whether Mr. Manafort lied about his contacts with Mr. Kilimnik was important, saying at one point, “I am, actually, particularly concerned about this particular alleged false statement.”

They need to acknowledge that the comment comes from a paragraph (on page 103, the section exclusively dedicated to a discussion of the polling data) that focuses on the defense effort to discredit Gates’ polling data testimony by claiming they hadn’t gotten his 302s from January 2018.

THE COURT: All right. So, whether we need to have a hearing on that because I am, actually, particularly concerned about this particular alleged false statement. But I also think we need to think about what the purposes I’m being asked to find whether or not this is, what the burdens are, etcetera. So, you’re entitled to think about it, although I don’t think this has come as a surprise, that this was the issue, since this was the only evidence they pointed to as the fact that this fact was false, was Mr. Gates’s 302s and the e-mail.

Manafort doesn’t want this public because he knows it’ll kill his chance for a pardon

Here’s why I just wasted so much time trying to teach the NYT to read (aside from the fact that the NYT probably “corrected” a story that was initially correct, that this data got shared with Oleg Deripaska, which is made more obvious once you stop telling the lie that the data got shared in the spring).

This is an area where Weissmann specifically suggests Manafort was lying last fall to sustain his chance for a pardon.

the other motive that Mr. Manafort could have, which is to at least augment his chances for a pardon.

Paul Manafort doesn’t want the public to know he gave highly detailed polling data to a GRU-tied Russian, Konstantin Kilimnik, at a clandestine meeting he may have flown home from on Oleg Deripaska’s plane. He doesn’t want the public to know that because it’ll kill his chance for a pardon.

And for some unfathomable reason, the NYT doesn’t appear to want the public to know that, either.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 


Quid Pro Quo Redux, Part One: The Trump Tower Dangle

Last May, I wrote a series using the questions (as imagined by Jay Sekulow) Mueller had posed to Trump to lay out what theory of investigation Mueller might be pursuing — and what details we know about it. We’ve learned a lot more about the investigation and confirmed that the investigation focusing on Trump personally includes both a criminal and a counterintelligence component. I wanted to update the series. Because we know so much more about both sides of this quid pro quo, the organization of the series will be somewhat different.

November 9, 2013: During a 2013 Trip To Russia, What Communication and Relationships Did You Have with the Agalarovs and Russian Government Officials?

On November 9, 2013, Aras Agalorov helped Trump put on Miss Universe in Moscow; Trump Tower meeting attendees Rob Goldstone and Ike Kaveladze were both involved, as were Don Jr, Michael Cohen, and Keith Schiller. If the pee tape — or any kompromat involving “golden showers,” as Jim Comey claims Trump called it — exists, it was made on November 8, 2013.

The prior trip set up the 2016 quid pro quo in several ways. First, it deepened Trump’s desire for a Moscow Trump Tower — an effort the Agalrovs and Trumps pursued for years after the meeting. It established Trump’s enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin — though Putin reportedly disappointed Trump’s desire for a meeting on that prior occasion. It also introduced Trump to a bunch of other oligarchs.

Just after Trump kicked off his presidential bid, Emin invited Trump to his father’s birthday party in Moscow on November 8 (PDF 17), the first of a series of outreaches during Trump’s campaign which would continue through the election. The Agalarovs would remain the key handlers of the Trump family until shortly after the election, when first Sergei Kislyak, then Putin himself, would take over interacting with Trump and his family.

September 25, 2015 to November 2016: What Communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater, and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign

By September 25, 2015, Felix Sater and Michael Cohen already had a Moscow design study completed for a Trump Tower in Moscow. Days later, Andrey Rozov was promising to build Donald Trump the tallest tower in Europe. In October 2015, Felix Sater (whose actions in brokering this deal seemed designed to ensure that Trump’s willingness to work with Russian military intelligence and sanctioned banks would leave a digital paper trail) started pitching the centrality of Putin to the deal. On October 28, at a time when his presidential bid was meeting unexpected success, Trump signed a Letter of Intent on a deal that stood to make him a fantastic sum of $300 million.

In the days after getting the signed letter of intent and in response to Trump publicly complimenting Putin at a press conference, Sater bizarrely tied the deal to getting Trump elected. He claimed to believe that if Putin complimented Trump’s deal-making prowess at a press conference tied to a then hypothetical Trump trip to Moscow, it would help Trump’s election chances.

Michael my next steps are very sensitive with Putins very very close people, we can pull this off. Michael lets go. 2 boys from Brooklyn getting a USA president elected.

Sater first tried to get commitments for both Cohen and Trump to travel to Moscow (with the documents to prove it) in December 2015. While Cohen was willing to share his passport, he held off on Trump’s. Perhaps as a result of Cohen’s increasing impatience with Sater’s swapping out a lightly sanctioned bank for a more compromising one, Cohen said he wanted to take more control. That led to him to reach out to Dmitry Peskov directly (who had been involved in Trump’s efforts to meet Putin in 2013), which in turn led him to have a 20 minute call with Peskov’s personal assistant on January 21, 2016. Over the course of that conversation, she would have taken notes recording Cohen committing to Trump’s willingness to work through a former GRU officer and with sanctioned banks to get his $300 million deal. By the next day, Putin’s office had that in hand, the first of many receipts he would obtain on Trump, making him susceptible to compromise regardless of what happened.

Cohen smartly shifted negotiations to the encrypted communication app Dust for a time. But when Sater renewed discussions about a trip to Russia to make this happen in May 2016, he did so on texts that would be accessible to law enforcement. And Cohen made it clear Trump had to seal the nomination before he would risk making his coziness with Putin public, making it crystal clear that the election and the Trump Tower deal remained linked in his brain.

Both Trump and Don Jr were thoroughly briefed on these negotiations. That means when Don Jr accepted a meeting offering dirt on Hillary as part of Russia’s support for Trump, he would have known that a $300 million real estate deal might depend on taking the meeting. Don Jr took the June 9, 2016 meeting and — per four sworn witnesses’ statements — agreed to revisit Magnitsky sanctions if his father won.

At almost exactly the moment that meeting broke up, Felix Sater texted Cohen to take the next step on a deal, a trip for him to St. Petersburg, potentially to meet with Putin personally. Oleg Deripaska and Sergei Millian (the latter of whom Cohen had also worked with in the past) would also have been at the event.

In the days after the Trump Tower meeting, Sater and Cohen were scrambling to put together the trip to St. Petersburg at the last minute. But they looked like they would pull it off, only to have the WaPo report, on June 14, 2016, that Russia hacked the DNC postpone the plans for the trip.

That said, Cohen only said, “he would not be traveling at that time.” The news that Russia hacked Trump’s opponent didn’t kill the deal. It just made it more difficult.

On July 22, 2016 — the day that WikiLeaks released the DNC emails — George Papadopoulos (possibly with the coaching of Ivan Timofeev) and Sergei Millian seem to have picked up keeping discussions of a deal alive from Cohen and Sater.

According to the President’s current teevee lawyer, Trump answered Mueller’s questions on this topic to allow for the possibility that the Russian deal remained active through November. He’s just not committing to any story about how long the deal remained (or remains) active.

One thing to remember about this Trump Tower deal. The deal was too good to be true (and to some degree that’s the point!). But it fed all of Trump’s character weaknesses. The promise of having the tallest tower in Europe would feed Trump’s narcissism. The fairly ridiculous claim Trump Organization stood to make $300 million off of it would have been irresistible to the highly indebted family.

And in exchange for that, Trump showed repeated and sustained willingness to deal with GRU-tied individuals and sanctioned banks. And at the June 9 meeting, his spawn made it clear he’d trade policy considerations to get the deal.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

RESOURCES

These are some of the most useful resources in mapping these events.

Mueller questions as imagined by Jay Sekulow

CNN’s timeline of investigative events

Majority HPSCI Report

Minority HPSCI Report

Trump Twitter Archive

Jim Comey March 20, 2017 HPSCI testimony

Comey May 3, 2017 SJC testimony

Jim Comey June 8, 2017 SSCI testimony

Jim Comey written statement, June 8, 2017

Jim Comey memos

Sally Yates and James Clapper Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, May 8, 2017

NPR Timeline on Trump’s ties to Aras Agalarov

George Papadopoulos complaint

George Papadopoulos statement of the offense

Mike Flynn 302

Mike Flynn statement of the offense

Mike Flynn cooperation addendum

Peter Strzok 302 (describing Flynn’s interview)

Michael Cohen statement of the offense

Internet Research Agency indictment

GRU indictment

Senate Judiciary Committee materials on June 9 meeting

BuzzFeed documents on Trump Tower deal

Text of the Don Jr Trump Tower Meeting emails

Jared Kushner’s statement to Congress

Erik Prince HPSCI transcript


What We Know about the “Other” Investigation about which Paul Manafort Lied

In this post, I noted that another investigation that Paul Manafort had been questioned about while he was purportedly cooperating could not be Steve Calk, as I and others had previously assumed. The breach hearing transcript makes it clear that’s not true for several reasons, including the length of the names of the key players, and the fact that this involved “saving the candidate.”

In this post, I’d like to lay out what we do know about that other investigation.

Effectively, Manafort was asked some questions in a proffer session before his plea on September 13, in response to which he offered information that implicated someone with a 7-character name. [These dates are in the government’s January 15 filing at 23.] Then, in a debriefing on October 5, he changed his story to make it less incriminating — and to match the story the subject of the investigation was telling to the FBI at the time (last fall). When pressed by his lawyers, Manafort mostly changed his story back to what it had been. But the head fake made Manafort useless as a witness against this person.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson summed up this change this way:

The allegation is that the defendant offered a version of events that downplayed [redacted; “the President’s” or “the Candidate”s might fit] role and/or his knowledge. Specifically, his knowledge of any prior involvement of the [16-17 character redaction] that was inconsistent with and less incriminating of [7 character redaction] than what he had already said during the proffer stage and now consistent with what Mr. [7 character redaction] himself was telling the FBI.

This investigation pertains to events that happened “prior to [Manafort] leaving the campaign (on August 19).” [January 15 filing at 26]

As Andrew Weissman described in the breach hearing, Manafort’s version of the story first came when prosecutors, “were asking questions about an e-mail that Mr. [5 character name] had written about a potential way of saving the candidate. That’s sort of paraphrasing it. And this was a way of explaining, or explaining away that e-mail.” In the Janaury 15 filing, this conversation arises to explain “a series of text messages.” [See 25]

Weissmann describes that the revised story Manafort told was, “quite dramatically different. This is not I forgot something or I need to augment some details of a basic core set of facts.” Manafort’s original story involved Mr. [7 character redaction] providing information about a [redacted] who was doing something. Manafort appears to have made a representation about what Mr. [7 character name] believed about that (likely important to proving intent).

But in the second session, Manafort appears to have shifted the blame, implicating Mr. [5 character name] whom, “Mr. Manafort had previously said, I did not want to be involved in this at all,” but leaving out what Mr. [7 character name] had said. Manafort’s testimony effectively left out that when Mr. [5 character name] had called previously, Manafort had said, “I’m on it, don’t get involved.” It appears that Weissmann surmised that Manafort changed the story because his version would make it central to the question of criminality [this might be a reference to being related to the Mueller investigation], so he revised it in an attempt to avoid providing anything that might be helpful to implicating Mr. [7 character name].

Weissmann argues that the lie is important because it effectively made Manafort useless as a witness.

I don’t think adversely impact is the standard, but when — assuming that the Court were to find there is a lie, that is the adverse impact in terms of the utility that can be made of the cooperating witness.

While ABJ doesn’t seem to think it one of Manafort’s most egregious lies, she does recognize that it meets the materiality standard of a false statements charge.

Weissmann: I do think if the Court was trying to address also the issue of whether it hits all the elements of a false statement in terms of is it material to an investigation, I mean, what we’ve tried to do with each of these is put in enough context to show the materiality here, the whole —

THE COURT: I understand the materiality in this circumstance.

When Richard Westling tries to dismiss all this as just Manafort getting off to a bad start one day, ABJ corrects him and makes it clear he has substituted one fact for another.

THE COURT: I do think, to quibble with maybe the first thing you said, where you said he started at the level of generality and didn’t add the same amount of detail he added the first time, but then he was happy to add the details, that’s very different than telling a different detail than the detail you provided the first time. I don’t think that’s quite a — it was a very generous characterization.

The investigation is in another district.  The initial government 12/7 filing says that explicitly at 8. The breach filing at 112 says they had the other investigative team “come here.”

This could be the hush payments (investigated in SDNY), but Michael Cohen — if he’s the 5-character name redacted — never said he didn’t want to be involved in those.

It could also involve Manafort’s burgeoning FARA scandal: Vin Weber or Greg Craig could be the 5-character name, and Tony Podesta could be the 7-character name (though I doubt Manafort would perjure himself at this point to save Podesta, particularly at the detriment of Weber). The timing would work perfectly, as would the timing of the subject of this investigation talking to the FBI last fall. But it’s not clear that that burgeoning investigation ever really required “saving the candidate,” as the 5-character person seems to have deemed the issue.

Given the timing, it might involve the PsyGroup offer, but with Jared Kushner rather than Don Jr playing the starring role. That would mean that offer of foreign assistance investigation would have been moved to another district, possibly SDNY like the rest of things. Rick Gates was in the loop on that, but they wouldn’t have redacted his name if he were the 5-character named person involved.

Update: This morning, The New Yorker published this on PsyGroup’s efforts to win business in the 2016 election, with a description of the FBI’s investigation of them. It describes Joel Zamel pitching Jared Kushner, as well as the known outreach to Rick Gates and Don Jr.

During the 2016 Presidential race, the company pitched members of Donald Trump’s campaign team on its ability to influence the results. Psy-Group’s owner, Joel Zamel, even asked Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, to offer Zamel’s services to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

[snip]

In early May, 2016, Zamel sent an e-mail to Gingrich, saying that he could provide the Trump campaign with powerful tools that would use social media to advance Trump’s chances. Zamel suggested a meeting in Washington to discuss the matter further. Gingrich forwarded the e-mail to Jared Kushner and asked if the campaign would be interested. Kushner checked with others on the campaign, including Brad Parscale, who ran Web operations. According to a person familiar with the exchange, Parscale told Kushner that they didn’t need Zamel’s help. (A 2016 campaign official said, “We didn’t use their services.”)

And while someone claimed they didn’t use PsyGroup’s services, Zamel reportedly bragged to George Nader after the election that he had helped get Trump elected.

But, according to the Nader representative, shortly after the election Zamel bragged to Nader that he had conducted a secret campaign that had been influential in Trump’s victory. Zamel agreed to brief Nader on how the operation had worked. During that conversation, Zamel showed Nader several analytical reports, including one that described the role of avatars, bots, fake news, and unattributed Web sites in assisting Trump. Zamel told Nader, “Here’s the work that we did to help get Trump elected,” according to the Nader representative. Nader paid Zamel more than two million dollars, but never received copies of the reports, that person said.

If Don Jr. handed the PsyGroup pitch onto Jared and Manafort, it might mean that the other investigation is one into PsyGroup.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/author/emptywheel/