How David Weiss May Plan to Prove His Case against Hunter Biden

To understand the new indictment against Hunter Biden, consider that the maximum penalty for all nine charges in Los Angeles, covering four years, is eight years less (17 total) than the maximum penalty for the three charges tied to 11 days of conduct in Delaware (25 years).

The charges, and penalties, look like this:

  1. Failure to pay 2016 (1)
  2. Failure to pay 2017 (1)
  3. Failure to file 2017 (1)
  4. Failure to pay 2018 (1)
  5. Failure to file 2018 (1)
  6. Tax evasion 2018 (5)
  7. False return 2018 (3)
  8. False return 2018 (3)
  9. Failure to pay 2019 (1)

The LA indictment isn’t really about four years of conduct. It’s about the tax forms filed — ultimately in 2020 — for one year: 2018, the year of Hunter’s most desperate addiction (and also, as it happens, the year when this investigation began and a year when a bunch of people, including the then-President, his personal attorney, and some Russian spies — started targeting Hunter as a political ploy).

All the other charges are misdemeanor charges that would never be filed — especially not with someone who ultimately did pay the taxes — absent the felony charges tied to 2018.

But I suspect Weiss chose to include those charges — including for 2016, a year that not even the disgruntled IRS agents were always sure should be charged — to make the package as a whole sustainable.

The 2018 allegations

The 2018 allegations aren’t controversial (indeed, they are the ones that Joseph Ziegler has been detailing over and over).

Basically, Weiss is charging Hunter Biden for lying in 2020 to limit the taxes he had to pay on his still-substantial 2018 income that he blew on sex workers and cocaine.

Weiss alleges that when Hunter went over his finances with what happened to be a new tax accountant in 2019 and 2020, he told the accountant that payments to four women — one of whom is the mother of his fourth child, Lunden Roberts — and a bunch of travel expenses and payments to his kids were instead business expenses.

Here are some of the expenses that Weiss’ prosecutors will show — in the middle of a Presidential campaign — that Hunter wrote off as business expenses:

a. Claiming false “Travel, Transportation and Other” deductions including, but not limited to, luxury vehicle rentals, house rentals for his then-girlfriend, hotel expenses, and New York City apartment rent for his daughter;

b. Claiming false “Office and Miscellaneous” deductions, including, but not limited to, the purchase of luxury clothing, payments to escorts and dancers, and payments for his daughter’s college advising services;

c. Claiming false “Legal Professional and Consulting” deductions, including, but not limited to, payment of his daughter’s law school tuition and his personal life insurance policy;

d. Claiming false deductions for payments from Owasco, PC’s account to pay off the business line of credit, specifically by allocating 80 percent to “Travel Transportation and Other” and 20 percent to “Meals,” when in truth and in fact most of the business line of credit expenses were personal, including to a website providing pornographic content, payments at a strip club, and additional rent payments for his daughter; and

e. Claiming false deductions for payments from Owasco, PC’s account to JP Morgan Chase, specifically that these were for “consulting,” when in truth and in fact, these transfers included payments to various women who were either romantically involved with or otherwise performing personal services for the Defendant, including a $10,000 payment for his membership in a sex club.

To prove that Hunter deliberately lied on his 2018 tax returns, Weiss will have to prove that in a series of meetings with his accountant in 2020, Hunter affirmatively chose not to highlight certain expenses as personal expenses — including that $10,000 payment for membership in a sex club.

117. On January 28, 2020, the Defendant met with the CA Accountants in person at their office for more than three hours. During this meeting the Defendant reviewed the General Ledger and various schedules for Owasco, PC including a purported “Office Expense” schedule and a purported “Professional and Outside Service” schedule to confirm their accuracy.


120. While he reviewed the schedules for “Office Expenses” and “Professional and Outside Services,” the Defendant affirmatively identified, with a yellow highlighter, personal expenses that should not be deducted as business expenses.

121. While the Defendant identified personal expenses on the “Office Expense” Schedule, including ones as small as a $15 payment to a tattoo parlor and a $35.56 payment to a bookstore, he did not identify the following personal expenses:

a. A $1,500 Venmo payment on August 14, 2018. That payment was to an exotic dancer, at a strip club. The Defendant described the payment in the Venmo transaction as for “artwork.” The exotic dancer had not sold him any artwork.

Weiss will have to prove that Hunter reviewed those expenses, remembered what they were, and nevertheless did not highlight them as personal expenses.

Weiss will be helped (as he will in the Delaware case), enormously, by Hunter’s decision to write all this up.

And the Defendant specifically described his stays in various luxury hotels in California and private rentals, and expenses related to them, in this way:

I stayed in one place until I tired of it, or until it tired of me, and then moved on, my merry band of crooks, creeps, and outcasts soon to follow. Availability drove some of the moves; impulsiveness drove others. A sample itinerary: I left the Chateau [Marmont] the first time for an Airbnb in Malibu. When I couldn’t reserve it for longer than a week, I returned to West Hollywood and the Jeremy hotel. There were then stays at the Sunset Tower, Sixty Beverly Hills, and the Hollywood Roosevelt. Then another Airbnb in Malibu and an Airbnb in the Hollywood Hills. Then back to the Chateau. Then the NoMad downtown, the Standard on Sunset. A return to the Sixty, a return to Malibu . . . An ant trail of dealers and their sidekicks rolled in and out, day and night. They pulled up in late-series Mercedes-Benzes, decked out in oversized Raiders or Lakers jerseys and flashing fake Rolexes. Their stripper girlfriends invited their girlfriends, who invited their boyfriends. They’d drink up the entire minibar, call room service for filet mignon and a bottle of Dom Pérignon. One of the women even ordered an additional filet for her purse-sized dog.

Notably, the Defendant did not write that he conducted any business in any of these luxury hotels nor did he describe any of the individuals who visited him there as doing so for any business purpose.

But Weiss will also have to prosecute this case in a way that is consistent with his prior decision to offer Hunter a plea agreement, which doesn’t also substantiate the disgruntled IRS agents’ claims of bias. Weiss has to be prepared to a tell a story that is consistent with his prior decision to offer a plea agreement here.

The challenges

To understand that tension, it helps to think about why Weiss may not have charged Hunter with felonies in the first place.

There’s no reason to believe it was bias. Indeed, the media and dick pic sniffing tour created by Ziegler and Jim Jordan have revealed that DOJ Tax attorneys weren’t entirely thrilled with the charges. And there’s good reason to believe that career prosecutors in Los Angeles advised US Attorney Martin Estrada it was a weak case; since Jordan insisted on Estrada providing testimony to HJC, Hunter might even succeed at obtaining the three memos that prosecutors provided to Estrada in advance of his decision not to join the case.

Career attorneys didn’t think it would be a sure thing to prosecute this case.

There are at least five things that make it hard.

First, as noted, Hunter was working with a new accountant starting in 2019. His prior accountant died in June 2019, within weeks of Hunter getting sober, and he didn’t get a new accountant for five months.

The Defendant used the services of D.C. Accountant from January 1, 2017, until D.C. Accountant’s death in or about June 2019. In November 2019, the Defendant engaged the services of an accounting firm in Los Angeles, California (hereafter the “CA Accountants”).

To make that process more difficult, Hunter didn’t have solid records for 2018, and so his accountants had to reconstruct things from bank and credit card receipts.

While D.C. Accountant had already created financial and accounting records in connection with the 2017 tax returns, no similar records existed for 2018. Therefore, the CA Accountants used available bank and credit card statements to create various schedules, including schedules for different categories of expenses, and a general ledger for Owasco, PC.

The indictment makes much of the fact that Hunter didn’t share the book with the accountants, but that’s not a crime (or that unusual).

Then, most obviously, there’s the addiction. Weiss will have to prove that when Hunter did not exclude personal expenses as personal expenses, he had an affirmative knowledge of what particular expenses were. In some ways, Hunter’s book helps him here — in it, he describes that everything was a blur.

Plus, everyone involved believed that a jury would be sympathetic to a recovering junkie who fucked up his taxes in the first full year he was sober. While prosecutors are likely to be able to exclude some of the evidence that this entire investigation was a political hit job, Hunter’s attorneys will surely be able to play to the sympathies of Democratic jurors for Hunter’s father.

And whereas in some venues, the sheer extravagance of Hunter’s expenses — the decision to blow $1,727 in April 2018 on a Lamborghini until his Porsche was shipped out — might turn off jurors, this is LA. At least some jurors might not find such extravagances offensive in the way that they would in other areas.

You only need one.

And all that’s before you consider the general difficulties of this case. Ziegler testified that when he opened this case, he had nothing but payments to sex workers and public divorce complaints. What he used to get beyond that was a claim that Hunter deliberately hid his Burisma income in 2014 — a claim not backed by this indictment (which says that the money instead went into the joint business Hunter had with Devon Archer). Ziegler’s supervisor documented improper political influence at least from the then-President, and likely others. As I have described, it’s not clear whether Delaware ratcheted up this investigation before Ukrainians pitched what was a likely influence operation. And for the entirety of 2019, Trump partisans — including one who accepted something that might be an envelope from the then-President — kept attempting to tamper in this investigation. One thing Abbe Lowell has been assiduously doing is documenting the people who may have committed crimes in an effort to ensure his client would be prosecuted — people like Tony Bobulinski and Rudy Giuliani. Even ignoring the October 2022 leak to the WaPo (which I don’t think can directly be attributed to Shapley or Ziegler), Lowell does have a real claim that Zielger and Gary Shapley shared grand jury information in an effort to force Weiss to charge this. As Lowell described in his subpoena request, if he can prove that Trump spoke to anyone in the IRS about this case, Trump, too, would be among those who committed a crime, 26 USC 7217, in an effort to see his client charged.

Lowell has a real case that DOJ chose to ignore the crimes of up to seven people, including Donald Trump, to pursue this prosecution against his client.

Some of the witnesses against Hunter will be his old business partners — though those same people will attest to how debilitating his addiction was. A critical witness will be James Biden, the President’s brother. Others, however, will be people who can easily be impeached as political partisans or disgruntled ex-wives. At this point, Lowell might even be able to call Ziegler to discredit the case Ziegler built.

All those difficulties explain why David Weiss might have decided in May 2023 that it would be a just resolution to get Hunter to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges covering just 2017 and 2018, along with a diversion agreement for the gun charge.

The reneged plea deal

David Weiss reportedly decided in May 2023 that it would be a just resolution to plead this out. By June 20, though, when he surprised Chris Clark by stating the investigation was ongoing, he may have changed his mind.

Particularly given the six misdemeanor charges for which no one else would be charged and the like comparators of Roger Stone, this indictment will face the same challenges that the Delaware one will: selective prosecution at least for those misdemeanor charges and vindictive prosecution for the decision to charge an indictment holding a 17-year criminal exposure months after claiming to offer a misdemeanor plea. As I’ve described, selective and vindictive prosecution claims are virtually impossible to show, but this case also includes unprecedented aspects that might make this case different.

While malicious prosecution claims are normally just as impossible as selective and vindictive ones, Shapley and Ziegler have given Lowell abundant basis to at least try to make that claim, particularly given that Weiss didn’t allege the criminal wrong doing in 2014 that Shapley and Ziegler have made their white whale.

Finally, there is the claim (possibly to be made as part of a vindictive prosecution claim) that Weiss reneged on a plea deal, by offering a resolution to all charges but then claiming the investigation was ongoing.

Jordan’s efforts help again, here — not just because his efforts do provide a plausible claim of political pressure, but because of the testimony he has demanded.

When describing the threats that he and members of his team started experiencing around the time that — Lowell has claimed — he reneged on a plea deal, David Weiss used the word “intimidate.”

Q Has the outsized attention given to this case resulted in threats and harassment against members of your office?

A Yes. Members of my office, agents assigned to the case, both from the IRS and from the FBI, doxing family members of members of my office. So, yeah, it’s part and parcel of this case.

Q Do you have concerns for the safety of individuals working in your office?

A I really can’t speak to the intention of any actor in this realm. I just know that these — that certain actions have been taken by individuals, doxing, and, you know, threats that have been made, and that gives rise to concern. We’ve got to be able to do our jobs. And, sure, people shouldn’t be intimidated, threatened, or in any way influenced by others who — again, I don’t know what their motives are, but we’re just trying to do a public service here, so —

Q Have you yourself been the subject of any threats or harassment?

A I’ve certainly received messages, calls, emails from folks who have not been completely enamored of my — with my role in this case. [my emphasis]

As Lowell noted in his subpoena request, the former President — who Judge Engoron and Jack Smith’s prosecutors have both shown deliberately incites his followers to generate threats against his adversaries — has made at least four such posts in the period when Weiss was deliberating over what to do.

D. Trump Truth Social posts on June 20, 2023:

  • “Wow! The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere ‘traffic ticket.’ Our system is BROKEN!”

D. Trump Truth Social post on July 11, 2023: “Weiss is a COWARD, a smaller version of Bill Barr, who never had the courage to do what everyone knows should have been done. He gave out a traffic ticket instead of a death sentence. Because of the two Democrat Senators in Delaware, they got to choose and/or approve him. Maybe the judge presiding will have the courage and intellect to break up this cesspool of crime. The collusion and corruption is beyond description. TWO TIERS OF JUSTICE!”

David Weiss wasn’t going to charge Hunter with a felony on the tax charges. Then Donald Trump got involved, and Weiss and his team started getting intimidating messages, and he decided he would.

That’s a pretty compelling — and unprecedented — due process claim.

Hunter’s former attorneys

One way Weiss tries to prove his case otherwise is his inclusion of 2019 — one of the misdemeanor charges — in the indictment.

After he got sober, the indictment alleges, Hunter still didn’t pay his taxes.

As the charge tied to 2019 describes, Hunter filed taxes in October 2020, but didn’t pay them off, presumably until 2021, when Kevin Morris paid off his remaining tax debt.

D. The Defendant owed taxes for 2019, which he chose not to pay.

156. The Defendant filed a 2019 From 1040 on October 15, 2020, and self-reported that he earned total gross income of $1,045,850 and taxable income of $843,577 and self-assessed that he owed $197,372 for the 2019 tax year.

157. The Defendant did not pay any of his outstanding tax debt when he filed his return.

E. The Defendant had the funds available to pay his taxes.

158. In 2020, prior to when the Defendant filed the 2019 Form 1040, the Defendant’s agent received multiple payments from the publisher of his memoir and then transferred the following amounts to the Defendant’s wife’s account in the amounts and on the dates that follow:

a. $93,750 on January 21, 2020; and

b. $46,875 on May 26, 2020.

F. Rather than pay his taxes, the Defendant spent millions of dollars on an extravagant lifestyle.

159. From January through October 15, 2020, the Defendant spent more than $600,000 on personal expenses rather than pay any of the $197,372 he owed for tax year 2019.

This is, in my opinion, a necessary but also the weakest part of the indictment. The table Weiss includes showing where Hunter blew his money shows his expenses dropped already in 2019 (during just half of which year he was sober), and it doesn’t include 2020 at all.

Instead, Weiss includes this paragraph, showing that Kevin Morris paid for Hunter’s rent and his car, which happened to be a Porsche.

17. From January through October 15, 2020, an entertainment lawyer (hereafter “Personal Friend”) provided the Defendant with substantial financial support including approximately $200,000 to rent a lavish house on a canal in Venice, California; $11,000 in payments for his Porsche; and other individual items. In total, the Defendant had Personal Friend pay over $1.2 million to third parties for the Defendant’s benefit from January through October 15, 2020.


Notably, in 2020, well after he had regained his sobriety, and when he finally filed his outstanding 2016, 2017, and 2018 Forms 1040, the Defendant did not direct any payments toward his tax liabilities for each of those years. At the same time, the Defendant spent large sums to maintain his lifestyle from January through October 15, 2020. In that period, he received financial support from Personal Friend totaling approximately $1.2 million. The financial support included hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments for, among other things, housing, media relations, accountants, lawyers, and his Porsche. For example, the Defendant spent $17,500 each month, totaling approximately $200,000 from January through October 15, 2020, on a lavish house on a canal in Venice Beach, California.

Much of those third party expenditures, I imagine, went to Hunter’s ex wife and to child support for his fourth child. Particularly given that Morris did pay off the taxes, this is a complaint that that happened in 2021 and not 2020.

So a great deal of Weiss’ case depends on convincing jurors that that $17,500 lavish house on the canal is corrupt. Why didn’t the President’s son sell the Porsche and buy a Honda, prosecutors will ask, so he could at least start paying off his taxes due?

Undoubtedly, Weiss is banking on such claims being politically impossible during a Presidential election. To take this to trial, Hunter Biden has to be willing to let a paparazzi press spend valuable campaign reporting time on how a person can spend $383,548 on sex workers and $100,330 on adult entertainment in one year, 2018. It risks making the 2024 campaign precisely what Rudy Giuliani intended the 2020 one to be.

But there’s one other thing that, I think, Weiss plans to use to ensure he can bring this case.

Thus far, the indictment only alleges that Hunter lied to the accountant who did his 2018 taxes. But depending on what Lowell does over the weekend, it may make it easier for Weiss to claim that Hunter lied, in 2022, to his attorneys.

In June 2022, one of Hunter’s attorneys wrote Mark Daly — a DOJ tax prosecutor — and described that if he were to testify, Hunter would claim to have engaged in five different kinds of business in 2018. Two of those paragraphs are redacted in the version Joseph Ziegler released. Ziegler has suggested that one includes a woman with whom he was sleeping (who is undoubtedly one of the four women described as have been on Owasco’s payroll in 2018). Another includes a guy who may have been his dealer.

The third unredacted paragraph describes residual meetings involving Hudson West — meetings in which his uncle James Biden was involved.

Throughout the beginning of 2018, Mr. Biden recalls working extensively on ventures related to Hudson West III, including on a potential investment in a project at Monkey Island.  Meetings and interactions related to Hudson West III took place with, among others, James Biden, Jiaqi Bao, Mervyn Yan, and Gongwen (Kevin) Dong, including (via teleconference) in March 2018.  Mr. Biden also evaluated several business ventures with Mr. Schwerin and James Biden throughout 2018.  These efforts involved several in‐person meetings with James Biden, including we understand in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York.  We understand that ventures that were evaluated by Mr. Biden in the context of these meetings included one venture to expand an insurance business into Los Angeles, and another related to development of treatment centers on the west coast for substance abuse programs.

In his September 2022 interview — and, I have no doubt, in the President’s brother’s recent grand jury appearance — James Biden said he wasn’t involved in any business deals with Hunter in 2018.

James B stated that he recalled not being involved with anything beyond 2017. James B stated that he wanted a “soft landing” for RHB.

I think it exceedingly likely that Weiss will threaten to argue (if he hasn’t already gotten crime-fraud excepted testimony), that Hunter lied to his attorneys in 2022 about his ongoing business efforts in 2018. Obtaining a crime-fraud exception (from the Chief Judge in Los Angeles, probably) would have required fewer, if any, approvals as Special Counsel.

Abbe Lowell has been promising for months that he plans to argue that David Weiss reneged on a diversion agreement and plea in the summer — at a time, Weiss has since testified, he and his team were getting “intimidat[ing]” messages. But central to that plan has always been getting Chris Clark to testify about what Weiss and Lesley Wolf promised in May 2023.

Weiss may have already gotten testimony from Hunter’s former lawyers. Or, Weiss may imagine that the attorney-client waiver required to get Clark’s testimony about how he reneged on the plea deal will make it easier — if not provide a venue — to ask Clark about what Hunter said that led Clark to offer that proffer last summer.

But Lowell’s vindictive prosecution claim is due on Monday. Weiss indicted this case on the last grand jury day possible before that vindictive prosecution claim (not to mention any legal action in advance of Hunter’s compelled testimony before Congress on Wednesday).

To rebut a vindictive prosecution claim, David Weiss will need proof about what changed. And one thing that may have changed, with the grant of Special Counsel status, is to make it easier to obtain a crime-fraud exception for Hunter’s former attorneys.

John Paul Mac Isaac’s Undisclosed Home Movie

If John Paul Mac Isaac, the legally blind computer repairman who claims Hunter Biden abandoned a laptop at his repair shop, had had his way — at least as he tells the story in his book — he would have obtained video of a single FBI agent sitting on the white couch in his living room, accepting printed copies of certain documents that, JPMI would have narrated for the camera, showed Mykola Zlochevsky in direct contact with senior people in the Obama Administration and implicated Ihor Kolomoyskyi in some vague way.

I printed out a few emails mentioning Ihor Kolomoyskyi. He was on the run with the lion’s share of the billions embezzled from the IMF and Ukraine. He would be the most dangerous person involved if he had an axe to grind. I also included emails from Mykola Zlochevsky and Vadym Pozharskyi showing their access to high levels of the Obama administration.

According to the timeline in JPMI’s book, that exchange would have taken place on November 19, 2019, just as Democrats prepared impeachment.

According to the timeline memorialized by Gary Shapley, however, that first in-person meeting between FBI agents and JPMI happened on November 7, 2019, before the first public impeachment hearing. The timing matters, somewhat, given that JPMI’s book claims his decision to share the “Hunter Biden” laptop with the FBI was a response to impeachment. Using the FBI timeline, it would have anticipated much of it.

More importantly, the discrepancy raises questions about why JPMI would focus on the emails he claims to have.

For example, there are only a few email threads mentioning Kolomoyskyi in the public set of emails from the drive. One is a thread from former Bush official Frank Mermoud passing on a piece about parliamentary maneuverings in Ukraine that mentioned Kolomoyskyi alongside Paul Manafort’s backer, Rinat Akhmetov. Another includes a discussion about how to respond to questions from reporter James Risen, to which Vadym Pozharskyi was adamant that, “The role of Igor Kolomoyskyi is often misunderstood. He has never been involved with Burisma and certainly is not today.” Risen wrote about the resulting story the day the whistleblower transcript was released in September 2019. Hunter Biden was included on both threads, but did not comment. Hunter received a third email via BCC: a link to a New Yorker story about efforts to reform Ukraine after Maidan.

Those are the kind of emails that JPMI would have handed to the FBI on camera, as if they were a smoking gun.

I’m not aware there are any threads from Zlochevsky. There are, of course, a ton about him involving Pozharskyi. And Pozharskyi’s the one who came closest to having any contacts directly with Obama officials, including Hunter’s father. But three years after NYPost published what has been deemed one of the most damning emails, in which Pozharskyi thanked Hunter for, “inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father,” the best explanation for the “meeting” is that the Burisma executive attended a World Food Program dinner to which then-Vice President Biden stopped in, ostensibly to visit another attendee. The discussion, per Devon Archer, was about food security, not gas deals.

Nevertheless, JPMI describes that he told the FBI that the emails he had printed out showed Kolomoyskyi, along with Zlochevsky, using Hunter and his business partner to protect their stolen billions.

“This is information about Ihor Kolomoyskyi and Mykola Zlochevsky, and their involvement in using Hunter and Devon to protect the billions they embezzled from the IMF. I am afraid they would silence me for what I know,” I explained, sliding the paperwork across the table toward the two agents.

In other words, had JPMI’s set-up worked, the video showing the handoff would have been far more scandalous than the emails themselves have proven to be, particularly if it had come out just as Democrats moved to impeach Trump for demanding dirt on Hunter Biden. And it would have focused far more closely on Kolomoyskyi than the laptop contents justified.

It would have done what Republicans, to this day, demand should have happened: public notice that the “laptop was real.” It still doesn’t matter what is on that damn thing: it’s a shiny object, just like John Podesta’s risotto recipe, and Republicans know that’s all their followers need.

This was JPMI’s self-described plan for sharing the laptop with the FBI: It wasn’t so much that he wanted to hand off the laptop. He wanted to create a video of the FBI accepting paper copies that he claimed were something they weren’t.

As JPMI describes it, his plans to create such a video failed because, first of all, FBI agents always travel in twos, in part to ensure there are always two witnesses to conversations like this. One of the two agents coming to interview JPMI noticed and pointed to the camera the computer repairman had just installed in advance of the interview, so both agents chose to sit in a smaller loveseat, leaving JPMI facing his own camera.

I shut the door behind them and then closed the second, interior door. I saw Agent DeMeo point to the camera on the shelf, and the two sat down on the loveseat.

“Not a great start,” I thought, sitting on the couch facing the camera.

To my knowledge, such video has never been publicly released, perhaps because the agents also declined to take the documents with them when they left. But JPMI’s claim to have taken video, while it may explain the clarity with which he remembers telling the FBI he had documents implicating Hunter Biden in helping Kolomoyskyi, “protect the billions [he] embezzled from the IMF,” raises still more questions about the discrepancy between his timeline and FBI’s.

I reviewed JPMI’s description of his attempt to film the FBI agents as they picked up emails that don’t say what JPMI claimed they did, along with the discrepancies between JPMI’s claimed timeline and FBI’s, after I revisited how Rudy’s alleged efforts to extort legal relief for dirt transpired. That piece showed that Rudy’s efforts to find dirt — in 2019, ostensibly a year before JPMI first contacted him — parallel the JPMI timeline in interesting ways.

Rudy’s public, failed attempt to obtain dirt from Kolomoyskyi makes JPMI’s inexplicable treatment of the one-time Volodymyr Zelenskyy funder, to whose corruption JPMI dedicates a 3-page description elsewhere in his book, more interesting. Kolomoyskyi’s role in events leading up to impeachment is real. Lev Parnas has receipts from his trip to Israel in a failed bid to extort dirt from Kolomoyskyi, after which Rudy called out Kolomoyskyi publicly.

But there’s no reason for Kolomoyskyi to be in JPMI’s book, especially given JPMI’s admission, when trying to disclaim responsibility for the money laundering case number that appeared on the subpoena, that Hunter had no role in Kolomoyskyi’s corruption.

Agent DeMeo was based in Baltimore, but he’d never said anything about money laundering. The only discussion about anything remotely close to money laundering revolved around Ihor Kolomoyskyi and his Delaware assets. I remember discussing that, but it hadn’t involved Hunter Biden.

Whatever emails he printed out would have done little to substantiate the specific corruption claims he, by his own telling, made to the FBI. But JPMI claims that he tried to put them in his video as a prop anyway.

The first time I examined discrepancies between JPMI’s story and the one memorialized by Shapley, I had noted how a shift in JPMI’s timeline served to support his explanation that he shared the laptop with the FBI in response to impeachment. He described packaging up specific emails from the laptop to excuse Trump’s call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy (JPMI dates his own trolling of the laptop to this WaPo article, just days before the perfect phone call).

And of course I included the smoking gun, the one that could put an immediate end to this bogus impeachment: the initial email outlining Devon and Hunter’s plan to use Vice President Biden as the centerpiece of their plan to tap into the billions Burisma had to offer. The shady business dealings I had witnessed on the laptop, in my opinion, justified President Trump’s phone call with Zelenskyy.

But as I’ve focused more closely since, a more interesting discrepancy is that JPMI claims his father first reached out to the FBI on October 9 — around seven hours before Lev Parnas was arrested on his way to get a laptop in Vienna — whereas the FBI claims it happened on October 16, a week later. Normally, you’d trust the FBI’s timeline over JPMI’s.

But the blind computer repairman claims to have written Rudy a letter, the night before his father planned to go to the FBI. In the letter, JPMI explained his plan, in case anything bad happened. JPMI describes packaging this up on October 8 and giving it to a friend, Kristin, for safekeeping.

My father called the next morning. His plan was to visit the FBI field office in Albuquerque around 10 a.m. the next day.

From there on out, I would have to be extra careful. After his visit, people beyond those we trusted would know of the laptop’s existence, introducing a whole new element of potential danger. For my safety net, I had to make sure to write Rudy Giuliani an attention-getting letter. I definitely didn’t want to come off as a nutjob or conspiracy junkie. The letter would have to be clear and to the point, explaining my actions leading up to my father’s FBI interaction without revealing his identity. I wanted to focus on my reasons for not trusting the FBI as well as my expectations for what could happen. More important, I wanted to let Giuliani know why, if he were reading the letter, I would need his help. Here’s what I came up with.

Rudolph Giuliani

Giuliani Security and Safety


If you have received this letter, I am in need of your help. Last April 12, Hunter Biden came into my Mac repair shop in Wilmington, Delaware, requesting data recovery from 3 of his laptops. I was able to check in the one working Mac and accomplished a data recovery. He has failed to return to pay or collect the recovered data or his laptop. As the events of the summer unfolded, and after the shop’s 90 day abandonment policy expired, I decided to poke around and look to see if there was anything topical on his drive. I discovered enough information that I no longer felt comfortable being in possession of his data and laptop. I decided that I wanted to turn over everything I have to the FBI or local police, but a major concern was what if compromised FBI or local police intercepted the data and destroyed it, preventing it from ending up in the hands of someone who can use it. I could not risk contacting anyone local so I mailed a copy of the drive out of state to a trusted person who would contact the FBI on Wednesday, October 9, and if trustworthy FBI were contacted, they were instructed to collect the laptop and data from my shop discreetly. If you are reading this letter, it means the compromised FBI has collected the laptop, data and possibly me. I have included a flash drive with some emails and files recovered from his laptop that could be useful in your investigation. If I am in the compromised FBI’s custody, it means that there are still members of the FBI who are working to protect a former Vice-President and silence those who provide proof to his corruption. I need your help, not just to get out of custody, but also to bring to light what has happened. I have included a full copy of the laptop on an external drive. You will need a Mac to access it.

Thank you for your time and help.

John Paul Mac Isaac [my emphasis]

According to this timeline, JPMI asked Kristin if she was willing to hold a copy of the drive sometime between September 24 and October 8. Then he wrote and printed out the letter on October 8, the day before his father would go to the FBI. After 7PM that day, he packaged up the drive, the letter, and “a flash drive consisting of documents summarizing the Bidens’ criminal activity” in a 5″X7″ padded envelope, and walked the package out to Kristin’s house in a residential area of Wilmington.

In August 2020, after JPMI reached out to Rudy and then spoke with Robert Costello, there were (per his book anyway), three versions of the hard drive, on top of what he had given the FBI: A copy he had kept and made a bunch of notes on, a copy in his uncle’s possession, and the copy he had given to Kristen for safe keeping — a copy that should have been in an envelope with a thumb drive with documents saved almost a year before.

That last drive is the one he sent to Robert Costello.

“Let me tell you about the Department of Justice,” Bob said. “When Rudy and I returned from Ukraine last year, we submitted over two hundred subpoena requests to the district attorney, and not a single one has been filed. Do you know what the term ‘slow walking’ means?” I said no.

“It’s when they deliberately drag their asses to delay or even prevent a case from moving forward,” he supplied. “That’s what the DOJ is doing to us, and that is what the FBI is doing to you. How quickly can you get me a copy of the drive?”

“I can drop something in the mail for you tomorrow.”

“Let me call you back in a few minutes,” Bob said. “Will you be around?” I said yes, and we hung up.

That wasn’t so bad! I had their attention, and it felt like I was talking to the right person. At this point I realized I needed a copy of the drive. My copy had all my notes, and because of this I felt it would be considered tampered with. My uncle Ron had the copy that originally had been in my father’s possession. That was too far away.

Then I smiled, remembering that the other copy I’d made back then had ended up with Kristen, and she was to hand-deliver it to Rudy Giuliani if all else failed. It was kind of funny that I could have saved myself nearly a year if I had just gone to him in the first place.

Bob called me back, and we agreed I would FedEx the drive to him the next day.


When we hung up, I dialed Kristen.

She answered quickly. “Is everything OK?” she asked. “What’s wrong?”

“Everything is OK,” I said, then amended that: “I think everything is going to be OK. I hope it’s not too late. I need to come over and grab something.”

August 28, 2020

I dropped the drive off at FedEx the next morning on my walk to work. It was done. The drive was on its way to the lawyer of the president. My work was done; I’d seen it through to the end.

Unless he repackaged it, the flash drive would have been sent along with the hard drive.

That flash drive with a few documents on it is one of the best explanations for the metadata on the documents shared with NYPost a year later. One, of a detailed email Hunter wrote about how Burisma should navigate the likely election of Poroshenko which noted Vice President Biden’s upcoming trip but which also recorded Hunter stating, “they need to know in no uncertain terms that we will not and cannot intervene directly with domestic policy makers, and that we need to abide by FARA and any other US laws in the strictest sense across the board,” has metadata reflecting a creation data on September 28, 2019, right in the period where, JPMI describes, he and his father were developing their plan.

Another document published by NYPost on October 14, 2020, an email in which Vadym Pozharskyi emailed Devon Archer and Hunter asking them to “use your influence to convey a message / signal, etc to stop using what we consider politically motivated actions” to prosecute Burisma (which led to a real effort to intervene on their part, albeit one carried out through paid lobbyists), has metadata showing a creation date of October 10, 2019 — after JPMI says he had already dropped off an envelope that would remain untouched for almost a year.

There are a bunch of other possible explanations for this metadata. But according to JPMI’s book, there would be documents saved to flash drive on or before October 8, then packaged up for a year.

But not after October 10.

True, JPMI accessed a similar set of emails again in the subsequent weeks, in preparation for his staged meeting with the FBI. But he describes those exclusively as printouts.

Ultimately, these are just weeds, inconsistent metadata that could either reflect sloppiness or could be intentional manipulation.

But they provide an interesting background to inconsistencies in the rest of JPMI’s story.

Hunter Biden: Which Came First, the Chick Selling Sex or the Extortion of Campaign Dirt?

Darren Samuelsohn had a hilarious passage in his version of a story contemplating the prospect of Trump using his second term to seek revenge.

To his credit, unlike the NYT and WaPo versions of this story, he acknowledges that Trump already did this. He even manages to address maybe a quarter of the times when Trump did so, though always missing key details. For example, he describes that Trump fired Jim Comey as revenge, which led to the Mueller investigation.

Consider the firing of James Comey, who the president ousted less than four months into his first term following the FBI director’s public testimony that confirmed an active bureau investigation on potential collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. The president’s move there ignited a chain of events leading to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment, which kept Trump’s White House stuck playing defense for a giant chunk of their four-year term and resulted in a costly series of guilty pleaslegal trials and court convictions for Trump associates that gave way to a series of controversial presidential pardons.

Samuelsohn even mentions “controversial” pardons! — if only in passing. But he doesn’t mention Trump’s concerted demand to prosecute Comey as a result, or the IRS investigation of Comey and Andrew McCabe that the IRS claims was just a wild coincidence.

The funny part is where Samuelsohn describes Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to dig up dirt on Joe Biden as something that, like the Comey firing, led to backlash: impeachment.

Another Trump personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, sparked the first House impeachment of the president in the aftermath of his mission to conjure up an investigation of the Biden family in Ukraine.

But then two topics — the Durham investigation and Trump’s revenge against Tom Emmer for voting to certify the 2020 election — and two paragraphs later, Samuelsohn introduces Abbe Lowell’s attempt to subpoena Trump as “another front.”

Or on another front, Hunter Biden’s lawyers earlier this month asked for a federal court’s permission to subpoena Trump, Barr and other senior Trump-era DOJ officials as they argue against “a vindictive or selective prosecution arising from an unrelenting pressure campaign beginning in the last administration, in violation of Mr. Biden’s Fifth Amendment rights under the Constitution.”

This is not “another front”! This is confirmation that the effort attributed here to Rudy continues to this day, is a central factor in the 2024 election to return to the White House.

As I noted, the requested subpoenas specifically ask for communications with, “attorney for President Trump (personal or other),” and the request for communications, “discussing any formal or informal investigation or prosecution of Hunter Biden,” should cover any copy of the Perfect Phone Call to Volodymyr Zelensky that Trump might have in his personal possession.

The subpoena is a request for records showing the tie between Rudy’s efforts and the still ongoing investigation into Hunter Biden, which has since morphed into the rationale for Republicans’ own impeachment stunt.

The tie is not imagined. Among other things, Lowell points to records showing then-PADAG Richard Donoghue scheduling a briefing with David Weiss’s team on October 23, 2020. The briefing transferred the FD-1023 created as a result of Bill Barr’s effort to set up an intake process for the dirt Rudy obtained from Russian agents and others.

In fact, all the details of the investigation that Joseph Ziegler has shared raise questions whether there would ever have been a Hunter Biden grand jury investigation were it not for the dirt Ukrainians — possibly downstream of and ultimately directly tied to Rudy’s efforts to obtain dirt on Hunter Biden — shared with DOJ in 2019.

To be sure, Ziegler claims credit.

In his original testimony to House Ways and Means, Zeigler described that he decided to investigate the former Vice President’s son based off a Suspicious Activity Report tied to a social media site involving sex workers. From there, he read about Hunter’s contentious divorce. And from that he decided to launch a criminal investigation.

I started this investigation in November of 2018 after reviewing bank reports related to another case I was working on a social media company. Those bank reports identified Hunter Biden as paying prostitutes related to a potential prostitution ring.

Also included in those bank reports was evidence that Hunter Biden was living lavishly through his corporate bank account. This is a typical thing that we look for in tax cases — criminal tax cases, I should say.

In addition, there was media reporting related to Hunter Biden’s wife, ex-wife, divorce proceedings basically talking about his tax issues. And I wanted to quote some of the things that were said in her divorce filing which was public record.

“Throughout the parties’ separation, Mr. Biden” — referring to Hunter Biden — “has created financial concerns for the family by spending extravagantly on his own interests, including drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, strip clubs, gifts for women with whom he had sexual relationships with, while leaving the family with no funds to pay legitimate bills.

“The parties’ outstanding debts are shocking and overwhelming. The parties have maxed-out credit card debt, double mortgages on both real properties they own, and a tax debt of at least $300,000.”

This is all the information that I had in my hand in November when I wanted to open this investigation.

His supervisor, Matt Kutz, treated the investigation of the former Vice President’s son as a sensitive matter and demanded more evidence before letting Ziegler open the investigation.

After discussing the case with my previous supervisor at the time, Matt Kutz, he made a decision to look into the case further before sending it — sending the case up for referral.


My manager at the time told me, “No, you cannot do that. That’s a tax disclosure issue.” I didn’t agree with him because there’s been multiple instances where we do that. That’s a normal part of our job. But he was my manager, and I wasn’t going to fight him on it, and he told me that I had to open this up the normal tax administrative way that we would do [for] these cases.


[H]e said a political family like this, you have to have more than just an allegation and evidence related to that allegation. In order for this case to move forward, you basically have to show a significant amount of evidence and similar wrongdoing that would basically illustrate a prosecution report.

So he’s basically telling me that I have to show more than just non-[filed] tax returns and the information from the ex-wife in the divorce proceedings.

During Democrats’ questioning, Ziegler described how persistent were his efforts to find some basis to open an investigation into Hunter Biden.

Mr. [Ziegler]. My initiation packet, so sending the case forward to get — we call it subject case. It’s an SCI. It’s elevating the case to actually working the investigation.

My first one showed the unfiled returns and the taxes owed for 2015 and that was it on my first package. So that was the wrongdoing that we were alleging.

And my supervisor goes: You don’t have enough. You need to find more.

So I kept digging for more and more. And even after that point, he goes: You haven’t found enough.

So I ended up searching bank reports that [I] ran on the periphery of what we were looking at.

So I ran bank reports for Burisma, and in those bank reports I had found additional payments that Hunter had received. And then at that point I had found that Hunter did not report the income for 2014 related to Burisma.

So now I had a false return year. So that alone — it was basically so much evidence that I put in there — allowed us to elevate the case.

It took Ziegler three attempts before he was able to show enough evidence of wrong-doing that Kutz would agree to send the referral to DOJ Tax. That’s what led to the decision — at first, Ziegler attributed the decision to Bill Barr personally, though subsequently retracted that claim — to merge his IRS investigation with one Delaware had opened in January 2019.

So after three of these initiation packages, he finally allowed me to push this forward to DOJ Tax for their review.

So the way that our grand jury cases — or the way — I’m sorry. The way that our cases work is when the case is referred from IRS to DOJ Tax, the case has to go through our ASAC and SAC, and then it goes to DOJ Tax where they review and approve it and send it to the appropriate venue or jurisdiction.

So in [or] around March or April of 2019, the case went up to DOJ Tax.

And at that time we were told that William Barr made the decision to join two investigations together. So at that point in time I had found out that Delaware had opened up an investigation related to the bank reports and that that occurred in January of 2019, so 2 months after I started mine.

So when I found out about their case and was told that we had to merge the two, I did a venue analysis. I showed them that, “Hey, the venue’s in D.C. It’s not in Delaware. We need to work this in D.C.” But, ultimately, I was overruled, and it was determined to send the case, join the two case together, and work everything under Delaware. [my emphasis]

Here and elsewhere, Ziegler (working from memory) obscures details of this timeline: about when he came to learn of the Delaware investigation and when he submitted his finalized package for DOJ Tax.

In an email Ziegler sent in April 2019, though, he memorialized that, “Approx. February 2019 — My SSA advised me about the Delaware USAO looking into Robert Doe subsequent to the [Suspicious Activity Report]” on which Ziegler himself had predicated his investigation. That same email described submitting the package to DOJ Tax on April 12, 2019.

Two weeks later, his supervisor relayed the news that the case would end up in Delaware.

Jason Poole telephoned me and advised after inter‐department discussions well above his level, it is highly likely the Robert Doe case will go to the Delaware USAO for investigation.

So while Ziegler may have decided to pursue the former Vice President’s son based on payments to sex workers and divorce records before Delaware opened an investigation, DOJ Tax had not even considered whether this merited a criminal investigation until April 2019, at which point someone high up — possibly even the Attorney General himself — decided Delaware would oversee the case.

By that point, Delaware had been investigating for up to three months, and Ziegler had known that for two months.

That’s important because, if we can believe Johnathan Buma (I raised some cautions about his claims here), the FBI got a tip about Hunter Biden from two Ukrainians with ties to that country’s Prosecutor General’s Office in January 2019.

In January, 2019, DYNAMO, ROLLIE and THE ECONOMIST were taken to the US Attorney’s Office in downtown Los Angeles, where they presented severd of these schemes to an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA), who was interested in pursuing money laundering cases in violation of the FCPA, which implicated US entities or persons. THE ECONOMIST’s presentation included detailed information concerning several multi-million and multi-billion dollar schemes. The information was based on an extrapolation of open-source information from Ukraine, as well as insight from THE  ECONOMIST’s consulting work in the PGO and ROLLIE’s foundation. One of the described scenarios alleged Hunter Biden (Hunter) had been given a lucrative position on the board of directors of the energy company, Burisma Holdings Limited (Burisma), and was likely involved in  unreported lobbying and/or tax evasion.

This approach from people affiliated with Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office (my earlier post provides descriptions of those ties) came months after Rudy Giuliani first tasked Lev Parnas with finding this dirt in November 2018 and after Trump had gotten personally involved.

Later that month [on December 6], I attended a Hanukkah celebration at the White House where Giuliani and Trump were both present. Trump approached me briefly to say, “Rudy told me good things. Keep up the good work.” Then he gave me a thumbs-up in approval.

By January 2019, Parnas was in communications with both Viktor Shokin and Yuri Lutsenko, both of whom might have had ties to Rollie and the Economist. On January 26, Lutsenko shared a package of information on Burisma that, again, has similarities to what Rollie shared that same month.

According to Buma, sometime after the January 2019 presentation Rollie and The Economist made to the Los Angeles US Attorney’s Office, Buma submitted an FD-1023 about their package and spoke to two FBI case agents located in Baltimore on the already ongoing investigation into Hunter Biden about it.

After receiving the presentation from ROLLIE and THE ECONOMIST, THE ECONOMIST provided me a thumb drive with some supporting documentation, much of which was in the Ukrainian language, which I do not speak. After I submitted my FD-1023 reports on this information, I was put in touch with two agents working out of the Baltimore office on a case based in Delaware involving Hunter. I spoke on the phone with these agents, who were very interested in the information due to its relation to their ongoing investigation that was mostly involving allegations of Hunter’s involvement with drugs and prostitution. Information derived from ROLLIE and THE ECONOMIST had previously been found to be credible, so this was handled carefully and quickly transferred over to the agents in Baltimore and was serialized in their case file.

As Buma described it, by the time this information showed up in the press, it had become clear that Rollie and the Economist shared the information for influence purposes tied to Joe Biden’s run for the presidency, not law enforcement.

[T]he derogatory information concerning the Bidens and Burisma quickly emerged in domestic US. media, suggesting that it was being provided for political influence rather than law-enforcement purposes.

But that didn’t prevent the Ukrainians from being invited, some time after June 26, 2019, to attend an event associated with the White House at which Rollie gave Mike Pompeo the same package of derogatory information on Hunter Biden. And somewhere along the line, Buma’s primary source who introduced them to the Los Angeles US Attorney’s Office had direct contact with Rudy Giuliani.

The precise relationship between Rollie and The Economist and Rudy’s efforts, started month earlier, remains obscure. But both had begun well before Ziegler’s pitch to DOJ Tax to investigate Hunter Biden criminally, and it’s likely that Delaware had the FD-1023 from the Ukrainians before DOJ Tax approved the investigation.

And by that point, in April 2019, Ziegler’s supervisor — the same guy who insisted he needed more than payments to sex workers to open an investigation into a politically sensitive figure — started documenting the demands for just such an investigation.

Around the same time in 2019, I had emails being sent to me and the Hunter — and the prosecutors on the case, the Hunter Biden prosecutors, from my IRS supervisor. So this was Matt Kutz still.

From what I was told by various people in my agency, my IRS supervisor, Matt Kutz, created memos which he put in the investigative files regarding the investigation potentially violating the subject’s Sixth Amendment rights. He also referred to Donald Trump’s tweets at the time.


Q Okay. You’re talking about 2019. You were mentioning the fact that there was a George Murphy that was writing memos or emails and documenting some of his conclusions that were on the other side regarding this case.

Could you tell us more about him? What’s his title and who is he and how does he relate to you in terms of your chain of command?

A So it was actually Matthew Kutz. He was my supervisor at the time and from the articles that he was sending me, I would say he had more of a liberal view than I had and it was pretty obvious from the things he would send me and discuss. And that’s just me making an observation.

So I later found out about these memos that were put in the file regarding the issues that he saw with the investigation, the fact that we even had it opened. So I only learned about those after. And then it came to a point to where he’s sending us so many media articles about different issues that I had to tell him stop, please.

And I had to go around him. And that’s when I went to my ASAC at the time, George Murphy, who was above him.

MAJORITY COUNSEL 2. Off the record.

MAJORITY COUNSEL 1. Off the record. [Discussion off the record.]

MAJORITY COUNSEL 1. On the record.

Mr. [Ziegler]. So these articles were a lot about — were a lot of articles regarding Trump and getting a fair investigation and things related to that, Trump’s tweets and stuff like that. So, that’s what drew me to my conclusion.

BY MINORITY COUNSEL 1: Q What was the purpose behind him sending you the Trump tweets? What was he trying to get at, or was he trying to give you more information for your case? Why would he send those, or do you know?

A Yeah, I think he was bringing up concerns with potentially us prosecuting the case down the road, potential issues we’re going to incur. I don’t remember the exact email that he sent that caused me to be — that he had to stop sending me some of the news articles, because it wasn’t even the fact that he was sending me these news articles. It was the opinion he was providing in those emails that I did not agree or that I did not — not agree with but did not think was appropriate.

Gary Shapley replaced Kutz in 2020 — possibly because Kutz insisted on documenting the demands from the President for Ziegler’s thinly-predicated investigation — around the same time Bill Barr set up a means to ingest Rudy’s dirt.

But in 2019, Kutz was documenting in real time the problem with pursuing the son of Donald Trump’s opponent while Donald Trump demanded such investigations via Tweet.

It’s in the case file.

Trump’s demands for an investigation into Hunter Biden were deemed by the IRS SSA to be problematic influence on the case in 2019. Yet that investigation continues, now bolstered by Special Counsel status, and is the basis for the GOP impeachment pitch.

Samuelsohn’s rag has a reporter, Stephen Neukam, covering the GOP impeachment stunt almost half time (though Neukam apparently hasn’t bothered to cover the Scott Brady testimony that lays out even more details of how Barr set up a means to filter Rudy’s dirt into the Hunter Biden investigation, evidence that — contra Ziegler — Barr was “weigh[ing] in, or seek[ing] updates on the investigation after those cases were joined”). Barr has confirmed, on the record, knowledge of how information was shared from Brady to Weiss.

Yet Samuelsohn describes Rudy’s intervention as something past, something unrelated to the future prospect of Trump ordering up investigations into his rivals.

You cannot understand the GOP impeachment pitch — you cannot claim to be doing journalism on the Republican effort to impeach Hunter Biden’s father — unless you understand the ties between Rudy’s efforts and the Hunter Biden investigation.

You can write all you want about how institutional guardrails might stymie Trump’s efforts to politicize DOJ in the future. But if you gloss over evidence that those guardrails failed in Trump’s past Administration, if you ignore how Trump’s success at politicizing DOJ continues to have repercussions to this day — indeed, continues to be a central issue in the election — then you’re not really addressing the threat Trump poses, past and future.

Update: Fixed date of October 23 briefing.

How Trump Distracted from Results of His Incitement by Recruiting Journalists to Spread More of It

On Wednesday, numerous journalists reported on a filing submitted in support of Judge Arthur Engoron’s limited gag on Donald Trump. It included an affidavit from an officer from NY’s Department of Public Safety describing the threats that Judge Engoron and his chief clerk have suffered as a result of Trump’s targeting of them (this link doesn’t work for me, but should for you; here’s a DC Circuit filing including it).

Specifically, it described how, after Trump posted a picture claiming that Engoron’s chief clerk was “Schumer’s girlfriend” on October 3, Engoron and the clerk got hundreds of threatening voice mails. People started calling the clerk’s personal cell phone 20 to 30 times a day and harassing her on her private email and on social media sites.

According to the affidavit, when Trump attacked, the attacks went up. When he was gagged, the attacks went down.

The affidavit transcribed just seven of the calls targeting Engoron or the clerk, replacing the expletives with asterisks. Those transcripts are shocking and ugly — and make it clear how Trump’s deranged followers are internalizing and then passing on his attacks.

The filing was a concrete example of how Trump’s incitement works. It shows how his own language gets parroted directly onto the voice mails and social media accounts of those he targets.

A number of people shared these threats on social media. It was a vivid demonstration of the effect of Trump’s incitement.

The next day, on Thanksgiving, Trump posted another attack on Truth Social, attacking Tish James, Engoron, the clerk, Joe Biden, and “all of the other Radical Left Lunatics, Communists, Fascists, Marxists, Democrats, & RINOS,” after which he promised to win in 2024.

It was, at its heart, a campaign ad. Trump has repeatedly said in court filings that he is running on a claim that he is being unfairly treated like other American citizens and if he is made President again, he’ll retaliate against all the people who thought to treat him just like everyone else. His promise of retribution is how he plans to win the election.

A bunch of people purporting to engage in journalism or criticism disseminated the attack on Xitter, where it went viral. As of right now, for example, Jonathan Lemire’s dissemination of Trump’s incitement and campaign ad, to a platform riddled with right wing extremists, has 4 million views.

Rather than focusing on family or the Lions losing at football, a number of people were disseminating Trump’s campaign ad, disseminating the campaign ad because he incited violence.

Importantly, these self-imagined journalists and critics disseminated Trump’s attacks in the form he packaged it up, including with the clerk’s name unredacted. They disseminated it in the way most likely to lead to more attacks on the clerk.

There’s a conceit among those who choose to disseminate Trump’s incitement and campaign ads in precisely the way he has chosen to package them up that doing so is the only way to alert Americans to the danger he poses. Brian Klass (whose book on corruption and power is superb) recently suggested that those of us who oppose platforming Trump’s incitement in the spectacular form he releases it are arguing you shouldn’t cover it.

On the political left, there has long been a steady drumbeat of admonishment on social media for those who highlight Trump’s awful rhetoric. Whenever I tweet about Trump’s dangerous language, there’s always the predictable refrain from someone who replies: “Don’t amplify him! You’re just spreading his message.”

The press, to an astonishing extent, has followed that admonishment. I looked at the New York Times for mention of Trump calling to execute shoplifters, or water the forests, or how he thinks an 82 year-old man getting his skull smashed in his own home by a lunatic with a hammer is hilarious. Nothing. I couldn’t find it.

If it was covered, it was buried deep. Scrolling through my New York Times app on Saturday, I saw dozens of political stories before getting to a piece titled “The Pumpkin Spice Latte Will Outlive Us All” and “DogTV is TV for Dogs. Except When It’s For People.” But there was nothing about Trump’s speech.

This approach has backfired. It’s bad for democracy. The “Don’t Amplify Him” argument is disastrous. We need to amplify Trump’s vile rhetoric more, because it will turn persuadable voters off to his cruel message.

Right now, Trump is still popular, still getting his message out. The people most likely to be radicalized by him, or to act on his incitement already hear him loud and clear.

Klass’ Tweet, disseminating Trump’s incitement and campaign ad, has 34K views.

That’s not what we’re arguing. It’s certainly not what I’m arguing.

You always have a choice.

You always have a choice whether to discuss Trump’s danger in the form he chooses — in the form he has carefully perfected to have maximal effect — or to disseminate and discuss it in other forms, at the very least using an “X” or something else to break up the spectacle he has crafted.

The choice particularly mattered yesterday.

Not only was Trump’s incitement a campaign ad. Not only did it name the clerk he is trying to target. But he is also setting up a Supreme Court argument that these threats are not the result of his own incitement, but instead a heckler’s veto trying to frame Trump for violence against his targets. There’s a non-zero chance Trump will cite all the critics who think they’re helping in his bid to get Sammy Alito and Clarence Thomas endorse this incitement as protected campaign speech. Trump is already arguing that courts can’t limit his incitement because so many other people, including critics, disseminate his speech.

But the choice of what form to disseminate Trump’s speech was particularly stark yesterday, as it was equally easy to show the results of Trump’s incitement, those calls to the judge and his clerk, as it was to disseminate the one best designed to incite more threats and reinforce divisions between those who criticize Trump’s speech and those who relish it.

You always have a choice how to disseminate Trump’s incitement.

David Weiss’ FBI FARA Headfake to Create a Hunter Biden Tax Mulligan

Last week, CNN reported that the President’s brother, James Biden, is among some number of people who have received a grand jury subpoena for ongoing investigations into Hunter Biden. The investigative steps are unsurprising. As I noted, David Weiss spoke with Los Angeles US Attorney Martin Estrada on September 19 of this year about something that “goes to an ongoing investigation.”

According to materials released by Joseph Ziegler, the IRS interviewed James Biden on September 29, 2022, the last interview in the investigation before the failed plea deal. He was asked about a range of topics: a payment he received from Owasco before he was working with them, his and Hunter’s interactions with CEFC, Hunter’s relationship with Kevin Morris, and about several dodgy people whom Hunter paid in 2018 — payments he wrote off on his taxes. Prosecutors had discussed at least two of those people with Hunter’s legal team during the summer in 2022.

James Biden’s September 2022 interview was voluntary, suggesting investigators obtained any documents discussed in the interview — all but two of which appear to predate April 2019, and so might be among the non-Google materials that investigators first obtained from the laptop provided by John Paul Mac Isaac — via other means, including the laptop and warrants obtained downstream of the laptop. Again, any Google content is an exception to this; it appears the IRS obtained the first Google warrant for Hunter’s Rosemont Seneca account before getting the laptop, but it also appears that the government did not obtain things normally available in a Google warrant–such as attachments and calendar notices–with that warrant and so instead relied on the laptop.

As CNN describes, thus far the subpoenas seek documents; it’s unclear whether anyone (besides someone from the new IRS team put on the case after Weiss removed Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler) has or will testify in person. There are certainly documents that the IRS didn’t seem to have in last year’s interview with James Biden, such as details of his trips to California in 2018 to try to save his nephew from the throes of addiction.

But it’s also possible Weiss is using subpoenas to obtain records that otherwise would be tainted by the laptop.

When Estrada testified to the House Judiciary Committee about the recommendations about this case his senior prosecutors made in three different reports, recommendations he adopted and conveyed to Weiss in a call on October 19, 2022, he referenced Justice Manual rules. “We look at whether a Federal offense has been committed and whether we believe that there is admissible evidence sufficient to prove to an unbiased trier of fact that an individual has committed an offense beyond a reasonable doubt.” So the quality of evidence obtained in this investigation could be one reason Estrada’s career prosecutors advised him not to partner on this case.

The details about a renewed investigation into Hunter Biden are not surprising — Estrada’s testimony already suggested as much.

More interesting, however, is CNN’s report that the FBI has completed its part of the investigation, pertaining to FARA and money laundering, and expects no charges.

The FBI, which oversaw the money laundering and FARA portions of the investigation, concluded its findings and didn’t anticipate charges to emerge from those allegations, people briefed on the matter told CNN.

That’s important because potential FARA charges are the reason why this case didn’t end in a plea in July — or at least, the excuse David Weiss and his sheep-dipped prosecutor, Leo Wise, referenced to sustain a claim that the investigation was ongoing.

On July 10, in the wake of a Republican uproar about the Hunter Biden plea deal and public comments from Bill Barr about the FD-1023, Weiss told Lindsey Graham that the allegations of bribery Mykola Zlochevsky made, after outreach from Rudy Giuliani and sometime around when Bill Barr’s DOJ dropped their investigation of him, “relate to an ongoing investigation.” That was probably the second clue that Hunter’s legal team got that the investigation they believed had concluded remained (re)open — the first being Weiss’ press release on the charges on June 20. And in the failed July 26 plea hearing, a potential FARA charge is the specific criminal exposure Leo Wise raised which led Hunter to plead not guilty to a deal significantly negotiated by Delaware AUSA Lesley Wolf.

THE COURT: All right. So there are references to foreign companies, for example, in the facts section.

Could the government bring a charge under the Foreign Agents Registration Act?

MR. WISE: Yes.

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

MR. CLARK: Your Honor, the Plea Agreement —

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

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

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

MR. WISE: Then there is no deal.

Leo Wise refused to agree that FARA charges were off the table, even though — if you believe Abbe Lowell’s version of events — Lesley Wolf led Hunter’s team to understand, weeks earlier, that FARA charges were off the table. And based on that, Hunter refused to plead guilty.

That’s what gave David Weiss the opportunity to ask to be made Special Counsel: a claim, made after he had already filed tax and a gun charge on June 20, that he was still pursuing an investigation tied to the FD-1023, which would be bribery and money laundering. That’s what led to the three felony gun charges for owning a gun for 11 days in 2018. And that’s what led to a renewed investigation in Los Angeles. And now, David Weiss is using a Los Angeles grand jury to obtain evidence from James Biden that he didn’t think he needed a year ago.

That potential FARA charge is the excuse Weiss used to limit a deal his office had entered into a month earlier. And now, less than two months into any new investigative focus in Los Angeles, CNN says the evidence doesn’t support FARA charges. That’s not surprising. Joseph Ziegler and Gary Shapley released numerous documents showing Weiss’ team discarded various FARA theories months and years ago (though a CEFC theory was still active as of July 2022).

But it means, at least per CNN, the rationale Weiss and Wise used to sustain the investigation proved short-lived.

That’s important background to Hunter Biden’s request for subpoenas for Trump and others in advance of pretrial motions that Hunter Biden will likely file next month, which I will discuss in more length in a follow-up. Contrary to what some smart commentators, like Popehat, have repeatedly argued, there’s no reason to believe Biden is pursuing this “to develop more evidence that Trump people have it in for him that he can use in future prosecutions,” if Trump returns to the presidency.

Indeed, Abbe Lowell said these subpoenas are, “relevant and material to a fundamental aspect of issues in his defense that will be addressed in pre-trial motions.”

Lowell further explained he needs the subpoenas to figure out whether Weiss’ “change of heart” regarding charges was a “response to political pressure.”

From a Fifth Amendment perspective, it is essential for Mr. Biden to know whether anyone improperly discussed, encouraged, endorsed, or requested an investigation or prosecution of him, and to whom and under what circumstances. The information sought would demonstrate that fact. This is especially true in light of the fact that no new evidence related to these charges emerged between June 20 (when the plea deal was first presented to the Court) and July 26 (when the prosecution reneged on its deal), and in fact only more favorable case law on this issue has developed since then.18 Thus, the prosecution’s change of heart appears to be in response to political pressure, rather than anything newly discovered in the investigation of Mr. Biden. Because such evidence, only some of which has been disclosed already, would tend to undermine the prosecution’s allegation that this case was free from any political inference and was not of a selective or vindictive nature, Mr. Biden’s requests are relevant and material under the requirements of Rule 17(c). [my emphasis]

I imagine that if David Weiss is ever forced to explain what led to the head fake with the plea, he will claim that it had to do with the way he tried to sheep dip the investigation after he decided to charge the case even in spite of Shapley and Ziegler’s efforts to force the issue.

Last December, according to IRS Director of Field Operations Michael Batdorf’s September 12 testimony, Batdorf and Darrell Waldon made the decision to remove Shapley and Ziegler from the Hunter Biden investigation. They didn’t implement it, though, until May, after and because Weiss decided he would charge the case, at which point the IRS assigned a completely new team.

Having an objective set of eyes — complete objective set of eyes on the case where the new investigative team came in and the case is good, the evidence is good, that was something that we just said, let’s — we removed the cooperating revenue agent that was doing tax calculations. We just got an entire new investigative team in there.


My concern was the opposite, that if they remained on the case, the case would not go forward


It was my interpretation from the phone conversation that we had in December [with Weiss] that there were concerns with the investigation and investigative team, and adding up all those concerns, so having a harder time jumping over that, you know, moving forward with this prosecution.

He never specifically stated that we had to remove the investigative team. He stated that he does not control IRS resources, and he understands that. But part of the concern of moving forward was our investigative team.


There was no more investigative activities to take. We can get this to prosecution with a new investigative team.

Partly, this may have just been an effort to avoid having to provide Jencks material, some of which Ziegler and Shapley have since already provided Congress. Even last year, Weiss recognized that Ziegler couldn’t present the revenue assessments at trial that he has spent months sharing with Congress. With a new IRS team, Weiss has secured witnesses who can take the stand without requiring that Weiss share documentation of an obsession with charging Hunter Biden and, frankly, of including his father in the investigation.

It may also be an attempt to insulate any charges from a claim that a law enforcement official found by his supervisor to be making, “unsubstantiated allegations [about Weiss] of motive, intent, and bias” had forced a prosecutor’s decision. After which Shapley and Ziegler have spent months trying to do just that!

But it may not have been just the IRS team. Batdorf described that there had also been a change in AUSA, which would include Lesley Wolf, around the same time.

A It’s my understanding that there had been a change in the AUSA, the prosecution team.

Q And when was the change made? Do you know?

A I believe that was made in roughly — I think it was May or June of this year when we decided to move forward with the investigation.

When staffers asked FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas Sobocinski in his September 7 interview the same question, he wasn’t sure whether that was true or not. “I don’t know that your statement is factually correct,” Sobocinski responded to an investigator asking why she had been taken off pleadings.

What Sobocinski did know, however, was that Lesley Wolf had received threats. It’s “fair” to say that “she may have concerns for her own safety,” Sobocinski agreed.

Weiss might argue that once Leo Wise took over as AUSA — if that’s what happened — then Weiss left prosecutorial decisions to Wise as a way to insulate charges from claims (made by the IRS agents trying to force more serious charges) that Wolf was biased.

The problem with that is that, on June 7, Lesley Wolf sent out what appears to be the final language on the immunity agreement tied to the plea deal.

Over the course of a few more emails, lawyers on both sides kept line-editing the deal. And on June 7, Wolf sent Clark a version that included the final language shielding Biden from future charges. The language is technical, but it would have immense consequences. Here it is in full:

“The United States agrees not to criminally prosecute Biden, outside of the terms of this Agreement, for any federal crimes encompassed by the attached Statement of Facts (Attachment A) and the Statement of Facts attached as Exhibit 1 to the Memorandum of Plea Agreement filed this same day. This Agreement does not provide any protection against prosecution for any future conduct by Biden or by any of his affiliated businesses.”

The language refers to two different statements of facts; one would accompany the guilty plea and the other would accompany the pretrial diversion agreement. Together, the two statements included substantial detail about the first son’s business dealings and drug use. The statements highlighted his time on the boards of a scandal-dogged Ukrainian energy company and a Chinese private equity fund, as well as his business venture with the head of a Chinese energy conglomerate. Wolf included those statements in her June 7 email.

Wolf was still on the prosecutorial team — and negotiating a plea deal that would have ruled out FARA charges — on June 7.

That’s the same day Weiss sent the first response, to a May 25 letter Jim Jordan sent Merrick Garland about the IRS agents’ complaints of being removed from the investigation. In it, he cited Rod Rosenstein’s explanation to Chuck Grassley in 2018 how congressional interference might politicize an investigation (in that case, the Mueller investigation).

The information sought by the Committee concerns an open matter about which the Department is not at liberty to respond. As then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote in 2018 in response to a request for information from the Honorable Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary:

Congressional inquiries during the pendency of a matter pose an inherent threat to the integrity of the Department’s law enforcement and litigation functions. Such inquiries inescapably create the risk that the public and the courts will perceive undue political and Congressional influence over law enforcement and litigation decision.

Less than two months after telling Grassley to butt out, or the public would believe the Mueller investigation faced undue political influence, Rosenstein would grovel to keep his job, assuring President Trump he could “land the plane.” In practice, the reference was not exactly a guarantee of prosecutorial independence, but if Weiss hoped Jordan would understand that, the all-star wrestler didn’t take the hint that corn farmer Grassley took to heart.

Weiss might claim that he replaced Wolf with Wise and in the process had Wise reassess the prior prosecutorial decisions. But, given the date of that letter, there was never a moment he had done so before the political pressure started. David Weiss cannot claim he did so before being pressured by Jim Jordan.

And Jordan’s letter wasn’t the only political pressure. On the same day that Weiss said he couldn’t share information — the likes of which Shapley had already started sharing — because it might politicize an ongoing investigation, Bill Barr (one of the people Lowell wants to subpoena) publicly intervened in the case, insisting the FD-1023 recording Mykola Zlochevsky making a new allegation of bribery had been a live investigative lead when it was shared with Weiss in October 2020, the FD-1023 Weiss specifically said he could not address because it was part of an ongoing investigation.

On a day when Lesley Wolf remained on the case, both Jordan and Barr had already intervened. And because there was never a time that Weiss had replaced Wolf with Wise before the political pressure started, there was little time he had done so before the physical threats followed the political pressure.

In fact, when Congressional staffers asked Sobocinski whether he and David Weiss spoke about Shapley and Ziegler’s testimony after it went public on the day the plea deal was announced, Sobocinski described that both agreed that Shapley’s testimony would have an effect on the case. “We both acknowledged that it was there and that it would have had it had an impact on our case.” But that effect was, to a significant extent for Sobocinski, about the threats that not just investigators, but also their family members, were getting.

I am solely focused on two things, and they’re not mutually exclusive. The first thing is, like every investigation, I want to get to a resolution in a fair, apolitical way. The second thing, and it’s becoming more important and more relevant, is keeping my folks safe. And the part that I never expected is keeping their families safe. So that, for me, is becoming more and more of a job that I have to do and take away from what I was what I signed up to do, which was investigate and do those things. So when you talk about potential frustrations with communication, I am personally frustrated with anything that places my employees and their families in enhanced danger. Our children, their children didn’t sign up for this.

In Weiss’ testimony to HJC, he described threats too. But unlike Sobocinski, he may not have pointed to the effect Shapley’s now debunked claims had in eliciting them.

Weiss said people working on the case have faced significant threats and harassment, and that family members of people in his office have been doxed.

“I have safety concerns for everybody who has worked on the case,” he said.

He added that he doesn’t know what motivates the people who have threatened his team.

“I’ve certainly received messages, calls, emails from folks who have not been completely enamored of my — with my role in this case,” he added, noting that he is also concerned for his family’s safety.

Weiss’ testimony that he wasn’t sure what motivated the people who threatened his team may not help him insulate his case, because Shapley’s testimony likely wasn’t the only likely source of threats.

Among the things Lowell cited in his request for subpoenas were the four Truth Social posts Trump made between the plea deal first was posted and the day the plea failed, one of which criticized Weiss by name and called for Hunter Biden’s death.

Trump Truth Social posts on June 20, 2023:

  • “Wow! The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere ‘traffic ticket.’ Our system is BROKEN!”

Trump Truth Social post on July 11, 2023:

“Weiss is a COWARD, a smaller version of Bill Barr, who never had the courage to do what everyone knows should have been done. He gave out a traffic ticket instead of a death sentence. Because of the two Democrat Senators in Delaware, they got to choose and/or approve him. Maybe the judge presiding will have the courage and intellect to break up this cesspool of crime. The collusion and corruption is beyond description. TWO TIERS OF JUSTICE!”9 [my emphasis]

There is, thanks in significant part to Jim Jordan, abundant documentation that between the time Lesley Wolf first sent out language seemingly promising Hunter Biden he would not be charged with FARA and the time Leo Wise told Judge Maryanne Noreika that he still could be, Republicans started pressuring David Weiss about his decisions. Thanks to Jordan, there are also multiple witnesses who have described that between the time Lesley Wolf shared immunity language and the time when — Abbe Lowell claims — David Weiss reneged on that language, the investigative team started having to fend off credible threats, not just to themselves, but also their family members.

To be sure, between the time Hunter’s lawyers made clear they planned to argue Weiss reneged on a deal and the time Lowell asked for subpoenas, in part, “possibly as impeachment of a trial witness,” Weiss testified that he always planned on continuing the investigation.

At the time, Biden’s lawyers signaled that the deal meant the Justice Department’s probe of the president’s son was over. But, according to Weiss, the investigation hadn’t ended at that point.

“I can say that at no time was it coming to a close,” he said. “I think, as I stated in the one statement I made at the time, the investigation was continuing. So it wasn’t ending there in any event.”

Yet according to CNN, two months after Weiss spoke to Estrada, seemingly to renew investigative activity in Los Angeles, any FARA investigation has ended. Instead, Weiss appears to be conducting new investigative steps in the tax case, investigative steps that started a week after IRS’ head of Field Operations testified that he understood “there was no more investigative activities to take.”

Both David Weiss and Leo Wise have publicly suggested that the ongoing investigation which Weiss insisted to Congress had always been planned was FARA or bribery related. That claim seems to have served no other purpose than to have given themselves a chance to reconsider tax charges both once claimed could be settled with misdemeanor charges.

Update: Batdorf link corrected.


In a now formal, but not unexpected, decision in Colorado yet another local county judge has issued a somewhat convoluted, but yet clear, decision that the 14th Amendment, specifically section 3, cannot be used by a handful of common citizens to sway the election of a President Of The United States.

The decision is here.

How this garbage got this far is nuts. But Norm Eisen and CREW have again been put in their place.

The Suspected 2019 Exposure of Johnathan Buma’s Source

One of several reasons why I’ve been cautious about FBI counterintelligence agent Johnathan Buma’s claims of whistleblower retaliation is how little care he has shown to protect his former informants.

Since the summer, multiple outlets have reported on Buma’s story, most focusing on Buma’s claim that his supervisors are retaliating because he shared source reporting with the FBI implicating Rudy Giuliani. After a right winger posted his statement, Insider did a story, followed by New Yorker, then MoJo, followed by an on-screen interview with Insider. The other day, MoJo reported that the FBI had searched his home for classified documents.

Buma submitted two complaints to Congress: A shorter one to Jim Jordan’s weaponization committee, and a more detailed one — which was released in redacted form in Insider’s first story on Buma — to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Between the two of them and a follow-up report from Insider, the reporting on Buma described six informants:

  • Dynamo: A US-based businessman with close ties to Ukraine and Russia and, seemingly, a real gripe with Pavel Fuks
  • Rollie: A former KGB agent who evolved into a clandestine operative in the Security Bureau of Ukraine (SBU) after the Soviet Union collapsed and then started a successful real estate business and a foundation that promotes the rule of law in society with stated purpose that includes holding criminal oligarchs accountable or pilfering Ukrainian state funds
  • The Economist: A highly educated academic with expertise in international business and economics who consulted with Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office and Rollie’s foundation
  • Mr. X: A foreign informant with information about specific money laundering transactions pertaining to Ihor Kolomoyskyi
  • Genius: Chuck Johnson, whom Buma had recruited in 2020
  • Peter Thiel

At least four of these informants have been shut down.

Buma describes that his managers shut down Johnson as a source — for what Buma attributes to Johnson’s expression of white supremacist views on social media — in 2021, while the FBI agent was on vacation. Buma dismissed those far right postings as Johnson’s means to retain his credibility among other white supremacists. But Buma doesn’t mention any of the other fifty or so reasons why Johnson was totally inappropriate to be an FBI source, nor does he describe the larger context of FBI’s recognition, after January 6, that they had made a number of key members of militia groups informants to report on topics other than those militia groups. Buma’s treatment of Johnson seriously discredits his claims as it is, but that shocking lapse of judgement is not the point of this post.

Buma described that Rollie and The Economist were only briefly FBI informants in early 2019. He makes it clear they were fairly quickly identified to be part of the larger information operation targeting Joe Biden. While Buma acknowledges that they were part of an info op, he nevertheless claims that information they shared on Hunter Biden was the primary reason the Delaware investigation turned to examine influence peddling and tax crimes. Buma’s claims about the Hunter Biden investigation are among those that don’t match the public record (but which would be interesting, if true, because it might suggest Bill Barr funneled that report to Delaware like he funneled other dodgy allegations).

By contrast, Buma boasts of Dynamo’s productivity, crediting him with a range of critical reporting on organized crime and money laundering. He specifically cites Dynamo’s import in subsequent legal action against Ihor Kolomoyskyi and Serhiy Kurchenko and what he describes to be largely unresolved reporting on Fuks. Buma doesn’t describe Dynamo providing any reporting on Andrii Derkach; indeed, he blames Fuks for Andriy Telizhenko’s information op, not Derkach. Nor does Buma describe Dynamo reporting on Mykola Zlochevsky or which Ukrainians and Russians Dynamo reported on in conjunction with the Mueller investigation.

Buma attributes some reporting Dynamo did, in 2020, on Rudy Giuliani’s fundraising for his Hunter Biden movie as the source of his troubles with his supervisors. While that’s a credible claim, given Barr’s known interference in investigations into Rudy in 2020, Buma’s description of the complexities of DOJ’s interest in Rudy similarly does not match the public record.

As Buma describes it, the Foreign Influence Task Force first recommended he shut down Dynamo after Rollie and the Economist were determined to be an information operation, which he dates to around June 2019. He fought that recommendation successfully. But then following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, FITF renewed the recommendation and won that battle. Buma complains that one of his best sources was shut down in spite of his continued productivity.

I don’t doubt there’s some real retaliation against Buma going on. His description of being moved to a surveillance crew on the other side of Los Angeles is the kind of petty thing vindictive bosses do. We will have to wait and see what predicated the search from earlier this week.

But what I don’t get is how Buma ignores the exposure of his sources in all this. Whether or not Dynamo was part of Rollie and the Economist’s information operation (or, as seems likely, Dynamo had started handling Buma to accomplish his own objectives, something that makes Buma’s reported use of his own phone and car to work sources a bigger problem), he would have been burned by his contact with it.

As Buma describes it, Rollie and the Economist came to LA in January 2019 and, thanks to the intervention of Dynamo, presented their claims at the US Attorney’s Office. If that weren’t already enough for a former KGB agent like Rollie to figure out that Dynamo might be an informant, Dynamo’s ties to Rollie led the White House to ask for background information on Dynamo in June 2019.

On June 26, 2019, I recieved request for any/all known information related to the true name of my most sensitive confidential source, DYNAMO. This request for information originated from the White House/Special Events/Intelligence Agencies national name check program, which was sent to me through the FBI New York Field Office (NYFO). Ostensibly, the purpose or this request was to vet DYNAMO’s attendance at special event, To me this appeared to be an attempt to discover if DYNAMO was an FB recruited source. This was deep concern for me, since DYNAMO had direct access to and had reported on individuals connected to the White House related to the Special Counsel investigation. I later learned DYNAMO had taken ROLLIE and THE ECONOMIST to a special event, during which time ROLLIE gave the same thumb drive with derogatory information on it concerning Burisma to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Pompeo).

It makes perfect sense that FITF recommended the FBI shut down Dynamo at that point, because from that point forward, the FBI would have had to assume Russia was tracking everything Dynamo was doing and using him to plant disinformation.

But it’s Buma’s carelessness about Dynamo — and all his other sources, even including Chuck Johnson — that I find especially suspect.

As part of his complaint against the FBI, Buma sat down and catalogued a bunch of recent investigations in which he says Dynamo played an instrumental role, I guess in an effort to show how stupid the FBI was to shut him down. By his description, Dynamo has informed on all manner of organized crime, money launderers, and foreign spies. And while Insider made a big show of redacting some of the sensitive references in Buma’s more detailed statement, unsurprisingly — given that Buma shared it with a committee with a few notorious right wing Senators willing to burn anything down — it has circulated in unredacted form freely.

I’m no expert but I’ve got some guesses as to who Dynamo, Rollie, and the Economist are. Even casual members of the Ukrainian exile community in the US no doubt know exactly who they are (the New Yorker spoke with Dynamo for its story, describing him as “a businessman well connected in both Eastern European and American political circles”). Russian spooks are going to know even more.

FBI handling agents don’t do that kind of thing. It’s the kind of thing that can get someone killed.

If Dynamo really had been as valuable as Buma says he was, I can’t imagine Buma would put all this in one report, not even one sent securely to the Intelligence Committees, much less a noted fountain of leaks like SJC. It’s not a question of classified information or not (Buma’s attorney has told the press that the statement, which was seized in the search, did not include classified information). Indeed, the initial right wing blog post, about a different topic entirely, seems just like the kind of vehicle to leak such a document. If Buma believed what he says about Dynamo, his actions seem inexplicable to me.

There’s plenty that is dodgy about the FBI’s own conduct, at least as described. But there are big holes in Buma’s story, starting with his seeming lack of concern for Dynamo’s confidentiality.

Update: Corrected misspelling of Buma’s first name.

The Two Impeachment Treason Trip: Ukraine Charges Rudy Giuliani’s Sources

Yesterday, Ukraine’s SBU charged with treason three of the people from whom Rudy Giuliani sought dirt on the Bidens to help Donald Trump get reelected. The announcement names Andrii Derkach and Kostyantyn Kulyk and describes someone that Politico reports to be Oleksandr Dubinsky.

The allegations say the threesome took $10 million from Russia’s GRU to discredit Ukraine.

“The main task of this organization was to take advantage of the tense political situation in Ukraine and discredit our state in the international arena. For this, the group was getting money from Russian military intelligence. Financing amounted to more than $10 million,” SBU said.

According to SBU, Dubinsky, guided by GRU, spread fake news about Ukraine’s military and political leadership, including claims that high-ranking Ukrainian officials were interfering in U.S. presidential elections. SBU said the Ukraine group was run by GRU deputy head Vladimir Alekseyev and his deputy Oleksiy Savin.

The propaganda described in the announcement preceded but is closely linked to Rudy’s December 5, 2019 trip to Kyiv to obtain dirt from Derkach. This Just Security timeline provides a good summary of how the trip to Kyiv — right in the middle of House impeachment proceedings — fit into Rudy’s year-long effort to find campaign dirt.

Why wasn’t Rudy ever charged?

The US Treasury Department sanctioned Derkach for election interference on September 10, 2020. Treasury added Kulyk, Dubinsky, and several other Derkach associates on January 11, 2021.

On September 26, 2022, EDNY charged Derkach with sanctions violations and money laundering. On January 23, 2023, EDNY superseded that indictment to add Derkach’s wife. On December 7, 2022, EDNY moved to seize a condo it claims the couple owns in Beverly Hills.

The Intelligence Community knew of Rudy’s trip to meet Derkach before he went to Kyiv and warned Trump, but Trump did not care.

The warnings to the White House, which have not previously been reported, led national security adviser Robert O’Brien to caution Trump in a private conversation that any information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia, one of the former officials said.

The message was, “Do what you want to do, but your friend Rudy has been worked by Russian assets in Ukraine,” this person said. Officials wanted “to protect the president from coming out and saying something stupid,” particularly since he was facing impeachment over his own efforts to strong-arm Ukraine’s president into investigating the Bidens.

But O’Brien emerged from the meeting uncertain whether he had gotten through to the president. Trump had “shrugged his shoulders” at O’Brien’s warning, the former official said, and dismissed concern about his lawyer’s activities by saying, “That’s Rudy.”


Several senior administration officials “all had a common understanding” that Giuliani was being targeted by the Russians, said the former official who recounted O’Brien’s intervention. That group included Attorney General William P. Barr, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.

Later reporting made, then retracted a claim, that the FBI had warned Rudy before he made the trip to Kyiv.

At the time Rudy made the trip to Kyiv, he was already under investigation, by SDNY, for serving as an unregistered agent of a different Ukrainian dealing dirt, Yuri Lutsenko, an investigation that grew out of the campaign finance prosecution of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. SDNY obtained warrants for Rudy’s iCloud account on November 4, 2019 and, in April 2021, seized 18 devices from the former President’s attorney. That investigation concluded with no charges in August 2022. Rudy’s lawyer, Robert Costello, subsequently revealed that a number of the devices FBI seized in April 2021 were corrupted and therefore useless to the investigation, which likely is a big part of the reason Rudy was not charged by SDNY.

But Rudy was never charged for his ties to known Russian agent Derkach, either. Indeed, the Derkach indictment was written to focus on his NABULeaks site, attacking Ukrainian efforts to combat corruption; it does not mention Rudy (though it does mention that his sanctions pertained to the 2020 election).

Not only wasn’t Rudy charged, but he was permitted to share the information he obtained while in Ukraine directly with DOJ.

How that happened remains among Bill Barr’s most corrupt and complex machinations, one that deserves far more attention given the ongoing efforts to gin up a Ukraine-related impeachment against Joe Biden.

On January 3, 2020 — less than a month after Rudy met Derkach and while Trump’s first impeachment remained pending — Barr tasked Pittsburgh US Attorney Scott Brady with the “discreet” assignment of ingesting dirt from the public, primarily meaning Rudy, to “vet.”

Brady’s recent deposition before the House Judiciary Committee revealed he did little real vetting. What he did do, though, was to query prosecutors in SDNY about the ongoing investigation into Rudy and obtain “interrogatories” from prosecutors in Delaware about the ongoing investigation into Hunter Biden. He also spoke with prosecutors investigating Dmitry Firtash and Ihor Kolomoyskyi, two of three Ukrainian oligarchs from whom Rudy had also solicited dirt.

Brady also spoke with DC investigators who — according to Chuck Grassley — had just one month earlier, right in the middle of the impeachment effort directly tied to Burisma, shut down an investigation into Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky, the third Ukrainian oligarch from whom Rudy solicited dirt. From the DC investigators, Brady learned of a passing reference to Hunter Biden in a 2017 informant report, which led Brady to reinterview the same informant. The informant revealed that in a late 2019 phone conversation, one that almost certainly took place during impeachment, Zlochevsky claimed to have bribed Joe Biden in such a way that it would take ten years of searching to find the payoff.

In his HJC deposition, Brady admitted that Rudy did not tell him — and his team did not seek out any information — about the President’s lawyer’s efforts to solicit dirt from Zlochevsky.

Q Okay. But you never asked, for example, the House Permanent Select Committee investigators or anyone associated with that investigation to do a similar inquiry for evidence relating to Zlochevsky?

A No, I don’t believe we did.

Q Okay. And, like you said, you were not aware that this interview had taken place in 2019. Is that fair to say?

A I don’t believe I was, no.

Q Okay. And anyone on your team, as far as you know, was not aware that Mr. Zlochevsky had been interviewed at the direction of Giuliani before your assessment began?

A I don’t believe so.

In September 2020, Brady provided Richard Donoghue with a report on the results of his “vetting.” On October 23, 2020, Brady’s investigators briefed David Weiss’ investigators on the FD-1023 describing the late 2019 Zlochevsky claim of bribery. Weiss claims that aspect of his investigation remains ongoing, and Republicans have made the FD-1023 part of their impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden.

But Barr did more than provide a way for Rudy to share information obtained from a known Russian agent such that it might be used in the investigation into Joe Biden’s son and, now, an impeachment stunt targeting Joe Biden himself. He also ensured that SDNY would not be able to expand their investigation to cover Rudy’s dalliances with Derkach.

On January 17, 2020, Jeffrey Rosen issued a memo making the US Attorney in EDNY — then Richard Donoghue, but Donoghue would swap places in July 2020 with Seth DuCharme, who was at the time overseeing the Brady tasking — a gatekeeper over all Ukraine-related investigations.

Any and all new matters relating to Ukraine shall be directed exclusivelyl to EDNY for investigation and appropriate handling. Unless otherwise directed, existing matters covered by this memorandum shall remain in the Offices and components where they currently are being handled, subject to ongoing consultation with EDNY. Any widening or expansion of existing matters shall require prior consultation with and approval by my office and EDNY.

This memo had the known effect of prohibiting SDNY from following the evidence where their existing investigation into Rudy Giuliani would naturally lead — to Rudy’s relationship with known Russian agent Andrii Derkach.

Geoffrey Berman’s book revealed that Barr also prohibited the New York FBI Field Office — which supports investigations in both SDNY and EDNY — from obtaining the 302s from Brady’s January interviews with Rudy.

There were FBI reports of those meetings, called 302s, which we wanted to review. So did Sweeney. Sweeney’s team asked the agents in Pittsburgh for a copy and was refused. Sweeney called me up, livid.

“Geoff, in all my years with the FBI I have never been refused a 302,” he said. “This is a total violation of protocol.”

This would have prevented SDNY from holding Rudy accountable for any lies he told Brady and prevented EDNY from obtaining Rudy’s first-hand account about where he obtained his dirt and what he had to trade to get it. That may explain why Rudy doesn’t show up in Derkach’s indictment.

But Barr wasn’t done with his efforts to protect Rudy from any consequences for his dalliance with a known Russian agent. In June 2020, Barr fired Geoffrey Berman in an attempt to shut down the ongoing “tentacles” of the investigation into Rudy.

The reason Rudy Giuliani was not charged for soliciting election disinformation from a known Russian agent is that the Attorney General of the United States set up a system that separated the investigation of that Russian agent from the investigation of Rudy, all while channeling whatever disinformation Rudy obtained from Derkach (or Zlochevsky) into the investigation of Joe Biden’s son.

It’s that simple. Bill Barr set up a system that protected Russian disinformation and made sure it could be laundered into the Hunter Biden investigation and also protected the President’s personal lawyer from any consequences for soliciting that Russian disinformation from a known Russian agent.

That’s why Rudy Giuliani wasn’t charged.

How does this relate to the “Hunter Biden” laptop?

The system that Barr set up absolutely has to do with the FD-1023 that remains part of both the Biden impeachment effort and the Hunter Biden criminal investigation.

There’s far less evidence that Rudy’s effort has anything to do with the “Hunter Biden” laptop.

To be sure, Lev Parnas has described that in May 2019 — the month after the laptop ultimately shared with the FBI was dropped off in Wilmington — he first learned that people were shopping a laptop with dirt on Hunter Biden, though he understood it to be one stolen in 2014, not 2019.

At the same time, the BLT Team was exploring many different angles to get information on the Bidens. In June, Giuliani asked me to accompany him to a lunch in New York with Vitaly Pruss, a Russian businessman who claimed to have deep connections to Burisma, including with Hunter Biden’s business partner Devon Archer, and had recommended powerful people to Zlochevsky that he should put on the company’s board. During this meeting, Pruss shared a story with us: He said earlier that year, while doing business related to Burisma, he had taken Hunter Biden to meet Kazakhstan’s minister of foreign affairs, and that Biden had gotten substantially intoxicated with drugs and alcohol on this trip. While he was incapacitated, his laptop was compromised and copied by a representative of FSB (Russia’s secret police) and members of Zlochevsky’s team.

It’s important to note that certain aspects of Pruss’s story are verifiably true. This trip with Hunter Biden did happen, and his computer hard drives were taken and duplicated. But Pruss specified that while the contents of the laptop were personally embarrassing to Hunter Biden – pictures of him doing drugs and surrounded by girls — there was no evidence of financial crimes or any data on his laptop that suggested illegal activities of any other kind, which is the sort of proof that Giuliani desperately needed. Pruss never mentioned anything about the hard drives containing criminal information, only the embarrassing images. It was not until Giuliani began disseminating the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop that the idea of proof of financial and political crimes was introduced.

Parnas also described that he expected to obtain a hard drive from Hunter’s laptop on the trip to Vienna that got preempted by his arrest.

In the early part of October 2019, I got a call telling me to go to Vienna with Giuliani, where the former Chief Financial Officer of Burisma, Alexander Gorbunenko, would meet Giuliani and give us Hunter Biden’s hard drive and answer any questions we had.

The timing of the known laptop parallels Rudy’s efforts in chilling fashion.

The laptop ultimately shared with the FBI was first linked to Hunter Biden’s Apple account in October 2018, at the beginning of Rudy’s efforts to solicit dirt on Biden.

On a November 14, 2018 check, Hunter linked his Fox News pundit shrink to a Russian or Ukrainian-linked escort service he was frequenting at the time — likely the same escort service on which the investigation, now entering its sixth year, was first predicated. But that reference on a check memo line could as easily be explained by addiction or his efforts to cover up or write off such expenses.

Most of the materials on the laptop got packaged up in January and February 2019 while Hunter was again receiving treatment from his Fox News pundit shrink. At the time, Hunter may have had limited access to the Internet, much less the ability to package all that up. The laptop ultimately shared with the FBI was packaged up at a time when Hunter also had a different, older laptop in his possession that was ultimately left at the guest house of the Fox News pundit shrink.

The laptop ultimately shared with the FBI was delivered to the Delaware repair shop — by someone who had access to Hunter Biden’s phone and credit card — in April 2019.

Depending on whether you believe John Paul Mac Isaac or the FBI, JPMI’s father first reached out to the FBI about the laptop hours before or seven days after Parnas was arrested, either October 9 or October 16, 2019. The FBI ultimately obtained the laptop on December 9, 2019, days before the House voted to impeach Donald Trump, and the same month when (per Chuck Grassley) Barr’s DOJ shut down an investigation into Zlochevsky, the guy whose former CFO had been offering Rudy such a hard drive two months earlier. If you can believe JPMI (and you probably can’t), the FBI tried to boot up the laptop before obtaining any known warrant for it.

The day after the IRS obtained a warrant for the laptop on December 13, 2019, one of Barr’s aides texted him on his private phone to let him know they were sending him a laptop.

And then months after Barr jerry-rigged a system to ingest dirt from Russian spies into the investigation of Hunter Biden while protecting Rudy, in August 2020, JPMI shared a hard drive of the materials from that very same laptop with Rudy Giuliani, the same guy who had solicited dirt from Burisma in October 2019 and from a Russian agent back in December 2019.

After the NYPost first revealed the laptop, Rudy dismissed concerns that it may have come from Russian spies and even called obtaining it an “extension” of his earlier efforts to obtain such dirt, including (if you can believe Parnas) a laptop from Zlochevsky’s former CFO.

But that’s some Deep State talk, he added. “The chance that Derkach is a Russian spy is no better than 50/50.”


Asked, for instance, whether he was concerned if the materials he obtained might in some way be linked to the hacking of Burisma late last year—an act attributed to Russian intelligence—Giuliani said: “Wouldn’t matter. What’s the difference?”


Giuliani said he viewed his latest leak to the New York Post as an extension of his years-long efforts to work with Ukrainians to dig up dirt on the Bidens.

According to Scott Brady, Rudy never told him he had obtained the laptop, even though Rudy got it before Brady submitted his report to Donoghue in September 2020.

There are a great deal of remarkable coincidences in the parallel timelines of Barr’s complex system to obtain dirt on Hunter Biden while protecting Rudy and the timeline of the laptop first shared with the FBI and then shared with Rudy. But thus far that’s all they are: coincidences.

There’s not even proof — at least not publicly — that anyone besides Hunter Biden packaged up the laptop that ultimately got shared with the FBI. To the extent someone did, there’s more evidence implicating American rat-fuckers than Russian ones.

There are a great deal of questions about how the laptop got packaged up and the legality of JPMI’s sharing of it with anyone but the FBI. But for now, those are different questions than the questions about Rudy’s efforts to solicit dirt from a Russian agent.

Did John Durham meet these same Russian agents on behalf of Barr?

There’s one more question these charges in Ukraine raise, however: Whether John Durham met with one or several of these men Ukraine now accuses of working for Russian spies.

On the day that Treasury sanctioned Kulyk and Dubinsky, January 11, 2021, Durham sent an aide some group chats he had participated in with Barr’s top aides in September 2019, just as the impeachment panic started.

Those group chats, which Durham referred back to on the day Derkach’s associates were sanctioned, seem to have arisen out of a panic Barr had on the morning of September 24, 2019, the day the White House would release the Volodymyr Zelenskyy transcript showing that Trump asked the Ukrainian President to deal dirt on the Bidens to both his Attorney General and personal lawyer.

“Call me ASAP,” the Attorney General texted Durham that morning, followed almost twelve hours later by Durham asking to speak, possibly for a second time.

The next day, September 25, DOJ issued a statement revealing that Durham had received information from several Ukrainians who weren’t part of government.

A Department of Justice team led by U.S. Attorney John Durham is separately exploring the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Wednesday. “While the Attorney General has yet to contact Ukraine in connection with this investigation, certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information to Mr. Durham, which he is evaluating.”

That’s what led up to the group chats Durham would share months later.

At 3:44 PM on September 26, the day the White House released the whistleblower complaint, someone from Durham’s team — probably Durham himself — participated in a chat with 8 people.

Less than an hour later, a bunch of people — including Will Levi, Seth DuCharme (who would be in charge of Scott Brady’s “vetting” project and then take over any investigation in EDNY), and “John” — convened in a lobby bar together, waiting for Barr to arrive.

The following day, when Kurt Volker resigned, there was another group chat, the second one Durham would share months later.

Barr was still focused on CYA regarding his own involvement. In advance of Lindsey Graham going on the Sunday shows that weekend, Barr made sure to get Lindsey his statement claiming not to have spoken to the Ukrainians personally.


Later on October 2, Kerri Kupec apologized to Barr that “Sadie” hadn’t gotten editors to change a particular story, probably a reference to this WSJ story, which discusses Barr’s request that Trump give introductions to some foreign leaders.

On October 30, the day after the Democrats released the impeachment resolution, Kupec sent Barr the statement he had made about Ukraine back in September.

A minute later Barr sent that statement to Will Levi, with no further comment.

There’s far more about Barr’s panic as impeachment unrolled in 2019, as I laid out here.

The panic likely includes Eric Herschmann, who was then in private practice but who would join Trump’s impeachment defense and then ultimately serve as a babysitter for Trump in the White House. While at the White House, Hershmann pitched the “laptop” to the WSJ before Rudy discredited it.

But one thing is clear: In the wake of the disclosure that Trump asked Zelenskyy to work with Barr in addition to Rudy, Barr attempted to pawn off any contacts with Ukraine onto Durham — an effort that appears to have been discussed in both group chats and a face-to-face meeting in a hotel bar.

And then, over three months later, on the day that Rudy’s sources were sanctioned, two of whom were just charged with treason along with Derkach, Durham revisited those group chats.

That may explain why Barr worked so hard to ensure that Rudy never faced consequences for soliciting disinformation from a known Russian agent.

Update: Fixed timing of Parnas arrest per zscore.

Free Will, Agency, And Evolution

Most of us think we have free will, and we certainly act as if we do. We expect ourselves to do certain things and not do other things, and we feel responsible for those choices. We have the feeling, the sense, that we control those behaviors, or at least that we have the ability to control decisions about which things we do and which we don’t. We attribute to other people their own agency, which we take to be just like ours, even if they may have different ideas about proper behavior.

There’s a school of thought that says we don’t control those things. Here’s a recent article about Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford University neurobiologist, who doesn’t agree. He’s not the only one. Perhaps recognizing that this is an intractable problem, many scientists use the term agency instead of free will.

One is Michael Tomasello, whose book, The Evolution of Agency, I’ll be examining in the next few posts. Agency carries less moral baggage, and it’s something that can be described and studied neutrally; at least more neutrally. Tomasello doesn’t give a precise definition of agency. This is from the introduction:

…[I]n the current case, we may say that agentive beings are distinguished from non-agentive beings … by a special type of behavioral organization. That behavioral organization is feedback control organization in which the individual directs its behavior toward goals—many or most of which are biologically evolved—controlling or even self-regulating the process through informed decision-making and behavioral self-monitoring. Species biology is supplemented by individual psychology. P. 2.

The book rests on two assumptions. The first is that the basis of agency is a feedback control activity, a psychological mechanism, seated in the brain. The second is that agency is an outcome of evolution.

Feedback control organization

Tomasello’s feedback control organization works like a thermostat. The idea is that a goal is set for the thermostat: keeping the temperature at a certain level. It has a sensor that measures the ambient temperature and compares it to the goal. It then turns on another device that brings the temperature closer to the goal. It continues to test the ambient temperature and when it reaches the goal, it turns off the device.

Tomasello claims that this is the only model that can work to enable things to control themselves. He points out that all efforts to get machines to operate autonomously work in accordance with this model.

Evolution and agency

Tomasello doesn’t think there’s a goal for evolution. He thinks that as brains become more complex, the feedback control activity takes on a different shape, a shape that takes advantage of the bigger brain. I’ll just toss in the observation that mutations happen all the time, and some become established in subpopulations whether or not they have any survival value. That might include hair color or a larger brain. If circumstances change, the mutation may suddenly have survival value, and the subpopulation thrives while the rest of the population suffers.

Studying psychological processes

Tomasello says agency is a psychological process, one that occurs in the brain of an individual creature. It cannot be studied directly. Instead scientists infer the existence of psychological processes from the overt behavior of subjects.

Scientists infer psychological agency when the organism acts flexibly toward its goal even in novel contexts. To behave in this flexible manner, the individual must go beyond a stimulus-driven, one-to-one mapping between perception and action. The individual must be capable of choosing to act or not to act, or among multiple possible actions, according to its continuous perceptual assessment of the situation as it unfolds over time (sometimes employing executive processes such as inhibition, as a further control process, during action execution). P. 27.

The layout of the book

Evolution has been at work on this planet for hundreds of millions of years. We say that different species split off from lines of evolution, as humans split off from the great apes; and as homo sapiens eventually split off from the first hominids, and then evolved into modern humans. The lines go back to the beginnings of life on the planet, to the earliest living creatures.

Tomasello thinks certain existing species have no agency, and the rest fall into four categories. He selects five of them to represent his five categories of agency.

1. No agency: C. elegans, a tiny worm-like creature (the image on the home page is a bunch of these creatures)
2. Goal-directed agency: lizards as representative of reptiles
3. Intentional agency: squirrels as representative of small mammals
4. Rational agency: great apes as representative of great apes
5. Socially normative agency, which has two subcategories
a) young human children as representative of hominids with a simple form of socially normative agency
B) adults humans who exhibit a more comprehensive socially normative agency

Tomasello treats each category of agency in its own chapter. The last chapter is mostly for his fellow scientists, discussing gaps in the research and proposals for future work on this model. In each chapter Tomasello explains how the agency works, the evolutionary pressures that might have led to it, and the nature of the world as perceived by the example creatures. These issues are supported by a empirical evidence from academic and field studies.

I’ll take a quick look at the first three levels of agency, and discuss socially normative agency in more detail.

Creatures without agency

Let’s start with C. elegans. This is a worm-like creature about 1 mm in length. We know a great deal about it: we have sequenced its genome; and identified its 302 neurons, their connections, and the role each plays. It has no sensory apparatus beyond the ability to sense nutritious and certain noxious substances. It lives in organic material, where it eats bacteria. It has rudimentary powers of movement. They are mostly hermaphrodites. For more, see this dense Wikipedia entry.

Basically it moves around in organic muck eating bacteria. If it isn’t finding any, it moves. If it detects a noxious substance it moves. That’s about it. Tomasello says that with the tiny number of neurons, it’s hard to imagine the creature could have a goal, let alone behave flexibly to achieve it. It is purely stimulus driven. It’s sensory apparatus is very simple, so it only recognizes a few stimuli, and it responds to them mechanically.

In Tomasello’s terms, this creature is non-agentive. He calls it an animate actor. There’s not much else to say about it.


I’m not fond of the word “agentive”, which strikes me as an ugly neologism, but it points to somehting about human behavior. Not all of our behavior is agentive. Take breathing. We can control it, but mostly we don’t. It’s an interesting exercise to think about what parts of our actions are agentive.

Another way to put that is to ask how much we resemble C. elegans.

In His House Judiciary Committee Testimony, John Durham Confessed that Michael Horowitz Was Right

Given all the discussion of Trump ordering prosecutors to go after his political enemies, I want to go back — way back — to comment on something John Durham said at his House Judiciary Committee testimony in June.

Adam Schiff observed that Durham violated DOJ policy when, in December 2019, he publicly disagreed with the conclusion DOJ’s Inspector General had made in the Carter Page investigation.

Schiff: Mr. Durham, DOJ policy provides that you don’t speak about a pending investigation, and yet you did, didn’t you?

Durham: Um, I’m not exactly sure what–

Schiff: When the Inspector General issued a report saying that the investigation was properly predicated, you spoke out, in violation of Department of Justice, Department of Justice policy, to criticze the Inspector General’s conclusions, didn’t you?

Durham: I issued a public statement. I didn’t do it anonymously, I didn’t do it through third persons, there were —

Schiff: Nonetheless, you violated Department policy by issuing a statement while your investigation was ongoing, didn’t you?

Durham: I don’t know that. If I did, then I did. But I was not aware that I was violating some policy.

Schiff: And you also sought to get the Inspector General to change his conclusion, did you not, when he was concluding that the investigation was properly predicated. Did you privately seek to intervene to change that conclusion?

Durham: This is outside the scope of the report but if you want to go there, we asked the Inspector General to take a look at the intelligence that’s included in the classified appendix that you looked at, and said that that ought to affect portions of his report.

The classified appendix, recall, pertained to what Durham called the “Clinton Plan,” details Dutch intelligence found in purportedly hacked materials at GRU. That included documents purportedly stolen from a top Hillary Foreign Policy Advisor, on which a Russian intelligence product based a claim that,

Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

From that allegation, Durham appears to have simply made up out of thin air a claim that Hillary planned to fabricate things to tie Trump to Russia, rather than just point to him begging Russia to hack the United States.

First, the Clinton Plan intelligence itself and on its face arguably suggested that private actors affiliated with the Clinton campaign were seeking in 2016 to promote a false or exaggerated narrative to the public and to U.S. government agencies about Trump’s possible ties to Russia. [my emphasis]

In another exchange with Schiff at the hearing, Durham professed to be utterly ignorant of all the things confirmed in the Mueller investigation that provided abundant reason to tie Trump to Russia. There was no need to invent anything.

In any case, what Durham revealed in his testimony is that he shared this information with Michael Horowitz, expecting it would change his mind about the predication of Crossfire Hurricane.

That’s not all that surprising. After all, Durham described as the first mandate of his investigation to determine whether any personnel at the FBI violated federal law by not fully considering potential Russian disinformation before opening an investigation into Trump.

[D]id the FBI properly consider other highly significant intelligence it received at virtually the same time as that used to predicate Crossfire Hurricane, but which related not to the Trump campaign, but rather to a purported Clinton campaign plan “to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services,” which might have shed light on some of the Russia information the FBI was receiving from third parties, including the Steele Dossier, the Alfa Bank allegations and confidential human source (“CHS”) reporting? If not, were any provable federal crimes committed in failing to do so?

To put it bluntly, Bill Barr told John Durham to figure out whether he could charge Peter Strzok (and presumably, Jim Comey and Bill Priestap) for not letting a Russian intelligence report dictate American investigative decisions. And either in an attempt to preempt Horowitz’ conclusion that the investigation was legally predicated or in an attempt to stave off any determination on criminality, Durham pitched him on this theory before publicly attacking his conclusion.

And Durham did so even though — accepting all his conspiracy theories about inventing false claims about Trump were true — that theory never made sense. As Phil Bump (onetwo) and Dan Friedman showed when the report came out, Hillary’s concerns about Trump couldn’t have been the cause of the investigation into Trump. By the time (a Russian intelligence product claimed) that Hillary approved a plan to tie Trump to Russia on July 26, 2016, the events that would lead FBI to open an investigation were already in place. Here’s Friedman:

This isn’t just false. It would require time travel. Durham himself confirms that the FBI launched its investigation into Trump and Russia based on events that occurred months prior to Clinton’s alleged July 26 approval of the plan. In April 2016, George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, met with a professor with Kremlin ties, who informed him that Russia “had obtained ‘dirt’ on…Clinton in the form of thousands of emails,” as Robert Mueller’s final report noted.  A week later, according to Mueller, Papadopoulos “suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release” of damaging material. When hacked Democratic emails were indeed published—by WikiLeaks on July 22—this foreign diplomat alerted US officials about what Papadopoulos had said. The FBI quickly launched an official investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties in response to that tip, Durham notes, while arguing they should have begun only a “preliminary investigation.”

It was the same Russian hack, not Hillary Clinton, that drove media attention, even before the documents were leaked to the public.

There’s another problem with telling Horowitz that his Clinton conspiracy theory should have changed Horowitz’ conclusions. At the earliest, analysts and Priestap only became aware of the intelligence (though probably without Durham’s spin on it) on September 2, well after the opening of Crossfire Hurricane.

When interviewed by the Office, Auten recalled that on September 2, 2016 – approximately ten days after Headquarters Analyst-2’s email – the official responsible for overseeing the Fusion Cell briefed Auten, Moffa, and other FBI personnel at FBI Headquarters regarding the Clinton Plan intelligence. 411 Auten did not recall any FBI “operational” personnel (i.e., Crossfire Hurricane Agents) being present at the meeting. 412 The official verbally briefed the individuals regarding information that the CIA planned to send to the FBI in a written investigative referral, including the Clinton Plan intelligence information. 413


Separate and apart from this meeting, FBI records reflect that by no later than that same date (September 2, 2016), then-FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Bill Priestap was also aware of the specifics of the Clinton Plan intelligence as evidenced by his hand-written notes from an early morning meeting with Moffa, DAD Dina Corsi and Acting AD for Cyber Eric Sporre. 415

And despite looking for four years, Durham never confirmed that CIA’s formal referral memo got shared with Peter Strzok, to whom it was addressed.

In spite of never acquiring such proof, not even after four years of searching, recently confirmed Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Nora Dannehy has confirmed that Barr pushed Durham to release an interim report on those claims. NYT described that plan this way:

By summer 2020, with Election Day approaching, Mr. Barr pressed Mr. Durham to draft a potential interim report centered on the Clinton campaign and F.B.I. gullibility or willful blindness.

On Sept. 10, 2020, Ms. Dannehy discovered that other members of the team had written a draft report that Mr. Durham had not told her about, according to people briefed on their ensuing argument.

Ms. Dannehy erupted, according to people familiar with the matter. She told Mr. Durham that no report should be issued before the investigation was complete and especially not just before an election — and denounced the draft for taking disputed information at face value. She sent colleagues a memo detailing those concerns and resigned.

By that point, Durham hadn’t yet interviewed Priestap and others who might inform him of what they actually learned.

From the start, Durham was pursuing this conspiracy theory. He tried to forestall the damning but inconvenient conclusions of the Horowitz report to sustain his conspiracy theory. And he tried to interfere with the 2020 election with his physics-defying conspiracy theory.

Bill Barr didn’t just order John Durham to investigate Hillary Clinton and all the FBI agents who had deigned to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia. He did so based on a conspiracy theory rooted in Russian intelligence.