A Close Rudy Giuliani Associate Alerted FBI’s Assistant Director to Charles McGonigal’s Alleged Albanian Graft

I know of two journalists who had reported on parts of the charges against former FBI Special Agent in Charge Charles McGonigal before he was indicted: In December 2021, Scott Stedman (with an assist from Wendy Siegelman) reported on the relationship between McGonigal, Oleg Deripaska, Sergey Shestakov, and Yevgenyi Fokin that was disclosed in a November 29, 2021 FARA filing.

And in September 2022, Mattathias Schwartz reported on a subpoena that (this was made more clear later) had been served ten months earlier, in November 2021. In the story, Schwartz claimed the documents he had in hand showed that McGonigal was under investigation for his Deripaska ties, which he only substantiated with a link to the FARA filing. The story itself pertained entirely to the Albanian side of the investigation, based off that subpoena, part of which he published.

Schwartz published that story a month after he won a lot of attention for getting Paul Manafort to confirm on the record the cover story someone had fed a NYT team including Maggie Haberman and Ken Vogel in February 2019: that Manafort had shared (just) campaign data with Konstantin Kilimnik. When first published in 2019, that cover story successfully distracted attention from outlines of a more substantive exchange pitched by Deripaska associate Kilimnik at an August 2, 2016 cigar bar meeting (and, indeed, from Deripaska’s involvement generally).

Manafort’s calendar showed that before he went to that meeting on August 2, 2016, he met with Trump and Rudy Giuliani. And while Manafort was serving his abbreviated prison term, Rudy reportedly consulted with him about his efforts to dig up dirt helpful to Trump.

In the wake of McGonigal’s indictments, Schwartz wrote a story about the person that he all but confirms was the one who received the subpoena: Allison Guerriero, who had a year-plus long affair with McGonigal that started sometime before October 2017 and lasted until late 2018, past the time McGonigal retired from the FBI in September 2018. According to the story, their relationship covered the most important period of the corruption described in the two indictments against McGonigal (meetings with Albania in the the DC indictment start in August 2017 and end in August 2018; favors for a Deripaska agent described in the SDNY indictment start in spring 2018; the favors continued through 2021, at which point the investigation into Deripaska had become overt).

In fact, Schwartz suggests that Guerriero may have tipped off FBI’s Assistant Director William Sweeney to McGonigal’s corruption in a drunken act of revenge after the affair ended.

In late 2018, McGonigal and Guerriero broke up. She remembers receiving an anonymous and hostile note in the mail. Soon after, McGonigal told her he was still married and had no plans to divorce his wife. “I was shocked,” she said. “I was very much in love with him, and I was so hurt.” She started drinking heavily to cope. A few months later, Guerriero, after a bout of drinking, dashed off an angry email to William Sweeney, who was in charge of the FBI’s New York City bureau, and who, she recalls, had first introduced her to McGonigal. She remembers telling Sweeney in the email that he should look into their extramarital affair, and also McGonigal’s dealings in Albania. McGonigal had already befriended Albania’s prime minister and traveled to the country extensively, dealings that would appear later in one of his indictments. Guerriero told Insider that she had deleted the email.

As Schwartz describes it, Guerriero told Sweeney he should look at not just McGonigal’s ties to Albania but also their affair, which is a nutty thing to say to an FBI official.

It’s a weird claim, because elsewhere, the story implies that Guerriero believed McGonigal’s stories about why he had bags of cash lying around, including a bag of cash that (Schwartz convincingly argues) is likely the one McGonigal is accused of receiving in a parked car on October 5, 2017.

That day in October wasn’t the only time that Guerriero remembers McGonigal carrying large amounts of cash. After he brushed her curiosity aside, she tempered her suspicions. She told herself it was probably “buy money” for a sting operation, or a payoff for one of McGonigal’s informants.

The story never describes that Guerriero learned of McGonigal’s ties to Albania, much less how or when she learned about them. And yet one takeaway from the story is that she might be the source of the entire investigation into her former boyfriend.

If she did send that email, it’s virtually certain an Assistant Director of the FBI would not delete it.

Schwartz describes Guerriero as,

a former substitute kindergarten teacher who volunteered for law-enforcement causes and was working as a contractor for a security company while living at home with her father.

The Facebook page for the charity for which she works shows the kind of NY law enforcement people she networks with.

Which partly explains the really remarkable detail about Guerriero. She’s close enough with Rudy Giuliani — who was himself being cultivated by Russian assets during the same period that McGonigal was — that the by-then discredited mayor put her up in his guest room after she suffered a burn injury in 2021.

Guerriero’s troubles worsened in early 2021, when she was badly burned during a fire at her father’s house. She asked friends for help through a GoFundMe. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York City, whom she knew from law-enforcement circles, let her stay in a guest bedroom. Since then, Guerriero has been a frequent on-air caller for Giuliani’s radio shows. She maintains that the 2020 election was marred by widespread voter fraud, a belief pushed by Giuliani that has been repeatedly debunked. “Whatever Giuliani says about the 2020 election is what I believe,” she said.

What a small world, that the woman who may have triggered the investigation into McGonigal was staying with Rudy as the investigation developed? Presumably, for example, some of Guerriero’s communications with Rudy would have been found on his phones after they were seized in April 2021 (though the investigation into McGonigal was already very advanced by the time the FBI actually started getting any communications from Rudy’s phones in November 2021, and emails with Guerriero would be out of scope of any known or suspected warrant targeting Rudy).

Schwartz doesn’t pursue the fact that McGonigal has such close ties to Rudy, though the connection would be even more interesting if McGonigal’s role in the Trump Russian investigation were as central as Schwartz presented it (he’s not alone in overstating McGonigal’s known role).

But there are two additional reasons the detail is particularly interesting.

First, as noted, Schwartz published part of the subpoena that, this second story clarifies, Guerriero received in November 2021.

Regardless, by November 2021, the FBI was looking into McGonigal. Two agents showed up at Guerriero’s door, she says, showed her a picture of McGonigal with the Albanian prime minister, and interviewed her about their interactions. She also received a grand-jury subpoena requesting all of her communications with McGonigal as well as information about any “payments or gifts” he may have given her.

It tracks the DC indictment closely (and was sent by the LA-based team investigating it). Four bullets ask for information about the Albanians that are the central focus of the indictment. Bullet f references McGonigal’s ties to Kosovo, which show up in ¶28 of the indictment. Bullet h and i ask for information on the Bosnians who appear in ¶¶45, 46 and 48 of the indictment; bullet j asks for information about the alleged access peddling to the UN described in ¶¶50-52 of the indictment.

But the subpoena — bullet g — asks about another country, Montenegro, where much of Deripaska and Manafort’s long history began and where Deripaska was still allegedly interfering as late as 2016. If Montenegro shows up in the indictment at all, it’s only as one of the other locations in Europe to which McGonigal was traveling with his Albanian contact (for example, a spring 2018 trip described in ¶44). That may simply reflect Montenegro’s relative import in McGonigal’s paid travel, the quality of evidence, or maybe DOJ didn’t want to include it for some other reason. But if Montenegro were a key part of McGonigal’s Balkans travels — on which, ¶22 of the indictment makes clear, he worked to persuade Albania not to sign oil contracts with Russian front companies — it would put him in a country where Deripaska likely still has a rich network of sources.

In any case, the only other thing that doesn’t map directly from the subpoena to the indictment are any payments or gifts McGonigal gave to Guerriero. The DC indictment never explained why, “no later than August 2017,” McGonigal allegedly asked his Albanian contact if he could provide him money, but Schwartz’ story reveals that the indicted former SAC was giving Guerriero gifts of cash and taking her to high-end restaurants during their affair, which started at least by October 2017 (her subpoena asked for records going back to April 2017). The indictment never mentions her, but the affair with her may explain part of McGonigal’s urgent need for cash in September 2017, something that would make McGonigal ripe to compromise by anyone who learned of it.

As I noted earlier, there’s one more remarkable player in this little network that includes Rudy Giuliani: Seth DuCharme, who spent much of the last year of the Trump Administration implementing Bill Barr’s bureaucratic efforts to ensure that Rudy Giuliani would not be prosecuted for his efforts to obtain benefit for Trump — including, but not limited to, dirt on Hunter Biden — from people that included several suspected Russian agents. DuCharme, who works at Rudy’s former firm, Bracewell, is part of the team representing McGonigal.

And to the extent that Guerriero is one of the witnesses from whom DOJ learned the specifics about how much cash McGonigal received in bags in parked cars (though, again, Schwartz’ story is inconsistent about whether she knew none of that or whether she knew enough to tip off William Sweeney) it would be part of DuCharme’s job to discredit Rudy’s former houseguest as a witness. He would do so, presumably, by pointing to all the things Guerriero told Schwartz she regrets, including harassment of McGonigal’s family that was serious enough to merit restraining orders in two states.

By her own account, Guerriero contacted one of McGonigal’s children despite being prohibited from doing so by a court order, an incident that led to her spending the night in a New Jersey jail. The court order stemmed from a 2019 police report, obtained by Insider, that McGonigal’s wife, Pamela, filed with the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland. The report states that McGonigal and Guerriero “had a relationship” and that Guerriero had repeatedly harassed her with unwelcome emails and phone calls — including 20 calls in one day — despite her asking Guerriero to stop.

Guerriero confirmed that her contact with the McGonigal family led to a separate restraining order issued in New Jersey. “I am ashamed and embarrassed and sorry for my actions during the time that I was drinking,” she said.

In Schwartz’ story, Guerriero doesn’t say she regrets that email to Sweeney, which could well have sparked this entire investigation. She regrets the harassment of McGonigal’s family, which might come out if she were called as a witness.

All of which may provide insight into why the DC case against McGongial is charged as it is. Among the overt acts of which McGonigal is accused in DC are:

  • Networking with representatives of the government of Albania in late 2017 and early 2018 during the period when he used information from them to launch an investigation against the US citizen lobbyist for their rival.
  • Proposing that his prime Albanian contact be paid $500,000 (which may have been meant as repayment of money the Albanian gave McGonigal in 2017) to set up a high level UN meeting for some Bosnians.

Both of these overt acts could be charged under FARA and the Albanian tie, at least, could well have been charged under 18 USC 951. But McGonigal would likely offer the same kind of defense that Tom Barrack did in his EDNY trial: when McGonigal counseled the Albanian Prime Minister not to sign oil contracts with Russian on September 9, 2017, he could easily argue, he did so because he was genuinely opposed to Russian influence and not because he was seeking a benefit for his key Albanian contact.

Instead, DOJ charged him with inadequate disclosure to the FBI on forms FD-772b and OGE-278, with each inadequate disclosure charged as a false statement under either 18 USC 1001 or 1519 (though I don’t understand why McGonigal would not immediately challenge the three of the charges tied to filings submitted more than five years ago, especially if FBI had notice of all this in 2018). The 1001 charges would normally only get a few months sentence, though with a sentencing enhancement for abusing his official position, and by treating each inadequate disclosure as a separate crime, potential exposure could easily add up to years, or, with a plea deal, it could be pitched as “process crimes” meriting just months of prison time.

Charging it that way not only gives DC USAO more flexibility in plea discussions.

It would also make it a “paper case,” something that depends largely on documentation rather than the credibility of a witness like McGonigal’s primary Albanian contact (who seems to have told FBI that the cash payments were loans, not payments) or Guerriero. For each false form McGonigal submitted, DOJ will only have to show where he traveled, how his travel was paid, and that he didn’t properly disclose it. It would rely on travel records and bank statements and not the testimony of a witness who harassed McGonigal’s family out of jealousy.

I don’t want to make too much of Schwartz’ revelation that a key witness against McGonigal was staying in Rudy’s guest room as the investigation developed. Drunken jealousy is all the motive you need to explain her actions (though not, perhaps, inconsistencies about how much of the Albanian graft she knew about).

But once you throw Rudy and Montenegro into the mix, the trajectory on which McGonigal traveled, from arguing against Russian oil contracts in September 2017 to thinking he could manage ties to Deripaska in spring of 2018, gets a lot more interesting.

More on Brandon Straka’s So-Called Cooperation

There was a funny moment in Brandon Straka’s February 24, 2022 January 6 Committee interview.

Close to the beginning of the interview, he provided a description of how, he claimed, the idea for Stop the Steal came about: someone, probably Ali Alexander, simply renamed a pre-existing MAGAt Twitter DM list sometime after the election.

A So there was a Twitter DM thread, which s to say, like, a private message thread that somebody had created — I have no idea who because in all likelihood it was probably created significantly before I was added to it. It was called MAGA Verified, which essentially means anybody who is a MAGA or, you know, Donald Trump supporter, who has a blue checkmark next to their name, so as in verified on Twitter.

And so somebody had created a group, a direct message group, and so I don’t know if anyone here maybe does or does not understand how Twitter works, but with a Twitter DM group, somebody can create a group and just add people. They don’t have to have your permission. Then it’s up to you to either leave the group or decide if you  want to stay in the group. 1) So, like, as right now as we speak, I’m probably added to hundreds of groups because I don’t really check my DMs that thoroughly, and I don’t make it an effort to go through and remove myself from every group that I’m added to.

But this particular group was called MAGA Verified, and it was a collection of people who are verified, you know, Republicans or Donald Trump supporters.

And then as (he claims) results started changing, people on the group decided to adopt the hashtag #StopTheSteal.

And at after the election, so I guess around November 5th, I would say, of 2020, 6several of us were in that group just sort of expressing confusion, exasperation, sadness about how the election results had suddenly changed during the night on November 4th going into November 5th.

And thenI think over the course I mean, I’d have to go back and look, but it was over the course of, I think, a day or two that plans started getting made to kind of deploy to swing States and host these First Amendment-protected events to encourage people to keep their spirits up and encourage their State legislators to hold a thorough forensic audit of the votes in theirStates, because people were very concerned about irregularities. So I’m going to go out on a limb and assume it was probably Ali Alexander who started using the Stop the Steal hashtag.

According to the cooperation memo the government filed in advance of Straka’s sentencing last year, which just got unsealed, it’s the same story he told to the FBI.

The “Stop the Steal” effort was formed through a private Twitter group of which Straka was a member. The group was formed “long before” the 2020 election and referred to itself as the “MAGA Verified” group because it was comprised of MAGA followers who were verified on Twitter. The members of the group used Twitter to exchange private direct messages with one another. Straka provided information about an individual, Ali Alexander, who was part of the MAGA Verified group.

There are a few problems with the story. First, as J6C pointed out to Straka, he was already organizing a vote fraud event, to take place after the election, before the election.

So we’ll give you time to look at this document, but it is it looks like it’s a permit 3 application filed by WalkAway Campaign. ~The date is October 28 of 2020. It’s for John 4 Marshall Park, and it’s scheduled — the proposed scheduled date is for November 15th.

If we go down to the second, page, the purpose of the event is a demonstration for free and fair elections. So help us understand, why did you –what were you thinking about on October 28th to want to have an event on November 15th about free: and fair elections?

In response to this observation, Straka bullshitted for a while and then gave up.

It just didn’t make sense, he said.

A Julie Hanson is an event planner that we’ve worked with over – for years on various events that we’ve done. I can’t answer this question, because this doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t know if she made a mistake when she put the date on the application, or if I don’t want to speculate why Julie put that date on the application, but I can tell you this doesn’t make sense to me, because I thought that Donald Trump was going to win the election, and my reaction to how the election turned out began on November 5th. So it makes no sense to me that I would’ve done – I would’ve asked to submit an application a week before the election. That doesn’t make sense to me.

Q So it’s your just want to make sure we have your testimony clear. You don’t recall instructing Ms. Hanson or approving an application in October for this event after the election on November 15th?

A Not in October, I don’t recall that. I — again, it just doesn’t make sense.

Right: This story doesn’t make sense. That’s the problem.

Plus, as J6C pointed out, the hash tag was actually in use well before the election. After Straka engaged in a really long spiel about how he didn’t much care of Ali Alexander registered the hash tag — “I just want[] to be told where to show up, what time, and where’s the microphone” — (as he said about January 6), J6C asked about the timing again.

Q Got it. That brings me back thank you, that was helpful. That brings me back, though, to the permit application from October 28th. It looks like Stop the Steal, the hashtag, I mean, was really starting to get traction early as September 7th of 2020.

We’ve seen tweets of Jack Posobiec doing it.

So do you recall maybe filing this application in October, for November 15th, to advance the Stop the Steal messaging that was starting to percolate in September, October, and November of 2020?

A Again, it just doesn’t make any sense to me. That – because I believed wholeheartedly that Donald Trump was going to win the election. ~ So it ~ it just doesn’t make sense to me that I would’ve decided a week before the election to submit a permit under the assumption that we’re going to lose the election. It just – that just doesn’t add up inmy mind.

In fact, J6C already knew that the hashtag had been in use even longer than that.

Though Ali Alexander, in his December 9, 2021 testimony, had tried to distinguish the hashtag from everything else, when asked why he suggested he should sue the Kremers after Roger Stone was denied a speaking slot on January 6, Alexander explained,

And there was all this pretense that, you know, Roger Stone is the gentleman who came up with the phrase Stop the Steal. I have, you know, this gentleman’s agreement with him that I  have a perpetual use of the license.

And the FBI would know that Stop the Steal went back to 2016, because abundant evidence about it would have been collected by Robert Mueller’s team.

So no one should have believed Straka’s explanation.

I have long raised questions about whether DOJ allowed itself to be snookered in giving Straka a sweet plea, when instead they should have charged him with obstruction. There’s nothing in the filings unsealed in recent days to alleviate my concerns.

That’s true, first of all, because two of the things he threw at prosecutors seem to have been chum, waste material thrown out to distract predators. Straka provided second-hand information from someone who may have been in Nancy Pelosi’s office.

Information that Elijah Schaffer was inside of Nancy Pelosi’s office that is currently being investigated. It is unknown whether any other information has been discovered by the Government concerning this lead.

The government still had not verified the tip a year later.

On March 5, 2021, Straka was interviewed by the FBI a second time. Sometime after his first interview, Straka recalled that an individual, David Leatherwood, told him that an individual, Elijah Schaffer, was inside of Nancy Pelosi’s office on January 6. This information is being investigated for its accuracy.

And Straka, just before sentencing, provided the name of a guy he lived close to in Nebraska (but had not previously known), an identification he claimed came from someone he didn’t even know on Twitter.

On information and belief, Mr. Straka positively identified Gavin Crowl as an individual who participated in January 6. Mr. Crowl’s identity had not been previously provided by anyone to Law Enforcement for almost eleven months. Mr. Crowl is a convicted Sex Offender who has been placed on the Sex Offender Registry in Nebraska. His identity was confirmed by using information provided on the Sex Offender Registry, and by cross-referencing public information from his LinkedIn profile with information he provided in an Internet interview with Bobby Powell, a Government-identified “insurrectionist advocate”. This individual can be heard encouraging the crowd to take the shield of the officer in the video recorded by Mr. Straka. Other video information provided by Mr. Straka shows this individual moving toward entering the Capitol before he was stopped. It is unknown whether this individual actually did enter the Capitol Building; and what other criminal activity he participated in.

His J6C interview makes it clear Straka shared this guy’s name for the purpose of floating conspiracy theories about Antifa.

A Okay. So I — it had been brought to my attention by somebody on social media who I  don’t know, a complete stranger, had essentially reached out to me to tell me that they had identified somebody in a video who was at the Capitol who they said this person told me that they identified a person who they said was a member of antifa.

This person told me, I watched this person dressed entirely in black from head to toe, and they said, then he went away for 10, 15 minutes or whatever, and he came back dressed asa Trump supporter. And he was causing agitation, you know, et cetera.

I engaged in a conversation with this person, because the person said to me, I have this on video, or something like that, and I said, Okay. So I looked at the video that the person was talking about, just because it sounded interesting to me, and I was shocked when I discovered that recognized this person as being somebody who was standing directly beside me in my video when I was on the Capitol steps.

Now, you know, I know for a fact that one of the crimes I’m — I was accused of committing was being in a restricted area. So this person had certainly committed the same crime that I committed, and I was also very curious if this person might’ve been encouraging the crowd in ways that it was alleged that I was encouraging the crowd.

And so, I asked this person if they knew the identity of this individual, and this person said, Yes. And so he gave me the name of this individual. I googled this individual and discovered that this individual has a violent criminal record.

At that point – and –and I also discovered that this person lives, coincidentally, very close by where I live.

According to the government sentencing memo, they did open an investigation into Crowl; it was new information for them.

On December 8, 2021, counsel for Straka provided the government with information regarding a United Capitol rioter who was at the U.S. Capitol. Straka recalled observing the individual while he was standing outside on the steps outside of the East Rotunda Doors. This individual stood nearby as a U.S. Capitol Police Officer’s protective shield was taken away from him. Straka believes that the individual joined in with the crowd yelling “take it, take it,” as rioters struggled with the officer to take his shield. After January 6, the individual, identified by Straka as Gavin Crowl, participated in an interview with insurrectionist advocate, Bobby Powell. Crowl recounted what he observed at the U.S. Capitol. Straka and Crowl reside in Nebraska and live within a short distance of each other. Straka’s information is beneficial in that Crowl was not previously identified by the FBI prior to Straka’s identification of Crowl.

[snip]

Based in the information provided by Straka, the FBI has opened an investigation into Crowl and his conduct at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Crowl is the one, notably, that Straka claimed to be afraid of, not Trump people threatening to retaliate (though DOJ submitted exhibits of texts from someone else demanding that Straka recant his testimony).

This violent sex offender, if he learns of Mr. Straka’s cooperation in identifying him (which would be the primary reason for any subsequent arrest and prosecution) has a predatory and aggressive history, which could easily result in retaliation against Mr. Straka or his family.

Crowl has not yet — publicly, anyway — been arrested, and even if he was, it’s not clear he ever did anything more than trespass outside the building.

While the tip may have been helpful, it was not cooperation about things that Straka was uniquely positioned to know.

The single prosecution on which Straka’s cooperation was said to help (usually the standard for credit at sentencing) was Simone Gold, the anti-vax activist who was arrested even before Straka was in January 2021, and who had already been charged with felony obstruction six days before the February 11 Straka interview where he first provided the information. In its sentencing memo, the government said Straka provided a voice mail that might help get Gold to plead.

Straka provided the government with voicemail messages that he received from Gold, whom he met in Washington D.C. on either January 5 or 6. The information contained in the voicemail messages is valuable in the government’s prosecution of Gold and may assist in a plea resolution of the Gold prosecution.

After further delay, Gold did plead out, not to the felony obstruction count, but to the more serious trespassing count. Her plea agreement had the standard cooperation paragraph in it, which sometimes suggests that the person had not yet sat for the further FBI interview required by virtually all misdemeanor pleas. The government sentencing memo in her case laid out several ways she continued to delegitimize her prosecution — and fundraise, to the tune of $430,000 — off it. In short, there’s absolutely no evidence that DOJ used the information Straka provided on Gold to advance the overall investigation. It made a misdemeanor plea easier to get, but not much more than that.

Gold is more likely to be held accountable in a lawsuit by her anti-vax group, which has split into factions over how she grifted the fundraising from it (though the failed attempt by Gold’s attorney, Kira West, to drop her as a client may suggest there might be legal accountability for the grift, as well).

The combined memos make it clear that the government viewed Straka’s cooperation to be most valuable for his insight into Stop the Steal, especially Alexander. Straka himself describes identifying people on one of the Stop the Steal threads (though this sounds like the known Twitter DM list; in his J6C transcript, he described a Signal thread as well).

Contact information regarding the following members of the Stop the Steal text thread, to include: Ali Alexander, Michael Coudrey, Scott Presler, Ashley St. Clair, Nathan Martin, Courtney Holland, Megan Barth, CJ Pearson, Ryan Fournier, and another telephone number unknown to Mr. Straka.

There’s a non-zero chance that the tenth number is either that of Paul Gosar or one of his staffers, because he was on that Twitter thread (and Straka filibustered about him when asked by J6C).

There are reasons for concern, though. None of the documents pertaining to Straka — from either J6C or DOJ — mention Mike Flynn, next to whom Straka sat at the Ellipse rally, which is particularly important given Straka’s description that he went back to the Willard after the rally.

And in the discussion of Straka’s information on the organizers of Stop the Steal (Straka did not mention Caroline Wren, though he may not have understood her role), DOJ adopts the same misspelling of the Kremers’ name as Straka did: “Kremmer” rather than “Kremer.”

Straka provided information about “Stop the Steal” members Amy Kremmer, Kylie Kremmer, Cindy Chafian. This information was useful in that it identified members of “Stop the Steal.” Neither the Kremmers nor Chafian are being prosecuted by the government at this time.

Note that J6C seemed not to have communications between Straka and Chafian that should have been in his production.

How aggressively must prosecutors be following this if, over a year into an investigation of January 6, they’re still not clear on who the Kremers are, whether or not their actions are deemed suspect?

And Straka’s memo seems to confirm my fear that DOJ had not yet turned to the earlier incitement from Stop the Steal — which was a key threat to state lawmakers are they were considering whether to support Trump’s coup attempt — until his third interview, in January 2022.

Additional information concerning Michael Coudrey, Scott Presler, Ashley St. Clair, Courtney Holland, Megan Barth, CJ Pearson, and Ryan Fournier, Amy and Kylie Kremmer, Cindy Chafian, Alex “Bruisewitz” (spelling unknown), Crystal (LNU) (an organizer and logistics person involved in rallies for President Trump), and Jenny Beth Martin; as well as information about specific rallies held in the months prior to January 6, was provided during Brandon’s third interview. [my emphasis]

Brandon Straka played a central role in intimidating election workers in my state of Michigan in 2020, and the government got all the way to sentencing before asking him about that process. That pisses me off and raises real questions about how thoroughly they investigated Straka before agreeing to a misdemeanor plea.

In his J6C interview, almost seven weeks after that third interview, Straka revealed that FBI at that point still retained all his devices except his phone. Three months after his third interview, DOJ subpoenaed Alexander. DOJ may not be done with Straka.

It may be that the trade-off — of getting immediate access to his devices rather than waiting to crack whatever security he had — still made the plea worth it. It may be that that early cooperation, and more importantly, the follow-up in January 2022, provided DOJ information they couldn’t have gotten without a lot more effort.

But J6C, without warrants, was able to poke a key hole in Straka’s story. At least on the public record, it seems that FBI was not so thorough, even with warrants and seized devices in hand.

Links

Timeline

January 11, 2021: Tip on Straka’s post to Twitter

January 13, 2021: Interview with Straka relative

By January 13, 2021: Straka removes January 5 video from Twitter; last view date for December 19, 2020 video cited in sentencing memo but not arrest affidavit

January 20, 2021: Straka charged by complaint

January 25, 2021: Straka arrest

February 17, 2021: First FBI interview

February 18, 2021: First continuance

March 25, 2021: Second FBI interview

June 3, 2021: Second continuance

July 2, 2021: Protective order

August 25, 2021: Third continuance

August 31, 2021: Date of plea offer

September 14, 2021: Deadline to accept plea

September 15, 2021: Straka charged by information

September 30, 2021: Stuart Dornan files notice of appearance for Straka

October 5, 2021: Updated information

October 6, 2021: Change of plea hearing (plea agreementstatement of offense); sentencing scheduled for December 17, with initial memo due December 10 and response due by December 15

Between October 7 and November 19, 2021: Pretrial services interview (sealed docket #28)

November 19, 2021: Brittany Reed substitutes for April Russo

December 8, 2021: Sentencing reset for December 22; sentencing memo due by December 15; Straka “provide[s] counsel for the government with information that may impact the government’s sentencing recommendation”

December 9, 2021: Ali Alexander J6C testimony

December 10, 2021: Straka shares sentencing position (possibly filed under seal)

December 11, 2021: Government tells defendants it seeks to continue, tells Straka it will consider request to dismiss case

December 16, 2021: Last view date for 2018 Straka video, Walkaway Foundation website, WalkAway Campaign PAC website, WalkAway Campaign YouTube Channel; ProPublica article on Michael Courdrey message (and attempts to distance Alex Jones and Ali Alexander)

December 17, 2021: Motion to continue (presented as joint) 30 days

By December 23, 2021: Sealed motion attempting to seal publicly filed motion to continue, denied by Judge Friedrich

January 5, 2022: Third FBI interview, this time including prosecutors (plural)

January 13, 2022: Government sentencing memo (sealed addendum at docket #37); government denies Straka request to dismiss case

January 14, 2022: Bilal Essayli files notice of appearance for Straka

January 20, 2022: Straka sentencing

February 22, 2022: Brandon Straka J6C testimony

April 8, 2022: Ali Alexander reports receiving a subpoena

June 24, 2022: Ali Alexander grand jury appearance

The Primary Thing Eric Herschmann Remembers from January 6 Is that Cassidy Hutchinson Was Wrong about That Note

There’s a funny detail in Cassidy Hutchinson’s September 14 January 6 Committee testimony.

She claimed that on May 20, after a third appearance before the committee and after firing her lawyer, Stefan Passantino earlier that day, Eric Herschmann called her and told her, “I didn’t know you remembered so much.”

And Eric called me that evening, and I just apologized. And he was like, you know, “I didn’t know that you remembered so much, Cassidy. Mark [Meadows] really put you in bad positions. I’m really sorry that he didn’t take care of you better. You never should’ve had to testify to any of that. That’s all of our jobs. I don’t know why they didn’t ask us, they asked you instead.”

And I was just like, “Look, Eric like, it is what it is.” And he kind of talked for — it was probably a 30-minute conversation.

“Remembered,” she described Herschmann saying, not “knew” or “witnessed.”

It’s an interesting word choice, if accurate, because in Herschmann’s testimony before the committee back on April 6 (and so after Passantino had sat through Hutchinson’s first two appearances before the committee, on February 23 and March 7), he didn’t remember much.

The word “remember” shows up (sometimes used as part of a question to him) 482 times in the transcript. The word “recall” shows up 166 times. The word “recollection” comes up 24 times.

Among the things Herschmann professed to have little memory of were the fake electors casting votes in December, Trump’s December 19 tweet announcing the January 6 event,  the date of a key January 5 meeting involving Marc Short and John Eastman, the details (beyond an “intellectual discussion about [John] Eastman”) of a call he had with Rudy Giuliani — out of the blue! — on the morning of the 6th, what he said to Pat Philbin to try to convince him to join him at the rally before proceeding on his own, what Trump said to him while waiting to speak at the Ellipse (Herschmann invoked Executive Privilege to cover a call between him and Trump at 10:50PM that day), any claims in Trump’s Ellipse speech that Herschmann knew to be bullshit,  what Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, and Trump were talking about in the dining room after returning from the Ellipse, and whether he had auto-delete set for his texts.

What Herschmann did recall — aside from the times he screamed at Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell, and John Eastman, which made him a hero of the January 6 Committee hearings — was writing a note calling on people to leave the Capitol.

Q So do you recall, did you tell them what was happening or did they seem to already be aware?

A I don’t remember. I know I wrote out something, but I don’t remember if they were aware when they came back or I told them when I came in. I just don’t remember that detail.

Q And why did you write something out?

A I thought we should put out a statement.

Q Okay. Do you remember what you wrote?

A I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember going down to Mark’s outer office, chief of staff, and asking someone there to get me something to write on. And normally, if I had to — if I was grabbing something, it would be the chief of staff.

They have one of those cards, I don’t know, it’s a rectangular card that says chief of staff.

Q So this was a handwritten note?

A It was a handwritten note, yeah.

Q Okay. Let’s go — we’ll pull up Exhibit 11. Is that the note you’re referring to?

A That is the note.

Q Okay. And what did you do with the note?

A The actual physical note.

Q Yeah. Did you give it to the President?

A No, I didn’t give it to the President. I may have given it to Meadows, but I didn’t hand it to the President. I would have — I think the reason I edited “illegally,” is someone had a discussion, I don’t remember who it was — and it wasn’t the President, but someone had the discussion, how do we establish it’s illegally — that they entered illegally? Which I thought, okay, I don’t want to say overlawyering, but overlawyering, in my view. So I crossed out “illegally” and said “without proper authority.” Okay, that solves that issue, right? And I thought we should put out the statement.

Q Did you tell the President that he should put out a statement?

A Generally, I had discussions with the President about putting out a statement. I don’t remember if I read this or I handed it to Mark, or Mark and I discussed it in front of the President. I just don’t remember that detail. But this was my first reaction to seeing the violence and what I thought the White House should do.

Q Did the President have a reaction?

A I don’t recall his reaction, but obviously he didn’t put out this statement. [my emphasis]

It’s funny that that was one of the few things Herschmann recalled on April 4, because after Hutchinson testified in her May 17 testimony to remembering a whole bunch of things that Herschmann couldn’t remember (including a discussion between Meadows, Herschmann, and Pat Cipollone about Trump’s comment that Mike Pence might deserve to be hung), she went on to publicly testify, on June 28, that she physically wrote that note as Meadows dictated it, with Herschmann chiming into to offer the alternative, “without proper authority.”

LIZ CHENEY: Now let’s look at just one example of what some senior advisers to the president were urging. Ms. Hutchinson, could you look at the exhibit that we’re showing on the screen now? Have you seen this note before?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: That’s a note that I wrote at the direction of the chief of staff on January 6th, likely around 3:00.

LIZ CHENEY: And it’s written on a chief of staff note card, but that’s your handwriting, Ms. Hutchinson?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: That’s my handwriting.

LIZ CHENEY: And why did you write this note?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: The chief of staff was in a meeting with Eric Hirschman and potentially Mr. Philbin, and they had rushed out of the office fairly quickly. Mark had handed me the note card with one of his pens, and sort of dictating a statement for the president to potentially put out.

LIZ CHENEY: And — no, I’m sorry. Go ahead.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: That’s Ok. There are two phrases on there, one illegal and then one without proper authority. The illegal phrase was the one that Mr. Meadows had dictated to me. Mr. Herschmann had chimed in and said also put without legal authority. There should have been a slash between the two phrases. It was an — an or if the president had opted to put one of those statements out. Evidently he didn’t. Later that afternoon, Mark came back from the Oval Dining Room and put the palm card on my desk with illegally crossed out, but said we didn’t need to take further action on that statement.

LIZ CHENEY: So, to your knowledge, this statement was never issued.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: It was — to my knowledge, it was never issued.

The difference between Herschmann and Meadows dictating the note to Hutchinson (who is not once mentioned in Herschmann’s testimony) and Herschmann writing it himself is negligible in the larger story, so he could have left it well enough alone. Especially given the number of times Herschmann claimed not to remember details of what happened with the note, such as how it was presented to Trump or how the then-President responded.

But Herschmann didn’t leave it well enough alone. Shortly after Hutchinson’s public testimony, Herschmann’s spox put out a formal statement claiming he had written the note.

“The handwritten note that Cassidy Hutchinson testified was written by her was in fact written by Eric Herschmann on January 6, 2021,” a spokesperson for Herschmann told ABC News Tuesday evening.

“All sources with direct knowledge and law enforcement have and will confirm that it was written by Mr. Herschmann,” the spokesperson said.

This statement became one of two bases — along with the pushback from people in the vicinity of Tony Ornato about the Beast story — on which Hutchinson’s credibility was attacked in the days after her testimony.

The discrepancy on the note could be just that, a discrepancy. All of Herschmann’s claimed memory lapses might one day come to be refreshed.

The dispute, however minor, between Herschmann and Hutchinson is noteworthy for several reasons though.

First, Hutchinson told the committee that the first time she met with Passantino, after being referred by Herschmann via Alex Cannon, she asked him if he was representing anyone else before the Committee. Passantino wouldn’t answer, but according to Hutchinson, he did say he had represented Eric Herschmann, among others, in the past, and that “we really want to work to protect Eric Herschmann.”

Ms. Hutchinson. ~ You previously asked about individuals he had raised with me. In my conversation with him earlier that afternoon, when I [sic] asking him about the engagement letter, I did also ask Stefan if he was representing any other January 6th clients. And he had said, “No one that I believe that you would have any conflicts with.”

And I said, “Would you mind letting me know?” Now, again, to this day, I still don’t know if that’s really a kosher question to ask an attorney, if they can share their clients with me, but I wanted to make sure that there actually weren’t any conflicts, because I didn’t have anything in writing.

He wouldn’t tell me anybody he was representing before the January 6th Committee, but he did tell me that he had previously represented Eric Herschmann and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in unrelated matters.

And in that same conversation, he said, “So if you have any conversations with any of them, especially Eric Herschmann, we want to really work to protect Eric Herschmann.”

And| I remember saying sarcastically to him, “Eric can handle himself. Eric has his own resources. Why do I have to protect Eric?” He said, “No, no, no. Like, just to keep everything straight, like, we want to protect Eric with all of this.”

Ms. Cheney. Did he explain what he meant?

Ms. Hutchinson. No. And, to be honest, I didn’t ask. I didn’t have anything with Eric anyway that I felt that I had to protect. And I say that because, at the time of being back in Trump world — this is where I look back and regret some of this, but — like, I did feel a need to protect certain people. But with somebody like Eric, I didn’t feel that need, I didn’t find it necessary.  didn’t — I didn’t think that Eric did anything wrong at the time.

Ms. Cheney. Did it have something to do with NARA?

Ms. Hutchinson. He never really explained to me what it was exactly that we wanted to protect Eric on. I sort of erred on the side of: Maybe he just represents Eric in ongoing litigation, whether it’s financial disclosures or whatever it might be.

And, again, I just didn’t prod too much on that either, because, you know, I was under the impression that Eric helped set me up with Stefan, so I didn’t — I was worried that Stefan would then go back-channel to Eric and — this is my very paranoid brain at the time, but I was worried that if I, you know, pushed this subject a little too much, that he would then go back to Eric Herschmann and say, “Cassidy asked a lot of questions about you, like, why she needs to protect you.” So just didn’t really press the subject too much on that.

By the end of that first day, per her testimony, she learned that Passantino was business partners on the election-related business Alex Cannon had with Justin Clark and, possibly, Herschmann.

S0 I — “I want to make sure that I’m getting the dates right with these things?

He goes, “No, no, no.” He said, “Look, we want to get you in, get you out.

We’re going to downplay your role. You were a secretary. You had an administrative role. Everyone’s on the same page about this. It’s extremely unfair that they’re” “they’re” being the committee – “that the committee is putting you in this position in the first place. You really have nothing to do with any of this. It’s Mark’s fault that you’re even involved in this. We’re completely happy to be taking care of you now. We had no idea that you weren’t being taken care of this last year. So we’re really happy that you reached back out to us. But the less you remember, the better. I don’t think that you should be filling in any calendars or anything.”

[Redacted] When he said a

Ms. Cheney. Go ahead.

[Redacted] So everyone’s on the same page about this, did he explain who he was referring to when he said “everyone”?

Ms. Hutchinson. He didn’t at that moment. Then there are times throughout my working relationship with Stefan where he said similar things that I asked.

Later that day, sort of put together that the “they” he was referring to then were Justin Clark, Alex Cannon, Eric Herschmann. I think that’s — yeah, think that’s all of them.

Ms. Cheney. And how did you put that together?

Ms. Hutchinson.  Because he — he had said that — Justin — yeah, Justin Clark. Stefan had told me that — towards the end of the day that because he was involved with Elections, LLC, and tangentially, I guess Trump’s PACs, he had law partners. And unless I was extremely unwilling for him to share, he said it would be natural for him to have to share that information with the people that he works with that are his partners that are involved in Trump world.

Then, after her third interview — the one in which Hutchinson remembered a lot of details about the response to the attack that Herschmann had already testified to not remembering — Passantino responded by confirming to Maggie Haberman that Meadows’ former aide had testified, and telling Meadows’ lawyers, his partners, and Herschmann about her testimony, all in defiance of Hutchinson’s wishes, according to her testimony.

Ms. Cheney. Did he also – so you said that he talked to Terwilliger, to his law partners. Did he also talk to Herschmann?

Ms. Hutchinson. He did. I’m sorry. I neglected to mention that. He –as we were leaving that evening, I got an Uber, and he walked me to my Uber, and he reiterated that he was going to have a conversation with his law partners. He was going back to Michael Best, and he said that he was going to have a conversation with his law partners that night.

And he asked — he asked — I forget how he said it. He said something to the effect of, “I think its best if we tell Eric about this, too. He’s not technically my law partner, but I think Eric deserves to know some of this, too.”

And I said, “Look, at this point, one, I kind of know you’re going to do what you’re going to do.” And I said, “Whatever you think is best”

That’s what led to the 30-minute call from Herschmann, the one where he expressed surprise that she remembered so much.

The discrepancy looks somewhat different give Hutchinson’s claim that Passantino told her, from the start, “they” were trying to protect Herschmann.

Particularly given that the transcripts reveal just how amorphous Herschmann’s job was. He has often been referred to as part of the White House Counsel’s office. I’ve done it. General Keith Kellogg did it in his interview with the Committee, which is why, Kellogg explained, he was so surprised that Herschmann sat silent in the Oval Office as Trump told Mike Pence he could reject electors from contested states, some details of which were something else Herschmann claimed not to remember.

Herschmann’s job was providing legal advice (he was also involved in Jared Kushner’s portfolio of pardons and Middle East negotiations, though when asked, he was coy about his relationship with the kids: “I had met them beforehand,” he said) And he did report through Pat Cipollone. But he was not part of the White House Counsel’s Office.

It’s almost like he was an in-house minder, paid by taxpayers, installed by the family or Bill Barr for the last five months of the presidency.

While working at the White House, Herschmann teamed up with Passantino and Don Jr’s buddy, Arthur Schwartz, to pitch the first Hunter Biden smears to the WSJ, even before Rudy disseminated the “laptop.”

Yet even in that short time period, Herschmann became a key gatekeeper for the President, ostensibly to prevent him from getting outrageous pitches.

Which makes a key discrepancy between Pat Cipollone and Herschmann’s testimony rather interesting, particularly given Passantino’s concern (at least per Hutchinson’s testimony) with protecting Herschmann.

Herschmann claimed that the reason Cipollone wasn’t in that meeting in the Oval Office on January 6, sometime after he spoke with Rudy out of the blue and at which he didn’t remember the Joint Session of Congress coming up, is because Cipollone hadn’t arrived to work yet. In fact, Herschmann remembered that even after the Oval Office meeting, Cipollone still wasn’t in the office; Herschmann described talking to just Pat Philbin before deciding to go, without prior planning, to the Ellipse.

I don’t remember, I don’t think Cipollone was in the office yet, but Philbin was.

The way Cipollone remembered it is that he came to the Oval Office before the meeting, but Herschmann specifically told him he didn’t need to participate — it was just family.

I remember Eric Herschmann was standing there and came and my recollection is he came to me as I was standing in the door and said, this is — this is family — just kind of –you don’t need to be here. And said, fine. And believe I went back to my office at that point.

And so, as Herschmann described, when he was in the Oval Office not hearing a discussion about the Joint Session of Congress, he was just on a social visit, just saying hello.

Q You were not there for any legal purpose. It was just, you indicated, sort of a social gathering?

A Yeah, when I first came in, it was just saying hello.

I’m sure that relative veracity of these claims are all being weighed by Jack Smith and his prosecution team. Indeed, after these events, DOJ started adding Passantino’s name to subpoenas.

I’m interested in one more detail about it. Immediately after Hutchinson testified about her claims of obstruction to J6C on September 14 and 15 (testimony which should have been secret), Maggie Haberman came out with two stories pitching Herschmann — who worked so closely on Jared’s portfolio at the White House — in positive light. On September 16, Maggie Haberman reported on Herschmann’s demand to get an Executive Privilege invocation in writing just in time to avoid testifying sometime that month. In it, Herschmann got to impugn Boris Epshteyn’s legal ability, just like he was made a star of the J6C hearings by yelling at Eastman and Powell.

The claim that Herschmann was invoking Executive Privilege is particularly interesting given two things he said in his J6C interview. First, he said that “based on his understanding” with the two Pats, he would not invoke privilege, at least with respect to Trump’s call to Mike Pence on January 6.

Q And could you hear the Vice President, or only hear the President’s end?

A Only hear the President’s end.

Q Okay. And what did you hear him say?

A Well, I guess from this, based on my understanding with Pat Philbin and Pat Cipollone — I don’t want to assert privilege on that as much as tell you that, at some point, it started off as a calmer tone and everything, and then became heated.

Given his claimed status as a social visitor and his role as an aide giving legal advice reporting to, but not part of, the White House Counsel’s Office, I’m curious what privilege he would claim.

Almost immediately thereafter, Herschmann asked to review with his own lawyers (former colleagues of his from Marc Kasowitz’ firm who also repped Ivanka, Jared, Ivanka Trump’s Chief of Staff Julie Radford and aide Rachel Craddock, and two of Trump’s Executive Assistants, Molly Michael and Austin Ferrer, as well as Alex Cannon, the latter of whom was represented pro bono), in part, whether “if I don’t recall something” it’s invoking a privilege.

Q  Okay. Others have said that President Trump said, I made the wrong decision four years ago?

Do you recall that.

A Let me — can we take a two-second break, so I get the privilege down in my head? Because if I don’t recall something, I presume it’s not invoking anything, right?

So can we take a five-minute break, so I can get my own ground rules covered.

Herschmann did, as noted, invoke privilege to cover one of two private conversations he had with Trump that day, one after the attack on the Capitol. But that was it. The single solitary thing all day he invoked privilege over. And yet somehow, there would be a lengthy discussion about privilege before he appeared before a grand jury.

The reason I find these discussions of privilege so interesting, though, is because while we know that the two Pats testified before a grand jury after Beryl Howell overruled Trump’s privilege invocation, we’ve never heard whether Herschmann did.

That’s relevant, too, because (like Alex Cannon), Herschmann also reportedly has a role in the stolen documents case. A few days after the story on privilege, on September 19, Haberman reported that Herschmann had warned Trump to return his stolen documents at some otherwise vague meeting in 2021.

As Hutchinson’s testimony and years of past practice make clear, sometimes people share stories with Maggie as a way to telegraph what has gone on in an investigation.

Special Master in Project Veritas Investigation Reviewed Crime-Fraud Submissions in December

Back in December, Paul Calli and his firm withdrew from the Project Veritas Special Master docket, and was replaced by Edward Greim, a partner in Matt “Big Dick Toilet Salesman” Whitaker’s firm. He also represents a number of Trumpsters before the January 6 Committee.

That’s interesting timing because, according to the invoice that Special Master Barbara Jones just submitted, she spent two hours that week reviewing Crime-Fraud submissions in the case.

 

Trump Worked with People Who Allegedly Worked with the Proud Boys to Obstruct the Peaceful Transfer of Power

By my count, at least 14 people are known to have pled guilty to some kind of conspiracy on January 6, with four more cooperating against them. Another four were found guilty of one or more conspiracy in November’s Oath Keeper verdict. Eighteen people, in one way or another have been convicted of conspiring to prevent the peaceful transfer of power on January 6, most by obstructing the vote certification.

Trump played a key part in all those conspiracies.

Ronnie Sandlin, for example, first started planning to go, armed, to DC in response to Trump’s December 19 tweet, posting on December 23 that he planned to “stop the steal and stand behind Trump when he decides to cross the rubicon.” After he watched Trump’s speech on January 6, Sandlin did a live stream where he said, “I think it is time to take the Capitol.” Once he arrived at the Capitol, Sandlin and co-conspirator Nate DeGrave participated in tactically critical assaults on cops in two places, the East door and the door to the Senate gallery. After Sandlin helped him get into the gallery, Josiah Colt then rappelled from the gallery to the Senate floor.

Like Sandlin, Brad Smith started arming himself and planning to come to DC in response to Trump’s December 19 tweet.

The call to action was put out to be in DC on January 6th from the Don himself. The reason is that’s the day pence counts them up and if the entire city is full of trump supporters it will stop the for sure riots from burning down the city at least for awhile.

By December 31, Smith predicted, “Militias will be there and if there’s enough people they may fucking storm the buildings and take out the trash right there.” Smith and his co-conspirator, Marshall Neefe, participated in an assault on cops using an 8′ by 10′ Trump sign. And after the attack he boasted that the mission was successful because “we literally chased them out into hiding. No certification lol.”

Trump played a slightly different role in the Oath Keepers conspiracy. The Oath Keepers — Stewart Rhodes above all — viewed Trump as a means to prevent Biden’s election, because as President he could invoke the Insurrection Act and with it (the Oath Keepers believed) make the militias a legal arm of the state, defending Trump. Rhodes repeatedly called on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act — on November 9, December 12, December 23, and January 6.

He dictated a note to Trump after January 6 asking him to call on the militias as his army to stop Biden from taking power.

For the most part, none of the channels via which Rhodes tried to speak directly to Trump (including Kellye SoRelle’s attempt to work through Rudy Giuliani’s son) are known to have reached Trump.

One of his attempted interlocutors, though, undoubtedly had access to Trump: Roger Stone, on whose Friends of Stone list Rhodes was sharing his plans for insurrection shortly after the election.

DOJ has exploited at least four phones owned by members of the Friends of Stone list: Rhodes and SoRelle, Owen Shroyer, and Enrique Tarrio. Probably DOJ asked for content from Ali Alexander as well (though he disclaimed having any Signal texts to the January 6 Committee).

While a jury found all the Oath Keepers guilty of obstructing the vote certification, with the key exception of Kelly Meggs (who was also in contact separately with the Proud Boys, Roger Stone, Ali Alexander, and alleged 3 Percenter Jeremy Liggett, who in turn had ties to the MAGA Bus Tour) as well as Jessica Watkins, it found the greater part of their conspiracy either overthrowing the government or interfering with with official duties: not obstructing the vote count. Their larger plan to keep Trump in power used different means than Trump used.

That’s not true of the Proud Boy Leaders, who are three days into their trial.

Not only did the Proud Boys allegedly pursue the same plan that Trump was pursuing — obstructing the vote certification on January 6 — but they were in communication with people who were in communication, and central to, Trump’s plan: most notably, Alex Jones, Ali Alexander, and Roger Stone. They were in communication with people who were in communication with people close to Trump during the attack.

Even their telephony records show that Enrique Tarrio, Joe Biggs, and Ethan Nordean were in contact with Alex Jones and Owen Shroyer during the period.

Records for Enrique Tarrio’s phone show that while the attack on the Capitol was ongoing, he texted with Jones three times and Shroyer five times.124 Ethan Nordean’s phone records reflect that he exchanged 23 text messages with Shroyer between January 4th and 5th, and that he had one call with him on each of those days.125 Records of Joseph Biggs’s communications show that he texted with Shroyer eight times on January 4th and called him at approximately 11:15 a.m. on January 6th, while Biggs and his fellow Proud Boys were marching at and around the Capitol.126

Given the known communication habits of the men, it’s possible there are Signal or Telegram communications that were unavailable to the J6C as well.

Alex Jones and Ali Alexander knew in advance they would lead the mob to the Capitol (the January 6 Report offers an unpersuasive explanation that the request came exclusively from Caroline Wren). Roger Stone had planned to join them, probably until he got cranky about being denied a speaking role on the morning of January 6. Mike Flynn wanted to latch on, as well, until the General got too cold and had to go back to his posh hotel room. “Hell no,” he said, according to Caroline Wren. “It’s freezing.”

Meanwhile, even as Shroyer was in touch with Biggs, Alexander was in touch with Caroline Wren, who remained at the Ellipse, and asked for 5-minute updates on the Trump’s progress to the Capitol (the text in question appears to have come from Wren, but may not have been provided in Alexander’s production).

The communication between Proud Boys and Jones in real time is critical because once the riot police showed up and slowed the attack, the Proud Boy leaders pulled up, effectively waiting until Jones appeared. And after Jones did appear, he told the mob following him that Trump was coming to give another speech — something Alexander, and so almost certainly Jones — knew to be false because Wren had told Alexander. Nevertheless, Jones led his mob to the East steps, riled them up with a 1776 chant, and left them there, where they were soon joined by the Oath Keepers (led by Kelly Meggs, who also was in touch with Alexander) and Joe Biggs and some other Proud Boys (including one who had been directing traffic). That collective mob breached the East door of the Capitol, opening a second major front on the Capitol and adding to the invasion of the Senate chamber.

There are rioters who were sentenced to two months in jail because they followed Alex Jones credulously to the top of those steps and joined the mob storming the Capitol.

And it wasn’t just Jones and Alexander who were in touch with Trump’s handlers.

Mark Meadows was, per Cassidy Hutchinson, in communication with Stone about his plans for January 6, at a time when Stone still planned to march to the Capitol with Jones and Alexander.

LIZ CHENEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Before we turn to what Ms. Hutchinson saw and heard in the White House during the violent attack on the Capitol on January 6th, let’s discuss certain communications White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had on January 5th. President Trump’s associate, Roger Stone, attended rallies during the afternoon and the evening of January 5th in Washington, DC On January 5th and 6th, Mr. Stone was photographed with multiple members of the Oath Keepers who were allegedly serving as his security detail.

As we now know, multiple members of that organization have been charged with or pled guilty to crimes associated with January 6th. Mr. Stone has invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination before this committee. General Michael Flynn has also taken the Fifth before this committee. Mr. Stone previously had been convicted of other federal crimes unrelated to January 6th.

General Flynn had pleaded guilty to a felony charge, also predating and unrelated to January 6th. President Trump pardoned General Flynn just weeks after the Presidential election, and in July of 2020, he commuted the sentence Roger Stone was to serve.

The night before January 6th, President Trump instructed his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to contact both Roger Stone and Michael Flynn regarding what would play out the next day. Ms. Hutchinson, Is it your understanding that President Trump asked Mark Meadows to speak with Roger Stone and General Flynn on January 5th?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: That’s correct. That is my understanding.

LIZ CHENEY: And Ms. Hutchinson, is it your understanding that Mr. Meadows called Mr. Stone on the 5th?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: I’m under the impression that Mr. Meadows did complete both a call to Mr. Stone and General Flynn the evening of the 5th.

In an earlier interview, when she was still represented by Stefan Passantino, she had attributed the idea for this call to Peter Navarro or a Navarro staffer; the Navarro staffer who had let Mike Flynn into the White House on December 18, Garrett Ziegler, was another White House contact of Ali Alexander’s, in addition to Wren.

All this matters because of the way conspiracy law works, as laid out in the bullet points from Elizabeth de la Vega that I always rely on.

CONSPIRACY LAW – EIGHT THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW.

One: Co-conspirators don’t have to explicitly agree to conspire & there doesn’t need to be a written agreement; in fact, they almost never explicitly agree to conspire & it would be nuts to have a written agreement!

Two: Conspiracies can have more than one object- i.e. conspiracy to defraud U.S. and to obstruct justice. The object is the goal. Members could have completely different reasons (motives) for wanting to achieve that goal.

Three: All co-conspirators have to agree on at least one object of the conspiracy.

Four: Co-conspirators can use multiple means to carry out the conspiracy, i.e., releasing stolen emails, collaborating on fraudulent social media ops, laundering campaign contributions.

Five: Co-conspirators don’t have to know precisely what the others are doing, and, in large conspiracies, they rarely do.

Six: Once someone is found to have knowingly joined a conspiracy, he/she is responsible for all acts of other co-conspirators.

Seven: Statements of any co-conspirator made to further the conspiracy may be introduced into evidence against any other co-conspirator.

Eight: Overt Acts taken in furtherance of a conspiracy need not be illegal. A POTUS’ public statement that “Russia is a hoax,” e.g., might not be illegal (or even make any sense), but it could be an overt act in furtherance of a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Co-conspirators don’t all have to meet in a room together and agree to enter a conspiracy. That can happen (and did, in the Oath Keepers’ case) via a series of communications which networks everyone.

The demonstrative exhibit prosecutors used in the Oath Keeper trials showed how the various communications channels included everyone, even if some members of the conspiracy only interacted with a limited group of other co-conspirators.

I circled Rhodes and SoRelle in pink to show that even in the Oath Keeper trial, prosecutors treated the Friends of Stone list part of the communications infrastructure of the conspiracy.

Here’s what the larger conspiracy looks like, reflecting  the known communications between Rhodes, Meggs, Tarrio, Biggs, and Nordean and Jones and Stone, and the known communications between Jones and Stone and Alexander with Trump or his handlers, like Meadows, Wren, and Ziegler by way of Navarro.

The numbers and letters in parentheses come from one or another of the indictments charging conspiracy. As you can see, Trump’s known actions map onto the known, charged overt acts of various conspiracies to obstruct the vote count like a mirror.

Obviously, the pink part of this table has not been charged (yet). And it may not be unless prosecutors win guilty verdicts in the Proud Boys case. It also may not be if the obstruction charge gets narrowed on appeal.

For reasons I laid out here, the Proud Boys trial is far more complex than the Oath Keepers trial. And in the Proud Boys trial, like the Oath Keepers trial, prosecutors don’t have a clear map showing that the plan was to occupy the Capitol; instead they have testimony that Biggs and Nordean kept consulting, and everyone took orders from them, and those orders had the effect of sending cells of Proud Boys off to breach parts of the building. So it is not at all certain that prosecutors will win convictions of the men — Tarrio, Biggs, and Nordean — who were working with people who were working with Trump and his handlers.

But this is one of the means via which DOJ has been working to hold Trump accountable since just months after the attack (I first laid this out in July 2021, long before most commentators understood how DOJ was using obstruction).

Even with the disorganized conspiracy (Sandlin and friends), prosecutors have carefully shown how the men took Trump’s December 19 tweet as an explicit instruction, took instructions from a WildProtest flyer put out by Ali Alexander, believed Trump had ordered them to march to the Capitol. There are hundreds more rioters who took Trump’s December 19 tweet as an instruction, though in the case of Sandlin and his co-conspirators, they took steps that were critical to the occupation of the Capitol and the Senate chamber in response.

But with the Proud Boys, to an extent thus far only seen with Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs, the communication ties, via a two step network, to Trump’s own actions and directions. And with the Proud Boys, that coordination builds off years-long relationships, particularly between Biggs and Jones and Stone, and through them, to Trump.

Everyone was working towards the same goal: to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory. There were, in various places, explicit agreements made. There were, as with Trump’s Stand Back and Stand By comment that prosecutors used to kick off this trial, more implicit agreements as well.

And DOJ is now at the point where it is beginning to show how those agreements, explicit and implicit, all worked together to make the assault on the Capitol successful.

Conspiracy guilty verdicts

Oath Keepers Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson, Kelly Meggs, Mark Grods, Caleb Berry, James Dolan, Joshua James, Brian Ulrich, Todd Wilson (11 conspiracy verdicts)

Proud Boys Matthew Greene, Charles Donohoe, Jeremy Bertino, with Isaiah Giddings, Louis Colon, and James Stewart cooperating (3 known conspiracy verdicts)

Disorganized Militia Ronnie Sandlin, Nate DeGrave, with Josiah Colt cooperating (2 conspiracy verdicts)

“Patriots” Marshall Neefe and Charles Smith (2 conspiracy verdicts)

How Legal Certainty about 1512(c)(2) Has Wobbled Even as Certainty Trump Violated It Increased

In the past year, those who believe Trump could and should be held accountable for January 6 reached near unanimity that he should be charged with obstruction of the vote certification — 18 USC 1512(c)(2).

In the same year, certainty about how the law applies to January 6 has wobbled, with one appeal pending before the DC Circuit (which will be appealed no matter how it comes out), and either an expansion of this appeal or a follow-on one virtually certain. All that uncertainty may not change DOJ’s determination to use it; under all but the most restrictive appellate rulings, it should still easily apply to Trump and his ilk, though not necessarily all the January 6 rioters who’ve already been prosecuted with it.

But DOJ probably won’t know exactly how it’ll apply for at least six months, maybe another year.

This post will attempt to explain what has happened and what might happen going forward.

1512(c)(2) reads:

Whoever corruptly otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

You need an official proceeding — here, Congress’ vote certification mandated by the 12th Amendment, you need an attempt to obstruct it, and you need corrupt purpose. The “otherwise” here is at the center of the legal dispute, meaning how this clause relates to the rest of the obstruction statute is under dispute. But depending on that relationship, the obstruction statute has the advantage of including a potential 20 year sentence, an explicit conspiracy charge, with enhancements under the sentencing guidelines for things tied to the degree of obstruction and the use of violence that offers a good deal of flexibility to tailor sentences ranging from 4 months to 6 years (and hypothetically far higher).

At first, lawyers not following the actual DOJ investigation imagined that Trump could be held accountable for January 6 on an incitement model; indeed, that’s what Congress used in impeachment. But from the start, DOJ charged many of the rioters who premeditated their effort to stop the vote certification with obstruction. It charged Oath Keepers Jessica Watkins and Proud Boy Joe Biggs with obstruction from their initial arrest affidavits on January 16 and 19, 2021, respectively. A jury found Watkins guilty of obstruction (but not seditious conspiracy) on November 30, 2022, and Biggs’ obstruction and sedition conspiracy trial kicked off last Thursday.

In July 2021, I argued that Trump (and any of members of Congress prosecuted) would be charged with obstruction, not incitement. I repeated and expanded that argument in August 2021. In her December speech calling to hold Mark Meadows in contempt, Liz Cheney invoked obstruction as the crime under consideration, which led TV lawyers, almost a year after the fact, to consider Trump’s conduct using the frame of obstruction. In March, Judge David Carter ruled it more likely than not that Trump and John Eastman had attempted to obstruct the vote certification (adopting the 9th Circuit standard for corrupt purpose).

At that point, 14 months after the attack, everyone was in agreement: That’s how Trump could be held accountable. By prosecution under 18 USC 1512(c)(2).

But starting in a November 22, 2021 hearing in the case of Garret Miller, former Clarence Thomas clerk Carl Nichols explicitly raised questions about whether obstruction could apply to the President. In March, even before Judge Carter’s ruling, Nichols ruled that while the vote certification counted as an official proceeding, obstruction required the involvement of documents. In refusing to change his mind on reconsideration, Nichols also noted the discrepancy among DC judges as to what “corruptly” means in the statute.

And that’s how on December 12, 2022, almost two years into this process and a month after the appointment of a Special Counsel, former Trump White House lawyer Greg Katsas, Mitch McConnell protégé Justin Walker, and Biden appointee Florence Pan came to consider how 1512(c)(2) would apply to January 6. On paper, the question they were reviewing pertained to Nichols’ ruling that obstruction under 1512(c)(2) must involve documents. But along the way, the Republican judges invited both sides to weigh in on both how to define corrupt purpose under the statute and, procedurally, how to address it if they were going to rule on it (that is, whether to issue a ruling now, or to remand it back to Carl Nichols only to be appealed after he rules).

Defendants have challenged whether the vote certification counts as an official proceeding too, and I don’t rule out that this Supreme Court, would insert itself into that issue as well, especially given that protests associated with the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation have, from the start, been raised as an inapt parallel to January 6.

It has been a month since the DC Circuit ruling, so they could rule anytime. In the hearing, Katsas seemed inclined to rule for defendants on requiring obstruction to include a documentary component and to intervene to sharply narrow corrupt purpose. Walker seemed to start out in the same camp, but by the end may have come around to splitting his ruling, ruling with DOJ on the documents question but with defendants on the corrupt purpose one. Importantly, he seemed to favor tying “corrupt purpose” to some personal benefit. Pan, who presided over some of these cases before being elevated to the Circuit, seemed inclined to rule with DOJ on both counts.

Whatever the DC Circuit decides, it will be appealed.

If DOJ loses, they’re likely to ask for an en banc review, where they would not face a panel with a majority of Trump appointees. If the defendants lose, they’re likely to appeal it to SCOTUS, where they’d be guaranteed a conservative majority. If the DC Circuit remands the “corrupt purpose” issue — procedurally the correct thing to do — it might be another nine months before DC Circuit gets it back. And then that decision will be appealed by the losing side, to the full panel or SCOTUS. Plus there’s a minor issue on a Trevor McFadden ruling that will be appealed too, how much of a penalty to impose at sentencing.

There will not be certainty on how 1512(c)(2) applies to January 6 before June, and such certainty might not come until next June.

With rioters, DOJ has responded to these legal challenges by adopting several backstop positions. With edge cases, it allowed defendants accused of obstruction to plead down to the more serious misdemeanor, 18 USC 1752. With defendants who had some kind of confrontation with the cops, they have charged civil disorder, 18 USC 231. At the beginning of this process, there were the same kind of appellate challenges to 231, too, but those have been significantly resolved. With the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, DOJ has also added 18 USC 372 charges, conspiracy to prevent Congress from doing its duty of certifying the vote count.

To see how those backstops would work, consider the Oath Keepers found guilty in the first sedition trial. If the obstruction verdict against all five were thrown out, Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs would remain jailed on sedition guilty verdicts, Kenneth Harrelson and Jessica Watkins would remained jailed on 372 verdicts (as well as civil disorder in Watkins’ case), Thomas Caldwell’s other obstruction conviction — obstructing the investigation by destroying evidence — would stand, as would those of Rhodes, Meggs, and Harrelson. There seems to be some movement on plea bargaining in the third Oath Keepers group, which suggests DOJ may be offering some of them 231 pleas as well.

And because of that mens rea requirement, DOJ has had limited success in getting obstruction convictions. A jury hung on obstruction with Riley Williams, and Judge Amy Berman Jackson just acquitted Joshua Black of obstruction as well. Both Williams and Black were found guilty of other felonies.

As I said above, even if the DC Circuit or SCOTUS adopts the most restrictive rulings on existing challenges, an obstruction charge against Trump still should survive. That’s because Trump’s obstruction, which included the recruitment of fake electors to create falsified certificates that members of Congress could use to justify their vote challenges, entails a documentary component that should meet Nichols’ standard. And while the most restrictive imaginable definition of corrupt purpose would include a desire for personal benefit, Trump was seeking the most craven personal benefit of all: to remain President even after voters had fired him.

But the further you get from Trump, the harder proving such a corrupt purpose would be. Did Mark Meadows do what he did because he wanted to remain in a powerful White House position? Did John Eastman do what he did because he was seeking personal benefit? Did Peter Navarro? Did the lower level aides who flew fake elector certificates from state to state? Many of them did what they did because they believe Democrats are illegitimate, just like Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito do, or resent them like Brett Kavanaugh does, and so even that kind of ruling would constrain 1512’s applicability to the stuff that Jack Smith has been appointed to investigate.

Plus, if SCOTUS rules (perhaps driven byBrett Kavanaugh’s ever-festering resentment) that non-investigative Congressional proceedings are not official proceedings, then 18 USC 1512(c)(2) wouldn’t even apply to Trump.

As I alluded to in passing recently, one reason I think the scope of what has become the Jack Smith investigation has expanded, beyond the fact that it is investigating real corruption and the fact that numerous witnesses may be exposed on one part of the scheme and so could be coerced to cooperate on other parts of the scheme, is to backstop the Trump investigation. If you charge fraud based on raising money off false claims about vote fraud, and charge campaign finance violations tied to violating PAC rules, and charge  conspiracy to defraud the US, forgery, and extortion tied to the fake elector plot, then it meets the standard for corrupt purpose that Dabney Friedrich adopted on 1512(c)(2): otherwise illegal activity.

But it also ensures that if SCOTUS throws out the obstruction charge for anyone for January 6, even someone corruptly seeking to remain President after being fired, those other charges would backstop the main charge, just like 18 USC 372 and civil disorder are backstopping charges against the Oath Keepers.

I think Trump has exposure on other charges, too. I believe Trump has exposure to aid and abet charges tied to the assaults his armed mob committed; that’s a lonely position, but I’ll take Amit Mehta’s opinion on the issue over virtually anyone else’s. I’m increasingly confident DOJ is trying to charge Trump in a conspiracy, via at least Alex Jones and Roger Stone, with the Proud Boys and other militias (though what that conspiracy would be depends on the Proud Boy jurors and the various appellate rulings). I wouldn’t be surprised if DOJ used 372 as a backstop with people like Trump, Eastman, and Meadows, just like they did with the two militias.

And DOJ is no doubt doing a similar kind of analysis as it considers whether and if so, how, to charge others who tie Trump and his associates with the crime scene, along with people who, independently of the White House efforts, funded or otherwise abetted the attack. None of that will entirely hold off further charges; in September, DOJ charged Kellye SoRelle, who has ties to the Oath Keepers, Latinos for Trump, and Trump’s efforts to undermine votes in some states, with three counts of obstruction (one of which would not be affected by these appellate issues). But her case has been continued until March. And, in part, because of the centrality of the Proud Boys case to where things go from here, I expect a lot to remain in flux until then on a bunch of other cases.

No matter how much work Jack Smith and his team get accomplished in the weeks ahead, it will be hamstrung by appellate uncertainty around the one charge, most everyone agrees, that should be used to hold Trump accountable.

Resources

Opinions upholding DOJ’s interpretation of 1512(c)(2)

  1. Dabney Friedrich, December 10, 2021, Sandlin*
  2. Amit Mehta, December 20, 2021, Caldwell*
  3. James Boasberg, December 21, 2021, Mostofsky
  4. Tim Kelly, December 28, 2021, NordeanMay 9, 2022, Hughes (by minute order), rejecting Miller
  5. Randolph Moss, December 28, 2021, Montgomery
  6. Beryl Howell, January 21, 2022, DeCarlo
  7. John Bates, February 1, 2022, McHughMay 2, 2022 [on reconsideration]
  8. Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, February 9, 2022, Grider
  9. Richard Leon (by minute order), February 24, 2022, CostianesMay 26, 2022, Fitzsimons (post-Miller)
  10. Christopher Cooper, February 25, 2022, Robertson
  11. Rudolph Contreras, announced March 8, released March 14, Andries
  12. Paul Friedman, March 19, Puma
  13. Thomas Hogan, March 30, Sargent (opinion forthcoming)
  14. Trevor McFadden, May 6, Hale-Cusanelli
  15. Royce Lamberth, May 25, Bingert

Carl Nichols’ interventions:

DC Circuit proceedings

Amit Mehta opinion ruling it plausible that Trump conspired with rioters and the militias: February 18, 2022

David Carter opinion ruling, on 9th Circuit standard, it more likely than not that John Eastman and Trump obstructed vote certification: March 28, 2022

January 6 Committee Executive Summary, including referral for obstruction and other crimes: December 19, 2022

If the Former President Gets Top Billing in a Sedition Trial But You Didn’t Bother to Notice …

There’s a weird passage in a column that Charlie Pierce published today, announcing that,

[M]y patience with Attorney General Merrick Garland and his dilatory pursuit of the former president* and the various thieves and yahoos under his employ is now exhausted.

… Because Garland has …

let the investigation into the crimes of Donald Trump go on long enough that the forces of public reaction could gather sufficient strength to muddy the evidence and deaden the outrage.

It’s this passage: Charlie claims that the “announcement” of a subpoena, which he attributes to Jack Smith, got lost amid the news of the investigation into the classified documents found in President Biden’s possession.

This was a distressing week, a week in which it seemed that a lot of criminal consequence was slipping away. Again. That’s probably unfair, considering Jack Smith, the special counsel Garland put in charge of the investigations into the previous administration*, unloaded a blast of canister fire, dropping subpoenas on people associated with almost every dubious enterprise conducted between 2017 and 2020, even the post-election grift in which the former president* fleeced the rubes for his purported probe into “voting irregularities,” an enterprise with the credibility of OJ Simpson’s search for the real killers. That’s genuine momentum—except that the announcement was lost in the hurly-burly of the Biden documents.

There was no announcement.

What Charlie treats as an “announcement” is a WaPo story, on which Mar-a-Lago Court Reporter Josh Dawsey is the first byline and Devlin Barrett is the second, describing a subpoena sent out on December 9, just three weeks and a Thanksgiving holiday after Jack Smith was appointed and over a month before the story itself. Charlie considers the subpoena “a blast of canister fire,” and hails the “genuine momentum,” but complains that “the announcement was lost in the hurly-burly of the Biden documents.”

Charlie doesn’t consider that this paragraph is itself an admission on his part that stuff can go on — stuff that he considers really impressive — and he might not find out about it for over a month. He says that about a story that describes that, “the Jan. 6 grand jury had accelerated its activities in recent weeks, bringing in a rapid-fire series of witnesses, both high and low level,” but doesn’t describe who those witnesses are (and whose testimony, with the exception of about seven people — Rudy Giuliani, Stephen Miller, Dan Scavino, William Russell, Beau Harrison, and the two Pats, Philbin and Cipollone, has not otherwise been reported). He says that of a story that linked an earlier WaPo story, dated September 16 and so describing developments that preceded Jack Smith’s arrival by two months, that described dozens of subpoenas requesting communications with more than 100 people.

Dozens of subpoenas issued last week show that the Justice Department is seeking vast amounts of information, and communications with more than 100 people, as part of its sprawling inquiry into the origins, fundraising and motives of the effort to block Joe Biden from being certified as president in early 2021.

That’s the investigation, still under Garland, that Charlie calls “dilatory.”

And Charlie says that the same week that a third January 6 sedition trial kicked off by showing Donald Trump’s call on the men standing trial for sedition to “Stand Back and Stand By.”

As Charlie’s statement admits, his is partly a complaint about the press, which was focused on Biden’s legal discomforts rather than more important things, like Trump’s attempted coup.

Of course, Charlie is part of the press.

And Charlie, part of the press, made no mention of Trump’s prominence in DOJ’s Proud Boys opening argument. Charlie wants a compelling trial the likes of the Nuremberg Trials, yet the most important January 6 trial to date tied Trump’s actions directly to the overt acts in this alleged sedition conspiracy, and Charlie made no mention of the fact that Trump’s comments were presented as evidence in a sedition trial.

A huge part of Charlie’s complaint is about the evidence that he can see.

[Nuremburg Prosecutor Robert Jackson] wanted the rule of law to do more than simply demonstrate its strength. He wanted that strength used, firmly and relentlessly, in the pursuit of justice. Garland may be doing the same thing, but there’s damn little evidence of it, and this week, everything seemed to be running in the opposite direction.

It’s not actually clear whether Charlie even knows that Trump’s incitement of the Proud Boys played a central role in the opening argument of a sedition trial, though dozens of reporters covered it, a number in real time. Many of those reporters are exhausted, though exhausted not so much about their perceptions of Garland, but because they’ve given up evenings and weekends for two years to make sure these events get covered.

If the former President gets top billing in a sedition trial but you didn’t bother to notice, does it count as evidence about DOJ investigations?

My January 6 anniversary post last year was about how unknowable January 6 is, particularly for anyone not working full time to know it.

To have something that poses such an obvious risk to American democracy remain so unknowable, so mysterious — to not be able to make sense of the mob that threatens democracy — makes it far more terrifying.

In recent weeks, those of us doing that full time have learned still more about how vast it all is — and how many tools the January 6 Committee withheld from prosecutors six months after the prosecutors had urgent need of them.

In those same recent weeks, two years into this thing, I’ve come to new realizations about how complex this is: it’s not just an investigation into a former President protected by Executive Privilege and at least six people protected by the Speech and Debate clause, but it’s also an investigation in which at least 26 key witnesses or subjects are lawyers protected by Attorney-Client Privilege. I’ve developed new theories about how DOJ — the same AUSAs who’ve been working 24/7 on this case for two years, before and after Jack Smith got involved — aspires to chisel away at those unprecedented protections. I’ve also increasingly seen gaps, both in PACER dockets and subpoenas, where investigative subjects used to be, gaps which sometimes suggest progress that DOJ needs to protect, progress that even those of us following full time might only confirm four months after the fact and only if we happen to be listening in real time when a lawyer blurts something out he shouldn’t have.

Charlie says this was a distressing week.

This was a distressing week, a week in which it seemed that a lot of criminal consequence was slipping away.

It was a distressing week for me, too, in part for the same reasons as it was for everyone else: watching the members of Congress who participated in an insurrection launch their efforts to muddle the truth again, watching the same insurrectionists encourage a coup attempt in Brazil, losing sleep over whether American democracy can be saved.

But it was distressing for another reason: because so many really smart people I respect — and I include Charlie among them — have responded to the unknowability of January 6 not by attempting to grab ahold of something to ensure their own meanderings remain grounded in evidence, but instead by making authoritative assertions about evidence that are, instead, confessions that great swaths of this investigation are proceeding without them noticing.

One major reason we’re all so distressed is because truth is under assault — because Jim Jordan intends to spend the next two years turning Trump’s crimes into victimhood, just as he spent the entirety of Trump’s presidency doing.

But making authoritative claims about evidence without knowledge of the evidence only makes his job easier, in part because it stoops to his level, in part because it magnifies the anxiety.

You don’t respond to an assault on truth by permitting yourself to fill the vacuum created by the unknowability of January 6 with claims that themselves do not present the truth, that ignore key pieces of evidence that — while public — may have gone unnoticed.

Charlie Pierce wants trials the likes of the Nuremberg Trials, which were so powerful because the architects of an authoritarian conspiracy were tied to the events that took place at the crime scenes. And DOJ took a key step in doing that week — a key step in an effort that has been obviously in the works for 18 months, an effort that started on January 4, 2021, when Enrique Tarrio’s phone was seized (his phone, which ties the Proud Boys to other organizers, took over a year to exploit), and took another step on January 7, 2021, when the first Proud Boy who would plead guilty to obstruction was arrested.

And yet Charlie Pierce has seen no evidence of that.

Update: I’ve fixed the January 7 detail: that was a reference to Nicholas Ochs, who was arrested when he arrived back in Hawaii. He and Nicholas DeCarlo were charged with conspiring with each other to obstruct January 6, and they did plan together. But both pled to obstruction, not conspiracy. They were both sentenced to 4 years in prison.

“Besmirched”

So, some commenter that has five comments here since late October of last year, “aduckisaduck”, stated:

“So, to any who have felt that this thread has besmirched EW’s usual level of commentary, I’d just say that reading and remembering have been a lot of fun.”

That is maybe a fair comment, or not, but without context and support, hard to evaluate, and not worth much.

Are there allegations that anybody but Marcy posting here is “besmirschment”?

I’ve had it with this garbage. Everybody at our blog really care and have been here forever. Two of us from the start, the rest very close behind. We all knew each other before the formal start of the Emptywheel blog.

“Besmirched”?

Seriously?

This blog has always talked about sports. Marcy was the first person I recall suggesting it as to Trash Talk. Yeah, I talk about F1 sometimes. Have a lifetime lending to that. Music? Sure, we have from the start also done that.

So I want to know who thinks anybody but Marcy is “besmirching” this blog? Is it just me? Is it Rayne? Is it Ed? Is it Peter? Was it Jim White? What is your agenda and why?

Can you explain the “besmirching”? I’ll be waiting. I know “aduckisaduck” has very few, and limited in time, comments. But what should people who have been contributing here for over a decade and a half do? Just bow down to randos wandering in? Should we have no moderation no matter what garbage is attempted to be posted as “commentary”?

This is a position by me and me only. But a lot of current crap, including “besmirching”, insults everybody here, and who have ever been here. That is not supporting Marcy, nor Emptywheel, as a collective effort. It is insulting and petty garbage.

Jeremy Liggett: A Little Bitty Fly that Jim Jordan Wants to Propagandize

Close to the end of a May 17, 2022 interview with the January 6 Committee, alleged Three Percenter Jeremy Liggett claimed that Joe Biden’s DOJ was weaponizing DOJ, “to include the CIA.”

I believe that we should have the First Amendment right. I believe that we should be able to protest at the Capitol. Okay? I don’t believe that you should hit law enforcement officers. Okay? I don’t believe that you should, you know, go into the building unless you’re invited. From some of the stuff that I’ve seen that’s fact, people were invited in. Okay? So let’s put that on the Capitol Police. Right? I think that the Capitol Police could have done a better job securing the building beforehand. I believe that the individuals that struck law enforcement officers or went in the Capitol inside should be charged, you know, for what they did. Okay?

But with saying that, okay, I believe that this administration, the Joe Biden administration, has weaponized the Department of Justice, okay, to include the CIA. Right? And I believe that you guys are — you guys, them, are swinging a big bat at little bitty flies. And it disheartens me, okay, that I am a citizen of a country right now, okay, that is locking people up on misdemeanor charges and keeping them in jail with no bonds, okay, for now months and possibly years. Okay?

The claim that Biden has weaponized DOJ (to include the CIA) is a common myth among the far right, just like the myth — which Liggett also espoused in the interview — that the election was stolen from Donald Trump.

In general, the claim that DOJ “is locking people up on misdemeanor charges and keeping them in jail with no bonds … for [] months and possibly years” is also false (though a defendant named Michael Gareth Adams, who was originally arrested in April 2021, just turned himself in Thursday after being on the lam from his January 6 trespassing charge and a Virginia hit-and-run warrant for over a year and he is at least temporarily being jailed pre-trial).

But Liggett’s case will likely be at the center of such false claims if a committee Kevin McCarthy gave the insurrectionist members of Congress to end their opposition to his election as Speaker is passed as part of the Rules package on Monday. (On George Stephanopoulos’ show this morning, Scott Perry, whose phone was seized last summer as part of the investigation, said he’d be a totally appropriate member to sit on the committee.) That’s because the arrests of five of Liggett’s associates as well as a related search of Liggett’s home are almost certainly at issue in events that led to the suspension of an FBI Agent, Stephen Friend, who will be a star witness of the committee.

As Friend described in a declaration shared with Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, he refused to participate in FBI arrests of a group of January 6 suspects charged the week of August 15 and arrested on August 24.

During the week of August 15, 2022, I became aware of imminent arrests of J6 subjects and searches of their respective residences within the FBI’s Jacksonville and Tampa Field Office areas of responsibility. Simultaneous takedowns were scheduled to occur on August 24, 2022. Due to perceived threat levels, an FBI SWAT team was enlisted to arrest one of the arrests.

[snip]

I responded that it was inappropriate to use an FBI SWAT team to arrest a subject for misdemeanor offenses and opined that the subject would likely face extended detainment and biased jury pools in Washington D.C. I suggested alternatives such as the issuance of a court summons or utilizing surveillance groups to determine an optimal, safe time for a local sheriff deputy to contact the subjects and advise them about the existence of the arrest warrant.

[snip]

I told them that I would not participate in any of these operations.

Though Friend has never said it, his complaints amount to a complaint that some January 6 defendants — including those associated with militias — are treated as a domestic terror investigation. In November, a whistleblower complaint Friend submitted was rejected by DOJ’s Office of Special Counsel.

Based on timing, it is virtually certain that the arrest Friend refused to participate in was that of Liggett’s associates in the “B Squad” or “Guardians of Freedom.” They were charged on August 16 and arrested on August 24, three of them in Florida. The only one not charged with felony civil disorder, Tyler Bensch, allegedly posted a picture of himself on January 6 with an assault rifle, which is the kind of thing that would lead the FBI to involve SWAT in an arrest.

There’s no public sign that Liggett has been arrested, though he claimed his house was searched the day that FBI made the other arrests. The case against his associates has been continued twice, once in October and again at the end of December, to allow for plea negotiations and the sharing of grand jury information (which sometimes suggests cooperation), with the next status due on February 14. Contrary to the claims of Friend and Liggett, all the men, even those accused of felonies, were released on personal recognizance.

Any investigation against Liggett, however, may be a different issue. Not only does the complaint against his associates claim he made the travel arrangements for forty men for January 6, not only did he conduct a training in advance on how to come armed to DC, but he’s a key pivot between the militias and the January 6 organizers.

On May 17, in his interview, the committee focused on the ties between Liggett and two people associated with the MAGA Bus Tour, Dustin Stockton and Charles Bowman.

Stockton, you’ll recall, was the organizer who made great PR for himself by telling Rolling Stone that he had objected to the violent rhetoric leading up to January 6.

But on December 30, 2020, the Committee showed in both Liggett’s and Amy Kremer’s depositions, Stockton was made a member of Liggett’s group.

Q Okay. And just if you focus on the first and third name that Bowman sends, Jeremy Liggett and Tarra Nicolle Hernandez. Just remember those. And if we look at exhibit 21, it is not an email you would have seen. I just want to ask whether he talked about it. You see that on December 30th of 2020, this person Tarra Hernandez, she was the name three on thatlist, sends to Mr. Stockton an email that says: ~ Welcome to Three Percenters, guardians of freedom. So, just a week before the event of January 6th, it is telling Mr. Stockton: Welcome to Three Percenters, guardians of freedom. It is an honor to have you on our team patriots. And then, if you look down there, there is a paragraph towards the bottom that says: Please be advised, per the founder, Jeremy Liggett, you have been moved and assigned as a full active member and not a prospect member. ~ Please disregard the mandatory meeting attendance mentioned in the attached documents. Again, just asking, do you recall him, Dustin, bringing up the notion that he joined the Three Percenters just a week before the event on January 6th?

A No. No. Yeah, no.

Stockton may have gotten involved via Charles Bowman, who did security for the Kremers at several of their events.

Q Do you remember who you used for security in December in D.C.

A Yeah. We used RMS Protective Services. And we also hired the — that first security company that we used for November 14th, we hired them again to be security at the Supreme Court.

Q There is a name we have seen, Charles Bowman, does he work with the security? Do you know that gentleman?

A I know, I do know Bowman. He — mean, he worked – I don’t know that he technically works with them, but — like as an employee, but I know he, you know, works with those guys.

Q Okay. So the folks that you used for November and it sounds like December or at least some of them, Bowman somehow worked with them?

A Yeah. I mean Bowman was I don’t how to describe Bowman. He’s like a big brother that’s always you know, it was lie he was always looking out for us and making sure, you know, that we were safe and whatnot.

Stockton was with both Bowman and Liggett at their December event.

Q Okay. I’m going to pull up page 8 of this exhibit. This is an email blast that Dustin Stockton sent out to some people on December 16th. And then he’s talking about being in an elevator with Charles Bowman, with the 3 percent team in D.C.

A I don’t know why they kept using that term.

Q Well, this is on Saturday December 12th and if you remember back from that welcome email, Dustin Stockton is the one who joined your group, but he’s in the back right here giving a thumbs up.

A Yeah. I know Dustin.

Q Oh, you do? Okay. How do you know Dustin Stockton?

A I’ve met him at rallies and things like that. He’s done speaking engagements. He seems like a nice guy.

Q Did he ever invite you to do speaking engagements?

A Yeah, uh-huh.

Q Did you meet up with him on December 12th?

A I’m trying to remember if — I’m sure there’s a possibility I did. Is that picture from December 12th?

Q This picture is from December 12th.

A Oh, yeah. Then I met with him on December 12th

According to Liggett, Bowman had been on the Guardians of Freedom Telegram chat for years.

Q Okay. So Mr. Bowman was on the Guardians of Freedom Telegram chats?

A Yeah, at one point.

Q Was there anybody else from the Women for America First organization that 11 were on those chats?

A No. No.

Q And was Mr. Bowman a member of Guardians of Freedom?

A No. No.

Q Okay. Why was he on the Telegram chats?

A I sent him an invite.

Q And why did you send him an invite if he wasn’t a member?

A Because he wanted to make sure that there was no one in our group that were saying anything bad about anything, because like I told you guys prior to or earlier, that there’s a lot of people — when you have — when you have organizations that try to get into the organization — they’re bad people. Like, from my knowledge, you know, the few times that I — that I spoke with him, I mean, they don’t want to be affiliated with any kind of extremists or anything like that. mean, that’s —

In addition to inviting Liggett to speak on January 5, Bowman also set Liggett up as a “marshal” for the Ellipse event on January 6. This is how Justin Caporale, one of the main organizers, described Liggett’s inclusion.

Do you remember having conversations with Women for America First organizers about having volunteers for the event?

A I don’t remember the specific conversation, but, yes, we would’ve had that conversation.

Q And what’s the job for volunteers at an event like this?

A To act as an extension of kind of the guest management team, you know, provide way finding, be greeters, you know, make sure if someone needs to find a rest room or food or water, that we can help them get to where they need to go.

Q Was there ever an instance where you thought these volunteers might be used for security purposes at the Ellipse event?

Q No, sir.

A Do you know who Charles Bowman is?

Q I do not.

A Do you remember having any conversations with a Charles Bowman?

A It’s very likely that I did, but I don’t — I don’t know or I don’t remember those conversations. His name does not ring a bell to me. I couldn’t pick him out of a line-up.

Q Okay. And, if we go up here, we see that Mr. Bowman ultimately sends a list of, you know, several names, including a Jeremy Liggett, L-i-g-g-e-t-t, and others: Robinson, Hernandez, Clark. For volunteers, do you know if there’s any vetting done for who’s selected to be a volunteer for these kinds of events?

A Most of the time, there’s not vetting done unless that volunteer is required to be in a secure location.

Q And so there would not have been a way for you to know, as the person requesting volunteers, whether any of these individuals were associated with a militia organization or paramilitary group like the Three Percenters or Oath Keepers or that kind of thing?

Q No, sir.

Liggett did serve as a “marshal.” Per his testimony, he in fact did show people where the bathroom was (in addition to escorting VIPs). He complained that he was not fed lunch as part of the deal.

Q Just a quick followup on that, Mr. Liggett. You said you were disappointed a little in your role on January 6th. Could you explain why you were disappointed?

A Yeah. It was boring. First of all, they put me in a pink vest. Okay? And no offense, I know you’re wearing a pink tie, all right, but I’m not the pink kind of guy. So I was in a bright orange and a bright pink vest. It was fricking cold as hell, okay, and they didn’t feed us lunch. And it was boring, completely boring.

Q The speeches or the activity that you were doing?

A Oh, I don’t know. I didn’t get to see the speeches. I was too busy walking people here and there and passing out signs and stuff. So I was disappointed.

[snip]

You guys should put that in your report, that it was cruel and unusual punishment by these rally people by not feeding us all day. So anyway — and you know they had the budget, because they ask for your money all the time, right.

But that’s not the most damning part of his testimony (for which he had no attorney). When specifically asked if he was the Three Percenter group with which fellow Floridian Kelly Meggs had formed an alliance, he denied it, 100% (he also denied that the B Squad was a Three Percenter group or a militia at all, in spite of integrating the Three Percenter logo into their bling).

So Kelly Meggs is also —

A Who’s Kelly Meggs?

Q He is an Oath Keeper from Florida. And so he says: Well, we are ready for the rioters. This week I organized an alliance between Oath Keepers, Florida Three Percenters, and Proud Boys. We have decided to work together and shut this shit down. He posted it on December 19th, after President Trump’s “will be wild” tweet. Do you have —

A I don’t know.

Q Do you know who this Florida Three Percenter group would be?

A No. No. I can 100 percent, without a doubt, tell you that that is not in reference to anything that we were doing before or — well, I can’t say anything after, but before January 6th, there’s no way, no way.

Q Do you have any guess or hint about which Three Percenter group in Florida Mr. Meggs was talking about?

A I mean, my guess would be — if I were an investigator and I was investigating this, I would probably look into the Three Percenter-Originals. That’s probably who I would look at.

But as the J6C report itself explained, Liggett was the guy on the chats with Meggs.

Meggs bragged on Facebook that following President Trump’s December 19th tweet he had formed an alliance between the Oath Keepers, the Florida Three Percenters, and the Proud Boys “to work together to shut this shit down.”359 On December 19th, Meggs called Enrique Tarrio and they spoke for more than three minutes.360 Three days later, Meggs messaged Liggett, echoing his excitement about the December 19th tweet and specifically referencing the seat of Congress: “He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!!”361 Liggett said “I will have a ton of men with me” and Meggs replied that “we have made Contact [sic] with PB [Proud Boys] and they always have a big group. Force multiplier. . . . I figure we could splinter off the main group of PB and come up behind them. Fucking crush them for good.”362 Aside from Meggs, Stewart Rhodes brought in at least one local militia leader363 and Three Percenters into the Oath Keepers January 6th planning chats that came about following President Trump’s tweet.364

Liggett denied being the guy involved with Meggs, but he did not deny knowing Enrique Tarrio. Which is interesting for a stray reference in the deposition of Samuel Armes, the head of the Florida crypto currency association who, in the interest of war gaming possible threats, wrote the first draft of a document that came to be known as the Winter Palace document. After receiving the document from Armes, Tarrio’s girlfriend shared it with the head of the Proud Boys. Tarrio seems to have referenced in the context of the successful occupation of the Capitol.

J6C asked Armes if he knew Liggett, who they suggested had some association with the document.

I think then — actually, do you know someone named Jeremy Liggett in Florida?

A L-i-g

Q Yeah, L-i-g-g-e-t-t

A Jeremy Liggett. To the best of my recollection, I have never heard that name in my life. Jeremy Liggett? Is he into cryptocurrency?

Q I’m not sure. But it was just a question based on this document, so–

No, I’ve never heard of him in my life.

A Okay.

The document was shared around as a Google doc, so the people who accessed it would be accessible to investigators. But Liggett, even more than the Proud Boys, appears to be a fan of the 1776 invocation, which the document used.

Liggett says that the people who are being prosecuted — like five of his associates (four of whom are accused of pressuring cops in the Tunnel, the worst of the fighting) — are just “little bitty flies” who shouldn’t be prosecuted. He claims to believe false claims about the election, about the treatment of Jan 6 defendants, and about FBI more generally.

And that is the point of this committee. It is the reason why, under the Mueller investigation precedent, DOJ’s inability to share grand jury information with Congress won’t stop this committee from being a problem.

Jim Jordan and Scott Perry want to use their committee to claim that men like Liggett, someone who ties the Ellipse event organizers directly to the worst of the violence, should not be investigated. They want to magnify the complaints of people like Friend, who call a DC-led investigation those who attacked the Capitol an abuse of FBI authority.

The reason why is clear — because the existence of someone like Liggett, who was escorting VIPs even as he was paying for travel of men involved in the tunnel fight — makes their own role in the insurrection more problematic. This committee is not about overseeing the FBI. It’s about trying to spin their own attack on the Constitution as something else than it was.

Update: Added the chat between Liggett and Meggs.

How the January 6 Committee Investigation Maps onto DOJ’s Known Investigation

I’m going to attempt to do a live post mapping what we’re learning from the January 6 Committee investigation onto what we know about the multi-prong DOJ investigations. Before I do so, however, I want to point out several ways this matters, by showing how the multiple investigations intersect and how testimony to J6C may be useful for DOJ.

Ken Klukowski’s two interviews

I raised one example in this thread on Ken Klukowski, the lawyer who wrote the memo associated with John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark meant to justify a late-December DOJ intervention in Georgia. Klukowski is one of four people (and three lawyers) involved in a grand jury proceeding partially unsealed in December. By May 2022, DOJ had shown probable cause that one of his email accounts would include evidence of a crime, but DOJ also spent much of last summer working through the dicey privilege problems posed by an investigation involving a bunch of lawyers.

We now know the grand jury matters were unsealed after such time as DOJ first got some of the J6C transcripts, per this filing in the Proud Boys case, which shows DOJ passed on 16 Proud Boy transcripts before December 8.

Klukowski sat for two interviews with J6C — one on February 15, 2022, when he came off as a cooperative witness, and one on June 10, when the committee asked him about a bunch of documents involving John Eastman that Judge David Carter had released, some under a crime-fraud exception. At least during the interviews, Klukowski was represented by lawyers from Matt “Big Dick Toilet Salesman” Whitaker’s firm; see this exchange from Justin Caporale’s interview about how Matt Schlapp arranged for the defense of some Trump flunkies via the firm, and this reference to funding going to Schlapp from the J6C Report. In Klukowski’s second interview, the one discussing documents that had been liberated in part under a crime-fraud exception, one of Klukowski’s lawyers objected to the possibility that Klukowski might have to reassert privilege claims under oath. Whether these transcripts are part of why DOJ unsealed the grand jury materials or not, the two transcripts show how liberating the Eastman communications undercut much of what Klukowski had originally said about his involvement. And because he had already testified, this second interview provided useful backtracking on his earlier interview. The two transcripts may serve as useful tools in further breaching the privilege claims of these three lawyers, if not obtaining cooperation from one or several of them.

Alex Cannon’s two interviews

Alex Cannon is another example. Trump whisperers Josh Dawsey and Maggie Haberman have given him good press for his role in the stolen documents case. In February 2022, they tell us, Cannon refused to certify that Trump had turned over the the documents the President took from the White House.

Shortly after turning over 15 boxes of government material to the National Archives in January, former President Donald J. Trump directed a lawyer working for him to tell the archives that he had returned all the documents he had taken from the White House at the end of his presidency, according to two people familiar with the discussion.

The lawyer, Alex Cannon, had become a point of contact for officials with the National Archives, who had tried for months to get Mr. Trump to return presidential records that he failed to turn over upon leaving office. Mr. Cannon declined to convey Mr. Trump’s message to the archives because he was not sure if it was true, the people said.

[snip]

The conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cannon took place after officials at the archives began asking Mr. Cannon, following the return of the 15 boxes, whether additional classified material was at Mar-a-Lago. It was when Mr. Cannon raised this with Mr. Trump that Mr. Trump told him to tell the archives he had given everything back, the people familiar with the discussion said.

At the time, the various investigations related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Mr. Trump’s supporters were ramping up, with a number of requests for documents, the people familiar with the discussion said. Mr. Cannon told people that he was concerned that if Mr. Trump was found to be withholding material related to Jan. 6, he would be in a worse situation, according to people familiar with the discussions.

But Cannon’s two transcripts (April 13 and August 18, 2022) put that seeming scrupulousness in different light. Much of the first one establishes how, because of the jobs he was given as a campaign lawyer, he was in a position to understand that the claims made in fundraising emails sent after the election conflicted with the evidence showing no significant vote fraud. At the very end of that first interview, though, investigators asked Cannon why he was claiming privilege over discussions with Jared Kushner about forming a PAC when he was working with a campaign that should not legally coordinate with such a PAC (to say nothing of Cannon’s admitted inexperience on campaign finance law).

In that first interview, Cannon agreed that money raised after the election would have to be spent on recounts or debt retirement. His second interview (which took place ten days after the Mar-a-Lago search) focused more closely on how money raised in the guise of fighting vote fraud was actually spent. In it, Cannon bristled when investigators suggested campaign money could only be spent on debt retirement or recounts.

Then in Cassidy Hutchinson’s September interviews (September 14 and 15) — the two focused on attempts to obstruct her testimony — she described how Cannon first helped set her up with Trump lawyer Stephen Passantino, and then tried to get her several jobs. Hutchinson also described how Passantino claimed that Cannon (as well as Eric Herschmann, another person heroically portrayed in Maggie stories) was involved in the manipulation of stories with Maggie Haberman.

When J6C made its referrals, it made clear that DOJ was already aware of efforts to tamper with Hutchinson’s testimony. Hutchinson started cooperating with DOJ shortly after her solo J6C testimony, in July. So even before the raid on Mar-a-Lago, then, DOJ likely understood that Cannon’s role was more complex than you might understand from reading a Maggie Haberman story. Importantly, Cannon’s role in allegedly tampering with Hutchinson’s J6C testimony would span the time when (per Maggie’s reporting) he heroically refused to certify Trump’s February 2022 production and the time in May 2022 when Trump’s team tried to find ways to stave off further investigation. These strands overlap temporally.

That puts Cannon’s role as a witness in much different light, because it would give him different visibility — and criminal exposure — on several different things: Trump’s document theft, Trump’s lies about vote fraud, Trump’s efforts to tamper with witnesses, and Trump’s spending of money raised to combat vote fraud.

And that’s important background when you consider CNN’s reporting about the financial side of DOJ’s investigation, which described that “in recent months” an existing year-long investigation into the financing of the attack has shifted (like the J6C focus has) to how money raised purported in support of election integrity actually got spent.

Another top prosecutor, JP Cooney, the former head of public corruption in the DC US Attorney’s Office, is overseeing a significant financial probe that Smith will take on. The probe includes examining the possible misuse of political contributions, according to some of the sources. The DC US Attorney’s Office, before the special counsel’s arrival, had examined potential financial crimes related to the January 6 riot, including possible money laundering and the support of rioters’ hotel stays and bus trips to Washington ahead of January 6.

In recent months, however, the financial investigation has sought information about Trump’s post-election Save America PAC and other funding of people who assisted Trump, according to subpoenas viewed by CNN. The financial investigation picked up steam as DOJ investigators enlisted cooperators months after the 2021 riot, one of the sources said.

When Cannon refused to certify Trump’s production in February 2022, he had personal exposure in January 6. Refusing to certify documents because withholding some might amount to obstruction is far less heroic than the Trump whisperers have made out. But in ensuing months, as the complexity of Cannon’s role has become clear, it would provide DOJ many angles for DOJ to persuade Cannon to cooperate.

Other privilege claims

The grand jury release last month made me realize just how complex it is to investigate suspected crimes in which at least 12 lawyers were involved. But the transcripts should help DOJ pierce other privilege claims as well. For example, multiple witnesses were asked and mocked the idea that their own conversations with Jenna Ellis — who is a lawyer whose name was on many of the subpoenas DOJ has sent out but was often described as playing a spokesperson role — might be privileged. The same is true of lawyer Boris Epshteyn, described as playing a logistics, not legal role.

So in the same way that DOJ seemed to focus on emails involving Scott Perry with the Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, and Klukowski seizures, the J6C testimony will provide many more levers to use to chip away at attorney-client privilege claims (on top of what seems to be a slew of subpoenas that will partly serve the same purpose).

At some point in recent weeks, Jack Smith returned to the US to oversee the investigation he has been leading since November. The belated sharing of J6C transcripts will likely provide a big boost to that investigation.

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