The More Interesting Michael Cohen Redactions: On Viktor Vekselberg

The materials backing the raid on Michael Cohen released yesterday suggest — give the large swaths of redacted pagers — that the investigation into hush payments continues. But the filings also suggest something about Mueller’s investigation.

One of the earliest warrants, dated February 28, 2018, obtained access to a USB drive holding the contents of Cohen’s Gmail account from June 1, 2015 to November 14, 2017 and a business account handed to SDNY from Mueller. The Agent’s affidavit (starting at PDF 36), describes how Mueller got access to those accounts in support of false bank entries, money laundering, and two foreign agent charges, then substantiates the need to access the same information in support of conspiracy, false bank entires, and bank fraud charges.

SDNY does not cite FARA or 951 among the crimes it was investigating.

Nevertheless, the affiant describes how the government came to be interested in Cohen’s Essential Consulting account, an account at First Republic that he hid when negotiating how to deal with his taxi medallion business. The account must have come to Mueller’s attention because of the FARA/Foreign Agent interest.

Cohen started the account on October 26, 2016. We now know he did so to pay off Stormy Daniels, but even on February 28, 2018, SDNY did not include that among the crimes it was investigating. Cohen told the bank Essential Consulting was a real estate consulting company for which his clients would be domestic individuals, which was one of the false statements he made to his bank. The affidavit notes:

[T]here is probable cause to believe that Cohen’s statements and the intended purpose of the account and source of funds for the account were false. Specifically, the account was not intended to receive–and does not appear to have received–money in connection with real estate consulting work; in addition, the account has received substantial payments from foreign sources.

A redaction about a third of a page long follows.

Then, the affidavit describes how a forensic accountant determined the account was used for other purposes, describing five payments. Those payment amounts and sources were:

  • $583,332,98 from Columbus Nova LLC, which is an investment firm controlled by Viktor Vekselberg’s Renova Group
  • $999,800 from Novartis Instruments
  • $550,000 from AT&T
  • $600,000 from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI)
  • $150,000 from Kazkommertsbank, a Kazakhstani bank, which was listed on accounts as BTA Bank

Following the description of Columbus Nova, there is a redaction.

The affidavit then describes that emails and interviews with people at AT&T and Novartis show that the payments were associated with political consulting and notes that they may violate FARA, which this affidavit was not intended to investigate.

the aforementioned payments to the Essential Consultants Account and MDC&A ostensibly were for political consulting work, including consulting for international clients on issues pending before the Trump Administration.10

10 Based on my review of public sources, I have learned that Cohen is not registered as a lobbyist or a person acting as an agent of foreign principals, as may have been required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

It then describes emails supporting that claim for just four of the five companies:

  • KAI
  • BTA
  • AT&T
  • Novartis

In other words, even in the first affidavit, the SDNY Agent includes Columbus Nova, but then drops that out when he substantiates that the account was used for something other than Cohen had told the bank. One way or another, any FARA exposure related to KAI and BTA were still in DC. But Columbus Nova was treated differently than the other foreign entities.

And the discussion of why remains redacted. That may be because nothing ever came of it — though almost $600K is hard to explain away. Remarkably, Republicans remained silent about this payment during Cohen’s congressional testimony, even while they made a big deal about his payments from KAI and BTA.

The 18 pages of still-redacted discussion of the hush payments is interesting, because it suggests SDNY continues to pursue that prosecution, a prosecution that features a recording of Donald Trump admitting criminal intent.

But the small redactions around the Columbus Nova payment are far more interesting.

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

“I Can’t Be Seen Taking Credit for HIS Victory:” The Purpose of Roger Stone’s Paperback

Towards the end of the day on January 14, amid a three day stint writing the 3,000 word introduction that would justify reissuing his 2016 book, Making of the President, Roger Stone rejected the title suggested by his publisher, Skyhorse Publishing, “The Myth of Collusion; The Inside Story of How I REALLY Helped Trump Win.” He suggests instead, “The Myth of Collusion; The Inside Story of How Donald Trump really won,” noting, “I really can’t be seen taking credit for HIS victory.”

That’s the title the book now bears.

That exchange — and a number of other ones revealed in the correspondence Stone’s lawyers submitted in an attempt to persuade Judge Amy Berman Jackson they weren’t just trying to get publicity for the book when asking for a “clarification” regarding the book on March 1 — raises interesting questions about why he reissued the book how and when he did.

On one level, the explanation is easy: his publishers expected the original book, Making of the President, would be a big seller. They made 100,000 copies when it first came out in January 2017. The book flopped.

So in November 2018, Stone’s rising notoriety — and more importantly, the increased polarization surrounding the Mueller probe — provided an opportunity to recoup some of the losses on the hardcover. At that level, the reissue needs no explanation other than the obvious formula publishers use to make money: Exacerbate and profit off of controversy.

But that doesn’t explain why the project started on November 15, 2018 rather than any time in the year and a half earlier, when Skyhorse would have all those same goals. Nor does it explain how Stone went from expressing no interest in the project to rushing it through quickly in mid-December.

Given the timeline of events and a few stray comments in the correspondence (as I laid out here, Stone has probably withheld at least eight exchanges with his publisher from the court submission, after letting the publisher review what correspondence was there), I think he’s got several other purposes.

As noted below, Skyhorse first approached Stone on November 15, in the wake of the Democrats winning the House in midterm elections. On January 14, Skyhorse president Tony Lyons suggests that “We can send copies [of the book] to all U.S. Senators.” Those two details suggest that Skyhorse intended the book, on top of the obvious financial incentives, to capitalize on the general right wing campaign to discredit the Mueller investigation in an effort to stave off impeachment.

The delay between the time — on November 15 — when Skyhorse first pitched the reissue and the time — mid-December — when Stone and his lawyer, Grant Smith, start engaging in earnest suggests two other factors may be in play.

First, while Stone had been saying that Mueller would indict him for months, the aftermath of the Corsi “cooperation” starting on November 26 made Stone’s jeopardy more immediate. Yes, Corsi’s attempt to make his own cooperation useless may have delayed Stone’s indictment, but the details Corsi described to be in his own forthcoming Mueller-smearing book made it clear the Special Counsel believed Stone had successfully affected the timing of the release of the John Podesta emails on October 7, 2016, in a successful attempt to dampen some of the impact of the Access Hollywood video.

That’s why the specific content of the new introduction Stone finished on January 13, 2019, which he notes is more substantive than Skyhorse initially planned, is of interest. In the introduction, Stone:

  • Describes learning he was under investigation on January 20, 2017
  • Discounts his May 2016 interactions with “Henry Greenberg” — a Russian offering dirt on Hillary Clinton — by claiming Greenberg was acting as an FBI informant
  • Attributes any foreknowledge of WikiLeaks’ release to Randy Credico and not Jerome Corsi or their yet unidentified far more damning source while disclaiming any real foreknowledge
  • Gives Manafort pollster, Tony Fabrizio, credit for the decision to focus on Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in the last days of the election
  • Mentions Alex Jones’ foreboding mood on election night
  • Accuses Trump of selling out to mainstream party interests, choosing Reince Preebus over Steve Bannon
  • Blames Jeff Sessions for recusing from the Russian investigation
  • Harps on the Steele dossier
  • Dubiously claims that in January 2017, he didn’t know how central Mueller’s focus would be on him
  • Suggests any charges would be illegitimate
  • Complains about his financial plight
  • Falsely claims the many stories about his associates’ testimony comes from Mueller and not he himself
  • Repeats his Randy Credico cover story and discounts his lies to HPSCI by claiming his lawyers only found his texts to Credico after the fact
  • Suggests Hillary had ties to Russia
  • Notes that Trump became a subject of the investigation after he fired Jim Comey

Some of this is fairly breathtaking, given that Corsi’s theatrics had long ago proven Stone’s Credico cover story to be false. But of course, by the time Stone wrote this, he knew that he was at risk at a minimum for false statements charges, so he was stuck repeating the long-discredited HPSCI cover story. Which may be why his attorney, Grant Smith, provided some edits of the introduction on January 15 (something Smith should have but did not disclose in the filing to Amy Berman Jackson). Stone will now be stuck with this cover story, just as Corsi is stuck with the equally implausible cover story in his book.

But to some degree, that’s clearly one purpose this introduction serves: to “retake the narrative” (as Skyhorse’s editor Mike Campbell described it when pitching Stone on the project) and try to sell at least frothy right wingers on his cover story.

Another is to make money. Stone’s first response — over three weeks after Skyhorse first floated the paperback project — was to complain that because the publisher printed way too many copies of the hard cover, which was done as part of a joint venture, he made no money off the deal (a claim that Skyhorse corrects, slightly, in the follow-up). That’s why Skyhorse ended the joint venture: to mitigate the risk to Stone and by doing so to convince him to participate in the project.

More interesting — given the January stories suggesting that Jerome Corsi may have gotten a six month severance deal as part of a bid to have him sustain Stone’s cover story — is that Stone seemingly reversed his opinion about doing the project between December 9, when he said he was uninterested, and Monday, December 17, when Smith said they were ready to move forward, because Stone urgently needed money by the next day to pay off his collaborators in the book project.

From the public record, I’m actually fairly confused about who these collaborators are. A number of them would be the witnesses interviewed by Mueller’s grand jury.

But the book itself — because it retains the Acknowledgements section from the original — thanks Corsi third, after only Richard Nixon and Juanita Broaddrick, and lauds what Stone calls Corsi’s “investigative report[ing].”

Remember: A key product of that “investigative reporting” was the report Stone asked Corsi to write on August 30, 2016, to invent a cover for why he was discussing John Podesta and Joule Holdings in mid-August 2016. Things had already gone to hell by the time this book was released in e-book form on February 18 and they (appear to) have continued to disintegrate since then.

But I am very interested in who Stone paid off with that urgently wired payment in December. And because it happened before Stone was raided on January 25, Mueller likely knows the answer, if he didn’t already.

Which brings me to the last likely purpose of this paperback, one that goes to the core of whether Stone was trying to publicize its release with his little stunt about “clarifying” whether or not it would violate his gag.

Stone’s decision to do this paperback came not long after Stone repeated a formula other Trump associates bidding for a pardon have engaged in: promise publicly you won’t testify against Trump, then deny you’re asking for a pardon.

[T]here’s no circumstance under which I would testify against the president because I’d have to bear false witness against him. I’d have to make things up and I’m not going to do that. I’ve had no discussion regarding a pardon.

The next day, Trump let Stone and all the world know he had gotten the message.

Every person who is bidding for a Trump pardon is doing whatever they can — from reinforcing the conspiracy theories about the genesis of the investigation, to declaring ABJ found “no collusion” minutes after she warned lawyers not to make such claims, to sustaining embarrassingly thin cover stories explaining away evidence of a conspiracy — to hew to Trump’s strategy for beating this rap. Indeed, the Michael Cohen lawsuit claiming Trump stopped paying promised legal fees as soon as Cohen decided to cooperate with prosecutors suggests Trump’s co-conspirators may be doing this not just in hopes of a pardon, but also to get their legal fees reimbursed.

Which brings me back to Stone’s concern that the title, “The Myth of Collusion; The Inside Story of How I REALLY Helped Trump Win” would suggest he was taking credit for Trump’s win.

There are two reasons why such an appearance might undermine Stone’s goals for the book.

Stone has loudly claimed credit for his role in Trump’s victory, particularly as compared Steve Bannon. And evidence that will come out in his eventual trial will show him claiming credit, specifically, for successfully working with WikiLeaks.

Of course, Trump is a narcissist. And the surest way to piss him off — and in doing so, ruin any chance for a pardon — is to do anything to suggest he doesn’t get full credit for all the success he has in life.

But there may, in fact, be another reason Stone was quick to object to getting credit for all the things he did to get Trump elected.

At least according to Jerome Corsi, Stone, on indirect orders from Trump, took the lead in trying to learn about and with that knowledge, optimize the release of the materials Russia stole from Hillary’s campaign. If non-public details about what Stone did — or even the public claim that Stone managed the timing of the Podesta email release — had a bigger impact on the election outcome than we currently know, then Stone would have all the more reason to want to downplay his contribution.

That is, if Stone’s efforts to maximize the value of Russia’s active measures campaign really were key, then the last thing he’d want to do is release a paperback crowing about that.

Of course, because of the boneheaded efforts of his lawyers, his concerns about doing so are now public.

Update: I’ve corrected my characterization of Skyhorse. They’re not ideological. But they do feed off of controversy.


October 30, 2018: ABC reports that Stone hired Bruce Rogow in September, a First Amendment specialist who has done extensive work with Trump Organization.

October 31, 2018: Date Corsi stops making any pretense of cooperating with Mueller inquiry.

November 6, 2018: Democrats win the House in mid-term elections.

November 7, 2018: Trump fires Jeff Sessions, appoints Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker Acting Attorney General.

November 8, 2018: Prosecutors first tell Manafort they’ll find he breached plea deal.

November 12, 2018: Date Corsi starts blowing up his “cooperation” publicly.

November 14, 2018: Date of plea deal offered by Mueller to Corsi.

November 15, 2018: Mike Campbell pitches Stone on a paperback — in part to ‘retake the narrative — including a draft of the new introduction.

November 18, 2018: Jerome Corsi writes up his cover story for how he figured out John Podesta’s emails would be released.

November 20, 2018: After much equivocation, Trump finally turns in his written responses to Mueller.

November 21, 2018: Dean Notte reaches out to Grant Smith suggesting a resolution to all the back and forth on their joint venture, settling the past relationship in conjunction with a new paperback.

November 22, 2018: Corsi writes up collapse of his claim to cooperate.

November 23, 2018: Date Mueller offers Corsi a plea deal.

November 26, 2018: Jerome Corsi publicly rejects plea deal from Mueller and leaks the draft statement of offense providing new details on his communications with Stone.

November 26, 2019: Mueller deems Paul Manafort to be in breach of his plea agreement because he lied to the FBI and prosecutors while ostensibly cooperating.

November 27, 2018: Initial reports on contents of Jerome Corsi’s book, including allegations that Stone delayed release of John Podesta emails to blunt the impact of the Access Hollywood video.

November 29, 2018: Michael Cohen pleads guilty in Mueller related cooperation deal.

December 2, 2018: Roger Stone claims in ABC appearance he’d never testify against Trump and that he has not asked for a pardon.

December 3, 2018: Trump hails Stone’s promise not to cooperate against him.

December 9, 2018: Stone replies to Campbell saying that because he never made money on Making of the President, he has no interest.

December 13, 2018: Tony Lyons and Grant Smith negotiate a deal under which Sky Horse would buy Stone out of his hardcover deal with short turnaround, then expect to finalize a paperbook by mid January. This is how Stone gets removed from the joint venture — in an effort to minimize his risk.

December 14, 2018: Mueller formally requests Roger Stone’s transcript from House Intelligence Committee.

December 17, 2018: Smith, saying he and Stone have discussed the deal at length, sends back a proposal for how it could work. This is where he asks for payment the next day, to pay someone off for work on the original book.

For some reason, in the ensuing back-and-forth, Smith presses to delay decision on the title until January.

December 19, 2018: It takes two days to get an agreement signed and Stone’s payment wired.

December 20, 2018: HPSCI votes to release Stone’s transcript to Mueller.

January 8, 2019: Paul Manafort’s redaction fail alerts co-conspirators that Mueller knows he shared polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik.

January 13, 2019: Stone drafts new introduction, which he notes is “substantially longer and better than the draft sent to me by your folks.” He asks about the title again.

January 14, 2019: Stone sends the draft to Smith and Lyons. It is 3386 words long. Lyons responds, suggesting as title, “The Myth of Collusion; The Inside Story of How I REALLY Helped Trump Win.” Lyons also notes Stone can share the book with Senators.

Stone responds suggesting that he could live with, “The Myth of Collusion; The Inside Story of How Donald Trump really won,” noting, “I really can’t be seen taking credit for HIS victory.”

By end of day, Skyhorse’s Mike Campbell responds with his edits.

January 15, 2019: The next morning, Smith responds with his edits, reminding that Stone has to give final approval. Stone does so before lunch. Skyhorse moves to working on the cover. Late that day Campbell sends book jacket copy emphasizing Mueller’s “witch hunt.”

January 15, 2019: Mueller filing makes clear that not all Manafort’s interviews and grand jury appearances involve him lying.

January 16, 2019: Tony Lyons starts planning for the promotional tour, asking Stone whether he can be in NYC for a March 5 release. They email back and forth about which cover to use.

January 18, 2019: By end of day Friday, Skyhorse is wiring Stone payment for the new introduction.

January 24, 2019: Mike Campbell tells Stone the paperback “is printing soon,” and asks what address he should send Stone’s copies to. WaPo reports that Mueller is investigating whether Jerome Corsi’s “severance payments” from InfoWars were an effort to have him sustain Stone’s story. It also reports that Corsi’s stepson, Andrew Stettner, appeared before the grand jury. That same day, the grand jury indicts Stone, but not Corsi.

January 25, 2019, 6:00 AM: Arrest of Roger Stone.

January 25, 2019, 2:10 PM: Starting the afternoon after Stone got arrested, Tony Lyons starts working with Smith on some limited post-arrest publicity. He says Hannity is interested in having Stone Monday, January 28 “Will he do it?” Smith replies hours later on the same day his client was arrested warning, “I need to talk to them before.”

January 26, 2019: Lyons asks Smith if Stone is willing to do a CNN appearance Monday morning, teasing, “I guess he could put them on the spot about how they really go to this house with the FBI.”

January 27, 2019: Smith responds to the CNN invitation, “Roger is fully booked.” When Lyons asks for a list of those “fully booked” bookings, Smith only refers to the Hannity appearance on the 28th, and notes that Kristin Davis is handling the schedule. Davis notes he’s also doing Laura Ingraham.

January 28, 2019: The plans for Hannity continue on Monday, with Smith again asking for the Hannity folks to speak to him “to confirm the details.” In that thread, Davis and Lyons talk about how amazing it would be to support “another New York Times Bestseller” for Stone.

February 15, 2019: After two weeks — during which Stone was indicted, made several appearances before judges, and had his attorneys submit their first argument against a gag — Stone responded to Campbell’s January 24 email providing his address, and then asking “what is the plan for launch?” (a topic which had already been broached with Lyons on January 16). Campbell describes the 300-400 media outlets who got a review copy, then describes the 8 journalists who expressed an interest in it. Stone warns Campbell, “recognize that the judge may issue a gag order any day now” and admits “I also have to be wary of media outlets I want to interview me but don’t really want to talk about the book.”

February 18, 2019: Release of ebook version of Stone’s reissued book.

February 21, 2019: After Stone released an Instagram post implicitly threatening her, Amy Berman Jackson imposes a gag on Stone based on public safety considerations.

March 1, 2019: Ostensible official release date of paperback of Stone’s book. Stone submits “clarification” claiming that the book publication does not violate the gag.

March 12, 2019: Official release date of Corsi hard cover, which Mueller may need for indictment.

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

Roger Stone’s Seemingly Credible Excuse Starts Falling Apart Well before Bruce Rogow Asks for a Note from His Doctor

On February 21, Roger Stone and his attorneys walked into Amy Berman Jackson’s court room with the swagger of apparent certainty they were going to convince her not to impose a gag on the rat-fucker. As I’ve laid out, that swagger was misplaced. ABJ got both Stone and his lead attorney, Bruce Rogow, to lay out the case for a gag themselves, on public safety grounds.

On the way back to Florida after that hearing, the swaggering rat-fucker and his lawyers now claim, Roger Stone reminded his lawyer, Grant Smith (who had negotiated his book contracts, edited the new introduction [see page 49], and even arranged some of the right wing media publicity for it, post-indictment), that he had a second edition of a book coming out — for which he had just received his advance copies three days earlier — that might violate the expanded gag she had just imposed. Stone then forwarded the email attaching the new introduction to Smith [update: or maybe not–see below], who forwarded it on to Bruce Rogow, who reacted with alarm. Once Stone told his lawyers, they scrambled to respond, they claim. Ultimately they “clarified” that the book was coming out to ABJ on March 1, a week later.

That’s the story that Stone’s lawyers told in a response to an angry order about all this from ABJ, which they submitted last night. It seems credible, if you don’t look too closely at the details or the arrogant close.

There was/is no intention to hide anything. The new introduction, post February 21, 2019, presented a question we tried, obviously clumsily, to address. Having been scolded, we seek only to defend Mr. Stone and move ahead without further ado.1

1 Bruce Rogow may not be able to attend the March 14, 2019 status conference because he is under a physician’s care for a temporary disorder impeding his ability to travel.

There are, however, a few problems with the story.

Multiple claims they make in their new filing are doubtful, some rely on legal gimmicks, and at least some are outright false. I’ll deal with them one by one, ending with the first claim (about publicity) last.

Roger Stone and Grant Smith had no confusion that his book was being released on March 1

Stone claims when he first submitted his “clarification” on March 1, there was confusion about when the book would be published.

That the New Introduction “had been sent to a publisher in January and was scheduled for release in February” (Order, p. 3, n. 2), is now certain. See Composite Exhibit B. There was confusion. We apologize for the confusing representation about publication.

This refers to a discrepancy about what Stone variously claimed with regards to the release date of his book. In his lawyers’ initial “motion to clarify,” which remains under seal, they appear to have referred to its “imminent general release.” Stone’s March 4 motion states,

The book, with the [new introduction], was published by the Publisher on February 19, 2019. Copies were distributed by the Publisher to hundreds of retailers nationwide in late January 2019.

[snip]

the imminent general relase [sic] of the book’s contents, including the [new introduction], Defendant respectfully requests that the publication of this book (together with the ) should not be viewed as contravening the Court’s prohibitions because these prohibitions were not extant and could not have been known prior to February 21, 2019.

The government pointed out on March 4 that the book was available as an ebook, but was silent about any existing paperback edition.

So Stone claims the paperwork he submitted proved that the book was scheduled for release in February. In fact, they appear to be conflating the online and hard copy release.

In fact, Stone’s publisher Tony Lyons told him in January the release date was March 5 (PDF 65).

And while an editor told Stone that the paperbacks were being printed “soon” on January 24 (remarkably, the very day he was indicted, though he should not have known about the sealed indictment at that point), Stone didn’t actually tell him where to send his own review copies until February 15, after his attorneys had already submitted the first filing regarding a gag. (PDF 84)

In his response that same day (PDF 96), Mike Campbell talked about forthcoming plans for media appearances relating to the book. In response, Stone specifically mentioned that ABJ might gag him “any day now” (she issued the first gag sometime that day, just days before Stone threatened her).

According to the Instagram posts submitted with the filing, as recently as February 18 — notably, the day Stone now claims the book was “published” — Stone understood the books would be “In stores March 1!” (PDF 111)

And on February 21, immediately after Stone got gagged, Grant Smith (who negotiated the deal, edited the new material, and helped with publicity) reflected the understanding that the book would come out on March 1. (PDF 9)

At least one of Stone’s lawyers did not believe publicity would wane

Stone’s lawyers claim they believed  — and still believe — what they submitted to ABJ on February 8, that publicity in the case would wane after his initial arrest on January 25.

But, the February 8 representation that “‘[t]hat first wave of publicity surrounding the indictment . . . will subside. To be sure, the interest in this case will continue, but nothing compels the conclusion that the Court’s present expressed confidence in seeking an unbiased jury will, in months hence, be compromised by the press or Mr. Stone as we move forward.’” (Order at 3, n. 2, quoting February 8 submission), is still true. The Court views the New Introduction as “entirely  inconsistent with the assurances,” but those “assurances” were not made in an effort to conceal anything. They reflected a belief in both waning publicity and the ability of the Court to seat a jury. That opinion still holds.

But in an email chain from January 28 setting up a publicity appearance for the book on Hannity, Smith received an email from Kristin Davis stating she was “looking forward to making another New York Times Bestseller.” (PDF 100)

Authors selling NYT times bestsellers spend a lot of time on publicity. And Smith was part of an effort to garner whatever publicity for this book they could get.

The entirety of Paragraph 3 seems only to relate to Bruce Rogow

Then, there’s this paragraph, which serves to deny they’re trying to pull a fast one over on ABJ (I’ve numbered the sentences and bolded the apparent subject of each sentence to make the following discussion more clear):

[1] That the lawyers who submitted the Notice of Apology, and who condemned the posting which prompted it, “did not seek an exception for a recently revised introduction to a book that was in the hands of retailers as he spoke” (Opinion at 3-4) is true. [2] But any suggestion that not doing so was intended to mislead, is not true. [3] Even if it had crossed counsel’s mind to raise the new introduction (and it did not), it seems a bit awkward to have sought to introduce the New Introduction at that very moment during argument. [4] As the 6:33 p.m. February 21, 2019 email exchange reflects, reading for the first time the New Introduction, while waiting for a plane back to Fort Lauderdale, brought the issue home and led to the Motion to Clarify.

Read quickly, you might assume the paragraph has just one subject: “the lawyers,” plural, meaning Stone’s entire legal team.

Not so.

First, note that just two of his attorneys signed the Notice of Apology referenced in sentence 1: Peter Farkas (through whom all the rest have their pro hac vice in DC), and Bruce Rogow (that’s true of the February 8 gag filing as well).

That’s important, because (as noted) Smith was not only involved in every step of this publication process, but helped Stone set up publicity for the book after he had been indicted. I’m guessing that he doesn’t feel any regret about Stone’s incitement.

Sentence 2 of paragraph 3 has no human subject — it refers to the action the counsels in the previous sentence took, or not (in this case, not disclosing the publication of Stone’s book).

The next human subject, in sentence 3, “counsel,” is referred to in the singular, perhaps speaking exclusively for the single lawyer who spoke on Stone’s behalf at the gag hearing, Rogow.

Sentence 4 may appear to use a gerund as its subject (as the second sentence does), reading for the first time. But in fact, that gerund actually modifies the unstated subject. That subject, too, is singular, given that the email referenced is not Smith’s (which was sent at 5:58PM), but Rogow’s (sent at 6:33PM).

The claims made in this paragraph may apply only to Rogow, and they definitely do not apply to Smith, about whom all the claims would probably be false, and the claim he had only read the new introduction for the first time on February 21 (which, again, he edited on January 15) would absolutely be false.

Stone may not have turned over all relevant communication

Stone’s lawyer’s claim that all records regarding publication date appear in Exhibit B.

Perhaps they do. But that exhibit shows Stone forwarding emails he believed to be relevant to Smith. All the ones he sent on March 7 and 8 are numbered, like the first of those emails. (PDF 19)

Only, assuming Stone numbered consecutively, around 8 of the emails he seems to have found relevant are missing: 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 15, and 16.

Stone sent some more on March 11 that weren’t numbered, so it’s unclear if there were still more emails that didn’t make this exhibit.

Stone’s lawyers are obfuscating about online availability

Stone claims that his publisher answered definitively.

DEFENDANT MUST INFORM THE COURT OF THE EXACT DATE THE BOOK WAS FIRST MADE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE ONLINE, AND THE INTRODUCTION WAS MADE AVAILABLE FOR VIEWING, AT AMAZON.COM AND GOOGLE BOOKS OR ANY OTHER ONLINE VENDOR.

Response:

As provided by the Publisher, the exact date the book was first made available for purchase online, and the Introduction was made available for viewing to Amazon.com and Google books or any other online vendor was on January 18, 2019. They could choose to make them publicly available any time after they received them.

Both times the publisher answers the question, however, the answer is not that clear. The first time Tony Lyons answers the question (knowing he has to answer correctly to keep Stone out of jail), he says “both” were live before the gag order, which could refer to both e-book versions, Amazon and Google, or both kinds of availability.

Lyons answers the question again the next day, again using an unspecified February 19 in spite of being asked two questions.

As proof that Tara Campion did not take this date to refer to hard copies, she asked him a follow-up the next day.

Stone professes to have no idea what he posted in his own Instagram

In spite of all the details I’ve posted above showing that Stone believed, as late as February 18, that the book would be in stores on March 1, he now claims to know none of that.

DEFENDANT MUST INFORM THE COURT WHETHER AND WHEN HE BECAME AWARE OF: THE FACT THAT THE NEW EDITION OF THE BOOK HAD BEEN PRINTED BY THE PUBLISHER; THE FACT THAT COPIES OF THE BOOK HAD BEEN SHIPPED FROM THE PRINTER; THE FACT THAT COPIES WERE AVAILABLE AT BOOKSTORES; THE FACT THAT RETAIL BOOKSTORES WERE SELLING THE BOOK; AND THE FACT THAT THE BOOK WAS AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE OR VIEWING ONLINE.

Response:

1) Mr. Stone became aware of the fact that the New Edition of the book had been printed in early February, exact date unknown, when an acquaintance of Mr. Stone reached out to him to say he had purchased and had in-hand a copy of the book.

2) Mr. Stone knew books had been shipped from the printer as late as February 18, when Mr. Stone received two boxes of approximately 30 books each at his home delivered to him by the publisher which he began giving to friends and family. See also, Composite Exhibit B.

3) Mr. Stone does not have any recollection of when he specifically knew they were available at bookstores.

4) Mr. Stone does not have any recollection of when he specifically knew they were being sold at retail bookstores.

5) Mr. Stone does not recall when he learned that the book was available for purchase or viewing online.

Stone claims he made no public statement about the book even though he booked a Hannity appearance to talk about it

Stone says he don’t remember pitching the book, ever.

To the best of Mr. Stone’s knowledge or records, he made no public statements regarding the publication of the book from January 15th to the present.

As noted above, Roger Stone booked an appearance on Hannity on January 28 specifically to pitch the book (and Smith appears to have spoken to folks there about it).

On top of messaging Trump (he said on the show he would not testify against Trump), the Hannity appearance was about adding to the media blitz and attacking Mueller.

Grant Smith, who edited the introduction, needed no reminder it existed

Stone’s filing claims he needed to “remind” counsel of the existence of the new introduction that violated the gag.

Immediately following the February 21 hearing, Mr. Stone reminded counsel about the existence of the New Introduction which covered topics now subject to restriction and that it could be construed as being written after the date for the February 21 Order because the various platform and location releases were not immediately known to him, although he had knowledge they had been printed and that there had been at least one commercial sale. Mr. Stone instructed Mr. Smith to send the new introduction to the others on his team for review.

As I keep noting, on January 15, Smith shared his own edits with the publisher — and Stone approved both the ones the publisher made and those Smith made (meaning he knows Smith did make edits).

Update: On Twitter, Reed Morris convinced me what happened is even worse than this. Smith, of course, didn’t need Stone to forward him this copy of the new introduction because he already had a copy. He was on the distribution list when it was originally sent!

Stone was included in direct communications with the publishers between February 21 and March 1, and continued to contact them directly after that

Stone’s lawyers claim he did not have “direct communications” with his publisher between the imposition of the gag and the first “clarification” to ABJ.

Mr. Stone did not have any direct communications with the publisher or any retailer between February 21 and March 1, all communications were indirect through counsel. To be completely transparent, Mr. Stone has authorized counsel to provide these communications to the Court.

Only here he was, being included in the conversations with the publishers on February 26. (PDF 121)

And while Stone’s lawyers don’t make any representations on this topic, it’s clear that Stone continued to be in direct contact with the publishers after that. Indeed, it appears the two-step process of forwarding relevant emails to Smith actually amounted to first sending them to Mike Campbell at the publisher, evidence to which got left in on this email and at least one other one. (PDF 96)

This is true, in spite of his lawyers’ claims that the publisher was keeping proprietary information from him.

As is reflected in this email exchange, Mr. Stone no longer had a “joint venture” with the publisher and the publisher viewed the information Mr. Stone was requesting to be proprietary as Mr. Stone neither participated in setting the schedule or any printing or distribution decisions.

For some reason, Stone’s lawyers don’t want to talk about Bruce Rogow’s communications with the publisher

Stone’s lawyers end this filing with claims about how serious they were because they took a week to present misleading data to ABJ.

On the morning of February 22, Mr. Smith sent an email to the publisher requesting, in light of the Court’s Order, a detailed explanation of where the books stood in the release/publishing process.

On February 26th, in preparation for the March 1 filing by Defendant, Mr. Smith requested additional information from the publisher to be able to accurately represent the status of the book to the Court. As is reflected in this email exchange, Mr. Stone no longer had a “jointventure” with the publisher and the publisher viewed the information Mr. Stone was requesting to be proprietary as Mr. Stone neither participated in setting the schedule or any printing or distribution decisions. The publisher ultimately provided the information requested in preparation for the Defendant’s filing.

The Defendant also asks the Court to take notice of the immediacy with which this was addressed by Mr. Stone and that the serious tone in the emails reflects the seriousness with which Mr. Stone took the Court’s February 21 order.

Curiously, they only mention the first two email threads, involving Grant Smith. After having gotten answers, sort of, to the questions they were seeking, Smith then emailed Tony Lyons and said that Lyon had to speak to Rogow immediately. He cc’s Tara Campion, another lawyer in Rogow’s office. (PDF 127)

Lyons says he’s too busy to talk but can respond to emailed questions (they’ve been emailing questions for 5 days at this point). Campion gets the same answers Smith already got, equally ambiguous about the hard copy print date as the earlier round. She asks Lyons when the books were sent out and he says, “I’ll put a call in to our sales director but usually 2-3 weeks before pub date.”

Remember: Everyone believed the “pub date” was March 1, which would put distribution of the books around February 18, which is when Stone himself received his copies.

When Campion follows up again about whether he has spoken with the sales director, he doesn’t say he has! but claims that he now knows they were sent in late January. (PDF 125)

Once again, on January 24, Michael Campbell told Stone the books were “printing soon.” He did not give Campbell the address to receive the books until February 15, in a conversation specifically referencing the expected gag order. And while Campbell’s response reflects review copies having been sent out by February 15, that’s different than actual retail copies. (PDF 96-97 shows this, which happens to be one of the ones Stone definitely shared directly with the publisher.)

Which means this exchange — which happened after Smith told Lyons he needed to speak to Rogow — probably is bullshit, but it provided dates that weren’t utterly damning for ABJ.

The thing is, they’re probably not true, and ABJ may well delve into all this on Thursday.

Stone claims this isn’t a publicity stunt

In a follow-up, I hope to look at why these people decided Stone had to update his book, which was a flop the first time he published it.

The March 1, 2019 Motion to Clarify (Dkt. # 51) was not “intended to serve as a means to generate additional publicity for the book.” Order of March 5, 2019 (Dkt. # 56), p. 2 n. 1. It was intended to address the fact that the “new” introduction was, after the February 21, 2019 hearing, recognized to be a potential problem. See Exhibit A, email exchange of February 21, 2019 at 6:33 p.m. We regret that the Court drew a contrary impression.

As noted above, the reference to the 6:33 email refers to what Rogow — who was rightly alarmed by Stone’s attacks on Mueller in the new introduction — believed.

It says nothing about what Grant Smith, who orchestrated this entire deal, believes.

Which is why I find it so interesting that Rogow plans to have a note from his doctor excusing him from attendance.

There was/is no intention to hide anything. The new introduction, post February 21, 2019, presented a question we tried, obviously clumsily, to address. Having been scolded, we seek only to defend Mr. Stone and move ahead without further ado.1

1 Bruce Rogow may not be able to attend the March 14, 2019 status conference because he is under a physician’s care for a temporary disorder impeding his ability to travel.

I have no idea whether this will result in Stone being jailed. As I noted, at first glance it looks pretty convincing Once you look closer, it’s pretty clear the lawyers — Grant Smith in particular — sign onto claims that cannot be true. And that’s before you look at the 8 emails Stone thought were relevant but don’t appear in this filing, some of which the FBI probably seized along with everything else on January 25.

No wonder Rogow doesn’t want to be the one on the stand on Thursday.

Update: Corrected incorrect claim that Tara Campion was not admitted in this case.

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

[Photo: National Security Agency, Ft. Meade, MD via Wikimedia]

Keith Gartenlaub Challenges the Destroyed FISA Wall

Keith Gartenlaub is appealing his conviction on possession of child porn to the Supreme Court, based on a FISA challenge. And while any petition for cert before SCOTUS faces long odds, I believe this one is interestingly situated in that its challenge to the plain view doctrine, in conjunction with the use of FISA evidence in a prosecution having nothing to do with national security, may present a way for SCOTUS to reconsider the wall between national security investigations and criminal prosecutions.

As a reminder, the FBI decided to investigation Gartenlaub (at a time when they were making other bone-headed investigative decisions involving Chinese-Americans) because he had access to files the Chinese government was seeking and a naturalized Chinese-American wife.

FBI switched back and forth from criminal to FISA access at least once (and probably twice), and in the process did a physical search of three Gartenlaub hard drives using the more expansive search regime available under FISA, only to then repeat the same search to obtain the same evidence of child porn to use for prosecution.

The government never presented evidence the child porn had been accessed since 2005, and Gartenlaub presented an alternate explanation for how it had gotten on his computer. In fact, the record suggests the FBI didn’t want to prosecute Gartenlaub for child porn; they wanted to flip him, so he would spy on his well-connected in-laws. It didn’t happen and now, even after his release from prison, he’s trying to challenge the genesis of his prosecution from that FISA search.

The reason why the case is interesting is because the FBI was seeking something very specific: materials relating to Boeing’s C-17 program. A criminal forensic search for such materials, conducted under a Rule 41 warrant, would start by turning off the forensic search for items — most notably, videos — that would not return the suspected evidence of crime (which would be engineering documents).

Because of typical games the FBI plays with forensics, this was not established in the District court. But the appeal points to the government’s claims that under FISA they don’t have to use such forensic narrowing to establish that they did not, and, not having done that, found no evidence to support the FISA allegations but instead finding evidence that led to the child porn charges.

In its Opposition Brief before the Ninth Circuit, the government acknowledges that there were no limitations to its secret search of Gartenlaub’s hard drives, saying in a header: “The Government Was Permitted to Search Every File on Defendant’s Computers . . . .”17 And nothing in the record indicates that the government used any standard forensic techniques routinely used to particularize computer searches like: date limitations; targeted key word searches; image recognition scans; taint teams, or other routine, well established techniques to limit a digital search to its target and screen out privileged, confidential, and irrelevant information.

Despite its unlimited search, the FBI found no evidence that Gartenlaub had provided C-17 data to China, or otherwise acted as a spy for China. But the FBI did allegedly find, among the tens of thousands of files on the hard drives, a handful of files containing child pornography. Dropping its fantasy that Gartenlaub was a Chinese spy, the FBI turned to the theory he collected child pornography.

The appeal then argues that using FISA to get to criminal evidence is an end run around criminal procedure, in part because Gartenlaub had no way to challenge the criminal warrant after the evidence had already been found via FISA warrant.

Gartenlaub’s case demonstrates how easy it is to bypass the Constitution’s criminal procedure guarantees by getting a secret FISA search warrant and using it to prosecute regular crimes. And it is impossible for a criminal defendant to challenge a secret FISA warrant because the defendant cannot access any of the information underlying the FISA warrant due to its secrecy. This thwarts a criminal defendant’s Due Process right to test the government’s case in adversarial proceedings. For these reasons alone the Court should grant certiorari to clarify the use of non-responsive FISA evidence in regular criminal proceedings.

Ultimately, one of Gartenlaub’s requests for cert (and most parallel this closely) argues that the government should not be permitted to use FISA warrants unless it submits those FISA warrants for court review.

Gartenlaub’s case is an example of how the government can abuse a national security investigation under FISA to prosecute unrelated non-national security crimes. Because of this risk, the government should not be permitted to use secret national security warrants to prosecute regular crimes if it won’t submit those warrants and supporting materials to investigation and the adversarial process the criminal procedure amendments require. This Court should grant certiorari to analyze and clarify the scope of the 1978 FISA’s encroachment upon the fundamental, centuries old, criminal procedure protections of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments.

On its face, it’s a fairly modest request. And, as the appeal notes, a fairly modest one, given that there is only one other case where FISA is known to be used in a pure criminal case. And the appeal distinguishes this case from the past one, Isa, in a way that appeals directly to the Court’s recent narrowing of digitally-based searches.

The 27 year old FISA case of United States v. Isa appears to be one of the few instances where a prosecutor used the non-responsive fruits of a FISA search for an unrelated regular criminal prosecution.70 Isa upheld the use of a FISA surveillance recording, in a state prosecution, of the surveillance target’s murder of his 16-year-old daughter.71 During the course of the surveillance the murder occurred and was incidentally recorded. Unlike Gartenlaub’s case, the evidence was not obtained via the methodical rummaging over the course of months through the target’s computers.

In other words, on its face, it presents a case where there is no question of standing, where the reach of the questions presented may seem narrow, and on topics that fit nicely with recent court decisions recognizing the greater invasiveness of digital searches.

Except the impact of putting FISA review on the table for a purely criminal case (the appeal raises the Carter Page example) would have significant, probably overdue impact on the complete elimination of the wall between intelligence and criminal investigations after 9/11.

None of that says it will work, of course. But it’s a neat formulation that, if it did, might finally push FISA back towards being closer to what it was first envisioned as.

Dear Editors: Stop Trying to Predict the Mueller Report

Darren Samuelsohn, who gets credit for one of the most important courthouse scoops of the Mueller investigation — the challenge of a Mueller subpoena by a foreign-owned corporation — wrote a piece laying out, “The week that could reveal Mueller’s end-game.” It relies heavily on analysis from Matt Miller, who was among those people saying not just that Mueller was substantially done three weeks ago (apparently true) but that he would issue his report (didn’t happen as predicted). He also quotes Ty Cobb promising Mueller will finish by mid-March, which is something like 16 months after he first predicted the end date.

Yet Samuelsohn’s piece doesn’t mention his own Mystery Appellant scoop, which is currently scheduled for discussion on SCOTUS’ March 22 conference (and would take some time to coerce compliance after that), at all. This appears to be a case where a foreign owned corporation is shielding the potentially criminal behavior of an American citizen by claiming only the President can coerce it to comply, the kind of appellate question that might rival the one decided in US v. Nixon. Solicitor General Noel Francisco’s role in the defense of the subpoena seems to indicate the high stakes of this challenge. Yet even Samuelsohn seems ready to believe that the resolution of this challenge won’t hold up the end game of the Mueller investigation.

Samulesohn also doesn’t mention Andrew Miller’s challenge to a Mueller subpoena. He lost his challenge in the DC Circuit on February 26, but depending on whether this challenge is treated as a criminal or civil one, he still has time to ask for an en banc reconsideration. In the wake of Roger Stone’s indictment, Mueller’s team told Miller’s lawyer they still need his client’s testimony, apparently for other charges. Admittedly, that could just involve a superseding indictment for Stone down the road — which might explain why Mueller was looking for 8 months before trial — but it’s a loose end that won’t be tied anytime soon (unless Miller quietly complied without anyone noticing).

Even among the details that Samuelsohn lays out (status reports in Flynn and Gates, a gag review and status hearing in Stone’s case, and sentencing for Manafort), he misses a really intriguing one. In the wake of Mueller’s clarification regarding the circumstances behind the printing of polling data on August 2, 2016 and which oligarchs that got that data are Russian (a clarification that made it clear they reinterviewed Rick Gates just a month ago), Manafort submitted a sealed motion (docket 538) for Amy Berman Jackson to reconsider her breach determination.

In a minute order filed last Monday, she approved the filing of that motion under seal, but ordered Manafort’s lawyers and Mueller’s to get together to agree on a set of redactions to release that motion. While there have been several sealed motions submitted since then, we don’t yet have that motion for reconsideration.

Manafort’s lawyers have been working hard to publicly reveal details — spun using any of a variety of changing cover stories — about that August 2 meeting since last summer. They’ve already lost a bid to unseal more details of this dispute from one of the past hearings, and they may have lost a dispute here (or it may something that will be aired in Wednesday’s sentencing hearing).

It’s interesting not just that Manafort’s lawyers, in their relentless bid to perform as the guy holding the pardon pen most wants them to perform, are still trying to explain away why Trump’s campaign manager provided data to be shared with Russia at the same meeting he discussed what amounts to relief from the Ukraine related sanctions. But even as Kevin Downing tries yet again to offer a cover story, Mueller appears to be successfully hiding the full details of this incident.

If they’re done, there’s no reason to hide these details, yet ABJ seems to agree they do have reason to hide them.

It is at once possible — likely even! — that the bulk of the investigative work is done (allowing Mueller’s lead Agent to be put in charge of the Richmond FBI Office), but that there are remaining threads that Mueller needs for his final “report.” It’s even possible that everyone misunderstands what form that final report will take.

But thus far no editor has produced a story that adequately describes the signs of a nearing end that adequately accounts for the number of known loose ends that will take some weeks to be tied.

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

Two Trajectories: Sleazy Influence Peddler Paul Manafort and Foreign Agent Prosecutor Brandon Van Grack

Like many, while I expected TS Ellis to give Paul Manafort a light sentence, I’m shocked by just how light it was.

Ellis gave Manafort 47 months of prison time for crimes that the sentencing guidelines say should start at a 19 year sentence. Even if Amy Berman Jackson gives Manafort the stiffest sentence she can give him — 10 years — and makes it consecutive, he’ll still be facing less than the what sentencing guidelines recommend. Ellis even declined to fine Manafort beyond the $24 million he’ll have to pay in restitution (Zoe Tillman lays out the money issues here).

There are a number of reasons to be outraged by this.

Ellis explicitly suggested that Manafort’s crimes were less serious than similar organized crime that people of color would commit. In the wake of this sentence, any number of people (especially defense attorneys) have pointed to non-violent criminals facing more prison time than Manafort. That said, I agree with those who suggest we should aim to bring those other sentences down in line with what the civilized world imposes, and not instead bump white collar criminals up to the barbaric levels that come out of the drug war.

Ellis gave this sentence even though Manafort expressed no remorse. Ellis commented that “I was surprised that I did not hear you express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct. In other words, you didn’t say, ‘I really, really regret not doing what the law requires,'” but nevertheless sentenced him as if he had.

Perhaps most infuriating were the backflips Ellis did to spin Paul Manafort as a good man. He emphasized that Manafort was “not before the court for any allegation that he or anybody at his direction colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election,” which is true; but Ellis received the breach determination materials showing that at a time when Manafort was purportedly cooperating, he instead lied about sharing polling data with a suspected Russian asset while discussing a Ukrainian peace deal that he knew amounted to sanctions relief, a quid pro quo. Because those materials go to the issue of whether Manafort took responsibility and was a risk for recidivism, they were fair game for consideration, but Ellis didn’t consider them.

Indeed, because of time served, Ellis effectively sentenced Manafort to an equivalent sentence that Michael Cohen faces having committed an order of magnitude less financial fraud, pled guilty, and provided limited cooperation to the government. Effectively, then, Ellis has sanctioned Manafort’s successful effort to avoid cooperating in the case in chief, on how he and Trump conspired with Russia to exploit our democratic process.

Instead of referring to the materials on Manafort’s refusal to cooperate, Ellis instead just regurgitated defense materials and claimed that aside from stealing millions of dollars from taxpayers and whatever else went on before Amy Berman Jackson, Manafort had “lived an otherwise blameless life.”

And that’s where I step away from a generalized discussion of the barbaric nature of our criminal justice system to look specifically at the barbaric nature of what Paul Manafort has done with his life. I feel much the way Franklin Foer does.

In an otherwise blameless life, Paul Manafort lobbied on behalf of the tobacco industry and wangled millions in tax breaks for corporations.

In an otherwise blameless life, he helped Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos bolster his image in Washington after he assassinated his primary political opponent.

In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa. While Manafort helped portray his client as an anti-communist “freedom fighter,” Savimbi’s army planted millions of land mines in peasant fields, resulting in 15,000 amputees.

[snip]

In an otherwise blameless life, he spent a decade as the chief political adviser to a clique of former gangsters in Ukraine. This clique hoped to capture control of the state so that it could enrich itself with government contracts and privatization agreements. This was a group closely allied with the Kremlin, and Manafort masterminded its rise to power—thereby enabling Ukraine’s slide into Vladimir Putin’s orbit.

[snip]

In an otherwise blameless life, he produced a public-relations campaign to convince Washington that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was acting within his democratic rights and duties when he imprisoned his most compelling rival for power.

In an otherwise blameless life, he stood mute as Yanukovych’s police killed 130 protesters in the Maidan.

Paul Manafort invented the profession of sleazy influence peddler. His own daughter once acknowledged, “Don’t fool yourself. That money we have is blood money.” And our democracy, as well as more corrupt regimes around the globe where Manafort was happy to work, are much less just because of Manafort’s life’s work.

Which is why I take more solace in something that happened the night before Manafort’s sentencing: A CNN report that DOJ has put Brandon Van Grack — a prosecutor who, under Mueller, prosecuted Mike Flynn and his sleazy influence peddler business partners — in charge of a renewed effort to crack down on unregistered sleazy influence peddlers.

The initiative at the Justice Department to pursue violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires that an entity representing a foreign political party or government file public reports detailing the relationship, will be overseen by Brandon Van Grack, who left Mueller’s team in recent months to rejoin the national security division.

Van Grack’s appointment to the newly created position and the Justice Department’s interest in expanding its pursuit of foreign influence cases stemmed largely from the impact of Russian operations on the 2016 presidential election, John Demers, the head of the national security division, said Wednesday at a conference on white-collar crime.

With Van Grack’s new role, the Justice Department will shift “from treating FARA as an administrative obligation and regulatory obligation to one that is increasingly an enforcement priority,” Demers said.

He also pointed to the impact of a recent settlement with one of the country’s highest-profile law firms — Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP — on the department’s decision to escalate its enforcement in that area.

[snip]

Demers added that the Justice Department is considering seeking congressional authorization for administrative subpoena power to enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which it currently lacks.

“That’s something that we’re taking a hard look at,” he said. Referencing Skadden, he added: “Do I think the firm would have behaved differently if they had received a subpoena versus they had just received a letter? Yes.”

This marks a decision to treat FARA violations — sleazy influence peddling that hides the ultimate foreign customer — as a real risk to our country. As I have laid out in my comparison of Manafort’s “otherwise blameless life” and Maria Butina’s efforts to infiltrate right wing politics, a venal insider with an already rich political network will be far more effective (and insidious) than even a beautiful woman backed by a mobbed up foreign government official and abetted by her own washed out Republican insider.

I don’t know what Mueller is doing with all the evidence of a conspiracy that he continues to protect. I don’t know that he’ll be able to deliver a prosecutorial conclusion that will deliver justice for the sleazy things that Trump did to win the election. Prosecuting very powerful people is very difficult, and we shouldn’t forget that.

But one other point of this entire investigative process was to learn lessons, to make it harder for hostile outsiders to hijack our democratic process going forward.

In letting Manafort off with a metaphorical wrist-slap, TS Ellis did nothing to deter others who, like Manafort, will sell out our country for an ostrich skin jacket. Even ABJ will face some difficult challenges in DC when she tries to sentence FARA crimes (particularly those of Sam Patten, who cooperated) without precedents to do so.

But the way to build those precedents — the way to establish a record that causes a Skadden Arps or a Rob Kelner to treat FARA registration as the official declaration to the government that it is — is to pursue more of these cases, against sleazy influence peddlers working for all foreign entities, not just the ones we despise.

So Manafort may get off easy for helping Russia interfere in our election in a bid to line up his next gig white-washing brutal oligarchs.

But along the way, our justice system may be adapting to the certainty that he did not live an otherwise blameless life

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

Roger Stone Does the RICO Defense

Most of the Russian investigation beat journalists are analyzing Amy Berman Jackson’s latest smackdown of Roger Stone, in which she requires him to comply with her gag order even though (he claims) the book forward that conflicts with it was planned in advance of her gag. I’ll leave that to other journalists for now (though I will note that in the order, she relies on all the traps she set in the hearing on the gag, including Stone’s admission he doesn’t need the book for his livelihood and Stone’s lawyer’s concession that Stone shouldn’t speak about his case). Effectively, she’s still letting their stunt in that hearing make her ruling for her.

I’ve been engaged in the far more mundane analysis of how Stone’s defense against the DNC lawsuit has evolved, possibly in conjunction with his indictment and the prospect of further information coming out.

Yesterday, all the defendants who have accepted service in the DNC lawsuit against Trump’s campaign, WikiLeaks, the Agalarovs, and GRU submitted their motions to dismiss a second amended complaint (SAC). Because of the timing of all this, I wanted to compare Roger Stone’s last response (Second Motion) with the one submitted yesterday (Third Motion).

The last motions to dismiss were submitted December 7. The SAC, filed January 18, added allegations tied to Jerome Corsi’s draft plea agreement and related revelations, but not Stone’s indictment (which was filed a week after the SAC). But Stone’s response, submitted March 4, reflects the indictment, and presumably may reflect what his lawyers are seeing in discovery.

So comparing the two motions provides a sense of what Stone’s lawyers are seeing and how they imagine they’ll defend him against his indictment.

The SAC mentions Stone around 112 times; his actions (described starting at ¶161) form a key part of the Democratic narrative, and is key to tying the Trump associates named in the suit to the Russian and WikiLeaks efforts to exploit the stolen documents.

There are three key differences in Stone’s Third Motion and the Second.

Stone stops quoting the accusations against him

The Second Motion takes on the specific accusations against him, quoting some of the key paragraphs.

The specific facts alleged as to Roger Stone make him a unique defendant. While analyzing these allegations, it is critical for the Court to note when Stone is alleged, by Plaintiff to have joined the conspiracy (post-July 22, 2016, first DNC dissemination), what acts he allegedly committed to in fact join the conspiracy, and do those acts allege a conspiracy to which the DNC can seek a remedy in this Court. As to Roger Stone, the amended complaint alleges:

19. Throughout the summer and fall of 2016, during the height of the Presidential campaign, Trump’s associates continued to communicate secretly with Russian agents and WikiLeaks, who strategically disseminated information stolen from Democratic targets. For example, in August 2016, Stone began communicating secretly with GRU operatives and bragged about his contacts with Assange. Similarly, Gates, who served as the Trump Campaign’s deputy chairman and then liaison to the Republican National Committee, maintained secret communications with an individual he knew to be connected to the GRU. (emphasis added).

Other than the private messages (communication on the social network platform, twitter), between Guccifer 2.0 and Stone there are no additional allegations about what they communicated about. The communications are attached as exhibits to this motion.

20. In the summer and fall of 2016, Stone revealed information that he could not have had unless he were communicating with WikiLeaks, Russian operatives, or both about their hacking operations in the United States. For instance, in August of 2016, nobody in the public sphere knew that Russia had stolen emails from John Podesta, the chairman of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Nevertheless, on August 21, 2016, Stone predicted that damaging information about Podesta would be released, tweeting “it will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel.” Weeks later, WikiLeaks began releasing batches of Podesta’s emails on a near-daily basis until Election Day—as Stone had predicted. Similarly, in mid-September 2016, Stone said that he expected “Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks people to drop a payload of new documents on Hillary [Clinton] on a weekly basis fairly soon.” And, beginning on October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks began releasing stolen emails at least once a week—as Stone had predicted. (emphasis added).

WikiLeaks merely telling Stone that it has specific information is not a tort. Additionally, since the DNC alleged that Stone’s prediction about “the Podesta’s” proves Stone joined the relevant conspiracy is belied by the fact John Podesta’s emails were not on the DNC server. The DNC cannot properly allege Stone joined the conspiracy and committed torts based upon this allegation in which the DNC cannot claim a concrete injury fairly traceable to Stone. An analysis of the DNC’s standing and misuse of inferences to attempt to sufficiently plead this conspiracy will be discussed below.

That same passage in yesterday’s motion to dismiss is far more abbreviated and — in the passage that most directly addresses the charges against him — doesn’t cite the DNC’s full accusations against him directly.

In the summer and fall of 2016, Stone revealed information that he could not have had unless he were communicating with WikiLeaks, Russian operatives, or both about their hacking operations in the United States. For instance, in August of 2016, nobody in the public sphere knew that Russia had stolen emails from John Podesta, the chairman of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Nevertheless, on August 21, 2016, Stone predicted that damaging information about Podesta would be released, tweeting “it will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel.” Weeks later, WikiLeaks began releasing batches of Podesta’s emails on a near-daily basis until Election Day—as Stone had predicted. Similarly, in mid-September 2016, Stone said that he expected “Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks people to drop a payload of new documents on Hillary [Clinton] on a weekly basis fairly soon.” And, beginning on October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks began releasing stolen emails at least once a week—as Stone had predicted.

Next, the DNC alleges Roger Stone was prophetic because he “revealed information he could not have had unless he were communicating with WikiLeaks, Russian operatives or both. (SAC ¶ 22). An example cited is: In August of 2016, nobody in the public sphere knew that Russia had stolen emails from John Podesta, Stone predicted that damaging information about Podesta would be released, tweeting: “it will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel.” Weeks later, WikiLeaks began releasing batches of Podesta’s emails on a near-daily basis until Election Day—as Stone had predicted. (SAC ¶91).

WikiLeaks merely telling Stone that it has non-specific information is not a tort. But the DNC emphasizes that “Stone discussed highly confidential and strategic information stolen from another Democratic party institution and disseminated to the public.” (SAC ¶ 23). This admission in and of itself proves that the Podesta emails were not part of the DNC records. Since the DNC alleged that Stone’s prediction about “the Podesta’s” proves Stone joined the relevant conspiracy and enterprise it is absolutely defeated by the fact John Podesta’s emails were not on the DNC server or that of the other “Democratic party institution.” Similarly, in midSeptember 2016, Stone said that he expected “Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks people to drop a payload of new documents on Hillary [Clinton] on a weekly basis fairly soon.” Id. And, beginning on October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks began releasing stolen emails at least once a week—as Stone had predicted. Id.

Then the DNC alleges Stone and other defendants misled various government agencies. Stone did not lie to the Special Counsel or the FBI; he only appeared or testified to one congressional committee. 3 He is alleged to have intimidated a witness who “threatened to contradict his narrative about his communications with WikiLeaks.” (SAC ¶ 30). But neither the testimony to Congress, nor the “intimidation” occurred prior to the 2016 presidential election.

3 Roger Stone has been indicted in the District of the District of Columbia. (Case No. 1:19-cr-18-ABJ). The indictment charges Stone with lying to Congress and intimidating a witness, Randy Credico in relation to Credico asserting his Fifth Amendment right to a House Committee. The indictment is not for conspiracy, RICO, theft, or trespass. The DNC alleges an open-ended RICO, something the Special Counsel has not been willing to allege against any American.

By telling this instead as a narrative rather than quoting the actual paragraphs, Stone minimizes the accusations against him, which the DNC could now fill out with more from his indictment.

Ultimately, Stone’s defense remains, as it has been from the start, that any foreknowledge of the John Podesta emails is useless to the Democrats’ lawsuit because Podesta’s emails were not stolen from a DNC server, and that he had no foreknowledge of the DNC release to WikiLeaks (he also leans heavily on WikiLeaks not having engaged in a tort, which may get him in trouble if WikiLeaks does get charged with something).

The possibility that Stone saw the Podesta emails in advance may explain this strategy. After all, if it comes out that he did receive the Podesta emails in advance, then his defense here (that the emails don’t amount to economic espionage) still might fly given that Podesta was not part of the DNC.

But now that Cohen has described Stone warning Trump of the July 22 release, that strategy may begin to crumble.

Stone drops his claim not to be part of the campaign

In the Second Motion, in an effort to distance himself from the network of conspirators, Stone denied that he was part of the campaign.

Conspiracy between Stone and the Campaign.

Plaintiffs do not state a proper theory of conspiracy to support any claim. An agent of a corporation cannot conspire with the corporation itself. Executive Sandwich Shoppe, Inc. v. Carr Realty Corp., 749 A.2d 724, 739 (D.C. 2000) (referred to as the “intracorporate conspiracy doctrine”); Little Professor Book Co. v. Reston N. Pt. Vill., 41 Va. Cir. 73 (1996) (circuit court opinion); Reich v. Lopez, 38 F. Supp. 3d 436, 464 (S.D.N.Y. 2014), aff’d, 858 F.3d 55 (2d Cir. 2017); Tabb v. D.C., 477 F. Supp. 2d 185, 190 (D.D.C. 2007) (citing Dickerson v. Alachua County Comm., 200 F.3d 761, 767 (11th Cir. 2000)). Stone worked as an independent contractor for the Campaign for a few months in 2015. In short, the amended complaint alleges Stone was always acting as an agent of the Trump Campaign for President. In the only footnote in the amended complaint, the term “Trump Associate” is defined as an agent of the Campaign. (Am. Compl. at 16 *). The D.C.-law and Virginia law, therefore, does not support a claim of conspiracy between Stone and the Campaign.

That footnote in the SAC has been rewritten to define Trump associate this way:

“Trump Associates” refers to the Trump advisors and confidants named as Defendants herein: Trump, Jr., Manafort, Kushner, Stone, and Papadopoulos.

In the section disclaiming a role in managing the RICO enterprise, Stone also drops an argument that the complaint doesn’t allege “that he was even communicating with the other ‘Trump associates’,” leaving this argument denying that he played a key role in the conspiracy.

The lawsuit does not allege Roger Stone had a management or operational position in the Campaign at all. He was merely an informal adviser. In short, Stone did not have any part in directing the enterprise’s affairs as required by the law in this Circuit. See id. At best, Stone is talking to an alleged Russian hacker on twitter about a hack and theft after the DNC’s data was stolen.

In the wake of his indictment — which gets closer to suggesting Stone got the October release timed to drown out the Access Hollywood release (a claim Jerome Corsi has sometimes backed), not to mention Michael Cohen’s claim that Stone told the President about the initial July 22 email dump several days in advance — this claim may get harder to sustain.

Indeed, as it is, if Stone goes to trial multiple communications with the campaign about WikiLeaks’ releases will become public. But Cohen’s allusion to corroboration about the July 18 or 19 Stone call to Trump suggests that information could become public even sooner.

Stone continues to ignore potential CFAA exposure

As in the Second Motion, there’s a key part of the Democratic narrative that Stone ignores in the Third Motion: the hack of the Dem’s analytics on AWS, which post-dates Guccifer 2.0’s offer to help Stone and offer of the DCCC analytics in early September, which starts this way (I discuss and quote this in more depth in this post).

N. The GRU Reaches Out To Stone About Democratic Party Turnout Models

177. On August 22, 2016, GRU operatives transmitted several gigabytes of data stolen from another Democratic party target to a Republican party strategist in Florida. The data included voter turnout analyses for Florida and other states.160

178. Between September 7 and September 8, 2016, the GOP strategist exchanged private messages with GRU operatives posing as Guccifer 2.0 in which he explained the substantial value of the stolen data he had received from them.161

179. On September 9, 2016, GRU operatives posing as Guccifer 2.0 contacted Stone, writing him “please tell me if I can help u anyhow[,]” and adding “it would be a great pleasure to me.” The operatives then asked Stone for his reaction to the “turnout model for the Democrats’ entire presidential campaign.” Stone replied, “[p]retty standard.” 162

O. Russia Launches Another Attack On DNC Servers Housing Sensitive And Valuable Trade Secrets

180. On September 20, 2016, CrowdStrike’s monitoring service discovered that unauthorized users—later discovered to be GRU officers—had accessed the DNC’s cloud-computing service. The cloud-computing service housed test applications related to the DNC’s analytics. The DNC’s analytics are its most important, valuable, and highly confidential tools. While the DNC did not detect unauthorized access to its voter file, access to these test applications could have provided the GRU with the ability to see how the DNC was evaluating and processing data critical to its principal goal of winning elections. Forensic analysis showed that the unauthorized users had stolen the contents of these virtual servers by making exact duplicates (“snapshots”) of them and moving those snapshots to other accounts they owned on the same service. The GRU stole multiple snapshots of these virtual servers between September 5, 2016 and September 22, 2016. The U.S. government later concluded that this cyberattack had been executed by the GRU as part of its broader campaign to damage to the Democratic party.

DNC’s allegation that Stone informed Guccifer 2.0 he was unimpressed with the DCCC oppo research released in early September, followed shortly by GRU’s hack of the crown jewels, would seem to undermine Stone’s entire defense, given that his claims that his conversations with Guccifer 2.0 preceded all hacks (it doesn’t — indeed, it happens as the hacks are occurring) and his claims that the Podesta release is unrelated because is not DNC does not apply to the analytics.

But thus far, he’s just ignoring those allegations.

None of the new details about Stone’s conduct will really get the DNC to The RICO. But it may put Stone at more risk of other exposure.

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

Puzzling Through the House Requests

In this post, I’ll try to make sense of the requests House Judiciary Committee sent out today.

The requests — which they’ve run by Mueller and SDNY — don’t all make sense. Generally, people are being asked for the documents they’ve already turned over (or had seized) to some investigation. A lot of this is boilerplate, though, so some people are being asked for documents they don’t have.

Alan Garten gets a request, but not Alan Futerfas, in spite of the fact that both Trump lawyers were involved in coaching June 9 meeting testimony.

It excludes some obvious intelligence targets — it doesn’t ask for documents concerning Oleg Deripaska, and Sergei Millian is not on this list — but not others — like WikiLeaks.

Ivanka Trump and Sam Patten are not included.

This is a first run of either the most important association or some surprising ones. I’ll be doing rolling updates of this after more detailed review of the request letters.

Contacts with Russians

I’ve split this into those who were named in requests for documents detailing contacts with Russians, which includes the following, Trump himself, and Konstantin Kilimnik:

  1. Trump Campaign (letterdocument requests)
  2. Trump Organization (letterdocument requests)
  3. Carter Page (letter, document requests)
  4. Erik Prince (letterdocument requests)
  5. George Papadopoulos (letterdocument requests)
  6. Jared Kushner (letterdocument requests)
  7. Jeff Sessions (letterdocument requests)
  8. Jerome Corsi (letterdocument requests)
  9. KT McFarland (letterdocument requests)
  10. Michael Cohen (letterdocument requests)
  11. Michael Flynn (letterdocument requests)
  12. Paul Manafort (letterdocument requests)
  13. Rick Gates (letter, document requests)
  14. Roger Stone (letter, document requests)
  15. Tom Bossert (letterdocument requests)

Those requested for documents showing communications with Russians and the list above:

  1. Christopher Bancroft Burnham (letterdocument requests)
  2. Jason Maloni (letterdocument requests)
  3. Paul Erickson (letterdocument requests)

Meetings with Putin

  1. Allen Weisselberg (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018
  2. Brad Parscale (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018
  3. Christopher Bancroft Burnham (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018
  4. Corey Lewandowski (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018
  5. Don McGahn (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018
  6. Donald Trump Jr. (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018
  7. Eric Trump (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018
  8. Erik Prince (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018
  9. Hope Hicks (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018
  10. Reince Priebus (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017
  11. Rick Gates (letter, document requests) July 7, 2017 and November 11, 2017
  12. Rhona Graff (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018
  13. Roger Stone (letter, document requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018
  14. Steve Bannon (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018
  15. Tom Bossert (letterdocument requests) July 7, 2017, November 11, 2017, July 16, 2018, and November 30, 2018

June 9 Meeting

This category, like the contacts with Russians one, I’ll split onto those named and those asked about the June 9 meeting. The former are here:

  1. Anatoli Samochornov (letterdocument requests)
  2. Donald Trump Jr. (letterdocument requests)
  3. Irakly Kaveladze (letterdocument requests)
  4. Jared Kushner (letterdocument requests)
  5. Paul Manafort (letterdocument requests)
  6. Rinat Akhmetshin (letterdocument requests)
  7. Rob Goldstone (letterdocument requests)

These people were asked about the June 9 meeting but are not named.

  1. Alan Garten (letterdocument requests)
  2. Don McGahn (letterdocument requests)
  3. Hope Hicks (letterdocument requests)
  4. Jason Maloni (letterdocument requests)
  5. Mark Corallo (letterdocument requests)
  6. Steve Bannon (letterdocument requests)

Trump Tower Moscow

  1. Allen Weisselberg (letterdocument requests)
  2. Donald Trump Jr. (letterdocument requests)
  3. Felix Sater (letterdocument requests)
  4. Jay Sekulow (letterdocument requests)
  5. Matthew Calamari (letterdocument requests)
  6. Michael Cohen (letterdocument requests)
  7. Ronald Lieberman (letterdocument requests)
  8. Sam Nunberg (letterdocument requests)
  9. Sheri Dillon (letterdocument requests)
  10. Stefan Passantino (letterdocument requests)

Sanctions relief

  1. Carter Page (letter, document requests)
  2. Erik Prince (letterdocument requests)
  3. George Papadopoulos (letterdocument requests)
  4. Jared Kushner (letterdocument requests)
  5. Jason Maloni (letterdocument requests)
  6. J.D. Gordon (letterdocument requests)
  7. Jeff Sessions (letterdocument requests)
  8. Jerome Corsi (letterdocument requests)
  9. KT McFarland (letterdocument requests)
  10. Michael Cohen (letterdocument requests)
  11. Paul Manafort (letterdocument requests)
  12. Rick Gates (letter, document requests)
  13. Roger Stone (letter, document requests)
  14. Tom Bossert (letterdocument requests)

Cambridge Analytica and sharing of polling data

  1. Alexander Nix (letterdocument requests)
  2. Brad Parscale (letterdocument requests)
  3. Brittany Kaiser (letterdocument requests)
  4. Cambridge Analytica (letterdocument requests)
  5. Concord Management and Consulting (letterdocument requests)
  6. Jared Kushner (letterdocument requests)
  7. Julian David Wheatland (letterdocument requests)
  8. Paul Manafort (letterdocument requests)
  9. Rick Gates (letter, document requests)
  10. Sam Nunberg (letterdocument requests)
  11. SCL Group Limited (letterdocument requests)
  12. Tony Fabrizio (letterdocument requests)

Peter Smith effort

  1. Jerome Corsi (letterdocument requests)
  2. John Szobocsan (letterdocument requests)
  3. Matt Tait (letterdocument requests)
  4. Peter Smith (Estate) (letterdocument requests)

Hush payments and catch-and-kill

  1. Allen Weisselberg (letterdocument requests)
  2. American Media Inc (letterdocument requests)
  3. David Pecker (letterdocument requests)
  4. Donald J Trump Revocable Trust (letterdocument requests)
  5. Dylan Howard (letterdocument requests)
  6. Jared Kushner (letterdocument requests)
  7. Keith Davidson (letterdocument requests)
  8. Matthew Calamari (letterdocument requests)
  9. Michael Cohen (letterdocument requests)
  10. Ronald Lieberman (letterdocument requests)
  11. Steve Bannon (letterdocument requests)

Corrupt business interests (including emoluments)

  1. Alan Garten (letterdocument requests)
  2. Allen Weisselberg (letterdocument requests)
  3. Andrew Intrater (letterdocument requests)
  4. Christopher Bancroft Burnham (letterdocument requests)
  5. Columbus Nova (letterdocument requests)
  6. Donald Trump Jr. (letterdocument requests)
  7. Erik Prince (letterdocument requests)
  8. 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee (letterdocument requests)
  9. Flynn Intel Group (letterdocument requests)
  10. Frontier Services Group (letterdocument requests)
  11. George Nader (letterdocument requests)
  12. Jared Kushner (letterdocument requests)
  13. Kushner Companies (letter, document requests)
  14. Matthew Calamari (letterdocument requests)
  15. Michael Cohen (letterdocument requests)
  16. Michael Flynn (letterdocument requests)
  17. Michael Flynn Jr (letterdocument requests)
  18. Ronald Lieberman (letterdocument requests)
  19. Sheri Dillon (letterdocument requests)
  20. Stefan Passantino (letterdocument requests)
  21. Tom Barrack (letterdocument requests)
  22. Viktor Vekselberg (letterdocument requests)

Obstruction (including WHCO advice)

  1. Annie Donaldson (letterdocument requests)
  2. Don McGahn (letterdocument requests)
  3. Eric Trump (letterdocument requests)
  4. Hope Hicks (letterdocument requests)
  5. Jared Kushner (letterdocument requests)
  6. Jason Maloni (letterdocument requests)
  7. Jay Sekulow (letterdocument requests)
  8. Jeff Sessions (letterdocument requests)
  9. KT McFarland (letterdocument requests)
  10. Mark Corallo (letterdocument requests)
  11. Reince Priebus (letterdocument requests)
  12. Sean Spicer (letterdocument requests)
  13. Steve Bannon (letterdocument requests)
  14. Tom Bossert (letterdocument requests)

Pardons

  1. Michael Cohen (letterdocument requests)
  2. Michael Flynn (letterdocument requests)
  3. Paul Manafort (letterdocument requests)
  4. Rick Gates (letter, document requests)

Contacts with WikiLeaks

  1. Jerome Corsi (letterdocument requests)
  2. Julian Assange (letterdocument requests)
  3. Michael Caputo (letterdocument requests)
  4. Randy Credico (letterdocument requests)
  5. Roger Stone (letter, document requests)
  6. Sam Nunberg (letterdocument requests)
  7. Ted Malloch (letterdocument requests)
  8. Wikileaks (letterdocument requests)

Government and Private Organization Requests

  1. Department of Justice (letterdocument requests)
  2. Federal Bureau of Investigation (letter, document requests)
  3. General Services Administration (letterdocument requests)
  4. NRA (letterdocument requests)
  5. The White House (letterdocument requests)
  6. Trump Campaign (letterdocument requests)
  7. Trump Foundation (letterdocument requests)
  8. Trump Organization (letterdocument requests)
  9. Trump Transition (letterdocument requests)

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

The May 18, 2017 Meeting with Trump, Jay Sekulow, and Michael Cohen

One of the things that happened in yesterday’s Michael Cohen testimony is that Gerald Connolly seems to have dated a meeting between the President, Cohen, and Jay Sekulow: May 18, 2017. That’s based off a May 16 email that refers to a Thursday meeting.

Gerry Connolly: There was an email from a special assistant to the President to a Deputy White House Counsel, and the email is dated May 16, 2017 and it says, and I quote, POTUS, meaning the President, requested a meeting on Thursday with Michael Cohen and Jay Sekulow. Any idea what this might be about, end-quote? Do you recall being asked to come to the White House on or around that time, with Mr. Sekulow, May of 2017?

Michael Cohen: Off the top of my head sir, I don’t. I recall being in the White House with Jay Sekulow and it was in regard to the document production as well as my appearance before the House Select Intel.

Thursday that week would have been May 18.

As Cohen lays out in the rest of the clip, at the meeting Trump told him to cooperate but then repeated the lines (Cohen says he knew) Trump wanted him to use: There is no Russia, there is no collusion, there is no deal. This stuff has to end.

If that is, indeed, when Cohen and Sekulow started working on Cohen’s perjurious testimony, it is remarkable timing. This post has a timeline of Cohen’s evolving lies. Of note, the timing in May looks like this:

May 9: Trump fires Jim Comey

May 16: Trump asks for a meeting with Sekulow and Cohen

May 17: Rod Rosenstein appoints Mueller

May 18: Cohen, Sekulow, and Trump meet during which Trump lays out the party line

May 30: Cohen says he won’t cooperate with HPSCI

May 31: HPSCI subpoenas Cohen and his law firm

Among other things, this means that Trump was laying out a party line even before Mueller got appointed. It also means that They recognized the risk of this testimony before the HPSCI request moved to a subpoena.

Remember, according to his testimony yesterday, Cohen claimed Sekulow edited his testimony, including by foreshortening the time during which the Trump Tower deal remained active during the election (though Sekulow denies it).

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

Michael Cohen’s Testimony: Metacommentary

Michael Cohen’s statement to the House Oversight Committee is here. I’d like to make three meta-comments about what he says about the Russian investigation (which is technically outside the scope of today’s hearing but what the fuck, he’s going to prison anyway…).

Why Cohen claimed he knew that Trump knew of the June 9 meeting ahead of time

After he pled guilty, Cohen claimed he was a meeting where Trump spoke of the June 9 meeting ahead of time. Later, he backed off any claim of knowing about the meeting in advance.

Here’s what he based that initial claim on:

Sometime in the summer of 2017, I read all over the media that there had been a meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 involving Don Jr. and others from the campaign with Russians, including a representative of the Russian government, and an email setting up the meeting with the subject line, “Dirt on Hillary Clinton.” Something clicked in my mind. I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016, when something peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father’s desk – which in itself was unusual. People didn’t just walk behind Mr. Trump’s desk to talk to him. I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: “The meeting is all set.” I remember Mr. Trump saying, “Ok good…let me know.”

What struck me as I looked back and thought about that exchange between Don Jr. and his father was, first, that Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world. And also, that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any significance alone – and certainly not without checking with his father. I also knew that nothing went on in Trump world, especially the campaign, without Mr. Trump’s knowledge and approval. So, I concluded that Don Jr. was referring to that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting about dirt on Hillary with the Russian representative when he walked behind his dad’s desk that day — and that Mr. Trump knew that was the meeting Don Jr. was talking about when he said, “That’s good…let me know.”

Particularly absent a real date, all this exchange tells us is that Don Jr was setting up really sensitive meetings that Trump knew about. It’s possible it was an entirely different criminal meeting. Or it’s possible that this was about the June 9 meeting.

Ultimately, if Mueller wants to charge a conspiracy, he doesn’t need to prove that Trump knew in advance, because Trump took so many other overt acts that made it clear he was part of this conspiracy, including coordinating a public statement about it with Vladimir Putin.

But Trump probably knew in advance.

How to suborn perjury

In the wake of the BuzzFeed article and Peter Carr “correction” — which I suggested reflected different priorities about the role of Trump in lying about the Trump Tower Moscow deal –I suggested that Trump’s flunkies don’t need to be told to lie by him. They just do it.

Cohen’s statement confirms that’s what happened.

I lied to Congress about when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow Tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January 2016. That was false – our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign. Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates. In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie. There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me “How’s it going in Russia?” – referring to the Moscow Tower project. You need to know that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it. To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.

There’s still more that needs to be told about the response to the BuzzFeed story, most notably why Mueller’s office chose to issue a “correction” when they hadn’t for more egregiously erroneous reporting. Hopefully, the outlets that credulously repeated the DOJ line will chase that down. Hopefully, too, the Big Dick Toilet Salesman will be asked to explain his own role in that “correction” when he takes a Mulligan on telling the truth to Congress.

Mueller isn’t telling us everything

Cohen will testify that he was in Trump’s office one day, before the DNC Convention, when Roger Stone was put through and Trump put the rat-fucker on the speaker phone.

In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of “wouldn’t that be great.”

Likely, Stone was once again overselling his access to Assange. Likely, this came via a cut-out. It’s likely Stone learned about this from his meeting with Nigel Farage at the RNC.

But it is an example of the kinds of details that Mueller — in spite of his speaking indictment of Stone — was trying to keep secret. It shifts Stone’s knowledge of WikiLeaks earlier than the indictment. It also makes it far more likely that Trump is the one who ordered someone to find out from Stone what more was coming.

The biggest takeaway from seeing clarifications about what a Mueller witness said is this: Mueller is working to preserve the credibility of a bunch of sleazy sources. And the sources likely don’t understand that they don’t have to place Trump with a smoking gun. Because of the way conspiracy law works. it’s enough to show that Trump willingly entered into the conspiracy and took many overt acts to pursue the objects of the conspiracy.

Cohen’s more accurate testimony does that.

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

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