Amy Berman Jackson Disputes Claims of “Exculpatory” Information on Russia and Ukraine

For all its import showing the problems with Carter Page’s FISA application, I’ll eventually show the DOJ IG Report  commits some of the same errors of inclusion and exclusion of important information that it accuses FBI of. Most importantly, it treats as exculpatory comments that George Papadopoulos made to Stephan Halper and another informant in fall 2016 when the FBI agents involved rightly (the record now confirms) suspected Papadopoulos’ answer was a cover story. Notably, Rosemary Collyer did not include the Papadopoulos comments in her letter to the government yesterday, suggesting she doesn’t think exclusion of those comments to be noteworthy.

Given Michael Horowitz’s focus on FBI’s withholding of exculpatory information (which they absolutely did, on a number of occasions), I find the focus of Amy Berman Jackson’s comments at Rick Gates’ sentencing hearing yesterday notable. (Thanks to CNN for culling these comments from the transcript.)

Some of the comments — including some focusing on Ukraine — seemed targeted at Republicans debating impeachment. For example, she emphasized that Gates’ information was not hearsay, and it implicated individuals associated with Ukraine and Russia.

Mr. Gates provided information — not hearsay, but information — based on his personal knowledge, meetings he attended, conversations in which he was a participant and information that was verified with contemporaneous records of numerous, undeniable contacts and communications between individuals associated with the presidential campaign, primarily but not only Manafort, and individuals associated with Russia and Ukraine.

ABJ likely recognizes, as I have emphasized, that Paul Manafort’s August 2, 2016 meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik and its aftermath — including his booking $2.4 million from pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs eight days later — represents a clearcut case of Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election.

She also takes a shot at those claiming there was no basis for the investigation into Russia, and suggests that obstruction successfully prevented prosecutors from charging the underlying coordination.

Gates’ debriefings, his multiple incriminatory bits of evidence on matters of grave and international importance are a reminder that there was an ample basis for the decision makers at the highest level of the United States Department of Justice — the United States Department of Justice of this administration — to authorize and pursue a law enforcement investigation into whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the known foreign interference in the election, as well as into whether there had been any attempt to obstruct that investigation, and to leave no stone unturned, no matter what the prosecutors determined they had evidence to prove at the end of that investigation.

And she emphasizes that pursuing this investigation was critical for election security.

Gates’ information alone warranted, indeed demanded, further investigation from the standpoint of our national security, the integrity of our elections and the enforcement of our criminal laws.

But there’s a line in here that seems directed at the discussion surrounding the IG Report.

One cannot possibly maintain that this was all exculpatory information. It included firsthand information about confidential campaign polling data being transmitted at the direction of the head of the campaign to one of those individuals to be shared with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.

The investigation into whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia in its election interference started 3 days before Roger Stone spoke to Trump about how to optimize the WikiLeaks releases. It started 5 days before Trump’s campaign manager met with Konstantin Kilimnik to explain how he planned to win the investigation, discussed carving up Ukraine to Russia’s liking (an effort Manafort pursued for over a year afterwards), and how to get paid by his Ukrainian and Russian paymasters. It started 11 days before Manafort booked $2.4 million in revenues — to be received in November — from his Ukrainian paymasters.

Again, ABJ has seen more of the underlying evidence from this investigation than anyone. And she sure seems to think that Bill Barr, Donald Trump, and Michael Horowitz are dismissing the seriousness of this investigation.

Impeachment: House of Representatives’ Debate and Vote Thread [UPDATE-4]

This post and thread are dedicated to today’s scheduled House of Representatives’ activities related to impeachment of Donald J. Trump, including the planned six hours of debate and the subsequent vote.

Live stream the House’s impeachment activities at these links:

C-SPAN: https://www.c-span.org/video/?467441-1/us-house-debates-articles-impeachment

C-SPAN’s YouTube feed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fefMKNOCZ3Y

USAToday’s YouTube feed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzl9hbDoV1k

House’s feed (not labeled as impeachment-related activity): https://live.house.gov/

We can expect many tactics to filibuster and delay the debate — we’re already seeing GOP resolutions submitted (and tabled) to this end.

Last night’s #NotAboveTheLaw rallies across the country demonstrate the level of support for today’s historic action. Americans don’t stand in the dark, cold, rain, and snow if they aren’t seriously committed to protecting their democracy. They are rallying again this morning ahead of the debate and votes.

You can do your bit to support our democracy even if you can’t attend a rally this morning. Call your representative and tell them you support a vote for impeachment.

You can also push back at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to deter a Senate trial by calling your senators and insisting they do not join McConnell’s effort to accumulate 51 votes to dismiss a trial. Let the people hear witnesses under oath before the Senate, including Trump in his own defense.

He’s going to need the opportunity after yesterday’s crackpot six-page error-riddled and lie-filled rant at House Speaker Pelosi.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121 or use Resistbot.

UPDATE-1 — 12:10 p.m. ET —

The House Rules Committee has been debating the rules of the impeachment proceeding this morning, vote on rules now complete. Along party lines, of course.

If you are looking for additional information regarding the House investigation leading up to impeachment and today’s impeachment itself, check these sources:

C-SPAN’s impeachment dedicated site: https://www.c-span.org/impeachment/

NBC’s live updates page: https://www.nbcnews.com/Trump-impeachment-inquiry

CNN doesn’t appear to have an impeachment page but they have one on Trump: https://www.cnn.com/specials/politics/president-donald-trump-45

USAToday’s impeachment page: https://www.usatoday.com/news/trump-impeachment-inquiry/

Twitter’s impeachment event: https://twitter.com/i/events/1207033032110039040

House clerk just read the revised rules and articles of impeachment; Speaker Pelosi is now up and offering opening remarks to launch the six hours of debate.

Let’s do this, keep our republic.

UPDATE-2 — 12:30 p.m. ET —

Rep. Doug Collins has offered the minority remarks which I freely admit to muting because it’s the same bullshit whining offered too loud.

For quieter coverage, here are live Twitter threads of the impeachment debate:

Marcy’s live thread: https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1207347805368541189

Brandi Buchman, Courthouse News: https://twitter.com/BBuchman_CNS/status/1207256948908929025

Jennifer Taub’s thread: https://twitter.com/jentaub/status/1207303012651327489

UPDATE-3 — 8:10 p.m. ET —

The House is now voting on the first article of impeachment for abuse of power. Each member will cast their vote electronically from within the House within a 15-minute window.

Keep our republic, congresspersons.

8:14 p.m. ET — already at 152 Democrats and 1 Independent voting Yea.

8:15 p.m. ET — 163 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea.

8:20 p.m. ET — 198 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea. 2 Democrats voting Nay (likely Van Drew and Peterson)

8:22 p.m. ET — 210 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea. 2 Democrats voting Nay (likely Van Drew and Peterson)

8:24 p.m. ET — 215 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea. We have impeachment.

8:34 p.m. ET —

Democrats voting Nay:

Jeff Van Drew, NJ-2

Collin Peterson, MN-7

Democrats voting Present:

Tulsi Gabbard, HI-2

UPDATE-4 — 8:39 p.m. ET —

House now voting on second article of impeachment for obstruction of Congress.

8:39 p.m. ET — 198 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea

8:42 p.m. ET — 214 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea; 3 Democrats voting Nay, 1 Democrat voting Present

8:43 p.m. ET — 217 Democrats, 1 Independent voting Yea; 3 Democrats voting Nay, 1 Democrat voting Present. We have a second count of impeachment.

8:50-ish p.m. ET —

(I confess I forgot to check the clock for the time when Pelosi hit the gavel.)

Democrats voting Nay:

Jeff Van Drew, NJ-2

Collin Peterson, MN-7

Jared Golden, ME-2

Democrats voting Present:

Tulsi Gabbard, HI-2

Analysis of Democratic defections:

Van Drew has said he is leaving the Democratic Party and becoming a Republican. Why he simply didn’t retire I don’t know because his chances of winning aren’t good in a blue wave.

Collin Peterson represents a very rural and overwhelmingly white portion of western Minnesota and is a pro-life Dem.

Tulsi Gabbard. This one is self-explanatory.

Jared Golden had indicated he was going to split his votes, saying he didn’t think the Dems had proven a threshold had been met for “high crimes and misdemeanors” with the second article. The second article seems so clear — witnesses and documents were subpoenaed as part of an impeachment inquiry, and Trump refused to allow compliance with the subpoenas — that Golden has stretched beyond rationality his effort to “work with the president.”

Golden had said, “…while the president’s resistance toward our investigative efforts has been frustrating, it has not yet, in my view, reached the threshold of ‘high crime or misdemeanor’ that the Constitution demands. For that reason, I will vote against Article II of the House resolution regarding obstruction of Congress.” If this were a criminal investigation and a target refused to comply with a subpoena, they’d be facing a charge of obstruction. Golden simply chose to split the wrong baby at the wrong time.

And I hope Stephen King, he of the myriad horror novels, gets a more progressive Democratic candidate to primary and win Golden’s seat.

Updates during the course of House activities will appear at the bottom of this post.

What Real Voters Think about Impeachment at Grand Rapids’ Brewery Vivant

Yesterday, Meet the Press did what it billed as a “focus group,” in one of five counties it predicts will decide the 2020 election (the full clip starts at 31:00). That county is Kent County, where I live. As a slew of outlets (including CJR) and individuals have noted, the sample of voters was irresponsibly unrepresentative of voters in this county. Yes, the county as a whole is very white, but the white Republicans included in the panel are far more affluent than the norm in the county (which has a median household income of $57,000).

Worse still, Meet the Press staged the “focus group” in my neighborhood brewpub, Brewery Vivant (though, predictably, none of the panelists were enjoying its superb beer), which is one of my local haunts.

What pissed me off the most is that Chuck Todd mispronounced the name of the brewery, “Vie-vant,” rather than “Vee-vant,” as if Todd has been stuck inside the Beltway for so long he doesn’t know what real life is like anymore.

And so I took matters into my own hands. With state political reporter Nick Manes and video from Carl Morrison, I decided to interview six totally random people at Brewery Vivant. To be sure, this panel is only somewhat more representative than NBC’s. The neighborhood is a liberal hotspot, even in the city as a whole, so all but one of the people we spoke with voted for Hillary in 2016. And while the people we interviewed weren’t as rich as the partner of the city’s largest law firm interviewed by Meet the Press, the neighborhood is still more affluent than the city or county. The neighborhood is predominantly white (though gets more diverse quickly just two blocks south). So these interviews aren’t meant to capture what swing voters think about impeachment or what a real cross-sample think, just what real people who could normally be found at Brewery Vivant think about it.

I’m going to post the six interviews without commentary, as I think all six offer thoughtful comment.

Chris

Nate

Jessica

Margaret

Kelly

Mark

Why Justin Amash Should Be an Impeachment Manager

I’m sitting about six blocks from one of Gerald Ford’s childhood homes. That means I live in a city with an outsized role in America’s history with impeachment. Since the time I’ve lived in this city, our Federal Building added a sign reading (over-optimistically), “Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men.”

It also means I’m a constituent of Justin Amash, who has an office in that Federal Building named after Gerald Ford.

And I’m solidly in support of the idea — floated by thirty freshman Democrats — for Amash to be among the Impeachment Managers presenting the case in the Senate.

I think Amash brings several things this impeachment effort could badly use.

First, Democrats missed an opportunity in the House Judiciary hearing on Constitutional issues behind impeachment to call someone like Paul Rosenzweig, a Republican who worked on the Whitewater investigation, who backs impeachment in this case. While a bunch of Democratic lawyers were testifying, Amash was and has continued tweeting to his colleagues about how important impeachment is to the Constitution. It is critical to have a voice making the conservative case for upholding the Constitution. Just this morning, a long time local Democratic activist I was speaking to was hailing how Amash has used his University of Michigan law degree to make the case for impeachment.

Meanwhile, even as the national press has spent countless hours interviewing demographically unrepresentative panels of voters from my county to understand how swing state voters feel about impeachment, Amash has risked his career in that swing state district. Well before queasy Democrats in swing districts came around to the necessity of impeaching President Trump, Amash left his party and took a stand to defend the Constitution. I think his courage may serve as inspiration for Republicans in the Senate who secretly recognize the necessity of impeaching Trump, even while they may worry they’ll ruin their political career. Amash also has close ties with (especially) Rand Paul and other libertarian leaning Senators (like Mike Lee and Ted Cruz), so might be persuasive with them, even if all of them have already basically opposed impeachment.

Finally, a point that some of the more hawkish people involved in impeachment (like Adam Schiff) may not understand, Amash works really well in bipartisan coalitions. He has long been a key member of the privacy coalition and currently serves as the “Republican” co-chair, with Zoe Lofgren as the Democratic co-chair, of the Fourth Amendment coalition. The cornerstone of that coalition, over more than a decade, has been honesty about where progressives and libertarians (and even traditional conservatives) share goals and where we disagree, sometimes dramatically. But with that cornerstone of shared understanding, and with a sense of responsibility for what each side can and should do to support the Constitution, he has been an invaluable member of a team. Some of the people who might also be considered as Impeachment Managers — like Jamie Raskin — would have experience with Amash in such a context. At the very least, Lofgren should be able to give Pelosi reassurances that Amash is utterly reliable when working as part of a bipartisan coalition. This is a topic, the President’s abuse of his authority, on which Amash took a Constitutional stand, which is precisely the kind of common foundation his past work with Democrats was built on.

I don’t get a vote. Speaker Pelosi gets to decide. But as an Amash constituent who has long found common ground with Amash on issues rooted in the Constitution, I think his involvement would be a tremendous value.

The History of High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Ed. note: Longtime friend of the blog Cynthia Kouril moderated a CLE on impeachment. She wrote up this statement after the panel. She has given us permission to post her statement from that here.

For all of you out there wondering what “High Crimes & Misdemeanors” means and whether or not there has to be an ‘underlying crime’ let me help you out here.

Last week I moderated a CLE on Impeachment and you are welcome to the fruits of my labors on that topic.

A basic rule of legal interpretation is that you cannot define a legal term using information not yet in existence at the time the term was used. At the time the Constitution was debated and adopted, there was no federal criminal code, much less the US Code we have today. So, you cannot use anything in the current Code to define “High Crime & Misdemeanor”.

You have to use that term, and it is a legal ‘term of art’ as the phrase was understood when it was inserted into the Constitution. It is interesting to note that this phrase is ONLY used in connection with impeachment. Crimes in the criminal code are low crimes.

The term is first recorded in the impeachment of of the King’s Chancellor, Michael de la Pole, in 1386. One of the “High Crimes & Misdemeanors” de la Pole was charged with, was the failure to expend moneys appropriated by Parliament as the appropriation directed him to do, just like Trump withholding funds appropriated by Congress which was required to be given to Ukraine by a date in September. Contrary to the GOP’s claims, not all the Ukraine aide was committed in time and Congress had to do a second appropriation to restore the unspent money.

Not every impeachment in the next 400 years used this phrase, but in each instance where it was used, it was 1) only in the context of impeachment, and 2) referred to offenses that implicated either misuse of their office (including using their office for self enrichment) or failure to obey Parliament (basically a failure to observe separation of powers).

At the time the Constitution was being written and edited there was a famous impeachment trial going on involving the Viceroy of India. A Viceroy (“vice king”, ‘roi’ being french for king) is the representative of the crown in a way far more important than a governor. A British governor was subject to instruction from London, the Viceroy was imbued with the monarch’s own Majesty and ruled an entire country (such as Ireland or India) rather than an individual colony.

So, the impeachment of Warren Hastings ran from 1786 to 1795, while the Constitution was being debated and was the “trial of the century” of its day. Everybody talked about it. He was charged with “gross maladministration, corruption in office, and cruelty towards the people of India”.

At the time of Nixon’s impeachment Peter Rodino commissioned a staff report on the history of impeachment including the meaning of this phrase. The report which runs some 60 pages with footnotes and endnotes, is fascinating to read. It’s conclusion with respect to this term of art: “[t]wo points emerge from the 400 years of English parliamentary experience with the phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors”. First, the particular allegations of misconduct alleged damages to the state in such forms as misapplication of funds, abuse of official power, neglect of duty, encroachment on Parliament’s prerogatives, corruption, and betrayal of trust. Second the phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” was confined to parliamentary impeachments; it had no roots in ordinary criminal law, and the particular allegations of misconduct under that heading were not necessarily limited to common law or statutory derelictions or crimes.”

I hope you find the above helpful.

Update: I updated the intro to make it clear that Kouril moderated, did not put together, the CLE, and this contribution was written afterwards. 

A Diverse America Votes to Uphold the Constitution; A Largely Male White America Votes to Abrogate It

The House Judiciary Committee just voted to send two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the full House.

The entire vote took just minutes. But it said so much about the state of America today.

It will forever be portrayed as a party line vote, with 23 Democrats in favor, and 17 Republicans against. But it was also a tribute to the degree to which polarization in America today pivots on issues of diversity.

The Democrats who voted in favor included 11 women, and 13 Latinx and people of color (Ted Lieu missed the vote recovering from a heart procedure). Three (plus Lieu) are immigrants. One is gay. These Democrats voted to uphold the Constitution a bunch of white men, several of them owners of African-American slaves, wrote hundreds of years ago.

The Republicans who voted against were all white. Just two were women.  These Republicans voted to permit a racist white male President to cheat to get reelected in violation of the rule of law.

This is about a clash between the rising America and the past. And it’s unclear who will win this battle for America. But the stakes are clear.

 

Trump “Cares” about Corruption in Ukraine because It Ensures Paul Manafort Will Keep His Secrets

On August 2, 2016, Donald Trump’s campaign manager took a break from his campaign work for a secret meeting with his former employee, Konstantin Kilimnik. Kilimnik first pitched the meeting on 10:51AM on July 29 after meeting in person in Moscow with Viktor Yanukovych, explaining that, “It has to do about the future of [Yanukovych’s] country, and is quite interesting.” Paul Manafort accepted the meeting that same day, saying Tuesday was the best day for it. After Kilimnik returned to Ukraine on July 31, he told Manafort he needed two hours for the meeting and would arrive at JFK at 7:30 PM on August 2 for the meeting.

At the meeting, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed three things. First, they discussed a plan to make “peace” in Ukraine by creating an autonomous region in Donbas and getting Yanukovych “elected” to head it. Manafort later told Mueller’s team that he cut the meeting short before Kilimnik asked him to get Trump to come out for the peace plan, though Mueller’s team argued and Amy Berman Jackson agreed that Manafort was lying about what happened at the meeting.

After Rick Gates showed up (he came late), Manafort laid out for Kilimnik how the campaign planned to win Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.

Finally, Kilimnik told Manafort how he could get back on the gravy train of Oleg Deripaska and the Party of Regions. Specifically, Kilimnik explained what Manafort would have to do to get Ukrainian oligarchs Rinat Akhmetov and Serhiy Lyovochkin to pay him money that Manafort claimed they owed him from past work. Eight days later, on August 10, Manafort — who was badly underwater and working for Trump for “free” — would tell his accountant to book $2.4M in income from those oligarchs, to be paid in November.

This recognition of payment from Yanukovych’s allies just a week after meeting to talk about a way to help Yanukovych do Russia’s bidding is the only known instance of Ukraine interfering with people working directly for one of the candidates running for President. It is the only known instance of Ukrainian interference in 2016.

In early January, Manafort would meet with a senior Deripaska associate in a meeting set up by another Deripaska associate sanctioned along with a bunch of GRU officers to “recreat[e] old friendship” between Deripaska and Manafort.

Shortly thereafter (possibly the day he returned, on January 12), Manafort reportedly told Reince Priebus to undercut claims that Trump had close ties to Russia by debunking the Steele dossier, a strategy that — because the dossier turned out to be largely shit and possible disinformation — turned out to be wildly successful. As the DOJ IG Report describes in new detail, Christopher Steele had been working for Deripaska in an effort to help the oligarch settle his score with Manafort during the period he was working on the dossier.

From that point forward, Manafort would continue to pursue a “peace” plan in Ukraine that would give Russia what it wanted up until shortly before he was jailed in June 2018.

These are the events that about which Paul Manafort lied to prevent Mueller from fully understanding. To give Manafort an incentive to lie, John Dowd started telling him he would be “taken care of” in early 2018. Then, around the time he faced jail, Trump started making those pardon offers more explicit.

On June 15, 2018, the day the judge presiding over Manafort’s D.C. case was considering whether to revoke his bail, the President said that he “felt badly” for Manafort and stated, “I think a lot of it is very unfair.” And when asked about a pardon for Manafort, the President said, “I do want to see people treated fairly. That’s what it’s all about.” Later that day, after Manafort’s bail was revoked, t.he President called it a ” tough sentence” that was “Very unfair!” Two days later, the President’s personal counsel stated that individuals involved in the Special Counsel’s investigation could receive a pardon ” if in fact the [P]resident and his advisors .. . come to the conclusion that you have been treated unfairly”-using language that paralleled how the President had already described the treatment of Manafort.

These details — about what really happened in that meeting on August 2, 2016 and what Manafort did afterwards — are some of the things that Trump successfully obstructed the Mueller investigation in an effort to cover up.

And around the time Mueller publicly announced that Manafort had breached his plea deal by lying about all these things, Rudy Giuliani launched the campaign that would ultimately lead to getting the anti-corruption Ambassador in Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, fired, then would subsequently lead Trump to demand (in the same call while attacking Mueller) that the newly elected anti-corruption President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, gin up investigations into his opponents Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Rudy conducted that campaign, significantly, while consulting Manafort in prison, and the effort is, at least in part, an effort to give Trump an excuse to pardon Manafort so Manafort will continue to remain silent about what really happened.

The Republican Party spent the entire day yesterday claiming that Donald Trump demanded those investigations out of concern for corruption in Ukraine. The Republican Party claimed, with a straight face, that the man who obstructed an investigation into what his own campaign manager did to get the pro-corruption pro-Russian party in Ukraine to pay him $2.4 million while he worked for Trump for “free,” opposed corruption in Ukraine.

This is the story the Democrats need to lay out over the next several weeks. The Republicans don’t much care that their arguments are transparently ridiculous. They care about defending a process that, at least in part, is an effort to make sure Paul Manafort never tells the truth about what happened in 2016.

Days after America Learns to Hate FISA, Lev Parnas’ Co-Conspirator Focuses the Issue

During the first status hearing for Lev Parnas and his co-conspirators, the government stated clearly that no Title III wiretaps had been used in the case. I recognized at the time that didn’t necessarily mean they weren’t wiretapped. As people engaged in transnational political influence peddling, they were prime candidates to have been collected under FISA, either targeted at them or (under 702) their co-conspirators overseas.

I’m not the only one who noticed that. The lawyers for Andrey Kukushkin — who was indicted on the Nevada marijuana part of the grift, one that explicitly described funding from an unidentified Russian — have asked Judge Paul Oetken to make the government tell them whether their client or any of his co-conspirators (including unindicted co-conspirators) were the subject of any of various forms of surveillance, including 12333 and FISA. The government responded with the kind of non-denial that suggests it is quite likely one or some of these grifters (or their Russian unindicted co-conspirator) were collected under those authorities.

As we have previously told you, the Government did not obtain or use Title III intercepts in the course of this investigation. Additionally, the Government does not intend to use any information that was obtained or derived from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or the other forms of surveillance identified in your letter.

Remember: The government doesn’t have to tell defendants who were targeted under FISA that they were so long as the government doesn’t rely on any evidence obtained under FISA in their prosecution. But Kukushkin seems to have a pretty clear suspicion that the government knows what he has said in his communications.

The government has said (including in a motion asking the court to revoke Parnas’ bail last night) that there are likely going to be follow-on charges. And Foreign Agent charges are the kind of thing you might expect given the way the grifters were funneling foreign money into politics. Which would mean they’re precisely the kind of people that FISA was envisioned for.

That said, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were in close contact with the President’s lawyer, and Parnas also spoke at key times to Devin Nunes (who consistently only cares about surveillance implicating him), John Solomon, and other people squealing when Adam Schiff revealed just their metadata.

So if FISA were used, a bunch of people who’ve just learned to hate FISA may have been incidentally collected in conversations with indicted fraudsters.

The thing is, Bill Barr has repeatedly said that he was briefed on this case and fully approved of it. Which means Barr may soon be in the position of defending a controversial FISA, one possibly approved under him or another Trump Attorney General.

Even More Guaranteed Fraud From Parnas and Giuliani

Jim here.

Just when we think we’ve reached a full description of the many levels of fraud associated with Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani, new revelations appear. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that prosecutors in the Southern District of New York asked for Parnas’ bail to be revoked because he had failed to disclose a payment of $1 million he received just prior to his arrest. And this morning, Wall Street Journal’s Shelby Holiday is out with a new video with additional details on how Fraud Guarantee tried to raise investor money off its association with Giuliani.

First, the Parnas bail story:

Federal prosecutors in New York asked a judge Wednesday to jail an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani who is accused of violating campaign finance laws, asserting that the Ukrainian-born businessman who is on home confinement awaiting trial had lied to court officials about his financial assets.

In a court filing, federal prosecutors asked a judge to revoke the bail of Lev Parnas because he had given three separate inaccurate accountings of his financial assets to court officials. Among the assets Parnas failed to disclose, prosecutors alleged, was a $1 million payment in September 2019 from a Russian bank account, which appeared to have been used on personal expenses and buying a home.

The filing goes on to note that Parnas poses an exceptional flight risk, given his association with wealthy supporters in Ukraine and Russia and the fact that he had spent $70,000 on private air travel in the month just before his arrest.

Parnas appears to have lied about everything, including how much he was paid to act as an interpreter in the Firtash case:

Among the inaccurate information Parnas provided had to do with income he was receiving for working as an interpreter for a law firm, prosecutors alleged. He told a probation officer on Oct. 15 that he earned $50,000 annually from the law firm, but he did not disclose any income from the law firm in a signed affidavit that he submitted later that month. Prosecutors alleged that, in fact, Parnas earned $200,000 from the law firm between August and October, money that was held under the name of his wife, Svetlana.

Parnas’s lawyers have said that he was hired to work as an interpreter for conservative lawyers Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova, when they were hired to represent Ukrainian gas tycoon Dmytro Firtash in July.

And yet, the attorney for Parnas continues to beg Congress for him to have a chance to testify in impeachment hearings. What could possibly go wrong when putting a habitual liar on the stand?

Meanwhile, Shelby Holliday has a new report today on Fraud Guarantee and how it intended to raise money off of Rudy Giuliani’s association with the company. Recall that Charles Gucciardo “invested” in Fraud Guarantee by transferring $500,000 to Giuliani Partners in September and October of 2018. Parnas and his partner in Fraud Guarantee, David Correia, were looking for much more than just getting Rudy on board. As Holliday reports, they sent out an investor letter in September 2018 that would capitalize on Rudy’s involvement even as the agreement with him was in the process of being implemented:

Just wow. In attempting to attract investors, Parnas and Correia said that they wished to “closely mirror the LifeLock model” as they paid Giuliani up to $2 million for his involvement. This letter or something very similar to it appeared to work on Gucciardo, since his attorney referenced LifeLock in justifying Gucciardo jumping on board based on Rudy’s involvement. As I noted in the comments of my Gucciardo post, the LifeLock story is a remarkable parallel to Fraud Guarantee because LifeLock’s “product” was totally worthless. At least LifeLock was selling something as a product, though, because I have yet to read a report that provides detail on any kind of software or other product that Fraud Guarantee actually intended to provide to customers.

Further, Rudy didn’t become a spokesman for LifeLock until long after the hilarious thirteen or so times that its CEO had his identity stolen after running TV ads touting his Social Security number and claiming he was immune from identity theft due to his superior product. Not only that, LifeLock had also paid a huge fine for selling a worthless product before Rudy began appearing in endorsement videos in 2013:

The Federal Trade Commission dented Lifelock with a whopping $12 million fine in 2010 for failing to deliver the identity security they promised and balking on refunds to clients.

The company was also roundly mocked after CEO Todd Davis brashly announced his Social Security number in a commercial as a sign of confidence, and then had his identity stolen repeatedly.

Still, Giuliani expressed his complete support of the enterprise after signing the consulting deal last year.

“As I continue to learn more about this crime and have assessed the current protection options available to consumers, I am convinced that LifeLock is an industry leader in identity-theft protection,” he said in a press release.

Apparently, the Fraud Guarantee investor letter brushes off the LifeLock history by saying there was simply a “compliance issue” and that Fraud Guarantee has found a way to deal with that.

How in the world anyone would put significant money into this operation is a complete mystery. Even the simplest due diligence would send a real investor running for the exits rather than getting out the checkbook. Instead, it seems more likely to me that any outside money they raised on this scheme was just a bonus and that the real reason for Fraud Guarantee was as a vessel for Parnas to get funding for his adventures in Ukraine on behalf of Trump while also funneling some of those funds to Giuliani.

Finally, I just can’t try to take on the bit about the person who supplied the letter to Holliday and their scheme to get a painting of a “Third Temple” in Jerusalem (intended as a “peace platform”?) in front of Trump. I’ll let you folks try to figure out what that one is all about. At any rate, on first blush, this person would appear to be just the kind of rich fool who would provide some of that bonus money into Fraud Guarantee, this time to the tune of $250,000.

Horowitz

With Release of DOJ IG FISA Report, Democrats Should Pause on Impeachment

Democrats are going to roll out at least two articles of impeachment today.

But I think, in the wake of the release of the DOJ IG FISA Report, they should take a brief pause.

Don’t get me wrong. I think impeachment is necessary and urgent. I can see why Democrats might want to impeach even as Trump meets with Sergei Lavrov — particularly given Trump’s assault on Chris Wray for making some honest comments about the IG Report yesterday.

But I’ve gotten far enough into the IG Report to believe that it merits a pause for both sides to consider what it says. That’s because it basically says both parties were right. Democrats were right to think the investigation into Trump was fair and legitimately predicated. The Mueller Report has provided abundant evidence not only that Paul Manafort and Roger Stone (at a minimum) were willing to “collude” in the Russian hack-and-leak, but that they both took affirmative efforts to prevent Mueller from finding out whether they succeeded in doing so. Trump was a key player in that effort to obstruct the investigation. So the investigation was warranted, fairly predicated, and produced results that confirmed Trump’s people wanted to conspire with the Russian operation, whether or not they succeeded.

Republicans, however, were right that the Steele dossier was not adequately vetted by the FBI, and the FISA on Carter Page may not have been adequately substantiated (and the vetting on the follow-ups was even worse). That doesn’t mean Page shouldn’t have been investigated; he was already being investigated in April 2016, and things he did through December 2016 provided more cause for concern.

But neither of those things — the dossier’s shoddy vetting or the Page FISA — were key to the more substantive investigation into Trump. Indeed, Stone wasn’t even a subject in this early process; the first big investigative steps on him took place in August 2017, under Mueller.

I’ve got some quibbles with the report (mostly about how it treats exonerating information and Bruce Ohr and information sharing).

That said, the report should be an opportunity to step back and reflect on how the key issue — that Russia aggressively interfered in the US and a number of Americans embraced that effort — has gotten lost. That focus might make a few people, including Republicans who otherwise would not support impeachment but are appalled by the way Rudy has doubled down on his Ukrainian escapades, even meeting with KGB trained thugs, rethink the investigation into Trump.

Plus, the FISA Report provides one basis for bipartisan work in the near term.

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act was due to get reauthorized on December 15. That got extended 3 months in the continuing resolution, but it will need reauthorized at that point. Meanwhile, over the past year, evidence that FBI misused FISA under both Jim Comey (with this IG Report) and Chris Wray (with the earlier report on problems with 702).

I’ve been arguing since at least February — and more aggressively since September, when I got the first concrete descriptions of how much this report would focus on process issues at FBI — that this IG Report would present an opportunity to call more substantive review of FISA. I got pushback among allies, because Carter Page is such an unsympathetic person to Democrats. But I think the report really demonstrates that, no matter how unsympathetic he is, no matter how warranted the investigation into him, the FISA process used against him was appalling.

So the surveillance community, which previously was able to unite Jim Jordan and the most Progressive Dems, really ought to take a step back and propose a three-part fix for FISA, one that could guide the further audit of FISA Michael Horowitz announced and one that might implement immediate legislative fixes to known FISA problems. At least beginning those conversation would provide some of the people yelling most loudly at each other a chance to talk about something they claim to agree on.

Let me be clear: I’m just arguing for a pause — maybe a week. Trump has violated every word of his oath of office and he threatens to undo our Constitution. But let’s take a few days and reflect on the way that the events of 2016 have sown division without getting us to do the things to prevent further Russian aggression. It won’t happen, but it’s what I think should happen.

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