Like the January 6 Investigation, the Mueller Investigation Was Boosted by Congressional Investigations

Midway through an article on which Glenn Thrush — who as far as I recall never covered the Russian investigation and has not yet covered the January 6 investigation — has the lead byline, the NYT claims that it is unusual for a congressional committee to receive testimony before a grand jury investigation does.

The Justice Department has asked the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack for transcripts of interviews it is conducting behind closed doors, including some with associates of former President Donald J. Trump, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

The move is further evidence of the wide-ranging nature of the department’s criminal inquiry into the events leading up to the assault on the Capitol and the role played by Mr. Trump and his allies as they sought to keep him in office after his defeat in the 2020 election.

[snip]

The Justice Department’s request for transcripts underscores how much ground the House committee has covered, and the unusual nature of a situation where a well-staffed congressional investigation has obtained testimony from key witnesses before a grand jury investigation. [my emphasis]

That’s simply false. This is precisely what happened with the Mueller investigation, and there’s good reason to believe that DOJ made a decision to facilitate doing the same back in July, in part to avoid some evidentiary challenges that Mueller had difficulties with, most notably Executive Privilege challenges.

First, let’s look at how Mueller used the two Congressional investigations.

At the start, he asked witnesses to provide him the same materials they were providing to Congress. I believe that in numerous cases, the process of complying with subpoenas led witnesses to believe such subpoenas were the only way Mueller was obtaining information. Trump Organization, especially, withheld a number of documents from Mueller and Congress, including direct contacts with Russian officials and a Steve Bannon email referencing Russian involvement in the election. By obtaining a warrant for Trump Transition materials held by GSA and the Trump Organization emails of Michael Cohen hosted by Microsoft, Mueller got records the subjects of the investigation were otherwise hiding. Steve Bannon, too, falsely told Mueller he didn’t use his personal accounts for campaign business, only to discover Mueller had obtained those records by the time of his October 2018 interview. Surprising witnesses with documents they had been hiding appears to have been one of the ways Mueller slowly coaxed Bannon and Cohen closer to the truth.

We should assume for key figures in the vicinity of Ali Alexander and John Eastman, the same is happening with the January 6 investigation: the very people who’ve been squealing about complying with subpoenas or call records served on their providers are likely ones DOJ obtained covert warrants for.

Then there are the prosecutions that arose entirely out of Congressional interviews. There were three Mueller prosecutions that arose out of Committee investigations.

Perhaps the most interesting was that of Sam Patten — whose interview materials are here. He had an interview with SSCI on January 5, 2018, where he appears to have lied about using a straw donor to buy Inauguration tickets for Konstantin Kilimnik. By March 20, the FBI attempted their first interview of Patten, after which Patten deleted some emails about Cambridge Analytica. And when Mueller did interview Patten on May 22, they already had the makings of a cooperation deal. After getting Patten to admit to the straw purchase and also to violating FARA — the latter of which he would plead guilty months later, on August 31 — Patten then provided a ton of information about how Kilimnik worked and what he had shared with Patten about his role in the 2016 operation, much of which still remained sealed as part of an ongoing investigation in August 2021. Patten had two more interviews in May then appeared before the grand jury, at which he shared more information about how Kilimnik was trying to monitor the investigation. He had two more interviews before pleading guilty, then at least two more after that.

Not only did Patten share information that likely served as part of a baseline for an understanding about Russia’s use of Ukraine to interfere in US politics and provided investigators with an understanding of what the mirror image to Paul Manafort looked like, but this remained secret from much of the public for three months.

It’s less clear precisely when SSCI shared Cohen’s lies with Mueller. But in the same period, both Mueller and SDNY were developing parallel investigations of him. But by the time Cohen pled guilty in SDNY (also in August 2018), Mueller had the evidence to spend almost three months obtaining information from Cohen as well before he entered into a separate plea agreement with Mueller in which he admitted to the secret communications with the Kremlin that he and Trump lied to hide.

Meanwhile, HPSCI’s much more hapless investigation proved a way to get a limited hangout prosecution of Roger Stone. By May 2018, when Mueller developed evidence showing not just ways that Stone was obstructing his own investigation but also how Stone attempted to craft lies to tell to the Committee — coordinated with Jerome Corsi and reliant on threats to Randy Credico — it provided a way to prosecute Stone while protecting Mueller’s ongoing investigation into whether Stone conspired with Russia.

And by all public appearances at the time, it appeared that Congress was acting while Mueller was not. But that was false (and is probably false now). The entire time during which SSCI and HPSCI were taking steps with Cohen and Stone that would late become really useful to the criminal investigation, Mueller was taking active, albeit covert, steps in his own investigations of the two men (whether he was investigating Patten personally or just Kilimnik is uncertain). Mueller obtained his first warrants against Cohen and Stone in July and August, respectively. But no one knew that until the following spring. That is, Cohen and Stone and everyone else focused on Congress while Mueller got to investigate covertly for another nine months.

We should assume the same kind of thing is happening here. All the more so given the really delicate privilege issues raised by this investigation, including Executive, Attorney-Client, and Speech and Debate. When all is said and done, I believe we will learn that Merrick Garland set things up in July such that the January 6 Committee could go pursue Trump documents at the Archives as a co-equal branch of government bolstered by Biden waivers that don’t require any visibility into DOJ’s investigation. Privilege reviews covering Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and John Eastman’s communications are also being done. That is, this time around, DOJ seems to have solved a problem that Mueller struggled with. And they did so with the unsolicited help of the January 6 Committee.

Even those of us who’ve been covering DOJ’s January 6 prosecution day-to-day (unlike Thrush) have no way of saying what DOJ has been doing covertly in the last year — though it is public that they’ve been investigating Alex Jones, the purported new thrust of this investigation, since August.

What we know from recent history, however, is that DOJ’s use of Congress’ work in no way suggests DOJ hasn’t been doing its own.

Comings and Goings on the Proud Boy Leaders Prosecution

When DOJ finally added Enrique Tarrio to the Proud Boy leader conspiracy, I noted that the way DOJ has structured the prosecution team for the Proud Boys made it really hard to understand where things were headed.

I’ve been expecting and predicting this indictment since December 28. But for the life of me, I’m not sure where DOJ expects to go from here.

This indictment describes the numbers of people massed at several stages of the operation. 65 members on the Ministry of Self Defense (MOSD) Members Group. 90 people in the New MOSD members group created on January 4. Approximately 100 Proud Boys who met at the Washington Memorial the morning of the attack. Donohoe bragging at 12:00PM on January 6 that “WE ARE WITH 200-300 PBS,” just before they kicked off the riot.

Perhaps this framework is meant to provide a way to implicate all those others, 300 people who agreed, by signing up, that they were following a plan that DOJ has now shown (and that Matthew Greene’s cooperation was designed to show) was a plan to occupy buildings from the start.

But otherwise, this still feels really dispersed, and the prosecution team (which consists of three visible members for the leadership conspiracy, including Erik Kenerson, Jason McCullough, and Luke Jones, and about four detailees from other offices for satellite cases; a fourth prosecutor who had been on the core cases, Christopher Berridge, left immediately after [Matthew] Greene pled) has a far harder caseload than the significantly larger team on the Oath Keepers.

Perhaps something will really start to crystalize as some of these continuances end in April. Or perhaps DOJ will be serially prosecuting Proud Boys for the foreseeable future.

That remains true. But on Friday, there were several minor structural changes worth noting. I’ve attempted to summarize the status of some key Proud Boy and related cases here (I’ve only listed a judge if it is someone other than Tim Kelly).

First, Trial Attorney Conor Mulroe filed a notice of appearance in the Proud Boy Leaders and the Biggs Co-Traveler cases. He hasn’t shown up on any January 6 cases before this. It’s likely he was added because on April 22, Judge Kelly set a trial date in the Proud Boy leaders for August 8. That is, it’s likely he was added to start preparing for trial. But the Biggs co-travelers, on whose case he also filed an appearance, won’t be going to trial anytime soon. That’s partly because three of the defendants have to work through the conflict created by John Pierce’s representation of three of them — Paul Rae, Kevin Tuck, and Nate Tuck (though Pierce recently ceded representation to William Shipley for the Tucks). In hearings, prosecutors have said that at least three of the defendants are considering plea deals.

Then Luke Jones, who has been part of the Leaders case from the start, dropped off the case (he recently dropped off an unremarkable misdemeanor case as well though remains on the Ryan Nichols and Alex Harkrider case). Jones had been focusing on Zach Rehl’s prosecution, and he remains on the Rehl co-traveler case, which has not yet been indicted. I don’t know what to make of his departure (perhaps a recognition that his efforts to flip Rehl won’t ever come to fruition?). Jones has, in the past, worked on national security cases, and in fact was listed as prosecuting Russian hacker Evgeny Viktorovich Gladkikh in the press release (though not the docket). That case will never go to trial (because the US is not about to get custody of Gladkikh anytime soon). But it suggests that Jones may have spent time last June helping co-counsel present that case to a DC grand jury.

I’m most interested in the addition of Nadia Moore to the Leaders case. She’s a Brooklyn-based prosecutor, among five or so prosecutors from around the country who’ve been working the Proud Boy cases (in this table, William Dreher is from Seattle, Alexis Loeb is from San Francisco, Michael Gordon is from Tampa, and Christopher Veatch is from Chicago). And as the table makes clear she has been working the Florida-based Proud Boy and related cases, as well as the case of Steven Miles and Matthew LeBrun, who spent January 6 with Florida Proud Boys AJ Fischer and friends, and the former of whom is accused of helping to bust open the other side window in the original breach of the Capitol. This may suggest the government believes they’ll obtain the testimony of multiple Floridians against Biggs and Tarrio.

Meanwhile, a slew of these cases have just one (listed) prosecutor, including the Kansas City case with its five remaining defendants.

We’ll still see some significant movements in the Proud Boys cases. But for now, the focus — as so much of the January 6 investigation is — may be on Florida.

DOJ’s Reply Motion for Carl Nichols’ Reconsideration on 1512: Other Judge Other Judges Other Judges

I’ve written two posts on former Clarence Thomas clerk Carl Nichols’ outlier ruling rejecting DOJ’s use of 18 USC 1512(c)(2) to January 6. (one, two)

Yesterday, they submitted their reply motion. It reads like this:

Reconsideration of the substantive ruling in Miller is appropriate because that ruling is inconsistent with decisions from every other judge on this Court to have considered the issue. That inconsistency means proving a violation of Section 1512(c)(2) requires additional facts in this case (and other Section 1512(c)(2) cases in front of this Court) but not in any case before any of the other judges of this Court. Moreover, with one exception, the Court’s ruling in Miller did not address the opinions from other judges of this Court, some of whom have explicitly disagreed with this Court after Miller issued.

[snip]

As noted in the government’s reconsideration motion, every other judge of this Court to consider this issue has concluded that Section 1512(c)(2) “prohibits obstruction by means other than document destruction.” United States v. Sandlin, No. 21-cr-88, 2021 WL 5865006, at *5 (D.D.C. Dec. 10, 2021) (Friedrich, J.); see ECF 75 at 5-6 (citing cases). At the time the reconsideration motion was filed, one judge had disagreed with Miller in a footnote, United States v. Puma, 21-cr-454, 2022 WL 823079, at *12 n.4 (D.D.C. Mar. 19, 2022) (Friedman, J.), and another judge indicated her disagreement with Miller orally when delivering a “brief ruling” denying a defendant’s post-trial motion for judgment of acquittal, see United States v. Reffitt, 21-cr-32, Trial Tr. 1498, 1502-05 (Mar. 8, 2022) (Friedrich, J.) (attached as Exhibit A to the reconsideration motion). Since the reconsideration motion was filed, judges have continued to reject Miller’s reasoning. See, e.g., United States v. Hughes, No. 21-cr-106, Minute Order denying motion to dismiss count charging Section 1512 (D.D.C. May 9, 2022) (Kelly, J.) (rejecting the “narrow reading” of Section 1512(c)(2) and agreeing with an opinion that “directly responded to and rejected the logic employed in Miller”); United States v. Hale-Cusanelli, No. 21-cr-37, Transcript of motion to dismiss hearing at 4-8 (D.D.C. May 6, 2022) (McFadden, J.)(attached as Exhibit D);United States v. Reffitt, No. 21-cr-32, 2022 WL 1404247, at *7-*10 (D.D.C. May 4, 2022) (Friedrich, J.); United States v. McHugh, No. 21-cr-453, 2022 WL 1302880, at *2-*13 (D.D.C. May 2, 2022) (Bates, J). Although none of those rulings represents “controlling law,” McAllister v. District of Columbia, 53 F. Supp. 3d 55, 59 (D.D.C. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted), it is surely “significant” that this Court stands as the sole outlier among all the judges on this Court to have ruled on the issue both before and after Miller issued.

Two related factors militate in favor of reconsideration of the Court’s substantive conclusion about the scope of Section 1512(c)(2). First, the Court in Miller addressed only one of the contrary opinions from judges on this Court. See Mem. Op. 16, 18 n.8, 22, 26 (citing United States v. Montgomery, No. 21-cr-46, 2021 WL 6134591(D.D.C. Dec. 28, 2021)). Reconsideration would permit the Court the opportunity to consider in full the “persuasive authority” issued by other judges of this Court. See United States v. Drummond, 98 F. Supp. 2d 44, 50 n.5 (D.D.C. 2000) (noting that within-Circuit district court cases are not binding but “[o]f course” are “persuasive authority”). Second, reconsideration resulting in an interpretation consistent with other judges of this Court would ensure that all defendants charged under Section 1512(c)(2) are treated alike until the court of appeals has an opportunity on post-conviction review to consider the merits of their challenges to the statute’s scope.

[snip]

Second, Miller argues (Opp. 10-18) that the government “misunderstands” (id. at 10) this Court’s textual analysis of Section 1512(c)(2). But the issue is not one of misapprehension; rather, the government (and every other judge on this Court to have considered the issue) understands but disagrees with the Court’s (and Miller’s) interpretation of Section 1512(c)(2)’s reach. [my emphasis]

It uses Garret Miller’s response to implicitly attack Carl Nichols and emphasize the degree to which even Nichols’ Trump appointed colleagues — first Dabney Friedrich, then Tim Kelly, and finally, the judge most likely to agree with Nichols, Trevor McFadden — have disagreed with Nichols’ thinking.

Guy Reffitt’s prosecution is now ripe for appeal, if he still plans on doing that. Or Nichols will choose to adhere to his outlier opinion.

Here’s the current tally on obstruction opinions, with McFadden added.

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

Members of Congress Subpoena Members of Congress

The January 6 Committee just issued subpoenas to five of their colleagues.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was in communication with President Trump before, during, and after the attack on January 6th. Mr. McCarthy was also in communication with other members of the White House staff during the attack and in the days before and after January 6th concerning the events at the Capitol. Mr. McCarthy also claimed to have had a discussion with the President in the immediate aftermath of the attack during which President Trump admitted some culpability for the attack.

Representative Scott Perry was directly involved with efforts to corrupt the Department of Justice and install Jeffrey Clark as acting Attorney General. In addition, Mr. Perry had various communications with the White House about a number of matters relevant to the Select Committee’s investigation, including allegations that Dominion voting machines had been corrupted.

Representative Jim Jordan was in communication with President Trump on January 6th and participated in meetings and discussions throughout late 2020 and early 2021 about strategies for overturning the 2020 election.

Representative Andy Biggs participated in meetings to plan various aspects of January 6th and was involved with plans to bring protestors to Washington for the counting of Electoral College votes. Mr. Biggs was involved in efforts to persuade state officials that the 2020 was stolen. Additionally, former White House personnel identified Mr. Biggs as potentially being involved in an effort to seek a presidential pardon for activities connected with the former President’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Representative Mo Brooks spoke at the rally on January 6th, encouraging rioters to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” In addition, Mr. Brooks has publicly described conversations in which the former President urged him to work to “rescind the election of 2020” and reinstall Mr. Trump as President. The Select Committee also has evidence that Mr. Brooks’s staff met with members of Vice President Pence’s staff before January 6th and conveyed the view that the Vice President does not have authority to unilaterally refuse to count certified electoral votes.

I suspect such a subpoena only conceivably has a chance in hell of working with Kevin McCarthy (or possibly Mo Brooks if he can do it quietly, given how Trump has targeted him). The rest of genuine criminal liability they’d like to use Speech and Debate to dodge.

But this provides a way for the January 6 Committee to package up what evidence they have against these five in such a way as to feed it to DOJ.

Amid Plea Discussions, Owen Shroyer Submits a Half-Hearted First Amendment Challenge

I came in just a few minutes late to the Owen Shroyer status hearing, and missed the better part of it, it went that quickly! That said, according to Shroyer lawyer Norm Pattis, things are quite chummy with prosecutors and they expect they might come to some kind of plea deal.

That makes the flimsiness of a motion to dismiss he submitted the other day far more interesting. He’s supposed to be arguing that because he’s a “journalist” who was covering the riot he was cheering, he shouldn’t be prosecuted. Most of his 1A argument, however, would apply to the hundreds of other people charged with trespassing that day, and doesn’t address the non-prosecution agreement that specifically prohibited Shroyer from being a loud asshole at the Capitol, uniquely among the thousands of rioters. Shroyer repeats false claims about trying to rein in the mob that Tim Kelly already rejected. He makes one half-hearted bid to press freedom:

News reporters and broadcasters often put themselves into harm’s way to cover political demonstrations. Robust public discourse requires free and unrestrained media. In New York Times v. Sullivan, 403 U.S. 713, 717 (1971), Justice Black opined

In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.

(Black, J. concurring.)

Yet he provides virtually no evidence that he was reporting.

That’s what makes Shroyer’s declaration, which he could be held to (though it is labeled as a draft), all the more interesting. In addition to claiming that he intended, “in substantial part, to report on my observations to our millions of listeners and viewers worldwide,” and repeating the already rejected claims that he attempted to calm the crowd, he included these details about his expectations of the Former President.

While in Washington D.C. on January 6, I accompanied Mr. Jones to the podium at which President Trump was speaking. It was my understanding that we were to follow Mr. Trump from there to the Capitol.

Mr. Jones and I were accompanied by a security detail comprised of fellow Infowars employees and off-duty police officers. We traveled together as a group, with Mr. Jones and I walking within a perimeter established by our security team.

When Mr. Trump did not appear to lead our group, I followed Mr. Jones and the security detail from the podium traveling in the direction of the Capitol building.

At no point as we walked this route did I see impediments or barriers of any kin [sic] suggestion [sic] that we were not free to enter the grounds.

None of this addresses the general details of his trespass or his specific prohibition on being a loud asshole at the Capitol. Indeed, his claim that he didn’t see any barriers as he “walked this route” “in the direction of the Capitol building” (even assuming it is a factual claim, and the Sedition Hunters say it is not), is largely true only because the march itself was unpermitted.

He’s describing thinking that President Trump was going to lead an unpermitted march to the Capitol, and then leading it himself (following along behind Alex Jones like thousands of others), right down Pennsylvania Avenue which had no barriers because there was no march planned.

This doesn’t help him, even ignoring the presence of Ali Alexander, who is not an Infowars employee.

Whatever else this declaration is (and it’s not the kind of declaration that would win a 1A motion to dismiss), it doesn’t protect Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, the status hearing of the other Infowars employee who was supposed to have a status hearing today, videographer Sam Montoya, was continued so he, too, can continue to discuss a plea deal.

Todd Wilson: The Seditious Conspiracy Grows Branches

Yesterday, Oath Keeper Todd Wilson pled guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction. He’s from North Carolina, and while the Sedition Hunters who have followed the Oath Keepers closely had been tracking him and had noticed Ed Vallejo did not redact Wilson’s name on a transcript submitted in Vallejo’s detention fight, Wilson’s information was rolled out just the morning before he pled. He went from being charged to pleading to sedition in a matter of hours.

(In other news, Judge Amit Mehta released Vallejo to home confinement yesterday.)

What we see in statement of offense — and, I suspect, what we’ll see going forward — is DOJ making little-noticed parts of a much broader network visible. As with Georgia Oath Keeper Brian Ulrich’s statement of offense, for example, Wilson’s provides hints of damning discussions that happened at the state level.

In November 24, 2020, in the “NC OK County Leaders” Signal chat, a group member advised, “we all need to be very careful about what we post here . . . While Signal is end-to-end encrypted, it’s always safest to operate under the assumption that someone is monitoring our conversations electronically.”

For sixteen months, the non-specialist focus on the Oath Keepers has been tracking The Stack and those directly associated with it (though Oath Keeper researchers always had a broader focus). But we’re going to increasingly see pieces of this conspiracy that were visible, but not seen, because the spectacle of The Stack attracted most of the attention. Some of those little-seen aspects of the larger network may prove far more important.

One testament to that is that Wilson showed up, but was not noticed, in photos already submitted to the docket in Oath Keeper cases.

Wilson’s presence in the Rotunda is actually one of the tactically most important parts of his statement of offense. Wilson entered the Capitol from the west side and then helped open the East doors from inside.

Even before he entered the building, though, Wilson was one of four people with Stewart Rhodes watching the building as it was first assaulted and he was with Rhodes as the Oath Keeper leader first entered restricted grounds.

Just before 1:30 p.m., in response to a claim by an Oath Keeper affiliate on the “Leadership Intel Chat” that Antifa had breached the Capitol, Rhodes replied: “Nope. I’m right here. These are Patriots.” Minutes later, Rhodes posted to the group that he was standing at the comer of the Capitol building with four people to include Wilson. Rhodes then posted to the “DC OP: Jan 6 21 Signal group chat: Pence is doing nothing* As I predicted.” Rhodes added, “All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough.”

[snip]

Shortly after 2:00 p.m., Wilson, Rhodes, and others bypassed barricades and Capitol Police officers, and unlawfully entered the restricted grounds of the Capitol. While advancing, Wilson heard Rhodes proclaim that they were in the midst of a “civil war.” Through plumes of smoke, Wilson could see mobs of people climbing up scaffolding and descending on the Capitol. Rhodes soon directed his followers to meet him at the Capitol. [my emphasis]

From there, Wilson (who escaped notice in part because he wasn’t kitted out like the others and who was a member of the Oath Keepers Intelligence Signal chat) entered the building with the goal of gathering intelligence.

At 2:34 p.m., Wilson entered through the Upper West Terrace Doors of the Capitol—the first of the co-conspirators to breach the building. Wilson was armed with a pocketknife and wore a neck gaiter and beanie hat to mask his appearance. Wilson entered the Capitol with the goal of disturbing the Congressional proceeding and gathering intelligence. [my emphasis]

Four minutes later, Wilson was helping push open the East doors, thereby helping The Stack and others open a second front of the attack.

By 2:38 p.m., Wilson had marched through the Rotunda to the east side of the Capitol where he joined in the center of a mob of people trying to push open the Rotunda Doors from inside of the building. Two Capitol police officers stood in front of the closed doors attempting to keep the mob at bay.

[snip]

At approximately 2:39 p.m., the Rotunda doors were forced open, and a mob of people forcibly entered the Capitol through the doors. The entering mob included fourteen Oath Keepers co-conspirators—many of whom were wearing paramilitary clothing and patches with the Oath Keepers name, logo, and insignia—who had moved up and through the crowd on the east side of the Capitol in a military-style “stack” formation (“Stack One”), Wilson took cell phone video of them entering. The Rotunda Doors and surrounding facade suffered thousands of dollars worth of damage during the attack on the Capitol.

Wilson traveled with the others for a bit and may have accompanied the group that went to hunt down Nancy Pelosi.

Wilson walked through the Capitol for the next fifteen minutes, at times interacting with Dolan, Harrelson, and other co-conspirators who were heading southbound toward the House of Representatives.

The Oath Keepers got to insurrection later than the Proud Boys that day. But Wilson’s path makes the Oath Keepers more central players in the pincer effect seemingly coordinated with the Proud Boys and Alex Jones than previously known.

That’s the tactically important part of his statement of offense.

The part that has attracted the attention, however, is that not long after 5PM, Wilson witnessed Rhodes make a call on speaker phone to someone who could directly access Trump.

At the Phoenix Hotel, Rhodes gathered Wilson and other co-conspirators inside of a private suite. Rhodes then called an individual over speaker phone. Wilson heard, Rhodes repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power. This individual denied Rhodes’s request to speak directly with President Trump. After the call ended, Rhodes stated to the group, “I just want to fight.”

The Phoenix Park Hotel parking garage, remember, is where Enrique Tarrio met with Rhodes on January 5, more details of which were released Monday in a detention memo for the Proud Boys leader.

Tarrio claims that his surreptitious meeting with Elmer Stuart Rhodes III and others in an underground parking garage was “secondary to why he was there.” Defendant’s Motion at *5 Tarrio’s claim is plainly disproven by video of the event, but even if it were accurate, it misses the point.

First, Tarrio intentionally traveled to the Hall of States Parking Garage near the Phoenix Hotel where he met with others who were planning to remain in Washington, D.C. Tarrio’s decision to do so—even while at risk of violating the D.C. Superior Court stay-away order— demonstrates that even after his arrest, Tarrio remained engaged in planning for January 6. This point is further underscored by Tarrio’s efforts to rejoin encrypted communications and coordinate with Nordean and Biggs about the plans for January 6. Second Superseding Indictment (ECF 305) at ¶¶ 63-67 (Biggs: “I gave Enrique a plan. The one I told the guys and he said he had one.”).

Second, video from the documentary crew shows Tarrio making the conscious decision to travel to an underground downtown parking garage to meet with others rather than departing Washington, D.C., as he had been ordered to do. Specifically, filmmakers captured Tarrio preparing to enter the Phoenix Hotel. The next clip captured Tarrio standing outside the hotel near a truck. When asked what happened, Tarrio told the filmmaker, “We went in [the Phoenix Hotel] and somebody advised us that they’re going to call the cops.” Tarrio was then advised by a female companion, “I think we should leave.” The next clip showed Tarrio in a truck stopped outside the Phoenix Hotel, with Tarrio talking to two people standing on the sidewalk. Tarrio then directed the driver of the truck to travel around the corner from the hotel and enter the Hall of States parking garage—where he offered to pay for the entry. While driving down the ramp into the garage, Tarrio was filmed on a phone call advising the other communicant that he could not come back near the front of the hotel because “they’re already looking out the window.” Tarrio then provided directions to the underground garage. The same two people with whom Tarrio communicated in front of the Phoenix Hotel appeared less than five minutes later in the underground parking garage, along with a handful of others.

Going forward, I suspect it would be ill-advised to assume the word “co-conspirator” assumes the conspiracy in question is entirely self-contained in one militia.

That’s worth keeping in mind when trying to guess whom Rhodes called. The most obvious candidate would be Roger Stone, and I promise you, before this is done, we’ll learn that Stone or his flunkies were involved in similar conversations.

But by the time of this call, per this WaPo piece, Stone was already fleeing. (h/t William Ockham)

Stone had said he expected to attend a meeting with administration officials on pardons that had been pushed back to 6 p.m. because Trump had “ruined the schedule for the day.” But following the riot, Stone and Davis left D.C. for the private flight.

Before Stone leftthe Willard for Dulles around 5 p.m., he paused for a photo in front of a hotel TV showing coverage of the riot.

And Wilson’s statement of offense gives the kind of nod to Mike Flynn that earlier Oath Keeper filings had restricted to Stone.

In December 14, 2020, after reading an article posted by a group member in the “Leadership Intel Chat” titled, “General Flynn warns of unelected ‘tyrants,’ says ‘time for God-fearing Americans to fight,'” Wilson replied, “It is time to fight!” [link added]

And Wilson has ties to people who have ties to Flynn.

So who knows? It could be Stone, it could be Flynn, it could be someone else — like Rudy or Mark Meadows — who genuinely did have direct access to the President.

The point being, we’re very close to a point, if not already there, where this networked conspiracy is going to coalesce such that it’s no longer about discrete militia groups, but it’s about people sitting in hotel rooms blocks away from the direct assault on the Capitol.

Update: Corrected the date of the garage meeting.

Update: The correct name of the hotel is the Phoenix Park.

WaPo Polls Whether Trump Should Be Charged Without Polling His Most Serious Suspected Crimes

WaPo is out with a poll showing that a slight majority of Americans believe Trump should be charged for what they claim was “his role in this incident.”

Except they polled only one of Trump’s suspected crimes, “encourag[ing] his supporters to march to the U.S. Capitol, where the riot followed.” They don’t even describe that as incitement, which is the only way it’d be a crime.

But the poll is largely meaningless because they don’t poll the more egregious crimes for which Trump might be charged. Among the things they didn’t poll, all of which are being investigated, is whether Trump should be charged if he:

  • Raised funds by making claims about election results he knew to be false
  • Badgered Brad Raffensperger to alter enough votes so he could win Georgia
  • Had a role in fraudulent electoral certificates from seven swing states, some of which were submitted to the Archives
  • Entered into an agreement, either directly or through someone like Roger Stone, with the militias that directed the assault at the Capitol
  • Made a request of Mike Pence he knew to be illegal and, when Pence refused, sicced his mob on Pence, threatening the Vice President’s life
  • Deliberately limited law enforcement and National Guard response at the Capitol
  • Dangled pardons (one provided, in Steve Bannon’s case) to get others to help sow the Big Lie
  • Aided and abetted assaults on cops

It is mildly interesting that WaPo found a majority of the country believes Trump should be prosecuted for something that, as described, is probably not a crime. It would be far more interesting to see polling on whether Trump should be prosecuted for any of the potentially far graver crimes there is evidence he committed.

The Conspiracy to Use a Very Large Trump Sign as a Weapon To Obstruct the Vote Certification

Yesterday, a guy named Marshall Neefe pled guilty to conspiracy to obstruct the vote count (18 USC 1512(k)) and assault (18 USC 111(a)).

Unless you’re a really avid reader of this site, you’ve likely never heard of him. He’s just a QAnoner from Pennsylvania who planned with his buddy Brad Smith to arm themselves, with a club and a knife, respectively, and head to DC in response to Trump’s call.

The assault that Neefe pled to was, as part of a mob, using a very large Trump sign to push cops off their defensive line.

On the Capitol grounds, NEEFE and SMITH participated in hoisting and pushing a large metal sign frame holding a oversized “TRUMP” sign into a defensive line of Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) and USCP officers attempting to prevent rioters from further advancing on the West Front plaza of the Capitol. NEEFE understood and admits that at all times, these officers qualified as federal law enforcement officers and were engaged in performance of their official duties. The all-metal sign frame was approximately at least eight feet tall and 10 feet wide, welded with screws, and supported by large casters that were approximately the size of a man’s head. As described by one USCP officer who was part of the defensive line, the sign frame was heavy and it took at least 15 officers to carry the sign away after the rioters thrust into their line.

NEEFE’s hands were on the large metal sign for at least 10 seconds, including while the sign made contact with the line of officers. NEEFE advanced forward with the sign and other rioters into the line of officers, and retreated from the line after officers drove him and others back with pepper spray.

As part of his plea, Neefe didn’t plead guilty to 18 USC 111(b), using a deadly weapon. But his sentencing guidelines do treat the very large Donald Trump sign as a dangerous weapon.

Neefe is by no means the only one charged with assaulting cops with a very large Donald Trump sign.

But it’s significant, in this case, because of the way the conspiracy against Neefe and Smith was charged.

Neefe and Smith, like several of the other “lesser conspiracies” charged against non-militia members, started conspiring to participate in an insurrection in direct response to Trump’s own statements.

While both spoke in revolutionary terms immediately after the election, they viewed what is almost certainly Trump’s December 19 tweet as a direct call to action. Smith even called it a call to action on December 22.

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

NEEFE: We goin? . . . Cause hot damn son i really wanna crack some commie skulls.

SMITH: Yeah I”m going 100%. This is way more important than the last one actually. This one’s literally to save the city from chaos while they do their thing in the capital [typos original]

Smith also tried to recruit others to join them, citing (as other accused Jan6ers were in the same period) Trump’s orders as uniquely explicit.

Hey man if you wanna go down to DC on the 6th Trump is asking everyone to go. That’s the day Pence counts up the votes and they need supporters to fill the streets so when they refuse to back down the city doesn’t burn down right away. It’s the only time hes ever specifically asked people to show up. He didn’t say that’s why  but it’s obviously why.

Somehow (how is of particular interest to me, given Smith’s apparent reference to one of the earlier rallies for Trump in DC), Smith’s understanding of the plan changed by December 31, when he raised storming the buildings with Neefe.

I cant wait for DC! Apparently it’s going to be WAY bigger lol. If it’s big enough we should all just storm the buildings. . . . Seriously. I was talking to my Dad about how easy that would be with enough people.

Smith continued to try to recruit others to come storm the buildings with him.

Take off the 6th man! It’s the Big one!!! Trump is literally calling people to DC in a show of force. Militias will be there and if there’s enough people they may fucking storm the buildings and take out the trash right there.

And the day before the attack, Smith called to, “Sacrifice the Senate!!!!!”

In the aftermath, both Smith and Neefe referenced Pence to explain their actions. “Then we heard the news on pence,” Neefe posted, “Amd  [sic] lost it …. So we stormed.” Smith, probably writing before Congress completed certification in the early hours of the morning on January 7, claimed that, “Pence cucked like we knew he would but that was an Unbelievable show of force and it did its job.”

All of which is to say that the very large Trump sign in Neefe’s guilty plea is more than symbolic. These totally random dudes took Trump’s call to violence as an order. They armed themselves, came to DC having at least considered taking over buildings, and did so explicitly in response to the demands Trump made of Pence.

In the context of the conspiracy, as charged, this largely meets the terms Amit Mehta laid out when ruling it plausible that Trump entered into a conspiracy with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. “He knew the respective roles of the conspirators: his was to encourage the use of force, intimidation, or threats to thwart the Certification from proceeding.” Indeed, they even fit the framework Mehta laid out when deeming it plausible that Trump aided and abetted assaults — like the one using a very large Trump sign — on cops at the Capitol.

As noted, this conspiracy was charged under 18 USC 1512(k), meaning the sentence can be enhanced — as the guidelines have been, with Neefe — because of the use of threats. With this guilty plea, Trump may literally be on the hook for conspiring to obstruct the vote certification via his joint liability in using that very large Trump sign as a weapon to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s win.

The Tactics of the Louis Enrique Colon Cooperation Agreement

As Capitol Police attempted to lower a barricade protecting the tunnels of the Capitol on January 6, Proud Boy Louis Enrique Colon reached out and prevented it from closing, then placed a chair to further obstruct the gate.

While inside the Capitol building, defendant observed co-defendants Chrestman, Felicia Konold, and Cory Konold at various points inside of the building, including in a downstairs area of the Capitol near where several retractable doors were being lowered by police officers in an attempt to stop rioters from proceeding further into a portion of the building. To prevent one of the doors from closing, defendant used his hands to stop the door and placed a chair in the door’s path, while co-defendant Kuehne and another individual placed a podium in the path of another door.

That’s the basis of the single charge to which Colon pled guilty as part of a cooperation agreement yesterday, 18 USC 231, Civil Disorder.

Defendant knowingly obstructed, impeded, and interfered with law enforcement officers while those officers were lawfully engaged in their official duties incident to a civil disorder that was occurring inside of the Capitol. Among other things, defendant prevented officers from closing a retractable door which was intended to prevent rioters from advancing further into a portion of the restricted Capitol building.

In my opinion, this is, by any measure, the most lenient overt plea deal a January 6 defendant has gotten (and a comment that one of the lawyers in the plea hearing yesterday made suggested that it had recently been sweetened). On top of this charge and trespassing, Colon was originally charged in a conspiracy with other members of the Kansas City Proud Boys, as well as individually with obstruction. With credit for cooperation, according to his plea deal, the former cop may avoid any prison time.

That’s all the more remarkable given that Colon’s statement of offense reveals that he went to the Capitol with a pocket knife and an axe handle.

Among other things, defendant purchased and modified an axe handle to be used as both a walking stick and an improvised weapon

[snip]

Defendant and the group ultimately made their way to the west side of the Capitol’s grounds, outside of the restricted, fenced-off perimeter which had barricades staffed by USCP officers. At the time, defendant was wearing a backpack, pocket knife, tactical vest, tactical gloves, boots, and a helmet adorned with orange tape.

While the knife may be too short to trigger enhancements, carrying an acknowledged weapon has been used to enhance the penalties of others, though it is also the kind of thing prosecutors have used to flip people.

In other words, either Colon’s cooperation is so valuable, or DOJ needed it so badly, that he got a really sweet plea deal even in spite of bringing an “improvised weapon.”

So I’d like to discuss what DOJ may be doing tactically.

First, some background. The Oath Keepers investigation has been marked by a relentless march of new cooperators, publicly unveiled: Jon Schaffer, Graydon Young, Mark Grods, Caleb Berry, Jason Dolan, Joshua James. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. By contrast, just two of the overt Proud Boy cooperators have the kind of plea deal that implicates the wider conspiracy, Matthew Greene and Charles Donohoe. For whatever reason — apparently thinner staffing, greater numbers of participants, difficulties created by Enrique Tarrio’s arrest and delayed phone exploitation, investigative equities, corrupt lenient treatment, or a more important role in the overall investigation — DOJ has been using different tactics to get cooperation from Proud Boys and other key far right personalities. As an example, Jeff Finley (like Brandon Straka and likely, soon, Baked Alaska) seems to have cooperated in advance to avoid a felony altogether. So did Jeremy Grace, though his statement of offense implicated his far more complicit father who, if he ever cooperated, might implicate far more important tactical players. Ricky Willden’s statement of offense barely hints at what he knew that day.

Particularly given a reference made to Colon “continu[ing]” his cooperation in the hearing yesterday, this feels more like the kind of deal Finley got, where someone works their way out of more serious charges (which in Colon’s case would be obstruction with a weapons enhancement) ahead of time. That kind of cooperation makes it less visible, but also may make testimony harder to impeach down the road.

With that in mind, I’d like to look at four aspects of his statement of offense.

First, as virtually all conspirators who flip do, Colon implicated his co-conspirators, describing how:

  • Ryan Ashlock, Christopher Kuehne, and another individual traveled with Colon from Kansas City
  • Kuehne brought two AR-15 or similar assault rifles on the trip
  • Kuehne, at defendant’s suggestion, purchased orange, fluorescent tape so the group would be able to identify each other in a crowd
  • William Chrestman, Kuehne, and Ashlock, and others met on January 5 to talk about safety
  • The Konold siblings joined their group on the way to the meet-up at the Washington Memorial
  • Colon saw Chrestman, Felicia Konold, and Cory Konold as police officers attempted to stop rioters from proceeding further into a portion of the building (though the statement of offense doesn’t describe their efforts to prevent it) [my emphasis]

That is, at one level Colon’s cooperation simply shores up the third major Proud Boy conspiracy, just like Donohoe, Greene, and Finley provided direct evidence against the Leader conspiracy.

But consider this big story from Alan Feuer from September. According to 302s that defendants have gotten, one of just two known actively-handled informants among the Proud Boys that day said he had no advance knowledge of plans to disrupt the vote certification.

After meeting his fellow Proud Boys at the Washington Monument that morning, the informant described his path to the Capitol grounds where he saw barriers knocked down and Trump supporters streaming into the building, the records show. At one point, his handler appeared not to grasp that the building had been breached, the records show, and asked the informant to keep him in the loop — especially if there was any violence.

[snip]

On Jan. 6, and for months after, the records show, the informant, who was affiliated with a Midwest chapter of the Proud Boys, denied that the group intended to use violence that day. In lengthy interviews, the records say, he also denied that the extremist organization planned in advance to storm the Capitol. The informant’s identity was not disclosed in the records.

[snip]

But statements from the informant appear to counter the government’s assertion that the Proud Boys organized for an offensive assault on the Capitol intended to stop the peaceful transition from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden.

On the eve of the attack, the records show, the informant said that the group had no plans to engage in violence the next day except to defend itself from potential assaults from leftist activists — a narrative the Proud Boys have often used to excuse their own violent behavior.

Then, during an interview in April, the informant again told his handlers that Proud Boys leaders gave explicit orders to maintain a defensive posture on Jan. 6. At another point in the interview, he said that he never heard any discussion that day about stopping the Electoral College process.

As Feuer noted at the time, if you ignore that this Proud Boys showed up late, this informant’s testimony significantly undermines claims of prosecutors.

There are multiple clues in Feuer’s article and elsewhere — most notably the reference to a young woman (likely to be Felicia Konold) — that this informant was affiliated with the Kansas City cell.

He said that when he arrived, throngs of people were already streaming past the first barrier outside the building, which, he later learned, was taken down by one of his Proud Boy acquaintances and a young woman with him. [my emphasis]

In other words, until such time as DOJ secures testimony to contradict that of their informant, these interviews remain a weak point in the case against the Proud Boys.

They may have gotten that testimony yesterday.

Now consider what this particular cell of the Proud Boys did — and why that may have led DOJ to be satisfied with just the less serious 231 charge against Colon.

DOJ has charged conspiracy tied to January 6 in a bunch of ways: most spectacularly with some Oath Keepers, seditious conspiracy, also with those Oath Keepers (and the alleged Brian Sicknick assailants), conspiracy to injure an officer, and for most people charged with a conspiracy, either the conspiracy charge tied to the obstruction statute (18 USC 1512k, which carries greater penalties), or conspiracy under 18 USC 371.

But for a few of the Proud Boy conspiracies, including this Kansas City cell, the 371 conspiracy had two objects: to obstruct the vote count, but also to obstruct the cops. That’s basically a conspiracy to commit 18 USC 231, the charge Colon pled guilty to.

And the particular act of obstruction that this cell engaged in — preventing the cops from closing the gates leading to tunnels via which rioters correctly believed members of Congress had fled — is one of the most important tactically. That is, this may show not just a desire to mess with the cops, but a plan to go after members of Congress.

This cell is important for the means by which the Proud Boys made things work on January 6. And Colon may be a key witness to the tactical implementation of plans that went into that day.

Finally, consider the description, from Colon’s statement of offense, of this meeting the night before.

In the evening on January 5, 2021, defendant attended a meeting with co-defendants William Chrestman, Kuehne, and Ashlock, and others during which group safety was discussed. At some point during the meeting, another individual said that he did not come to Washington, D.C., to just march around and asked, “do we have patriots here willing to take it by force?” Defendant was shocked by this and understood that the individual was referring to using force against the government. Co-defendant Kuehne responded to the question by saying that he had his guns with him and, in essence, that he was ready to go. The individual who posed the question said that they should “go in there and take over.” [my emphasis]

DOJ has been doing a lot of work unpacking the degree to which coordination happened at meetings on January 5 (I expect we’ll see it in more expected plea agreements going forward). These meetings were critically important for getting everyone on the same page, including a bunch of people who weren’t otherwise affiliated.

We have no idea what this meeting was — we’re still looking for details on a meeting that Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean attended around 9PM the night before, though I doubt that’s what this is.

The description is important for several reasons. First, the focus on “group safety” seems to match the informant’s claim that, “On the eve of the attack … the group had no plans to engage in violence the next day except to defend itself from potential assaults from leftist activists.” Except if it’s that same meeting, then the informant would have also heard someone express a desire to take DC by force, in response to which Kuehne, who is a former Marine, said he was ready to go. At the very least, this description could correct the informant’s claims; it may prove them false.

But it also significantly advances the evidence that some of the Proud Boys, like some of the Oath Keepers, were thinking of using force against the government.

That’s the kind of evidence that has, with the Oath Keepers, helped persuade others to plead out and cooperate.

Update: Note that Robert Gieswein also wore orange tape to insurrection; he allegedly sprayed cops trying to close that barricade.

Steve Bannon’s “Alleged” Non-Contemptuous Behavior

On Friday, the two sides in the Steve Bannon contempt prosecution filed a bunch of motions about the scope of the case. They are:

Office of Legal Counsel memos

The fight over OLC memos is likely to get the bulk of attention, possibly even from Judge Carl Nichols (who relied on one of the OLC memos at issue in the Harriet Miers case). While there’s no telling what a Clarence Thomas clerk might do, I view this fight as mostly tactical. One way for Bannon’s attempt to fail (Nichols improbably ruling that OLC memos cannot be relied on in court) would upend the entire way DOJ treats OLC memos. That might have salutary benefits in the long term, but in the short term it would expose anyone, like Vice President Dick Cheney, who had relied on OLC memos in the past to protect themselves from torture and illegal wiretapping exposure themselves.

In my opinion this challenge is, in part, a threat to Liz Cheney.

But as DOJ (I think correctly) argues, none of this should matter. That’s because — as they show with two exhibits — none of the OLC memos apply to Bannon, and not just because he was not a government employee when he was plotting a coup.

On October 6, 2021, Trump attorney Justin Clark wrote to Bannon attorney Robert Costello (citing no prior contact with Costello), instructing him not to comply to the extent permitted by law:

Therefore, to the fullest extent permitted by law, President Trump instructs Mr. Bannon to: (a) where appropriate, invoke any immunities and privileges he may have from compelled testimony in response to the Subpoena; (b) not produce any documents concerning privileged material in response to the Subpoena; and (c) not provide any testimony concerning privileged material in response to the Subpoena.

But on October 14, Clark wrote and corrected Costello about claims he had made in a letter to Benny Thompson.

Bob–I just read your letter dated October 13, 2021 to Congressman Benny Thompson. In that letter you stated that “[a]s recently as today, counsel for President Trump, Justin Clark Esq., informed us that President Trump is exercising his executive privilege; therefore he has directed Mr. Bannon not to produce documents or testify until the issue of executive privilege is resolved.”

To be clear, in our conversation yesterday I simply reiterated the instruction from my letter to you dated October 6, 2021, and attached below.

Then again on October 16, Clark wrote Costello stating clearly that Bannon did not have immunity from testimony.

Bob–In light of press reports regarding your client I wanted to reach out. Just to reiterate, our letter referenced below didn’t indicate that we believe there is immunity from testimony for your client. As I indicated to you the other day, we don’t believe there is. Now, you may have made a different determination. That is entirely your call. But as I also indicated the other day other avenues to invoke the privilege — if you believe it to be appropriate — exist and are your responsibility.

In other words, before Bannon completely blew off the Committee, Trump’s lawyer had told him not to do it on Trump’s account. (See this post which captures how Robert Costello had tried to bullshit his way through this.) That, by itself, should kill any claim that he was relying on an OLC memo.

Bannon’s prior (alleged) non-contemptuous past behavior

For different reasons, I’m a bit more interested in DOJ’s attempt to prevent Bannon from talking about what a good, subpoena-obeying citizen he has been in the past. Costello had made this argument to DOJ in an interview Bannon is trying to get excluded.

DOJ argues, uncontroversially, that because Bannon’s character is not an element of the offense, such evidence of prior compliance with a subpoena would be irrelevant.

Just as the fact that a person did not rob a bank on one day is irrelevant to determining whether he robbed a bank on another, whether the Defendant complied with other subpoenas or requests for testimony—even those involving communications with the former President—is irrelevant to determining whether he unlawfully refused to comply with the Committee’s subpoena here.

I expect Judge Nichols will agree.

What I’m interested in, though, is the way the filing refers to Bannon’s past compliance with subpoenas as “alleged.” It does so nine times:

The Defendant has suggested that, because he (allegedly) was not contemptuous in the past, he is not a contemptuous person and was not, therefore, contemptuous here.

[snip]

Mr. Costello advised that the Defendant had testified once before the Special Counsel’s Office of Robert S. Mueller, III (the “SCO”), although Mr. Costello did not specify whether the pertinent appearance was before the grand jury or in some other context; once before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; and twice before the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. See id. Although, in his letter to the Committee and his interview, Mr. Costello said nothing about whether the Defendant was subpoenaed for documents by those authorities and whether the Defendant did produce any, and he did not say whether those other subpoenas or requests were limited to communications with the former President or involved other topics as well, the Defendant and Mr. Costello have asserted, essentially, that the Defendant’s alleged prior compliance demonstrates that he understands the process of navigating executive privilege, illustrates his willingness to comply with subpoenas involving communications with the former President, and rebuts evidence that his total noncompliance with the Committee’s subpoena was willful.

[snip]

The Defendant cannot defend the charges in this case by offering evidence of his experience with and alleged prior compliance with requests or subpoenas for information issued by Congress and the SCO.

[snip]

The Defendant’s alleged prior compliance with subpoenas or requests for information is of no consequence in determining whether he was contemptuous here.

[snip]

Specifically, the Defendant’s alleged compliance with other demands for testimony is not probative of his state of mind in failing to respond to the Committee’s subpoena, and his alleged non-contemptuous character is not an element of the contempt offenses charged in this case.

[snip]

1 1 To the extent the Defendant seeks to introduce evidence of his general character for law-abidingness, see In re Sealed Case, 352 F.3d 409, 412 (D.C. Cir. 2003), he cannot use evidence of his alleged prior subpoena compliance to do so. Evidence of “pertinent traits,” such as law-abidingness, only can be introduced through reputation or opinion testimony, not by evidence of specific acts. See Fed. R. Evid. 404(a)(2)(A); Fed. R. Evid. 405(a); Washington, 106 F.3d at 999.

[snip]

Second, whatever probative value the Defendant’s alleged prior compliance in other circumstances might serve, that value is substantially outweighed by the trial-within-a-trial it will prompt and the confusion it will inevitably cause the jury.

[snip]

The Defendant’s reliance on counsel and/or his alleged good faith in response to prior subpoenas is thus not pertinent to any available defense and is irrelevant to determining whether his failure to produce documents and appear for testimony in response to the Committee’s subpoena was willful. [my emphasis]

The reason DOJ always referred to Bannon’s past compliance with subpoenas as “alleged” is because calling the claim “bullshit” — which is what it is — would be unseemly in a DOJ filing.

As a reminder, here’s the history of Bannon’s “alleged” past compliance with subpoenas (it is unknown whether he was subpoenaed in the Build the Wall fraud investigation):

HPSCI: Bannon got subpoenaed after running his mouth off in the wake of the release of Fire and Fury (Republicans likely acceded to that so they could discipline Bannon for his brief and soon-aborted effort to distance himself from Trump). In his first appearance, Bannon refused to answer a bunch of questions. Then, in a second appearance and after the intervention of Devin Nunes, Bannon reeled off a bunch of “no” answers that had been scripted by Nunes and the White House, some of which amounted to misdirection and some of which probably were lies. Bannon also claimed that all relevant communications would have been turned over by the campaign, even though evidence submitted in the Roger Stone case showed that Bannon was hiding responsive — and very damning — communications on his personal email and devices.

SSCI: Bannon was referred in June 2019 by the Republican-led committee to DOJ for making false statements to the Committee.

According to the letter, the committee believed Bannon may have lied about his interactions with Erik Prince, a private security contractor; Rick Gerson, a hedge fund manager; and Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian sovereign fund.

All were involved in closely scrutinized meetings in the Seychelles before Trump’s inauguration.

[snip]

No charges were filed in connection with the meetings. But investigators suspected that the men may have been seeking to arrange a clandestine back-channel between the incoming Trump administration and Moscow. It’s unclear from the committee’s letter what Bannon and Prince might have lied about, but he and Prince have told conflicting stories about the Seychelles meeting.

Prince said he returned to the United States and updated Bannon about his conversations; Bannon said that never happened, according to the special counsel’s office.

Mueller: Over the course of a year — starting in two long interviews in February 2018 where Bannon lied with abandon (including about whether any of his personal comms would contain relevant information), followed by an October 2018 interview where Bannon’s testimony came to more closely match the personal communications he had tried to hide, followed by a January 2019 interview prior to a grand jury appearance — Bannon slowly told Mueller a story that more closely approximated the truth — so much so that Roger Stone has been squealing about things Bannon told the grand jury (possibly including about a December 2016 meeting at which Stone appears to have tried to blackmail Trump) ever since. Here’s a post linking Bannon’s known interview records and some backup.

But then the DC US Attorney’s Office (in efforts likely overseen by people JP Cooney, who is an attorney of record on this case) subpoenaed Bannon in advance of the Stone trial, and in a preparatory interview, Bannon reneged on some of his testimony that had implicated Stone. At Stone’s trial, prosecutors used his grand jury transcript to force Bannon to adhere to his most truthful testimony, though he did so begrudgingly.

In other words, the record shows that Bannon has always been contemptuous, unless and until you gather so much evidence against him as to force him to blurt out some truths.

Which is why I find it curious that DOJ moved to exclude Bannon’s past contemptuousness, rather than moving to admit it as 404(b) evidence showing that, as a general rule, Bannon always acts contemptuously. His character, DOJ could have claimed, is one of deceit and contempt. The reason may be the same (that contempt is a one-time act in which only current state of mind matters).

But I’m also mindful of how the Mueller Report explained not prosecuting three people, one of whom is undoubtedly Bannon.

We also considered three other individuals interviewed — [redacted] — but do not address them here because they are involved in aspects of ongoing investigations or active prosecutions to which their statements to this Office may be relevant.

That is, one reason Bannon wasn’t prosecuted for lying to Mueller was because of his import in, at least, the ongoing Roger Stone prosecution. That explains why DOJ didn’t charge him in 2019, to retain the viability of his testimony against Stone. I’m interested in why they continue the same approach. It seems DOJ’s decision to treat Bannon’s past lies — even to SSCI! — as “alleged” rather than “criminally-referred” by SSCI, may also reflect ongoing equities in whatever Bannon told the the grand jury two years ago. One thing Bannon lied about at first, for example, was the back channel to Dubai that may get him named as a co-conspirator in the Tom Barrack prosecution.

But there were other truths that Bannon ultimately told that may make it worthwhile to avoid confirming that those truths only came after a whole bunch of lies.

Update: Thanks to Jason Kint for reminding me that Bannon refused to be served an FTC subpoena pertaining to Cambridge Analytica in 2019.

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