Judge Emmet Sullivan Just Created Four Big Problems for DOJ in the Mike Flynn Case

Judge Emmet Sullivan just issued an order that may well destroy DOJ’s presumption of regularity (the legal principle that unless the government really fucks up, you have to assume they didn’t fuck up) in the Mike Flynn case.

He noted that on September 29, he had ordered DOJ to certify all documents submitted as exhibits in the motion to dismiss proceeding, but that DOJ had not done so. Instead, it admitted that it had “inadvertently” altered two Peter Strzok and one Andrew McCabe documents, and asked for a mulligan.

So now he’s ordering DOJ to do what he first ordered: to certify all the exhibits submitted to this docket (both those submitted directly by DOJ and those submitted by Flynn’s team) and provide a transcription and the author and date of any handwritten notes.

MINUTE ORDER as to MICHAEL T. FLYNN. During the September 29, 2020 motion hearing, the Court informed the government that it would need government counsel to authenticate documents filed with the Court. See Hr’g Tr., ECF No. 266 at 91:19-92-21; see also Min. Order (Sept. 29, 2020) (ordering the parties to file any supplemental materials by no later than October 7, 2020). On October 7, 2020, the government filed [259] Notice of Compliance in which it stated that: (1) Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) agents assigned to review Mr. Strzok’s notes had placed sticky notes on the document with estimated dates, and the sticky notes had not been removed prior to scanning the documents for production purposes (see ECF Nos. 248-2, 248-3); and (2) a sticky note with an estimated date had been placed on the notes of Andrew McCabe, and the sticky note had not been removed prior to scanning the document for production purposes (see ECF No. 248-4). The government stated that the notes of Mr. Strzok and Mr. McCabe were otherwise unaltered, and it provided the unaltered versions of Mr. Strzok’s and Mr. McCabe’s notes. See Exs. to Notice of Compliance, ECF Nos. 259-1, 259-2, 259-3. However, the government did not address the Court’s authentication request despite the government’s acknowledgement that altered FBI records have been produced to Mr. Flynn and filed on the record in this case. See Notice of Compliance, ECF No. 259. The government has filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 48(a), has attached 13 Exhibits to that motion, and has cited the Exhibits throughout its motion to support its description of the factual background and its argument in support of dismissal. See generally Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 198. The government has also filed a supplement to its motion and attached an Exhibit to that supplement. Suppl., ECF No. 249. Although the government relies heavily on these 14 Exhibits, the government has not provided a declaration attesting that the Exhibits are true and correct copies. “The presumption [of regularity] applies to government-produced documents” and “to the extent it is not rebutted–requires a court to treat the government’s record as accurate.” Latif v. Obama, 666 F.3d 746, 748, 750 (D.C. Cir. 2011). Here, however, the government has acknowledged that altered FBI records have been produced by the government and filed on the record in this case. See Notice of Compliance, ECF No. 259. Accordingly, the government is HEREBY ORDERED to file, by no later than October 26, 2020, a declaration pursuant to penalty of perjury under 28 U.S.C. sec. 1746 in support of its motion to dismiss that the Exhibits attached to its motion and supplement are true and correct copies. It is FURTHER ORDERED that the government’s declaration shall identify each exhibit by name, date, and author. It is FURTHER ORDERED that the government shall provide transcriptions of all handwritten notes contained in the Exhibits. The government has also filed on the record in this case numerous notices of filing discovery correspondence and Mr. Flynn has generally filed the discovery produced on the record in this case as Exhibits to his supplementary filings. See ECF Nos. [228], [231], [237], [248], [251], [257], [264]. The government has acknowledged that the discovery provided to Mr. Flynn and thereafter filed on the record contained altered FBI records. See Notice of Compliance, ECF No. 259. Accordingly, the government is HEREBY ORDERED to file, by no later than October 26, 2020, a declaration pursuant to penalty of perjury under 28 U.S.C. sec. 1746 that the discovery documents provided to Mr. Flynn and filed on the record in this case are true and correct copies. It is FURTHER ORDERED that the government’s declaration shall identify each discovery document by name, date, and author. It is FURTHER ORDERED that the government shall provide transcriptions of all handwritten notes contained in the Exhibits.

This is going to create four problems for DOJ.

First, there’s no way they can finish this by Monday. Even if the lawyers on this case were as familiar with these documents as they claimed to be, it would take more than this weekend to transcribe and double check everything. They will likely ask for an extension, one that would extend the order past the election.

Plus, once they do transcribe these documents, it will become crystal clear that parts of the notes — most notably, the Bill Priestap notes they’ve claimed are a smoking gun — in fact confirm that every single witness agreed on the purpose of the January 24, 2017 Mike Flynn interview: to see whether Flynn would lie. By submitting a transcript, then, they will have to admit they’ve misrepresented the substance of the documents.

Then, this order will catch them in their past false claims about the date of (at least) the January 5, 2017 Peter Strzok notes. As I’ve noted, DOJ has submitted several documents in this docket making it clear that Strzok’s notes must have been written on January 5, 2017. Except they falsely claimed not to know. There’s probably no easy way out of this problem.

Finally, there is this exhibit, which also had a date added, but a date added via means that cannot have been accidental.

It’s possible that that redaction doesn’t cover over an existing date (but my annotation, in red, may show the hash marks of a date). But I don’t see how DOJ can authenticate this, and they’re going to have to tell Sullivan who wrote it, making it really easy for journalists to call up the author and get him to confirm or deny the date.

Notably, after Strzok and McCabe’s lawyers gave notice that DOJ had altered their notes, Sidney Powell submitted a demand that Judge Sullivan prevent anyone else from telling him their notes had been altered. So maybe she has exhibits about which she has specific concerns.

The false Strzok claims, by themselves, are going to make a truthful declaration here difficult, if not impossible. But that’s not even the only problem this order will create for DOJ.

Update: There are two sets of documents Sullivan is now asking DOJ to ID the author, provide date, and transcribe: those linked in this post and those in this document cloud project.

675 Days after Mike Flynn Blew Up His Probation Plea Deal, We Learn There Never Was an “Original 302”

It has been 675 days since Mike Flynn was originally scheduled to be sentenced on December 18, 2018.

In the interim period, he fired his competent attorneys, Covington & Burling, hired firebreathing TV lawyer Sidney Powell, and had her write a letter to Billy Barr and Jeffrey Rosen demanding they appoint an outside lawyer to review the case. Among other things, the letter demanded “the original draft” of the Flynn 302.

The original draft of the Flynn 302 and all subsequent drafts, including the A-1 file that shows everyone who had possession of it. It appears that SCO has never produced the original 302. There were multiple drafts. It stayed in “deliberative/draft” stage for an inordinate time. Who influenced it, how, and why?

Then, in what was crafted to be an effort to insinuate that DOJ had not complied with Judge Emmet Sullivan’s standing Brady order, she asked for the 302 again, on reply even claiming that the claims in the 302 weren’t backed by the notes that Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka wrote during the interview.

Last December, Sullivan wrote an unbelievably meticulous opinion laying out why all the things she was demanding weren’t actually Brady material. In it, Judge Sullivan rejected Flynn’s “speculat[ion]” that an original 302 showing the agents believed Flynn was telling the truth could exist, not least because their notes mapped all versions of the draft and final 302s.

Mr. Flynn speculates that the government is suppressing the “original 302” of the January 24, 2017 interview, Def.’s Reply, ECF No. 133 at 28; he claims that the lead prosecutor “made it sound like there was only one 302,” id. at 29; and he makes a separate request for the FBI to search for the “original 302” in one of the FBI’s databases, id. at 28-30. In Mr. Flynn’s view, the “original 302”—if it exists—may reveal that the interviewing FBI agents wrote in the report “their impressions that [Mr.] Flynn was being truthful.” Id. at 28. Mr. Flynn claims that the FBI destroyed the “original 302” to the extent that it was stored in the FBI’s files. Id. at 30. Comparing draft FD-302s of Mr. Flynn’s January 24, 2017 interview to the final version, Mr. Flynn claims that the FBI manipulated the FD-302 because “substantive changes” were made after reports that Mr. Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian Ambassador “contrary to what Vice President Pence had said on television previously.” Id. at 14-15. Mr. Flynn points to the Strzok-Page text messages the night of February 10, 2017 and Ms. Page’s edits to certain portions of the draft FD-302 that were “material.” Def.’s SurSurreply, ECF No. 135 at 8-9.

To the extent Mr. Flynn has not already been provided with the requested information and to the extent the information exists, the Court is not persuaded that Mr. Flynn’s arguments demonstrate that he is entitled to the requested information. For starters, the Court agrees with the government that there were no material changes in the interview reports, and that those reports track the interviewing FBI agents’ notes. See, e.g., Gov’t’s Surreply, ECF No. 132 at 4; Def.’s Reply, ECF No. 133 at 20. Mr. Flynn ignores that FBI agents rely on their notes and memory to draft the interview reports after the completion of an interview. See United States v. DeLeon, 323 F. Supp. 3d 1285, 1290 n.4 (D.N.M. 2018) (discussing the drafting process for FD-302s). While handwritten notes may contain verbatim statements, the notes of FBI agents are not verbatim transcripts of the interview. United States v. Forbes, No. CRIM.302CR264AHN, 2007 WL 141952, at *3 (D. Conn. Jan. 17, 2007). And persuasive authority holds that the government’s production of summaries of notes and other documents does not constitute a Brady violation. See, e.g., United States v. Grunewald, 987 F.2d 531, 535 (8th Cir. 1993) (finding no Jencks Act or Brady violations where the government produced summaries of handwritten notes instead of the actual notes); United States v. Van Brandy, 726 F.2d 548, 551 (9th Cir. 1984) (holding that the government fulfilled its Brady obligations by producing summaries of the FBI’s file because Brady “does not extend to an unfettered access to the files”).

As an initial matter, the Court notes that the government has provided Mr. Flynn with the relevant FD-302s and notes rather than summaries of them. See, e.g., Gov’t’s Surreply, ECF No. 132 at 6-7; Gov’t’s Opp’n, ECF No. 122 at 10, 15; Gov’t’s App. A, ECF No. 122-1 at 2; Gov’t’s Notice of Disc. Correspondence, ECF No. 123 at 1-3. And the government states that it will provide Mr. Flynn with the FD-302s of his post-January 24, 2017 interviews. Gov’t’s Opp’n, ECF No. 122 at 4 n.1. Having carefully reviewed the interviewing FBI agents’ notes, the draft interview reports, the final version of the FD302, and the statements contained therein, the Court agrees with the government that those documents are “consistent and clear that [Mr. Flynn] made multiple false statements to the [FBI] agents about his communications with the Russian Ambassador on January 24, 2017.” Gov’t’s Surreply, ECF No. 132 at 4-5. The Court rejects Mr. Flynn’s request for additional information regarding the drafting process for the FD-302s and a search for the “original 302,” see Def.’s Sur-Surreply, ECF No. 135 at 8- 10, because the interviewing FBI agents’ notes, the draft interview reports, the final version of the FD-302, and Mr. Flynn’s own admissions of his false statements make clear that Mr. Flynn made those false statements.

Then, as matters moved towards sentencing and DOJ responded to Flynn’s refusal to cooperate and his conflicting sworn statements, by asking for prison time, Powell got desperate. She filed a bunch of motions to try to get Flynn out of his guilty pleas. And, magically, Billy Barr appointed St. Louis US Attorney Jeffrey Jensen to do what Powell had demanded seven months earlier, to review the case. That “review” used documents already reviewed by Mueller’s team, DOJ IG, John Durham, and — many of them — even Judge Sullivan — to claim DOJ had discovered “new” documents that justified blowing up Flynn’s prosecution.

Before long, Jensen started submitting documents and claims that made it clear his team was either lying or had zero understanding of the documents they used to claim DOJ should withdraw from Flynn’s prosecution. Nevertheless, Jensen kept churning out documents, even — ultimately — releasing an insta-302 showing that a key pro-Trump FBI agent on the case claimed not to understand this was a counterintelligence investigation, professed ignorance of key pieces of evidence, but nevertheless held sway in the Mueller team’s conclusion that they did not have proof that Trump ordered Flynn to blow up sanctions on Russia. They altered evidence in such a way that would support their prior false claims about key dates, and that altered evidence made its way, almost instantaneously and probably via Jenna Ellis, the Trump campaign lawyer with whom Sidney Powell remained in regular touch, into a Trump campaign attack. Ultimately, they admitted to some — but not all — of the evidence that had been altered and asked for a mulligan (but didn’t explain who had altered one of those exhibits).

Along the way, Jensen submitted evidence that made it clear that — not only didn’t Peter Strzok have it in for Mike Flynn — but he pushed the pro-Trump FBI Agent whose view held sway to join the Mueller team. As Sullivan’s amicus has noted, DOJ’s current argument relies on Strzok’s reliability, even while claiming that Strzok cannot be considered a reliable witness.

Jensen also submitted evidence that showed that meetings immediately after Flynn’s interview map perfectly onto Flynn’s existing 302, showing that there are completely credible witnesses who will attest that Strzok described the interview just as the 302 does immediately after the interview happened, including that Flynn lied.

Jensen also provided evidence that made it clear why Flynn’s lies were material — which was ostensibly the reason DOJ blew up his prosecution in the first place. His lies served to hide that Flynn coordinated with Mar-a-Lago on his efforts to blow up sanctions, something that even Billy Barr’s DOJ conceded might be evidence of coordination with Russia.

And then, on Tuesday, perhaps realizing that now that Strzok and Andrew McCabe have gotten discovery in their lawsuits for wrongful termination, DOJ should stop releasing documents that show Trump’s claims about the two of them were false, but also DOJ’s alterations of Strzok and McCabe documents, Jensen stopped.

According to a notice of discovery correspondence released last night, via letter to Sidney Powell sent on Tuesday DOJ told her there are no documents left and, in fact, there never was an “original 302.”

We write to respond to your recent discovery requests. On October 20, 2020, you requested “immediate production of any additional information that has been uncovered by Durham or the FBI or any federal officer or agent and provided to US Attorney Jensen–and not previously provided to the defense.” As we have previously disclosed, beginning in January 2020, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri has been conducting a review of the Michael T. Flynn investigation. Beginning in April 2020, and continuing through October 2020, we have disclosed on a number of occasions documents identified during that review. We are aware of no other documents or information at this time that meet the standard for disclosure in the Court’s Standing Order (Doc. 20).

You also requested “the original 302 and later drafts . . . , or the data evidencing their destruction.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a well-documented record management program and retention plan that provides specific instructions for the collection of information, the maintenance of documents, and the retention or disposal of documents. Those guidelines state that “[w]orking files, such as preliminary drafts, notes, and other similar materials, are to be destroyed when the final documents have been approved by the FBI official with authority to do so.” The policy applies to “all drafts created in any medium.” See Records Management Policy Guide, at p. 31, available at https://vault.fbi.gov/records-management-policy-guide-0769pg-part-01-of01/Records%20Management%20Policy%20Guide%200769PG%20Part%2001%20of%2001/vie w#document/p4.

Here, the FD-302 of your client’s January 24, 2017, interview was created in SENTINEL, which is the FBI’s electronic records management system for all criminal and intelligence gathering activities:

SENTINEL provides FBI employees the ability to create case documents and submit them through an electronic workflow process. Supervisors, reviewers, and others involved in the approval process can review, comment, and approve the insertion of documents into the appropriate FBI electronic case files. Upon approval, the SENTINEL system serializes and uploads the documents into the SENTINEL repositories, where the document becomes part of the official FBI case file. SENTINEL maintains an auditable record of all transactions

See Privacy Impact Assessment for the SENTINEL System, May 28, 2014, at p. 1, available at https://www.fbi.gov/services/information-management/foipa/privacy-impactassessments/sentinel.

In this this case, SSA 1 began drafting the FD-302 on the evening of January 24, 2017. The FD-302 was electronically accessed by SSA 1 and former DAD Peter Strzok in SENTINEL on several occasions. The FD-302 was electronically approved by FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence E.W. Priestap on February 15, 2017. Our review of SENTINEL’s audit trail establishes that no other FBI personnel accessed the FD-302 electronically prior to its approval and serialization. Consistent with the FBI’s records retention policy, no prior drafts of the FD-302 were maintained within SENTINEL.

You have previously been provided with three draft versions of the FD-302, dated February 10, 11, and 14, 2017, that were circulated in PDF format by email to FBI personnel for review; these are the only draft versions of the FD-302 that we have located during our diligent searches.

Finally, you requested “all the comms retrieved of McCabe with Comey, Page, Strzok, Baker, Priestap or anyone else about Flynn, Crossfire Razor or any other name for General Flynn or Michael G. Flynn, and any comms of Comey or any FBI member with anyone in the Obama White House about Flynn.” As discussed above, we have reviewed those communications and have disclosed all such communications that we have identified that meet the standard for disclosure in the Court’s Standing Order (Doc. 20). [my emphasis]

This doesn’t mean Barr is done with his shenanigans. After all, in spite of past assertions that no one at DOJ engaged in any abuse in its discovery compliance, this letter suggests (falsely, per Sullivan’s December 2019 opinion and all precedent) that the documents they’ve been dribbling out did meet “the standard for disclosure in the Court’s Standing Order.” Couple that with the fact that DOJ seems to be hiring for a Brandon Van Grack adjacent job, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re going after him, even while hiding evidence showing that Bill Barnett liked and trusted Van Grack.

Plus, ultimately Trump will pardon Flynn (indeed, Powell already told Sullivan that she had discussed a pardon with Trump).

But it does mean that, 675 days after Flynn could have started serving a probation sentence, we finally learn that one key premise on which he blew up this prosecution was false. There is no original 302.

In the wake of learning that her witch hunt came up short yesterday, Sidney Powell was complaining about the delay that she herself caused.

Rat-Fucker Rashomon: Guccifer 2.0 the Go-Between

Fresh off the weekend of Roger Stone’s trial, prosecutors got Rick Gates to testify, and then called former FBI Agent Michelle Taylor back on the stand. Ostensibly, they needed to call Taylor to introduce a transcript of a scene from Godfather II that Stone kept using to try to convince Randy Credico to lie to the House Intelligence Committee, something that the two sides had been debating throughout the first week of the trial.

But the first thing prosecutors did when they got their FBI witness back on the stand was to bring Guccifer 2.0 into it.

Q. When you first testified last week, do you remember testifying about the release of some emails of the Democratic National Committee by an organization called WikiLeaks on July 22nd, 2016?

A. Yes, I do.

Q. What was the name of the online persona or figure who took credit for hacking or obtaining those documents from the Democratic National Committee?

A. Guccifer 2.0.

Q. During Mr. Stone’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, was he asked about that persona, Guccifer 2.0, and that alleged hack?

A. Yes, he was.

MR. ZELINSKY: I would like to publish now, please, for the witness and the jury, what’s been admitted as Government’s Exhibit 1. This is page 28 of Government’s Exhibit 1.

BY MR. ZELINSKY: Q. Ms. Taylor, I want to direct your attention to the portion of — oh, and, Ms. Taylor, just to remind the jury, what is Government’s Exhibit 1?

A. This is a transcript of Mr. Stone’s testimony before HPSCI.

Q. I’ve put on the screen in front of you page 28 of the transcript. Can you read for us, please, the question and answer that I have highlighted there?

A. “MR. SWALWELL: In 2016, August of 2016, you and the American public are aware, from press reporting, that Russia is accused of hacking democratic emails, is that — “MR. STONE. Yes.”

Q. I want to direct your attention now to page 29, the next page of the same exhibit. Can you read, please, the question and answer that I’ve highlighted on page 29 of Government’s Exhibit 1, the transcript?

A. “MR. SWALWELL: It took me a while, too. “Were you aware when you wrote that article, the Breitbart one, that Guccifer 2.0 was assessed by the Intelligence Community as a cutout for the Russian intelligence services? “MR. STONE: I was aware of that claim, but I don’t subscribe to it. There’s a substantial amount of information you can find online that questions that. I realize it’s an assertion, but as I said in my statement, our intelligence agencies are often wrong.”

Q. Finally, Ms. Taylor, I would like to direct your attention to page 113, bottom of 113 to the top of 114 of the same exhibit, the transcript. First, can you read for us, please, the question that starts at the bottom of page 113 of the transcript?

A. “MR. SCHIFF: Mr. Stone, you’ve acknowledged that it’s the conclusion of the intelligence community that Guccifer 2 is a cutout of the Russian intelligence agencies.”

Q. And Mr. Stone’s response?

A. “MR. STONE: They have said that, yes.”

Mind you, Guccifer 2.0 had been mentioned earlier in the trial, as when Taylor read off HPSCI communications with Stone or Randy Credico’s texts with Stone mentioning the persona, as well as legal debates outside the presence of the jury. Prosecutors also had Taylor present two Guccifer 2.0 posts that were published on the same days as calls involving Stone, June 15 and June 30, in the latter case, a call to Trump.

Q. Can you please read for us the first two sentences of the Guccifer 2 Word Press post from June 15th, 2016?

A. Sure. “Worldwide known cyber security company CrowdStrike announced that the Democratic National Committee, DNC, servers had been hacked by sophisticated hacker groups. I’m very pleased the company appreciated my skills so highly, but, in fact, it was easy, very easy.”

[snip]

Q. Did this same author, Guccifer 2.0, post another message about the hack a few weeks later?

A. He did.

Q. I’d like to publish now, please, for the witness and the Court — and the jury, excuse me, Government’s Exhibit 150, which appears at tab 4 of your binder. What is Government’s Exhibit 150?

A. This is another Word Press post by Guccifer 2 dated June 30, 2016.

Jonathan Kravis would remind the jury how the latter post coincided with a call between Stone and Trump in his closing arguments.

And Stone’s lawyers raised the persona a few times, in their opening, in cross examination, and their close.

But this was the first time prosecutors directly addressed Stone’s claims and communications about Guccifer 2.0, as opposed to with Trump or — via a never identified go-between — with WikiLeaks.

In the prosecution prior to this point, as in most of these Roger Stone stories, the WikiLeaks story was kept remarkably distinct from the Guccifer 2.0 story.

Of the four stories told about Roger Stone, two adopt a structure that treat Stone’s communication with Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks in parallel: there are a handful of communications between him and Guccifer 2.0 (pages 194 to 196 of the SSCI Report, one paragraph on page 44 of the Mueller Report), and a separate discussion of Stone’s attempts to optimize the WikiLeaks releases (pages 221 to 252 of the SSCI Report, pages 51 to 59 of the Mueller Report).

The affidavits show that initial investigative work focused on Guccifer 2.0, not WikiLeaks. The way in which later affidavits present these issues changed over time. But many of them separate Stone’s “Public interactions with Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks” from the (later) “Private Twitter Direct Messages with WikiLeaks and ASSANGE.” The affidavits generally stopped mentioning Stone’s private DMs with Guccifer 2.0 in March 2018.

That parallel structure applies to the indictments, too. Stone gets his own paragraph, ¶44, in the GRU indictment. But the Stone indictment makes absolutely no mention of Guccifer 2.0. The government declared Stone’s prosecution a “related case” to the GRU one, meaning the same judge — Amy Berman Jackson — would preside. Stone’s team unsuccessfully objected. Prosecutors explained the designation, in part, because, “Certain Netyksho defendants, through a fictitious online persona they created, Guccifer 2.0, also interacted directly with Stone concerning other stolen materials posted separately online.” Ultimately, ABJ denied Stone’s attempt to dissociate the case. Stone made an equally unsuccessful attempt to make the Russian attribution more central to the case, even addressing his communications with Guccifer 2.0. Ultimately, however, the case was totally separate.

And yet, just before it closed their case, the government got their FBI witness to review the part of Stone’s HPSCI testimony where he acknowledged that the intelligence community had assessed that Guccifer 2.0 was a cut-out for Russian intelligence.

In response, Stone’s attorney Bruce Rogow got Taylor to confirm that she didn’t know independently whether Guccifer is Russian and “was not aware” of any other communications between Stone and Guccifer 2.0, something he tried unsuccessfully to emphasize in his close.

Q. Good morning, again, Ms. Taylor.

A. Good morning.

Q. Do you know, independently, whether or not Guccifer is Russian?

A. I don’t.

Q. Did Mr. Stone turn over his communications with Guccifer that he mentioned in the transcript?

A. He did.

Q. Did you find any other communications between Mr. Stone and Guccifer?

A. I’m not aware of any.

Taylor’s response was the same one the Mueller Report gave, in that sole paragraph on Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 referenced above. A sentence that has been unsealed since the original release reads, “The investigation did not identify evidence of other communications between Stone and Guccifer 2.0,” beyond the DMs in August and September, 2016. Earlier in that paragraph, however, a previously redacted passage reveals the significance of it. “After the GRU had published stolen DNC documents through Guccifer 2.0, Stone told members of the Campaign that he was in contact with Guccifer 2.0,” which it cites to this almost entirely redacted passage in a Rick Gates interview, a passage that seems to discuss events that predate the July 22 DNC release.

SSCI has read this unredacted 302, and they assess (as I have in the past, about a different 302) that Gates was just confused between the illusory deleted Clinton emails and actual advance knowledge of emails.

FBI, FD-302, Gates 4/10/2018. The Committee assesses· that, at this time, the references to Clinton’s “emails” reflected a focus on allegedly missing or deleted.emails from Clinton’s personal server during her tenure as Secretary of State.

But in context, the unredacted passage in the Mueller Report suggests that Stone told Gates — and others — that he spoke to Guccifer 2.0 before those known August and September exchanges.

This is a question that prosecutors might have asked Gates to testify about publicly. As noted, his testimony directly preceded Taylor’s second trip to the stand. Rather than ask for clarification on that question, though, Aaron Zelinsky instead had Gates describe how, on June 15, in the wake of the DNC announcement that it had been hacked by Russia (and, though Zelinsky didn’t say it, the launch of the Guccifer 2.0 site), Stone asked for the phone numbers of Jared Kushner and one other staffer “to debrief them on the developments of the DNC announcement.” Indeed, Zelinsky treated this as entirely a discussion about WikiLeaks’ upcoming leaks, not Guccifer 2.0’s existing one.

Q. During the balance of June — we’re still in June of 2016 — did you continue to discuss WikiLeaks with Mr. Stone?

A. Yes, off and on.

Q. Why did you continue, in June, to continue to discuss WikiLeaks with Mr. Stone?

A. Because at that point, both myself and Mr. Manafort didn’t believe the information was coming because it still hadn’t come out. And Mr. Manafort had asked me from time to time to check with Mr. Stone to see if the information was still real and viable.

Q. And when you say the “information,” you mean releases from WikiLeaks; is that correct?

A. That’s correct.

As for Agent Taylor’s response to Bruce Rogow’s question — that she was not aware of any other communications between Guccifer 2.0 and Stone besides the DMs he shared with HPSCI — she might not be aware of any late-discovered communications between Stone and Guccifer 2.0 beyond those he shared with HPSCI even if there were any. She testified that her role on “that piece” of the investigation — meaning the investigation of Roger Stone — was as a case agent.

Q. Ms. Taylor, in the course of your work with the FBI, was there a time in your career when you were assigned to work on the investigation led by then Special Counsel Robert Mueller?

A. Yes.

Q. And in particular in the course of your work on the special counsel’s investigation, did you participate in the piece of the investigation that concerned the defendant in this case, Roger Stone?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. What was your role on that piece of the special counsel’s investigation?

A. I was one of the case agents on the investigation of Mr. Stone.

According to Andrew Weissmann’s book, though, her primary role on Mueller’s team wasn’t on the Stone team, she was the lead agent on the obstruction team (which, given the involvement of Andrew Goldstein in certain interviews in fall 2018, was closely involved in investigating Roger Stone’s witness tampering and cover story as part of the obstruction piece). Taylor wrote none of the affidavits targeting Stone. Additionally, she had left the FBI months before the trial, in August 2019, so she also wouldn’t have been included in an interview conducted over the weekend of the trial (possibly with Andrew Miller, Stone’s aide who had managed his schedule at the RNC, where Stone appears to have gotten advance notice of the DNC leak).

So even with Taylor on the stand, Bruce Rogow may not have been able to discover — much less convey to the jury — the government’s full understanding of what Guccifer 2.0’s relationship with Stone was … not what it was when other FBI agents wrote affidavits hiding part of the investigation from him a year earlier, not what it was when they obtained Andrew Miller’s testimony weeks after the release of the Mueller Report, not what it was after that last interview on November 9, 2019, over seven months after the completion of the Mueller Report and smack dab in the middle of the trial.

Indeed, when he was standing there asking the question of Mueller’s lead agent from the obstruction team about communications between his client and Guccifer 2.0, Rogow would know that the FBI had found searches, starting on May 17, 2016, that seemed to indicate that Stone had foreknowledge of the Russian hack-and-leak; Stone had received those two warrants (one, two) in discovery. But Rogow would not know — because it was among the 15 warrants that the government had withheld, in part, to hide the full scope of the investigation from Stone — that two minutes after the FBI obtained a warrant for Stone’s cell site location from June 14 to November 15, 2016, in part to confirm whether Stone had done the searches indicating foreknowledge of the Guccifer 2.0 operation and in part to figure out whom he met with on August 3, 2016 in LA when he would later claim to have been dining with Julian Assange — a different FBI agent, one likely tied to the GRU investigative team, obtained a search warrant for an email that Guccifer 2.0 set up on July 23, 2016. That email was set up the day after the DNC drop, and perhaps not coincidentally, on the last day on which Stone may have deleted his Google search history, hiding those earlier searches showing foreknowledge of the Russian operation.

Up to that moment when former Agent Taylor discussed Stone’s HPSCI testimony confirming he knew the intelligence community believed Guccifer 2.0 to be a Russian cut-out, Stone’s trial was about his lies about who his go-between with WikiLeaks was, not about truths and lies he may have told about Guccifer 2.0.

Unless Guccifer 2.0 was that go-between.

In any case, the trial was, ultimately, about Guccifer 2.0, because some of the evidence prosecutors used to prove that Stone spoke with the campaign about a go-between to WikiLeaks involved Guccifer 2.0. In addition to the disclosure that Stone spoke to Trump before the June 15 and after the June 30 Guccifer 2.0 posts, the trial made something else public for the first time, something that had been a key detail in the affidavits, and would be in the SSCI Report, but which was not one included in the Mueller Report (or Stone’s indictment).

At 8:16AM on August 15, Corsi texted and then at 8:17 AM Corsi emailed Stone the same message, telling him there was “more to come than anyone realizes”:

Appearing in the midst of a story about Stone’s lies about his go-between with WikiLeaks, the texts and emails are fairly innocuous. Though the SSCI Report does seem to believe Corsi’s story that this moment — and the 24 minute call between Corsi and Stone at 12:14PM on August 15 — is when Corsi told Stone about what the Podesta files would include.

(U) The Committee is uncertain how Corsi determined that Assange had John Podesta’s emails. Corsi initially explained in an interview with the SCO that during his trip to Italy, someone told him Assange had the Podesta emails. Corsi also recalled learning that Assange was going to “release the emails seriatim and not all at once.”1572 However, Corsi claimed not to remember who provided him with this information, saying he could only recall that “it feels like a man” who told him.1573

(U) Corsi further recalled that on August 15, after he returned from Italy, he conveyed this information to Stone by phone.1574 According to Corsi, the information was new to Stone. Stone seemed “happy to hear it,” and the two of them “discussed how the emails would be very damaging” to Clinton. 1575 Corsi also reiterated by both text and email to Stone on August 15 that there was “[m]ore to come than anyone realizes. Won’t really get started until after Labor Day.”1576

But that’s only so long as you keep the Guccifer 2.0 story separate from the WikiLeaks story, as the SSCI and Mueller Reports do.

If you combine those stories, though, here’s what a partial timeline looks like:

August 2, 2016: Corsi informs Stone that “the hackers” will release one dump shortly after he returns on August 12 and another in October; he also mentions Podesta.

August 3, 9:12AM: Stone emails Manafort to tell him about, “an idea to save Trump’s ass.”

August 4: Stone tells Sam Nunberg that he dined with Assange the night before (he had been in LA).

August 5: Stone flip-flops on prior public statements backing the Russian attribution, writing a column declaring that Guccifer 2.0, not Russia, did the DNC hack.

August 9: Both Julian Assange and Stone start pushing the Seth Rich conspiracy.

August 12, 5:41PM: Guccifer 2.0 releases DCCC docs, fulfilling the timing (but not the outlet) that Corsi predicted.

August 12, 6:31PM: Guccifer 2.0, Emma Best, and WikiLeaks begin a discussion about exclusivity on the DCCC documents for WikiLeaks.

August 12, 10:16PM: Guccifer 2.0 says he’ll send major trove of DCCC documents to WikiLeaks; WikiLeaks never publishes any DCCC documents.

August 12, 10:23PM: Guccifer 2.0 publicly calls out Stone, “Thanks that u believe in the real #Guccifer2.”

August 13, 10:19AM: Corsi texts Stone: “Call when you can.”

August 13, 10:42AM: WikiLeaks tweets “‘@Guccifer_2’ has account completely censored by Twitter after publishing some files from Democratic campaign #DCCC”

August 13, 11:15AM: Stone tweets, “@wikileaks @GUCCIFER_2 Outrageous! Clintonistas now nned to censor their critics to rig the upcoming election.”

August 13, 7:29PM: Stone tweets, “@DailyCaller Censorship ! Gruccifer is a HERO.”

August 14, 12:58PM: Guccifer 2.0 tweets, “#Guccifer2 Here I am! They’ll have to try much harder to block me! #DNCleak #dccchack”

August 14 (unknown time): Stone DMs Guccifer 2.0: “Delighted you are reinstated.”

August 14 (unknown time, per Corsi article): Corsi starts a file called “Podesta.”

August 15, 1:33AM: Stone tweets about Podesta for the first time ever, seemingly in response to NYT story on black ledger implicating Manafort: “@JohnPodesta makes @PaulManafort look like St. Thomas Aquinas Where is the @NewYorkTimes?”

August 15, 8:16 and 8:17 AM: Corsi texts and emails Stone, “More to come than anyone realizes.”

August 15, 12:14PM: Corsi and Stone speak for 24 minutes.

August 15, 2016 (unknown time): Guccifer 2.0 DMs Stone: “thank u for writing back . . . do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?”

So long as the WikiLeaks story is kept separate from the Guccifer 2.0 one, that August 15 DM from Guccifer 2.0 to Stone appears to be a question about the DCCC emails posted on August 12, and so, as Stone claimed, totally innocuous. But given the evidence that Corsi and Stone acquired advance knowledge of the content of select Podesta emails by August 15 — particularly given Stone’s claim, reportedly made before July 22, to have been in touch with Guccifer 2.0 and his apparent foreknowledge of the GRU personas — that August 15 DM appears to be a comment on the Podesta files.

That is, that August 15 was not innocuous at all. It appears to have been, rather, the GRU’s persona asking Stone whether he liked what he had received in advance.

 


The movie Rashomon demonstrated that any given narrative tells just one version of events, but that by listening to all available narratives, you might identify gaps and biases that get you closer to the truth.

I’m hoping that principle works even for squalid stories like the investigation into Roger Stone’s cheating in the 2016 election. This series will examine the differences between four stories about Roger Stone’s actions in 2016:

As I noted in the introductory post (which lays out how I generally understand the story each tells), each story has real gaps in one or more of these areas:

My hope is that by identifying these gaps and unpacking what they might say about the choices made in crafting each of these stories, we can get a better understanding of what actually happened — both in 2016 and in the investigations. The gaps will serve as a framework for this series.

Rat-Fucker Rashomon: Getting the “Highest Level of Government” to Free Julian Assange

On June 10, 2017, according to affidavits submitted as part of the Mueller investigation, Roger Stone DMed Julian Assange and told him he was doing everything he could to “address the issues at the highest level of Government.”

57. On or about June 10, 2017, Roger Stone wrote to Target Account 2, “I am doing everything possible to address the issues at the highest level of Government. Fed treatment of you and Wikileaks is an outrage. Must be circumspect in this forum as experience demonstrates it is monitored. Best regards R.” Target Account 2 wrote back, “Appreciated. Of course it is!”

On June 19, 2017, according to the Mueller Report, the President dictated a message for Corey Lewandowski to take to Jeff Sessions, telling the (recused) Attorney General to meet with Robert Mueller and order him to limit his investigation only to future election meddling, not the election meddling that had gotten Trump elected.

During the June 19 meeting, Lewandowski recalled that, after some small talk, the President brought up Sessions and criticized his recusal from the Russia investigation.605 The President told Lewandowski that Sessions was weak and that if the President had known about the likelihood of recusal in advance, he would not have appointed Sessions.606 The President then asked Lewandowski to deliver a message to Sessions and said “write this down.” 607 This was the first time the President had asked Lewandowski to take dictation, and Lewandowski wrote as fast as possible to make sure he captured the content correctly.608 The President directed that Sessions should give a speech publicly announcing:

I know that I recused myself from certain things having to do with specific areas. But our POTUS . .. is being treated very unfairly. He shouldn’t have a Special Prosecutor/Counsel b/c he hasn’t done anything wrong. I was on the campaign w/ him for nine months, there were no Russians involved with him. I know it for a fact b/c I was there. He didn’t do anything wrong except he ran the greatest campaign in American history.609

The dictated message went on to state that Sessions would meet with the Special Counsel to limit his jurisdiction to future election interference:

Now a group of people want to subvert the Constitution of the United States. T am going to meet with the Special Prosecutor to explain this is very unfair and let the Special Prosecutor move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections so that nothing can happen in future elections.610

Days after Roger Stone told Julian Assange that he was trying to resolve matters at the highest level of government, the President of the United States tried to issue a back channel order that would shut down the investigation into Assange — and by association, Stone.

According to Lewandowski, neither he nor Rick Dearborn (on whom he tried to pawn off the task) actually delivered the message. But according to Andrew Weissmann, when he and Jeannie Rhee first got briefed on the investigation into how Russia released the documents it had stolen around that time, they learned no one was investigating it.

This effort didn’t start in June 2017, though. It started at least seven months earlier.

The SSCI Report reveals that the day before the Podesta emails got released, Stone probably had a six minute phone call with the candidate via Keith Schiller’s phone.

On the afternoon of October 6, Stone received a call from Keith Schiller’s number. Stone returned the call about 20 minutes later, and spoke-almost certainly to Trump–for six minutes.1663 The substance of that conversation is not known to the Committee. However, at the time, Stone was focused on the potential for a WikiLeaks release, the Campaign was following WikiLeaks’s announcements, and Trump’s prior call with Stone on September 29, also using Schiller’s phone, related to a WikiLeaks release. Given these facts, it appears quite likely that Stone and Trump spoke about WikiLeaks.

The SSCI Report and the affidavits reveal that Stone postponed a lunch with Jerome Corsi on October 8 to go meet with Trump.

On or about October 8, 2016, STONE messaged CORSI at Target Account 2, “Lunch postponed- have to go see T.” CORSI responded to STONE, “Ok. I understand.”

According to Mike Flynn, in the wake of the Podesta release, senior campaign officials discussed reaching out to WikiLeaks.

Beginning on October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks released emails stolen from John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. The defendant relayed to the government statements made in 2016 by senior campaign officials about WikiLeaks to which only a select few people were privy. For example, the defendant recalled conversations with senior campaign officials after the release of the Podesta emails, during which the prospect of reaching out to WikiLeaks was discussed.

And then, days later, Roger Stone tried to reach out to WikiLeaks — seemingly in response to WikiLeaks’ public disavowal of any tie to Stone — only to be rebuffed.

On October 13, 2016, while WikiLeaks was in the midst of releasing the hacked Podesta emails, @RogerJStoneJr sent a private direct message to the Twitter account @wikileaks. This account is the official Twitter account of WikiLeaks and has been described as such by numerous news reports. The message read: “Since I was all over national TV, cable and print defending WikiLeaks and assange against the claim that you are Russian agents and debunking the false charges of sexual assault as trumped up bs you may want to rexamine the strategy of attacking me- cordially R.”

Less than an hour later, @Wikileaks responded by direct message: “We appreciate that. However, the false claims of association are being used by the democrats to undermine the impact of our publications. Don’t go there if you don’t want us to correct you.”

On October 16, 2016, @RogerJStoneJr sent a direct message to @Wikileaks: “Ha! The more you \”correct\” me the more people think you’re lying. Your operation leaks like a sieve. You need to figure out who your friends are.”

But after the election, it was WikiLeaks that reached out to Stone.

On November 9, 2016, one day after the presidential election, @Wikileaks sent a direct message to @RogerJStoneJr containing a single word: “Happy?” @Wikileaks immediately followed up with another message less than a minute later: “We are now more free to communicate.”

At Stone’s trial, Randy Credico testified that in that same period after the election, he put Roger Stone in touch with Margaret Kunstler, Credico’s tie to WikiLeaks and one of the 1,000 lawyers (per a snarky answer from Credico) who represented Assange, to discuss a pardon.

Q. Had you put Mr. Stone directly in touch with Ms. Kunstler after the election?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. And why had you done that?

A. Well, sometime after the election, he wanted me to contact Mrs. Kunstler. He called me up and said that he had spoken to Judge Napolitano about getting Julian Assange a pardon and needed to talk to Mrs. Kunstler about it. So I said, Okay. And I sat on it. And I told her–I told her–she didn’t act on it. And then, eventually, she did, and they had a conversation.

Credico is very evasive about the timing of all this. Texts between him and Stone, introduced as an exhibit at Stone’s trial, show that Credico raised asylum on October 3, three hours before he boasted that he was best friends with Assange’s lawyer, meaning Kunstler.

But when asked about the timing, Credico refused to answer, or even answer a yes or no question about whether discussions began before the election. Note, these texts were ones that neither Credico nor Stone provided at first, on Credico’s part because he no longer had them; the government ultimately subpoenaed them from Stone after Stone shared them with Chuck Ross. The texts Stone produced go through November 14, but the ones released at trial stop on October 3.

Later affidavits make clear, however, that on November 15, seven days after Trump won an election with Julian Assange’s help, Trump’s rat-fucker sent Kunstler a link to download Signal and asked her to call him, which she said she’d do. (This was the first day Stone was using the iPhone 7 on which he sent her these texts.)

Additionally, text messages recovered from Stone’s iCloud account revealed that on or about November 15, 2016, Stone sent an attorney with the ability to contact Julian Assange a link to download the Signal application. 15 Approximately fifteen minutes after sending the link, Stone texted the attorney, “I’m on signal just dial my number.” The attorney responded, “I’ll call you.”

15 This attorney was a close friend of Credico’s and was the same friend Credico emailed on or about September 20, 2016 to pass along Stone’s request to Assange for emails connected to the allegations against then-candidate Clinton related to her service as Secretary of State.

So the pardon discussions Credico testified about under oath began no later then a week after Assange helped Trump get elected and Credico refused to rule out that they started on November 9 or even earlier. The SSCI Report notes Credico had a 12 minute call with Stone on October 5 and five more calls on October 6.

After Trump was inaugurated in early 2017, via an attorney he shared with Oleg Deripaska, Assange tried to leverage CIA’s hacking tools believed to have been stolen the previous April to obtain an immunity deal. Even while those discussions were ongoing, on March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks released the first installment of CIA’s hacking tools, a release they called Vault 7. According to witnesses at the trial of the accused source, Joshua Schulte, the Vault 7 release brought CIA’s hacking-based spying virtually to a halt while the agency tried to figure out who would be compromised by the release.

But that didn’t stop the pardon discussions between WikiLeaks, including Assange personally, and Stone. After another spat about whether Stone had had a back channel to WikiLeaks which they aired on CNN, Stone returned to a discussion of a pardon on April 7.

On or about March 27, 2017, Target Account 1 wrote to Roger Stone, “FYI, while we continue to be unhappy about false \”back channel\” claims, today CNN deliberately broke our off the record comments.”

On March 27, 2017, CNN reported that a representative of WikiLeaks, writing from an email address associated with WikiLeaks, denied that there was any backchannel communication during the Campaign between Stone and WikiLeaks. The same article quoted Stone as stating: “Since I never communicated with WikiLeaks, I guess I must be innocent of charges I knew about the hacking of Podesta’s email (speculation and conjecture) and the timing or scope of their subsequent disclosures. So I am clairvoyant or just a good guesser because the limited things I did predict (Oct disclosures) all came true. ”

On or about April 7, 2017, Roger Stone wrote to Target Account 1, ” I am JA’s only hope for a pardon the chances of which are actually (weirdly) enhanced by the bombing in Syria (which I opposed) . You have no idea how much your operation leaks. Discrediting me only hurts you. Why not consider saying nothing? PS- Why would anyone listen to that asshole Daniel Ellsberg.”

On April 13, in the wake of the Vault 7 hack, Mike Pompeo declared WikiLeaks a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by Russia.

It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia. In January of this year, our Intelligence Community determined that Russian military intelligence—the GRU—had used WikiLeaks to release data of US victims that the GRU had obtained through cyber operations against the Democratic National Committee. And the report also found that Russia’s primary propaganda outlet, RT, has actively collaborated with WikiLeaks.

In response, Stone took to InfoWars on April 18, calling on Pompeo to either provide proof of those Russian ties or resign, defending the release of the Vault 7 tools along the way.

The Intelligence agencies continue to insist that Julian Assange is an active Russian Agent and that Wikileaks is a Russian controlled asset. The agencies have no hard proof of this claim whatsoever. Assange has said repeatedly that he is affiliated with no nation state but the Intelligence Agencies continue to insist that he is under Russian control because it fits the narrative in which they must produce some evidence of Russian interference in our election because they used this charge to legally justify and rationalize the surveillance of Trump aides, myself included.

[snip]

President Donald Trump said on Oct, 10, 2016 “I love Wikileaks” and Pompeo who previously had praised the whistleblowing operation now called Wikileaks “a non-state hostile Intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia”. Mr. Pompeo must be pressed to immediately release any evidence he has that proves these statements. If he cannot do so ,the President should discharge him.

[snip]

Julian Assange does not work for the Russians. Given the import of the information that he ultimately disclosed about the Clinton campaign, the Obama administration and the deep secrets in the CIA’s Vault 7, he has educated the American people about the tactics and technology the CIA has used to spy on ordinary Americans.

Assange personally DMed Stone to thank him for the article, while claiming that Pompeo had stopped short of claiming that WikiLeaks had gotten the stolen DNC emails directly, thereby making WikiLeaks like any other media outlet.

On or about April 19, 2017, Assange, using Target Account 2, wrote to Stone, “Ace article in infowars. Appreciated. But note that U.S. intel is engages in slight of hand maoevers [sic]. Listen closely and you see they only claim that we received U.S. election leaks \”not directly\” or via a \”third party\” and do not know \”when\” etc. This line is Pompeo appears to be getting at with his \”abbeted\”. This correspnds to the same as all media and they do not make any allegation that WL or I am a Russia asset.”

It’s in that context — in the wake of Trump’s trusted CIA Director (and a former WikiLeaks booster himself) asserting serial cooperation between Russia and WikiLeaks — that Stone and Assange had the exchange that directly preceded Trump’s attempt to shut down any investigation into the leaks to WikiLeaks.

On June 4, Stone threatened to “bring down the entire house of cards” if the government moved on Assange (Stone kept a notebook during the campaign detailing all the calls he had had with Trump), then raised a pardon again, suggesting Assange had done nothing he needed to be pardoned for.

56. On or about June 4, 2017, Roger Stone wrote back to Target Account 2, “Still nonsense. As a journalist it doesn’t matter where you get information only that it is accurate and authentic. The New York Times printed the Pentagon Papers which were indisputably stolen from the government and the courts ruled it was legal to do so and refused to issue an order restraining the paper from publishing additional articles. If the US government moves on you I will bring down the entire house of cards. With the trumped-up sexual assault charges dropped I don’t know of any crime you need to be pardoned for – best regards. R.” Target Account 2 responded, “Between CIA and DoJ they’re doing quite a lot. On the DoJ side that’s coming most strongly from those obsessed with taking down Trump trying to squeeze us into a deal.”

57. On or about June 10, 2017, Roger Stone wrote to Target Account 2, “I am doing everything possible to address the issues at the highest level of Government. Fed treatment of you and Wikileaks is an outrage. Must be circumspect in this forum as experience demonstrates it is monitored. Best regards R.” Target Account 2 wrote back, “Appreciated. Of course it is!”

According to texts between Stone and Credico, Stone at least claimed to be pursuing a pardon in early 2018 (though he may have been doing that to buy Credico’s silence).

And it wasn’t just Stone involved in the discussions to free Assange.

Manafort’s Ecuador trip

While it’s not clear to what end, Paul Manafort took steps relating to Assange as well.

There’s the weird story by Ken Vogel, explaining that between those two Stone-Assange exchanges in April and June, 2017, long-time Roger Stone friend Paul Manafort went to Ecuador to negotiate Assange’s expulsion.

In mid-May 2017, Paul Manafort, facing intensifying pressure to settle debts and pay mounting legal bills, flew to Ecuador to offer his services to a potentially lucrative new client — the country’s incoming president, Lenín Moreno.

Mr. Manafort made the trip mainly to see if he could broker a deal under which China would invest in Ecuador’s power system, possibly yielding a fat commission for Mr. Manafort.

But the talks turned to a diplomatic sticking point between the United States and Ecuador: the fate of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

In at least two meetings with Mr. Manafort, Mr. Moreno and his aides discussed their desire to rid themselves of Mr. Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, in exchange for concessions like debt relief from the United States, according to three people familiar with the talks, the details of which have not been previously reported.

They said Mr. Manafort suggested he could help negotiate a deal for the handover of Mr. Assange to the United States, which has long investigated Mr. Assange for the disclosure of secret documents and which later filed charges against him that have not yet been made public.

The story never explained whether Manafort wanted Assange handed over for trial, for a golf vacation, or for Russian exfiltration (as was reportedly planned for Assange later in 2017).

That Manafort went to Ecuador and negotiated for an Assange release accords, however, with the 302 of a witness who called in to Mueller’s team. The witness described that Manafort had told him or her, in real time, that he had gone to Ecuador, “to try to convince the incoming President to expel Assange from the Embassy in order to gain favor with the U.S.”

Neither of these stories should be considered reliable, as written. 302s that Bill Barr’s DOJ is willing to release in unredacted form, as this one is, tend to be false claims that make Trump look less suspect than he really is. And Manafort-adjacent sources were using Ken Vogel to plant less-damning cover stories during this period. Further, as we’ll see, the dates of them, November 28 and December 3, 2018, respectively, puts them in a period after Trump knew that Mueller was investigating efforts to pardon Assange.

Manafort went to Ecuador in May of 2017. At the time, his lifelong buddy Roger Stone was still pursuing some means to get Assange released. It’s unclear precisely what Manafort asked Lenín Moreno to do.

WikiLeaks cultivates Trump’s oldest son

A more interesting parallel timeline (one that becomes more interesting if you track the communications in tandem, as I do below) is the dalliance between Don Jr and WikiLeaks. The failson’s communications with WikiLeaks are one area where all of the Roger Stone stories withhold key details. The Mueller Report, for example, covers only three of the Don Jr-WikiLeaks exchanges, which it caveats by explaining that it addresses the ones “during the campaign period” (again, only the one where Don Jr accesses a non-public website using the private password WikiLeaks shared involved a prosecutorial decision and so needed to be included).

Like the Mueller Report, the SSCI Report describes in the body of the report Don Jr’s exchange with WikiLeaks in a period around the time that Trump and his closest advisors had discussed reaching out to WikILeaks.

(U) WikiLeaks also sought to coordinate its distribution of stolen documents with the Campaign. After Trump proclaimed at an October 10 rally, “I love WikiLeaks” and then posted about it on Twitter,1730 WikiLeaks resumed messaging with Trump Jr. On October 12, it said: “Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us … there’s many great stories the press are missing and we’re sure some of your follows [sic] will find it. btw we just released Podesta Emails Part 4.”1731 Shortly afterward, Trump tweeted: “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged System!”1732 Two days later, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted the link himself: “For those who have the time to read about all the corruption and hypocrisy all the @wikileaks emails are right here: wlsearch.tk.”1733 Trump Jr. admitted that this may have been in response to the request from WikiLeaks, but also suggested that it could have been part of a general practice of retweeting the. WikiLeaks releases when they came out. 1734

But it only presents one part of the exchange that Jr and WikiLeaks had on November 8 and 9, and it relegates that to a footnote.

1738 (U) Ibid., pp. 164-166. WikiLeaks continued to interact with Trump Jr. after the general election on November 8, 2016. On November 9, 2016, WikiLeaks wrote to Trump Jr.: “Wow. Obama people will surely try to delete records on the way out. Just a heads up.”

As to the affidavits, the warrant application for Julian Assange’s Twitter account described having earlier obtained Don Jr’s Twitter account, but didn’t refer to him by name. Instead, it referred to him as “a high level individual associated with the Campaign,” and described just the September exchange between the two of them.

After the Atlantic provided more of those DMs, Don Jr, as he had earlier with his June 9 emails, released them himself. The Election Day exchange of which SSCI made no mention pushes Don Jr to adopt a strategy Russia was also pushing — to refuse to concede (a strategy that Trump will undoubtedly adopt on November 4 if he loses).

Hi Don; if your father ‘loses’ we think it is much more interesting if he DOES NOT conceed [sic] and spends time CHALLENGING the media and other types of rigging that occurred–as he has implied that he might do. He is also much more likely to keep his base alive and energised this way and if he is going to start a new network, showing how corrupt the old ones are is helpful. The discussion about the rigging can be transformative as it exposes media corruption, primary corruption, PAC corruption etc. We don’t like corruption ither [sic] and our publications are effective at proving that this and other forms of corruption exists.

That doesn’t pertain to pardons (though it does demonstrate that WikiLeaks was not involved in a journalistic enterprise).

But a DM from December 16, 2016 the SSCI similarly excerpted in a footnote does discuss what amounts to a pardon:

Hi Don. Hope you’re doing well! In relation to Mr. Assange: Obama/Clinton placed pressure on Sweden, UK and Australia (his home country) to illicitly go after Mr. Assange. It would be real easy and helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to DC “That’s a really smart tough guy and the most famous australian you have! ” or something similar. They won’t do it, but it will send the right signals to Australia, UK + Sweden to start following the law and stop bending it to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons. Background: justice4assange.com

When these DMs were released on November 14, 2017, Assange tweeted out a follow-up to the December 2016 one, adding a threat by hashtagging, Vault8, the source code to the CIA files, a single example of which WikiLeaks had just released on November 9, 2017.

Meanwhile, the one other example where WikiLeaks provided the President’s son advice — a pitch for him to release his own June 9 emails via WikiLeaks in July 2017 — WikiLeaks explicitly suggested that Don Jr contact Margaret Kunstler, the same lawyer who had been discussing pardons with Assange nine months earlier.

There appears to be more — far more — to Margaret Kunstler’s role. Two 302s identifiable as hers have been released in response to the BuzzFeed FOIA, an interview on October 29, 2018 involving Stone prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky and Obstruction prosecutor Andrew Goldstein, and a second interview, this one by phone, on November 20, 2018, this one adding Russian prosecutor Rush Atkinson along with Zelinsky and Goldstein. Both 302s were released on October 1, 2020, the most recent release. In the first interview, only Kunstler’s response stating that she did not pass on Stone’s September request for information about Libya to Julian Assange was partly unsealed; there are at least five more paragraphs that remain redacted as part of an ongoing investigation. The second is eight pages long and appears to have at least four sub-topics with separate headings. Aside from the introductory paragraph, it remains entirely redacted, with over half covered by a b7A ongoing investigation exemption.

The investigation into much of Stone’s activities appears to have been shut down. But the investigation into the pardon discussions appears to have been ongoing just three weeks ago.

The Mueller question

The discussion of efforts to free Julian Assange appears, primarily, in two versions of the Roger Stone story. Prosecutors at Stone’s trial used the discussions to explain which of Stone’s threats — those naming Kunstler directly — worked most effectively to delay Credico’s cooperation. It also appears in affidavits, though with Don Jr’s identity obscured.

The SSCI report relegates both the Don Jr and Stone pardon discussions with WikiLeaks to footnotes and doesn’t quote Stone using the word “pardon” in the excerpts it includes. It does so even though the SSCI Report describes Dana Rohrabacher’s attempt to broker an Assange pardon in August 2017 in the body of the text.

The Mueller Report doesn’t discuss pardon efforts for Assange where you might expect it, along with discussions of pardons for Manafort, Flynn, Stone himself, and Michael Cohen. Mention of the effort to free Assange appears in just one place: amid the questions asked of Trump in an appendix.

Did you have any discussions prior to January 20, 2017, regarding a potential pardon or other action to benefit Julian Assange? If yes, describe who you had the discussion(s) with, when, and the content of the discussion(s).

I do not recall having had any discussion during the campaign regarding a pardon or action to benefit Julian Assange.

That appendix explains that Mueller’s team submitted these questions on September 17, 2018 (before both of Kunstler’s interviews) and Trump returned them on November 20, 2018.

In the interim period, on October 30, 2018, Don Jr’s close buddy, Arthur Schwartz, for the first time in years of having listened to former Sputnik employee Cassandra Fairbanks’ lobbying for Julian Assange in the right wing chat room they both (along with Ric Grenell) participated in responded by telling her that he would be charged and expelled from the embassy, that a pardon was not going to fucking happen and — at some point, if Fairbanks can be believed — suggesting someone with whom Schwartz was lifelong friends might be affected.

Arthur Schwartz warned me that people would be able to overlook my previous support for WikiLeaks because I did not know some things which he claimed to know about, but that wouldn’t be so forgiving now that I was informed. He brought up my nine year old child during these comments, which I perceived as an intimidation tactic.

He repeatedly insisted that I stop advocating for WikiLeaks and Assange, telling me that “a pardon isn’t going to fucking happen.” He knew very specific details about a future prosecution against Assange that were later made public and that only those very close to the situation would have been aware of. He told me that it would be the “Manning” case that he would be charged with and that it would not involve Vault 7 publication or anything to do with the DNC. He also told me that they would be going after Chelsea Manning. I also recollect being told, I believe, that it would not be before Christmas.

[snip]

The other persons who Schwartz said might also be affected included individuals who he described as “lifelong friends.”

Shortly after Trump submitted his answers, two stories — one public, one via witness testimony to Mueller — claimed that Manafort’s visit to Moreno, at a time when his buddy Stone was seeking a pardon, was actually an attempt to expel him from the embassy.

In spite of what Schwartz told Cassandra, however, the pardon discussions aren’t over. Just before Julian Assange’s extradition hearing started, Roger Stone’s buddy Tucker Carlson invited Glenn Greenwald on to make a three minute pitch — one in which Glenn explained what a good way this would be for Trump to stick it to the Deep State — for both Assange and Ed Snowden.

Timeline

September 20, 2016: WikiLeaks DMs Don Jr a link to putintrump site, including a password.

October 3, 2016: Credico raises asylum for Assange and tells Stone he’s best friends with Assange’s lawyer. WikiLeaks DMs Don Jr asking him to push a story about Hillary drone-striking Assange; Don Jr notes he has already done so and asks what is coming on Wednesday.

October 5, 2016: Credico and Stone speak for 12 minutes.

October 6, 2016: Stone probably has a six minute call with Trump. Stone has five calls with Credico.

October 7, 2016: The release of the Podesta email swamps the DHS/ODNI release attributing the DNC hack and tying WikiLeaks to Russia

October 8, 2016: Stone and Trump probably meet.

Shortly after Podesta release: Senior campaign officials discuss reaching out to WikiLeaks.

October 10, 2016: Trump tweets “I love WikiLeaks.”

October 12, 2016: WikiLeaks disavows any back channel with Stone. WikiLeaks also DMs Don Jr suggesting he get his father to tweet a link. Don Jr tweets it that day.

October 13, 2016: Stone and WikiLeaks exchange DMs.

October 14, 2016: Trump tweets the link WikiLeaks sent to Don Jr.

October 16, 2016: Stone tells WikiLeaks “You need to figure out who your friends are.”

October 21, 2016: WikiLeaks suggests that Don Jr release Trump’s tax returns to WikiLeaks.

November 8, 2016: WikiLeaks DMs Don Jr to suggest Trump not concede if he loses.

November 9, 2016: WikiLeaks DMs Don Jr to claim Obama’s people will delete records on the way out. WikiLeaks DMs Stone to say, “We are now more free to communicate.”

November 14, 2016: Stone gets a new phone.

November 15, 2016: Stone texts Margaret Kunstler a link to Signal and tells her to call him on it, which she said she would do.

December 16, 2016: WikiLeaks suggests that he ask his dad to suggest Australia appoint Assange as Ambassador to the US.

January 6, 2017: WikiLeaks DMs Don Jr a John Harwood tweet asking, Who do you believe, America?

March 7, 2017: WikiLeaks starts releasing the Vault 7 files, effectively halting CIA’s hacking capability for a period.

March 27, 2017: Stone and WikiLeaks exchange more complaints about whether Stone had a back channel.

April 7, 2017: Stone writes WikiLeaks that he is “JA’s only hope for a pardon.”

April 13, 2017: Mike Pompeo calls WikiLeaks a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by Russia.

April 18, 2017: Stone calls on Pompeo to release proof of WikiLeaks’ Russian ties or resign.

April 19, 2017: Assange thanks Stone for the attack on Pompeo, but claims that Pompeo has stopped short of calling WikiLeaks a Russian asset.

April 26, 2017: Assange DMs Don Jr some video on “Fake News.”

May 2017: Manafort meets in Ecuador with Lenín Moreno to discuss Assange.

June 4, 2017: Stone DMs Assange, threatening to “bring down the entire house of cards” if the US government moves on Assange.

June 10, 2017: Roger Stone tells Assange he is “doing everything possible … at the highest level of Government” to help Assange.

June 19, 2017: Trump tries to give a back channel order to Jeff Sessions to limit the Mueller investigation to future election meddling, not the meddling that helped him get elected.

July 11, 2017: WikiLeaks DMs Don Jr to suggest he release his June 9 emails via WikiLeaks, providing him Margaret Kunstler’s contact information as if she would take the submission.

October 12, 2017: Mueller’s team obtains Don Jr’s Twitter content.

November 6, 2017: Mueller’s team obtains WikiLeaks and Assange’s Twitter content.

November 14, 2017: Don Jr releases his Twitter DMs with WikiLeaks. Julian Assange publicly references the December 16 DM, suggests he can open “luxury immunity suites for whistleblowers,” and includes a Vault8 hashtag (referencing CIA’s source code).

December 21, 2017: Reported attempt to exfiltrate Assange from the embassy; DOJ charges Assange with CFAA conspiracy.

January 6, 2018: Stone claims “I am working with others to get JA a blanket pardon.”

September 17, 2018: Mueller submits questions to Trump, including one about a pardon for Assange.

October 29, 2018: Mueller’s team interviews Kunstler.

October 30, 2018: Arthur Schwartz tells Cassandra Fairbanks there’s not going to be a fucking Assange pardon.

November 20, 2018: Trump returns his questions to Mueller. Mueller’s team interviews Kunstler.


The movie Rashomon demonstrated that any given narrative tells just one version of events, but that by listening to all available narratives, you might identify gaps and biases that get you closer to the truth.

I’m hoping that principle works even for squalid stories like the investigation into Roger Stone’s cheating in the 2016 election. This series will examine the differences between four stories about Roger Stone’s actions in 2016:

As I noted in the introductory post (which lays out how I generally understand the story each tells), each story has real gaps in one or more of these areas:

My hope is that by identifying these gaps and unpacking what they might say about the choices made in crafting each of these stories, we can get a better understanding of what actually happened — both in 2016 and in the investigations. The gaps will serve as a framework for this series.

Rat-Fucker Rashomon: Trolling for Russia

With one exception, the SSCI Report does a tremendous job cataloging how people with a stake in the 2016 hack-and-leak operation undermined the Russian attribution of it. It includes an entire section on Russia’s efforts to undermine the Russian attribution, in which Konstantin Kilimnik plays a starring role and Manafort significantly follows. It describes WikiLeaks’ false attribution, mentioning the Seth Rich hoax explicitly. It includes several paragraphs describing the campaign’s claimed ignorance about the source of the stolen emails, framing it in terms of the October 7 DHS/ODNI assessment.

The Campaign tried to cast doubt on the October 7 joint DHS/ODNI assessment formally attributing the activity to Russia, and was indifferent to the significance of acquiring, promoting, or disseminating materials from a Russian intelligence services hack-and-leak campaign.1436

1436 (U) In contrast to the Campaign’s decision, other lawmakers refused to engage in such exploitation of the stolen material. For example, in an October 2016 interview, Senator Marco Rubio said that he would “not discuss any issue that has become public solely on the basis of WikiLeaks,” noting that “these leaks are an effort by-a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process, and I will not indulge it.” Jonathan Karl and Benjamin Siegel, “Exclusive: Rubio Won’t Talk About WikiLeaks, and Neither Should Donald Trump,” ABC News, October 19, 2016.

[snip]

(U) While the Campaign was using the WikiLeaks documents, Trump cast doubt on the assessment that Russian government hackers were responsible for the hack-and-leak campaign. At the second presidential debate on October 9, Trump asserted: “maybe there is no hacking.” 1704 In testimony to the Committee, Stephen Miller claimed that the Campaign did not know who was responsible for the hacks “one way or the other.”1705 But this uncertainty did not stop Trump or Campaign officials from minimizing Russian involvement at other times, suggesting that it was an “absurd claim” to say that the Kremlin was promoting the Trump Campaign1706; that “the DNC did the ‘hacking”‘ as a distraction1707; that the Democrats were “putting [it] out” that the Russians were responsible; and that it was “unlikely” that the Russians did it1708 or that nobody knew it was Russia, and it “could also be China” or “lots of other people.”1709 According to Gates, the Campaign was “not concerned with how or who hacked” the documents, but just sought to release emails as quickly as possible. 1710

(U) Among the theories espoused by Trump Campaign officials, Manafort expressed a belief that the Ukrainians were responsible, not the Russians. 1711 Gates said that this “parroted a narrative [Konstantin] Kilimnik often supported.” 1712 According to Gates, Kilimnik also asserted that the hack could have been done by “Russian operatives in Ukraine.” 1713 Gates was not aware of Manafort asking Kilimnik “to reach out to his Russian contacts” about the source of the leaked materials, and was not himself asked to contact Kilimnik about it. 1714 The Committee has determined that this theory espoused by Kilimnik and Manafort has no factual basis.1715 Gates and others also decided to promote the story that a DNC insider had been involved in the hacks.1116

SSCI’s invocation of the doubts Trump aired in the October 9, 2016 debate is of particular note, coming as it did just days after the John Podesta release. Trump’s comment was something that Mueller’s team asked numerous witnesses about.

Yet SSCI doesn’t include a focused discussion of all the ways Roger Stone — who appears to have met with Trump on October 8, 2016 — undermined the Russian attribution. As noted in this post of this series, one of the affidavits targeting Stone suggests Stone optimized the release of the John Podesta emails to overwhelm any attention to that October 7 attribution statement.

Perhaps the closest the SSCI Report comes to describing Stone’s efforts to troll for Russia is where — in entirely different sections of the report — the SSCI Report documents Stone’s flip flop on the Russian role in hacking the DNC. On page 224 of the SSCI Report, it describes how Stone told Gates (in July 2016) that the stolen files may have come from Russia.

In one call during that period, Stone also told Gates that the WikiLeaks information could be from the Russians. However, Gates did not recall Stone suggesting a connection between WikiLeaks and Russia. Gates also thought that Stone could have based his theory of Russian involvement on publicly available information. 1452

On pages 194-195, the SSCI Report describes how days later, Stone started claiming that Guccifer 2.0, whom he did not treat as Russian, had hacked the DNC.

On August 5, 2016, Stone penned an opinion piece asserting that Guccifer 2.0, not the Russians, had hacked the DNC, and repeating the false claims made by the GRU on the Guccifer 2.0 website and Twitter account. 1250 On August 12, the GRU released DCCC records, including the cell phone numbers and email addresses of almost all Democrats in the House of Representatives through the Guccifer 2.0 persona, 1251 and tweeted publicly at Stone: “thanks that u believe in the real #Guccifer2.”1252 When Twitter then suspended the Guccifer 2.0 account, WikiLeaks complained: “@Guccifer _ 2 has account completely censored by Twitter after publishing some files from Democratic campaign #DCCC.”1253 Stone also tweeted at WikiLeaks and the Guccifer 2.0 persona in response to the suspension, calling it “outrageous”1254 and referring to Guccifer 2.0 as a “HERO.”1255

Yet even though it includes this flip flop across two places thirty pages apart without noting it, the SSCI report doesn’t describe how, in the same period, Stone started pushing the Seth Rich hoax. Nor does it describe how long he continued to argue there was no proof that Guccifer 2.0 was Russian.

Perhaps the SSCI Report’s silence about Stone’s efforts to undermine the Russian attribution is a focus adopted from the Mueller Report. Like the SSCI Report, the Mueller Report describes WikiLeaks’ efforts to undermine the Russian attribution of the hack by pinning it on Seth Rich.

Beginning in the summer of 2016, Assange and WikiLeaks made a number of statements about Seth Rich, a former DNC staff member who was killed in July 2016. The statements about Rich implied falsely that he had been the source of the stolen DNC emails. On August 9, 2016, the @WikiLeaks Twitter account posted: “ANNOUNCE: WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.” 180 Likewise, on August 25, 2016, Assange was asked in an interview, “Why are you so interested in Seth Rich’s killer?” and responded, “We’re very interested in anything that might be a threat to alleged Wikileaks sources.” The interviewer responded to Assange’s statement by commenting, “I know you don’t want to reveal your source, but it certainly sounds like you’re suggesting a man who leaked information to WikiLeaks was then murdered.” Assange replied, “If there’s someone who’s potentially connected to our publication, and that person has been murdered in suspicious circumstances, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are connected. But it is a very serious matter … that type of allegation is very serious, as it’s taken very seriously by us.”181

But neither describes Stone’s parallel and in many ways far more systematic efforts to sow the Rich hoax, efforts which extended well beyond the election and recruited involvement from the likes of Sean Hannity (who will be deposed by Joel Rich’s lawyers on this subject on October 30) and Alex Jones.

On this point as most others, the Stone prosecution unsurprisingly adopts the same general scope as the Mueller Report; like it, the indictment did not touch on Stone’s role in fostering the Seth Rich conspiracy. That said, prosecutors expended significant effort preventing Stone from using the prosecution to sow propaganda in the court room about Russian attribution (as Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s trolls succeeded in doing).

But the affidavits in the Stone investigation (as we’ve seen elsewhere) break from the pattern. They focus closely on Stone’s social media activity — activity which would ultimately get Stone gagged by Amy Berman Jackson, the judge presiding over his trial, and activity that would get fake accounts created for him starting during the election removed by Facebook. At least eight of the warrants obtained towards the end of the Stone investigation targeted Internet infrastructure used to support social media campaigns.

It’s unclear exactly what investigators were looking for, though. After all, using fake accounts, while a violation of social media terms of service, is not illegal by itself.

For some of these accounts, investigators were collecting forensic data in an effort to tie Stone’s known online activity to very damning Google searches — indicating knowledge of the Russian hack-and-leak while the hackers were still in DNC servers — they believed to be Stone. In addition, the warrant where the investigation started to incorporate evidence and testimony from Steven Bannon listed wire fraud among the crimes under investigation, which prosecutors sometimes charge if someone raises money for one purpose — say, purporting to fund a PAC supporting one cause — and use it for another purpose (this is precisely what got Bannon indicted by SDNY).

But some of investigators’ focus appears to pertain to the content Stone pushed, his efforts to undermine the Russian attribution, including his sustained claims that Guccifer 2.0 wasn’t Russian. After one of the guys who did social media for him provided details of the effort, investigators started incorporating Stone’s social media activity into affidavits.

Based on search warrant returns for STONE’s account [redacted], between on or about October 31, 2016 and November 3, 2016, [redacted] received receipts from Facebook for the purchase of a number of advertisements associated with the Target Account, including advertisements with the following excerpted titles (as set forth in the receipts):

  • “BREAKING: New #Wikileaks emails prove that Team … “
  • “Roger Stone talked about WikiLeaks, Donald Trump, … “

90. Additionally, on or about March 31, 2017, STONE received a Facebook receipt at his Hotmail account for advertisements associated with Target Account 1, with the following excerpted titles (as set forth in the receipt):

  • “Stone Rebuts Charge of Russian Collusion”
  • “I am not in touch with any Russians, don’t have … ,”
  • “The charge that I am working for Russian … ,”
  • “In fullest statement yet on DNC hacking … “
  • “ROGER STONE – NO consensus that Guccifer 2.0 is a … “

Mueller’s investigators might simply have been tracking the Podesta effort and the later cover-up (though, again, none of it showed up in a trial on the cover-up). But some of the later warrants that included gags, including the one that specifically said prosecutors were trying to keep Stone in the dark about the scope of their investigation, targeted social media, too.

Whatever the point of that investigative focus, Stone at least believed that his efforts to optimize the stolen files could make the difference in getting Trump elected. Moreover, he played a role at key moments in how others understood the provenance of the documents, possibly even in Trump public doubts in the second debate. Stone had more incentive than anyone to claim that Russia wasn’t behind the hack, his efforts to push that narrative were in many ways more sustained than other efforts, and the way in which he tried to rebrand Guccifer 2.0 as something other than a Russian persona was a key claim in his false HPSCI testimony. Indeed, Trump appears to have picked up some of the attacks on Russian attribution that his rat-fucker first pushed, which has since snowballed into a systematic effort to dismantle any part of the government with expertise in Russian operations and organized crime.

And yet the SSCI Report, completed in the wake of and incorporating the affidavits, which incorporated some of the Ukrainian based disinformation still being chased by Republicans, makes little mention of Stone’s campaign to undermine the Russian attribution, and how closely it tied to WikiLeaks’ own such campaign.


The movie Rashomon demonstrated that any given narrative tells just one version of events, but that by listening to all available narratives, you might identify gaps and biases that get you closer to the truth.

I’m hoping that principle works even for squalid stories like the investigation into Roger Stone’s cheating in the 2016 election. This series will examine the differences between four stories about Roger Stone’s actions in 2016:

As I noted in the introductory post (which lays out how I generally understand the story each tells), each story has real gaps in one or more of these areas:

My hope is that by identifying these gaps and unpacking what they might say about the choices made in crafting each of these stories, we can get a better understanding of what actually happened — both in 2016 and in the investigations. The gaps will serve as a framework for this series.

Rat-Fucker Rashomon: Steve Bannon and Dirty Tricks

Thus far in my Rat-Fucker Rashomon story, I’ve shown strong evidence that Roger Stone not only knew that John Podesta’s emails were coming, but knew or had the contents of some documents pertaining to an attack he had already been making on John Podesta. I showed that the timing of that release — via whatever means — likely served more to drown out the Russian attribution than the Access Hollywood tape, which has important implications for how he might have coordinated with WikiLeaks. And I suggested that the evidence Stone had far earlier knowledge of what the Russians were doing, even during the period when they were still hacking the DNC’s servers, makes some of all this focus on Podesta less important.

But there’s a limit to that claim. That’s because we still don’t know whether, when Stone promised he knew how to get Trump elected in the same period he was pursuing the Podesta files, that plan consisted just of optimizing the Podesta files, or whether there was something more. That makes the stories not told at Roger Stone’s trial all the more exasperating.

One of the most unsatisfying aspects of the Roger Stone trial, particularly for inattentive watchers, was that prosecutors never told us how Stone had gotten advance knowledge of what stolen emails would be released — nor even asserted as fact that he did.

As I keep noting, that’s not what they had to prove to win a guilty verdict.

But even more frustrating is the way DOJ proved its case that Stone had discussed WikiLeaks with the campaign. On at least three different occasions, the prosecution pointed to far more enticing communications about what really happened, but did not tell us what those communications meant.

The texts between Stone and Erik Prince on October 4, 2016 are one innocuous example.

They clearly pertain to WikiLeaks, which is all the prosecution needed to prove — that Stone had communications with people like Prince about advance knowledge of WikiLeaks that he subsequently lied about to cover up. But in the exhibit (which was entered by the FBI Agent; Prince was not called as a witness) there’s a reference — “Yes,” Stone confirmed he had heard more “from London” in the interim 7.5 hours since he had told Prince he was “checking” whether Assange had chickened out, then said, “want to talk on a secure line — got Whataspp?” to something far more interesting.

Affidavits obtained in early 2019 show that Stone first downloaded WhatsApp on October 4, suggesting he downloaded it solely to communicate with Prince (even though Stone already had Signal on his phone).

This is one of the rare areas where the Mueller Report provided more evidence than appeared at the trial. It revealed that Prince testified that,

Stone and Prince did speak subsequently, and Stone said that WikiLeaks would release more materials that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign. Stone also indicated to Prince that he had what Prince described  as almost “insider stock trading” type information about Assange.

But Prince didn’t testify at the trial, and it would be beyond the scope of what prosecutors needed to prove, and so we didn’t get to hear more about this “insider stock trading” information. Damnit.

In two other cases, though, prosecutors pointed to more substantive discussions that weren’t clearly labeled as WikiLeaks discussions, but which prosecutors presented as evidence that Stone was talking to the campaign about the upcoming releases. One was the August 3, 2016 email to Paul Manafort where he floated “an idea … to save Trump’s ass.”

As I noted in this post, Manafort seemed to try to hide this email and any follow-up conversation up in an interview with Mueller. And while Stone’s defense challenged whether this email was really related to WikiLeaks, in his closing argument, Jonathan Kravis argued that the plan was to use WikiLeaks releases to discredit Hillary.

On August 3rd, 2016, Stone writes to Manafort: “I have an idea to save Trump’s ass. Call me please.” What is Stone’s idea to save Trump’s ass? It’s to use the information about WikiLeaks releases that he just got from Jerome Corsi. How do know that’s what he had in mind; because that’s exactly what he did. As you just saw, just days after Stone sends this email to Paul Manafort, “I have an idea to save Trump’s ass,” he goes out on TV, on conference calls and starts plotting this information that he’s getting from Corsi: WikiLeaks has more stuff coming out, it’s really bad for Hillary Clinton.

Tactically, introducing the email was not at all necessary. Prosecutors had more than proven that Stone had lied about talking to the campaign. And the SSCI Report makes clear there was a shit-ton of other evidence that made this clear they could have used instead. But for whatever reason, they did include it, tying Stone’s attempts to cover up these conversations with the way Trump won.

Prosecutors introduced a similar exchange with Steve Bannon, the guy who took over from Manafort weeks later: an August 18, 2016 email exchange  where Stone claimed Trump could “still win” … “but it ain’t pretty,” and Bannon responded by asking to talk ASAP.

Manafort didn’t testify at Stone’s trial. But Bannon did. Prosecutors had Bannon sitting there on the stand, forcing him to repeat what he had said to a grand jury earlier in the year, yet they only asked him to say this much about what all this means, in which he begrudgingly admitted he believed this discussion about using social media to win was about WikiLeaks:

Q. At the bottom of this email Mr. Stone states, “Trump can still win, but time is running out. Early voting begins in six weeks. I do know how to win this, but it ain’t pretty. Campaign has never been good at playing the new media. Lots to do, let me know when you can talk, R.” Did I read that correctly?

A. That’s correct.

Q. Then you respond, “Let’s talk ASAP”; am I correct?

A. That’s correct.

Q. When Mr. Stone wrote to you, “I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty,” what in your mind did you understand that to mean?

A. Well, Roger is an agent provocateur, he’s an expert in opposition research. He’s an expert in the tougher side of politics. And when you’re this far behind, you have to use every tool in the toolbox.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. Well, opposition research, dirty tricks, the types of things that campaigns use when they have got to make up some ground.

Q. Did you view that as sort of value added that Mr. Stone could add to the campaign?

A. Potentially value added, yes.

Q. Was one of the ways that Mr. Stone could add value to the campaign his relationship with WikiLeaks or Julian Assange?

A. I don’t know if I thought it at the time, but he could — you know, I was led to believe that he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

Even though prosecutors didn’t lay out precisely what happened next — something that other evidence suggests may have implicated Jared Kushner — Stone’s team never challenged the prosecution claim that this email and the subsequent exchanges did pertain to WikiLeaks. Perhaps, because they had reviewed Bannon’s grand jury and more recent testimony, they knew how he would respond and thought better off leaving it unchallenged.

Perhaps, too, they didn’t want to have to explain how long this exchange persisted. For example, the Stone affidavits — starting with one obtained after Bannon’s first testimony — showed this particular email exchange lasted two more days, through August 19 and 20 (the day before the Podesta “time in the barrel” tweet).

On August 19, 2016, Bannon sent Stone a text message asking if he could talk that morning. On August 20, 2016, Stone replied, “when can u talk???”

And those discussions may have continued into face-to-face meetings in September.

On September 4, 2016, Stone texted Bannon that he was in New York City for a few more days, and asked if Bannon was able to talk.

[snip]

On September 7, 2016, Stone and Bannon texted to arrange a meeting on September 8, 2016 at the Warner Center in New York.

On September 7, 2016, Bannon texted Stone asking him if he could “come by trump tower now???”

On September 8, 2016, Stone and Bannon texted about arranging a meeting in New York.

This is a lot of back-and-forth to discuss the “the tougher side of politics.”

The August exchange is one of the most substantive things presented at Stone’s trial that doesn’t appear in the Mueller Report.

It does show up, in abbreviated form, in the SSCI Report, but given what else SSCI includes, how the bipartisan report described Trump’s campaign manager eagerly responding to the rat-fucker deserves note. The SSCI Report describes how Gates and Manafort responded to Stone’s proposal — amid these promises of additional WikiLeaks releases — of a plan “to save Trump’s ass” right in the body of the report.

Stone spoke by phone with Gates that night, and then called Manafort the next morning, but appeared unable to connect. 1559 Shortly after placing that call, Stone emailed Manafort with the subject line “I have an idea” and with the message text “to save Trump’s ass.”1560 Later that morning, Manafort called Stone back, and Stone tried to reach Gates again that afternoon. 1561

Bizarrely, the SSCI Report relegates the parallel conversation with Stone involving Steve Bannon, just two weeks later, to a footnote.

1589 (U) Ibid.; Testimony of Steve Bannon, United States v. Stone, pp. 850, 857- 861. In an email on August 18, Stone wrote to Bannon: “I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty.” Email, Stone to Bannon, August 18, 2016 (United States v. Stone, Gov. Ex. 28). Bannon responded, “Let’s talk ASAP.” Ibid.

This is the guy who was in charge when the Podesta emails dropped. And yet the SSCI Report buries the fact that with Bannon, too, Stone pitched a plan to win using WikiLeaks. Moreover, the SSCI Report doesn’t mention that that plan focused on social media at all, or that discussions about it may have extended over three weeks.

And yet, having buried this pitch from Stone about using social media to win in a footnote, the SSCI Report then provides six pages of detail about how central the Podesta files were to the campaign, including in their social media campaign.

Before it presents that, however, the SSCI Report provides important context to an email exchange involving Stone and Bannon included in the Mueller Report, the Stone indictment, and released at the trial, context none of the other stories provide. It shows that before Breitbart reporter Matthew Boyle emailed Stone to find out what was up with Assange on October 4, Bannon had already reached out to Breitbart’s editors to track the release.

(U) The Trump Campaign tracked Stone’s commentary and the news about WikiLeaks. On October 2, Andrew Surabian, who ran the Campaign’s war room, emailed Stone’s Twitter prediction about a Wednesday release to Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and the Trump Campaign press team. 1643 On October 3, Dan Scavino emailed the October 3 WikiLeaks Twitter announcement to Bannon.1644 That evening, Bannon reached out to two Breitbart editors, Wynton Han and Peter Schweizer, to ask if they would be awake “to get what he [Assange] has live.”I.645

(U) Separately, also on October 3, Bannon received an email from Matthew Boyle, another Breitbart editor, forwarding Boyle’s correspondence from earlier that day with Stone. In it, Boyle had asked Stone, “Assange-what’s he got? Hope it’s good.” Stone responded, “It is. I’d tell Bannon but he doesn’t call me back.” In his email to Bannon, Boyle advised Bannon to call Stone, and when Bannon said he had “important stuff to worry about,” Boyle replied, “Well clearly he knows what Assange has. I’d say that’s important.”1646

[snip]

(U) Trump was frustrated with the absence of a WikiLeaks release on October 4. Gates recalled that Trump had anticipated something would be released and later asked: “When is the other stuff coming out?”1653

(U) Following the announcement, Bannon complained to Stone by email about the lack of any new releases, asking “what was that this morning???”1654 Bannon wrote to Stone because Stone had said he “knew WikiLeaks and knew Julian Assange.”1655 Stone responded, echoing information he had received from Credico and Assange’s own announcement: “Fear. Serious security concern. He thinks they are going to kill him and the London police are standing done ” [sic]. However-a load every week going forward.” 1656

That Bannon used Breitbart as a cut-out to track what Assange was doing is important for several reasons. Bannon had had to ask the Mercers for permission before leaving Breitbart and joining the campaign, in part to avoid tying the Breitbart brand to any possible Trump loss. In August, Breitbart reporter Lee Stranahan had been in direct contact with Guccifer 2.0 and had gotten early access to a file on Black Lives Matter. Stone would use Breitbart as a platform for some of his own releases after the Podesta emails dropped. And there’s good reason to believe that whatever files Corsi prepped got shared with Breitbart itself.

Plus, in his first interview (one the SSCI Report treats, inexplicably, as credible), Bannon made a slew of claims denying enthusiasm regarding the Podesta release, claims utterly disproven by the documentary evidence. It’s possible Bannon believed he had hidden this enthusiasm from Mueller’s gaze at Breitbart.

Nevertheless, as the SSCI Report makes clear, there’s a great deal of evidence showing what a concerted focus the campaign paid to the stolen emails, how much of it focused on social media, and how the campaign couldn’t care less that this windfall had come from Russia. (The footnotes of this section of the SSCI Report are particularly valuable for the way they expose precisely who was involved in this campaign.)

(U) Despite the contemporaneous statement by the U.S. Government warning of Russian responsibility for the hacking and leaking of the DNC, DCCC, and Clinton Campaign documents and emails, the Trump Campaign considered the release of these materials to be its “October surprise.”1691 The Trump Campaign’s press team first found out about the WikiLeaks release when it “hit the press” on October 7,1692 and the Campaign quickly turned to capitalize on the Podesta emails: the following morning, October 8, the communications team began compiling information from the release that it could use to attack Clinton. 1693 WikiLeaks information was later integrated with Trump’s tweets, 1694 into his speeches, 1695 and into his press releases. 1696 Other members of the Trump family also scrutinized the news. 1697 And, the Campaign tracked WikiLeaks releases in order to populate a fake Clinton Campaign website, clintonkaine.com. 1698

[snip]

(U) Within the Campaign, there was no policy that governed using materials released by WikiLeaks.1717 To the contrary, the Campaign treated the releases as just another form of opposition research. 1718 Bannon’s view was that “anything negative that comes out [against an opponent] is clearly helpful to a campaign.”1719 According to Stephen Miller, “[i]t would have been political malpractice not to use the WikiLeaks material once it became public.” 1720 Gates described a “growing belief’ within the Campaign that Assange was, in fact, assisting their effort.”1721

(U) Rather than regulating the Campaign’s use ofWikiLeaks materials, Trump praised and promoted WikiLeaks repeatedly in the closing month of the campaign1722:

  • (U) October 10, 2016: “This just came out. WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.”
  • (U) October 12, 2016: “This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart, you’·gotta read it.”
  • (U) October 13, 2016: “It’s been amazing what’s coming out on WikiLeaks.”
  • (U) October 31, 2016: “Another one came in today. This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.”
  • (U) November 2, 2016: “WikiLeaks, it sounds like, is going to be dropping some more . . Ifwe met tomorrow. I’d tell you about it tomorrow.”
  • (U) November 4, 2016: “Getting off the plane, they were just announcing new WikiLeaks, and I wanted to stay there, but I didn’t want to keep you waiting. Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks.”

(U) Using Trump to promote WikiLeaks was a deliberate strategy employed by the Campaign, not only in his remarks, but also on social media. In mid-October, Ivanka Trump tasked the Campaign’s senior officials (including Bannon, Scavino, Stephen Miller and Jason Miller) with preparing two Trump tweets every day linking to WikiLeaks content, which, she said, would help “refocus the narrative.”1723 Trump tweeted direct references to WikiLeaks throughout October and November 2016, including on October 11, 12, 16, 17, 21 (twice), 22, 24, 27 and November 1.1724

[snip]

(U) The Campaign’s preoccupation with WikiLeaks continued until the general election. As the general election approached, Scavino, a member of the communications team who also had a role in administering Trump’s Twitter account during the campaign, 1739 increasingly forwarded updates relating to WikiLeaks to other Campaign officials, using subject lines like · “WIKI ABOUT TO DROP SOME BOMBS … 4 pmE” and “The WikiLeaks BOMB!” and linking to the latest WikiLeaks twitter post or its website. 1740 To one, Donald Trump Jr. responded: “Blow it out.” 1741

1691 (U) FBI, FD-302, Gates 4/19/2018.

1692 (U) Epshteyn Tr., p. 212.

1693 (U) See, e.g., Email, Shah to Ditto, Cheung, J. Miller, and Hicks, October 8, 2016 (DJTFP00019278) (attaching document titled “Wikileaks October 7, 2016 John Podesta Email Release”); Email, Epshteyn to Ellis, October 8, 2016 (DJTFP00019302-19304) (requesting “talkers on this asap” in reference to leaked speech excerpts). In his testimony, Bannon downplayed the relative importance of the WikiLeaks release in light or the Access Hollywood tape. Bannon recalled that the Campaign learned of the tape approximately 60 minutes before it was released, in the middle of debate preparation with Trump. See Bannon Tr., p. 206. According to Bannon, the tape was an “extinction level event,” and precipitated Republican Party efforts to “remove the candidate” the following day .. Ibid., pp. 207-208. Bannon claimed that he not recall finding out about the WikiLeaks release or speaking about it with Trump until the evening after the debate. Ibid., pp. 206-207.

1694 (U) Email, J. Miller to Giuliani, Hicks, Scavino, and S. Miller, October 11, 2016 (DJTFP00019376) (linking to WikiLeaks story in the LA Times).

1695 (U) Email, Gabriel to S. Miller and Ditto, October 27, 2016 (DJTFP00020051) (providing teleprompter script for Springfield, Ohio speech referencing WikiLeaks).

1696 (U) Email, Gates to Bannon, October 27, 2016 (SKB_SSCl-0001369-1370) (stating “This is good and exactly what we need,” and forwarding written Trump statement using WikiLeaks releases to attack Clinton under the subject line, “FW: Donald J. Trump Statement.”).

1697 (U) Email, J. Miller to Shah, et al., October 9, 2016 (DJTFP00024165) (discussing Eric Trump’s question about the WikiLeaks release, “Are we discussing Hillary selling weapons to Isis [sic] as per WikiLeaks email dump?”).

1698 (U) Email, Hemming to Parscale, Bannon, and Hall, “Re: Top Twenty-Five Wikileaks Revelations,” October 15, 2016 (SKB_SSCl-0001528-1530).

[snip]

1717 (U) Bannon Tr., p. 177; S. Miller Tr., p. -110.

1718 (U) For example, Hope Hicks told the Committee: “[E]veryone has opposition research, and this just happened to be available to everyone.” Hicks Tr., pp. 66–67. Kushner described the releases as a “popular topic” that “everyone was talking about.” Kushner II Tr., pp. ’52-54.

1719 (U) Bannon Tr., p. 171-172.

1720 (U) S. Miller Tr., p. 91.

1721 (U) FBI, FD-302, Gates 3/1/2018.

1722 (U) Some of these are reproduced in a video by The Washington Post. “Watch Trump Praise WikiLeaks,” The Washington Post, April 11, 2019. Public tabulations of the number of references in speeches, interviews, rallies, and debates Vary, but place it in excess of 100 mentions. See, e.g., Gabrielle Healy, “Did Trump really mention WikiLeaks over 160 times in the last month of the election cycle?” PolitiFact, April 21, 2017; David Choi and John Haltiwanger, “5 times Trump praised WikiLeaks during his 2016 election campaign,” Business Insider, April 11, 2019.

[snip]

1739 (U) Epshteyn.Tr,, p. 135.

1740 (U) Email, Scavino to Bannon; E. Trump, Trump Jr., Kushner, S. Miller, and Hicks, October 31, 2016 (TRUMPORG_69_016159); Email, Scavino to Bannon, Hicks, Kushner, S. Miller, Trump Jr., and E. Trump, (TRUMPORG_69_016934). See also Email, Scavino to Bannon, Hicks, Conway, and S. Miller, November 4, 2016 (TRUMPORG_69_017232) (“Tweet by WikiLeaks on Twitter”); Email, Scavino to Scavino, November 6, 2016 (TRUMPORG_69 _017455) (“8,263 DNC EMAILS RELEASED” and linking to WikiLeaks tweet); Email, Scavino to Bannon, S. Miller, Kushner, E. Trump, Trump Jr., November 7, 2016 (TRUMPORG_ 69 _ 017463) (subject “Wiki – CIIlCAGO PROTESTS COSTS” and linking to WikiLeaks documents).

1741 (U) Email, Trump Jr. to Scavino, Bannon, E. Trump, Kushner, S. Miller, and Hicks, October 31, 2016 (TRUMPORG _ 69_016164).

In light of Bannon’s meetings with Stone, his trial testimony, and the details of how the campaign exploited the stolen emails, the most obvious explanation for Stone’s “how to win this but it ain’t pretty” comment is that this response to the Podesta drop was prepared starting in August (which makes the timing of Stone’s “time in the barrel” comment, coming in the wake of the Stone and Bannon discussions, all the more intriguing).

Particularly given the timing of Stone’s meeting or meetings with Bannon in NY, that’s not the only possibility. The other ones are far more damning.

But the trial and affidavits both tell stories that suggest there’s far more to Stone’s proposals, to two consecutive Trump campaign managers, on how to win the campaign. The SSCI Report provides one answer, the most obvious answer, for what that plan was. And yet the SSCI Report, which frowns at the campaign for its embrace of emails stolen by Russia but consistently backs off the most damning conclusions regarding Trump, fails to connect whether there’s a tie between Stone’s promise, which it hides in a footnote, and the massive effort to capitalize on the emails.

Or worse.


The movie Rashomon demonstrated that any given narrative tells just one version of events, but that by listening to all available narratives, you might identify gaps and biases that get you closer to the truth.

I’m hoping that principle works even for squalid stories like the investigation into Roger Stone’s cheating in the 2016 election. This series will examine the differences between four stories about Roger Stone’s actions in 2016:

As I noted in the introductory post (which lays out how I generally understand the story each tells), each story has real gaps in one or more of these areas:

My hope is that by identifying these gaps and unpacking what they might say about the choices made in crafting each of these stories, we can get a better understanding of what actually happened — both in 2016 and in the investigations. The gaps will serve as a framework for this series.

Steve Bannon, Guccifer 2.0, Glenn Greenwald, and Me: How Glenn Greenwald Defends “Smear Artist & Cowards”

Glenn Greenwald has appointed himself the guardian of suspected Russian disinformation on social media, spending much of the last several days wailing that Twitter and Facebook took measures to prevent a sketchy NY Post story from going viral on their platforms, and calling it censorship.

Glenn misrepresents why Maggie got attacked

Glenn’s story wailing about those measures is riddled with contradiction. For example, a man who spends most of his time making exaggerated or unsubstantiated attacks on journalists on Twitter, spent two paragraphs complaining about the treatment of Maggie Haberman after she retweeted the article — from her former employer — with no caveats.

BUT THE POST, for all its longevity, power and influence, ran smack into two entities far more powerful than it: Facebook and Twitter. Almost immediately upon publication, pro-Biden journalists created a climate of extreme hostility and suppression toward the Post story, making clear that any journalist even mentioning it would be roundly attacked. For the crime of simply noting the story on Twitter (while pointing out its flaws), New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman was instantly vilified to the point where her name, along with the phrase “MAGA Haberman,” were trending on Twitter.

(That Haberman is a crypto-Trump supporter is preposterous for so many reasons, including the fact that she is responsible for countless front-page Times stories that reflect negatively on the president; moreover, the 2016 Clinton campaign considered Haberman one of their most favorable reporters).

Glenn suggests a viral, organic response to Maggie’s RT — coming largely from regular users, not other journalists — was instead led by journalists. Glenn defends Maggie against being a “crypto-Trump supporter” in the same breath where he claims each and every person complaining about her initial uncritical response is a “pro-Biden journalist[].” And one of the most famously abrasive people on Twitter accused others of creating “a climate of extreme hostility” on the platform.

But the real problem is how he misrepresents Maggie’s role and the reason for the response. This was about virality.

In fact, at first, Maggie did not point out the flaws in the story. Importantly (because Matt Taibbi is claiming that the Steele dossier was reported on before the 2016 election without noting that the most important instance of this involved someone reporting on the investigative response to the dossier, not the dossier itself, and Glenn is similarly misrepresenting where and on what terms outlets reported on the dossier), Maggie gave the story credibility by quoting a line from the piece in such a way that it suggested the FBI might be investigating Hunter Biden because of the discoveries on the dodgy laptop rather than (as NBC has reported) investigating whether Hunter Biden was victimized by Russian spies.

Only after Maggie and Jake Sherman (who treated the Post story similarly) got criticized, did they begin to point to the obvious problems with the story.

Sherman even expressed regret for the way he had responded uncritically at first, tweets which Maggie RTed (though she offered no such mea culpa of her own).

The complaint was that two serious journalists were giving a shoddy story credibility before they had read it closely enough to see all the problems with it, which not only served to launch the story out of the frothy right (which Steve Bannon has said was entirely the point of packaging the story in this way), but with their significant follower counts, played a key role in making the story go viral.

In other words, while Glenn complains about the viral hostility in response to Maggie’s tweet, he doesn’t consider how her own tweet played a central role in making the story go viral.

Glenn presents a two social media platform effort to cut down on viral disinformation as a Democratic plot

Glenn then presents the social media decision to prevent the Post story from going viral on their platforms both as a response to the uproar over the initial viral response to it and as a Democratic plot.

The two Silicon Valley giants saw that hostile climate and reacted. Just two hours after the story was online, Facebook intervened. The company dispatched a life-long Democratic Party operative who now works for Facebook — Andy Stone, previously a communications operative for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, among other D.C. Democratic jobs — to announce that Facebook was “reducing [the article’s] distribution on our platform”: in other words, tinkering with its own algorithms to suppress the ability of users to discuss or share the news article. The long-time Democratic Party official did not try to hide his contempt for the article, beginning his censorship announcement by snidely noting: “I will intentionally not link to the New York Post.”

Twitter’s suppression efforts went far beyond Facebook’s. They banned entirely all users’ ability to share the Post article — not just on their public timeline but even using the platform’s private Direct Messaging feature.

Early in the day, users who attempted to link to the New York Post story either publicly or privately received a cryptic message rejecting the attempt as an “error.” Later in the afternoon, Twitter changed the message, advising users that they could not post that link because the company judged its contents to be “potentially harmful.”

He even accuses these social media platforms of working together to do this (an accusation that has legal implications), even while describing responses and explanations for those responses that are not actually the same, undermining his claim.

In sum, the two Silicon Valley giants, with little explanation, united to prevent the sharing and dissemination of this article.

Glenn is, as is his wont, being very selective about how he pitches these Silicon Valley companies. He chooses not to describe how Facebook board member Peter Thiel has, like Glenn, been chumming around with right wing racists. He chooses not to explain how Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s Global Public Policy head, had a far more senior job in the W Administration than Andy Stone has ever held. And in his tweets in aftermath of this post, which focus closely on the impact of Facebook’s monopoly position, Glenn makes no mention of a blockbuster WSJ story describing how Facebook tweaked its algorithms to disfavor Mother Jones and also describing private dinners that Mark Zuckerberg has had with Ben Shapiro (the story came out after Glenn originally posted his post though Glenn has updated the post after it was initially published). He also conflates one report saying tech workers lean — centrist — Democratic with the suggestion the entire industries do.

Glenn treats this response — the suppression of links to the article but not discussions of the content — as censorship, going on to conflate the suppression of virality with outright censorship.

Private-sector repression of speech and thought, particularly in the internet era, can be as dangerous and consequential. Imagine, for instance, if these two Silicon Valley giants united with Google to declare: henceforth we will ban all content that is critical of President Trump and/or the Republican Party, but will actively promote criticisms of Joe Biden and the Democrats. 

You need go no further than to Glenn’s endless rants about this to prove that the outlets are not censoring content. They simply attempted to avoid being willful tools in the viral dissemination of propaganda, not the information itself.

Glenn’s selective concerns about monopoly

Glenn goes on to say some funny things about monopoly. He quotes from an article citing an HJC report on Facebook’s monopoly status, but (while he links the report), not the report itself.

In June, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law launched an investigation into the consolidated power of Facebook and three other companies — Google, Amazon and Apple — and just last week issued a sweeping report which, as Ars Technica explained, found:

Facebook outright “has monopoly power in the market for social networking,” and that power is “firmly entrenched and unlikely to be eroded by competitive pressure” from anyone at all due to “high entry barriers—including strong network effects, high switching costs, and Facebook’s significant data advantage—that discourage direct competition by other firms to offer new products and services.”

The report doesn’t address Twitter (because Twitter is not a monopoly). So instead, Glenn cites how many journalists use Twitter.

While Twitter still falls short of Facebook in terms of number of users, a 2019 report found that “Twitter remains the leading social network among journalists at 83%.” Censoring a story from Twitter thus has disproportionate impact by hiding it from the people who determine and shape the news.

This suggests that Glenn is concerned about the same thing Bannon is, ensuring that this story breaks out of the right wing echo chamber to be magnified by people like Maggie Haberman.

Glenn then makes some batshit crazy comments about Section 230, suggesting that only behemoths like Facebook benefit from it, and equating Section 230 with a specific exemption on antitrust law.

Beyond that, both Facebook and Twitter receive substantial, unique legal benefits from federal law, further negating the claim that they are free to do whatever they want as private companies. Just as is true of Major League Baseball — which is subject to regulation by Congress as a result of the antitrust exemption they enjoy under the law — these social media companies receive a very valuable and particularized legal benefit in the form of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields them from any liability for content published on their platforms, including defamatory material or other legally proscribed communications.

As Glenn surely knows, The Intercept, a mid-sized journalistic outlet, is protected by Section 230. Even teeny tiny emptywheel is protected by Section 230. To suggest that Facebook and Twitter uniquely benefit from it is simply ridiculous. We here at emptywheel monitor our comment threads fairly aggressively, but because of Section 230, we won’t go to prison if one of you decides to use the comment threads as part of your Russian intelligence operation.

Glenn endorses social media taking actions for the public interest but not the ones HJC suggested social media needs to take

From there, Glenn takes what — for a claimed First Amendment absolutist like he used to be — is fairly stunning. He suggests that the monopoly status of Facebook (and everyone else who benefits from Section 230, he suggests by context, but he cannot possibly mean that) means they owe a “dut[y] to the public interest.”

No company can claim such massive, unique legal exemptions from the federal law and then simultaneously claim they owe no duties to the public interest and are not answerable to anyone.

That is, in a piece that bitches mightily that Facebook and Twitter took steps to prevent a shoddy story that may have been seeded by documents stolen by Russia from going viral on their platforms, Glenn argues strongly that Facebook and Twitter should take steps to serve the public interest.

Let’s take this moment to go back to that report that Glenn links but does not cite. Glenn goes on at length about the dangers of concentration in social media, some complaints of which are valid and some of which are misstated. But here’s what the report from which he has been providing a second-hand quotation says about one major danger of concentration in social media: it helps spread dis- and misinformation and breaks down accountability in reporting.

Finally, because news is often accessed online through channels other than the original publication—including search results, voice assistants, social platforms, or news aggregators— journalism has increasingly become “atomized” or removed from its source and placed alongside other content.315 In the context of audio news, one market participant noted that aggregating different news sources can create a bad experience for users.316 The aggregation of different news sources without editorial oversight can also cause reputational harm to news publishers, such as when highly credible reporting appears alongside an opinion-based news source.317

Indirectly, the atomization of news may increase the likelihood that people are exposed to disinformation or untrustworthy sources of news online. When online news is disintermediated from its source, people generally have more difficulty discerning the credibility of reporting online. This process may also “foster ambivalence about the quality and nature of content that garners users’ attention,” particularly among young people.318

For example, during the Subcommittee’s sixth hearing, Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline presented Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with evidence of a Breitbart video that claimed that “you don’t need a mask and hydroxychloroquine is a cure for COVID.” 319 As he noted, within the first five hours of this video being posted, it had nearly “20 million views and over 100,000 comments before Facebook acted to remove it.” 320 Mr. Zuckerberg responded that “a lot of people shared that, and we did take it down because it violate[d] our policies.” 321 In response, Chairman Cicilline asked if “20 million people saw it over the period of five hours . . . doesn’t that suggest, Mr. Zuckerberg, that your platform is so big that, even with the right policies in place, you can’t contain deadly content?” 322 Mr. Zuckerberg responded by claiming that Facebook has a “relatively good track record of finding and taking down lots of false content.” 323

Moreover, because there is not meaningful competition, dominant firms face little financial consequence when misinformation and propaganda are promoted online.324 Platforms that are dependent on online advertising have an incentive to prioritize content that is addictive or exploitative to increase engagement on the platform.325 And the reliance on platforms by advertisers has generally diminished their ability to push for improvements in content standards. As a news publisher explained in a submission to the Subcommittee:

As advertisers have become more reliant on dominant search and social platforms to reach potential consumers, they have lost any leverage to demand change in the policies or practices of the platforms. In the era of newspapers, television, radio, or indeed direct sales of digital advertising online, there was a connection between advertising and the content it funds, creating a high degree of accountability for both parties in that transaction. This maintained high content standards, and enabled advertisers to demand or pursue change from publishers whose content standards fell. While many high-quality publishers continue to operate stringent policies in relation to the digital advertising that they permit to appear within their services, in a world of programmatic audience trading that self-regulated compact between advertisers and platform does not exist.326

During the Subcommittee’s sixth hearing, Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) raised this concern. As he noted, in July 2020, Facebook faced an advertiser boycott by hundreds of companies.327 This effort, which has been spearheaded by the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, a coalition of civil rights groups organizing in protest of “the rapid spread of hate messages online, the presence of boogaloo and other right-wing extremist groups trying to infiltrate and disrupt Black Lives Matter protests and the fact that alt-right racists and anti-Semitic content flourishes on Facebook.” 328

As a result of this campaign, more than a thousand major companies—including Disney, CocaCola, and General Motors—announced that they would pull $7 billion in advertisements on Facebook as part of the Stop Hate for Profit boycott.329 But as Representative Raskin pointed out during the hearing Facebook does not “seem to be that moved by their campaign.” 330

That is, the report that Glenn refers to approvingly but does not cite actually connects concentration in social media to the way platforms are more likely to spread disinformation, propaganda, and exploitative content. The report describes the specific consequences that can arise — people ignore best practice during a pandemic — when social media companies act too slowly to prevent disinformation from achieving virality on their platforms.

Effectively, then, the report that Glenn cites favorably says that the public interest is served when social media platforms prevent disinformation from going viral on their platforms.

Glenn endorses requiring that monopolistic social media platforms answer to the public interest, invokes a report laying out what that public interest would be, and then wails because two platforms have done precisely what his argument suggests they should do, limit how their platforms are used to spread disinformation, propaganda, and exploitative content.

Glenn utterly confuses content, source material, propagandistic packaging of that source material, and discussion of that propagandistic packaging

In the later part of his screed, Glenn makes some important points about the inconsistency of Twitter’s evolving explanation for why it is limiting the virality of the Post pieces. He’s absolutely right that there should be some transparency and thought put into these policies, and an attempt to apply them consistently both between partisan sides but also globally, where social media more often caters to the whims of local governments to crack down on dissidents.

But amid those very good points, Glenn ties himself in knots, confusing precisely what it is he’s talking about.

Remember, the problem Glenn is complaining about is that after the Post posted some stories that he admits make “overblown” claims, published scandalous photos for which there’s “no conceivable public interest in publishing,” and offered an “explanation of how these documents were obtained [that] is bizarre at best,” Facebook and Twitter chose not to let those stories go viral on their platforms.

Glenn focuses in his post on the NYPost’s storied history.

Founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton, only three U.S. newspapers are more widely circulated.

But he doesn’t discuss that the woman writing these stories appears to have been installed at the Post from Hannity solely to publish them at the Post (this kind of shell game within the Murdoch empire also facilitated the Seth Rich hoax, per discovery in the Rich family lawsuits).

Post deputy political editor Emma-Jo Morris’ reports on Biden this past week constitute the sum total of her professional bylines. (That is, other than some posts Morris wrote in the summer of 2015 as a college intern for the conservative Washington Free Beacon.)

Prior to joining the Post in early spring, Morris’ most prominent media job involved her three years and eight months as a producer for Hannity, the Fox News star who is one of the president’s closest advisers. Morris did not reply to requests for comment sent to her social media accounts.

That is, while Glenn nods to the problems with the Post story, he doesn’t even examine how the reporter came to show up there, only to have Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon (the latter of whom Glenn doesn’t mention) drop these stories into her lap, details which go to her reliability. He ignores those details in a column that complains that social media platforms are throttling the virality of the Post story — but not the underlying allegations.

To illustrate how this undermines Glenn’s claims of censorship, recognize that there are four levels of the story here:

  • The claims about Burisma (which have been debunked by expert witnesses testifying under oath); discussions of these claims have not been throttled at all
  • Emails that the Post allegedly learned about from Bannon and received from Rudy, who in turn claims to have received them (using his attorney as a cut-out) from a repair store, but which neither the Post nor Rudy nor Bannon will share with others; if these emails were made publicly available, Twitter might throttle access to them under its prior “hacking” rule, but not necessarily its revised one
  • Several stories by a Hannity producer installed at the Post just before she wrote these stories; two social media companies have taken measures to limit the viral sharing of the stories, largely by limiting how readily users can access the stories directly via links posted on the social media sites
  • Discussion of the story and its production, of which this post, Glenn’s column, and his social media rants are part; that Glenn can rant at length on Twitter is proof that the social media companies are not “censoring” the discussion about them

The only thing at issue here are the Post stories. Not the underlying allegations; not (yet) the emails, if Bannon and Rudy ever decided to share them; not discussions about the Post stories.

In the section of his column discussing the actions by Facebook and Twitter, Glenn correctly limits his discussion to the article itself (without always noting that the issue was links to the article, not discussion of it).

But in his discussion claiming censorship more generally, Glenn conflates [links to] the story with the content of the story itself.

Then there is the practical impact of Twitter and Facebook uniting to block content published by a major newspaper. It is true in theory that one can still read the suppressed article by visiting the New York Post website directly, but the stranglehold that these companies exert over our discourse is so dominant that their censorship amounts to effective suppression of the reporting.

[snip]

THE GRAVE DANGERS posed by the censorship actions of yesterday should be self-evident. Just over two weeks before a presidential election, Silicon Valley giants — whose industry leaders and workforce overwhelmingly favor the Democratic candidate — took extraordinary steps to block millions, perhaps tens of millions, of American voters from being exposed to what purports to be a major exposé by one of the country’s oldest and largest newspapers.

[snip]

Do we really want Facebook serving as some sort of uber-editor for U.S. media and journalism, deciding what information is suitable for the American public to read and which should be hidden from it after teams of journalists and editors at real media outlets have approved its publication? [my emphasis]

Preventing a story from being spread virally from a platform, without preventing it from being discussed, in no way prevents “tens of millions … of American voters from being exposed to what purports to be a major exposé,” (though, in fact, the stories mostly recycle the same old allegations that experts have debunked under oath). It simply requires those engaging in the discussion — including via Glenn’s rants on Twitter or via stories about the Post stories, including Glenn’s column, which Twitter has not throttled — to go find that story itself.

Glenn’s theory that authentic emails justify serving as a mouthpiece for Russian intelligence

I’m most interested in how Glenn sprinkles a theory in this column that he has espoused in the past to defend his regurgitation of emails stolen by the GRU in 2016. He suggests that — so long as emails or other source documents are authentic — it doesn’t matter if they’ve been packaged up by a hostile intelligence agency (or a Murdoch propagandist installed expressly for the purpose). In this case, he suggests that until the Bidens prove the emails are not authentic, then the story which Glenn acknowledges overhypes what is claimed to be in the emails might “corroborate” a story largely debunked by experts testifying under oath.

While the Biden campaign denies that any such meetings or favors ever occurred, neither the campaign nor Hunter, at least as of now, has denied the authenticity of the emails.

[snip]

While these emails, if authenticated, provide some new details and corroboration, the broad outlines of this story have long been known: Hunter was paid a very large monthly sum by Burisma at the same time that his father was quite active in using the force of the U.S. Government to influence Ukraine’s internal affairs.

[snip]

The Post’s explanation of how these documents were obtained is bizarre at best: They claim that Hunter Biden indefinitely left his laptop containing the emails at a repair store, and the store’s owner, alarmed by the corruption they revealed, gave the materials from the hard drive to the FBI and then to Rudy Giuliani.

While there is no proof that Biden followed through on any of Hunter’s promises to Burisma, there is no reason, at least thus far, to doubt that the emails are genuine. And if they are genuine, they at least add to what is undeniably a relevant and newsworthy story involving influence-peddling relating to Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine and his trading on the name and power of his father, now the front-runner in the 2020 presidential election. [my emphasis]

As I noted on Twitter, if Glenn consulted with The Intercept’s security expert, Micah Lee, Micah could explain that — at least given the publicly available metadata — there very much is reason to doubt the emails as presented are actual emails.

But even disclaiming knowledge of the technical problems with the provenance of the emails, Glenn nevertheless admits that the Post’s explanation for how these emails dropped in its lap is “bizarre at best.” Having admitted that, though, he puts the onus on the Bidens to deny the authenticity of these emails, not the journalists reporting on them. It’s not enough for Joe Biden to provide solid evidence (his calendar) explaining why the allegation construed from these emails is not true, the Bidens must disprove the authenticity of the emails (which would entail treating this story as credible, and giving it air).

Crazier still, Glenn takes no responsibility himself to assess whether the emails actually prove what the Post claims they do, a distinction between the authenticity of emails versus the accuracy of the interpretation derived from the emails. He states, as fact, that if the emails prove authentic it will “provide some new details and corroboration” and “add to” the existing allegations about Burisma. Except that’s not true! They’ll only add corroboration if the content of the emails is read correctly and if that correct reading logically ties the evidence (a claim about a meeting that was offered but not scheduled) to allegations that are newsworthy, much less misconduct. What the Post has floated falls far short of that, yet because it included pictures Glenn doesn’t find newsworthy and a claim to have actual emails, Glenn doesn’t scrutinize whether the reading of the emails demonstrates both an accurate interpretation and news value.

In other words, Glenn has totally abdicated assessing for himself whether the emails dangled say what a biased presenter claims they say, and even if they do, whether that really backs the allegations that have been debunked by experts testifying under oath. Thus far, they don’t.

Glenn’s defense of the Post story replays his defense of his own publication of emails stolen by GRU

As I said, this is a theory of journalism Glenn has espoused before, when defending his willingness to publish emails stolen by the GRU. He uses that theory, for example, when asked to defend this October 9, 2016 article, presenting as “news” that the Hillary campaign:

  • Pitched Maggie Haberman on a story she subsequently gave “somewhat more critical than what the Clinton memo envisioned” coverage of
  • Specified what should be treated as on the record and off when speaking with journalists
  • Had a list of surrogates, some of whom were paid by the campaign, who would appear on cable news
  • Hosted off the record gatherings with journalists

As the story concedes, none of that was really newsworthy. Glenn justified posting documents from sources that had just been described as Russian cut-outs by saying the documents “provide a valuable glimpse” into how all campaigns work the press.

All presidential campaigns have their favorite reporters, try to plant stories they want published, and attempt in multiple ways to curry favor with journalists. These tactics are certainly not unique to the Clinton campaign (liberals were furious in 2008 when journalists went to John McCain’s Arizona ranch for an off-the-record BBQ). But these rituals and dynamics between political campaigns and the journalists who cover them are typically carried out in the dark, despite how significant they can be. These documents provide a valuable glimpse into that process.

Glenn has not, as far as I’m aware, reported on a far more interesting role Maggie played in 2016, where Rick Gates leaked information to her as a way to get it into Roger Stone’s hands. Perhaps he didn’t report on that because the documents were legally released as part of a trial, or perhaps because finding them would take actual work, rather than repackaging what an interested party fed him in much the same way that Hillary fed the press.

Glenn vetted that story the same way he seems to think the Post story should be vetted: by asking the victim if the documents are accurate and, absent a denial that they are accurate, publishing them as “news.”

Given more than 24 hours to challenge the authenticity of these documents and respond, [Nick] Merrill did not reply to our emails.

Here’s how, in a column published on October 9, Glenn justified publishing stolen documents that — he ultimately admitted — weren’t really newsworthy but for which he had been given an exclusive.

The emails were provided to The Intercept by the source identifying himself as Guccifer 2.0, who was reportedly responsible for prior significant hacks, including one that targeted the Democratic National Committee and resulted in the resignations of its top four officials. On Friday, Obama administration officials claimed that Russia’s “senior-most officials” were responsible for that hack and others, although they provided no evidence for that assertion.

As these internal documents demonstrate, a central component of the Clinton campaign strategy is ensuring that journalists they believe are favorable to Clinton are tasked to report the stories the campaign wants circulated.

Even here, Glenn muddles things. Guccifer 2.0 was a persona. While it claimed responsibility for the hacks, virtually all experts by this point in October 2016 had presented public evidence for why they believed GRU (which Glenn does not mention in the piece) was responsible for the hack. This is the move that Glenn has — for years! — defended by saying, about his decisions to publish stolen emails, that it is “fundamental” that journalists must “report on newsworthy information legitimately in the public interest,” even if the source is bad or had bad motives (or, Glenn doesn’t say this but implies it, is a hostile intelligence agency trying to tamper in an election).

Other than “harm to innocents,” there is no excuse or justification for journalists to refuse to report on newsworthy information legitimately in the public interest – including claims that the source of that information is bad or had bad motives. This principle is fundamental.

Note what Glenn doesn’t consider here: whether the source is bad and has been proven to be a liar.

It turns out that Glenn and I had a bit of an exchange with Guccifer 2.0 just days before he decided to post documents that weren’t newsworthy because he was given an exclusive.

On October 4, 2016 — just after WikiLeaks had promised to release files that everyone believed would be Clinton Foundation documents, Guccifer 2.0 posted some party documents claiming they were Clinton Foundation documents.

I tweeted, without linking the site or Guccifer 2.0’s tweet announcing the release, noting that the documents probably weren’t Clinton Foundation documents. Within twenty minutes, Glenn asked why I said that, and I noted, two minutes later, that the documents might be authentic, but they were not what Guccifer 2.0 said they were.

According to Glenn’s long-term standard — publishing documents believed to be authentic, so long as some thin public interest can be described — I guess he would support publishing them. According to journalistic standards, however, publishing something from someone who had recently been caught lying ought to raise real questions about reliability.

Forty minutes after my original tweet and about twenty after my exchange with Glenn, the persona RTed my tweet, explaining away my objections.

Shortly after RTing me, the Twitter persona followed me.

This makes Glenn’s decision to post those documents on October 9, 2016 all the more inexcusable. Less than a week before Glenn posted the least justifiable story of many of his unjustifiable 2016 uses of stolen documents, someone he (then) trusted had pointed out that the persona was a liar. But he posted the unnewsworthy documents, on the schedule that served the persona, anyway.

Those who make “slimy insinuations” based off authentic documents are “smear-artists & cowards”

Of course, this rush to publish documents simply because you have documents, even if they provide no new evidence to “corroborate” stories already debunked by experts testifying under oath, can end up tainting by insinuation. That’s the entire point, and that’s what happened with this Post story.

Don’t take my word for it. Take Glenn Greenwald’s.

Last year, when DOJ released the first bunch of 302s under the BuzzFeed FOIA for the Mueller Report backup, numerous people (I’m sure I was one of them), pointed out this reference in a February 2018 Mueller interview with Steve Bannon. In the context of a series of questions about his knowledge of Trump Organization’s ties to Russia, he was asked about what appears to be the fall 2017 story (which we now know was a limited hangout) of Michael Cohen’s efforts to pursue a Trump Tower Moscow with Felix Sater.

Bannon described how he claimed to assess the validity of the story: he reached out to “his contacts at the Intercept, Fox, the Guardian and ABC News,” who all had no further information, which did not surprise him. And, I guess at that point, he dropped the issue.

Understand, Bannon (the guy behind the Post story) is a liar, and this interview in particular was full of false story after false story. Bannon probably was lying in all his interviews about his knowledge of Trump’s business ties to Russia (including elsewhere in this same interview). It may be that when Cohen released a carefully crafted cover story, Bannon really did call up some news outlets rather than people who would actually know. It may be that Bannon invented the story about calling news outlets altogether.

It’s just weird, though, that Bannon named the Intercept before Fox, and frankly weird that Bannon would claim to call an outlet with zero expertise on this issue to find out if they had heard anything.

Whatever the explanation — whether it was the inexplicable truth, Bannon lied about calling these outlets, or Bannon lied about his knowledge of the Trump Tower deal — that he made the claim is curious.

When it was posted with absolutely no claims about what it meant, Glenn went ballistic, accusing people who screen capped a curious reference to be “using slimy insinuations about who it [sic] is without having the courage to say it explicitly.”

Using Glenn’s method, of course, one could have asked him if the 302 of an official investigation officially released by DOJ was authentic, and that would be enough — according to Glenn — to merit not just publishing it in a story, but doing so while making other insinuations not backed by the evidence.

When something far less intrusive, based off documents legally FOIAed, happened to Glenn, he accused those of posting screen caps from official 302s of being smear merchants.

But when Steve Bannon is behind it and even the claimed provenance of the documents is absurd and the more likely provenance is quite suspect, Glenn demands that such insinuations must be allowed to go viral on Facebook and Twitter — anything less is censorship.

Docket Tea Leaves: Manafort, Bannon, and Flynn

I’d like to point to some curious docket doings in cases pertaining to Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, and Mike Flynn

Manafort

First, two things pertaining to Paul Manafort, who is serving his prison sentence from home. In his book, Andrew Weissmann raises the “other investigation” in which Manafort, on the day he succeeded in getting a plea deal, implicated someone — almost certainly Jared Kushner — and wondered why the material still hadn’t been released.

Most notably, at one point we asked him about an email he’d received in August 2016 from Roger Stone. Manafort gave a long explanation, the gist of which was to implicate two senior Trump campaign officials; it was related to an investigation in New York. (As the precise material is still under seal I cannot discuss the details, although it is unclear to me what the continued basis is for keeping all this material under seal.) We were trying to assess his credibility, fixating on signs of dishonesty—any indication that Manafort was still angling for a pardon, or attempting to play us. Volunteering this information, which implicated senior officials, suggested he may have written that possibility off, even though we all had continuing doubts.

It’s a damn good question given that Manafort’s defense and prosecutors filed a sealed joint motion about what else could be unsealed from Manafort’s breach determination. At the time, the government was proposing to unseal at least some of the information — and had even given proposals to Manafort’s lawyers to unseal them.

On May 29, 2020, the government provided counsel for Mr. Manafort with the last of the government’s proposals for lesser-redacted materials. Counsel for Mr. Manafort is now considering the government’s proposals, and the parties respectfully request additional time for counsel for Mr. Manafort to do so, and for the parties to confer and prepare the joint report for the Court.

But Judge Amy Berman Jackson hasn’t ruled yet. She’s busy as hell, but some of this information would be fairly important for voters to consider before they vote.

Meanwhile, in Manafort’s case in chief, on Tuesday, one of the two DC AUSAs who were on the docket swapped out for a different one.

The United States of America, by and through its attorney, the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, and Assistant United States Attorney Arvind Lal, hereby informs the Court that he is entering his appearance in this matter on behalf of the United States. Assistant United States Attorney Zia M. Faruqui no longer represents the United States in this matter.

Manafort’s serving his prison sentence from home. And the AUSA on the unsealing docket, Molly Gaston, remains on this one (so it shouldn’t pertain to the unsealing debate). There doesn’t seem to be a need to add new AUSAs when all he’s going to do is continue to sit in his condo until Trump pardons him.

Bannon

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a sealed document was placed in Steve Bannon’s docket.

This could be a lot of things, and Bannon has three co-defendants, so it’s not even clear that it pertains to him. But it’s the first sealed document (as a simple fraud case, this shouldn’t involve any classified evidence). And it was filed the same day as the Hunter Biden faux-scandal broke.

NBC reported that the FBI is investigating whether this faux-scandal has ties to foreign intelligence.

Federal investigators are examining whether emails allegedly describing activities by Joe Biden and his son Hunter and found on a laptop at a Delaware repair shop are linked to a foreign intelligence operation, two people familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The FBI seized the laptop and a hard drive through a grand jury subpoena. The subpoena was later published by the New York Post. The bureau has declined to comment.

Though there are other sketchy aspects to the story, such as the claim that the shop owner, having been subpoenaed for the laptop, also made a copy and gave it to Rudy’s lawyer, Robert Costello.

“Before turning over the gear, the shop owner says, he made a copy of the hard drive and later gave it to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello,” the Post said. “Steve Bannon, former adviser to President Trump, told The Post about the existence of the hard drive in late September and Giuliani provided The Post with a copy of it on Sunday.”

Bannon’s Chinese benefactor, Guo Wengui, was hyping the dirt before it was released.

Weeks before the New York Post began publishing what it claimed were the contents of Hunter Biden’s hard drive, a Sept. 25 segment on a YouTube channel run by a Chinese dissident streamer, who is linked to billionaire and Steve Bannon-backer Guo Wengui, broadcast a bizarre conspiracy theory. According to the streamer, Chinese politburo officials had “sent three hard disks of evidence” to the Justice Department and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi containing damaging information about Joe Biden as well as the origins of the coronavirus in a bid to undermine the rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Three days later, a Twitter account linked to Guo and Bannon’s Himalaya movement subsequently amplified an edited clip of the segment alongside the pledge of a “Bombshell… 3 hard disk drives of videos and dossiers of Hunter Biden’s connections with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have been sent to Nancy Pelosi and DOJ. Big money and sex scandal!”

And Bannon was boasting of having the laptop on September 28.

If the FBI was already investigating this — including why the shop owner was handing out copies of the purported laptop — then the FBI may have been aware of Bannon’s activities before Wednesday.

The point is, some of this — particularly if it delves into fraud — would be a bail violation. There’s a status conference on October 26, so it’s possible we’ll get hints then.

Ultimately, I think Bannon is virtually guaranteed to be pardoned, because he still hasn’t told the full truth about 2016. So even if he were jailed, it’d likely be for a matter of days until Trump got him out again.

Flynn

Finally, there’s Flynn’s case. The one unopposed amicus — filed by the NACDL — got docketed today. It’s a strong case — far stronger than a similar argument that Sidney Powell tried to make — that Flynn should not be held in contempt for the lies he has told in Judge Emmet Sullivan’s case. It’s an argument that Sullivan would, I imagine, normally find persuasive, and the fact that he has docketed it today makes me wonder if he’s relying on it in his order on Flynn’s case.

The only problem with the brief is it misunderstands the full scope of Flynn’s lies to the court. The brief assumes all his lies pertain to his guilty pleas, and argue that defendants can’t be held accountable for perjury on coerced guilty pleas.

But — as I’ve noted repeatedly — the sworn declaration Flynn submitted as part of his attempt to withdraw his guilty plea, which DOJ’s recent excuses for blowing up his prosecution increasingly rely on, also conflicts with what Flynn said to the grand jury as well as evidence submitted in this docket, which shows notes from Covington recording Flynn telling lies about his engagement with Turkey (see the bold for a conflicting statement).

  • June 26, 2018: Mike Flynn testified to an EDVA grand jury, among other things, that:
    • “From the beginning,” his 2016 consulting project “was always on behalf of elements within the Turkish government,”
    • He and Bijan Kian would “always talk about Gulen as sort of a sharp point” in relations between Turkey and the US as part of the project (though there was some discussion about business climate)
    • “For the most part” “all of that work product [was] about Gulen”
    • When asked if he knew of any work product that didn’t relate to Gulen, Flynn answered, “I don’t think there was anything that we had done that had anything to do with, you know, anything else like business climates or stuff like that”
    • He was not aware of “any work done on researching the state of the business climate in Turkey”
    • He was not aware of “any meetings held with U.S. businesses or business associations”
    • He was not aware of “any work done regarding business opportunities and investment in Turkey”
    • He and his partner “didn’t have any conversations about” a November 8, 2016 op-ed published under his name until “Bijan [] sent me a draft of it a couple of days prior, maybe about a week prior”
  • January 29, 2020: Mike Flynn submitted a sworn declaration. Among the assertions he made were:
    • “On December 1, 2017 (reiterated on December 18, 2018), I pled guilty to lying to agents of the FBI. I am innocent of this crime.”
    • “I gave [Covington] the information they requested and answered their questions truthfully.”
    • “I still don’t remember if I discussed sanctions on a phone call with Ambassador Kislyak nor do I remember if we discussed the details of a UN vote on Israel.”
    • “My relationship with Covington disintegrated soon thereafter.” [After second proffer session.]
    • “I did not believe I had lied in my White House interview with the FBI agents.”
    • “In the preceding months leading up to this moment [when he agreed to the plea deal], I had read articles and heard rumors that the agents did not believe that I had lied.”
    • “It was well after I pled guilty on December 1, 2017, that I heard or read that the agents had stated that they did not believe that I had lied during the January 24, 2017, White House interview.”
    • “I agreed to plead guilty that next day, December 1, 2017, because of the intense pressure from the Special Counsel’s Office, which included a threat to indict my son, Michael, and the lack of crucial information from my counsel.”
    • “My former lawyers from Covington also assured me on November 30, 2017, that if I accepted the plea, my son Michael would be left in peace.”
    • “Regretfully I followed my lawyers’ strong advice to confirm my plea even though it was all I could do to not cry out ‘no’ when this Court asked me if I was guilty.”
    • “In truth, I never lied.”

Not to mention, Flynn’s sworn declaration is internally inconsistent. [Update: a few more of the amicus briefs have been approved, including one from former prosecutors.]

It’s also worth noting that the Bill Barnett 302, which included about a page worth of paragraphs that were “pending unsealing by the court” that have yet to be unsealed. Some of those must pertain to things Flynn claimed in his declaration. (Flynn’s defense, but not Judge Sullivan, has an unredacted copy.)

Finally, yesterday, DOJ either posted or updated a job description that could be Brandon Van Grack’s job leading DOJ’s more focused FARA practice, which Van Grack got moved to after the Mueller investigation (though it could also be a more junior position reporting to Van Grack).

The attorney for this position will focus on administering and enforcing FARA, with at least 50% of the attorney’s time devoted to FARA matters. The attorney’s FARA responsibilities will include preparing for and leading civil litigation, managing criminal investigations, conducting inspections, and drafting advisory opinions.

When DOJ tried to blow up Flynn’s prosecution, Van Grack withdrew from the case but did not quit, though the frothy right claimed he had been ousted. Just in the last while, Bruce Ohr was finally ousted from the office for a trumped up complaint that he shared intelligence on Russian threats, as he had done for years. Van Grack hasn’t filed anything in PACER since DOJ moved to withdraw the prosecution. That said, DOJ has repeatedly said DOJ did not violate Brady.

I don’t really know what to make of all this. But I thought I’d note what I’m seeing in the bottom of my tea cup.

Rat-Fucker Rashomon: Roger Stone’s Mid-Burglary Foreknowledge

This post showed that the SSCI Report ignored a lot of evidence (laid out in the affidavits) that Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone had specific details — possibly even the John Podesta emails themselves — pertaining to Joule Holdings, which they tried to use to claim he was as corrupt as (!!!) Paul Manafort. This post showed how, rather than actually explaining what the investigation learned about whether, how, and why Stone optimized the release of the Podesta files, the Mueller Report instead gave us a comedy routine starring Jerome Corsi.

Both public reports, then, presented the question, what did the candidate’s rat-fucker know and when did he know it, exclusively in terms of what Stone knew about the Podesta release. Indeed, the SSCI Report treats this as a question exclusively about what Stone knew of WikiLeaks’ plans.

The Committee could not reliably trace the provision of non-public information from WikiLeaks to Stone, and as a result. could not evaluate the full scope of Stone’s non-public knowledge of WikiLeaks’s activities.

The investigation, however, examined evidence Stone knew what was coming much earlier.

Rick Gates testified at Stone’s trial, for example, that Stone was predicting new releases in April and May of 2016. A previously redacted passage from the Mueller Report echoes that testimony.

In debriefings with the Office, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates said that, before Assange’s June 12 announcement, Gates and Stone had a phone conversation in which Stone said something “big” was coming and had to do with a leak of information. Stone also said to Gates that he thought Assange had Clinton emails.

SSCI reasonably reads those claims to relate to the uproar over Hillary’s “missing” State Department emails.

(U) In the spring of 2016, the Trump Campaign’s opposition research team primarily focused on Clinton’s “missing” emails, and financial contributions to the Clinton Foundation. 1437

1437 (U) FBI, FD-302, Gates 4/10/2018. The Committee assesses that, at this time, the references to Clinton’s “emails” reflected a focus on allegedly missing or deleted.emails from Clinton’s personal server during her tenure as Secretary of State.

But that’s not the only proof that Stone had advance knowledge earlier than August 2016.

There’s also the testimony from Stone aide Andrew Miller, testimony pursued for an entire year and the last bit of work completed by the Mueller team. Miller was subpoenaed for information about what he learned while scheduling Stone’s time at the RNC, the days before the DNC emails dropped. While Miller was subpoenaed for Stone’s trial and kept in DC for days awaiting possible testimony, he never did testify, so we don’t know what he might have said.

Still, Miller’s testimony might reveal that Stone learned of the impending DNC release, by WikiLeaks, days before it happened, as testimony from Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort supports.

All of those earlier claims, however, are presented in terms of what Stone knew about WikiLeaks’ plans. The affidavits tell a very different, albeit inconclusive story.

The FBI believed in 2018 that Stone had foreknowledge of Russia’s plans.

Two affidavits obtained in summer 2018 reveal that FBI had reason to believe that Stone was Googling the names of Russia’s personas, dcleaks and Guccifer 2.0, before they had been publicly unveiled. One of those affidavits described searches occurring starting on May 17, 2016.

93. During the course of its investigation, the FBI has also identified a series of searches that appear to relate to the personas Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, which predate the public unveiling of those two personas. In particular, between May 17, 2016, and June 15, 2016 (prior to the publication of the Guccifer 2.0 WordPress blog), records from Google show that searches were conducted for the terms “dcleaks,” “guccifer,” and ”guccifer june,” from IP addresses within one of two ranges: 172.56.26.0/24, 107.77.216.0/24.3 These IP ranges are assigned to T-Mobile USA, Inc., and AT&T Mobility LLC, respectively, and, according to Google, the searches were all conducted from Florida. On or about June 13, 2018, this Court issued a search warrant for information associated with these searches and, in particular, for the full search histories associated with the CookieIDs that conducted the search. 4 As set forth in the affidavit submitted in support of that search warrant, IP logs obtained from Twitter showed that STONE used multiple IP addresses within the ranges 172.56.26.0/24 and 107.77.216.0/24 to log into his Twitter account @RogerJStoneJr. A Facebook account controlled by STONE also used an IP address within the range 172.56.26.0/24 on or about June 13, 2016, to purchase a Facebook advertisement.

Another affidavit more specifically focused on searches on Guccifer (but not, at least by this description, Guccifer 2.0) on June 15, 2016, before the WordPress site for Guccifer 2.0 was unveiled.

22. During the course of its investigation, the FBI has identified a series of searches that appear to relate to the persona Guccifer 2.0, which predate the public unveiling of that persona. In particular, on or about June 15, 2016 (prior to the publication of the Guccifer 2.0 WordPress blog), records from Google show that searches were conducted for the terms “guccifer” and “guccifer june,” from an IP address within the range 107. 77 .216.0/24. 1 This IP range is assigned to AT&T Mobility LLC, and, according to Google, the searches were all conducted from Florida.

Without seeing the FBI’s forensics, there might be explanations for both these searches. Some journalists, for example, got advance or private alerts on some of this activity, and searches on “Guccifer” in 2016 might be focused on Marcel Lazar, the hacker who first used the moniker Guccifer, who was sentenced in that period.

But in July and August 2018, just as the Mueller team was beginning to pursue the obstruction charges against Stone that focused everyone’s attention on how Stone learned that WikiLeaks was going to release stolen Podesta emails, the FBI had, in hand, data that strongly suggested that Stone, virtually alone in the country, had non-public information about the Russian hack-and-leak campaign in advance.

They believed he had it in May, while Russian hackers were still in the process of stealing the DNC emails.

If FBI were to — if they did — validate those searches (particularly the May search on dcleaks), it would provide independent evidence making it clear Stone’s claims of foreknowledge to Gates weren’t just confused boasts about Hillary’s missing State emails, as the SSCI Report concludes, but instead knowledge of the Russian operation akin to that George Papadopoulos obtained.

If the FBI had proof that Stone knew of the hack-and-leak while the Russians continued hacking, then the drama over whether Randy Credico or Jerome Corsi was Stone’s source would just be theater. Corsi’s August 2, 2016 boasting of foreknowledge of the schedule of upcoming WikiLeaks leaks would be just a distraction.

Roger Stone spoke to Donald Trump at least 13 times in May 2016, a month when (the FBI suspected) the rat-fucker had foreknowledge of the Russian theft of Democratic emails. The Watergate investigation, with far more authority and a successful subpoena of the President, never proved that Richard Nixon had foreknowledge of that burglary. Here, though, the FBI got far closer to that proof.


The movie Rashomon demonstrated that any given narrative tells just one version of events, but that by listening to all available narratives, you might identify gaps and biases that get you closer to the truth.

I’m hoping that principle works even for squalid stories like the investigation into Roger Stone’s cheating in the 2016 election. This series will examine the differences between four stories about Roger Stone’s actions in 2016:

As I noted in the introductory post (which lays out how I generally understand the story each tells), each story has real gaps in one or more of these areas:

My hope is that by identifying these gaps and unpacking what they might say about the choices made in crafting each of these stories, we can get a better understanding of what actually happened — both in 2016 and in the investigations. The gaps will serve as a framework for this series.

Rat-Fucker Rashomon: Jerome Corsi’s Prescience about the Content of John Podesta’s Emails

In the previous installment of this series, I showed that rather than describing the conclusions of the Mueller team’s investigation into whether, how, and why Roger Stone optimized the release of the John Podesta emails on October 7, 2016, the Mueller Report instead plopped a comedy routine showing how Jerome Corsi changed his story from minute to minute on the topic.

The choice is all the more interesting given that the affidavits used in the Stone investigation — to say nothing of witness testimony — makes it increasingly certain that Stone got advance notice, and probably advance copies, of the stolen emails that pertained to an attack regarding Podesta’s ties to a company with Russian ties, Joule Holdings, that the frothy right had been chasing for months before mid-August 2016.

Jerome Corsi’s Podesta email was actually about timing

The email that Jerome Corsi sent Roger Stone on August 2, 2016 has been widely misunderstood, including by the SSCI Report.

“Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps,” Corsi explained after informing Stone he hadn’t called him back, as Stone requested the day before, because he was in Italy. “One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct.” This language about timing is what Aaron Zelinsky focused on when introducing the email at Stone’s trial. It’s the language that Jonathan Kravis highlighted in his closing argument. In neither prosecutors’ description of the email do they mention John Podesta (though later in Zelinsky’s opening, he describes that, “Roger Stone promised … a massive amount of hacked emails belonging to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta” would be dropped on October 7).

Nevertheless this email has been taken as the means by which Corsi informed Stone that the upcoming WikiLeaks dump involved files stolen from John Podesta.

It’s only much later in the email when Corsi says, “Time to let more than Podesta to be exposed as in bed w enemy.” The reference to Podesta would be incomprehensible to Stone if it were his first notice that WikiLeaks was going to drop emails stolen from Hillary’s campaign manager. Moreover, Corsi wouldn’t bury it in the sixth paragraph if it were new news, particularly not given that the right wing oppo researchers Steve Bannon paid, the Government Accountability Institute, had just days earlier released a report that focused on John Podesta. Indeed, it’s even possible that the email doesn’t reflect advance knowledge of the Podesta emails, but was instead a reference to that report.

There’s no reason to believe that the Podesta reference in this email was news to Stone.

Corsi put the new news — that the dumps were coming shortly after he was scheduled to return from Italy on August 12, and then again in October — in the second paragraph. And as some of the affidavits described obliquely — but which did not get mentioned in any of the other three Roger Stone stories — the timing of both those predictions was absolutely correct.

Based on my training, experience, and review of materials in this case, it appears that CORSI’s reference to a “friend in embassy [who] plans 2 more dumps” refers to Julian ASSANGE; the founder of Wikileaks, who resided in Ecuador’s London Embassy in2016. As discussed above, Guccifer released information hacked from the DCCC on August 12,2016 (the date CORSI identified as when he would “return home.”)

FBI Agent Amy Anderson mentions, but does not explain, that Corsi did not correctly predict who would release these files.

Two releases, one from Guccifer and the other from Wikileaks, occurred at the times predicted by CORSI.

In fact, as Raffi Khatchadourian was the first to explain publicly (but as would have been clear to investigators once they obtained the relevant Twitter content), Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks engaged in a series of very theatrical DM conversations with Emma Best over that weekend in August 2016 about whether Best would publish the DCCC emails; even after WikiLeaks convinced Best to hold off so it could have exclusivity, WikiLeaks never did publish any DCCC documents. At the time Corsi learned that “friend in embassy” would have two upcoming drops, WikiLeaks was still demanding exclusivity before it would deliver the first one.

In the August 2 email, then, Corsi provided new news to Stone about what the Russians were planning, but (if the theatrical DMs are to be believed, which they shouldn’t necessarily be) Assange had yet to buy into the plan. That makes Corsi’s description of “the game hackers are now about” all the more intriguing.

There’s no reason to believe, from this email, that Corsi was newly informing Stone that WikiLeaks would eventually dump the Podesta emails. There’s not even any reason to be sure that Corsi informed Stone of that fact and not vice versa. Indeed, the Mueller Report describes that Corsi told Ted Malloch later in August that, “Stone had made a connection to Assange and that the hacked emails of John Podesta would be released prior to Election Day,” not that he himself had. The email is indication (though in no way, by itself, proof, especially given the possibility it referenced the GAI report) that both believed by August 2 that WikiLeaks would drop the Podesta emails. It is not proof that Corsi told Stone of that fact.

Rick Gates and Paul Manafort testified that Stone knew Podesta emails were coming

We can get a lot closer to proof that Stone had advance knowledge of the Podesta drop, though.

First of all, it’s not just Malloch who testified to having conversations about Podesta’s emails in August. According to the SSCI Report, in part of Rick Gates’ October 25, 2018 interview that remains redacted,

Gates recalled Stone advising him, prior to the release of an August 14 article in The New York Times about Paul Manafort’s “secret ledger,” that damaging information was going to be released about Podesta. 1579 Gates understood that Stone was referring to nonpublic information. Gates further recalled later conversations with Stone about how to save Manafort’s role on the Campaign, and that Stone was focused on getting information about John Podesta, but said that Stone did not reveal the “inner workings” of that plan to Gates. 1580

An unredacted part of that 302 — which is likely the continuation of the discussion cited in SSCI — explains,

Gates said there was a strategy to defend Manafort by attacking Podesta. The idea was that Podesta had baggage as well. Gates said it was unfortunate the information did not come out in time to defend Manafort from his ultimate departure from the campaign.

In a September 27, 2018 interview, Manafort provided details of two conversations that he placed in August 2016, one of which provided specific details (which remain redacted, purportedly to protect Podesta’s privacy!) about John Podesta’s alleged ties with Russia.

Manafort was sure he had at least two conversations with Stone prior to the October 7, 2016 leak of John Podesta’s emails.

In the one conversation between Stone and Manafort, Stone told Manafort “you got fucked.” Stone’s comment related to the fact that Manafort had been fired. The conversation was either the day Manafort left the campaign or the day after.

In the other conversation, Stone told Manafort that there would be a WikiLeaks drop of emails with Podesta, and that Podesta would be “in the barrel” and Manafort would be vindicated. Manafort had a clear memory of the moment because of the language Stone used. Stone also said Manafort would be pleased with what came out. It was Manafort’s understanding that WikiLeaks had Podesta’s emails and they were going to show that [redacted] Manafort would be vindicated because he had to leave the campaign for being too pro-Russian, and this would show that Podesta also had links to Russia and would have to leave.

Manafort’s best recollection was the “barrel” conversation was before he got on the boat the week of August 28, 2016.

Roger Stone’s longtime friend Paul Manafort, at a time when he lying to protect key details about what happened in 2016, nevertheless confirmed that Stone had detailed knowledge not just that the Podesta files would drop, but what Russian-based attacks they would make of them.

The government almost certainly has proof Stone and Corsi had advance copies of the Podesta files

More importantly, there’s evidence that Corsi had copies of some of the Podesta emails by August 14, and had pre-written attacks on Podesta already drafted when the files came out in October.

On March 23, 2017, Corsi published what he claimed was an explanation for Stone’s August 21, 2016 “time in the barrel” tweet. In it, he explained that in response to the August 14, 2016 NYT story exposing Paul Manafort’s Ukraine corruption, Corsi started a memo for Stone on Podesta.

On Aug. 14, 2016, I began researching for Roger Stone a memo that I entitled “Podesta.”

On August 15 at 1:33 AM, Stone tweeted about Podesta for the first time ever,

@JohnPodesta makes @PaulManafort look like St. Thomas Aquinas Where is the @NewYorkTimes ?

At 8:16AM on August 15, Corsi texted and then at 8:17 AM Corsi emailed Stone the same message:

Give me a call today if you can. Despite MSM drumroll that HRC is already elected, it’s not over yet. More to come than anyone realizes.

According to the SSCI Report, at 12:14PM on August 15, Corsi and Stone spoke by phone for 24 minutes.

The implication in Corsi’s March 2017 post was that he spent the next two weeks writing the memo that he started on August 14 and that the report reflects “several detailed conversations” Corsi had with Stone.

I completed that memo on Aug. 31, 2016, and is embedded here in its entirety.

Between Aug. 14 and Aug. 31, 2016, Roger Stone and I had several detailed conversations about the Podesta research.

Except that prosecutors obtained several kinds of proof that Corsi only started writing the memo he published in that March 2017 column (which Stone submitted to HPSCI — starting at PDF 39 — as part of his prepared statement) on that same day, on August 31. Corsi started writing it after Stone called him on August 30 and asked him to do so. This would have started to become clear to prosecutors when they first obtained email returns, since Corsi sent a copy of the report to Stone via email. But according to Corsi, prosecutors found forensic evidence to confirm that.

In his book, Corsi even admitted that the document was a cover story that he didn’t start until August 30 (Stone sued Corsi about this claim).

Next, Zelinsky focused on the email Roger Stone sent me on August 30, 2016, asking me to call him. As we discussed earlier, that led me to write a “cover-up memo” for him on John Podesta, suggesting that Roger’s infamous Twitter post about “Podesta’s time in the barrel” was a reference to my research about John and Tony Podesta’s money dealings with Russia. Roger wanted to disguise his tweet, suggesting “Podesta’s time in the barrel” was not a reference to any advanced knowledge Stone may have had from me, when I began telling Stone from Italy in emails dated earlier in August 2016 that I believed Assange had Podesta emails. “We’ve examined your computer Doctor Corsi,” Zelinsky grilled me. “And we know that the next day, August 31, 2016, your birthday, you began at 7:30 a.m. to write that memo for Stone.”

Before returning to Washington to appear before the grand jury, I had taken the time to research the file of my 2016 writing drafts that I had restored to my laptop from the Time Machine. I found that the file that I labeled, “ROGER STONE background PODESTA version 1.0 Aug. 31, 2016” was time-stamped for 12:17 p.m. that day. But I decided not to quibble with Zelinsky, so I agreed. “Then, Doctor Corsi, we find from your computer that the first thing you did was to find a series of open source articles on Podesta and Russia that you could use in writing your memo for Roger Stone,” Zelinsky said, pressing forward. “Is that correct?”

That said, Corsi may well have another report he started on August 14. In his March 2017 piece, Corsi claims that he wrote a series of articles based on that original report, one installment of which Stone would publish under his own name on October 13.

On October 6, 2016, I published in WND.com the first of a series of articles detailing Putin’s financial ties to Clinton and Podesta, based largely on the research contained in the Government Accountability Institute’s report, “From Russia With Money.”

On Oct. 13, 2016, Stone published on his website an article entitled, “Russian Mafia money laundering, the Clinton Foundation and John Podesta.”

A comparison of the two articles will show the extent to which Stone incorporated my research into his analysis.

To the extent that Corsi wrote a series of articles, it would include the following:

In a November 1, 2018 interview, Corsi explained that he had published the October 6 one (as noted, it was based off the earlier GAI/Breitbart attack), in an effort to force Assange to release the Podesta emails.

Corsi published the August 31, 2016 memo on October 6, 2016. At that time, he still held himself out as the connection to WikiLeaks. The trigger for the release of the article was the publication of an article about [Paul] Manafort and [Viktor] Yanukovych. Corsi wanted to counter it with a story about Podesta, but he really wanted to provide stimulus to Assange to release whatever he had on Podesta. Corsi was angry with Assange for not releasing emails on October 4, 2016.

The claim would only make sense (to the extent that Jerome Corsi can ever be said to “make sense”) if Corsi could threaten to pre-empt what WikiLeaks was about to publish: the Podesta file pertaining to Joule Holdings.

As for the October 13 piece Stone adopted as his own, the affidavits targeting Corsi and Stone provided extensive details on how that got published.

First thing in the morning on October 12, Stone wrote Corsi and asked for his “best podesta links.” (The SSCI Report reveals that Stone and Manafort spoke that day, but does not say what time.) Corsi responded that he would send them on Monday — which would have been on October 17. “The remaining stuff on Podesta,” Corsi said, “is complicated.” That seems to comport with Corsi’s later representation he did a series, of which the October 13 one was part. But it also seems to suggest that the remaining stuff was already written at 8:54 AM on October 12.

75. On or about October 8, 2016, STONE messaged CORSI at Target Account 2, “Lunch postponed- have to go see T.” CORSI responded to STONE, “Ok. I understand.” Approximately twenty minutes later, CORSI texted, “Clintons know they will lose a week of Paula Jones media with T attacking Foundation, using Wikileaks Goldman Sachs speech comments, attacking bad job numbers.”

76. On or about Wednesday, October 12, 2016, at approximately 8:17 EDT, STONE emailed CORSI at Target Account 1, asking him to “send me your best podesta links.” STONE emailed CORSI at approximately 8:$$ [sic] EDT, “need your BEST podesta pieces.” CORSI wrote back at approximately 8:54AM EDT, “Ok. Monday. The remaining stuff on Podesta is complicated. Two articles in length. I can give you in raw form the stuff I got in Russian translated but to write it up so it’s easy to understand will take weekend. Your choice?”

77. On or about that same day October 12, 2016, Podesta accused STONE of having advance knowledge of the publication of his emails. At approximately 3:25PM EDT, CORSI, using Target Account 1, emailed STONE with a subject line “Podesta talking points.” Attached to the email was a file labeled, “ROGER STONE podesta talking points Oct 12 2016.docx.” The “talking points” included the statement that “Podesta is at the heart of a Russian-govermnent money laundering operation that benefits financially Podesta personally and the Clintons through the Clinton Foundation.”

78. CORSI followed up several minutes later with another email titled, “Podesta talking points,” with the text “sent a second time just to be sure you got it.” STONE emailed CORSI back via the Hotmail Account, “Got them and used them.”

79. On or about Thursday, October 13, 2016, CORSI, using Target Account 3, emailed STONE: “PODESTA — Joule & ties to RUSSIA MONEY LAUNDERING to CLINTON FOUNDATION.” STONE responded, “Nice but I was hoping for a piece I could post under my by-line since I am the one under attack by Podesta and now Mook.” CORSI wrote back to STONE, “I’ll give you one more -NOBODY YET HAS THIS[:] It looks to me like [redacted–Vekselberg] skimmed maybe billions off Skolkovo – Skolkovo kept their money with Metcombank[.] The Russians launched a criminal investigation[.] [web link] Once [redacted–Vekselberg] had the channel open from Metcombank to Deutsche Bank America to Ban[k] of America’s Clinton Fund account, there’s no telling how much money he laundered, or where it ended up. Nothing in Clinton Foundation audited financials or IRS Form 990s about $$$ received via Russia & Metcombank[.] I’m working on that angle now.” STONE replied, “Ok Give me SOMETHING to post on Podesta since I have now promised it to a dozen MSM reporters[.]”

80. On or about Thursday, October 13, 2016 at approximately 6:30PM EDT, CORSI sent STONE an email with the Subject, “ROGER STONE article RUSSIAN MAFIA STYLE MONEY-LAUNDERING, the CLINTON FOUNDATION, and JOHN PODESTA.” The text stated: “Roger[,] You are free to publish this under your own name.” That same day, STONE posted a blog post with the title, “Russian Mafia money laundering, the Clinton Foundation and John Podesta.” In that post, STONE wrote, “although I have had some back-channel communications with Wikileaks I had no advance notice about the hacking of Mr. Podesta nor I have I ever received documents or data from Wikileaks.” The post then asked, “Just how much money did, a controversial Russian billionaire investor with ties to the Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, launder through Metcombank, a Russian regional bank owned 99 .978 percent by with the money transferred via Deutsche Bank and Trust Company Americas in New York City, with the money ending up in a private bank account in the Bank of America that is operated by the Clinton Foundation?”

81. On or about October 14, 2016, CORSI sent a message using Target Account 2 to STONE, “i’m in NYC. Thinking about writing piece attacking Leer and other women. It’s basically a rewrite of what’s out there. Going through new Wikileaks drop on Podesta.” [my emphasis]

It turns out the post Stone ultimately posted had no links to the WikiLeaks releases it relied on (remember, he asked Corsi for links and pieces), but it does reference a file that had been released on October 11, hours before Corsi seemed to speak of the post as already completed.

Wikileaks emails tie John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, into the money-laundering network with the confirmation Podesta had exercised 75,000 shares out of 100,000 previously undisclosed stock options he was secretly issued by Joule Unlimited, a U.S. corporation that ties back to Vekselberg connected Joule Global Stichting in the Netherlands – a shady entity identified in the Panama Papers as an offshore money-laundering client of the notorious Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

As a clear indication of guilty conscience, the Wikileaks Podesta file further documents that Podesta made a serious effort to keep the transaction from coming to light as evidenced by his decision to transfer 75,000 common shares of Joule Unlimited to Leonidio LLC, another shady shell corporation – this one listed in Salt Lake City at the home apartment of the gentlemen who registered the company.

A parallel post covering the same material posted by Corsi does have links to the emails that support the disposition of the 75,000 shares and other claims made in it. But that one was updated about six hours after it was first posted, and the first Internet Archive capture postdates that update.

Investigators seem to have found some significance, too, in the Metcombank reference that Corsi got and had to translate from Russian, a significance I don’t understand. But Stone dropped part of that attack when he revived the Vekselberg attack to use against Cohen in 2018.

Remember: Investigators would have had the forensics for the documents Corsi and Stone were sending back and forth by email, and probably would have communications about all this between August 14 and August 31, when (according to Corsi), Stone asked him to write a cover story. They would know if the story Stone posted under his own name was drafted before the public release of the emails it relied on.

But even on its face, Corsi’s comments suggest that these documents were a series started by October 6, of which some parts “were remaining” on the morning of October 12, one day after the email it relied on got released. Remember, too, that Corsi claims Stone told him to delete his email (which he did) on October 11, which would hide any knowledge of that WikiLeaks file before it came out.

Paul Manafort and Rick Gates both testified that Roger Stone had a plan, hatched before Paul Manafort resigned on August 19, to save his job by claiming that Podesta was just as bad as Manafort. Manafort even described the specific nature of the Russian-based attack on Podesta they had planned (though Bill Barr’s DOJ redacted it to protect Podesta’s privacy!).

And then, when Roger Stone asked Corsi for “links” as well as “pieces” on October 12, Corsi sent him a document that, by reference, had already been written, one that didn’t have links but that integrated information that wasn’t public until October 11.

That doesn’t prove that Stone and Corsi had those files in mid-August. But it does explain why Stone might have wanted a cover story denying they did after he boasted that it would soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel on August 21.


The movie Rashomon demonstrated that any given narrative tells just one version of events, but that by listening to all available narratives, you might identify gaps and biases that get you closer to the truth.

I’m hoping that principle works even for squalid stories like the investigation into Roger Stone’s cheating in the 2016 election. This series will examine the differences between four stories about Roger Stone’s actions in 2016:

As I noted in the introductory post (which lays out how I generally understand the story each tells), each story has real gaps in one or more of these areas:

My hope is that by identifying these gaps and unpacking what they might say about the choices made in crafting each of these stories, we can get a better understanding of what actually happened — both in 2016 and in the investigations. The gaps will serve as a framework for this series.

image_print