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Bill Barr Claimed a Threat Meriting a Four Subpoena Investigation Didn’t Merit a Sentencing Enhancement

In the aftermath of the Proud Boys-led insurrection, I’ve been reporting over and over on how Bill Barr’s DOJ treated threats by the Proud Boys against Amy Berman Jackson — which the probation office treated as the same kind of threat as the obstruction charge being used against many of the January 6 defendants — as a technicality unworthy of a sentencing enhancement.

Katelyn Polantz advanced that story last night, reporting that DOJ subpoenaed the four Proud Boys implicated by Roger Stone in his threat against ABJ for grand jury testimony.

Stone — testifying at a court hearing in 2019 to explain the post — said at the time that a person working with him on his social media accounts had chosen it.

Then, at another hearing the same year, Stone named names. Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, had been helping him ​with his social media, Stone said under oath, as had the Proud Boys’ Florida chapter founder Tyler Ziolkowski, who went by Tyler Whyte at the time; Jacob Engels, a Proud Boys associate who is close to Stone and identifies himself as a journalist in Florida; and another Florida man named Rey Perez, whose name is spelled Raymond Peres in the court transcript​.

A few days later, federal authorities tracked down the men and gave them subpoenas to testify to a grand jury, according to Ziolkowski, who was one of the witnesses.

Ziolkowski and the others flew to DC in the weeks afterwards to testify.

“They asked me about if I had anything to do about posting that. They were asking me if Stone has ever paid me, what he’s ever paid me for,” Ziolkowski told CNN this week. When he first received the subpoena, the authorities wouldn’t tell Ziolkowski what was being investigated, but a prosecutor later told him “they were investigating the picture and if he had paid anybody,” Ziolkowski said. He says he told the grand jury Stone never paid him, and that he hadn’t posted the photo.

Tarrio and Engels did not respond to inquiries from CNN, and Stone declined to respond to CNN’s questions. ​The FBI’s Washington, DC, office did not respond to requests for comment from CNN.

A person familiar with the case said it had closed without resulting in any charges.

For what it’s worth, given the interest Mueller showed in Stone’s social media work, given the close ties between Stone’s social media work and that of the Proud Boys, and given that parts of the investigation against Stone continued well after his trial, it’s possible prosecutors used Stone’s comments as a way to ask other questions: about whether Stone had paid four of his closest buddies in the Proud Boys (remember they were also looking for a notebook Stone used for his 2016 book that recorded all of his communications with Trump).

That said, DC’s US Attorney’s office paid for four witnesses to come to DC to testify about whether they had had a role in Stone’s threats against the judge presiding over his case.

That raises the stakes on the things Barr said publicly about this threat. As noted, in a sentencing memo written as Barr’s urging, DOJ claimed that the threat against ABJ “overlap[ped] … with the offense conduct in this case.”

Second, the two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice (§ 3C1.1) overlaps to a degree with the offense conduct in this case. Moreover, it is unclear to what extent the defendant’s obstructive conduct actually prejudiced the government at trial.

And DOJ dismissed the import of a threat against a judge by suggesting that if it didn’t prejudice prosecutors at trial, it doesn’t much matter.

More problematic still was Barr’s testimony before House Judiciary Committee last July, just over two months before the President said the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by.”

When Congressman Ted Deutch asked Barr if he could think of any other case where threatening to kill a witness and then threatening a judge were treated as mere technicalities, Barr kept repeating, at least five times, that “the Judge agreed with me.”

Deutch: You said enhancements were technically applicable. Mr. Attorney General, can you think of any other cases where the defendant threatened to kill a witness, threatened a judge, lied to a judge, where the Department of Justice claimed that those were mere technicalities? Can you think of even one?

Barr: The judge agreed with our analysis.

Deutch: Can you think of even one? I’m not asking about the judge. I’m asking about what you did to reduce the sentence of Roger Stone?

Barr: [attempts to make an excuse]

Deutch: Mr. Attorney General, he threatened the life of a witness —

Barr: And the witness said he didn’t feel threatened.

Deutch: And you view that as a technicality, Mr. Attorney General. Is there another time

Barr: The witness — can I answer the question? Just a few seconds to answer the question?

Deutch: Sure. I’m asking if there’s another time in all the time in the Justice Department.

Barr: In this case, the judge agreed with our — the judge agreed with our —

Deutch: It’s unfortunate that the appearance is that, as you said earlier, this is exactly what you want. The essence of rule of law is that we have one rule for everybody and we don’t in this case because he’s a friend of the President’s. I yield.

That claim — that ABJ agreed with the analysis of Barr and his flunkies — was a lie, a lie made under oath. ABJ, a liberal judge without Barr’s lifetime authoritarian claims about crime, believed the sentencing guidelines are too harsh. She did not believe these enhancements were mere technicalities.

Indeed, in ruling that the enhancement for the threat against her applied — a threat against official proceedings, the same charge being used against many of the insurrectionists — she talked about how posting a threat on social media, “increased the risk that someone else, with even poorer judgment than he has, would act on his behalf.”

I suppose I could say: Oh, I don’t know that I believe that Roger Stone was actually going to hurt me, or that he intended to hurt me. It’s just classic bad judgment.

But, the D.C. Circuit has made it clear that such conduct satisfied the test. They said: To the extent our precedent holds that a §3C1.1 enhancement is only appropriate where the defendant acts with the intent to obstruct justice, a requirement that flows logically from the definition of the word “willful” requires that the defendant consciously act with the purpose of obstructing justice.

However, where the defendant willfully engages in behavior that is inherently obstructive, that is, behavior that a rational person would expect to obstruct justice, this Court has not required a separate finding of the specific intent to obstruct justice.

Here, the defendant willfully engaged in behavior that a rational person would find to be inherently obstructive. It’s important to note that he didn’t just fire off a few intemperate emails. He used the tools of social media to achieve the broadest dissemination possible. It wasn’t accidental. He had a staff that helped him do it.

As the defendant emphasized in emails introduced into evidence in this case, using the new social media is his “sweet spot.” It’s his area of expertise. And even the letters submitted on his behalf by his friends emphasized that incendiary activity is precisely what he is specifically known for. He knew exactly what he was doing. And by choosing Instagram and Twitter as his platforms, he understood that he was multiplying the number of people who would hear his message.

By deliberately stoking public opinion against prosecution and the Court in this matter, he willfully increased the risk that someone else, with even poorer judgment than he has, would act on his behalf. This is intolerable to the administration of justice, and the Court cannot sit idly by, shrug its shoulder and say: Oh, that’s just Roger being Roger, or it wouldn’t have grounds to act the next time someone tries it.

The behavior was designed to disrupt and divert the proceedings, and the impact was compounded by the defendant’s disingenuousness.

This warning about what happens when people post inciteful language on Instagram might well have served as a warning in advance of January 6. But Barr, in testimony under oath to House Judiciary Committee, pretended that his DOJ had not ignored such a threat.

While it didn’t make the sentencing guidelines, the Proud Boy-linked threats to Credico were sufficiently serious that under FBI’s Duty to Warn, they alerted Credico to the threats. Now we learned that line prosecutors treated the threat against ABJ as sufficiently serious that they obtained grand jury subpoenas to learn more about it.

And in testimony under oath, Bill Barr pretended that ABJ agreed — and it was reasonable for his office to treat — such threats as mere technicalities.

Trump’s Second Impeachment Has Already Had a Beneficial Effect

After Billy Barr spent eight months dedicating DOJ resources to supporting Sidney Powell’s conspiracy theories about Mike Flynn, Trump pardoned his short-lived National Security Advisor for everything associated with the Mueller investigation. Within weeks, Flynn called for martial law, a three-star General with an avid QAnon following inciting an insurrection.

After Billy Barr dismissed the seriousness of threats against Randy Credico and Amy Berman Jackson backed by Proud Boy associates of Roger Stone, Trump first ensured that Stone would do no prison time and then pardoned him for his cover-up of the Trump campaign’s efforts to optimize the release of stolen John Podesta files. While Roger Stone claims to have had no role, the key organization behind the riot, Stop the Steal, adopted the name and the methods he used in 2016. And thus far five members of the Proud Boys have been arrested in association with the coup attempt.

It seems that Trump’s belief in his own invincibility — one he got, in significant part, by successfully obstructing the Mueller investigation by buying silence with promised pardons, then hiring an Attorney General who would and did repeatedly protect him from consequences — not only led him to believe he could incite a riot, but led key bridges between him and the foot soldiers in this coup attempt to believe they had impunity too.

But according to stories in virtually all major outlets (here’s the CNN version), in the wake of both the coup attempt and impeachment for it, Trump has backed off plans to complete that act of impunity by pardoning his spawn and himself.

Initially, two major batches had been ready to roll out, one at the end of last week and one on Tuesday. Now, officials expect the last batch to be the only one — unless Trump decides at the last minute to grant pardons to controversial allies, members of his family or himself.

[snip]

The January 6 riots that led to Trump’s second impeachment have complicated his desire to pardon himself, his kids and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. At this point, aides do not think he will do so, but caution only Trump knows what he will do with his last bit of presidential power before he is officially out of office at noon on January 20.

After the riots, advisers encouraged Trump to forgo a self-pardon because it would appear like he was guilty of something, according to one person familiar with the conversations. Several of Trump’s closest advisers have also urged him not to grant clemency to anyone involved in the siege on the US Capitol, despite Trump’s initial stance that those involved had done nothing wrong.

I predicted this would happen here.

To be clear, I don’t think Trump’s moderated plans come from any remorse or sense of contrition. Rather, after the riot Pat Cipollone apparently refused to be a part of such plans anymore (though I also think the Stone and Paul Manafort pardons were far more modest than they might have been). Lindsey Graham’s efforts to minimize the impeachment trial in the Senate also helped, as Lindsey knows any attempt to prevent conviction in the Senate is premised on Trump avoiding any further abuse.

None of this changes the fact that Trump has abused the pardon power far more than any president before him. Nor will it prevent a great many other abusive pardons today.

But to restore legitimacy and belief in the rule of law, the story of Trump’s crimes needs to be told, and told in a way that makes the damage he caused and the betrayal of his supporters clear. If, indeed, Trump decides not to pardon his lawyer, his spawn, and himself, it will be one important step in that process.

Update: This CNN story reports on precisely this phenomenon.

The decision to not pardon any Republican lawmakers or his family members was a last minute one. After initially defending the idea that he may pardon himself or his family members out of concern they would be targeted once he’s out of office, Trump decided Saturday night that he would not pardon anyone in his family or himself.

Trump agreed with the attorneys and other advisers that doing so would increase the appearance of guilt and could make them more vulnerable, but was disappointed at the outcome, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump, according to people he’d spoken to, appeared more taken with the message of unchecked power it might send to his naysayers than actual protection from liability. His pardon power was among his favorite perks of the job.

The newfound concerns about actually exercising this favorite perk of the job extends to members of Congress worried about their own legal exposure and Ed Snowden and Julian Assange.

Several Republican lawmakers who are alleged to have been involved in the rally that preceded the deadly riot on the US Capitol have sought clemency from Trump before he leaves office, but after meeting with his legal advisers for several hours on Saturday, the President decided he would not grant them, according to two people familiar with his plans.

[snip]

Trump is also not expected to pardon Edward Snowden or Julian Assange, whose roles in revealing US secrets infuriated official Washington.

While he had once entertained the idea, Trump decided against it because he did not want to anger Senate Republicans who will soon determine whether he’s convicted during his Senate trial. Multiple GOP lawmakers had sent messages through aides that they felt strongly about not granting clemency to Assange or Snowden.

Bill Barr Keeps Pretending (Falsely) That He Didn’t Encourage Yesterday’s Insurrection

Disgraced former Attorney General Billy Barr has released two statements condemning yesterday’s terrorist attack on the Capitol. First, a comment released via his spox,

Then he released a statement to the AP’s Barr-chummy DOJ reporter:

Former Attorney General William Barr says President Donald Trump’s conduct as a violent mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol was a “betrayal of his office and supporters.”

In a statement to The Associated Press, Barr said Thursday that “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable.”

Barr was one of Trump’s most loyal and ardent defenders in the Cabinet.

His comments come a day after angry and armed protesters broke into the U.S. Capitol, forcing Congress members to halt the ongoing vote to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s election and then flee from the House and Senate chambers.

Barr resigned last month amid lingering tension over the president’s baseless claims of election fraud and the investigation into Biden’s son.

Of course, Barr himself encouraged the violence yesterday.

That’s because, less than a year ago, he treated a threat against a sitting judge issued by some of the men who organized yesterday’s actions as a “technicality” not worthy of a sentencing enhancement for Roger Stone.

Two years ago, after Roger Stone posted a picture of Amy Berman Jackson with crosshairs on it, Jonathan Kravis asked Stone who came up with the picture. The President’s rat-fucker named two of his buddies who are key leaders of the Proud Boys, Jacob Engles and Enrique Tarrio.

Amy Berman Jackson. How was the image conveyed to you by the person who selected it?

Stone. It was emailed to me or text-messaged to me. I’m not certain.

Q. Who sent the email?

A. I would have to go back and look. I don’t recognize. I don’t know. Somebody else uses my —

THE COURT: How big is your staff, Mr. Stone?

THE DEFENDANT: I don’t have a staff, Your Honor. I have a few volunteers. I also — others use my phone, so I’m not the only one texting, because it is my account and, therefore, it’s registered to me. So I’m uncertain how I got the image. I think it is conceivable that it was selected on my phone. I believe that is the case, but I’m uncertain.

THE COURT: So individuals, whom you cannot identify, provide you with material to be posted on your personal Instagram account and you post it, even if you don’t know who it came from?

THE DEFENDANT: Everybody who works for me is a volunteer. My phone is used by numerous people because it can only be posted to the person to whom it is registered.

[snip]

Jonathan Kravis. What are the names of the five or six volunteers that you’re referring to?

Stone. I would — Jacob Engles, Enrique Tarrio. I would have to go back and look.

Not only did Stone appear at the rally before yesterday’s insurrection, but Tarrio was arrested on his way to the riot for crimes he committed during the last demonstration in support of Trump, an attack on a historic Black church in DC and possession of weapons.

Prosecutors asked Judge Jackson to add a two-level sentencing enhancement for this action, in which Stone’s Proud Boys associates crafted a threat against her.

Finally, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1, two levels are added because the defendant “willfully obstructed or impeded, or attempted to obstruct or impede, the administration of justice with respect to the prosecution of the instant offense of conviction.” Shortly after the case was indicted, Stone posted an image of the presiding judge with a crosshair next to her head. In a hearing to address, among other things, Stone’s ongoing pretrial release, Stone gave sworn testimony about this matter that was not credible. Stone then repeatedly violated a more specific court order by posting messages on social media about matters related to the case.

This enhancement is warranted based on that conduct. See U.S.S.G. § 3C1.C Cmt. 4(F) (“providing materially false information to a magistrate or judge”); see, e.g., United States v. Lassequ, 806 F.3d 618, 625 (1st Cir. 2015) (“Providing false information to a judge in the course of a bail hearing can serve as a basis for the obstruction of justice enhancement.”); United States v. Jones, 911 F. Supp. 54 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (applying §3C1.1 enhancement to a defendant who submitted false information at hearing on modifying defendant’s conditions of release).

The sentencing memo that Bill Barr had drawn up to justify a more lenient sentence dismissed this enhancement which it admitted “technically” applied.

Notably, however, the Sentencing Guidelines enhancements in this case—while perhaps technically applicable— more than double the defendant’s total offense level and, as a result, disproportionately escalate the defendant’s sentencing exposure to an offense level of 29, which typically applies in cases involving violent offenses, such as armed robbery, not obstruction cases. Cf. U.S.S.G. § 2B3.1(a)-(b).

[snip]

Second, the two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice (§ 3C1.1) overlaps to a degree with the offense conduct in this case. Moreover, it is unclear to what extent the [defendant’s obstructive conduct actually prejudiced the government at trial.]

When ABJ gagged Stone in response to him posting the picture, she talked about the possibility that Stone’s post might incite his extremist followers to take action.

What concerns me is the fact that he chose to use his public platform, and chose to express himself in a manner that can incite others who may feel less constrained. The approach he chose posed a very real risk that others with extreme views and violent inclinations would be inflamed.

[snip]

The defendant himself told me he had more than one to choose from. And so what he chose, particularly when paired with the sorts of incendiary comments included in the text, the comments that not only can lead to disrespect for the judiciary, but threats on the judiciary, the post had a more sinister message. As a man who, according to his own account, has made communication his forté, his raison d’être, his life’s work, Roger Stone fully understands the power of words and the power of symbols. And there’s nothing ambiguous about crosshairs.

She repeated that sentiment when she overruled the Barr-authorized memo, judging the enhancement was appropriate.

Here, the defendant willfully engaged in behavior that a rational person would find to be inherently obstructive. It’s important to note that he didn’t just fire off a few intemperate emails. He used the tools of social media to achieve the broadest dissemination possible. It wasn’t accidental. He had a staff that helped him do it.

As the defendant emphasized in emails introduced into evidence in this case, using the new social media is his “sweet spot.” It’s his area of expertise. And even the letters submitted on his behalf by his friends emphasized that incendiary activity is precisely what he is specifically known for. He knew exactly what he was doing. And by choosing Instagram and Twitter as his platforms, he understood that he was multiplying the number of people who would hear his message.

By deliberately stoking public opinion against prosecution and the Court in this matter, he willfully increased the risk that someone else, with even poorer judgment than he has, would act on his behalf. This is intolerable to the administration of justice, and the Court cannot sit idly by, shrug its shoulder and say: Oh, that’s just Roger being Roger, or it wouldn’t have grounds to act the next time someone tries it.

Effectively, ABJ was warning against precisely what happened yesterday: that Stone (and Trump) would rile up extremists and those extremists would, predictably, take violent actions. ABJ judged that you can’t let the incitement go unpunished.

Barr, on the other hand, suggested that unless there was proof the incitement had an effect, it was just a technicality.

Bill Barr had a chance to stand against the incitement-driven terrorism led by the Proud Boys last year. And he chose to use his authority, instead, to protect Trump.

Footnote: The Day Before Roger Stone Received a Pre-Written Pardon, He Lied about the Ongoing Investigation into His Conspiracy with Russia

As I noted here, Roger Stone’s pardon appears to have been all packaged up, covering only the crimes for which he has already been found guilty, before Billy Barr left DOJ and the pardons were rolled out.

Which is why I’m intrigued that Roger Stone went on The Gateway Pundit to lie about the investigation into him just yesterday. In what appears to be an interview of himself, Stone makes several assertions. First, he includes me among those who — he claims — were “obsessed with the idea that I was working with WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks was working with the Russians.”

It wasn’t just the nut jobs like Mother Jones ,the Daily Beast , Salon and nutty bloggers like Marcy Wheeler but allegedly responsible media outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and CNN and MSNBC became obsessed with the idea that I was working with WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks was working with the Russians.

I’m flattered Stone felt the need to include me in this esteemed list without, this time, threatening to sue me for reporting things that would later be confirmed in court documents. It’s a testament to how closely Stone has always read me.

Stone wrote this self-interview for a more specific purpose, however: To claim that the Mueller Report passages unsealed the day before the election concluded he had no ties to WikiLeaks.

At midnight on election day November 3rd, 2020- the busiest news day of the year and timed to get as little press coverage as possible, the United States Department of Justice released the remaining unredacted sections of the Mueller Report regarding me specifically, in which they had admitted that despite two years of intense investigation, spending millions to pour through every aspect of my life, dragging 36 witnesses to the grand jury and after obtaining all my electronic communications for four years ( literally millions of e-mails and pages of documents, tax returns, banking and financial records –they found no factual evidence of any collaboration or coordination between me and WikiLeaks regarding the release of emails regarding John Podesta, the Democratic National committee or Hillary Clinton or that I had any advance knowledge of the timing, content or source of their disclosures).

He says that this passage proves that:

“The Office determined that it could not pursue a Section 1030 conspiracy charge against Stone for some of the same legal reasons. The most fundamental hurdles, though, are factual ones.1279 As explained in Volume I, Section III.D.1, supra, Corsi’s accounts of his interactions with Stone on October 7, 2016 are not fully consistent or corroborated. Even if they were, neither Corsi’s testimony nor other evidence currently available to the Office is sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stone knew or believed that the computer intrusions were ongoing at the time he ostensibly encouraged or coordinated the publication of the Podesta emails. Stone’s actions would thus be consistent with (among other things) a belief that he was aiding in the dissemination of the fruits of an already completed hacking operation perpetrated by a third party, which would be a level of knowledge insufficient to establish conspiracy liability. See State v. Phillips, 82 S.E.2d 762, 766 (N.C. 1954) (“In the very nature of things, persons cannot retroactively conspire to commit a previously consummated crime.”) (quoted in Model Penal Code and Commentaries § 5.03, at 442 (1985).

[additional content that Stone doesn’t include]

“Regardless, success would also depend upon evidence of WikiLeaks’s and Stone’s knowledge of ongoing or contemplated future computer intrusions-the proof that is currently lacking.”

Unsurprisingly, Stone does not include the footnote modifying this passage which, as I noted at the time, made it clear there were still ongoing investigations, plural, into this question at the time Mueller closed up shop on March 22, 2019.

1279 Some of the factual uncertainties are the subject of ongoing investigations that have been referred by this Office to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office.

That is, the passage said the exact opposite of what Stone said it did. It said that, presumably in part because Roger Stone’s aide Andrew Miller had stalled on his grand jury testimony for a year, the investigation into whether Stone could be charged in the CFAA conspiracy with Russia was not yet complete, not after two years of investigation.

And having lied about what the unsealed passage says, Stone then complains that Judge Amy Berman Jackson withheld it from his lawyers.

Judge Amy Berman withheld this from my lawyers at trial. The Mueller’s dirty cops concluded in their report that even if they had found evidence that I had received documents from Assange of WikiLeaks and passed them to anyone, which I did not and for which they found no evidence whatsoever, it would not have been illegal. The whole thing was a hoax.

ABJ withheld it, of course, because DOJ was still investigating, even as recently as April 2020 when DOJ unsealed warrants that made that clear. DOJ withheld that passage so Stone wouldn’t know that the witness tampering case into him was just one step in an ongoing investigation, one that remained focussed on whether Roger Stone conspired with Russia or — indeed — had even served as an Agent of Russia.

Stone goes on to complain that only BuzzFeed, along with right wing propaganda sites Washington Examiner (who launched the investigation into Stone in the first place) and Zero Hedge, misreported the significance of this detail.

The only three news outlets who reported on this shocking election day admission that there was no evidence found that would support this narrative were BuzzFeed, who successfully brought the lawsuit for the release of this material, the Washington Examiner and ZeroHedge. Where were the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, The Atlantic, The Hill, Politico, Salon, Vox, Vice, CNN, MSNBC, NBC and the Business Insider – all of who were quick to smear me as a “go-between for WikiLeaks and the Trump Campaign” but none of whom reported on the stunning conclusions of Mueller’s thugs.

He didn’t mention me in this case, because I correctly reported that the Mueller language actually said the exact opposite of what Stone claims.

Hours before he received a pardon for lying to cover up his real go-between with WikiLeaks — which a good deal of evidence suggests was Guccifer 2.0 — Roger Stone did an interview of himself where he falsely claimed the Mueller Report had finished its investigation only to fall short of proving that he was conspiring with Russia.

That’s a crime, it should be noted, for which Stone was not pardoned.

Waiting on the Flynn Pardon Paperwork: What Happened with the Roger Stone Commutation

A lot of lawyers are arguing about what Judge Emmet Sullivan might do now that Donald Trump has [tweeted out a claim that he had] pardoned Mike Flynn.

It’s useful to see how something similar happened with Roger Stone. The Mueller Report made an extended case that both of them (along with Paul Manafort) had been encouraged to lie with a pardon dangle. In Stone’s case, as with Flynn, Bill Barr took unprecedented steps to try to overturn the prosecution. Then, in both cases, Trump intervened in an attempt to protect the people who had protected him.

So Stone’s docket should provide a hint of what might happen with Flynn’s pardon.

Stone’s commutation didn’t show up on DOJ’s list of commutations for several days (the commutation was issued the Friday before the Tuesday Stone would have reported). Three days later, however, DOJ posted Stone just like they had other grantees.

But DOJ didn’t inform Judge Amy Berman Jackson of their own accord. She had to go to DOJ, on the Probation Office’s behalf, to ask WTF. She ordered the parties to provide proof of the commutation, including details on how much of Stone’s punishment it covered.

In response, Stone’s lawyers posted the actual grant.

When law professors who had no standing tried to intervene — based on some of the same theories that people are floating in this case — ABJ rightly denied their motion to file as amici.

As noted, I suspect something similar will happen next week where the terms of Flynn’s pardon will be submitted to his docket. All that said, until something does land in the docket — and for some of the pending motions, even afterwards — Sullivan is still entitled to proceed as he has been, writing an order for the motion to dismiss. Even after that, there are several topics — what to do about Flynn’s perjury before him and before the grand jury, what to do about Flynn’s motion to withdraw his plea (which may pertain to DOJ’s ability to charge Flynn or his son on FARA charges), and what to do about DOJ altering documents submitted to Sullivan — that Sullivan might rightly weigh in on.

DOJ may have an incentive to shorten the amount of time in which Sullivan can do that.

But there is absolutely no reason to believe that Sullivan would challenge the pardon, nor is there reason to believe he’d respond any differently if someone else tried to.

Roger Stone’s 2016 “Stop the Steal” Effort May Have Been Coordinated with Russia

CNN has traced out in detail what I’ve been noting for some time: the “Stop the Steal” effort ginning up disinformation and threats of violence in the wake of Donald Trump’s loss is a repackaged version of an effort that Roger Stone rolled out in 2016.

[W]hile Stop the Steal may sound like a new 2020 political slogan to many, it did not emerge organically over widespread concerns about voting fraud in President Donald Trump’s race against Joe Biden. It has been in the works for years.

Its origin traces to Roger Stone, a veteran Republican operative and self-described “dirty trickster” whose 40-month prison sentence for seven felonies was cut short by Trump’s commutation in July.

Stone’s political action committee launched a “Stop the Steal” website in 2016 to fundraise ahead of that election, asking for $10,000 donations by saying, “If this election is close, THEY WILL STEAL IT.”

But CNN — with four journalists bylined — misses several important parts of that earlier story, parts that are critical to understanding the stakes for Steve Bannon and Stone now.

Stone may have mixed his political fundraising

First, there’s good reason to believe that Stone was not segregating the different kinds of campaign finance organizations he was using for his 2016 rat-fucking. Even from what remained of his public infrastructure when I wrote this post, it showed that fundraising for one kind of dark money group went to links associated with a PAC.

[I]t’s clear he wasn’t segregating the fundraising for them, and I wonder whether some of his email fundraising involved other possible campaign finance violations. For example, here’s the Stop the Steal site as it existed on March 10, 2016. It was clearly trying to track fundraising, carefully instructing people to respond to emails if they received one. But it claimed to be TCTRAG (what I call CRAG), even though the incoming URL was for Stop the Steal.

That remained true even after Stop the Steal was formally created, on April 10. Even after the website changed language to disavow Stop the Steal being a PAC by April 23, the fundraising form still went to TCTRAG (what I call CRAG), a PAC.

In other words, people would click a link thinking it would fund one effort (and one kind of legal entity) and any money donated would instead go to another effort (and another kind of legal entity). Since then, we’ve learned more about how everyone associated with Trump — Corey Lewandowski, Paul Manafort, and Brad Parscale, in addition to Stone — set up these entities to get rich off of Trump. It’s one reason the rivalry between Lewandowski and Manafort was so heated: because one’s relative prominence in Trump’s campaign effort was directly related to the amount of money that one could grift from it.

But as Bannon’s indictment for fraud makes clear, telling people they’re donating money for one purpose (to build a wall) but using the money for other purposes (to support Bannon’s pricey lifestyle) can be prosecuted as fraud.

When Andrew Miller was negotiating testimony about Stone, he specifically asked for immunity relating to Stone’s PACs and his texts with Stone that the government subpoenaed after his grand jury appearance overlapped with that campaign slush.

In 2016, Stone was (illegally) coordinating with the campaign

As appears to have been the case for all these efforts to grift off the campaign, Stone was coordinating his PAC and dark money efforts with the campaign.

We learned that, in Stone’s case, starting with a legal debate in the lead-up to Stone’s trial about 404(b) information, which is information about other bad actions (including crimes) that prosecutors are permitted to introduce during a trial to prove something like motive or consistent behavior.

In advance of Stone’s trial prosecutors got permission to introduce evidence that Stone lied about something in his HPSCI testimony, on top of all the lies about who his go-between with WikiLeaks was, only that other lie wasn’t charged.

At the pretrial conference held on September 25, 2019, the Court deferred ruling on that portion of the Government’s Notice of Intention to Introduce Rule 404(b) evidence [Dkt. # 140] that sought the introduction of evidence related to another alleged false statement to the HPSCI, which, like the statement charged in Count Six, relates to the defendant’s communications with the Trump campaign. After further review of the arguments made by the parties and the relevant authorities, and considering both the fact that the defendant has stated publicly that his alleged false statements were merely accidental, and that he is charged not only with making individual false statements, but also with corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the proceedings in general, the evidence will be admitted, with an appropriate limiting instruction. See Lavelle v. United States, 751 F.2d 1266, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1985), citing United States v. DeLoach, 654 F.2d 763 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (given the defendant’s claim that she was simply confused and did not intend to deceive Congress, evidence of false testimony in other instances was relevant to her intent and passed the threshold under Rule 404(b)). The Court further finds that the probative value of the evidence is not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson permitted prosecutors to include it because it showed that Stone was trying to cover up all of his coordination with the campaign.

A September hearing about this topic made clear that it pertained to what Stone’s PACs were doing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Marando argued that Stone falsely denied communicating with Trump’s campaign about his political-action-committee-related activities, and that the lie revealed his calculated plan to cover up his ties to the campaign and obstruct the committee’s work.

This debate suggested prosecutors could present the information via just one witness, but unless I’m misunderstanding, it actually came in via two witnesses: There were a number of texts between Rick Gates and Stone where Stone kept demanding lists from the campaign (indeed, this is something that Stone’s lawyers actually emphasized!). And during the period when Bannon was campaign manager, Stone asked him to get Rebekah Mercer to support some of his other activities, designed to suppress the black vote.

Both of these communications show that Stone was at least attempting to coordinate his efforts with the campaign (it’s not clear to what degree Gates responded to Stone’s demands), and the second detail shows that he was coordinating with Bannon, the guy who took over the Stop the Steal effort this year.

This kind of coordination is illegal (albeit common), though Billy Barr’s DOJ refused to prosecute Trump for any of it (and he even appears to have shut down an investigation into what appeared to be a kickback system Manafort used to get paid).

Stone’s Stop the Steal efforts paralleled the voter suppression efforts of the Russian operation

Even back when I examined Stone’s Stop the Steal efforts in 2018 (when I was skeptical about his legal liability with respect to WikiLeaks), it was clear that the steps Stone took happened to coincide with Russia’s efforts.

Stone’s voter suppression effort is not surprising. It’s the kind of thing the rat-fucker has been doing his entire life.

Except it’s of particular interest in 2016 because of the specific form it took. That’s because two aspects of Stone’s voter suppression efforts paralleled Russian efforts. For example, even as Stone was recruiting thousands of “exit pollers” to intimidate people of color, Guccifer 2.0 was promising to register as an election observer, in part because of the “holes and vulnerabilities” in the software of the machines.

INFO FROM INSIDE THE FEC: THE DEMOCRATS MAY RIG THE ELECTIONS

I’d like to warn you that the Democrats may rig the elections on November 8. This may be possible because of the software installed in the FEC networks by the large IT companies.

As I’ve already said, their software is of poor quality, with many holes and vulnerabilities.

I have registered in the FEC electronic system as an independent election observer; so I will monitor that the elections are held honestly.

I also call on other hackers to join me, monitor the elections from inside and inform the U.S. society about the facts of electoral fraud.

More interesting still, the GRU indictment makes it clear that GRU’s information operation hackers were probing county electoral websites in swing states as late as October 28.

In or around October 2016, KOVALEV and his co-conspirators further targeted state and county offices responsible for administering the 2016 U.S. elections. For example, on or about October 28, 2016, KOVALEV and his co-conspirators visited the websites of certain counties in Georgia, Iowa, and Florida to identify vulnerabilities.

Whether or not GRU ever intended to alter the vote, Russia’s propagandists were providing the digital “proof” that Republicans might point to to sustain their claims that Democrats had rigged the election.

This is a line that Wikileaks also parroted, DMing Don Jr that if Hillary won his pop should not concede.

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.

Since that time, we’ve learned that Maria Butina and Sergey Kislyak were also aiming to focus on observing polls in 2016. We’ve learned that the GRU hackers were actually targeting conservative Florida counties in 2016 (including Matt Gaetz’s district), meaning that had Trump lost he might have turned to the hacking of GOP strongholds to claim that that hacking had undermined his vote totals in Florida.

There are also indications that Mueller was pursuing evidence that not only Stone, but also Paul Manafort, had advance notice of all this. For example, Manafort got asked about Russians hacking voting machines in regards to a November 5, 2016 note he sent to the campaign regarding “Securing the Victory” (which admittedly is a slightly different topic but one that might have elicited an answer about hacking the Boards of Election if Manafort were at all inclined to tell the truth, which he was not).

All of which is to say that, had Hillary won narrowly (as Biden won by close margins in enough states to amount to a resounding victory), we probably would have seen Stone’s Stop the Steal effort to be doing precisely what Bannon’s Stop the Steal has been doing this year, both delegitimizing the outcome and sowing violence. But in that case, the effort may have been accompanied by possible foreknowledge that a close investigation of certain GOP strongholds would disclose proof of tampering in the election.

Stone pitched Bannon on a way to win ugly the day he became Campaign Manager

At this point, I’ve come to believe that prosecutors used their live witnesses at Stone’s trial (aside from former FBI Agent Michelle Taylor, who introduced most of the evidence) to make certain testimony public regarding other investigative prongs. For example, prosecutors got Gates to testify publicly that Stone claimed involvement in the release of stolen emails at a time when only Guccifer 2.0 was releasing them, not WikiLeaks. Prosecutors got Randy Credico to confirm publicly that shortly after the election, he helped Stone try to pay off his election debt by pardoning Julian Assange.

And prosecutors got Steve Bannon to — very reluctantly — repeat grand jury testimony that he regarded a pitch that Stone made to him the day after he became campaign manager to be related to dirty tricks and WikiLeaks.

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.”

Even though they had Bannon there on the stand, prosecutors did not get him to explain what this plan to win ugly entailed. So we don’t know whether it pertained to Stone’s efforts to suppress the black vote, his Stop the Steal effort to discredit a potential Hillary win, or something more (I’ll eventually get around to what that something more might be). But we do know that when Bannon enthusiastically responded to those pitches, he expected Stone’s plan to win ugly would involve dirty tricks and WikiLeaks.

Stone’s real go-between with WikiLeaks was likely Guccifer 2.0

No one involved with the Trump campaign — at least as far as is public — claims to have known who Stone’s claimed tie to WikiLeaks was.

But Rick Gates apparently did testify that Stone claimed to have a tie to Guccifer 2.0 well before the time he was DMing with the persona on Twitter. The FBI had evidence (though how good it is remains inconclusive) that he was searching on both Guccifer 2.0 and dcleaks before those sites went live. When prosecutors wrote the Mueller Report in March 2019, they still had not determined whether any proof they had of Stone’s awareness of Russia’s ongoing hacking — which extended until November 2016 — was sufficient proof beyond reasonable doubt to charge him as part of the hack-and-leak conspiracy.

As I have argued, there is evidence, albeit not conclusive, that Stone’s go-between with WikiLeaks was Guccifer 2.0.

If that’s right, it suggests that Stone’s parallel efforts with Guccifer 2.0’s, efforts that seemingly anticipated hacks that might have served to discredit the vote in 2016, may not have been coincidence or even just a result of the seeming dance via which Trump’s team and Russia followed the same path without any coordination. It may have reflected coordination.

Let me very clear: I’m not making any claims that happened this year. There’s no evidence of it, and those who tracked election tampering efforts have said they found none.

But until Billy Barr intervened in Stone’s sentencing, all this was (at least per FOIA redactions) an ongoing investigation, the investigation that Stone’s prosecution served, in part, as an investigative step in. If you put that together with Bannon’s own legal exposure in the Build the Wall fraud indictment, it changes the stakes on these men’s efforts to curry Trump’s favor (and to ensure he remains in power, via whatever means).

If Trump remains in charge of DOJ, these men will stay out of prison. If he doesn’t, they may not. And for Stone, especially, a Joe Biden DOJ (or a Democratic Congress, with DOJ’s help) may reveal what he has been denying for years, that Stone willingly coordinated during the 2016 election with someone whose ties to Russia were only thinly hidden.

Bill Barr’s DOJ Protecting Sean Hannity the Cut-Out

Today, DOJ will have to release a less-classified version of the Mueller Report and another batch of 302s in the BuzzFeed FOIA. Then, after the election, Jason Leopold’s lawyers and DOJ start fighting over all the things DOJ withheld, including Mike Flynn’s 302 (which DOJ withheld because DOJ is trying to blow up his prosecution and releasing them publicly would make it clear his lies were material).

While we’re waiting, I wanted to point to a paragraph from an October 11, 2018 Paul Manafort interview that was wrongly withheld.

DOJ redacted Sean Hannity’s name, perhaps to make it harder to demonstrate that Manafort’s claim was a lie.

This is a reference to text messages Manafort had with Sean Hannity. Judge Amy Berman Jackson unsealed them during Manafort’s sentencing, making them a public official DOJ document. The texts show Manafort acknowledging the gag ABJ imposed.

Less than a week later, Manafort says they’ll have to hold off on talking until he gets bail, and Hannity passes on what appears to be word from Trump, that unless Jeff Sessions appoints a special prosecutor to investigate Uranium One, he’ll be gone.

In December, after Mueller’s team busts Manafort for working with Konstantin Kilimnik to edit an oped to run in Kyiv, Manafort tells Hannity he has to delay talking to him until they get past a hearing on that violation of ABJ’s gag order.

In early January, Manafort talks about having his lawyer (probably Kevin Downing) do an interview with Hannity about a civil suit he filed against Mueller as a way around the gag.

Again in January, Manafort says he needs to have his lawyer meeting with Gregg Jarrett to talk about their plans to try to get Andrew Weissmann thrown off the team.

On January 24 and 25, 2018, Manafort tells Hannity that Kevin Downing will be calling him.

On the 25th, Hannity confirms that he did speak with Downing and insists that Downing feed him “everyday.” Manafort says he will.

In May 2018, Manafort tells Hannity to look for his filing claiming the Mueller team was illegally leaking.

In May, Manafort asks Hannity if he’ll pitch his defense fund. Hannity says he will when Manafort and his lawyer are on.

Manafort insists to Hannity that his leaks filing exposes Weissmann misconduct. Hannity explains that Jarrett did not share the filing with him, so asks Manafort to sent it to his (!!!) AOL.Com address.

After Manafort gets busted for witness tampering, Manafort texts Hannity and insists it was bullshit.

And then Paulie goes to prison and the texts end.

Throughout the exchanges — particularly with that meeting between Downing and Hannity on January 24, 2018 — it’s clear Manafort is feeding Hannity.

And, as Weissmann got permission to include include in his book, the Muller team analyzed the texts and mapped how comments Manafort shared showed up in Hannity’s broadcasts.

At the same time the Manafort allies were working Gates over, dangling the prospect of money and a White House pardon, they were also fomenting a press strategy to undermine our office’s work, and Team M’s case against him in particular. In the spring of 2018, we discovered a new Manafort account he was using after his indictment in October 2017. As we had done countless times before, we obtained a court order from Chief Judge Howell, served it on the carrier, and soon unexpectedly had in our hands hundreds of texts between Manafort and the Fox News host Sean Hannity.

In one text exchange, during the weeks in which we were working to flip Gates, Manafort assured Hannity that Gates would stay strong and never cooperate. In others, he supplied Hannity with a cache of right-wing conspiracy-laden ammunition with which to attack Mueller, me, and the Special Counsel’s Office as a whole—some of it, Manafort claimed, had been passed on from sources within the Justice Department. Manafort, who was under house arrest at the time, assured Hannity that Manafort’s counsel would be in touch with him. Hannity worked this information into the tirades against us that he performed almost nightly on the air.

At the time, remember, Manafort was under indictment for the same charges as Gates; both were out on bail with strict pretrial conditions. Communicating with Hannity about the case was a violation of the gag order Judge Jackson had put in place on both sides so as not to taint the jury. But Manafort was undeterred by such legal niceties as a court order; he was doing what he did best: surreptitiously cooking up a smear campaign, then using Hannity to disseminate it, thereby contaminating the political discourse.

A Team M analyst correlated the texts to the Hannity Fox News programs that then aired in support of Manafort. The texts revealed a media plan that was just like the work he’d done in Ukraine, targeting President Yanukovych’s enemies. Now, however, Manafort was working on his own behalf, launching an assault on a government investigation poised to undo him.

I had wanted to submit the Hannity texts to the court as they revealed a continued flagrant violation of the court’s order, and it was something I believed the judge needed to know as it could well change her view on whether Manafort should remain on bail, or at least whether the conditions of his bail should be tightened up. When I told Aaron this, he had his usual reaction: No one could see these texts. “They are too explosive,” he said. He did not want the inevitable shit storm that would result on Fox and other media outlets, but that was no excuse for not alerting the court to the violation of her order. (I made clear that the court would have to see them at least in connection with sentencing Manafort as it was our obligation not to hide this from the court, which is how these ended up seeing the light of day.) Soon this latest Grant-McClellan standoff would be largely moot when we discovered Manafort’s breach of his bail conditions in a manner that made the gag order violation pale in comparison.

The fact that Weissmann was able to include this detail in his book makes it clear this is not sensitive and, indeed, DOJ considers it public.

And yet DOJ hid the identity of one of the most public men in America to hide the way Fox was running interference for Trump’s criminals.

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.

The Proud Boys Have Already Been Used to Intimidate Those Holding Trump Accountable — and Bill Barr Has Protected Them

As a number of people have observed, in last night’s debate, Donald Trump not only refused to condemn white supremacist terrorists, but seemed to call on them to stand by to support him.

President Donald J. Trump: (42:10)
What do you want to call them? Give me a name, give me a name, go ahead who do you want me to condemn.

Chris Wallace: (42:14)
White supremacist and right-wing militia.

President Donald J. Trump: (42:18)
Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem this is a left wing.

He named the Proud Boys explicitly.

Today, I noted that the reason why Randy Credico took Roger Stone’s threats seriously — the reason the witness tampering charge merited the full enhancement — was because of Stone’s ties to the Proud Boys. Credico confirmed that by posting a picture of Stone with his gang.

In Stone’s sentencing hearing, Judge Amy Berman Jackson described how Credico told the grand jury he was worried about Stone’s gang.

I note, since the defense has informed me that I can consider this material, that that is not consistent with his grand jury testimony, which was closer in time to the actual threats, at which time he said he was hiding and wearing a disguise and not living at home because he was worried, if not about Trump, about his — about Stone, but about his friends. So, I think his level of concern may have changed over time.

It’s not just Credico. When ABJ held a hearing to consider a gag on Roger Stone, she first got him to explain how his associates — whom he first declined to identify but then, when pressed by prosecutor Jonathan Kravis, named Proud Boys members Jacob Engles and Enrique Tarrio — had been working with him on that post but he couldn’t really describe who had picked the image of Judge Jackson with the crosshairs on it.

Amy Berman Jackson. How was the image conveyed to you by the person who selected it?

Stone. It was emailed to me or text-messaged to me. I’m not certain.

Q. Who sent the email?

A. I would have to go back and look. I don’t recognize. I don’t know. Somebody else uses my —

THE COURT: How big is your staff, Mr. Stone?

THE DEFENDANT: I don’t have a staff, Your Honor. I have a few volunteers. I also — others use my phone, so I’m not the only one texting, because it is my account and, therefore, it’s registered to me. So I’m uncertain how I got the image. I think it is conceivable that it was selected on my phone. I believe that is the case, but I’m uncertain.

THE COURT: So individuals, whom you cannot identify, provide you with material to be posted on your personal Instagram account and you post it, even if you don’t know who it came from?

THE DEFENDANT: Everybody who works for me is a volunteer. My phone is used by numerous people because it can only be posted to the person to whom it is registered.

[snip]

Jonathan Kravis. What are the names of the five or six volunteers that you’re referring to?

Stone. I would — Jacob Engles, Enrique Tarrio. I would have to go back and look

When she imposed a gag on Stone, she explained that his Instagram post amounted to incitement of others, people with extreme views and violent inclinations.

What concerns me is the fact that he chose to use his public platform, and chose to express himself in a manner that can incite others who may feel less constrained. The approach he chose posed a very real risk that others with extreme views and violent inclinations would be inflamed.

[snip]

The defendant himself told me he had more than one to choose from. And so what he chose, particularly when paired with the sorts of incendiary comments included in the text, the comments that not only can lead to disrespect for the judiciary, but threats on the judiciary, the post had a more sinister message. As a man who, according to his own account, has made communication his forté, his raison d’être, his life’s work, Roger Stone fully understands the power of words and the power of symbols. And there’s nothing ambiguous about crosshairs.

Then, again at the sentencing hearing, ABJ talked about the risk that, “someone else, with even poorer judgment than he has, would act on his behalf.

Here, the defendant willfully engaged in behavior that a rational person would find to be inherently obstructive. It’s important to note that he didn’t just fire off a few intemperate emails. He used the tools of social media to achieve the broadest dissemination possible. It wasn’t accidental. He had a staff that helped him do it.

As the defendant emphasized in emails introduced into evidence in this case, using the new social media is his “sweet spot.” It’s his area of expertise. And even the letters submitted on his behalf by his friends emphasized that incendiary activity is precisely what he is specifically known for. He knew exactly what he was doing. And by choosing Instagram and Twitter as his platforms, he understood that he was multiplying the number of people who would hear his message.

By deliberately stoking public opinion against prosecution and the Court in this matter, he willfully increased the risk that someone else, with even poorer judgment than he has, would act on his behalf. This is intolerable to the administration of justice, and the Court cannot sit idly by, shrug its shoulder and say: Oh, that’s just Roger being Roger, or it wouldn’t have grounds to act the next time someone tries it.

Both Credico and ABJ, then, pointed to the white supremacist gang that Roger Stone hangs out with to explain why Roger Stone’s threats must be taken seriously.

And Bill Barr dismissed the seriousness of both those threats — the threats Roger Stone makes that might lead one of his associates to take violent action — when he undermined the sentencing recommendation on Stone.

Trump’s invocation of the Proud Boys is no idle threat. Because the Proud Boys have already been used to intimidate those holding Donald Trump accountable.

In Letter Confirming DOJ Altered Peter Strzok’s Notes, His Lawyer Identifies Additional Privacy Act Violations

Among a slew of last minute documents submitted in advance of today’s hearing in the Mike Flynn case, Peter Strzok’s lawyer, Aitan Goelman, confirmed what I laid out here and here: DOJ altered some of the exhibits submitted in their effort to blow up Flynn’s prosecution.

Some of Mr. Strzok’s notes included in this attachment appear to have been altered. On at least two occasions, there were handwritten additions, not written by Mr. Strzok, inserting dates, apparently designed to indicate the date or dates on which the notes were written. On at least one occasion, the date added is wrong and could be read to suggest that a meeting at the White House happened before it actually did.

Goelman included those both altered records pertaining to Strzok (there may be one related to Andrew McCabe as well), including the one that shows someone wanted to implicate Joe Biden in all this.

That may not be the most important thing Goelman established, however.

Among the things DOJ released the other night was yet another version of the Strzok and Lisa Page texts. When she sent them to Flynn’s lawyers, Jocelyn Ballantine admitted the relevant texts had been provided to Flynn in 2018, before he allocuted his guilty plea a second time.

We are also providing you with additional text messages between former DAD Strzok and Lisa Page (23516-23540). As you know, some of these messages were originally made available to Flynn’s former attorneys on March 13, 2018 through a publicly available link to a Senate webpage. On June 24, 2018, the government provided a link to a second website that contained additional text messages. In an abundance of caution, we are providing you additional text messages in this production; please note that purely personal messages have been deleted from this production.

DOJ seems to have re-released the texts in an effort knit together unrelated actions to suggest they all related to Mike Flynn. Among the texts included in this release, purportedly in support of blowing up Mike Flynn’s prosecution, I can identify texts pertaining to:

  • The investigation into Russia’s attack on the US
  • The Mid-Year Exam investigation into Hillary’s server
  • The general Crossfire Hurricane investigation
  • Extensive efforts to ensure the Crossfire Hurricane investigation remained secret
  • Efforts to ensure that Obama officials didn’t politicize the Mike Flynn intercepts
  • Specific Crossfire Hurricane sub-investigations, including substantial threads pertaining to Carter Page and George Papadopoulos
  • The opening of the Jeff Sessions false statements investigation
  • The bureaucratic set-up of the Mueller investigation
  • References to Kevin Clinesmith (and possibly some references to other Kevins)
  • Substantive critiques of Donald Trump (for example, pertaining to his desire to blow up NATO)
  • Discussions of Trump sharing highly classified Israeli intelligence with the Russians
  • Proactive ethical discussions about how to deal with the appointment of Rudolph Contreras, whom Strzok was friends with, to the FISA Court
  • Leak investigations, both into stories pertaining to Flynn or Trump and stories not related to Trump
  • Unrelated FISA applications
  • 702 reauthorization
  • Apparently unrelated cases, including things like CFIUS reviews

There are long swaths with half the side of the conversation left out, hiding what are clear changes of topic.

Then there are personal details, like talks about showers and anniversaries, as well as some emotional chatter and one declaration of love.

That makes Ballantine’s claim that, “purely personal messages have been deleted from this production,” utterly damning, particularly given the timing, September 23, and the fact that unlike past productions, this was not noticed to the docket in real time.

“Did your anniversary go ok? I don’t really want a lot of deta[]” is by any sane measure a purely personal message. It was not deleted or redacted from this production.

What DOJ decided to do, just days before a decision in the parallel lawsuits Strzok and Page have against DOJ alleging a violation of the Privacy Act for the release of personal information, was to release more personal information, information that had — in the past, under an earlier purported ethics review of what was releasable — been deemed personal information.

DOJ knit together a bunch of texts that DOJ admits were already public before Flynn allocuted his guilty plea a second time, but threw in yet more personal texts.

And then, on September 25, Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Page and Strzok should both get discovery to prove their Privacy Act (and in Strzok’s case, other claims) cases. That makes all of this — all the decisions that led up to to the release of these texts — discoverable in what I assume will be an expanded Privacy Act lawsuit.

It’s unclear what malicious thinking led DOJ to include more texts attempting to humiliate Strzok and Page (even while providing a slew of other information making it clear that Strzok did not have it in for Flynn). But they just likely made this entire process subject to discovery in a lawsuit overseen by Amy Berman Jackson.