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Bill Barr Is Not Dick Cheney

Imagine if David Addington had co-signed the torture memos written by John Yoo?

I wanted to comment on a Quinta Jurecic column about the Barr Memo that Merrick Garland’s DOJ chose to withhold parts of, as well as this thread from Kel McClanahan responding to Jurecic. Their exchange focuses on how judges may have responded to Donald Trump’s Administration, and what kind of the traditional deference we should expect Garland’s DOJ to get. I’d like to add a few points that may show one possible angle for accountability for Bill Barr moving forward.

Those points start in the difference between Dick Cheney and Bill Barr. Bill Barr is not Dick Cheney. Both men were the masterminds of horrible policy under their respective (most recent) president. Both, in different ways, badly politicized the government. But Dick Cheney was, in my opinion, the most accomplished master of bureaucracy that DC had seen in a very long time. Barr, by contrast, either didn’t have Cheney’s bureaucratic finesse or just didn’t fucking care to hide his power plays. And the difference may provide means for accountability where it didn’t under Obama.

The worst Bush policies that Cheney implemented were torture and Gitmo, warrantless wiretapping, and the Iraq War. The first two implemented illegal policies by using Office of Legal Counsel to sanction them in advance. And, significantly (but not entirely) because of that, Obama never found the political means to fully excise those earlier policies. Obama only ever got paper prohibitions on torture, he never closed Gitmo, and one of the last things Loretta Lynch did was finalize an effort to legalize the last bits of Stellar Wind by approving EO 12333 sharing rules.

I believe that’s because Cheney used OLC specifically and the Executive bureaucracy generally to make any reversals more costly, a reversal of a position of the Executive Branch, rather than a treatment of crime as crime.

Barr used OLC too, plus he shielded a bunch of epically corrupt efforts to turn DOJ into the instrument of Trump’s personal will under his prerogative as Attorney General, especially prosecutorial discretion. The Barr Memo itself — a request to be advised to make a decision that Trump was not guilty of obstruction and then to announce it — was what he claims to be an instance of prosecutorial discretion. The decision to engage in unprecedented interference with Roger Stone’s sentencing was billed as an incidence of prosecutorial discretion. The decision to reverse the Mike Flynn prosecution, which entailed reversing prosecutorial decisions his own DOJ had approved at the highest levels, adopting a standard on crime that was inconsistent with every precedent, and ultimately included inventing evidence and altering documents, all that was billed as an instance of prosecutorial discretion. The decision to not only protect Rudy Giuliani from legal consequences of participating in an information campaign waged by a known agent of Russia, but also to ingest that disinformation and use it to conduct a criminal investigation of Trump’s rival’s son was also billed as an instance of prosecutorial discretion.

But in all those actions, Barr took steps that necessitated further exercise of corruptly exercised “prosecutorial discretion,” which snowballed. This is why the content of the Barr memo, which we can anticipate with a high degree of certainty, matters. The Barr memo necessarily addresses the pardon dangles (as well as the stuff that Barr said couldn’t be obstruction if a President did it). And I believe that the content of the Barr memo likely contributed to this snowball effect, possibly leading Barr to take later steps to try to limit the impact of having issued a prosecutorial declination for a crime still in progress, which in turn snowballed.

The aftermath of this effect is one detail that Jurecic and McClanahan don’t address. Jurecic says that under Trump,

judges were, perhaps unconsciously, responding to their own distrust in Trump’s oath of office by denying him—in one form or another—the presumption of good faith

She argues that Amy Berman Jackson’s anger about the memo is just another instance of this. That may be true, in part.

But it is also a fact that after ABJ presided over the Stone and Manafort cases, and as such ABJ has a detailed knowledge of what the Mueller Report showed that Barr did not get in the 48 hours while he was trying to get advice on how best to give Trump a clean bill of health (and, indeed, his public comments show he never got that detailed knowledge). In both those cases, Barr abused his discretion as Attorney General to try to make a pardon unnecessary, the snowball effect that his memo may have necessitated.

In service to his effort to minimize Stone’s prison time, Barr treated a threat against ABJ personally as a technicality. Then he lied about what he had done, falsely claiming that he had used the same thought process ABJ had when in fact he instead said threats against her could have no effect on the trial. After he treated the threat against ABJ as a technicality in the Stone case, a Mike Flynn supporter riled up by the lies Barr mobilized to try to overturn Flynn’s prosecution threatened to assassinate Emmet Sullivan. And even after that, Barr kept throwing more and more resources at undoing two decisions Emmet Sullivan made in December 2019, that Flynn’s lies were material and that prosecutors had not engaged in misconduct in his prosecution.

With his memo on the Mueller Report, Barr turned at least the year-plus prosecution of Roger Stone over which ABJ presided — and to a lesser degree the 18-month Paul Manafort prosecution — into legal nullities, in advance.

In short, it may be true that judges generally and ABJ specifically distrusted the good faith of Barr and DOJ’s effort to protect Barr.

But it is also the case that in the wake of this memo, Barr usurped the judicial authority of both ABJ and Emmet Sullivan and he took steps that minimized and contributed to dangerous threats against both.

ABJ is angry. Reggie Walton is angry. Other DC District judges are angry. But they’re angry in the wake of  Attorney General Bill Barr usurping their authority and dismissing violent threats against them and their colleagues.

This is one way Barr is different from Cheney. Cheney’s decisions, too, involved treating judges like doormats. In the effort to legalize a part of Stellar Wind in 2004, for example, DOJ told Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that she had no authority to do anything but rubber stamp a massive pen register that might collect the Internet records of millions of Americans. But DOJ did that in secret; it was years before any but a handful of Kollar-Kotelly’s colleagues even knew that, and I’m one of the very few human beings who understands that that happened. Where such claims happened in public, as with detainee fights related to Gitmo, even SCOTUS ultimately defied Cheney’s claims about Article III authority in Boumediene. But unlike Barr, Cheney maintained the illusion of legal order, in which Article III could rein in Article II.

Then there’s how they used OLC.

Jurecic portrays the dispute between ABJ and DOJ as one about their candor about the content of the memo.

For all the rhetorical fireworks, the substantive dispute between the government and Jackson is relatively narrow. It more or less boils down to an argument over whether or not the Justice Department was adequately precise in court about the specific arguments the memo addressed, and whether the department misled the court on the subject.

That’s part of it, but there’s another part that Jurecic and McClanahan don’t address — and that DOJ did not address at all in their response to ABJ, something that goes as much to the core of the deliberative claim as the substance of what Barr was trying to do.

ABJ complained not just that DOJ’s two declarants, Paul Colburn and Vanessa Brinkmann, and the attorney arguing the case, Julie Straus Harris, weren’t sufficiently clear about the substance of the memo (and I’m somewhat sympathetic to those who said she should have figured this out).

ABJ also made several process complaints about the memo — first, that Brinkmann’s declaration did not include details that are required in such declarations:

[Brinkmann] does not claim to have any personal knowledge of why the document was created or what its purpose might be, and while she states generally at the beginning of the declaration that she consulted with “knowledgeable Department personnel,” she does not state that she spoke with any particular person to gain first hand information about the provenance of this document. Id. ¶ 3. Instead, she appears to rely on her review of the document itself to make the following unattributed pronouncements about the decision that is supposedly at issue:

While the March 2019 Memorandum is a “final” document (as opposed to a “draft” document), the memorandum as a whole contains pre-decisional recommendations and advice solicited by the Attorney General and provided by OLC and PADAG O’Callaghan. The material that has been withheld within this memorandum consists of OLC’s and the PADAG’s candid analysis and legal advice to the Attorney General, which was provided to the Attorney General prior to his final decision on the matter. It is therefore pre-decisional. The same material is also deliberative, as it was provided to aid in the Attorney General’s decision-making process as it relates to the findings of the SCO investigation, and specifically as it relates to whether the evidence developed by SCO’s investigation is sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-ofjustice offense. This legal question is one that the Special Counsel’s “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election” . . . did not resolve. As such, any determination as to whether the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense was left to the purview of the Attorney General. [emphasis original]

She also complained that Straus Harris included a “flourish” on similar topics that was not based on the declarations before her.

The flourish added in the government’s pleading that did not come from either declaration – “PADAG O’Callaghan had been directly involved in supervising the Special Counsel’s investigation and related prosecutorial decisions; as a result, in that capacity, his candid prosecutorial recommendations to the Attorney General were especially valuable.” Id. at 14 – seems especially unhelpful since there was no prosecutorial decision on the table.

These are complaints about process, how certain content got into the declarations and memos submitted before her court, as much as they are about content. Again, DOJ simply blew off these complaints in their response to ABJ.

ABJ explains why they’re important in the section of her opinion addressing any claim to attorney-client privilege.

There are also other problems with the agency’s showing.

While the memorandum was crafted to be “from” Steven Engel in OLC, whom the declarant has sufficiently explained was acting as a legal advisor to the Department at the time, it also is transmitted “from” Edward O’Callaghan, identified as the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General. The declarants do not assert that his job description included providing legal advice to the Attorney General or to anyone else; Colborn does not mention him at all, and Brinkmann simply posits, without reference to any source for this information, that the memo “contains OLC’s and the PADAG’s legal analysis and advice solicited by the Attorney General and shared in the course of providing confidential legal advice to the Attorney General.” Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 16.19

The declarations are also silent about the roles played by the others who were equally involved in the creation and revision of the memo that would support the assessment they had already decided would be announced in the letter to Congress. They include the Attorney General’s own Chief of Staff and the Deputy Attorney General himself, see Attachment 1, and there has been no effort made to apply the unique set of requirements that pertain when asserting the attorney-client privilege over communications by government lawyers to them. Therefore, even though Engel was operating in a legal capacity, and Section II of the memorandum includes legal analysis in its assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the purely hypothetical case, the agency has not met its burden to establish that the second portion of the memo is covered by the attorney-client privilege.

19 The government’s memorandum adds that “PADAG O’Callaghan had been directly involved in supervising the Special Counsel’s investigation and related prosecutorial decisions,” Def.’s Mem. at 14, but that does not supply the information needed to enable the Court to differentiate among the many people with law degrees working on the matter.

Effectively, the details inserted into declarations and memos without the proper bases — the flourishes — both hint at and and serve to hide that there is no regularity to either the prosecutorial decision or the OLC advice included in this memo. Had Brinkmann supplied the details that would make her declaration proper — “well, I asked Ed O’Callaghan and he said this wasn’t so much Engel giving Barr advice but instead a bunch of men sitting in Barr’s office laying a paper trail” — it would have given the game away. But that’s what the record describes, and the import of the unexplained structure of this “OLC memo” — which normally would be given great deference in the case of deliberative claims — which is co-authored by someone acting in a prosecutorial role.

And rather than address ABJ’s complaints, the DOJ response admits that OLC is not authorized to make decisions for other parts of DOJ.

One relevant factor in determining whether a document is predecisional is whether the author possesses the legal authority to decide the matter at issue. See, e.g., Electronic Frontier Found. v. DOJ, 739 F.3d 1, 9 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (“OLC is not authorized to make decisions about the FBI’s investigative policy, so the OLC Opinion cannot be an authoritative statement of the agency’s policy.”).

And unstated in this Frankenstein structure is that the memo asks Ed O’Callaghan to make a decision that OLC has said that prosecutorial figures cannot make about the President.

This is why the comparison with Cheney is useful. John Yoo and Steven Bradbury wrote some unbelievably inexcusable memos to authorize the illegal actions Cheney wanted to pursue. They were used as (and indeed, at one point CIA asked for) advance prosecutorial declinations for crimes not yet committed. But with one exception from Bradbury, they maintained the form of an OLC memo. They started their memos with the assumptions that their ultimate audience had asked them to consider, performed the illusion of legal review, and provided the answer they knew their audience wanted.

Imagine if John Yoo had put David Addington or John Rizzo’s names on his memo as co-author; it would change the legal value of the memo entirely. Sure, we know that Yoo was right there in the room as Addington planned the torture program. But he nevertheless performed the illusion of legal advice.

Not so here.

I think McClanahan is right that the declarations being made to hide OLC memos from FOIA release have always been dodgy. I complained about Colburn pulling tricks in 2011 and 2016, for example. But to the extent that anyone looked at those memos — and to the extent that Barack Obama tried to break from the policies justified by them — they nevertheless had the appearance of regularity. They looked like legal advice, even if the legal advice was transparently shitty. And as a result, they made it very hard to hold people accountable for crimes they committed in reliance on the memo.

What separates this memo from the shitty memos used to justify torture is that it doesn’t have the appearance of regularity. It doesn’t even pretend that it’s not excusing (at least insofar as the pardon dangles) crimes in progress.

I agree with McClanahan that DOJ far too often is granted the presumption of regularity. The ultimate fate of this memo may break that habit.

But it also is different, and should be treated differently (and I hope CREW addresses this on appeal) because the process problems with this FOIA — the unexplained claims made by both Brinkmann and Straus Harris — were there to hide the fact that the process that created this memo was irregular, and therefore the claims themselves should not be accorded the presumption of regularity of a deliberative OLC memo.

And once you start to pull the threads on the attempts Barr made to protect Trump, they all tend to suffer from the same inept implementation. That inept — and, I suspect, at times illegal — implementation is what the Garland DOJ on its own or after being forced by the DC Circuit should use to distinguish Barr’s abuse of Attorney General prerogative from that entitled to defense out of an institutional basis. Barr not only abused his power (which Cheney also did) but he did so either without caring enough to pretend he was doing it right, or because he didn’t have the competence to do so (it also probably made things more difficult for him that he had to coerce so many career employees to effect his policies).

Both the torture memos and the Barr memo on the Mueller report were designed (at least in part) to immunize crimes in process. But Cheney’s willing OLC enabler at least insisted on pretending to be an objective lawyer.

The Manafort Unsealing and Konstantin Kilimnik

Earlier this week, the court unsealed the filings in Paul Manafort’s case pertaining to his breach determination. I’ve put most of the filings below.

Much of what has been unsealed is not new. Because Manafort’s attorneys failed to actually redact their first response, the five topics about which the government claimed he lied were clear from early on, which made sussing out the rest possible. As one example, here’s a post from close to the end of the process that laid out a lot of what we knew and did not know.

That said, in part because of some big gaps in the Manafort docket, and in part because of the government’s increasing outspokenness about Konstantin Kilimnik, I want to lay out what has been released in significant fashion and what hasn’t.

When the WaPo first asked for this material, the government said no because of “ongoing investigations” and the privacy of uncharged people. When the parties came up with proposed redactions in July 2020, per a subsequently filed ABJ order, the redactions served to hide grand jury information and uncharged individuals; that is, the ongoing investigations were done. Then the WaPo pointed out several things that might be grand jury information, but should be released anyway, including people who have since been charged, including Greg Craig and Roger Stone by name, and grand jury information made public by Mueller.

Petitioner recognizes that grand jury proceedings are confidential under Rule 6(e) but asserts that “at least some” of the grand jury material in this matter should be unsealed because it has become public. Supp. Mem. at 12–13 (noting particularly the inadvertent disclosure of allegations that the defendant transferred presidential campaign polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik in the summer of 2016); see also Reply at 11 (noting certain information was made public in the March 2019 report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller). Petitioner also asserts that some of the individuals whose names and information were sealed in the court documents because they were not charged with any crimes had since been indicted. See Reply at 1 & n.2 (noting the indictments of Roger Stone and Gregory Craig).

Upon consideration of the parties’ arguments, the joint submission of the government and defendant Manafort, the applicable law, and the privacy interests of individuals who have not been charged, the Court finds that some of the information sought by petitioner may be unsealed but that some must remain sealed to protect grand jury materials and the identities or identifying information of uncharged individuals.

That’s what should be unsealed: people who have not been charged or stuff that’s not grand jury information.

As you can see below, virtually the only area where significantly new information was provided pertained to Manafort’s relationship with Kilimnik, starting with the August 2, 2016 meeting and extending for two years. That makes the delay in release (which admittedly could be COVID related) of particular interest: in that time, FBI released a wanted poster for Kilimnik with a $250,000 reward, and then Treasury stated as fact, just weeks before this release, that Kilimnik had, indeed, shared polling data and campaign strategy with Russian intelligence officers. In addition, as shown below, there are big unexplained gaps in the numbering of the docket, suggesting sealed filings (I had thought it related to the forfeiture, and it still might, but most of that was moved to a different docket).

FBI Agent Jeffrey Weiland’s declaration (here’s the original), laying out the five matters about which Manafort lied, is the best way to track what kinds of things have been unsealed or not. Here are the five topics about which Manafort lied, with a summary of what got newly unsealed in each:

Payment to Wilmer Hale: Manafort engaged in some kind of dodgy accounting to get money to pay his lawyers, who represented Manafort until August 2017. The investigation into this allegation was unsealed (along with other investigations that had been dropped) by September 2020. About the only thing that is newly released in all this is that Wilmer Hale was the firm in question, which would seem to be either an uncharged corporate entity or grand jury information that got publicly released.

Manafort’s efforts to protect Konstantin Kilimnik in the witness tampering conspiracy: In 2018, Kilimnik and Manafort were charged for conspiring to hide aspects of their Hapsburg project by trying to coach witnesses. The names of those former Hapsburg project associates, Alan Friedman and Eckart Sager, were redacted in the original and remain redacted.

Interactions with Kilimnik: In addition to trying to downplay Kilimnik’s role in the witness tampering conspiracy, Manafort was not forthcoming about the August 2, 2016 meeting with Kilimnik (though by the end of the breach agreement, Manafort had proven that prosecutors had misunderstood what happened with a printout of polling data that day), and he blatantly lied about their ongoing meetings about a Ukraine “peace” deal. This is where the most new material was released.

Some of this was already released in the Mueller Report. But there are passages that include information beyond the Mueller Report, both in Rick Gates filings (which also were released to BuzzFeed), or — for example — in this passage from a Manafort filing.

The OSC contends that Mr. Manafort lied about his meeting with Mr. Kilimnik and [redacted: probably Georgiy Oganov] January 2017. (Doc. 464 at 14-15, ¶33-35). In particular, the OSC alleges that in one interview Mr. Manafort stated [redacted] did not present a plan for peace at the meeting or ask Mr. Manafort for anything and, subsequently, Mr. Manafort said that he discussed a peace plan during the meeting. Contrary to the OSC’s allegations, these statements are not inconsistent. First, during the interview, Mr. Manafort noted that while [redacted] did not present a peace plan or ask for anything, they did discuss Ukraine, in general, and Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, in particular.

Kilimnik has been charged. But not — as far as is public — for this stuff.

Another DOJ investigation: Little new is unredacted in a passage that describes the investigation in another district that Manafort first told a damning story to, and then reneged on that story: but what is unredacted is actually key. First, a footnote that must modify the overview section links to Michael Cohen’s Criminal Information. Given the timing, the issue in question is probably the effort to buy off Karen McDougal. Another filing describes that the information implicated Senior Administration Officials, which would seem to rule out Don Jr or Cohen himself, so must implicate Trump himself and, likely, Kushner. (I’ll return to this, because other discussions of this implicate a Roger Stone email to Manafort.)

Manafort’s Contact with the Administration: This section also remains largely the same with one big exception: it describes that some lobbying he was helping people do targeted Department of Labor and pertained to ERISA. That contact has nothing to do with Igor Fruman (with whom Manafort does have ties) and Lev Parnas, who were beginning to sidle up to Trump in this period. ABJ ruled that the government hadn’t proven their case on this point, and the ERISA focus sure helps make that case.


Documents

Exhibit 1. Government’s Submission in Support of its Breach Determination: 461 (675)

Exhibit 2. Defendant Paul J. Manafort Jr.’s Response to the Special Counsel’s Submission in Support of its Breach Determination: 470 (676)

Exhibit 3. Weiland Declaration in Support of the Government’s Breach Determination and Sentencing: 477 (677)

Exhibit 4. Defendant Paul J. Manafort, Jr.’s Reply to the Special Counsel’s Declaration and Exhibits in Support of its Breach Determination: 481 (678)

Exhibit 5. Transcript of Sealed Hearing Hld before Judge Amy Berman Jackson on 2/4/2019

Exhibit 6. Defendant Paul J. Manafort, Jr.’s Post Hearing Memorandum: 502 (679)

Exhibit 7. Government’s Supplement to the Record in Response to Defendant Manafort’s Post Hearing Memorandum: 507 (680)

Exhibit 8. Transcript of Sealed Hearing Held Before Judge Amy Berman Jackson on 2/13/2019

Exhibit 9. Government’s Sentencing Memorandum: 528 (681)

Exhibit 10. Government’s Supplemental Memorandum with Respect to the Court’s February 13, 2019 Ruling: 533/537 (682)

Exhibit 11. Defendant Paul J. Manafort’s Reply and Motion to Reconsider Based on the Special Counsel’s Supplemental Memorandum With Respect to the Court’s February 13, 2019 Ruling: 538 (683)

Exhibit 12. Minute Order on March 1, 2019

The Manafort docket is here and the docket for the WaPo effort that liberated the files is here.


Timeline

March 7, 2019: WaPo moves to release the documents

March 13, 2019: Manafort sentencing

March 19, 2019: Michael Dreeben, still on the Mueller team, moves for a short extension until the release of the Mueller Report

March 25, 2019: Post-sentencing DC USAO replaces Mueller team with Deborah Curtis, Zia Faruqui, Jonathan Kravis

March 27, 2019: DC USAO, having inherited the case, moves for another short extension

April 15, 2019: Jonathan Kravis opposes an immediate unsealed, in part on account of “ongoing investigations,” and asks for an abeyance until October 15, 2019

December 6, 2020: ABJ orders Manafort and the government to see whether documents can be unsealed

January 5, 2020: Kravis asks for a 60-day deadline to review the documents

February 11, 2020: In response to Barr’s interference in Stone case, Kravis and all other Stone prosecutors quit

March 3, 2020: Molly Gaston takes over and submits a joint motion for a further 60 day delay

April 28, 2020: Citing COVID, parties submit joint motion for further 30 day delay

June 2, 202: Parties submit joint motion for further 30 day delay

June 23, 2020: FBI releases Wanted poster for Konstantin Kilimnik offering $250,000 for his arrest

July 20, 2020: Parties submit sealed redactions, asking to keep “information from grand jury proceedings protected by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) or [that is] is necessary to protect the privacy interests of certain individuals” sealed

August 19, 2020: FBI releases second package of Kilimnik wanted materials

October 13, 2020: DC USAO replaces Zia Faruqui after he becomes a magistrate judge, with Arvind Lal

April 15, 2021: Treasury states as fact that Kilimnik shared polling data and campaign strategy with Russian intelligence

May 21, 2021: ABJ orders release, protecting only grand jury information and identities that have not been charged

Bill Barr Issued Prosecution Declinations for Three Crimes in Progress

On March 24, 2019, by judging that there was not evidence in Volume II of the Mueller Report that Trump had obstructed justice, Billy Barr pre-authorized the obstruction of justice that would be completed with future pardons of Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone. He did so before the sentencing of Flynn and before even the trial of Stone.

This is why Amy Berman Jackson should not stay her decision to release the Barr Memo. It’s why the question before her goes well beyond the question of whether the Barr memo presents privileged advice. What Barr did on March 24, 2019 was pre-authorize the commission of crimes that ended up being committed. No Attorney General has the authority to do that.

As the partially unsealed memo makes clear, Steve Engel (who, even per DOJ’s own filing asking for a stay, was not permitted to make prosecutorial decisions) and Ed O’Callaghan (who under the OLC memo prohibiting the indictment of the President, could not make prosecutorial decisions about the President) advised Bill Barr that he should, “examine the Report to determine whether prosecution would be appropriate given the evidence recounted in the Special Counsel’s Report, the underlying law, and traditional principles of federal prosecution.”

In her now-unsealed memo ordering the government to release the memo, ABJ argues, “the analysis set forth in the memo was expressly understood to be entirely hypothetical.”

It was worse than that.

It was, necessarily, an instance of “Heads Trump wins, Tails rule of law loses.” As the memo itself notes, the entire exercise was designed to avoid, “the unfairness of levying an accusation against the President without bringing criminal charges.” It did not envision the possibility that their analysis would determine that Trump might have committed obstruction of justice. So predictably, the result of the analysis was that Trump didn’t commit a crime. “[W]ere there no constitutional barrier, we would recommend, under Principles of Federal Prosecution, that you decline to commence such a prosecution.”

The government is now appealing ABJ’s decision to release the memo to hide the logic of how Engel and O’Callaghan got to that decision. And it’s possible they want to hide their analysis simply because they believe that, liberated from the entire “Heads Trump wins, Tails rule of law loses” premise of the memo, it becomes true deliberative advice (never mind that both Engel and O’Callaghan were playing roles that OLC prohibits them to play).

But somehow, in eight pages of secret analysis, Engel and O’Callaghan decide — invoking the entire Special Counsel’s Report by reference — that there’s not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump obstructed justice.

We can assume what some of these eight pages say. In the newly unsealed parts, Engel and O’Callaghan opine, “that certain of the conduct examined by the Special Counsel could not, as a matter of law, support an obstruction charge under the circumstances.”

As Quinta Jurecic’s epic chart lays out, the potential instances of obstruction of justice before Engel and O’Callaghan included a number of things involving Presidential hiring and firing decisions — the stuff which the memo Bill Barr wrote as an audition for the job of Attorney General said could not be obstruction.

To address those instances of suspected obstruction, then, Engel and O’Callaghan might just say, “What you said, Boss, in the memo you used to audition to get this job.” That would be scandalous for a whole bunch of reasons — partly because Barr admitted he didn’t know anything about the investigation when he wrote the memo (even after the release of the report, Barr’s public statements made it clear he was grossly unfamiliar with the content of it) and partly because it would raise questions about whether by hiring Barr Trump obstructed justice.

But that’s not actually the most scandalous bit about what must lie behind the remaining redactions. As Jurecic’s chart notes, beyond the hiring and firing obstruction, the Mueller Report laid out several instances of possible pardon dangles: to Mike Flynn, to Paul Manafort, to Roger Stone, and to Michael Cohen. These are all actions that, in his confirmation hearing, Barr admitted might be crimes.

Leahy: Do you believe a president could lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise to not incriminate him?

Barr: No, that would be a crime.

Even Barr admits the question of pardon dangles requires specific analysis.

Klobuchar: You wrote on page one that a President persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction. Is that right?

Barr: [Pause] Yes. Any person who persuades another —

Klobuchar: Okay. You also said that a President or any person convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction. Is that right?

Barr: Yes.

Klobuchar: And on page two, you said that a President deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence would be an obstruction. Is that correct?

Barr: Yes.

Klobuchar: OK. And so what if a President told a witness not to cooperate with an investigation or hinted at a pardon?

Barr: I’d have to now the specifics facts, I’d have to know the specific facts.

Yet somehow, in eight pages of analysis, Engel and O’Callaghan laid out “the specific facts” that undermined any case against Trump for those pardon dangles. I’d be surprised if they managed to do that convincingly in fewer than eight pages, particularly since they make clear that they simply assume you’ve read the Mueller Report (meaning, that analysis almost certainly doesn’t engage in the specific factual analysis that Bill Barr says you’d need to engage in).

The far, far more problematic aspect of this analysis, though, is that, of the four potential instances of pardon dangles included in the Mueller Report, three remained crimes-in-progress on March 24, 2019 when Barr issued a statement declining prosecution for them.

By then, Michael Cohen had already pled guilty and testified against Trump. But Paul Manafort had only just been sentenced after having reneged on a cooperation agreement by telling lies to hide what the government has now confirmed involved providing assistance (either knowing or unknowing) to the Russia election operation. Mike Flynn had not yet been sentenced — and in fact would go on to renege on his plea agreement and tell new lies about his conduct, including that when he testified to the FBI that he knew he discussed sanctions, he didn’t deliberately lie. And Roger Stone hadn’t even been tried yet when Barr said Stone’s lies to protect Trump weren’t a response to Trump’s pardon dangles. In fact, if you believe Roger Stone (and I don’t, in part because his dates don’t line up), after the date when Barr issued a declination statement covering Trump’s efforts to buy Stone’s silence, prosecutors told him,

that if I would really remember certain phone conversations I had with candidate trump, if I would come clean, if I would confess, that they might be willing to, you know, recommend leniency to the judge perhaps I wouldn’t even serve any jail time

If that’s remotely true, Barr’s decision to decline prosecution for the pardon dangles that led Stone to sustain an obviously false cover story through his trial itself contributed to the obstruction.

Barr’s decision to decline prosecution for obstruction crimes that were still in progress may explain his even more outrageous behavior after that. For each of these remaining crimes in progress, Barr took steps to make it less likely that Trump would issue a pardon. He used COVID as an excuse to spring Paul Manafort from prison to home confinement, even though there were no cases of COVID in Manafort’s prison at the time. He engaged in unprecedented interference in the sentencing process for Roger Stone, even going so far as claiming that threats of violence against (as it happens) Amy Berman Jackson were just a technicality not worthy of a sentencing enhancement. And Bill Barr’s DOJ literally altered documents in their effort to invent some reason to blow up the prosecution of Mike Flynn.

And Barr may have realized all this would be a problem.

On June 4, a status report explained that DOJ was in the process of releasing the initially heavily redacted version of this memo to CREW and expected that it would be able to do so by June 17, 2020, but that “unanticipated events outside of OIP’s control” might delay that.

However, OIP notes that processing of the referred record requires consultation with several offices within DOJ, and that unanticipated events outside of OIP’s control may occur in these offices that could delay OIP’s response. Accordingly, OIP respectfully submits that it cannot definitively guarantee that production will be completed by June 17, 2020. However, OIP will make its best efforts to provide CREW with a response regarding the referred record on or before June 17, 2020

This consultation would have occurred after Judge Emmet Sullivan balked at DOJ’s demand that he dismiss the Flynn prosecution, while the DC Circuit was reviewing the issue. And it occurred in the period when Stone was using increasingly explicit threats against Donald Trump to successfully win a commutation of his sentence from Trump (the commutation occurred weeks after DOJ gave CREW a version of the memo that hid the scheme Barr had engaged in). That is, DOJ was making decisions about this FOIA lawsuit even as Barr was taking more and more outrageous steps to try to minimize prison time — and therefore the likelihood of a Trump pardon — for these three. And Trump was completing the act of obstruction of justice that Barr long ago gave him immunity for by commuting Stone’s sentence.

Indeed, Trump would go on to complete the quid pro quo, a pardon in exchange for lies about Russia, for all three men. Trump would go on to commit a crime that Barr already declined prosecution for years earlier.

While Barr might believe that Trump’s pardon for Mike Flynn was righteous (even while it undermined any possibility of holding Flynn accountable for being a secret agent of Turkey), there is no rational argument you can make that Trump’s pardon of Manafort after he reneged on his plea deal and Trump’s pardon of Stone after explicit threats to cooperate with prosecutors weren’t obstruction of justice.

This may influence DOJ’s decision not to release this memo, and in ways that we can’t fathom. There are multiple possibilities. First, this may be an attempt to prevent DOJ’s Inspector General from seeing this memo. At least the Manafort prison assignment and the Stone prosecution were investigated and may still be under investigation by DOJ. If Michael Horowitz discovered that Barr took these actions after approving of a broad pre-declination for pardon-related obstruction, it could change the outcome of any ongoing investigation.

It may be an effort to stave off pressure to open a criminal investigation by DOJ into Barr’s own actions, a precedent no Attorney General wants to set.

Or, it may just be an effort to hide how many of DOJ’s own rules DOJ broke in this process.

But one thing is clear, and should be clearer to ABJ than it would be to any other judge: Bill Barr issued a prosecution declination for three crimes that were still in process. And that’s what DOJ is hiding.

Amy Berman Jackson Accuses Bill Barr of a Preemptive Strike on the Mueller Report

I was down so many rabbit holes today I forgot to link to Amy Berman Jackson’s unsealed opinion, which she released today (here’s the redacted version).

Much of what had previously been redacted pertained to the first section, which got released last night. Otherwise, there’s ABJ’s accusation that DOJ was hiding that Bill Barr launched a pre-emptive strike on the Mueller Report.

But given ABJ’s notice that she’s still considering whether to grant the government a stay, I think this footnote (the bold was formerly redacted) is of interest.

18 There is no need for the Court to determine what its ruling would have been had the agency candidly informed it that the purpose of the document was to provide legal analysis to help shape the assessment of the Special Counsel’s report that the Attorney General was planning to announce for the reasons set forth in Section I of the memorandum. It is the government’s burden to support its withholdings.

This is the question before her now, whether the advice in the redacted section is so tainted by its purpose that she’ll release the full memo.

My guess is she won’t — unless there’s something about the analysis itself, such as that it obviously replicates Barr’s opinion about the investigation that he used to get hired, or if it misrepresents the results of the investigation (remember, ABJ presided over Paul Manafort’s DC proceedings and Roger Stone’s trial, so she knows what Mueller found as well as anyone). And the pardons Trump has since offered the people whose lies he guaranteed by dangling those pardons may alter this calculus, particularly if the analysis contradicts Barr’s agreement, offered three times in his confirmation hearing, that dangling pardons for false testimony would be obstruction.

Until then, DOJ has already launched its appeal.

Frankenstein’s OLC: DOJ Says DOJ Can’t Do What DOJ Did in the Barr Memo

DOJ’s memo asking Amy Berman Jackson to stay her opinion releasing the OLC memo admits that DOJ is not permitted to do what DOJ did with the Barr memo it is trying to withhold from FOIA. And part of the memo itself, which DOJ unsealed last night, also shows DOJ is not permitted to do what DOJ did.

The memo itself admits, for example, that the OLC is not permitted to do what only other parts of DOJ — here, FBI — have the authority to do.

One relevant factor in determining whether a document is predecisional is whether the author possesses the legal authority to decide the matter at issue. See, e.g., Electronic Frontier Found. v. DOJ, 739 F.3d 1, 9 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (“OLC is not authorized to make decisions about the FBI’s investigative policy, so the OLC Opinion cannot be an authoritative statement of the agency’s policy.”).

That undoubtedly extends to prosecutorial decisions. And yet OLC did make a prosecutorial decision.

Rather, the declarations and briefs on the whole made clear that the decision in question was whether the facts articulated by Volume II of the Special Counsel’s Report were sufficient to establish that the President had committed obstruction of justice, i.e., whether the facts constituted prosecutable conduct under the Principles of Federal Prosecution.

DOJ found a way around that, of course, in Julie Straus Harris’ flourish: the inclusion of Ed O’Callaghan in the deliberation. Except that’s a problem, because every declaration in this litigation treats this as an OLC memo, not a prosecutorial memo.

Moreover, it means O’Callaghan made a decision he was not permitted to do by the OLC: make a decision about whether or not the President committed a crime.

In fact, the memo itself states that DOJ is limited in what it can do: either bring charges or not.

Although the Special Counsel has declined to reach a conclusion, we think that the Department should reach a judgement on this matter. Under traditional principles of prosecution, the Department either brings charges or it does not.

Except in this instance, Barr did something else (indeed, ABJ’s memo makes it clear that was the entire point): he announced a decision on prosecution that was more than a declination. He chose to make a decision that OLC says he can’t make.

OLC does not, as it would be required to, state that DOJ can make a prosecutorial decision that involves something other than bringing charges or not.

This is, ultimately, a Frankenstein monster, both a prosecutorial decision that, absent more analysis than appears here, OLC says neither O’Callaghan nor Barr were permitted to make, and an OLC memo engaged in a prosecutorial role that OLC says OLC can’t do. Effectively, then, this memo engages in activities that defies the claim that OLC guidance governs the entirety of the Executive Branch, including OLC.

On the Barr Memo: Julie Straus Harris Says Julie Straus Harris’ Unexplained “Flourish” Wasn’t a Lie

Yesterday, DOJ told Amy Berman Jackson that they will appeal her decision to release the entirety of a memo written to justify Billy Barr taking a “Heads Trump wins Tails democracy loses” approach to the decision on how to deal with the Mueller Report. There are several problems with their motion for a stay while they do that.

To understand the first problem, note the signature line of their motion for a stay.

It is signed by — among others — Julie Straus Harris.

That’s a problem, possibly even an ethical one, because in addition to problems with the declarations submitted by Vanessa Brinkmann and Paul Colburn, ABJ had a specific problem with a brief submitted by Straus Harris (and approved by Elizabeth Shapiro, her boss).

As ABJ noted in her opinion, Straus Harris added a “flourish” that was not supported by any of the underlying declarations.

And the in camera review of the document, which DOJ strongly resisted, see Def.’s Opp. to Pl.’s Cross Mot. [Dkt. # 19] (“Def.’s Opp.”) at 20–22 (“In Camera Review is Unwarranted and Unnecessary”), raises serious questions about how the Department of Justice could make this series of representations to a court in support of its 2020 motion for summary judgment:

[T]he March 2019 Memorandum (Document no. 15), which was released in part to Plaintiff is a pre-decisional, deliberative memorandum to the Attorney General from OLC AAG Engel and PADAG Edward O’Callaghan . . . . The document contains their candid analysis and advice provided to the Attorney General prior to his final decision on the issue addressed in the memorandum – whether the facts recited in Volume II of the Special Counsel’s Report would support initiating or declining the prosecution of the President . . . . It was provided to aid in the Attorney General’s decision-making processes as it relates to the findings of the Special Counsel’s investigation . . . . Moreover, because any determination as to whether the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense was left to the purview of the Attorney General, the memorandum is clearly pre-decisional.

Def.’s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. [Dkt. # 15-2] (“Def.’s Mem.”) at 14–15 (internal quotations, brackets, and citations omitted).13

13 The flourish added in the government’s pleading that did not come from either declaration – “PADAG O’Callaghan had been directly involved in supervising the Special Counsel’s investigation and related prosecutorial decisions; as a result, in that capacity, his candid prosecutorial recommendations to the Attorney General were especially valuable.” Id. at 14 – seems especially unhelpful since there was no prosecutorial decision on the table.

In the motion for a stay, Julie Straus Harris says, sorry, “the briefs” — her briefs — “could have been clearer … but the government’s counsel” — meaning, Straus Harris — “did not intend to mislead the Court.”

On the merits, the Court’s decision was substantially premised on the view that the government’s briefs and declarations incorrectly described the nature of the decisional process in which the Attorney General was engaged. In retrospect, the government acknowledges that its briefs could have been clearer, and it deeply regrets the confusion that caused. But the government’s counsel and declarants did not intend to mislead the Court, and the government respectfully submits that imprecision in its characterization of the decisional process did not warrant the conclusion that Document no. 15 was unprotected by the deliberative process privilege.

The motion spends several pages explaining why the Brinkmann and Colburn declarations were not misleading. That section vaguely waves at “briefing” to address claimed inaccuracies in the briefs written by Straus Harris. The section mentions the offending brief once, but without even remotely addressing the brief itself.

The first Colborn Declaration likewise explained that Document no. 15 “was submitted to the Attorney General to assist him in determining whether the facts set forth in Volume II of Special Counsel Mueller’s report ‘would support initiating or declining the prosecution of the President for obstruction of justice under the Principles of Federal Prosecution.’” Colborn Decl. ¶ 17. That description quotes from the unredacted portion of the opening sentence of the memorandum and is accurate; it neither states nor necessarily implies that the authors were advising the Attorney General on whether the President should actually be prosecuted. See also Def.’s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. (Def.’s Mem.) (ECF No. 15-2) 14 (quoting Colborn Decl.). [my emphasis]

But the section explaining that ABJ’s complaints, while understandable, are unfounded never addresses ABJ’s complaint about the Straus Harris “flourish,” which is a complaint of a different kind. Edward O’Callaghan is only mentioned as an author of this memo.

To be sure: Straus Harris didn’t simply invent O’Callaghan’s role or his import out of thin air. She’s not making stuff up. She’s right that her claim about O’Callaghan was not a lie, even if she never makes it explicitly. But in a legal and ethical sense, she made an assertion about which no one has asserted to the veracity or even explained. This memo assumes as given that OLC and a prosecutor’s supervisor can get together and write an OLC memo, something which was obviously problematic even before these memos started coming out. And that’s a problem because the reasons why DOJ didn’t want to explain O’Callaghan’s role in a declaration (indeed, could not) go to the core of the problems with the Barr Memo.

I’m sympathetic that Straus Harris got put on the front line to answer for Billy Barr’s wildly inappropriate efforts to give the President a clean bill of health. But she is now in a position where she’s submitting a brief about her own conduct, and that brief entirely ignores ABJ’s complaint about her conduct.

Had Paul Colburn included in his declarations an admission that DOJ had let O’Callaghan serve a hybrid role, ABJ wouldn’t have had the confusion that DOJ is now trying to explain away. But admitting that would have — and does — admit to far graver problems with the Barr Memo.

Will Amy Berman Jackson Finally Break the Spell of OLC Feeding Bullshit FOIA Claims to DC District Judges?

Yesterday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the government must turn over a memo written — ostensibly by Office of Legal Counsel head Steve Engel — to justify Billy Barr’s decision not to file charges against Donald Trump for obstructing the Mueller Investigation. The Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington FOIAed the memo and sued for its release. The memo itself is worth reading. But I want to consider whether, by making a nested set of false claims to hide what OLC was really up to, this opinion may pierce past efforts to use OLC to rubber stamp problematic Executive Branch decisions.

A key part of ABJ’s decision pivoted on the claims made by Paul Colburn, who’s the lawyer from OLC whose job it is (in part) to tell courts that DOJ can’t release pre-decisional OLC memos because that would breach both deliberative and attorney-client process, Vanessa Brinkmann, whose job it is (in part) to tell courts that DOJ has appropriately applied one or another of the exemptions permitted under FOIA, and Senior Trial Attorney Julie Straus Harris, who was stuck arguing against release of this document relying on those declarations. ABJ ruled that all three had made misrepresentations (and in the case of Straus Harris, outright invention) to falsely claim the memo was predecisional and therefore appropriate to withhold under FOIA’s b5 exemption.

Colburn submitted two declarations. ABJ cited this one to show that Colburn had claimed the OLC memo was designed to help Billy Barr make a decision.

Document no. 15 is a predecisional deliberative memorandum to the Attorney General, through the Deputy Attorney General, authored by OLC AAG Engel and Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General (“PADAG”) Edward O’Callaghan . . . . As indicated in the portions of the memorandum that were released, it was submitted to the Attorney General to assist him in determining whether the facts set forth in Volume II of Special Counsel Mueller’s report “would support initiating or declining the prosecution of the President for obstruction of justice under the Principles of Federal Prosecution.” The released portions also indicate that the memorandum contains the authors’ recommendation in favor of a conclusion that “the evidence developed by the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” The withheld portions of the memorandum contain legal advice and prosecutorial deliberations in support of that recommendation. Following receipt of the memorandum, the Attorney General announced his decision publicly in a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees . . . .

* * *

[T]he withheld portions of document no. 15 – the only final document at issue – are . . . covered by the deliberative process privilege. The document is a predecisional memorandum, submitted by senior officials of the Department to the Attorney General, and containing advice and analysis supporting a recommendation regarding the decision he was considering . . . . [T]he withheld material is protected by the privilege because it consists of candid advice and analysis by the authors, OLC AAG Engel and the senior deputy to the Deputy Attorney General. That advice and analysis is predecisional because it was provided prior to the Attorney General’s decision in the matter, and it is deliberative because it consists of advice and analysis to assist the Attorney General in making that decision . . . . The limited factual material contained in the withheld portion of the document is closely intertwined with that advice and analysis. [emphasis original]

Brinkmann submitted this declaration. ABJ cited it to show how Brinkmann had regurgitated the claims Colburn made.

While the March 2019 Memorandum is a “final” document (as opposed to a “draft” document), the memorandum as a whole contains pre-decisional recommendations and advice solicited by the Attorney General and provided by OLC and PADAG O’Callaghan. The material that has been withheld within this memorandum consists of OLC’s and the PADAG’s candid analysis and legal advice to the Attorney General, which was provided to the Attorney General prior to his final decision on the matter. It is therefore pre-decisional. The same material is also deliberative, as it was provided to aid in the Attorney General’s decision-making process as it relates to the findings of the SCO investigation, and specifically as it relates to whether the evidence developed by SCO’s investigation is sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of justice offense. This legal question is one that the Special Counsel’s “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election” . . . did not resolve. As such, any determination as to whether the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense was left to the purview of the Attorney General. [emphasis original]

Key to this is timing: Colburn twice claimed the memo was provided to Barr before he made any decision, and based on that, Brinkmann not only reiterated that, but claimed that Mueller’s Report “did not resolve” whether Trump could be charged, which left the decision to Barr. Both were pretending a decision had not been made before this memo was written (much less completed).

In an almost entirely redacted section, ABJ explained how the first part of the memo is actually a strategy discussion (which, a redacted section seems to suggest, might have been withheld under some other FOIA exemption that DOJ chose not to claim because that would have required admitting this wasn’t legal advice), written in tandem by everyone involved, about how to best spin the already-made decision not to charge Trump.

The existence of that section contradicts the claims made by Colburn and Brinkmann, ABJ ruled.

All of this contradicts the declarant’s ipse dixit that since the Special Counsel did not resolve the question of whether the evidence would support a prosecution, “[a]s such, any determination as to whether the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense was left to the purview of the Attorney General.” Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 11.

Then, after ABJ decided she needed to review the document over DOJ’s vigorous protests, she discovered something else (again, she redacted the discussion for now) that made her believe claims made in a filing written by Straus Harris not just to be false, but pure invention with respect to the role of Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Edward O’Callaghan, who was privy to what Mueller was doing and the import Mueller accorded to the other OLC memo dictating that Presidents can’t be prosecuted.

And the in camera review of the document, which DOJ strongly resisted, see Def.’s Opp. to Pl.’s Cross Mot. [Dkt. # 19] (“Def.’s Opp.”) at 20–22 (“In Camera Review is Unwarranted and Unnecessary”), raises serious questions about how the Department of Justice could make this series of representations to a court in support of its 2020 motion for summary judgment:

[T]he March 2019 Memorandum (Document no. 15), which was released in part to Plaintiff is a pre-decisional, deliberative memorandum to the Attorney General from OLC AAG Engel and PADAG Edward O’Callaghan . . . . The document contains their candid analysis and advice provided to the Attorney General prior to his final decision on the issue addressed in the memorandum – whether the facts recited in Volume II of the Special Counsel’s Report would support initiating or declining the prosecution of the President . . . . It was provided to aid in the Attorney General’s decision-making processes as it relates to the findings of the Special Counsel’s investigation . . . . Moreover, because any determination as to whether the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense was left to the purview of the Attorney General, the memorandum is clearly pre-decisional.

Def.’s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. [Dkt. # 15-2] (“Def.’s Mem.”) at 14–15 (internal quotations, brackets, and citations omitted).13

13 The flourish added in the government’s pleading that did not come from either declaration – “PADAG O’Callaghan had been directly involved in supervising the Special Counsel’s investigation and related prosecutorial decisions; as a result, in that capacity, his candid prosecutorial recommendations to the Attorney General were especially valuable.” Id. at 14 – seems especially unhelpful since there was no prosecutorial decision on the table.

I noted the problem with O’Callaghan’s role here, and argued there are probably similar problems with an OLC opinion protect Trump in the wake of Michael Cohen’s guilty plea.

In her analysis judging that an attorney-client privilege also doesn’t apply, ABJ returns to this point and expands on it, showing that in addition to Steve Engel (the head of OLC), O’Callaghan, who was not part of OLC and whom the memo never claims was involved in giving advice to Billy Barr, was also involved in generating the memo; the record also shows that the people supposedly receiving the advice, such as Rod Rosenstein, actually were involved in providing the advice, too.

While the memorandum was crafted to be “from” Steven Engel in OLC, whom the declarant has sufficiently explained was acting as a legal advisor to the Department at the time, it also is transmitted “from” Edward O’Callaghan, identified as the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General. The declarants do not assert that his job description included providing legal advice to the Attorney General or to anyone else; Colborn does not mention him at all, and Brinkmann simply posits, without reference to any source for this information, that the memo “contains OLC’s and the PADAG’s legal analysis and advice solicited by the Attorney General and shared in the course of providing confidential legal advice to the Attorney General.” Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 16.19

The declarations are also silent about the roles played by the others who were equally involved in the creation and revision of the memo that would support the assessment they had already decided would be announced in the letter to Congress. They include the Attorney General’s own Chief of Staff and the Deputy Attorney General himself, see Attachment 1, and there has been no effort made to apply the unique set of requirements that pertain when asserting the attorney-client privilege over communications by government lawyers to them. Therefore, even though Engel was operating in a legal capacity, and Section II of the memorandum includes legal analysis in its assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the purely hypothetical case, the agency has not met its burden to establish that the second portion of the memo is covered by the attorney-client privilege

19 The government’s memorandum adds that “PADAG O’Callaghan had been directly involved in supervising the Special Counsel’s investigation and related prosecutorial decisions,” Def.’s Mem. at 14, but that does not supply the information needed to enable the Court to differentiate among the many people with law degrees working on the matter.

ABJ notes (and includes a nifty table in an appendix showing her work) that in fact the letter to Congress that was supposed to be based off the decision the OLC memo was purportedly providing advice about was finished first, meaning it couldn’t have informed the decision conveyed in the letter to Congress.

A close review of the communications reveals that the March 24 letter to Congress describing the Special Counsel’s report, which assesses the strength of an obstruction-of-justice case, and the “predecisional” March 24 memorandum advising the Attorney General that [redacted] the evidence does not support a prosecution, are being written by the very same people at the very same time. The emails show not only that the authors and the recipients of the memorandum are working hand in hand to craft the advice that is supposedly being delivered by OLC, but that the letter to Congress is the priority, and it is getting completed first. At 2:16 pm on Sunday, March 24, the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff advises the others: “We need to go final at 2:25 pm,” and Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, summons everyone to a meeting at 2:17 pm. Attachment 1 at 4. At 2:18 pm, Steven Engel in the OLC replies to this email chain related to the draft letter, and he attaches the latest version of the memo to the Attorney General, saying: “here’s the latest memo, btw, although we presumably don’t need to finalize that as soon.”

As a result, ABJ rules that this was neither pre-decisional nor candid advice from someone acting in the role of attorney given to another, and so the document must be released.

Ultimately, this is a finding that the claims made by DOJ — by Colburn, Brinkmann, and Straus Harris — have no credibility on this topic. She cites Reggie Walton’s concerns (in the BuzzFeed FOIA for the Mueller Report itself) about Billy Barr’s lies about the Mueller Report and notes that DOJ has been “disingenuous” to hide Barr’s own “disingenuous[ness].”

And of even greater importance to this decision, the affidavits are so inconsistent with evidence in the record, they are not worthy of credence. The review of the unredacted document in camera reveals that the suspicions voiced by the judge in EPIC and the plaintiff here were well-founded, and that not only was the Attorney General being disingenuous then, but DOJ has been disingenuous to this Court with respect to the existence of a decision-making process that should be shielded by the deliberative process privilege. The agency’s redactions and incomplete explanations obfuscate the true purpose of the memorandum, and the excised portions belie the notion that it fell to the Attorney General to make a prosecution decision or that any such decision was on the table at any time. [redacted]

ABJ is careful to note (in part to disincent Merrick Garland’s team from appealing this, which she has given DOJ two weeks to consider doing) that this decision is limited solely to application of the claims made before her. The often-abused b5 exemption is not dead.

The Court emphasizes that its decision turns upon the application of well-settled legal principles to a unique set of circumstances that include the misleading and incomplete explanations offered by the agency, the contemporaneous materials in the record, and the variance between the Special Counsel’s report and the Attorney General’s summary. This opinion does not purport to question or weaken the protections provided by Exemption 5 or the deliberative process and attorney-client privileges; both remain available to be asserted by government agencies – based on forthright and accurate factual showings – in the future.

But this leaves the question about what to do about all this lying — Colburn and Brinkmann and Straus Harris’ misrepresentations to protect the lies of Billy Barr and his team. Billy Barr is gone, along with Rosenstein and Engel and O’Callaghan and Brian Rabbitt (Barr’s Chief of Staff), who “colluded” (heh) to make it appear that this process wasn’t all gamed for PR value from the start.

There’s little (immediate) recourse for their lies.

But as far as I know, Colburn and Brinkmann and Straus Harris remain at DOJ, now having been caught offering misrepresentations to protect former superiors’ lies after their past equivalent representations have — for decades — been accepted unquestioningly by DC District Judges. I’ve raised concerns in the past, for example, about claims that Colburn made in 2011 (to hide drone killing opinions) and in 2016 (to hide a long-hidden John Yoo opinion on which surveillance has been based).

The reason ABJ and Reggie Walton caught DOJ in lies about the Mueller Report is not that DOJ hasn’t long been making obviously questionable claims to hide rubber stamp opinions from OLC behind the b5 exemption and obviously questionable claims to withhold documents in FOIA lawsuits. Rather, they caught DOJ in lies in this case because Billy Barr was a less accomplished (or at least more hubristic) liar than Dick Cheney (and because DOJ cannot, in this case, also make expansive claims about secrecy in the service of National Security). It is also the case that when John Yoo and David Barron rubber stamped Executive Branch excesses, they were more disciplined about creating the illusion of information being tossed over a wall to a lawyer and a decision being tossed back over the wall to the decision-maker. That was merely an illusion at least in Yoo’s case — he was both in the room where decisions were made and massaging the analysis after the fact to authorize decisions that were already made.

It would be nice to use this decision to go back and review all the dubious claims Colburn and Brinkmann have made over the years. Rudy Giuliani’s potential prosecution may offer good reason to do so in the case of Steve Engel’s equally dubious opinion withholding the Ukraine whistleblower complaint from Congress.

But at the very least, what this opinion does is show that career DOJ employees have, at least in the Bill Barr era, made less than credible claims to cover up DOJ lies, and in this case, lies about how OLC functions as a rubber stamp for Executive Branch abuse.

We may have no (immediate) recourse about the people whose abuse necessitated such misrepresentations for their protection — Barr and Rosenstein and O’Callaghan and Engel and Rabbitt — though their future legal opponents may want to keep this instance in mind.

But it is becoming a habit that when DC judges check DOJ claims in FOIA suits, those claims don’t hold up. At the very least, more scrutiny about the claims made in these nested set of declarations may finally pierce the bullshit claims made to protect OLC’s role in rubber stamping Executive Branch abuse.

The Crossroads of Insurrection: The Senate Chamber Insurrection Defendants

In a recent motion opposing relaxing Larry Brock’s release conditions, the government revealed that it, “is continuing to investigate the Defendant for the offense of obstruction under Title 18 United States Code Section 1512(c).” Brock is the retired Lieutenant Colonel who, like Eric Munchel, brought Zip Ties onto the Senate floor. In spite of Brock’s online writings shortly after the election predicting that, ““Fire and blood will be needed soon,” Brock was charged only with misdemeanor trespassing for his role in the insurrection.

Since then, the Senate has been a locus of increased attention, as the government arrests more people with video of what happened there and rounds up the co-conspirators of those they arrested months ago.

That increased attention provides a way to look at the events of January 6 via a different lens. Rather than focusing on the most spectacular defendants — no one is more spectacular than Jacob Chansley, but Eric Munchel’s actions attracted attention away from others — by focusing on who breached the Senate, we can understand some of the logistics that allowed it to be breached. And by whom.

The picture we get, as a result, is a crossroads of the really aggressive participants of the January 6 insurrection, with cultists, militia members, GOP operatives, and curious tourists all represented.

I am assuredly not saying there was or is a conspiracy that joins all these people. While there are some pregnant unanswered questions about individuals like Leo Bozell, Bradley Barnett, Jacob Clark, and Patrick Montgomery — as well as conduct like assaults charged against Montgomery and DJ Shalvey that remain undescribed — there’s absolutely no reason to believe this was all coordinated. … Beyond, of course, the President calling out the mob on Mike Pence.

A focus on the Senate is useful, though, to show how the multiple breaches interacted. The first people who came in the West door (including the Hughes brothers), the Northwest door (including Patrick Montgomery and his buddies), and the East door (which is how Joe Biggs got to the Senate), all made it to the Senate before it was secured. Indeed, a number of people who made it to the Senate (like Ronnie Sandlin) were instrumental in opening the East doors from inside, before they reached the Senate. So looking at who got to the Senate how helps to clarify how all the three main breaches worked in tandem, and in fairly quick succession.

It’s also a reality check about the relative importance of various groups who breached the Capitol. While this is still an impartial picture, the narrative to date suggests that QAnon managed to get far more of their adherents to the Senate floor than either the Proud Boys (Joe Biggs and Arthur Jackman showed up after getting in with the help of people inside) or the Oath Keepers (Kelly Meggs and Joshua James showed up too late). QAnon held a prayer on the dais while the militias were still breaching doors.

There are a number of people who remain — publicly at least — unidentified, such as two of Patrick Montgomery’s associates or someone who shadowed Bozell.

This post, a description of those who breached the Senate organized alphabetically by the most important participant, is just a baseline from which to understand more about who go to the Senate and how.

Update: In comments a few people have explained what significance I attribute to continuances a few of these defendants, like Leo Kelly, have. It means several things. First, it means the person in question is immediately moving to discuss a plea deal. One of the defense attorneys here seems to have chosen to really aggressively seek such continuances (Kira West is a noticed attorney on three of these defendants: Leo Kelly and Christine Priola, both of whom got continuances before being formally charged, and Tony Mariotto, who was charged by information; in the latter two cases, though, West sponsored outside attorneys Pro Hac Vice). But from a narrative perspective, it means our understanding of what the government knows about the defendant is frozen at the moment the FBI agent writes an arrest affidavit, whereas with defendants who get detained and then challenge that detention, which include a high percentage of the defendants who made it to the Senate, we often learn what the government found on the person’s cell phone. One of the points I attempted to make here is that for a variety of reasons, the story told in the court filings leaves out significant and, in some cases, intentional gaps in the revelation of what the government knows.

Note: This is based of my own imperfect list of who was described as being where. Plus, I suck at visual identifications. Please let me know what I’ve missed in comments. 

Thomas Adams

Per his arrest affidavit, Thomas Adams traveled from Springfield, IL, and claims to have just followed the mob with an unnamed friend (probably Roy Franklin, who was interviewed along with him the day of the insurrection) up the scaffolding to what I believe is the Northwest door. The cops he saw after he entered the building “weren’t really doing much … just waiting to see if we’d try to push past them.” Soon thereafter, he entered the Senate, where he saw Jacob Chansley, who he thought was “hilarious.” This is a photo of Adams in the Senate.

Adams took a lot of video while he was in the Capitol, including footage from the Senate floor the government may be particularly interested in, including this image.

Adams was arrested on April 13, over three months after he appeared in an article describing his exploits that day, during a period when the government seemed to be arresting a lot of people who took a lot of video of key scenes. He was charged with trespassing and obstructing the vote count.

Tommy Allen

Tommy Allen flew to DC from Rocklin, CA. He was picked up on video recordings in the Senate from 3:03 to 3:10PM on January 6. In addition to this picture, he was filmed taking papers from the clerks’ desks at the front of the Senate and putting them in his back left pocket, as well as absconding with the American flag.

He would later tell a journalist he took a letter from Trump to Mitch McConnell from the then-Majority Leader’s desk.

Allen was arrested on January 22 after first a stranger and then someone who’d “interacted with him on a number of occasions” alerted the FBI to his Facebook posts, which he tried to delete after he returned home. The latter witness also told the FBI that he or she had heard that Allen had destroyed the documents he took in his backyard.

Allen was charged with trespassing and (probably misdemeanor) theft; after he was formally charged with the same charges on February 2, he wasn’t arraigned until April 8.

Bradley Bennett and Rosie Williams

At some point on January 6, QAnoner Bradley Bennett and his partner Rosie Williams seemed to pray with DJ Shalvey and two others.

And they appear to have gotten in the Capitol the same way that Andrew Griswold did (so probably the East entrance, after those doors were opened from inside). They also made it to the Senate.

Those images would seemingly expose the couple mostly to trespass charges — and indeed, that’s all Rosie got charged with, both on their arrest complaint and their indictment.

But from the start, Bennett responded to his pursuit with obstruction. First, per a tipster who had tracked Bennett for his QAnon postings, Bennett deleted most of his January 6 postings within a day of the event.

Publicly, on the day of the event, Bennett blamed Antifa instigators.

But Bennett texted an associate the same day and clarified that Jacob Chansley was not Antifa.

Bennett and Chansley now share an attorney, Albert Watkins.

Then, after the FBI arrived in Kerrville, TX on March 23 to arrest the couple based off a March 19 warrant, only Rosie was there to be arrested. Per a motion for detention, Bennett had left on March 13 (though one of his sisters claims they split up in February), rented a car, drove to North Carolina, then went to stay with a friend in Fort Mill, South Carolina for two weeks, then hid for another 10 days until finally agreeing to turn himself in on April 9. He stopped using his cell service in that time period and stopped posting to Facebook, shifting to Telegram instead. At some point, he got rid of his new iPhone 11, claiming it did not work (there’s still some uncertainty about when and why he ditched the phone).

Bennett’s efforts to evade arrest may well arise out of nothing more than QAnon paranoia. Though several other aspects about him suggest he may have a more sophisticated Q-related grift going on. But he had attracted attention, even among Q adherents, even before January 6, and he was among the most elusive defendants of all January 6 arrestees.

Joe Biggs and Arthur Jackman

That Joe Biggs made his way to the Senate chamber did not show up in his arrest affidavit, or the first several filings in his case. It was mentioned in the “Leadership indictment” charging Biggs and three others with a conspiracy to obstruct the election certification.

64. Thirty minutes after first entering the Capitol on the west side, BIGGS and two other members of the Proud boys, among others, forcibly re-entered the Capitol through the Columbus Doors on the east side of the Capitol, pushing past at least one law enforcement officer and entering the Capitol directly in front of a group of individuals affiliated with the Oath Keepers.

65. After re-entering the Capitol by force, BIGGS and another member of the Proud Boys traveled to the Senate chamber.

But that indictment, released on March 10, may have increased the urgency of the focus on the Senate, as it showed that Biggs entered the Capitol twice — first in the initial wave, through the West door, and then through the East door — in a kind of pincer movement and after doing so went to where Mike Pence had only recently been evacuated.

I’m not sure I’ve seen pictures of Biggs in the Senate. But the arrest affidavit for Arthur Jackman — with Paul Rae, one of two Floridians who tailed Biggs around that day — shows him, after twice being caught walking with his hand on Biggs’ shoulder…

… And posing with Biggs and Rae for a selfie on the East steps …

Jackman’s affidavit shows him in the Senate (where we know Biggs also went).

And taking this selfie with his Proud Boys emblazoned cell phone.

In fact, the investigation into Jackman (at least as described in the affidavit) started when a friend of Jackman’s shared that selfie — which Jackman had first sent to a childhood friend — with the FBI.

When interviewed by the FBI on January 19, a good two months before he was arrested, Jackman explained that he had joined the Proud Boys in 2016 as a way to support Trump, refused to say whether he had entered the Capitol, but claimed the Proud Boys weren’t there to infiltrate it as [this makes no sense] it was not a sanctioned Proud Boys event.

It’s going to be hard to argue he didn’t breach the Capitol as part of a Proud Boys’ event (twice!) when he did so each time tailing along behind Joe Biggs.

Joshua Black

Joshua Black claimed that God instructed him to drive to DC and take part in events on January 6, and he came with his knife. He was at the front of the mob pushing past barricades before the initial breach of the Capitol (though it’s not clear whether he was pushing himself or being pushed from behind), and after being hit in his face with a plastic bullet, he then walked around the Capitol and entered the East side, at the forefront of another mob. Then he found the Senate Chamber.

While there, he joined others in rifling through and photographing papers on the desks and then in prayer. He ordered someone else (maybe Christian Secor?) to get out of the presiding officer’s chair and not to be disrespectful, and ordered others not to loot the place.

He self reported after he showed up in media coverage, and then later admitted to the FBI he brought the knife that would significantly expand his legal exposure.

He was formally charged with obstruction, and the trespassing charges against him were enhanced because of that knife. He spent over three months in jail, in part because an Alabama Magistrate believed he might be dangerous if he came to believe God ordered him to commit violence. After a hearing on April 23, Amy Berman Jackson released him to home confinement.

Leo “Zeeker” Bozell

Someone whose kids went to school with Zeeker Bozell’s kids tipped of the FBI on January 14 that he had been part of the riot.

Then later, when CNN published footage from the New Yorker on the Senate rioters, that same tipster alerted the FBI to that, too, circling the scion of the movement conservative, Leo Bozell, in the picture.

After being interviewed by the FBI on January 19, the same very persistent witness followed up again on January 24 with this YouTube video that included a fleeting glimpse of Bozell, this time on the balcony in the Senate.

The clip itself is innocuous. But the crowd it captures on the balcony, possibly a convergence of the first people to arrive, may be far more important.

What may have finally piqued the FBI’s interest in the son of a prominent Republican operative were the videos showing that while Bozell was up on the balcony — before anyone was on the floor of the Senate — he and a much younger man (Mike P persuasively argues that this is Bruno Cua in comments) took steps to ensure that two cameras would not capture what was about to happen on the Senate floor.

Bozell was originally charged with trespassing and obstruction on February 11; he was arrested 6 days later. It wasn’t until his indictment on March 12 — two days after Joe Biggs was indicted in the “Leadership” indictment — that Bozell was charged with doing or abetting $1,000 of damage while forcibly entering the Capitol, the same charge used to detain some Proud Boys and Oath Keepers prior to trial. But in spite of being implicated in a crime of violence, Bozell was released on personal recognizance.

Larry Brock

Larry Brock is the less famous of the two Zip Tie Guys in the Senate that day, though Brock was even more kitted out than Eric Munchel. According to his arrest affidavit, within two days of the riot, Brock’s ex-wife called the FBI and told them he had been on the Senate floor. That same day, someone who knew of Brock’s Air Force background and ties to defense contractor L3 also tipped off the FBI.

Brock is one of the people (Oath Keepers Kelly Meggs and Joshua James were recently disclosed to be others) who also made it to Nancy Pelosi’s office, suggesting he was hunting top legislators. Yet, even though videos show Brock lecturing the other insurrectionists that, to win the I/O (information operation) war, they needed to avoid damaging anything, and even though Brock’s social media shows he had started talking war days after the election and mused that, “I really believe we are going to take back what they did on November 3,” while traveling to DC, the government only charged him with misdemeanor trespass (though as noted above, they’re still weighing obstruction charges for him).

Jacob Chansley

Jacob Chansley’s strutting poses have made him the poster child of the insurrection, but the self-billed “Q Shaman” was well know to those who tracked extremist organizing and QAnon before January 6.

As with Joshua Black, the FBI didn’t need to come looking for Chansley. He called them on January 7 and admitted he was the guy with animal pelts and no shirt.

Even though Chansley was originally charged on January 8 only with trespassing, an indictment obtained 3 days later charged him with obstruction and civil disorder. When Royce Lamberth denied Chansley’s bid for pre-trial release, he treated the spear Chansley had brought as a dangerous weapon, which will make his trespassing charges a felony as well.

Amid all the discussions about Chansley since he was arrested, one thing has gotten little public attention: his admission that he traveled to DC with some other people from Arizona, people who no doubt would implicate him in an extremist network that predated January 6. Unless I’ve missed it, that network hasn’t been implicated together.

Jacob Clark

The government got an arrest warrant for Jacob Clark by March 5. It appears to be based largely off using facial recognition to match his Colorado driver’s license to nine different pictures obtained from surveillance videos from the Capitol, corroborated by one person who knows him. They also used returns from the Google GeoFence warrant to show he was inside the Capitol from 2:15 until 3:25PM the day of the riot and returns from a Verizon warrant showing him driving from Colorado to DC from January 4 to 5 and then returning starting on January 7.

Because the government didn’t arrest Clark until April 21, over six weeks after obtaining the warrant, the warrant affidavit surely only shows a fraction of what the government knows about him. Even still, the affidavit shows Clark to have been like Where’s Waldo during the time he was in the Capitol, with surveillance footage showing him in four different confrontations with police in four different locations, each time seemingly pushing the cops to let rioters run through the building. The most easily identifiable (though he was also in the Rotunda as it was breached) shows that Clark took part in the exchange with plain clothes police outside the Senate gallery that Nate DeGrave was also charged for.

What’s interesting is the video shows that Clark got to that hallway over a minute before almost everyone else.

Clark was charged with civil disorder, obstruction, and trespassing, but perhaps because he was only recently arrested, he has not yet been indicted.

Josiah Colt, Ronnie Sandlin, and Nick DeGrave

I described here how these three men planned and outfitted for the insurrection together. The key takeaway from that post for the purpose of this one is that Sandlin and DeGrave are accused of tussling with cops so as to permit the East door of the Capitol to be opened (through which some key conspirators rushed), but also of fighting with cops just outside the Senate Chamber (along with Jacob Clark, above, and with Christian Secor watching) so as to permit the Chamber itself to be breached.

Only Josiah Colt is recognizable among these three, but his two buddies played pretty key roles in the success of the larger insurrection.

Elias Costianes

The FBI received a tip on January 8 that Elias Costianes had posted videos of his participation in the riot on his Snapchat account. On January 19, the tipster provided the videos he uploaded. Those showed Costianes filming himself in the Senate, outside Pelosi’s office, and possibly watching the East doors being breached. He was charged on February 3 with trespassing and obstruction and arrested on February 12. He was indicted on the same charges on March 3, and his case has been continued since, meaning there’s no explanation for why he knew precisely where to go in the Capitol.

Bruno Cua

Cua, a spoiled 18-year old whose own parents enabled his participation in the insurrection, was part of the mob that fought to get into the Senate Chamber (along with Sandlin, DeGrave, and Clark). According to his arrest affidavit, he was turned in by local police officers, who knew him because he has a history of pissing off his neighbors and ignoring orders. He was charged on January 29, arrested on February 5, and indicted on February 10. He was charged with obstruction, civil disorder, and assault/resisting, and his trespass charges were enhanced because he carried a baton with him. Even after the insurrection, Cua still endorsed violence.

Violent protests against the capital (NOT SMALL BUSINESS’S) are well within our constitutional rights

Dear Swamp Rats, The events at the capital were a reminder that WE THE PEOPLE are in charge of this country and that you work for us. There will be no ‘warning shot’ next time.

Everyone who works in congress is a traitor to the people and deserves a public execution.

But beyond details from his social media posts, there was nothing from an extended detention fight that illuminated more about Cua’s ties.

Andrew Griswold

For all we can tell from the court filings, Andrew Griswold is just some guy who went to the Senate floor along with a bunch of other people who wanted to prevent the vote count.

But there are a few interesting features of his case. Someone else who went to the Senate helped get Griswold, from Niceville, Florida, arrested. His Febuary 26 arrest affidavit, describing how he was one of the first people to come through what must be the East door after it was opened with the help of Sandlin and DeGrave, relies, in part on,

camera footage obtained from an individual (W-2) who also entered the Capitol on January 6. At multiple points during the video, an individual who appears to be GRISWOLD is visible, wearing a camouflage jacket.

[snip]

At one point in the video, W-2 walks through a hallway, and GRISWOLD is visible ahead. W-2 then enters the Senate gallery, and GRISWOLD is again visible, as seen in the screenshot below:

The discovery shared with Griswold may describe this as, “One clip from a video obtained in another investigation” which the government deems as Sensitive.

Magistrate Michael Harvey approved Griswold’s arrest warrant on February 26. But the first arrest warrant against him was quashed by Harvey, apparently on March 1; the arrest warrant that Harvey approved is also dated March 1. Griswold was arrested on March 5 and that same day he and his attorney stipulated to the fidelity of the FBI image of his phone so he could get it returned, which is a reasonable thing to do if you want to avoid buying a new phone but very rare among January 6 defendants (indeed, Vitaly Gossjankowski won’t so stipulate with his laptop, even though that has expensive software on it to assist his hearing disability). Griswold was charged with trespassing and obstruction, but almost two months after his arrest, he has not been formally indicted.

Apparently as part of Griswold’s efforts to get the DC pretrial release conditions imposed rather than the local FL ones (the conditions differ in terms of the travel restrictions, the reporting requirements, restrictions on alcohol and other drugs, and — most notably — restrictions on the right to retain a legal firearm), the original Florida judge in his case recused and another granted Griswold’s request. All subsequent January 6 defendants seem to be having restrictions imposed on gun ownership, so that may have been the issue.

Paul Hodgkins

In an interview on January 26, four days after an acquaintance provided the FBI with a selfie he posted to Parler, Paul Hodgkins told the FBI that he traveled to DC alone, on a bus, and didn’t know any of the people engaged in violence or destruction around him. But before he started rifling through things on the desks in the Senate, he put on some white latex gloves, which is a curious bit of preparation for a guy who just hopped on a bus alone.

Hodgkins’ release conditions — initially, with a $25,000 bond and high intensity supervision, though with the bond later dropped by Magistrate Merriweather and then his curfew loosened by Judge Randolph Moss — were much stricter than other defendants charged, like he was on March 5, with trespassing and obstruction. (That could either stem from a strict local magistrate or from a prior arrest record.) In both of Hodgkins’ appearances, his lawyers have talked about making a plea deal.

Jerod  and Joshua Hughes

Jerod and Joshua Hughes are brothers from Montana. They watched as Dominick Pezzola busted through a window to break into the Capitol, were among the first 10 people in (amid a group that included Proud Boys who — like them — are from Montana), then Jerod kicked the door open to allow other rioters in behind them.

They went from there immediately towards the Senate floor, following Officer Goodman closely behind Doug Jensen.

Once inside the Senate, Jerod set about ransacking desks as Christian Secor, holding his America First sign, looked on.

That’s about all their arrest warrant, charging them with civil disorder, damaging government property, obstruction, and trespassing describes. They turned themselves in on January 11 after the FBI released their pictures on a BOLO. They were indicted on February 10. Since that time first Jerod, then Joshua, have moved for bond, which Judge Tim Kelly granted to both on April 7.

Those detention disputes, revealed that the brothers had driven over days to attend Trump’s rally. They claimed, at first, that they had gone to the Capitol in response to Trump’s exhortations. But after the prosecutor reviewed the Cellebrite report from Jerod’s phone on April 5, the government discovered texts showing buddies had funded the trip, and that Jerod claimed that he was behaving as a model citizen by participating in an insurrection.

Defendant: Ah we didn’t do anything crazy like destroy shit or fight the cops. Trespass and vandalism. Meh. I’ve done time. It’s josh I worry about.

Person Five: It’s the trespassing I worry about, but there may have been so many of you that figuring it out is more trouble than it’s worth. Were you in the photos? I could only see josh

Defendant: They got my ugly mug up and down. Trespassing ain’t shit. I feel like I was behaving like a model citizen ready to reclaim my country. Not enuff people followed.

Jerod said to someone else that they had wanted to hold the place but didn’t have numbers to accomplish that.

Person Six: How was it

Defendant: Insane on a few different levels.

Defendant: I saw picture [sic] of me and josh already on the news. Not enough people followed us in to hold the place. We had to get the fuck out.

The government also noted — attributing it to a picture on Jerod’s phone though they surely would have had it before — that the two had been present in the Senate Gallery, as well as the Senate floor.

Leo Christopher Kelly

Leo Kelly did an interview the day of the riot — after being among the first people in the Capitol and praying with others on the dais of the Senate — expressing some reservations about invading other people’s space. He asked a Deputy US Marshal to tell the FBI he would turn himself in if an arrest warrant were issued. He was arrested, just on trespassing charges, days later. Since that time, the government has twice deferred formally charging him, with the next deadline for a preliminary hearing set for May 10.

Anthony Mariotto

Like fellow Floridian, Arthur Jackman, Tony Mariotto was first IDed after he shared a selfie from the Senate Gallery and a friend shared it (after Mariotto had deleted his Facebook account) with the FBI.

Mariotto was in Georgia when the FBI first caught up with him. But when they asked, he immediately returned to Florida, and, on January 19, handed over his phone to be imaged. Three days later he was arrested. On February 8, he was formally charged with trespassing.

His arrest affidavit, which describes, “other videos that were recorded inside the Capitol Building during the events of January 6, 2021,” doesn’t describe what was on those videos. They may be among those that implicate others who entered the Senate.

Patrick Montgomery and Brady Knowlton

The investigation of Patrick Montgomery is a useful snapshot for understanding the Senate as a crossroads. As I wrote here, his acquaintances started turning him into the FBI the day after the insurrection, leading to his arrest and formal charge on misdemeanor trespassing charges by information. Even while that was happening, the FBI was investigating a guy who showed up in one of his pictures from the day, Brady Knowlton.

Knowlton’s arrest affidavit implicated two other guys, one that a witness who has been in a lawsuit with Knowlton for years described as Knowlton’s “right-hand man,” but who remains unnamed and uncharged. And surveillance images of Knowlton and Montgomery IDed someone — the guy in the hoodie who entered the Capitol with Knowlton and Montgomery — whom FBI either declined to name or had not yet IDed when they got the Knowlton arrest warrant.

The three of them went to the Rotunda — where people were opening a third breach to the Capitol — and from there to the Senate, with Knowlton filming from his camera the entire time.

When the government indicted Montgomery and Knowlton on April 16, they not only charged both with obstruction, but they added assault and civil disorder charges against Montgomery for an unidentified exchange with cops.

So in addition to the assault that Montgomery allegedly was involved in, this thread still leaves two men unidentified.

Christopher Moynihan

Per his arrest affidavit, Christopher Moynihan is another of the people who rifled through official papers when he got to the floor of the Senate on January 6. g “There’s got to be something we can use against these fucking scumbags,” he was quoted as saying. In the wake of the New Yorker video, two of Moynihan’s former co-workers alerted the FBI to his identity. He joined the prayer on the dais, but with a sour face that made it look like he was just going along. He was arrested on February 25 and indicted with the same obstruction and trespassing charges on March 17.

Eric Munchel and Lisa Eisenhart

Eric Munchel and his mom, Lisa Eisenhart, quickly became the focus of both legal and press attention given his spectacular appearance on the floor of the Senate with Zip Ties.

They were arrested early — on January 15. Munchel’s admission to having a taser when he breached the Capitol increased both’s legal exposure under a deadly weapon enhancement. But Munchel’s general compliance with law enforcement also helped to convince the DC Circuit they would not be a threat going forward.

After the events of January 6, Munchel apparently considered joining Proud Boys. But instead, he’s now the poster child both for the threat of kidnapping, but also for a DC Circuit standard of bail that treats involvement in a terrorist event as a historical threat, and requires detention decisions to consider whether the same people pose a forward-looking terrorist threat.

The more important point for the purposes of this post is that the government has not yet shown proof that Munchel or his mother did more than recognize the two militias as they were engaged in armed MAGA tourism while holding zip ties.

Christine Priola

According to her arrest affidavit, the government identified Christine Priola’s presence in the Senate chamber within days, based in part on the sign she carried reading, “The Children Cry Out for Justice,” perhaps suggesting a QAnon affiliation. Curiously, the affidavit explains that she and others — the first people in the Senate — “entered the restricted floor area of the Senate chambers and took photographs of the evacuation of the Senate chambers that were required based on the unauthorized entrance,” suggesting the rioters arrived even earlier than the impeachment case had made out.

After a tip on January 8 from someone in Cleveland that Priola, who worked for the Cleveland School District, was the one holding the sign, the FBI searched her home and seized her devices — on which she had filmed events in the Senate — that same day. But when the FBI imaged her phone, there were no photos, videos, chats, or messages from January 4 through 7, and the location of the phone was also unavailable until 4:23PM on January 6, when her phone showed up northeast of the Capitol.

Priola was arrested for trespassing on January 14, but since then her case has been on hold, without even an Information to show whether the FBI obtained more information on why her phone had been cleared within two days.

Michael Roche

Michael Roche is one of the people who joined Jacob Chansley in prayer on the Senate dais. The story of how he came to be arrested — and why he was not arrested until April 13 — remains a muddle. He was IDed on February 8 when law enforcement found a video he made posted to someone else’s account. In the video, he admitted that,

We did get a chance to storm the Capitol. And we made it into the chamber. . . . We managed to convince the cops to let us through. They listened to reason. And when we got into the chamber … we all started praying and shouting in the name of Jesus Christ, and inviting Christ back into out state [sic] capitol.

That seems to have led the FBI to this photo was posted by Seth Roche, explaining that he took the picture before people started claiming that Jacob Chansley was Antifa and explaining (I think) that his brother had stood shoulder to shoulder in prayer with Chansley, “in the main capital [sic] chamber [sic] holding up the Bible.”

Roche’s arrest affidavit suggests the FBI found both those posts before the New Yorker posted its story on January 17 with the video of Chansley, Roche, and others praying.

According to the arrest affidavit, nothing else happened until US Marshals, in an effort to find a missing child, knocked on Roche’s door, thinking the child’s family lived there. Roche told the Marshals he thought they were coming to arrest him. When the Marshals informed the FBI that same day, the FBI got the Marshal to ID Roche as the person in the NYer.

Again, all that happened by February 2. It wasn’t until April 7 when the FBI submitted his arrest affidavit. The affidavit not only has no more recent evidence in it, but it doesn’t really explain why Roche (unlike — say — Larry Brock) got charged with obstruction along with trespassing.

Those questions further raise the question about whose Facebook his interview appeared on, because that person may be the real person of interest associated with Roche.

Christian Secor

It seems like Christian Secor’s classmates at UCLA jumped on the opportunity to report Secor’s involvement in the January 6 insurrection. Eleven people, many of them students, IDed Secor as one of the people who had sat in the presiding officer’s seat or otherwise shown up in the New Yorker video of the Senate occupation.

But Secor did more than tour the Senate. The surveillance videos the FBI included with his arrest affidavit show Secor was among those who shoved the East doors open from inside.

He was close to  the brawl outside the Senate gallery doors involving Nate DeGrave, Ronnie Sandlin, and Jacob Clark.

There’s even a clip of him just behind the woman that the FBI suspects of having Nancy Pelosi’s laptop (per a Homer, AK woman who claims she was mistakenly IDed as such).

There’s no reason to believe Secor and this woman are together, but the proximity is interesting given that Riley June Williams, also a Groyper, allegedly first took the laptop.

Secor was arrested on suspicion of assault, civil disorder, obstruction, and trespassing on February 16 and indicted on those same charges on February 26. In March his lawyer moved to get him released in time to finish his UCLA finals. The government tried to oppose his release, pointing in part to his pro-fascist views, in part to the weapons he had been acquiring and in part to his alleged attempts to cover up his involvement. But Judge Trevor McFadden released him on a $200,000 bail with a rather curious kind of home incarceration that lets him out to work.

DJ Shalvey

DJ Shalvey is the guy wearing an undersized hard hat depicted in videos of people rifling through papers in the Senate. He’s quoted thinking Ted Cruz sold them out before others tell him, no, Ted Cruz was right there with the insurrectionists.

The FBI obtained an arrest warrant for him after two long-time associates alerted the FBI, one of whom shared selfies that Shalvey sent him the day of the riot, by February 12. But he wasn’t arrested until March 9, reportedly after turning himself in. Somewhere along the way he must have interviewed with the FBI, though, because his (still undocketed) indictment released Friday not only added assault and civil disorder charges against him, as well as theft charges for taking a letter from Mitt Romney to Mike Pence, but they also made Shalvey the rare if not only January 6 defendant charged with lying to the FBI about that assault.

 

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.