Posts

The Many Sided Stone: The Investigation Is Not Over

While we have been talking about how good and done Robert Meuller’s investigation is, a slew of filings and other reports relating to Roger Stone in the last few days remind us that the fruits of his investigation are definitely not done.

Roger Stone’s cry for help

As background, consider this cry for help, in a local, as opposed to the kind of national media outlets that had recently hung on Roger’s every word. In it, he describes the burden of spending all his money on defense attorneys.

“The worst part of this is being broke,” he said on the SiriusXM program that airs weekdays on the Faction Talk channel 103.

“I’ve lost my home, my insurance, what little savings I had, my ability to make a living because people pay me to write and talk, and of course the things they want me to write and talk about are the very things I’m not allowed to talk and write about. In the blink of an eye you can lose everything.

“I have to pay everything I have to lawyers. And I could no longer pay the rent in the property that I was in. I moved from a nine-bedroom house to a one-bedroom apartment. Had to do the move myself with my wife renting a truck. On the last day of the move in kind of a freak accident the truck slips out of gear and rolls over my wife’s ankle, breaking it.”

More interestingly, Stone claims he hasn’t spoken with Donald Trump for almost two years (he doesn’t say whether his attorneys have spoken to Trump’s attorneys).

“I’ve known him for 40 years. We’re very good friends. I don’t agree with everything he does, I agree with a lot of what he does,” Stone said. Stone said Trump was at his wedding, and he at two of Trump’s weddings; he was at the funerals for Trump’s parents, and is friendly with his sister. “I do miss him.”

He also complains that Alex Jones is not selling T-shirts for him.

“I am grateful for Alex Jones for giving me a platform. He is a friend of mine. I like the guy, I like hanging out with him. I do not agree with everything he says, I agree with some of the things he says. He probably doesn’t agree with everything I say. But you know, the check would be nice.”

While I’m sure Stone exaggerates his financial straits, I’m also sure they’re considerable. These two specific calls for help, though (especially in the wake of allegations that InfoWars may have been providing hush money to Jerome Corsi), are especially interesting.

Stone’s throw of the dice

Meanwhile, the lawyers that are bankrupting Stone have been busy, filing six challenges to his indictment last night, several of them meritorious, the others not. The motions include:

  1. A bid to throw out the prosecution on several grounds designed to appeal to William Barr’s prejudices
  2. A demand for the full Mueller report based on some specious (appeals to Bill Barr) and some justified bases (prosecutorial decisions on Jerome Corsi and Randy Credico)
  3. A motion to enjoin his prosecution based on a claim that Congress hadn’t funded this Special Counsel investigation
  4. A motion to dismiss based on the claim that Mueller violated separation of powers by charging him for lying to HPSCI without a formal referral
  5. A request for discovery to support a selective prosecution claimed designed, in large part, to accuse Randy Credico of lying to the grand jury
  6. A renewed objection to having his case judged by Amy Berman Jackson along with the GRU hackers

He seems to be pursuing several strategies (beyond just throwing a bunch of spaghetti against the wall).

Embarrass Credico

The first is to use the motions process to discredit the witnesses against him. That’s most true of a passage of his selective prosecution motion that accuses Credico of lying to the grand jury.

Another witness, Randy Credico lied about speaking to Assange and Assange’s lawyer to federal agents. It is curious that the Special Counsel found one aspect of Credico’s interactions with Stone so compelling that it made its way into Stone’s Indictment. In Paragraph 14(e) of the Indictment, the Special Counsel quotes the conversation between Stone and Credico from Credico’s radio show of August 23, 2016. Stone and Credico have a discussion regarding communications with the “head of Organization 1.” Yet, astonishingly, in Credico’s testimony to the Grand Jury (DOJ-3500-RC-000111) Transcript Page 44, Lines 7-22, Credico tells the Grand Jury that on the very show they quote, Stone and Credico never discussed the head of Organization 1. For unknown reasons and the precise reason why discovery is mandated in these situations, the Special Counsel elected not to charge Credico with lying to the Grand Jury, something expressly within their regulatory authority.

Later in his testimony, Credico says that prior to his interview with presidential candidate Gary Johnson on September 10, 2016, that he had never spoken to Stone about WikiLeaks or Assange.3 This is a demonstrated lie as according to the text messages between Stone and Credico that Stone voluntarily released, and the Special Counsel possessed. As early as August 19, 2016, Credico was bragging to Stone that he had a connection to Assange and that it was through Margaret Kunstler, Esq., an attorney represented to be on Julian Assange’s legal team. There is no indication based on the initial review of discovery provided by the government that the Grand Jury was ever informed of Credico’s lies regarding the August 23d radio interview.

It’s unclear whether Stone’s representation of Credico’s grand jury testimony is fair. But if it is, the selective prosecution claim provides a way to discredit Credico.

Appeal to Barr and Trump

Then there’s a series of arguments that appear to be an attempt to appeal to Bill Barr’s prejudices, and through him, Trump. There’s the separation of powers argument about the lack of a criminal referral that suggests — incorrectly — that Mueller would have needed to rely on Adam Schiff’s testimony to assess whether and how Stone lied in his testimony (as a matter of courtesy, HPSCI shared informal copies of the transcripts with the IC) and claims — probably ridiculously — that an equivalent example of Barr’s contention that the president can’t be guilty of obstruction without committing the underlying crime is also true for the President’s rat-fucker. Stone repeats this argument in his demand for the full Mueller report, claiming that it will show there was no “collusion,” which therefore means he couldn’t obstruct anything.

The most novel of these arguments, however, is that the President — and his campaign from before he was elected!! — can’t be investigated under the Take Care Clause. This is mostly bullshit, a dime store version of Bill Barr’s own opininion excusing many kinds of obstruction for the President. Trump will like it best where Stone argued that investigating all links with Russia inhibited Trump’s ability to conduct foreign policy.

The Mueller Appointment grants the Special Counsel the authority to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” Accordingly, every action taken by President Trump since he formed his campaign with regard to the United States’ relationship with Russia has been second guessed as evidence of “collusion,” or a conspiracy between Trump and Putin.20 Many have asserted that Putin has some form of control over Trump.21 The Special Counsel investigation has stimulated this second guessing, significantly undermining the President’s ability to conduct foreign policy with regard to Russia. The Special Counsel investigation hog-ties the President in the execution of his foreign policy.

The Mueller Appointment not only hobbles the President’s ability to conduct a rational foreign policy with regard to Russia, it undermines his ability to deal with every world leader. No President can deal effectively with the heads of other nations when he is the subject of a Department of Justice investigation that is prominently being portrayed in the press as imminently removing him from office. Counterparts will be inhibited in reliance on a President who may not serve out his term

This is bait for the frothy right. More importantly, it treats Roger Stone as the President for investigative purposes when according to both him and the President he wasn’t even formally part of the campaign for the key periods under investigation.

This is mostly spaghetti throwing for the frothy right, but there’s no telling what will happen if some of the nuttier GOP judges latch on to one of these strands of spaghetti.

Engage in graymail

Stone repeats his demand for the full Mueller report in several ways — first in a bid for the report itself, then as the “prologue” to a bunch of mostly spurious attacks on Mueller’s authority (some of which have already been rejected in the larger Mueller investigation). This is graymail. Of course Stone is not going to get the full report, which includes grand jury material unrelated to his prosecution and descriptions of ongoing investigations likewise unrelated to his prosecution. But he probably does have a good case to claim that he should get the parts that will be redacted for us that pertain to him.

Misstate Barr’s citation of Mueller’s findings

I’m perhaps most interested in the way Stone engages in Russian hack trutherism. For example, his first justification for needing the full Mueller report — even before he claims to need to know why Credico and Corsi weren’t charged — is to understand Mueller’s “assumption” that Russia hacked the Democrats (something that Stone himself admitted until August 2016, when it became inconvenient).

His lawyers must be allowed to review the Report in its entirety because it contains the government’s evidence and conclusions on matters essential to Stone’s defense. Starting with the base assumptions by the Special Counsel that Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Clinton Campaign email databases (see Indictment, ¶¶ 1-3, 7, 18, 20, 39);

And in Stone’s bid to get his case reassigned, he makes several misrepresentations of the public record. For example, he claims Barr’s representation of Mueller’s finding said there was no evidence of “collusion” between Trump’s associates and Russia.

The Office of the Special Counsel has since concluded its investigation and has found that there is no evidence of collusion between Russia and those associated with the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.

Barr addressed only conspiracy and coordination, and all the language is consistent with Mueller not finding enough evidence to charge it, while finding some evidence.

Stone also claims that prosecutors have claimed that his case is associated with the GRU indictment only because communications between Stone and Guccifer 2.0 were obtained with the GRU warrants.

Previously, however, opposing counsel designated this case as related to that of United States of America v. Netyksho, et al. (1:18-cr-00215-ABJ), because the government claimed that communications between Guccifer 2.0 and Stone were obtained from the Netyksho search warrant.

If they said specifically that, then it was in private. In public, the government said this:

The defendant’s false statements did not arise in a vacuum: they were made in the course of an investigation into possible links between Russian individuals (including the Netyksho defendants), individuals associated with the dumping of materials (including Organization 1), and U.S. persons (including the defendant).

[snip]

In the course of investigating that activity, the government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release. Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1.

Even ignoring that Stone seems to cede that at least one of the number of warrants referred to in that filing included his communications with Guccifer 2.0, it’s even more amusing that Stone ignores WikiLeaks — I wonder if they took it out after Julian Assange got arrested?

Stone then misstates another thing Barr said, claiming he claimed no American citizens conspired with “Russian agents.”

[T]he Department of Justice has concluded that there was no conspiracy between Russian agents and any American citizen, including Roger Stone, this “connection” is unsubstantiated.

What the Barr memo actually says about the hack-and-leak operation is,

Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.

Barr’s statement only refers to the Russian government, not possible Russian cut-outs like WikiLeaks, and only discusses Americans with ties to Trump.

Stone then claims that the GRU indictment claims no American was part of the conspiracy.

Additionally, the only document filed in Netyksho, the Indictment, states no American was part of the conspiracy charged. There is nothing left to “connect” Roger Stone to.

It doesn’t name any Americans, but also doesn’t say no Americans were part of the conspiracy. Here’s what it says about the conspirators.

[The defendants] were GRU officers who knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other, and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury (collectively the “Conspirators”),

Stone’s effort to get a new judge is not going to work in any case. Which leads me to wonder why he repeatedly misstates the public record.

In any case, assuming normal judicial review, Stone’s request for more of the Mueller report might have promise and he could get some thoughtful briefing on a few of the other claims. But most of this is wall-splat for specific audiences: Trump, Barr, and the frothy right.

Andrew Miller claims he has been mooted

Meanwhile, as expected, Stone associate Andrew Miller just requested an en banc review of the DC Circuit ruling that he needs to testify against Stone. Along with the arguments he already lost on, he is now asking the court to find out whether the government really still needs his testimony, arguing (in part) that Mueller’s authority has expired.

Since the subpoena issued to Mr. Miller was for the purpose of obtaining evidence related to Mr. Stone’s connection with WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and Guccifer 2.0, it would appear that the Special Counsel would no longer need Mr. Miller’s testimony regarding that subject matter. Nevertheless, the next business day, Monday, January 28, 2019, undersigned counsel was advised by the Special Counsel’s office that it believed the case to be a live controversy since the grand jury was still active, though it was not apparent whether the grand jury or its foreperson was consulted as to any continued interest in hearing Mr. Miller’s testimony. 3

On March 22, 2019, Special Counsel submitted his final report to Attorney General Barr pursuant to the Special Counsel regulations, 28 C.F.R. 600.8(c), concluding his investigation, explaining his prosecutions and declinations, and finding that no conspiracy or coordination took place between the Trump campaign or any aides associated with the campaign and Russia regarding interference with the 2016 campaign or hacking the emails of Hillary Clinton or the DNC. 4 No further indictments are expected. According to Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec, “The investigation is complete.”5 Thus, like Cinderella’s carriage that turned into a pumpkin at midnight, Special Counsel Mueller’s authority expired. Accordingly, the intervening events described above that have occurred since the issuance of the subpoena in question over nine months ago, strongly, if not definitively, demonstrate Mr. Miller’s testimony regarding Mr. Stone is no longer required nor can be legally obtained. Thus, this Court should invite the government’s views to verify whether this case continues to be a live controversy or is moot to assure itself that it continues to possess judicial power to adjudicate the instant petition for rehearing and suggestion for rehearing en banc and any subsequent action in this appeal

3 Notably, while the mandate was stayed as is the usual practice until 7 days after the time for the filing a petition for rehearing had expired or after disposition of any timely filed petition (45 days from the decision, or April 12), the Special Counsel had the right to ask the Court to issue the mandate ever since February 26 if Mr. Miller’s testimony was needed. The Special Counsel declined to do so. [my emphasis]

This is really just decoration on an en banc review that will be denied, but along the way he’s fishing for information about where else prosecutors (including the DC AUSAs who’ve been involved since Stone’s indictment, at least) are headed.

Mueller may be done but prosecutors are not

Which brings us, finally, to this response from prosecutors (signed by two DC AUSAs, Jonathan Kravis and Michael Marando, from the Stone team and Aaron Zelinsky from the Mueller team) in response to what is fairly characterized as a media request for all outstanding warrant materials in the Mueller investigation, with a focus on Stone. After getting two extensions, one because the attorneys involved in it were involved in a press of other work, one to transition to the DC AUSAs who’d take over because Mueller was done, the government today issued a narrowly targeted (to Stone) response.

After introducing the scope of the investigation as it proceeded from Comey’s March 20, 2017 scope to Mueller’s May 17, 2017 scope to his March 22, 2019 closure, the government response then stated the media request in remarkably narrow terms, focused just on Stone.

The movants seek to unseal search warrant materials related to the Stone prosecution. Specifically, the movants seek unsealing of “warrants, applications, supporting affidavits, and returns relating to all search or seizure warrants relevant to the prosecution of Roger J. Stone, Jr.” Doc. 4, at 2 (Order) (quoting Media Coalition Mem. 1). 2 It is unclear whether the movant’s request is limited to warrants issued pursuant to Rule 41 or also includes warrants under the SCA. In an abundance of caution, the government is treating the request as covering both categories. It is similarly unclear whether the reference to “warrants relevant to the Prosecution of Roger J. Stone, Jr.” means only warrants to search Stone’s property and facilities or includes other warrants that were executed as part of the same line of investigation. Again, in an abundance of caution, the government is treating the request as covering both categories.3

2 In places, the movant more broadly references warrant materials pertaining to “the Russia investigation” (Mot. 1, 4; Mem. 4) and once references “Manafort records” (Mot. 3). Consistent with this Court’s March 1, 2019 order (Doc. 4, at 2), and the movants’ detailed description of the records sought, see Mem. 4-5, the government understands those references as context for this specific request to unseal records related to the prosecution of Stone. See Mot. 1, 3, 4; Mem. 1, 4, 5.

Yes, it makes a big show of interpreting the media request broadly to interpret the request as both a request for Rule 41 and Stored Communication Act warrants and both Stone’s property and others (though again, they remarkably blow off all requests for anyone but Stone). But then they get to footnote 3, which reveals that there were warrants targeting entirely different people that ended up “merely happen[ing] to yield evidence that concerns Stone.”

3 The government does not understand the request to include warrants that were not related to Stone or that line of investigation but that merely happened to yield evidence that concerns Stone and is being provided to him in discovery.

This is a fairly remarkable disclosure, that the government obtained warrants thinking they were getting one thing that “merely happened to yield evidence that concerns Stone.” Particularly when you consider the earlier discussion of the “multiple lines” of Mueller’s investigation, some of which have been spun off.

The Special Counsel’s investigation has involved multiple lines of inquiry. Many have been handled in the Special Counsel’s Office. But the Special Counsel has also referred a number of matters to other offices in the government for investigation.

[snip]

On March 22, 2019, the Special Counsel notified the Attorney General that he had completed his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Special Counsel, however, referred a number of matters to other offices in the Department of Justice. Those matters remain ongoing.

The filing claims, again, that this is an ongoing investigation, with stuff still being handled by “other offices and entities,” plural,

As explained, although the Special Counsel has concluded his work, the Special Counsel referred a number of matters that are ongoing and are being handled by other offices and entities. Disclosure of the warrant materials threatens the harms that courts have catalogued in holding that the First Amendment provides no right of access to search warrant materials in ongoing investigations.

Nor would it make sense to recognize a right of access automatically once any indictment has been returned. In complex investigations, such as this one, where a single warrant may have relevance to interconnected lines of investigation, that test would fail to take into account tangible investigative harms from disclosure. An indictment does not end an overall investigation, for example, when a defendant is potentially involved in activities with other subjects or targets, and the warrant in question seeks evidence bearing on that joint activity, but the defendant has been charged only with a subset of his conduct under investigation. The probability of a continuing investigation post-indictment grows when the search targets are linked to other persons of interest by ties to a single organization, common associates, or coordinated activities. Disclosure of warrant materials could reveal sources, methods, factual and legal theories, and lines of investigation extending beyond the charged conduct.

It suggests a “single warrant may have relevance to interconnected lines of investigation” (I assume those targeting Rick Gates are one example), then specifically says an indictment, like that targeting Stone, “does not end an overall investigation” perhaps because the “defendant has been charged only with a subset of his conduct under investigation” and he “is potentially involved in activities with other subjects or targets … linked to other persons of interest by ties to a single organization, common associates, or coordinated activities.”

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

The Parallel Tracks of Disclosure on Why Manafort Shared Campaign Polling Data with His Russian Co-Conspirator

No one knows what the first half of this sentence says:

[redacted] the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

But it almost certainly includes language acknowledging evidence that might support (but ultimately was not enough to indict on) a conspiracy charge.

I have twice before demonstrated that the Barr Memo — and so this full sentence — is nowhere near as conclusive with respect to exonerating Trump as a number of people have claimed (and Trump’s equivocations about releasing the report). This post showed how little Barr’s Memo actually incorporates from the Mueller Report. And this post shows that the memo ignores Stone’s coordination with WikiLeaks, presumably because he didn’t coordinate directly with the Russian government.

But (as I’ve said elsewhere), the public record on Paul Manafort’s conduct also makes it clear that the Mueller Report includes inconclusive information on whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russians. This came up extensively, in the discussion of Manafort’s sharing of polling data at his August 2, 2016 meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, at the February 4 breach hearing.

At the beginning of that discussion, ABJ asked whether Manafort had lied to the grand jury about his motives for sharing polling data. [Throughout this, I’m bolding the redactions but including the content where it’s obvious.]

JUDGE AMY BERMAN JACKSON: I think we can go on to the question of the [redacted; sharing of polling data]. And I don’t have that many questions, mainly because I think it’s pretty straightforward what you’re saying.

So, I would want to ask you whether it’s part of your contention that he lied about the reason [redacted; he shared the data]. I know initially he didn’t even agree that that [redacted; he had shared private polling data], and he didn’t even really agree in the grand jury. He said it just was public information. But, I think there’s some suggestion, at least in the 302, as to what the point was of [redacted].

And so, I’m asking you whether that’s part of this, if he was lying about that?

Because Mueller’s team only needed ABJ to rule that Manafort lied, Andrew Weissmann explained they didn’t need her to reach the issue of motive. But they did discuss motive. Weissmann describes that it wasn’t just for whatever benefit sharing the polling data might provide the campaign, but it would also help Manafort line up his next gig and (probably) get out of debt to Deripaska.

MR. WEISSMANN: So, I don’t think the Court needs to reach that issue, and I don’t know that we’ve presented evidence on the — that issue.

THE COURT: You didn’t. So you just don’t want me to think about it, that’s okay.

MR. WEISSMANN: No. No. No. I’m going to answer your question.

THE COURT: All right.

MR. [WEISSMANN]: I’m just trying to, first, deal with what’s in the record. And I think that in the grand jury, Mr. Manafort said that from his perspective, [redacted], which he admitted at that point was with — he understood that it was going to be given by [redacted] to the [redacted; Ukrainian Oligarchs] and to Mr. [redacted; possibly Deripaska], both. That from his perspective, it was — there was no downside — I’m paraphrasing — it was sort of a win-win. That there was nothing — there was no negatives.

And I think the Government agrees with that, that that was — and, again, you’re just asking for our — if we are theorizing, based on what we presented to you, that we agree that that was a correct assessment.

But, again, for purposes of what’s before you on this issue, what his ultimate motive was on what he thought was going to be [redacted] I don’t think is before you as one of the lies that we’re saying that he told.

It’s more that what he specifically said was, he denied that he had told Mr. Gates [redacted; to bring the polling data to the meeting]. That he would not, in fact, have [redacted] and that he left it to [redacted].

Weissmann then goes on to allege that Manafort lied about sharing this polling data because if he didn’t, it would ruin his chance of getting a pardon.

And our view is, that is a lie. That that is really under — he knew what the Gates 302s were. It’s obviously an extremely sensitive issue. And the motive, I think, is plain from the [redacted], is we can see — we actually have — we can see what it is that he would be worried about, which is that the reaction to the idea that [long redaction] would have, I think, negative consequences in terms of the other motive that Mr. Manafort could have, which is to at least augment his chances for a pardon.

And the proof with respect to that is not just Mr. Gates. So that I will say there’s no contrary evidence to Mr. Gates, but you don’t have just Mr. Gates’s information. You have a series of emails where we know that Mr. Kilimnik, in fact, is reporting [redacted]

And probably the best piece of evidence is you have Mr. Manafort asking Mr. Gates to [redacted; print out polling data]. So, it’s — there’s — from three weeks ago, saying: [redacted].

In an effort to understand why this lie was important, ABJ returns to Manafort’s motive again, which leads Weissmann to point out that the question of why Manafort shared the polling data goes to the core of their inquiry.

THE COURT: I understand why it’s false. And I’m not sure I understand what you said at the beginning, that you — and I understand why you’ve posited that he might not want to be open about this, given the public scrutiny that foreign contacts were under at the time. But, I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying where you say you agree with him when he said it had no downside.

So, this is an important falsehood because it was false? Or is there some larger reason why this is important?

MR. WEISSMANN: So — so, first, in terms of the what it is that the special counsel is tasked with doing, as the Court knows from having that case litigated before you, is that there are different aspects to what we have to look at, and one is Russian efforts to interfere with the election, and the other is contacts, witting or unwitting, by Americans with Russia, and then whether there was — those contacts were more intentional or not. And for us, the issue of [redacted] is in the core of what it is that the special counsel is supposed to be investigating.

My answer, with respect to the Court’s question about what it is — what the defendant’s intent was in terms of what he thought [redacted] I was just trying to answer that question, even though that’s not one of the bases for saying there was a lie here. And so I was just trying to answer that question.

And what I meant by his statement that there’s no downside, is that can you imagine multiple reasons for redacted; sharing polling data]. And I think the only downside —

Weissmann ultimately explains that there was no downside to Manafort to sharing the polling data during the campaign, but there was a downside (angering Trump and therefore losing any hope of a pardon) to the information coming out now.

THE COURT: You meant no downside to him?

MR. WEISSMANN: Yes.

THE COURT: You weren’t suggesting that there was nothing — there’s no scenario under which this could be a bad thing?

MR. WEISSMANN: Oh, sorry. Yes. I meant there was no downside — Mr. Manafort had said there was no downside to Mr. Manafort doing it.

THE COURT: That was where I got confused.

MR. WEISSMANN: Sorry.

THE COURT: All right.

MR. WEISSMANN: And meaning all of this is a benefit. The negative, as I said, was it coming out that he did this.

In her breach ruling, ABJ agreed that Manafort’s sharing of polling data was a key question in Mueller’s inquiry, as it was an intentional link to Russia. She establishes this by noting that Manafort knew the polling data would be shared with someone in Russia (probably Deripaska; though note, this is where ABJ gets the nationality of the two Ukranian oligarchs wrong, which Mueller subsequently corrected her on).

Also, the evidence indicates that it was understood that [redacted] would be [redacted] from Kilimnik [redacted] including [redacted], and [redacted]. Whether Kilimnik is tied to Russian intelligence or he’s not, I think the specific representation by the Office of Special Counsel was that he had been, quote, assessed by the FBI, quote, to have a relationship with Russian intelligence, close quote. Whether that’s true, I have not been provided with the evidence that I would need to decide, nor do I have to decide because it’s outside the scope of this hearing. And whether it’s true or not, one cannot quibble about the materiality of this meeting.

In other words, I disagree with the defendant’s statement in docket 503, filed in connection with the dispute over the redactions, that, quote, the Office of Special Counsel’s explanation as to why Mr. Manafort’s alleged false statements are important and material turns on the claim that he is understood by the FBI to have a relationship with Russian intelligence.

I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of what was said. The intelligence reference was just one factor in a series of factors the prosecutor listed. And the language of the appointment order, “any links,” is sufficiently broad to get over the relatively low hurdle of materiality in this instance, and to make the [redacted] Kilimnik and [redacted] material to the FBI’s inquiry, no matter what his particular relationship was on that date.

Elsewhere, in discussing Manafort’s efforts to downplay Kilimnik’s role in his own witness tampering, ABJ refers to Kilimnik as Manafort’s “Russian conspirator.”

Earlier in the hearing ABJ notes that Manafort’s excuse for why he forgot details of the August 2 meeting only reinforce the likelihood that he shared the polling data to benefit the campaign.

You can’t say you didn’t remember that because your focus at the time was on the campaign. That relates to the campaign. And he wasn’t too busy to arrange and attend the meeting and to send Gates [redacted] that very day. It’s problematic no matter how you look at it.

If he was, as he told me, so single-mindedly focused on the campaign, then the meeting he took time to attend and had [redacted] had a purpose [redacted; to benefit the campaign]. Or, if it was just part of his effort to [redacted; line up the next job], well, in that case he’s not being straight with me about how single-minded he was. It’s not good either way.

She further notes that Manafort took this meeting with his Russian partner in Ukrainian influence peddling even though he was already under press scrutiny for those Ukrainian ties.

[T]he participants made it a point of leaving separate because of the media attention focused at that very time on Manafort’ relationships with Ukraine.

Her ruling also explains at length why sharing polling data would be useful to Kilimnik, citing from Rick Gates’ 302s at length.

In other words, these two filings — to say nothing of the backup provided in the January 15 submission, which includes all but one of Gates’ 302s describing the sharing of the polling data — lay out in some detail the evidence that Manafort clandestinely met with Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, 2016, in part to share polling data he knew would be passed on to at least one other Russian, probably Deripaska.

And here’s why that’s interesting.

Back in early March, the WaPo moved to liberate all the documents about Manafort’s breach determination. On March 19, Mueller attorneys Adam Jed and Michael Dreeben asked for an extension to April 1, citing the “press of other work.”

The government respectfully requests an extension of time—through and including April 1, 2019—to respond to the motion. The counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government.

Three days later, Mueller announced he was done, and submitted his report to Barr. Then, on March 25, all of Mueller’s attorneys withdrew from Manafort’s case, which they haven’t done in other cases (the main pending cases are Mike Flynn, Concord Management, and Roger Stone). Then, on March 27, Mueller and Jonathan Kravis, the AUSA taking over a bunch of Mueller’s cases, asked for another extension, specifically citing the hand-off to Kravis and two others in the DC US Attorney’s Office.

The government respectfully requests a further two-week extension of time—to and including April 15, 2019—to respond to the motion. The Special Counsel’s Office has been primarily handling this matter. On March 22, the Special Counsel announced the end of his investigation and submitted a report to the Attorney General. This matter is being fully transitioned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Because of this transition, additional time will be required to prepare a response.

On March 29, Barr wrote the Judiciary Leadership and told them he’d release his redacted version of the Mueller report — which he’ll be redacting with the Mueller’s team — by mid-April, so around April 15.

So there are currently two parallel efforts considering whether to liberate the details of Manafort’s sharing of polling data with Kilimnik and through him Russia:

  • The Barr-led effort to declassify a report that Mueller says does not exonerate Trump for obstruction, including the floating of a pardon to Manafort that (in Weissmann’s opinion) led Manafort to lie that and why he shared Trump campaign polling data to be passed on to Russians, which will be done around April 15
  • The DC USAO-led effort to unseal the materials on Manafort’s lies, for which there is a status report due on April 15

Kevin Downing — the Manafort lawyer whose primary focus has been on preserving Manafort’s bid for a pardon — already expressed some concern about how the breach documents would be unsealed, to which ABJ sort of punted (while suggesting that she’d entertain precise the press request now before her.

MR. DOWNING: Your Honor, just one other general question: How are we going to handle the process of unredacted down the road? I mean, there’s been a lot of redactions in this case, and the law enforcement basis for it or ongoing grand jury investigations. What is going to be the process to — is the Office of Special Counsel going to notify the Court that the reason stated for a particular redaction no longer exists, or still survives? Is it going to be some sort of process that we can put in place?

THE COURT: Well, in one case, I know with all the search warrants, it was an evolving process. There were things that were withheld from you and then you got them but they were still withheld from the press and then the press got them. But usually things have to be triggered by a motion or request by someone. There may be reasons related to the defense for everything to stay the way it is.

I, right now, without knowing with any particularity what it is that you’re concerned about, or if — and not having the press having filed anything today, asking for anything, I don’t know how to answer that question. But I think that is something that comes up in many cases, cases that were sealed get unsealed later. And if there’s something that you think should be a part of the public record that was sealed and there’s no longer any utility for it, obviously you could first find out if it’s a joint motion and, if not, then you file a motion.

But for now, the prosecutors in DC will be in charge of deciding how much of the information — information that Barr might be trying to suppress, not least because it’s the clearest known evidence how a floated pardon prevented Mueller from fully discovering whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia — will come out in more detail via other means.

Update: And now, over a month after Mueller’s correction, three weeks after sentencing, and a week after the entire Mueller team moved on, Manafort submitted his motion for reconsideration from Marc. They’re still fighting about redactions.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Judge Amy Berman Jackson Lays the Precedent for FARA

I said while following yesterday’s live tweets of the Paul Manafort sentencing that, because so few FARA cases have been criminally prosecuted, Manafort’s will set some precedent going forward, as DOJ moves to put some prosecutorial teeth behind the law. So I wanted to look at the various things she said yesterday about it.

First, there’s the way she characterizes Manafort’s own actions. After calling out the way Manafort claims his entire life’s work has been about spreading democracy without actually presenting evidence to support the case (and leaving unstated the obvious fact that in fact he was more often serving dictators), she then notes that ultimately it was easier for him to get a win for his clients if he hid who he was working for.

The sentencing memorandum also states: Mr. Manafort has spent his life advancing American ideals and principles. It starts with his work on numerous political campaigns and positions within some of the administrations, and it goes on to say during his years outside of government service, Mr. Manafort also worked with world leaders. He has spent a lifetime promoting American democratic values and assisting emerging democracies to adopt reforms necessary to become a part of Western society.

At times he interacted with politicians and business people in emerging countries to assist in the development of American beliefs of equal justice, human rights, and free markets. There aren’t really any exhibits or letters that go along with that, so I don’t have the facts or the record before me that would permit me to either accept or question what is a very general description. It will fall to others in other settings to assess whether the way the defendant chose to market the access he gained during political campaigns and the work he did for the clients he represented has been characterized accurately. So it doesn’t factor into my consideration of the history and characteristics of the defendant.

[snip]

It may have been that in addition to thinking of his own finances, he had his clients’ ability to win in mind. He knew that revealing the true source behind the lobbying activities would have made those activities ineffective and unsuccessful, as the prosecutor said. Secrecy was integral. But that willingness to win at all costs was contrary to laws designed to ensure transparency in the political process and the legislative process. So it cannot possibly justify the behavior, particularly when there’s no question that this defendant knew better and he knew exactly what he was doing.

This is important background for how she distinguishes lobbying, even for sleazy clients, and lobbying without disclosing it.

It is important to note, in case there’s any confusion, notwithstanding the use of the word “agent,” an unregistered foreign agent is not a spy. He is a lobbyist. Lobbying is not illegal. Being paid to do it, even on behalf of clients who others might view as unseemly or odious or even tyrannical is not illegal, if you follow the laws that govern foreign financial transactions and pay your taxes. But this defendant kept his money offshore and under wraps so he wouldn’t have to pay.

[snip]

So what remains to be considered here? According to the defendant, it’s just an administrative matter, a regulatory crime, a violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act. And that’s not a fair description. He was hiding the truth of who he represented from policymakers and the public, and that’s antithetical to the very American values that he told me he championed. And this was after he knew and already had been warned not to do it.

What becomes clear from this record is that defendant’s approach in his career, and what he didn’t abandon even after he was indicted, was that it’s all about strategy, positioning, public relations, spin. And you could say, well, there’s nothing wrong with that, at least if you’re not a journalist. But there is something wrong with it if you’re not simply advancing a position as part of a PR campaign.

It’s okay to say: Members of Congress, the government of the Ukraine, President Victor Yanukovych, would like you to consider the following when you consider how to respond to his actions, when you determine what the foreign policy of the United States should be. But what you were doing was lying to members of Congress and the American public, saying, look at this nice American PR firm, look at this nice U.S.-based law firm, look at this nice group of prominent former European officials, isn’t it great how they’ve all voluntarily stepped forward to stand up for Yanukovych and the new administration, when all along you were hiding that you and the Ukrainians actually had them on the payroll. This deliberate effort to obscure the facts, this disregard for truth undermines our political discourse and it infects our policymaking. If the people don’t have the facts, democracy can’t work.

That’s key background for how she treats Manafort’s specific violations of FARA. She dismisses Manafort’s claims that this is a mere registration violation in several ways that may lay important precedent: she invokes the money laundering (which prosecutors said was an important part of hiding the lobbying he was doing), the serial lies to DOJ — including lies told to his lawyer preparing his registration, and his efforts to get others (Tony Podesta, Vin Weber, and Greg Craig) to lie as well.

The other thing the sentencing statute tells me I’m supposed to do is I’m supposed to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct. With respect to sentencing disparities, the defense points primarily to other regulatory cases. But those involve, ordinarily, just a plain failure to register, or a plain failure to reveal a foreign bank account. They’re not analogous. They don’t involve, as here, a failure to register — to hide the existence of — multiple foreign bank accounts for the purpose of laundering millions of dollars, shielding millions of dollars from the IRS.

[snip]

I’ve got the regulatory FARA piece of Count 1 and the money laundering. And I don’t believe that’s covered by the Eastern District sentence and I think it has to be addressed. As I noted earlier, it’s not a mere oversight, it’s not a missing piece of paper. To the extent it could or should have been treated as a mere administrative matter, I think the defendant forfeited being able to rely on that sort of discretion on the part of law enforcement by having his lawyer lie to the Department of Justice twice on his behalf.

I do note that the Eastern District of Virginia found 30 months to be an appropriate sentence for the other single regulatory disclosure violation. And here, it wasn’t just a single failure to register; the defendant prevailed upon others in the scheme not to register either, and he admitted under oath at the plea that he caused them not to register.

Those three factors (the second of which was present in Mike Flynn’s FARA violation as well), are all likely to be aggravating factors that may got into criminal prosecution of FARA in the future.

Finally, there’s the timing. To rebut claims that these prosecutions were simply about long passed lobbying efforts, ABJ clearly describes the crime as persisting through the time Manafort twice lied to DOJ about his lobbying.

Furthermore, this conduct is not, as the defendant would have me conclude, old news. It’s not just some ancient failure to comply with a couple of regulations, something that took place so long before the campaign it’s just unfair and inappropriate to charge him for it in 2017. He pled guilty to laundering of funds through 2016. He pled guilty to a lobbying campaign in the United States for the government of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, and when he was out of office, his Party of Regions and the Opposition Bloc from 2005 to 2015. And the defense says, well, yes, but the government investigated and wrapped it all up and there wouldn’t have been a prosecution but for the appointment of the special counsel.

I’m not exactly sure what that prediction — which they’ve made to me repeatedly — is actually based on. I don’t believe there is evidence that a formal final determination was made. Prior to the time when anybody was even thinking about a special counsel, the Department of Justice was already looking into this matter. And when the Department of Justice — not the Office of Special Counsel — was looking into the matter, it asked Mr. Manafort questions. He lied to his own lawyers and he lied to the Department of Justice. He had them submit not one, but two letters, falsely stating that he had not performed lobbying activities in the United States on the part of the Ukraine.

That first lie was in November of 2016, after he resigned as campaign chair but well before the appointment of the special counsel. The second, in February, was after the special counsel investigation was underway. So it’s not entirely clear that a civil resolution would still have been possible at that point.

This, too, would have big implications for Flynn’s actions, since he lied to DOJ while he was at the White House.

Particularly given Manafort’s example, people are unlikely to wrack up these many aggravating factors in the future. But they do lay out a clear map for what a criminal FARA violation would look like in the future.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Paulie’s Very Bad Day: “If the People Don’t Have the Facts, Democracy Can’t Work.” 

Recently, I got a new makeup artist for my TV appearances (which, of course, all have to do with the Russian investigation). She came to the US from Ukraine in the wake of Yanukovych’s ouster. When I told her I was talking about the Manafort the first time I met her, she expressed her hope that he would pay a price, here, for what he helped Yanukovych do to her country.

I like to think today is for her. Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Paul Manafort to an additional 43 in months in prison on top of the 47 from EDVA for crimes were tied to Manafort’s efforts to whitewash a brute, in Ukraine, Western Europe, and the US, and then hide the “blood money” (as his daughter called it) from tax authorities.

Immediately after the sentencing ended, Cy Vance announced a 16-count indictment in New York State, on charges that Trump cannot pardon. Whatever you think of Vance’s grandstanding, the NY indictment immediately shifts Manafort’s incentives for a pardon, because prison in NY State would be significantly less comfortable than FCI Cumberland, where Manafort will serve his federal charges. So any pardon might just hasten a move to less comfortable surroundings.

That means the entire strategy Manafort has pursued for the last 18 months, refusing to cooperate and then, when he did enter a plea deal, using it only to waste prosecutors’ time and share information with Trump, will serve no purpose.

Which is why I think today can best be summed up by the contrast between two statements. In the middle of a long judgment that was not televised but was superbly livetweeted by Zoe Tillman, Andrew Prokop, Ryan Reilly, and others, ABJ observed the gravity of Manafort’s FARA crimes by noting that, “If the people don’t have the facts, democracy can’t work.”

Immediately after the sentencing, Kevin Downing — the Manafort lawyer who, more than the others, has been cultivating Manafort’s pardon strategy — stepped out on the courtroom stairs and made a false statement that serves that pardon strategy (as he did last week) “Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of Russian collusion in this case.” Protestors immediately called him a liar, and noted that that’s not what ABJ had said, hopefully to be picked up by every TV feed filming Downing.

Indeed, ABJ had just criticized that ploy in the courtroom.

During Wednesday’s sentencing, Jackson slammed Manafort and his lawyers for their focus on the fact that he was not charged in connection with his work on the Trump campaign or accused of colluding with the Russian government. She said that the “non-collusion mantra was a non sequitor,” unrelated to what sentence Manafort should receive, and that his lawyers made the “unsubstantiated” claim that Manafort was only charged with financial crimes predating his campaign work because Mueller’s office couldn’t charge him with anything to do with Russia.

The live-tweeting is what made it possible for protestors to spoil Downing’s effort to perform as Trump wanted him to, undermining Downing’s (and with it, Trump’s) effort to spin this verdict as an exoneration in the case in chief.

Today’s verdict was about Paul Manafort’s efforts to prevent voters in both Ukraine and the US from obtaining real facts.

And it turns out that President Trump isn’t going to be able to help Manafort avoid the consequences for that.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Roger Stone’s Seemingly Credible Excuse Starts Falling Apart Well before Bruce Rogow Asks for a Note from His Doctor

On February 21, Roger Stone and his attorneys walked into Amy Berman Jackson’s court room with the swagger of apparent certainty they were going to convince her not to impose a gag on the rat-fucker. As I’ve laid out, that swagger was misplaced. ABJ got both Stone and his lead attorney, Bruce Rogow, to lay out the case for a gag themselves, on public safety grounds.

On the way back to Florida after that hearing, the swaggering rat-fucker and his lawyers now claim, Roger Stone reminded his lawyer, Grant Smith (who had negotiated his book contracts, edited the new introduction [see page 49], and even arranged some of the right wing media publicity for it, post-indictment), that he had a second edition of a book coming out — for which he had just received his advance copies three days earlier — that might violate the expanded gag she had just imposed. Stone then forwarded the email attaching the new introduction to Smith [update: or maybe not–see below], who forwarded it on to Bruce Rogow, who reacted with alarm. Once Stone told his lawyers, they scrambled to respond, they claim. Ultimately they “clarified” that the book was coming out to ABJ on March 1, a week later.

That’s the story that Stone’s lawyers told in a response to an angry order about all this from ABJ, which they submitted last night. It seems credible, if you don’t look too closely at the details or the arrogant close.

There was/is no intention to hide anything. The new introduction, post February 21, 2019, presented a question we tried, obviously clumsily, to address. Having been scolded, we seek only to defend Mr. Stone and move ahead without further ado.1

1 Bruce Rogow may not be able to attend the March 14, 2019 status conference because he is under a physician’s care for a temporary disorder impeding his ability to travel.

There are, however, a few problems with the story.

Multiple claims they make in their new filing are doubtful, some rely on legal gimmicks, and at least some are outright false. I’ll deal with them one by one, ending with the first claim (about publicity) last.

Roger Stone and Grant Smith had no confusion that his book was being released on March 1

Stone claims when he first submitted his “clarification” on March 1, there was confusion about when the book would be published.

That the New Introduction “had been sent to a publisher in January and was scheduled for release in February” (Order, p. 3, n. 2), is now certain. See Composite Exhibit B. There was confusion. We apologize for the confusing representation about publication.

This refers to a discrepancy about what Stone variously claimed with regards to the release date of his book. In his lawyers’ initial “motion to clarify,” which remains under seal, they appear to have referred to its “imminent general release.” Stone’s March 4 motion states,

The book, with the [new introduction], was published by the Publisher on February 19, 2019. Copies were distributed by the Publisher to hundreds of retailers nationwide in late January 2019.

[snip]

the imminent general relase [sic] of the book’s contents, including the [new introduction], Defendant respectfully requests that the publication of this book (together with the ) should not be viewed as contravening the Court’s prohibitions because these prohibitions were not extant and could not have been known prior to February 21, 2019.

The government pointed out on March 4 that the book was available as an ebook, but was silent about any existing paperback edition.

So Stone claims the paperwork he submitted proved that the book was scheduled for release in February. In fact, they appear to be conflating the online and hard copy release.

In fact, Stone’s publisher Tony Lyons told him in January the release date was March 5 (PDF 65).

And while an editor told Stone that the paperbacks were being printed “soon” on January 24 (remarkably, the very day he was indicted, though he should not have known about the sealed indictment at that point), Stone didn’t actually tell him where to send his own review copies until February 15, after his attorneys had already submitted the first filing regarding a gag. (PDF 84)

In his response that same day (PDF 96), Mike Campbell talked about forthcoming plans for media appearances relating to the book. In response, Stone specifically mentioned that ABJ might gag him “any day now” (she issued the first gag sometime that day, just days before Stone threatened her).

According to the Instagram posts submitted with the filing, as recently as February 18 — notably, the day Stone now claims the book was “published” — Stone understood the books would be “In stores March 1!” (PDF 111)

And on February 21, immediately after Stone got gagged, Grant Smith (who negotiated the deal, edited the new material, and helped with publicity) reflected the understanding that the book would come out on March 1. (PDF 9)

At least one of Stone’s lawyers did not believe publicity would wane

Stone’s lawyers claim they believed  — and still believe — what they submitted to ABJ on February 8, that publicity in the case would wane after his initial arrest on January 25.

But, the February 8 representation that “‘[t]hat first wave of publicity surrounding the indictment . . . will subside. To be sure, the interest in this case will continue, but nothing compels the conclusion that the Court’s present expressed confidence in seeking an unbiased jury will, in months hence, be compromised by the press or Mr. Stone as we move forward.’” (Order at 3, n. 2, quoting February 8 submission), is still true. The Court views the New Introduction as “entirely  inconsistent with the assurances,” but those “assurances” were not made in an effort to conceal anything. They reflected a belief in both waning publicity and the ability of the Court to seat a jury. That opinion still holds.

But in an email chain from January 28 setting up a publicity appearance for the book on Hannity, Smith received an email from Kristin Davis stating she was “looking forward to making another New York Times Bestseller.” (PDF 100)

Authors selling NYT times bestsellers spend a lot of time on publicity. And Smith was part of an effort to garner whatever publicity for this book they could get.

The entirety of Paragraph 3 seems only to relate to Bruce Rogow

Then, there’s this paragraph, which serves to deny they’re trying to pull a fast one over on ABJ (I’ve numbered the sentences and bolded the apparent subject of each sentence to make the following discussion more clear):

[1] That the lawyers who submitted the Notice of Apology, and who condemned the posting which prompted it, “did not seek an exception for a recently revised introduction to a book that was in the hands of retailers as he spoke” (Opinion at 3-4) is true. [2] But any suggestion that not doing so was intended to mislead, is not true. [3] Even if it had crossed counsel’s mind to raise the new introduction (and it did not), it seems a bit awkward to have sought to introduce the New Introduction at that very moment during argument. [4] As the 6:33 p.m. February 21, 2019 email exchange reflects, reading for the first time the New Introduction, while waiting for a plane back to Fort Lauderdale, brought the issue home and led to the Motion to Clarify.

Read quickly, you might assume the paragraph has just one subject: “the lawyers,” plural, meaning Stone’s entire legal team.

Not so.

First, note that just two of his attorneys signed the Notice of Apology referenced in sentence 1: Peter Farkas (through whom all the rest have their pro hac vice in DC), and Bruce Rogow (that’s true of the February 8 gag filing as well).

That’s important, because (as noted) Smith was not only involved in every step of this publication process, but helped Stone set up publicity for the book after he had been indicted. I’m guessing that he doesn’t feel any regret about Stone’s incitement.

Sentence 2 of paragraph 3 has no human subject — it refers to the action the counsels in the previous sentence took, or not (in this case, not disclosing the publication of Stone’s book).

The next human subject, in sentence 3, “counsel,” is referred to in the singular, perhaps speaking exclusively for the single lawyer who spoke on Stone’s behalf at the gag hearing, Rogow.

Sentence 4 may appear to use a gerund as its subject (as the second sentence does), reading for the first time. But in fact, that gerund actually modifies the unstated subject. That subject, too, is singular, given that the email referenced is not Smith’s (which was sent at 5:58PM), but Rogow’s (sent at 6:33PM).

The claims made in this paragraph may apply only to Rogow, and they definitely do not apply to Smith, about whom all the claims would probably be false, and the claim he had only read the new introduction for the first time on February 21 (which, again, he edited on January 15) would absolutely be false.

Stone may not have turned over all relevant communication

Stone’s lawyer’s claim that all records regarding publication date appear in Exhibit B.

Perhaps they do. But that exhibit shows Stone forwarding emails he believed to be relevant to Smith. All the ones he sent on March 7 and 8 are numbered, like the first of those emails. (PDF 19)

Only, assuming Stone numbered consecutively, around 8 of the emails he seems to have found relevant are missing: 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 15, and 16.

Stone sent some more on March 11 that weren’t numbered, so it’s unclear if there were still more emails that didn’t make this exhibit.

Stone’s lawyers are obfuscating about online availability

Stone claims that his publisher answered definitively.

DEFENDANT MUST INFORM THE COURT OF THE EXACT DATE THE BOOK WAS FIRST MADE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE ONLINE, AND THE INTRODUCTION WAS MADE AVAILABLE FOR VIEWING, AT AMAZON.COM AND GOOGLE BOOKS OR ANY OTHER ONLINE VENDOR.

Response:

As provided by the Publisher, the exact date the book was first made available for purchase online, and the Introduction was made available for viewing to Amazon.com and Google books or any other online vendor was on January 18, 2019. They could choose to make them publicly available any time after they received them.

Both times the publisher answers the question, however, the answer is not that clear. The first time Tony Lyons answers the question (knowing he has to answer correctly to keep Stone out of jail), he says “both” were live before the gag order, which could refer to both e-book versions, Amazon and Google, or both kinds of availability.

Lyons answers the question again the next day, again using an unspecified February 19 in spite of being asked two questions.

As proof that Tara Campion did not take this date to refer to hard copies, she asked him a follow-up the next day.

Stone professes to have no idea what he posted in his own Instagram

In spite of all the details I’ve posted above showing that Stone believed, as late as February 18, that the book would be in stores on March 1, he now claims to know none of that.

DEFENDANT MUST INFORM THE COURT WHETHER AND WHEN HE BECAME AWARE OF: THE FACT THAT THE NEW EDITION OF THE BOOK HAD BEEN PRINTED BY THE PUBLISHER; THE FACT THAT COPIES OF THE BOOK HAD BEEN SHIPPED FROM THE PRINTER; THE FACT THAT COPIES WERE AVAILABLE AT BOOKSTORES; THE FACT THAT RETAIL BOOKSTORES WERE SELLING THE BOOK; AND THE FACT THAT THE BOOK WAS AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE OR VIEWING ONLINE.

Response:

1) Mr. Stone became aware of the fact that the New Edition of the book had been printed in early February, exact date unknown, when an acquaintance of Mr. Stone reached out to him to say he had purchased and had in-hand a copy of the book.

2) Mr. Stone knew books had been shipped from the printer as late as February 18, when Mr. Stone received two boxes of approximately 30 books each at his home delivered to him by the publisher which he began giving to friends and family. See also, Composite Exhibit B.

3) Mr. Stone does not have any recollection of when he specifically knew they were available at bookstores.

4) Mr. Stone does not have any recollection of when he specifically knew they were being sold at retail bookstores.

5) Mr. Stone does not recall when he learned that the book was available for purchase or viewing online.

Stone claims he made no public statement about the book even though he booked a Hannity appearance to talk about it

Stone says he don’t remember pitching the book, ever.

To the best of Mr. Stone’s knowledge or records, he made no public statements regarding the publication of the book from January 15th to the present.

As noted above, Roger Stone booked an appearance on Hannity on January 28 specifically to pitch the book (and Smith appears to have spoken to folks there about it).

On top of messaging Trump (he said on the show he would not testify against Trump), the Hannity appearance was about adding to the media blitz and attacking Mueller.

Grant Smith, who edited the introduction, needed no reminder it existed

Stone’s filing claims he needed to “remind” counsel of the existence of the new introduction that violated the gag.

Immediately following the February 21 hearing, Mr. Stone reminded counsel about the existence of the New Introduction which covered topics now subject to restriction and that it could be construed as being written after the date for the February 21 Order because the various platform and location releases were not immediately known to him, although he had knowledge they had been printed and that there had been at least one commercial sale. Mr. Stone instructed Mr. Smith to send the new introduction to the others on his team for review.

As I keep noting, on January 15, Smith shared his own edits with the publisher — and Stone approved both the ones the publisher made and those Smith made (meaning he knows Smith did make edits).

Update: On Twitter, Reed Morris convinced me what happened is even worse than this. Smith, of course, didn’t need Stone to forward him this copy of the new introduction because he already had a copy. He was on the distribution list when it was originally sent!

Stone was included in direct communications with the publishers between February 21 and March 1, and continued to contact them directly after that

Stone’s lawyers claim he did not have “direct communications” with his publisher between the imposition of the gag and the first “clarification” to ABJ.

Mr. Stone did not have any direct communications with the publisher or any retailer between February 21 and March 1, all communications were indirect through counsel. To be completely transparent, Mr. Stone has authorized counsel to provide these communications to the Court.

Only here he was, being included in the conversations with the publishers on February 26. (PDF 121)

And while Stone’s lawyers don’t make any representations on this topic, it’s clear that Stone continued to be in direct contact with the publishers after that. Indeed, it appears the two-step process of forwarding relevant emails to Smith actually amounted to first sending them to Mike Campbell at the publisher, evidence to which got left in on this email and at least one other one. (PDF 96)

This is true, in spite of his lawyers’ claims that the publisher was keeping proprietary information from him.

As is reflected in this email exchange, Mr. Stone no longer had a “joint venture” with the publisher and the publisher viewed the information Mr. Stone was requesting to be proprietary as Mr. Stone neither participated in setting the schedule or any printing or distribution decisions.

For some reason, Stone’s lawyers don’t want to talk about Bruce Rogow’s communications with the publisher

Stone’s lawyers end this filing with claims about how serious they were because they took a week to present misleading data to ABJ.

On the morning of February 22, Mr. Smith sent an email to the publisher requesting, in light of the Court’s Order, a detailed explanation of where the books stood in the release/publishing process.

On February 26th, in preparation for the March 1 filing by Defendant, Mr. Smith requested additional information from the publisher to be able to accurately represent the status of the book to the Court. As is reflected in this email exchange, Mr. Stone no longer had a “jointventure” with the publisher and the publisher viewed the information Mr. Stone was requesting to be proprietary as Mr. Stone neither participated in setting the schedule or any printing or distribution decisions. The publisher ultimately provided the information requested in preparation for the Defendant’s filing.

The Defendant also asks the Court to take notice of the immediacy with which this was addressed by Mr. Stone and that the serious tone in the emails reflects the seriousness with which Mr. Stone took the Court’s February 21 order.

Curiously, they only mention the first two email threads, involving Grant Smith. After having gotten answers, sort of, to the questions they were seeking, Smith then emailed Tony Lyons and said that Lyon had to speak to Rogow immediately. He cc’s Tara Campion, another lawyer in Rogow’s office. (PDF 127)

Lyons says he’s too busy to talk but can respond to emailed questions (they’ve been emailing questions for 5 days at this point). Campion gets the same answers Smith already got, equally ambiguous about the hard copy print date as the earlier round. She asks Lyons when the books were sent out and he says, “I’ll put a call in to our sales director but usually 2-3 weeks before pub date.”

Remember: Everyone believed the “pub date” was March 1, which would put distribution of the books around February 18, which is when Stone himself received his copies.

When Campion follows up again about whether he has spoken with the sales director, he doesn’t say he has! but claims that he now knows they were sent in late January. (PDF 125)

Once again, on January 24, Michael Campbell told Stone the books were “printing soon.” He did not give Campbell the address to receive the books until February 15, in a conversation specifically referencing the expected gag order. And while Campbell’s response reflects review copies having been sent out by February 15, that’s different than actual retail copies. (PDF 96-97 shows this, which happens to be one of the ones Stone definitely shared directly with the publisher.)

Which means this exchange — which happened after Smith told Lyons he needed to speak to Rogow — probably is bullshit, but it provided dates that weren’t utterly damning for ABJ.

The thing is, they’re probably not true, and ABJ may well delve into all this on Thursday.

Stone claims this isn’t a publicity stunt

In a follow-up, I hope to look at why these people decided Stone had to update his book, which was a flop the first time he published it.

The March 1, 2019 Motion to Clarify (Dkt. # 51) was not “intended to serve as a means to generate additional publicity for the book.” Order of March 5, 2019 (Dkt. # 56), p. 2 n. 1. It was intended to address the fact that the “new” introduction was, after the February 21, 2019 hearing, recognized to be a potential problem. See Exhibit A, email exchange of February 21, 2019 at 6:33 p.m. We regret that the Court drew a contrary impression.

As noted above, the reference to the 6:33 email refers to what Rogow — who was rightly alarmed by Stone’s attacks on Mueller in the new introduction — believed.

It says nothing about what Grant Smith, who orchestrated this entire deal, believes.

Which is why I find it so interesting that Rogow plans to have a note from his doctor excusing him from attendance.

There was/is no intention to hide anything. The new introduction, post February 21, 2019, presented a question we tried, obviously clumsily, to address. Having been scolded, we seek only to defend Mr. Stone and move ahead without further ado.1

1 Bruce Rogow may not be able to attend the March 14, 2019 status conference because he is under a physician’s care for a temporary disorder impeding his ability to travel.

I have no idea whether this will result in Stone being jailed. As I noted, at first glance it looks pretty convincing Once you look closer, it’s pretty clear the lawyers — Grant Smith in particular — sign onto claims that cannot be true. And that’s before you look at the 8 emails Stone thought were relevant but don’t appear in this filing, some of which the FBI probably seized along with everything else on January 25.

No wonder Rogow doesn’t want to be the one on the stand on Thursday.

Update: Corrected incorrect claim that Tara Campion was not admitted in this case.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Dear Editors: Stop Trying to Predict the Mueller Report

Darren Samuelsohn, who gets credit for one of the most important courthouse scoops of the Mueller investigation — the challenge of a Mueller subpoena by a foreign-owned corporation — wrote a piece laying out, “The week that could reveal Mueller’s end-game.” It relies heavily on analysis from Matt Miller, who was among those people saying not just that Mueller was substantially done three weeks ago (apparently true) but that he would issue his report (didn’t happen as predicted). He also quotes Ty Cobb promising Mueller will finish by mid-March, which is something like 16 months after he first predicted the end date.

Yet Samuelsohn’s piece doesn’t mention his own Mystery Appellant scoop, which is currently scheduled for discussion on SCOTUS’ March 22 conference (and would take some time to coerce compliance after that), at all. This appears to be a case where a foreign owned corporation is shielding the potentially criminal behavior of an American citizen by claiming only the President can coerce it to comply, the kind of appellate question that might rival the one decided in US v. Nixon. Solicitor General Noel Francisco’s role in the defense of the subpoena seems to indicate the high stakes of this challenge. Yet even Samuelsohn seems ready to believe that the resolution of this challenge won’t hold up the end game of the Mueller investigation.

Samulesohn also doesn’t mention Andrew Miller’s challenge to a Mueller subpoena. He lost his challenge in the DC Circuit on February 26, but depending on whether this challenge is treated as a criminal or civil one, he still has time to ask for an en banc reconsideration. In the wake of Roger Stone’s indictment, Mueller’s team told Miller’s lawyer they still need his client’s testimony, apparently for other charges. Admittedly, that could just involve a superseding indictment for Stone down the road — which might explain why Mueller was looking for 8 months before trial — but it’s a loose end that won’t be tied anytime soon (unless Miller quietly complied without anyone noticing).

Even among the details that Samuelsohn lays out (status reports in Flynn and Gates, a gag review and status hearing in Stone’s case, and sentencing for Manafort), he misses a really intriguing one. In the wake of Mueller’s clarification regarding the circumstances behind the printing of polling data on August 2, 2016 and which oligarchs that got that data are Russian (a clarification that made it clear they reinterviewed Rick Gates just a month ago), Manafort submitted a sealed motion (docket 538) for Amy Berman Jackson to reconsider her breach determination.

In a minute order filed last Monday, she approved the filing of that motion under seal, but ordered Manafort’s lawyers and Mueller’s to get together to agree on a set of redactions to release that motion. While there have been several sealed motions submitted since then, we don’t yet have that motion for reconsideration.

Manafort’s lawyers have been working hard to publicly reveal details — spun using any of a variety of changing cover stories — about that August 2 meeting since last summer. They’ve already lost a bid to unseal more details of this dispute from one of the past hearings, and they may have lost a dispute here (or it may something that will be aired in Wednesday’s sentencing hearing).

It’s interesting not just that Manafort’s lawyers, in their relentless bid to perform as the guy holding the pardon pen most wants them to perform, are still trying to explain away why Trump’s campaign manager provided data to be shared with Russia at the same meeting he discussed what amounts to relief from the Ukraine related sanctions. But even as Kevin Downing tries yet again to offer a cover story, Mueller appears to be successfully hiding the full details of this incident.

If they’re done, there’s no reason to hide these details, yet ABJ seems to agree they do have reason to hide them.

It is at once possible — likely even! — that the bulk of the investigative work is done (allowing Mueller’s lead Agent to be put in charge of the Richmond FBI Office), but that there are remaining threads that Mueller needs for his final “report.” It’s even possible that everyone misunderstands what form that final report will take.

But thus far no editor has produced a story that adequately describes the signs of a nearing end that adequately accounts for the number of known loose ends that will take some weeks to be tied.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Two Trajectories: Sleazy Influence Peddler Paul Manafort and Foreign Agent Prosecutor Brandon Van Grack

Like many, while I expected TS Ellis to give Paul Manafort a light sentence, I’m shocked by just how light it was.

Ellis gave Manafort 47 months of prison time for crimes that the sentencing guidelines say should start at a 19 year sentence. Even if Amy Berman Jackson gives Manafort the stiffest sentence she can give him — 10 years — and makes it consecutive, he’ll still be facing less than the what sentencing guidelines recommend. Ellis even declined to fine Manafort beyond the $24 million he’ll have to pay in restitution (Zoe Tillman lays out the money issues here).

There are a number of reasons to be outraged by this.

Ellis explicitly suggested that Manafort’s crimes were less serious than similar organized crime that people of color would commit. In the wake of this sentence, any number of people (especially defense attorneys) have pointed to non-violent criminals facing more prison time than Manafort. That said, I agree with those who suggest we should aim to bring those other sentences down in line with what the civilized world imposes, and not instead bump white collar criminals up to the barbaric levels that come out of the drug war.

Ellis gave this sentence even though Manafort expressed no remorse. Ellis commented that “I was surprised that I did not hear you express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct. In other words, you didn’t say, ‘I really, really regret not doing what the law requires,'” but nevertheless sentenced him as if he had.

Perhaps most infuriating were the backflips Ellis did to spin Paul Manafort as a good man. He emphasized that Manafort was “not before the court for any allegation that he or anybody at his direction colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election,” which is true; but Ellis received the breach determination materials showing that at a time when Manafort was purportedly cooperating, he instead lied about sharing polling data with a suspected Russian asset while discussing a Ukrainian peace deal that he knew amounted to sanctions relief, a quid pro quo. Because those materials go to the issue of whether Manafort took responsibility and was a risk for recidivism, they were fair game for consideration, but Ellis didn’t consider them.

Indeed, because of time served, Ellis effectively sentenced Manafort to an equivalent sentence that Michael Cohen faces having committed an order of magnitude less financial fraud, pled guilty, and provided limited cooperation to the government. Effectively, then, Ellis has sanctioned Manafort’s successful effort to avoid cooperating in the case in chief, on how he and Trump conspired with Russia to exploit our democratic process.

Instead of referring to the materials on Manafort’s refusal to cooperate, Ellis instead just regurgitated defense materials and claimed that aside from stealing millions of dollars from taxpayers and whatever else went on before Amy Berman Jackson, Manafort had “lived an otherwise blameless life.”

And that’s where I step away from a generalized discussion of the barbaric nature of our criminal justice system to look specifically at the barbaric nature of what Paul Manafort has done with his life. I feel much the way Franklin Foer does.

In an otherwise blameless life, Paul Manafort lobbied on behalf of the tobacco industry and wangled millions in tax breaks for corporations.

In an otherwise blameless life, he helped Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos bolster his image in Washington after he assassinated his primary political opponent.

In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa. While Manafort helped portray his client as an anti-communist “freedom fighter,” Savimbi’s army planted millions of land mines in peasant fields, resulting in 15,000 amputees.

[snip]

In an otherwise blameless life, he spent a decade as the chief political adviser to a clique of former gangsters in Ukraine. This clique hoped to capture control of the state so that it could enrich itself with government contracts and privatization agreements. This was a group closely allied with the Kremlin, and Manafort masterminded its rise to power—thereby enabling Ukraine’s slide into Vladimir Putin’s orbit.

[snip]

In an otherwise blameless life, he produced a public-relations campaign to convince Washington that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was acting within his democratic rights and duties when he imprisoned his most compelling rival for power.

In an otherwise blameless life, he stood mute as Yanukovych’s police killed 130 protesters in the Maidan.

Paul Manafort invented the profession of sleazy influence peddler. His own daughter once acknowledged, “Don’t fool yourself. That money we have is blood money.” And our democracy, as well as more corrupt regimes around the globe where Manafort was happy to work, are much less just because of Manafort’s life’s work.

Which is why I take more solace in something that happened the night before Manafort’s sentencing: A CNN report that DOJ has put Brandon Van Grack — a prosecutor who, under Mueller, prosecuted Mike Flynn and his sleazy influence peddler business partners — in charge of a renewed effort to crack down on unregistered sleazy influence peddlers.

The initiative at the Justice Department to pursue violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires that an entity representing a foreign political party or government file public reports detailing the relationship, will be overseen by Brandon Van Grack, who left Mueller’s team in recent months to rejoin the national security division.

Van Grack’s appointment to the newly created position and the Justice Department’s interest in expanding its pursuit of foreign influence cases stemmed largely from the impact of Russian operations on the 2016 presidential election, John Demers, the head of the national security division, said Wednesday at a conference on white-collar crime.

With Van Grack’s new role, the Justice Department will shift “from treating FARA as an administrative obligation and regulatory obligation to one that is increasingly an enforcement priority,” Demers said.

He also pointed to the impact of a recent settlement with one of the country’s highest-profile law firms — Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP — on the department’s decision to escalate its enforcement in that area.

[snip]

Demers added that the Justice Department is considering seeking congressional authorization for administrative subpoena power to enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which it currently lacks.

“That’s something that we’re taking a hard look at,” he said. Referencing Skadden, he added: “Do I think the firm would have behaved differently if they had received a subpoena versus they had just received a letter? Yes.”

This marks a decision to treat FARA violations — sleazy influence peddling that hides the ultimate foreign customer — as a real risk to our country. As I have laid out in my comparison of Manafort’s “otherwise blameless life” and Maria Butina’s efforts to infiltrate right wing politics, a venal insider with an already rich political network will be far more effective (and insidious) than even a beautiful woman backed by a mobbed up foreign government official and abetted by her own washed out Republican insider.

I don’t know what Mueller is doing with all the evidence of a conspiracy that he continues to protect. I don’t know that he’ll be able to deliver a prosecutorial conclusion that will deliver justice for the sleazy things that Trump did to win the election. Prosecuting very powerful people is very difficult, and we shouldn’t forget that.

But one other point of this entire investigative process was to learn lessons, to make it harder for hostile outsiders to hijack our democratic process going forward.

In letting Manafort off with a metaphorical wrist-slap, TS Ellis did nothing to deter others who, like Manafort, will sell out our country for an ostrich skin jacket. Even ABJ will face some difficult challenges in DC when she tries to sentence FARA crimes (particularly those of Sam Patten, who cooperated) without precedents to do so.

But the way to build those precedents — the way to establish a record that causes a Skadden Arps or a Rob Kelner to treat FARA registration as the official declaration to the government that it is — is to pursue more of these cases, against sleazy influence peddlers working for all foreign entities, not just the ones we despise.

So Manafort may get off easy for helping Russia interfere in our election in a bid to line up his next gig white-washing brutal oligarchs.

But along the way, our justice system may be adapting to the certainty that he did not live an otherwise blameless life

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

On the Exonerating Information Rick Gates Just Provided

Yesterday, the government submitted a notice clarifying the record on the Paul Manafort breach determination. The bulk of the filing describes that, after reading about the dispute in public reporting on the topic, Rick Gates provided additional information on the topic that may corroborate part of Manafort’s story.

The new Gates information necessarily pertains to the sharing of polling data. That’s clearly true because it discusses all the same evidence the government used to substantiate Manafort’s lies about the polling data:

  • Multiple Rick Gates 302s
  • Some other fact about August 2, perhaps the clandestine nature of the meeting
  • Kilimnik emails discussing the polling data (I now realize that the government’s declaration makes it clear they have 8 emails referencing the polling data)
  • A Paul Manafort email telling Gates to print out the polling data, with the polling data attached

Here’s where that evidence shows up in the filing:

In addition, that passage cites paragraphs of the declaration, ¶55 and ¶56, that by structure necessarily deals with the sharing of poll data.

At first, I thought Gates’ new information corroborated the NYT story about Manafort sharing data with Kilimnik twice, once in May and once in August. But I now lean towards the new information corroborating Manafort’s story that he asked Gates to print out that data for a campaign meeting that day.

I say that in part because the order in which the corroboration was treated, with Manafort’s email coming last. In addition, this passage seems to reflect Gates using the poll data to prepare for a meeting.

As to this passage, I suspect it clarifies that just one of the oligarchs that Manafort intended to receive the data was Russian — Oleg Deripaska — and that (as Andrew Weissmann appeared to say at one point) the other recipients were his Ukrainian paymasters.

The transcript appears to have been corrected on that point. If that is the only change, it wouldn’t really change the key fact that Manafort shared data with a guy who was a central player in the election year conspiracy.

ABJ hasn’t demanded any additional briefing on this topic, so she may agree with the government that the issue of the email doesn’t otherwise change her ruling. As the government notes, Gates’ self-correction makes him more credible, and suggests the story he is telling — which appears to sustain the same explanation for the August 2 meeting — is as helpful to Manafort as possible, which is not at all.

Update: In her minute order on this (doing nothing about the breach determination), ABJ did indeed order the passage (page 36 line 16) where she discussed the recipients of the data to be corrected, making it virtually certain Manafort shared the data with one Russian and two Ukrainian oligarchs.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Did Mueller Ask Manafort Any Questions about His Early May 2016 Meeting with Kilimnik?

I’ll be honest with you. The reason I did this post — showing that the polling data Paul Manafort shared with Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, 2016 amounted to at least 75 pages — (and a whole lot of background work not shown) was because I wanted to puzzle through the NYT’s latest story on what Manafort shared with Kilimnik when. Ken Vogel (who bylined both the other stories repeating the cover story someone fed them in January), perhaps faced with mounting evidence they got lied to, now says Manafort shared polling data with Kilimnik twice, once at the May meeting they had, and again at the August one.

And around the same time that he was passing through Washington nearly three years ago — just as Mr. Trump was clinching the Republican presidential nomination — he first received polling data about the 2016 election from two top Trump campaign officials, Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, as Russia was beginning a social media operation intended to help Mr. Trump’s campaign.

[snip]

Around the time of Mr. Kilimnik’s trip to the United States in spring 2016, Mr. Manafort directed Mr. Gates to transfer some polling data to Mr. Kilimnik, including public polling and some developed by a private polling company working for the campaign, according to a person with knowledge of the arrangement.

Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Mr. Lyovochkin and Mr. Akhmetov, the person said. Representatives for both Mr. Lyovochkin and Mr. Akhmetov said they neither requested nor received the data, and would have had no use for it.

Mr. Mueller’s team has focused on what appears to have been another discussion about polling data in New York on Aug. 2, 2016. A partly redacted court transcript suggests that Mr. Gates, who entered a plea agreement with the special counsel that requires his cooperation, may have told prosecutors that Mr. Manafort had walked Mr. Kilimnik through detailed polling data at a meeting that day in the cigar lounge of the Grand Havana Room in Manhattan.

The meeting also included a conversation about one Ukrainian “peace plan,” according to court filings.

I think if Vogel were more confident about this, it’d be the lede. BREAKING: suspected Russian asset got Trump’s polling data over and over.

Instead, Vogel tries to finesse the earlier report — which this coverage unambiguously marks as an error — so as to pretend that when the NYT reported that a court filing referred to Manafort sharing polling data with Kilimnik, the court filing meant that had happened in spring, not August. The court dispute — as Vogel’s reference to Mueller’s team’s focus now concedes — all pertains to August.

The publication history of the NYT “correction”

Side note: the publishing history of the original January 8 NYT article is of particular interest, especially since the Newsdiffs site apparently didn’t track this article, According to the Internet archive, the original story (bylined by Sharon LaFraniere and Ken Vogel) posted by 20:22 on January 8. The only description of the polling data comes in the lede:

Paul Manafort shared Trump campaign polling data with an associate tied to Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign, prosecutors alleged, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday.

The first version of the story to include more detail posted at 3:51 on January 9. This is the first version that includes Maggie Haberman on the byline (and Scott Shane and Andrew Kramer as contributors). This is the version that said Manafort knew Kilimnik was going to share the data with Oleg Deripaska. But it also introduces two things that are inaccurate: the timing, and that the data was public.

As a top official in President Trump’s campaign, Paul Manafort shared political polling data with a business associate tied to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday. The document provided the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race.

[snip]

The document gave no indication of whether Mr. Trump was aware of the data transfer or how Mr. Kilimnik might have used the information. But from March to August 2016, when Mr. Manafort worked for the Trump campaign, Russia was engaged in a full-fledged operation using social media, stolen emails and other tactics to boost Mr. Trump, attack Mrs. Clinton and play on divisive issues such as race and guns. Polling data could conceivably have helped Russia hone those messages and target audiences to help swing votes to Mr. Trump.

Both Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Mr. Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, according to a person knowledgeable about the situation. Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person.

Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and who has claimed that Mr. Manafort owed him money from a failed business venture, the person said. It is unclear whether Mr. Manafort was acting at the campaign’s behest or independently, trying to gain favor with someone to whom he was deeply in debt. [my emphasis]

So at that point, the story was:

  • Byline includes Maggie for the first time
  • Shared in spring
  • Mostly public
  • Intended for Deripaska

The story posts in a “corrected” form sometime before 19:23 on January 9. It retains the timing and public data claims, but changes the recipient with a “correction,” even while retaining an earlier paragraph about Deripaska that (particularly given the August handoff) should disprove the “correction.” It also adds a paragraph effectively admitting that it isn’t as obvious why two Ukrainian oligarchs would want the polling data in the way that Deripaska would have an obvious use for it.

About the same time, Mr. Manafort was also trying to curry favor with Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian billionaire close to the Kremlin and an associate of Mr. Kilimnik. In July 2016, Mr. Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman, told Mr. Kilimnik that he could offer Mr. Deripaska “private briefings,” according to emails reported by The Washington Post. Mr. Deripaska had claimed Mr. Manafort owed him millions from a failed business venture, and Mr. Manafort may have been trying to use his status in the campaign to hold him at bay.

[snip]

Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, the person said. The oligarchs, neither of whom responded to requests for comment, had financed Russian-aligned Ukrainian political parties that had hired Mr. Manafort as a political consultant.

Why Mr. Manafort wanted them to see American polling data is unclear. He might have hoped that any proof that he was managing a winning candidate would help him collect money he claimed to be owed for his work on behalf of the Ukrainian parties.

[snip]

A previous version of this article misidentified the people to whom Paul Manafort wanted a Russian associate to send polling data. Mr. Manafort wanted the data sent to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, not Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin.

There’s a part of me that wonders whether NYT was not so obstinate on the issue of this data being public and shared in spring because they’ve seen lawyers notes or even the 302 of Manafort’s testimony that Amy Berman Jackson has since ruled to be a lie. They’re still sourcing the claim to one individual in the know, which seems like pretty shaky sourcing to ignore after the plain language of the official court transcript of the February 4 hearing made it clear this was an August hand-off. So it may be they’ve got a non-public document that leads them to believe this is the case, even if that non-public document is just a record of Manafort lying.

Weissmann may have corrected the NYT in the breach determination hearing

But we know that after the NYT story, with its prominent Deripaska claim followed by its “correction,” the government submitted a declaration on January 15 in which most of the discussion of polling data was entirely redacted, then argued the point at length on February 4. In addition to Richard Westling’s comments that make it clear this wasn’t mostly public data, Andrew Weissmann argued (in passage that was mistakenly attributed to Westling in the transcript), that Manafort knew the data would be shared with two entities.

As noted, the last redaction in this passage would fit neither of the Ukrainian oligarchs named but would fit Deripaska, though that’s just one possibility. That said, given that the meeting was on August 2, in the context of Manafort “getting whole” with Deripaska, it would be inconceivable that Kilimnik would share the data only with the Ukrainians.

In addition to saying that Manafort was telling the lies he told in a bid to sustain hopes for a pardon, Weissmann also makes a reference to a lie told “three weeks ago.” Given the redaction fail, we can be certain that nothing in the Manafort filing (which was technically more than three weeks before the hearing) could be that lie. But the “correction” to the NYT could be.

Weissmann also moves directly from that discussion to an assertion that the question of sharing polling data went straight to the heart of Mueller’s mandate — investigating “witting or unwitting” coordination with Russia.

MR. WEISSMANN: So — so, first, in terms of the what it is that the special counsel is tasked with doing, as the Court knows from having that case litigated before you, is that there are different aspects to what we have to look at, and one is Russian efforts to interfere with the election, and the other is contacts, witting or unwitting, by Americans with Russia, and then whether there was — those contacts were more intentional or not. And for us, the issue of [2.5 lines redacted] is in the core of what it is that the special counsel is supposed to be investigating.

And we know from Amy Berman Jackson’s breach determination ruling that she found this was indeed a link with Russia — not Russian backed oligarchs, but Russia.

That’s circumstantial, but it seems that Weissmann was rebutting the notion that Manafort intended Kilimnik to share this information exclusively with Ukrainians, and not Russians. Whatever the case, ABJ has ruled that the sharing of this data did entail a link with the Russian government.

Manafort invokes some earlier meeting as a last ditch ploy in his final filing

Which brings me to ABJ’s mention of a totally new argument that Manafort apparently raised in their final brief.

Some background to this brief. During the debate over the polling data on February 4, Manafort’s lawyers tried to rebut the claim first by Richard Westling spinning the data, then by Kevin Downing claiming that Rick Gates had no credibility, as proven (he claimed) by Gates’ flop before the EDVA jury. ABJ then, on her own, gets the public report from a juror on the EDVA jury to prove Downing’s attacks are overblown. Through it all, the possibility that Gates might be called in to testify on this issue (which of course would allow ABJ to decide that he’s way more credible than Manafort, but then most people are). Ultimately, Manafort’s lawyers say they don’t want that to happen, but say they’ll submit one more brief.

That’s the one I cited in this post, referencing the polling data and Kilimnik’s emails about them. According to ABJ in her judgment hearing, after the entire breach determination was done, Manafort’s team tried to make a totally new argument about what Manafort was saying when he told Gates to print out the polling data.

More important to me, there’s other corroboration. There’s Exhibit 233, an [redacted — remember, this exhibit is the email with polling data attached] Now, I was told on February 8th, for the first time, in the third pleading that was filed in response to these allegations and after the hearing was over, that when Mr. Manafort said [3 lines redacted] There’s nothing provided to substantiate that, but there’s also nothing in the record to indicate one way or the other that the two men had met previously [redacted]

All Gates said to the FBI in Exhibit 236 on January 30th was that [redacted]. Is that text alone definitive? Am I relying on that solely? No. But is it corroborative of Gates’s statement that [redacted] Yes.

This seems to be an effort to suggest that the first three times Gates claimed Manafort shared polling data in proffer sessions in January and February 2018 he was saying something different than what he was saying in what they claim was a brand new claim on September 28, in testimony parallel to Manafort’s own. There’s nothing in the unredacted passages of that filing that explain this argument (though it does reference data from “prior to the Republican Convention and the start of the General Election,” which could be July 15 or could be May 2.

Ultimately, the ploy doesn’t work. ABJ goes through two different Gates 302s from January and another (which may be the stuff that had been ex parte at the February 4 hearing) from February 7, 2018 that all corroborate that Manafort ordered Gates to print out the polling data to be shared at that August 2 meeting.

I’m interested in this for two reasons. First, this new argument, made a month after someone first gave a false story to the NYT, seems to be referencing an earlier meeting between … somebody. Maybe Gates and Kilimnik?

But I do find that to be an interesting detail for two reasons. First, as noted, the NYT story, without correcting their initial outright error that the court dispute pertained to the August 2 meeting, now claims that Manafort directed Gates to deal poll data twice, once in May and once in August.

And around the same time that he was passing through Washington nearly three years ago — just as Mr. Trump was clinching the Republican presidential nomination — he first received polling data about the 2016 election from two top Trump campaign officials, Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, as Russia was beginning a social media operation intended to help Mr. Trump’s campaign.

[snip]

Around the time of Mr. Kilimnik’s trip to the United States in spring 2016, Mr. Manafort directed Mr. Gates to transfer some polling data to Mr. Kilimnik, including public polling and some developed by a private polling company working for the campaign, according to a person with knowledge of the arrangement.

Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Mr. Lyovochkin and Mr. Akhmetov, the person said. Representatives for both Mr. Lyovochkin and Mr. Akhmetov said they neither requested nor received the data, and would have had no use for it.

Is that what Manafort’s team invented at this late date? A claim that the reference in the August 2 email to sharing data with Kilimnik was about a meeting that had transpired three months earlier?!?!

The May Kilimnik meeting never shows up in the breach determination

But it does raise some interesting questions. Notably, it’s not clear whether the May 2016 meeting between Manafort and Kilimnik came up at all during his cooperation.

The government’s January 15 declaration sets a start date on Manafort’s lies, “Beginning on August 2, 2016, and continuing until March 2018, Manafort and Kilimnik communicated about a [peace deal],” but that seems to relate exclusively to that peace deal. It doesn’t rule out a discussion of that earlier meeting (though it does seem to rule out Mueller knowing that Ukrainian sanctions came up, which actually is a good thing for Trump given the stink around the Ukrainian language in the Republican platform in July). 

Which leaves three possibilities, apart from Manafort’s efforts to separate the sharing of polling data from the discussions about a Ukraine peace deal.

  • Prosecutors didn’t discuss the May meeting at all with Manafort during his cooperation
  • Prosecutors discussed the May meeting with Manafort (which may have included a meeting with Trump) and he told the truth about it
  • Manafort lied about the May meeting, but prosecutors didn’t want to lay out what they really know about it

All would be interesting. I mean, even aside from the possibility that Trump met Kilimnik, the early May meeting should be of significant interest because at least two other events closely coincide with it:

  • On May 4, Ivan Timofeev tells George Papadopoulos he has been cleared to start negotiations with Papadopoulos, which leads him to forward an email discussing such an offer to multiple people on the campaign, including (on May 21), Manafort
  • After their discussions about a Trump Tower had moved to Dust between January and May, Felix Sater sends Michael Cohen texts moving to set up his and Trump’s trips to Moscow.

In other words, May 4 or thereabouts, just a week after the Russians first dangled the emails to Papadopoulos, the plot appears to start up again. That coinkydink of significant events would seem to be something prosecutors would want to discuss with Manafort.

If they did, they’re not telling us whether he told the truth.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Manafort’s Bid for a Pardon: No Collusion No Collusion No Collusion No Collusion No Collusion No Collusion No Collusion No Collusion

Paul Manafort submitted his DC sentencing memo. I lay out some of his more ridiculous claims about wanting to serve public servants like Mobutu Sese Seko, Ferdinand Marcos and Jonas Savimbi and his use of “garden variety” to describe his epic corruption in this thread. Particularly given the way that parts of this memo will surely piss off Amy Berman Jackson (and probably even TS Ellis, his EDVA judge), the real substance of his argument is this:

Importantly, the defendant has not been charged with any crimes related to the primary focus of the Special Counsel’s investigation; i.e., “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump[,]” otherwise referred to as “Russian collusion” by the national media.

[snip]

As said at the beginning of the case, there is no evidence of Russian collusion.

[snip]

Shortly after Mr. Trump’s election, the Acting Attorney General appointed the Special Counsel in May 2017 to investigate allegations that his campaign colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election. The scrutiny was (and remains) intense because the investigation involves a sitting U.S. president.

[snip]

Rousing the defendant and his wife from bed, the federal agents entered their home with guns drawn and searched high and low—not for evidence of Russia collusion—but rather for evidence of tax and financial crimes and Mr. Manafort’s failure to file forms under the obscure FARA statute.

[snip]

In October 2017, unable to establish that Mr. Manafort engaged in any Russia collusion, the Special Counsel’s Office charged Mr. Manafort in the District of Columbia with crimes that did not relate to Mr. Manafort’s work on the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and generally involved his employment years ago by Ukrainian oligarchs, politicians and the Party of Regions. Several months later, in February 2018, the Special Counsel increased the pressure by charging Mr. Manafort in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) with tax fraud, failing to report foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud—allegations, once again, that predated the 2016 campaign or that were unrelated to collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.5

5 As U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, III noted in the EDVA matter, the Special Counsel’s strategy in bringing charges against Mr. Manafort had nothing to do with the Special Counsel’s core mandate—Russian collusion—but was instead designed to “tighten the screws” to compel Mr. Manafort to cooperate and provide incriminating information about others. See United States v. Manafort, 18-CR-0083-TSE (EDVA), Tr. of May 4, 2018 Motions Hearing at 5

[snip]

The Special Counsel’s investigation and prosecution in this case (and the EDVA case) do not charge him with anything related to Russia collusion or to the presidential campaign. 34

34 As Judge Ellis noted in the EDVA case: “And so what is really going on … is that this indictment [was] used as a means of exerting pressure on the defendant to give you information that really is in [the Special Counsel’s] appointment, but itself has nothing whatever to do with it.” United States v. Manafort, 18-CR0083-TSE (E.D.Va. 2018), Tr. of May 4, 2018 Motions Hearing at 8.

[snip]

The sentences already imposed in other cases that have been investigated and/or prosecuted by the Special Counsel’s Office reflect the fact that courts recognize that these prosecutions bear little to no relation to the Special Counsel’s core mandate of investigating allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.

Particularly given ABJ’s finding that Manafort lied about how he gave the Russian government polling data via Konstantin Kilimnik amid conversations about a sanctions-ending Ukraine “peace” plan, and given that the warrant to search his Alexandria condo explicitly including Russian conspiracy in the affidavit, the eight different claims Mueller wasn’t searching for and didn’t find “collusion” are false.

But that’s doesn’t matter. Manafort’s job — if he wants the pardon he has been playing for all this time — is to keep repeating that lie, just like the guy he’s speaking to.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post.