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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Crossroads of Insurrection: The Senate Chamber Insurrection Defendants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Adams

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

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

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

Tommy Allen

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

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

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

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

Bradley Bennett and Rosie Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bennett and Chansley now share an attorney, Albert Watkins.

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

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

Joe Biggs and Arthur Jackman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joshua Black

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

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

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

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

Leo “Zeeker” Bozell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Larry Brock

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

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

Jacob Chansley

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

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

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

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

Jacob Clark

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

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

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

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

Josiah Colt, Ronnie Sandlin, and Nick DeGrave

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

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

Elias Costianes

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

Bruno Cua

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Griswold

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

Paul Hodgkins

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

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

Jerod  and Joshua Hughes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Person Six: How was it

Defendant: Insane on a few different levels.

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

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

Leo Christopher Kelly

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

Anthony Mariotto

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

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

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

Patrick Montgomery and Brady Knowlton

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

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

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

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

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

Christopher Moynihan

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

Eric Munchel and Lisa Eisenhart

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

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

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

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

Christine Priola

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

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

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

Michael Roche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Secor

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

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

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

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

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

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

DJ Shalvey

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barr: The judge agreed with our analysis.

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

Barr: [attempts to make an excuse]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump’s Second Impeachment Has Already Had a Beneficial Effect

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

I predicted this would happen here.

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

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

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

Update: This CNN story reports on precisely this phenomenon.

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course, Barr himself encouraged the violence yesterday.

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

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

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

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

Q. Who sent the email?

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He says that this passage proves that:

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

[additional content that Stone doesn’t include]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stone may have mixed his political fundraising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi Don if your father ‘loses’ we think it is much more interesting if he DOES NOT conceed [sic] and spends time CHALLENGING the media and other types of rigging that occurred—as he has implied that he might do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. That’s correct.

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

A. That’s correct.

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

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

Q. What do you mean by that?

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

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

A. Potentially value added, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then Paulie goes to prison and the texts end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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