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The Many Sided Stone: The Investigation Is Not Over

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

Roger Stone’s cry for help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stone’s throw of the dice

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

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

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

Embarrass Credico

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

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

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

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

Appeal to Barr and Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engage in graymail

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

Misstate Barr’s citation of Mueller’s findings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Miller claims he has been mooted

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

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

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

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

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

Mueller may be done but prosecutors are not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mueller Is Close to Done, But the Andrew Weissmann Departure Is Overblown

As my docket tracker of the Mueller and related investigations shows, around August 1, 2018, after finalizing the GRU indictment, Ryan Dickey returned to his duties elsewhere at DOJ.

Around October 1, 2018, after submitting a filing saying Mike Flynn was ready to be sentenced, Brandon Van Grack moved back to his duties elsewhere at DOJ (though he continues to be named in documents in the case, as he was Tuesday). He is now starting a prosecutorial focus on FARA.

Around October 15, 2018, Kyle Freeny, who had worked the money laundering angle on the GRU and Manafort cases, moved back to her duties elsewhere at DOJ.

Around December 31, 2018, after successfully defending the Mystery Appellant challenge in the DC Circuit, Scott Meisler moved back to his duties elsewhere at DOJ.

Today, after getting Paul Manafort sentenced to 7.5 years in prison, imposing a $24 million restitution payment, and an $11 million forfeiture (including of Manafort’s Trump Tower condo), multiple outlets are reporting that the guy in charge of prosecuting Manafort’s corruption, Andrew Weissmann, is moving to a job at NYU.

After each prosecutor has finished their work on the Mueller team, he or she has moved on. Weissmann’s departure is more final, since he’s leaving DOJ. But his departure continues a pattern that was set last summer. Finish your work, and move on.

Nevertheless, his departure is being taken as a surefire sign the Mueller investigation is closing up.

Let me be clear: I do agree Mueller is just about done with the investigation. He’s waiting on Mystery Appellant, possibly on Andrew Miller’s testimony; he may have been waiting on formal publication of Jerome Corsi’s book yesterday. Multiple other details suggest that Mueller expects to be able to share things in a month that he’s unable to share today.

None of that tells us what will happen in the next few weeks. There is abundant evidence that Trump entered into a quid pro quo conspiracy with Russia, trading dirt and dollars for sanctions relief and other policy considerations. But it’s unclear whether Mueller has certainty that he’d have an 85% chance of winning convictions, which is around what he’d need to convince DOJ to charge it. There is also abundant evidence that Trump and others obstructed the investigation, but charging Trump in that presents constitutional questions.

If Mueller does charge either of those things, I’d still expect him to resign and either retire or move back to WilmerHale and let other prosecutors prosecute it. That’s what Leon Jaworski did in Watergate.

The far more interesting detail from Carrie Johnson’s Weissmann report is that just some of Mueller’s team are returning to WilmerHale.

WilmerHale, the law firm that Mueller and several other prosecutors left to help create the special counsel team, is preparing for the return of some of its onetime law partners, three lawyers have told NPR in recent weeks.

I’m far more interested in the plans of James Quarles (who has been liaising with the White House and so presumably has a key part of the obstruction investigation) or Jeannie Rhee (who seems to have been overseeing the conspiracy investigation) than Mueller or his Chief of Staff, Aaron Zebley. Their plans might tell us more about what to expect in the next month (though Rhee appeared in Roger Stone’s status hearing today, and may be sticking around for his prosecution, which just got scheduled for November 5).

In any case, though, we don’t have long to wait, so it’s not clear that misreading the departure of Weissmann — which is better understood as part of the normal pattern of Mueller’s prosecutors leaving when they’re done — tells us anything useful.

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

Dear Editors: Stop Trying to Predict the Mueller Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions to Ask before Reporting a BREAKING Mueller Report

Update: CNN is matching NBC’s reporting on this. It also backs its report with real details from their superb stakeout.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday last week, special counsel’s office employees carried boxes and pushed a cart full of files out of their office — an unusual move that could foreshadow a hand-off of legal work.

At the same time, the Mueller prosecutors’ workload appears to be dwindling. Four of Mueller’s 17 prosecutors have ended their tenures with the office, with most returning to other roles in the Justice Department.

And the grand jury that Mueller’s prosecutors used to return indictments of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and several Russians hasn’t apparently convened since January 24 the day it approved the criminal charges against Stone.

I take from that I’m wrong about Mueller waiting for the two appeals (he knows what he’ll get from them) before he delivers his verdict. 

Pete Williams did the NBC circuit yesterday claiming that the Mueller report may be submitted to DOJ as soon as next week.

Pete Williams on MSNBC says the Mueller report may go to DOJ as early as next week

Because a lot of people have asked me about this and because Williams (and some other journalists) don’t appear to know enough about the Mueller investigation to ask the proper questions to assess that claim, I’d like to lay out a little logic and a few facts. It’s certainly possible that a Mueller report is coming next week — I’d argue that one is assuredly coming on Friday. But I doubt that means what Williams thinks it does.

The conclusory report is not coming next week

When most people think of “the Mueller report,” they mean this report, dictated by the Special Counsel regulations.

At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.

When Mueller is done, he has to submit a confidential report to the Attorney General (who is now Mueller’s friend William Barr) telling him what he did and didn’t do. Given everything Barr said as part of his confirmation process, we’re unlikely to see this report.

To assess whether this report is what Pete Williams thinks is coming, we should assess whether public evidence is consistent with Mueller being done.

The answer to that is clearly no. He’s still chasing testimony from Roger Stone flunkie Andrew Miller and from some foreign owned corporation (and has been chasing that, in the case of Miller, since last May).

Given that Miller already interviewed with the FBI for two hours and the foreign company is, by dint of being foreign, a no-brainer target for NSA, it’s quite likely Mueller knows what he’s getting from both of these entities. He just needs Miller on the record, so he can’t change his story to protect Stone, and needs to parallel construct the information from the foreign company. So it’s possible that as soon as Mueller gets both of these things, he’ll finish up quickly (meaning The Report could be soon). But there is no way that’ll happen by next week, in part because whatever the DC Appeals Court says in the Andrew Miller case, the loser will appeal that decision.

So it’s virtually certain that The Report is not coming by next week.

A report talking about “collusion” is coming this week

But maybe NBC’s sources are speaking metaphorically, and mean something else that isn’t the conclusory report but that will more closely resemble what everyone thinks of when they talk about The Report.

That’s likely to happen, but if it does, it’ll just be a partial report.

That’s because both Mueller and the defense have to submit a sentencing memo in Paul Manafort’s DC case Friday. As I noted back in November when Mueller’s prosecutors declared Manafort to have breached his plea agreement, this sentencing memo presents an opportunity for Mueller to “report” what they’ve found — at least with respect to all the criminal actions they know Manafort committed, including those he lied about while he was supposed to be cooperating — without anyone at DOJ or the White House suppressing the most damning bits. DOJ won’t be able to weigh in because a sentencing memo is not a major action requiring an urgent memo to the Attorney General. And the White House will get no advance warning because Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker is no longer in the reporting chain.

So, as noted, Mueller will have an opportunity to lay out:

  1. The details of Manafort’s sleazy influence peddling, including his modus operandi of projecting his own client’s corruption onto his opponents
  2. The fact that Manafort already pled guilty to conspiring with a suspected Russian intelligence asset
  3. The details about how Manafort — ostensibly working for “free” — got paid in 2016, in part via kickbacks from a Super PAC that violated campaign finance law, possibly in part by Tom Barrack who was using Manafort and Trump as a loss-leader to Middle Eastern graft, and in part by deferred payments or debt relief from Russian-backed oligarchs
  4. Manafort’s role and understanding of the June 9 meeting, which is a prelude of sorts to the August 2 one
  5. The dates and substance of Manafort’s ongoing communications with suspected Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik, including the reasons why Manafort shared highly detailed polling data on August 2, 2016 that he knew would be passed on to his paymasters who just happened to be (in the case of Oleg Deripaska) a central player in the election year operation
  6. The ongoing efforts to win Russia relief from the American Ukrainian-related sanctions by pushing a “peace” plan that would effectively give Russia everything it wants
  7. Manafort’s ongoing discussions with Trump and the Administration, up to and including discussions laying out how if Manafort remains silent about items two through six, Trump will pardon him

Because those items are all within the substance of the crimes Manafort pled guilty to or lied about during his failed cooperation, they’re all squarely within the legitimate content of a sentencing memo. And we should expect the sentencing memo in DC to be at least as detailed as the EDVA one; I expect it, like the EDVA one and like Manafort’s plea deal, will be accompanied by exhibits such as the EDVA one showing that Manafort had bank accounts to the tune of $25,704,669.72 for which suspected Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik was listed as a beneficial owner in 2012. Heck, we might even get to see the polling data Manafort shared, knowing it was going to Russia, which was an exhibit to Manafort’s breach determination.

The only thing limiting how much detail we’ll get about these things (as well as about how Manafort served as a secret agent of Russian backed Ukrainian oligarchs for years) is the ongoing sensitivities of the material, whether because it’s grand jury testimony, SIGINT collection, or a secret Mueller intends to spring on other defendants down the road.

It’s the latter point that will be most telling. As I noted, thus far, the silences about Manafort’s cooperation are — amazingly — even more provocative than the snippets we learned via the breach determination. We’ll likely get a read on Friday whether Mueller has ongoing equities that would lead him to want to keep these details secret. And the only thing that would lead Mueller to keep details of the conspiracy secret is if he plans to charge it in an overarching conspiracy indictment.

We may also get information, however, that will make it far more difficult for Trump to pardon Manafort.

So, yeah, there’s a report coming out this week. But it’s not The Report.

Any overarching conspiracy indictment will not be coming this week

It’s possible Mueller is close to charging an overarching conspiracy indictment, laying out how Trump and his spawn entered into a quid quo pro with various representatives of the Russian government, getting dirt on Hillary and either a Trump Tower or maybe a bailout for the very same building in which Manafort met with Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, 2016. In exchange for all that, Trump agreed to — and took steps to deliver on, with some success in the case of election plot participant Deripaska — reversing the sanctions that were such a headache to Russia’s oligarchs.

Such an indictment, if Mueller ever charges it, will look like what Trump opponents would like The Report to look like. In addition to naming Don Jr and Jared Kushner and Trump Organization and a bunch of other sleazeballs, it would also describe the actions of Individual-1 in adequate detail to launch an impeachment proceeding.

But that indictment, if Mueller ever charges it, won’t be coming on Friday or Monday, as Williams predicts, because it likely requires whatever it is Mueller is trying to parallel construct from that foreign-owned company. And even if SCOTUS denies its appeal today, it’s unlikely that evidence will be in hand in time for a Friday indictment.

Mueller could ensure a report gets delivered to Jerry Nadler next week … but that’s unlikely

There’s one other possibility that would make Williams’ prediction true: if Mueller deliberately triggered the one other way to deliver a report, by asking to take an action William Barr is unlikely to approve, and if Mueller was willing to close up shop as a result, then a report would go to Congress and — if Barr thought it in the public interest — to the public.

Upon conclusion of the Special Counsels investigation, including, to the extent consistent with applicable law, a description and explanation of instances (if any) in which the Attorney General concluded that a proposed action by a Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.

[snip]

The Attorney General may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions.

The only thing that Mueller might try to do that Barr would not approve (though who knows? maybe what Mueller has is so egregious Barr will surprise us?) is to indict the President.

I think this is unlikely, for all the reasons the first possibility laid out here is unlikely: that is, Mueller is still waiting on two details he has been chasing for quite some time, and I doubt he’d be willing to forgo that evidence just to trigger a report. It’s also unlikely because Mueller is a DOJ guy, and he’s unlikely to ask to do what he knows OLC says he should not do.

Still, it’s hypothetically possible that Mueller believes Trump is such an egregious criminal and national security risk he needs to try to accelerate the process of holding him accountable by stopping his investigation early (perhaps having the DC AUSAs named on the Miller and Mystery Appellant challenges take over those pursuits) and asking to indict the President.

But if that’s what Williams is reporting, he sure as hell better get more clarity about that fact, because, boy would it be news.

All of which is the lesson of this post: If you’re being told — or telling others — that Mueller’s report is imminent, then you’re either being told very very big news, or bullshit. Do yourself and us a favor of learning the base level regulations to understand which it is.

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

A Focus on Florida: What Happened to the Three Campaign Officials Chatting with Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s Trolls?

I want to go back to something I’ve been uniquely obsessed about for almost an entire year. As I’ve noted, the Internet Research Agency indictment describes the IRA trolls interacting with three Trump campaign officials that it describes in the manner used with possible co-conspirators.

74. On or about August 15, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators received an email at one of their false U.S. persona accounts from a real U.S. person, a Florida-based political activist identified as the “Chair for the Trump Campaign” in a particular Florida county. The activist identified two additional sites in Florida for possible rallies. Defendants and their co-conspirators subsequently used their false U.S. persona accounts to communicate with the activist about logistics and an additional rally in Florida.

75. On or about August 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used a false U.S. persona Instagram account connected to the ORGANIZATION-created group “Tea Party News” to purchase advertisements for the “Florida Goes Trump” rally.

76. On or about August 18, 2016, the real “Florida for Trump” Facebook account responded to the false U.S. persona “Matt Skiber” account with instructions to contact a member of the Trump Campaign (“Campaign Official 1”) involved in the campaign’s Florida operations and provided Campaign Official 1’s email address at the campaign domain donaldtrump.com. On approximately the same day, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the email address of a false U.S. persona, [email protected], to send an email to Campaign Official 1 at that donaldtrump.com email account, which read in part:

Hello [Campaign Official 1], [w]e are organizing a state-wide event in Florida on August, 20 to support Mr. Trump. Let us introduce ourselves first. “Being Patriotic” is a grassroots conservative online movement trying to unite people offline. . . . [W]e gained a huge lot of followers and decided to somehow help Mr. Trump get elected. You know, simple yelling on the Internet is not enough. There should be real action. We organized rallies in New York before. Now we’re focusing on purple states such as Florida.

The email also identified thirteen “confirmed locations” in Florida for the rallies and requested the campaign provide “assistance in each location.”

77. On or about August 18, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators sent money via interstate wire to another real U.S. person recruited by the ORGANIZATION, using one of their false U.S. personas, to build a cage large enough to hold an actress depicting Clinton in a prison uniform.

78. On or about August 19, 2016, a supporter of the Trump Campaign sent a message to the ORGANIZATION-controlled “March for Trump” Twitter account about a member of the Trump Campaign (“Campaign Official 2”) who was involved in the campaign’s Florida operations and provided Campaign Official 2’s email address at the domain donaldtrump.com. On or about the same day, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the false U.S. persona [email protected] account to send an email to Campaign Official 2 at that donaldtrump.com email account.

79. On or about August 19, 2016, the real “Florida for Trump” Facebook account sent another message to the false U.S. persona “Matt Skiber” account to contact a member of the Trump Campaign (“Campaign Official 3”) involved in the campaign’s Florida operations. On or about August 20, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the “Matt Skiber” Facebook account to contact Campaign Official 3.

Since this indictment was rolled out last February, no one has identified these three Trump campaign officials nor what they did in response to dangles from Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s trolls.

That said, contrary to the assumption made when a DC-based team of US Attorneys joined the IRA prosecution team, DOJ’s investigation on this front has continued. Not only was IRA accountant Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova charged in EDVA last September (the complaint was unsealed in October, during a pre-election disinformation campaign involving IRA trolls), but in August, Mueller prosecutor Rush Atkinson was still pursuing investigative action in the IRA case (this means it’s possible that the involvement of a DC prosecutor in Roger Stone’s prosecution serves largely to keep the Mueller team targeting him focused on other aspects of their investigation of him).

In any case, since the mention of three different campaign officials interacting with Prigozhin’s trolls, we’ve gotten a number of other reasons to be interested in what happened in Florida in 2016.

Obviously, there’s Roger Stone. The actions laid out in his existing indictment largely take place in DC and NY, but we know Mueller has pursued (and continues to pursue, with Andrew Miller) testimony from aides working for Stone elsewhere, including in Florida. We know in May 2016, for example, Stone met in Florida with a Russian using the name Henry Greenberg offering dirt on Hillary. In principle, his denials on that should be taken no more seriously than his denials pertaining to WikiLeaks, but he was willing to correct his testimony on that point, unlike his testimony on WikiLeaks.

And there are other connections in Florida of interest. In a piece adding to stuff we already knew about Sergei Millian (which bizarrely remains silent about Ivan Timofeev and Oleg Deripaska’s ties to him, or his promise to build a Trump Tower), the WaPo describes how Millian worked with a Florida-based Russian named Mikhail Morgulis to build support in Florida.

As he was working to build a relationship with Papadopoulos in 2016, Millian also offered to serve as a conduit to the Trump campaign for a Belarusan author in Florida with connections to the Russian government, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.

The author, Mikhail Morgulis, who said he never ended up hearing from anyone in the campaign, later claimed that he rallied Russian Americans to back Trump.

[snip]

Morgulis took credit in interviews with Russian media for helping to elect Trump by organizing Russian-speaking voters.

“I personally visited 11 cities in Florida, where I said that if you want our new president to be a homosexual . . . vote for Hillary,” he said a July 2017 interview with the Russian government-funded outlet Sputnik, touting a false claim popular among some conservative conspiracy theorists. In the interview, he also said he had briefly met both Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Then consider this detail from BuzzFeed’s report on what Suspicious Activity Reports say about Rinat Akhmetshin’s finances. Rather than getting paid by Lanny Wiles — as had previously been portrayed — Akhmetshin was in fact paying Wiles.

Akhmetshin continued receiving checks and wires from Wiles Consulting, a Florida-based company controlled by Lanny Wiles, a longtime Republican operator. Those payments, which began in January 2016, extended to April 2017, and totaled $72,500.

Investigators at Akhmetshin’s bank said the direction of the payments — from Wiles to Akhmetshin — contrasted with how their working relationship had been portrayed publicly. Investigators, citing unspecified public information, said Wiles claimed he was paid by Akhmetshin to work on the Magnitsky lobbying issue, not the other way around. The investigators did not cite their source, but a 2016 Politico article quoted Wiles saying he had been paid by Akhmetshin. Investigators at Bank of America did find that the foundation had issued checks to Wiles, but the amount is unclear. Wiles, whose wife was the chair of Trump’s Florida campaign, did not return messages seeking comment.

In the same Politico article, Wiles said he didn’t want to register as a foreign agent, but that Akhmetshin had told him it wouldn’t be necessary, as he would be working for BakerHostetler.

In the wake of the Natalia Veselnitskaya indictment in December, the government will have an easy time arguing that Akhmetshin and Wiles’ lobbying will easily be demonstrated to be work on behalf of Russia.

As noted, Wiles’ wife, Susie, was Trump’s Florida campaign chair, and the woman who got Veselnitskaya a seat in a hearing on Magnitsky sanctions.

Update: The Wiles’ daughter, Caroline Wiles, quit her White House job as director of scheduling after it became clear she’d fail a background check. (h/t LR)

Among those who won’t be working at the White House was President Donald Trump’s director of scheduling, Caroline Wiles, the daughter of Susan Wiles, Trump’s Florida campaign director and former campaign manager for Governor Rick Scott. Wiles, who resigned Friday before the background check was completed, was appointed deputy assistant secretary before the inauguration in January. Two sources close to Wiles said she will get another job in Treasury.

There seems to be a lot more that happened with Trump’s campaign in Florida in 2016 than we currently know about. Including the three campaign officials mentioned in the still active investigation into Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s trolls.

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

The Big Dick Toilet Salesman Speaks

Yesterday, Matt Whitaker got asked about the Mueller probe. After saying he wasn’t going to comment about an on-going investigation and mid some hemming and hawing, he suggested his prior comments about the Mueller investigation were wrong and then said the Mueller investigation is “close to being completed.”

You know, I’ve been fully briefed on the investigation. And I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report. And I’m really not going to talk about an open and on-going investigation otherwise. But, you know, sort of the statements that I’ve made were as a private citizen, only with publicly available information. Um, I am comfortable that the decisions that were made are going to be reviewed. You know, either, through the various means we have. But right now the investigation is, I think, close to being completed. And I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as we can–as soon as possible.

Ken Dilanian, who recently had a “scoop” that Mueller may submit his “report” by mid-February, tweeted the comment over and over. Devlin Barrett, who recently suggested the slapdown of the BuzzFeed story reporting that Trump “directed” Michael Cohen to lie to Congress was a complete rebuttal of that story said that, “this has been guessed at, hinted at, and suggested before, but it has not been said by any senior official before. it’s a big deal.”

Mueller is still pursuing information from the Mystery Appellant. He is still pursuing testimony from Roger Stone associate Andrew Miller. Indeed, in the wake of Stone’s indictment, Mueller told Miller’s attorney they still want that testimony to support additional charges.

A defense attorney for Andrew Miller, who’s fighting a subpoena from Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, learned Monday afternoon that the special counsel still wants witness testimony for a federal grand jury.

Paul Kamenar, the defense attorney, says the assertion from Mueller’s team made clear to him that Mueller and the Justice Department are considering an additional indictment of Roger Stone or have plans to charge others.

And, of course, FBI seized a bunch of evidence from Stone on Friday. William Barr will soon be confirmed as Attorney General, alleviating one of the only reasons (because he’s not reporting to a Senate confirmed official) why Mueller’s authority to indict people might not be sound.

I’ve been told by people who have key witnesses as sources that Mueller is close to the end of his investigation. But their reports sound nothing like what the Big Dick Toilet Salesman or reporters relying on him as a source said yesterday.

But even if Mueller is close to being done, reports from a Big Dick Toilet Salesman that this is heading towards a report should be taken as the statements of a man hired to make statements like this. The actual evidence suggests that Mueller is still pursuing damning conspiracy indictments.

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

Robert Mueller Finally Found a Way to Get Paul Manafort to Keep a Secret

Update: Or not. Manafort’s lawyers did submit a filing, with all their redactions easily reversed, showing that Manafort lied about his cooperation with his Russian handler Konstantin Kilimnik. I’ll do another post on that filing.

On one of the last days of last year, Rudy Giuliani repeated a refrain he made in August, dick-wagging Mueller to “put up or shut up” and release the report that Rudy has spun fables about. That taunt happened ten days after the House Intelligence Committee voted to release Roger Stone’s testimony transcript to Mueller. It happened eight days before Paul Manafort failed to submit a filing (at least in unsealed form) explaining whether it contests the government’s claims that he lied while purportedly cooperating with the Special Counsel. In between, Sam Patten submitted a status report in his own cooperation agreement — cooperation that would surely have covered some of the same questions about his Russian partner Konstantin Kilimnik that Manafort lied about — under seal.

I raise all these together because — while it’s a safe bet that something happened at some point with Manafort that remains under seal — any explanation about what that might be may have as much to do with Mueller’s request for Stone’s transcripts as it does Manafort’s own actions. After all, Adam Schiff has already committed to releasing all the HPSCI transcripts to Mueller; it’ll be only a matter of days until he constitutes the committee and has the new Democratic majority on it vote that through. So something has to explain why Mueller couldn’t wait — why Mueller needed Stone’s transcript on December 20 and not January 10.

Back when he was pretending to cooperate, Manafort did get questions about his lifelong buddy Roger Stone. Mueller put Manafort before the grand jury twice after that, possibly locking in the lies he had told. Notably, however, lies about Stone were not among those Mueller publicly aired (in heavily redacted form) last month. For that matter, neither were any responses Manafort made about Trump’s foreknowledge of the June 9 meeting, which we also know came up between Manafort and Mueller.

If I’m right that this is all connected, that still leaves several possibilities. Perhaps Mueller — as Andrew Weissmann suggested they might — charged Manafort for these additional lies or perhaps charged him in the conspiracy-in-chief, finally. Perhaps Manafort made yet another deal with prosecutors, proffering answers to the questions about Stone and Trump they really need him to answer for them, in an attempt to limit his own punishment for that conspiracy in chief.

Whatever it is, it has produced unusual silence from Manafort’s camp.

Whatever it is, we may find out in the next month. Sam Patten’s status report was extended for just one month. Perhaps we’re waiting on SCOTUS’ response to the Mystery Appellant’s plea. Perhaps we’re waiting on the DC Circuit’s response to Andrew Miller’s challenge.

Until then … silence.

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

Mueller Says He Still Exercises the Full Authority of a US Attorney

Mueller’s team has submitted the supplemental brief Judge Henderson ordered the day after Matt Whitaker was appointed, explaining whether his appointment affects Andrew Miller’s challenge to a subpoena he got back in June.

As to the issue at hand (whether his subpoena of Miller is legal), Mueller says Whitaker’s appointment changes nothing, because everything being challenged pertains to his May 17, 2017 appointment, not anything that happened since.

The President’s designation of Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker on November 7, 2108, has no effect on this case.

[snip]

All of those arguments turn on the May 17, 2017 appointment of the Special Counsel and the legal and regulatory frameworks that existed at the time of appointment. None of those arguments is affected by the change in the identity of the Acting Attorney General while this case is on appeal.

But the brief is interesting because it is the first opportunity Mueller has had to lay out how he understands what happened and how Whitaker’s appointment affects his authority.

As to what happened, Mueller makes no contest that Jeff Sessions resigned.

On November 7, 2018, Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions resigned from office

Democrats in the House are contesting that, but Mueller is not.

Nor does Mueller question the validity of the OLC conclusion that Whitaker’s appointment is legal.

The Office of Legal Counsel has determined that the designation of the Acting Attorney General is valid as a statutory and constitutional matter. See Office of Legal Counsel, Designating an Acting Attorney General (Nov. 14, 2018), https://www.justice.gov/olc/file/1112251/download. I

None of that is surprising. He works for DOJ and it’s not his place to challenge what DOJ says about DOJ.

What’s more interesting (though not at all controversial) is that Mueller maintains he still has the full authority of a US Attorney.

Similarly, by regulation, the Special Counsel has and continues to “exercise, within the scope of his or her jurisdiction, the full power and independent authority to exercise all investigative and prosecutorial functions of any United States Attorney.” 28 C.F.R. § 600.6; see United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 695 (1974) (“So long as [a] regulation is extant it has the force of law.”).

He relies on US v. Nixon to lay out what it will take to withdraw that authority: changing the regulations he operates under.

Perhaps most important, though, is that Mueller argues that Whitaker’s appointment cannot change the validity of the subpoena (and, one would assume by extension, anything else) that occurred before Whitaker’s appointment.

Because the subpoenas here issued under the signature of the Special Counsel’s Office long before the change in the identity of the Acting Attorney General, that change cannot affect the validity of the subpoenas. And the designation of a different Acting Attorney General while the case is on appeal cannot vitiate the district court’s order holding Miller in contempt.

This would seem to suggest that if Mueller has anything banked — sealed indictments or complaints — then he holds that nothing changes their validity or the DC District’s authority to preside over them.

He also maintains that he retains the authority to appear before the Court.

Second, the change in identity of the Acting Attorney General has no effect on the Special Counsel’s authority to appear in this case. The Special Counsel continues to hold his office despite the change in the identity of the Acting Attorney General.

This would be what he would need to unseal any existing indictments.

None of that is that controversial. But it does make it clear that he views his authority to continue unchecked even with Trump’s hatchet man in place.

The Invisible Game of Chicken: The Things the People Claiming to Understand the Manafort Extension Don’t Know (Nor Do I)

There’s a lot of tea reading around the fact that the parties asked for a 10-day extension in the first status report on how well Paul Manafort has been cooperating. Originally the report (set two months ago when he flipped) was set for tomorrow, which is . the last Friday before Thanksgiving. The motion asks for an extension to November 26, which is the first Monday after Thanksgiving.

Some people have suggested that means the key issue on which Manafort is cooperating is close to done, but not done, and from that promised indictments tomorrow (since what grand jury in its right constitution-saving mind would work the day after Thanksgiving).

That may be right, but there are a lot more pieces in play than just that, including:

Trump’s open book test

Sometime in October, Mueller gave Trump his open book test of questions to answer. It already seemed like Trump was stalling until he tried his Matt Whitaker ploy. And this week, Trump’s lawyers have continued to dick around about whether they’re even going to answer all the questions.

There’s good reason not to reveal publicly whether Manafort is cooperating fully until you’ve gotten whatever answers you’re going to get or given up waiting. If you reveal in a status report that Mueller’s team thinks Manafort hasn’t been cooperating, then Trump would feel more free to lie. If you reveal Manafort has been cooperating fully, including about Trump’s actions (in contradiction to some reports that he hasn’t been), then Trump will be more likely to avoid answering.

So there’s good reason to wait until after Trump has turned in his open book test or gotten a D on the exam.

Whitaker’s ethics review and first briefing

While Matt Whitaker has blessing from the Office of Legal Counsel to oversee Mueller, there’s no indication he has undergone his ethics review on whether he can supervise Mueller. Indeed, contrary to much panic that I think stemmed from Jerome Corsi’s specific comments about how mean prosecutors are, I’m not at all convinced Whitaker has even been read into the Mueller investigation yet (this report seems to suggest he has not).

There are lots of reason to delay action — on both voting up indictments and revealing details about Manafort’s cooperation — until there’s more clarity on Whitaker’s role. Indeed, if Mueller has truly shocking things, things that even Whitaker would be unwilling to veto, it might serve him well to hold them, and make Whitaker buy off on them.

And that uncertainty might lead to a Manafort delay.

The Maryland challenge to Whitaker’s authority

Tuesday Maryland’s Attorney General, Brian Frosh, submitted his promised challenge to Whitaker’s appointment. This challenge — and others we should expect — won’t be decided anytime soon, but they may lead Mueller to delay until, at least, he knows he can continue to ensure the legality of his actions by reporting them through Rosenstein.

Manafort’s forfeitures

On October 9, Mueller’s team started the process for seizing the $46 million of assets Manafort had taken in his plea deal. Others with an ownership stake in the assets have a month to contest the seizure. Just the bank holding the mortgage on his Trump Tower apartment challenged the seizure.

That means around about now, the rest of his assets (they won’t really be worth $46 million, but they’re worth a lot) will begin to be put beyond the reach of presidential pardon.

Monday’s briefing

Meanwhile, there are two things going on at the DC Circuit.

Yesterday, the Mystery Appellant challenging some action Mueller took submitted a reply brief to Mueller’s brief submitted (in the wake of the Whitaker appointment) last Thursday. Today a notice of some sort was filed.

This stuff may be relevant — we don’t know! But the developments in this appeal may affect Mueller’s willingness to show more cards (though it won’t be resolved until December at the earliest).

We do know, however, that Mueller has to turn in a briefing describing how Whitaker’s appointment affects his own authority. That may well be the first that we understand what he knows to have occurred since Whitaker’s appointment and how he sees it affecting his own authority — and whether he think he has mitigated any risk that his actions will be invalidated by reporting through Rosenstein.

Sure, the delay might be a handful of indictments to drop tomorrow or even next Friday. But right now all we can be sure of is that Mueller and Trump are playing either a secret game of Chicken — or Chess. And we’ve seen just a tiny fraction of the plays so far.

All that said, one thing that that çomes after this date is the next Trump Putin meeting — which will be in Argentina during the G-20, which starts November 30.

Are Mueller and Matt Whitaker Already Battling over Immunity or a Plea Deal for Jerome Corsi?

From the very first reporting on Jerome Corsi’s testimony to Robert Mueller, his lawyer hinted that he may have been invited — but declined — to engage in criminal activity with Roger Stone.

Gray said he was confident that Corsi has done nothing wrong. “Jerry Corsi made decisions that he would not take actions that would give him criminal liability,” he added, declining to elaborate.

Asked if Corsi had opportunities to take such actions, Gray said, “I wouldn’t say he was offered those opportunities. I would say he had communications with Roger Stone. We’ll supply those communications and be cooperative. My client didn’t act further that would give rise to any criminal liability.”

Yesterday on his broadcast, Corsi seemed a lot less certain that he has avoided legal jeopardy.

He billed the broadcast as a historic one and made it clear it was all about Mueller, even while he feigned that he was not commenting on Mueller. He announced he would not broadcast Friday, because he’d be with his lawyers, and suggested he might not broadcast Monday. He invoked both Stone and Alex Jones in his comments. Chuck Ross laid out some of this here, including that he invoked Jeremiah 20:11, presumably as a veiled attack on Mueller.

But the Lord is with me as a mighty terrible one; therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail; they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper; their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten,

Corsi also invokes Jesus’ superior access to truth before Pontius Pilate.

What Ross doesn’t lay out — but I have — is that Roger Stone’s excuses for his “Podesta time in a barrel” comments seem to be a retroactive excuse for some attacks he and Corsi made on John Podesta that seem to reflect some pre-knowledge that the Podesta emails Russia leaked in October 2016 would include information on Podesta’s ties to Joule Unlimited. Corsi returned to the attack in October 2016 even before WikiLeaks started releasing the emails and Stone adopted without showing signs of reading the emails he relied on. The awareness that the Podesta dump would include emails on Joule seems to date back to mid-August 2016, precisely the period when Stone (and his associate, Lee Stranahan) were first engaging with Guccifer 2.0, and it happened just two weeks after Stone flipflopped on his claimed beliefs about who did the DNC hack.

So, in his broadcast, Corsi suggests something about his two month cooperation with Mueller coming to a head, and he may have been the means by which Stone knew of what the Podesta emails included ahead of time. But with all that, Corsi’s lawyer suggests Stone is the one with the really serious exposure.

It may be that Mueller is pressuring Corsi to cop a plea deal. That might explain two months of close work with Mueller’s team. But Corsi’s concerns about his immediate future may, instead, suggest that Mueller has immunized Corsi, because if he refused to testify about something having immunity, then he could be jailed right away.

As I’ve laid out, in the hearing on Andrew Miller’s challenge yesterday, Michael Dreeben seemed to be arguing about which actions Mueller could take without getting Matt Whitaker’s approval first.

Prosecutors do this all the time. They seek immunity. They make plea agreements,. They bring indictments.

[snip]

We have to get approval requires just like US Attorneys do. If we want to subpoena a member of the media, or if we want to immunize a witness, we’re encouraged if we’re not sure what the policy or practice is, to consult with the relevant officials in the Department of Justice. If we wanted to appeal an adverse decision, we would have to get approval of the Solicitor General of the United States. So we’re operating within that sort of supervisory framework.

While none of those issues pertain to Miller, all of them might apply to Corsi, including the subpoena for a journalist. To prevent any of these actions — immunizing a witness, making a plea agreement, or even bringing indictments — Whitaker would have to deem them “so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.”

Perhaps Corsi is praying that Whitaker will rescue him from Mueller-as-Pontius Pilate by deeming that conspiring with Russian assets to attack a political opponent is totally normal?