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SDNY Showed Probable Cause Rudy Giuliani Was Criming While He Represented Trump in the Russian Investigation

In August, the Special Master reviewing Rudy Giuliani and Victoria Toensing’s seized phone contents for privilege determinations, Barbara Jones, publicly filed notice of a conflict between the Trumpsters and the government: how to apply the date range in the warrants.

There is a dispute between Mr. Giuliani and the Government over whether the Special Master’s review process should be limited to materials with electronic metadata within the date range set forth in the search warrants. Mr. Giuliani argues for such a date range limitation; the Government argues against it. I have informed the parties that the issue should be briefed to, and decided by, the Court, and that I would set a briefing schedule for Mr. Giuliani’s motion.

On Thursday, Judge Paul Oetken released his decision deciding the matter. Effectively, he adopted the government’s compromise that it exclude everything that pre-dates 2018.

On June 9, 2021, this Court appointed the Honorable Barbara S. Jones (Ret.) as Special Master to “render decisions regarding privilege issues relating to the materials seized in the execution of certain search warrants” that are the subject of this matter. (Dkt. No. 25.) Giuliani and Toensing ask the Court to restrict the Special Master’s review to the time periods set forth in the search warrants: August 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019 for Giuliani; and January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019 for Toensing.

The Government has proposed a compromise that significantly limits the scope of the parties’ dispute: it consents to the Special Master’s excluding from her review any documents that clearly and entirely predate 2018. The Court approves this compromise and directs the Special Master to proceed accordingly.

But Oetken notes that the warrants permit the government to determine what materials are responsive to the warrant, meaning Jones should not determine anything further than what is privileged. And he laid out that the warrants permit the government to access materials that were deleted (or accessed, sent, or modified) between — for Rudy — August 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019.

Third, the warrants cover materials “sent, received, posted, created, or otherwise accessed, established, modified, or deleted during [the time range].” It is entirely possible that a document “dated” outside the time range may have been “accessed,” “sent,” “modified,” or “deleted” during the time range. Moreover, the warrants permit review of any of the seized material “if necessary to evaluate its contents and to locate all data responsive to the warrant.” See, e.g., United States v. Gatto, 313 F. Supp. 3d 551, 561 (S.D.N.Y. 2018).

The timeline here is consistent with what I intuited in this post — and, based on what Lev Parnas and others previously revealed, it clarifies the exact date range of the files obtained in November 2019. The Rudy range covers eight months of the period when he was representing Donald Trump in the Russian investigation, goes through the period when (Parnas has earlier alleged) people started deleting files during Trump’s first impeachment, and continues through the meeting Rudy had with Andrii Derkach in December 2019.

And unsurprisingly, the government obtained warrants covering the same period of the earlier search on the parties’ iCloud accounts by providing probable cause to show that they were deleting and modifying earlier files, even files from earlier in 2018, to include the period when both lawyers were pitching a means to represent Trump.

But it’s clear that Rudy and Toensing worry the government may find evidence of crimes that exceeds this timeline, which would give them the opportunity to obtain new warrants with a broader timeframe. That’s because they asked Oetken to force the government to delete everything else.

Finally, the Court denies Giuliani’s and Toensing’s request to order the Government to return or destroy any material at this time.

Oetken denied this request. This means materials that predate these warrants, but also materials from more recently, when Rudy was laundering Russian disinformation and making wildly false claims about the election results, would remain available for further search, if the government can or has demonstrated probable cause.

We’ll learn more about this next week. Oetken also ruled that the letters disputing all this, including those from Dmitro Firtash, will be docketed after the parties fight over redactions.

Judge Paul Oetken Eliminates Lev Parnas’ Last Attempt to Weaponize the Former President’s Former Lawyer in His Defense

Yesterday, Judge Paul Oetken ruled on all but one of the pre-trial motions in the Lev Parnas trial(s). The rulings have the effect of neutralizing any benefit that Parnas might have tried to get from his association with the former President’s former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. But the order also appears against the background of the Special Master review in Rudy’s own case in interesting ways, and in ways that might change Parnas’ incentives.

The only request that Oetken granted was a request to sever the campaign finance charges — what Oetken describes as the Straw Donor scheme (funneling money to pro-Trump entities) and the Foreign Donor scheme (funneling Russian money to pro-marijuana politicians).

The “Straw Donor Scheme” (Parnas and [Igor] Fruman): First, the Government alleges that Parnas and Fruman conspired in 2018 to disguise and falsely report the source of donations to political action committees and campaigns, thereby evading federal contribution limits, in order to promote their nascent energy business venture and boost Parnas’s profile.

The “Foreign Donor Scheme” (Parnas, Fruman, and [Andrey] Kukushkin): During the same time period, Parnas and Fruman were working with Kukushkin on a separate business venture: a nascent cannabis business. Among their activities was making political contributions to candidates in states where they intended to seek licenses to operate a cannabis business. The Government alleges that Parnas, Fruman, and Kukushkin conspired to disguise a one-million-dollar contribution from a Russian national to evade the prohibition on political contributions from foreign nationals.

Oetken will sever those charges from the Fraud Guarantee charges, which currently involve only Parnas (and in which David Correia already pled guilty and cooperated with the government).

The “Fraud Guarantee Scheme” (Parnas): Parnas was also working with David Correia on pitching another business venture to be called “Fraud Guarantee.” The Government alleges that Parnas and Correia defrauded several investors in Fraud Guarantee by making material misrepresentations to them, including about the business’s funding and how its funds were being used.

That puts the trial involving Rudy, in which only Parnas is currently charged, after the non-Rudy trial, which is due to start on October 4.

Then, in two steps, Oetken denied Parnas’ bid to claim to 1) get access to Rudy and Victoria Toensing’s seized content to prove that 2) he was selectively prosecuted to protect the former President. Mind you, Parnas requested those in reverse order (indeed, in its response to Parnas on the selective prosecution claim, the government claimed that some of what he was asking for might be privileged). So Oetken denied those requests in order, first by ruling that Parnas hadn’t provided proof of either basis to claim selective prosecution, that he was discriminated against or that it was done out of some discriminatory purpose.

Parnas does not meet either required prong. Regarding discriminatory effect, Parnas fails to show that others who are similarly situated have not been prosecuted. This requires showing that individuals outside the protected class committed roughly the same crime in roughly the same circumstances but were not prosecuted. See United States v. Lewis, 517 F.3d 20, 27 (1st Cir. 2008). However, individuals similarly situated to Parnas were prosecuted along with Parnas, including two who share his national origin (Fruman and Kukushkin) and one (Correia) who does not. Moreover, while Parnas was subject to a Congressional demand for information at the time of his arrest, Fruman was as well, and while Parnas complied with that demand several months later, Fruman did not.

Regarding discriminatory purpose, Parnas’s argument is not just speculative, but implausible. Citing Twitter posts, Parnas argues that “[m]illions of Americans already believe that [former] Attorney General Barr may have interfered in some aspect of Mr. Parnas’s investigation and prosecution, based on the public record.” Parnas asserts that his indictment and arrest were a means to thwart Parnas’s testimony in the impeachment inquiry of former President Donald Trump. But the theorizing of Twitters users, and Parnas’s own speculation, do not constitute evidence of an improperly motivated prosecution. Indeed, Parnas was, by his own admission, not cooperating with the Congressional demand as of the day of his indictment. To accept Parnas’s conspiracy theory, the Government would have to have known that, one day in the future, Parnas would change his mind and decide to cooperate with the Congressional demand. Furthermore, the Government’s conduct since Parnas’s arrest undermines his theory. The Government consented to allowing Parnas to produce documents to the House impeachment committee, and it has not objected to Parnas’s media interviews and television appearances.

It’s actually not a conspiracy theory that Parnas was prosecuted in the way he was partly as an attempt to shut him up, though when Parnas first argued this, he claimed he was prosecuted to prevent him from testifying in the Former’s first impeachment which, as Oetken notes (and I noted in the past) doesn’t accord with the known facts. And Parnas chose not to present some of the most damning evidence of this, probably because it would incriminate himself.

In any case, having denied Parnas’ selective prosecution claim, in the very next section, Oetken denies Parnas’ request (in which the other defendants joined) to get access to the Rudy-Toensing content, citing his decision rejecting Parnas’ selective prosecution claim.

The Giuliani and Toensing warrants do not authorize the Government to search for evidence related to this case, nor do any of the accounts or devices involved belong to Defendants. The Government represents that it will not use any of the evidence seized pursuant to these warrants at trial in this case. Thus, the only bases for discovery of these materials would be (1) if they contain statements by Defendants that are “relevant” to the charges in this case, or (2) if they are “material” to preparing a defense to the Government’s case.

First, Defendants contend that the search warrant returns are likely to contain communications between Giuliani and Toensing and Parnas. But such communications are likely to have already been produced from Parnas’s and Fruman’s own accounts and devices, and Defendants have not shown that they are related to the charged case, material, and noncumulative.

Second, Parnas suggests that the warrant returns may contain evidence relevant to his selective prosecution claim. The Court has already rejected that claim, and nothing in Parnas’s letter alters the fact that Parnas has failed to make the requisite showing for such a claim.

This is unsurprising on a matter of law, but several points about it are worth closer focus: First, Oetken notes that the government can only access that information seized from Rudy and Toensing that relates to the crimes for which probable cause was laid out in the warrants, that is, Rudy’s influence-peddling, which also implicates Parnas. By description, those warrants do not include any claim that Rudy, with Parnas, attempted to obstruct the impeachment inquiry by hiding details of the influence-peddling scheme. So the warrants would not have provided access to the content of most interest to Parnas, content he’s pretty sure exists or existed.

Oetken is silent about whether any warrants have been obtained since the government finally got access to the first tranche of material seized in 2019.

Oetken then claims that if useful communications existed, they would not have been turned over in the warrant returns served on Parnas and Fruman’s own devices, because those warrants obtained permission for evidence of different crimes. Except there’s very good reason to believe that’s not true: that’s because, by October 21, 2019, the government and Oetken both know, Parnas attempted to delete his own iCloud account. Parnas did not succeed in that attempt — the government had already gotten a preservation order with Apple. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some other content he once had that he thinks Rudy or Toensing may have retained. Indeed, in his request for the information, Parnas asserted the information seized from Rudy and Toensing likely included conversations — conversations that may have been deleted — about how to address their prior relationships and the unfolding investigation.

The seized evidence will also likely contain a number and variety of communications between Giuliani and Toensing and Parnas that are directly discoverable under Fed. R. Crim. P. 16, evidence of any conversations between Giuliani, Toensing, and others, including Parnas, that may have been deleted, communications between Giuliani, Toensing and others about the defendants and how to address their prior relationships, the arrests, and the unfolding investigation.

Those materials might help Parnas describe why John Dowd attempted to assert an interlocked attorney-client relationship that ultimately put the then-President in a joint defense agreement with at least one pretty sketchy Ukrainian, which in turn might explain how this investigation proceeded as it did (including why it didn’t expand into Rudy’s dalliance with a different Ukrainian agent of Russia). But Parnas as much as describes it as an obstruction attempt — an obstruction attempt he, when he attempted to delete his own iCloud account, would have been a part of before he wasn’t a part of it anymore. Given Rudy’s  descriptions of the crimes covered by the warrants, that attempt was not a part of the warrants originally obtained on Rudy and Toensing in 2019, and it wasn’t a part of the warrants obtained in April, but given the new evidence (Parnas’ own declaration), and given that Jeffrey Rosen is no longer around to obstruct investigations into the Former, SDNY (or EDNY) could ask for new warrants for permission to search for evidence of that crime.

If SDNY asked for such warrants, Oetken would have been the one they would ask.

Meanwhile, a month after Special Master Barbara Jones first described how she would proceed in reviewing Rudy and Toensing’s seized materials, including her promise to, “provide the Court with a timeline for concluding the privilege review once she better understands the volume of the materials to be reviewed,” she has made no public reports. Given the pace at which she worked to review Michael Cohen’s content in 2018, in which her first report was issued 38 days after she was appointed, we should expect a report from her in the near future (the same 38 days would have been July 13, though COVID has slowed everything down).

Meanwhile, yesterday’s ruling took a curious approach to privilege issues. One thing Kukushkin complained about was that, by choosing to share information with the impeachment inquiry, Parnas shared information in which they had an attorney-client privilege. Oetken dismissed this concern (and Kukushkin’s larger bid to sever his trial from Parnas’) in part by relying on prosecutors’ representation that they would not rely on privileged material

Kukushkin also argues that because Parnas waived the attorney-client privilege by providing certain materials to Congress, the Government may be able to introduce privileged materials against Parnas, prejudicing Kukushkin. This argument is speculative, and the Government disavows any intent to seek to offer privileged materials.

Finally, all the defendants complained that a key email used against them in the superseding indictment was privileged, and argued that that, plus all fruit of that (a number of other search warrants), should be thrown out.

Defendants assert that an email, quoted in several search warrant applications, is protected by the attorney-client privilege and that, as a result, the returns from the search warrants should be suppressed and the Superseding Indictment itself should be dismissed. This issue will be addressed in a separate opinion and order.

This is a different attorney-client dispute, not the claims of privilege that John Dowd invented to protect a cover-up in 2019. The government argued that it was not privileged, but even if it were it would be covered by the crime-fraud exception. “[T]he crime-fraud exception applies because the email furthered a criminal effort by the defendants to utilize attorneys to structure a new business to conceal the involvement of a foreign national.” But Oetken, who presumably approved of those allegedly poisoned fruit warrants like he approved of the warrants against Rudy and Toensing, has deferred it to a separate opinion.

Oetken knows far more about the substance of these attorney-client disputes, and this is actually the third attempt in this case where a defendant attempted to hide evidence by invoking privilege. In the third, prosecutors successfully argued that materials pre-existing attorney-client privilege are not privileged.

But given all these claims of attorney-client privilege he has been watching, it’s likely he’s unimpressed with the third one.

Barbara Jones’ Special Mastery of Releasing Donald Trump’s Lawyers’ Crime-Fraud Excepted Communications

I knew Rudy Giuliani was in trouble when I read him — along with his lawyer Robert Costello, who allegedly tried to bribe Michael Cohen with a pardon in the wake of an SDNY seizure of his phones — claim that SDNY had first accessed Michael Cohen’s communications after SDNY seized Cohen’s phones in a search of his house and office.

In April 2018, the Government was in this exact same position it is in now in dealing with seizures made from the personal attorney to the President. This is now the second dawn raid of the office and home of an attorney for then President Trump. A year before they searched Giuliani’s iCloud account in November 2019, they were dealing with the raid of Michael Cohen’s home and law office. In Cohen v. United States, 18-mj-3161 (KMW), after conducting a search of President Trump’s personal lawyer’s home and law office, the Government opposed the appointment of a Special Master in a letter to the Court dated April 18, 2018. Counsel for Michael Cohen and intervening counsel for President Trump both requested that a Special Master be appointed and that the Special Master review the evidence, but only after counsel for the respective parties had reviewed the evidence and made their own claims of privilege. On the day of a scheduled conference to decide the issue, the Government, in a letter to Judge Wood, withdrew their opposition to the Special Master, but requested that the Special Master, and not defense counsel, review all the evidence and make the initial determinations of privilege. Judge Wood adopted the compromise and appointed a Special Master to review all materials. One of the Government’s counsel that signed that letter is counsel on this matter as well.

As a result, the Government was well aware that it had agreed to a Special Master in a case involving claims of attorney-client and executive privilege regarding the search and seizure of an attorney’s home and office when that attorney was the personal attorney for the President of the United States. Here, when faced with the exact same situation in November 2019, the Government decided on its own, to use its own Taint Team to sift through all of the evidence gathered and decide what materials were privileged. To make matters worse, not only was Giuliani not informed about this practice, but the Government also continued to keep him, the President and his counsel in the dark for 18 months while Giuliani cooperated with another office of the United States Attorney. Based on its experience in the Cohen case, the Government knew better, or should have known better, that it should not make unilateral, uninformed secret decisions about privilege, but clearly threw caution to the wind in its attempt in this investigation in search of a crime.

Was it really possible, I asked myself, that the President’s own lawyer, as well as the President’s lawyer’s lawyer, had no idea that Mueller’s team had obtained Michael Cohen’s Trump Organization emails from Microsoft with an August 1, 2017 warrant, content which they later shared with SDNY?  Was it really possible, I wondered, that Rudy and Costello didn’t know that Mueller also obtained Cohen’s Google and iCloud content, obtained a non-disclosure order for it, and then later passed it on to SDNY, which obtained a separate warrant to access it? Did they not know that that process started 8 months before SDNY raided Cohen’s home and office and took his devices, which then led to the appointment of Special Master Barbara Jones? Did they really not know that SDNY first obtained Cohen’s content with some covert warrants, reviewed that information with the use of a filter team, and only after that got some of the very same information by seizing Cohen’s phones, only with the later seizure, used a Special Master to sort out what was privileged and what was not?

After the government’s reply, I thought for sure they’d start to cop on. I figured Rudy and Costello — who collectively, allegedly tried to bribe Cohen’s silence about the crimes he had committed while purportedly providing legal representation for Donald Trump — would understand the significance of this passage of the government reply:

Giuliani also analogizes this case to Cohen, suggesting that the Government should have known to use a special master because it had just agreed to use one in that case. (Giuliani Ltr. at 11). But Cohen favors an opposite conclusion: there, as here, the Government first obtained covert search warrants for accounts belonging to the subject. The returns of those covert warrants were reviewed by a filter team—a process which was not challenged. Although Judge Wood ultimately appointed a special master in Cohen, she repeatedly made clear her view that the use of a filter team was acceptable and was consistent with the substantial body of law in this Circuit. (See, e.g., Cohen, Dkt. 38 at 8). However, based on the unique circumstances of the case—Cohen’s principal and perhaps only client was then the President, and the case was subject to significant public attention—Judge Wood believed, and the Government agreed, that the use of a special master was needed for the “perception of fairness, not fairness itself.” (Cohen, Dkt. 104 at 88). But even after appointing a special master, Judge Wood continued to recognize the appropriateness of the use of a filter team: at the end of the special master’s review, there was one cellphone that had not been decrypted, and Judge Wood ordered that the if the cellphone was ultimately extracted, the privilege review could be conducted by the Government’s filter team. (Cohen, Dkt. 103 at 6). Thus, following Cohen, it was entirely appropriate for the Government to use a filter team during the covert phase of its investigation, but in light of the intense public interest in this matter following the overt execution of the 2021 Warrants, the Government agrees that while the appointment of a special master is not necessary for fairness, it is in the interest of ensuring that the privilege review process is perceived as fair.

But I didn’t write up the implications of that yet, because I figured there was still something that might save Rudy and Victoria Toensing. Maybe they’d pick a Special Master who would apply dramatically different rules than Special Master Barbara Jones had with Cohen, particularly an approach that said Cohen and Trump could claim privilege and hide the content, but any legal argument about that privilege had to be public. Surely they would be smart enough not to pick Jones, right? Surely, I thought, Rudy and Costello wouldn’t be dumb enough to be lulled into agreeing to appoint Jones herself, perhaps based on a false sense of confidence that since she works at Rudy’s former firm, she’ll go easy on the Mayor?

And yet, yesterday the government wrote to inform Judge Paul Oetken that the parties had agreed on a single choice to serve as Special Master: Barbara Jones.

The Government writes on behalf of the parties to propose the appointment of the Honorable Barbara S. Jones, a retired federal judge with the law firm of Bracewell LLP, to serve as the court-appointed special master for this matter.

They further asked that Oetken write up an order applying the same approach as Jones used with Cohen with Rudy.

The Government respectfully requests that the Court appoint Judge Jones to serve as the special master in this matter because her background and the resources available to her at her law firm will allow her to complete a privilege review in a fair and efficient manner. Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Toensing, through counsel, have both agreed to the appointment of Judge Jones. The Government has conferred with Judge Jones and she is available to accept this appointment. The Government respectfully suggests that the Court issue an Order of Appointment similar to the one issued by Judge Wood in the Cohen matter, setting forth the duties of the special master, the reporting and judicial review requirements, terms of compensation, terms of engagement of other professionals, and other relevant provisions. Cohen, No. 18 Misc. 3161 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 27, 2018) (Dkt. 30). Judge Jones is available to speak with the Court directly should the Court have any questions about her potential appointment.

Understand, the government has now gotten Rudy on the record begging that he get the same treatment as Michael Cohen. It has gotten Rudy on the record saying he prefers to have a Special Master rifle through his potentially privileged communications than a filter team.

Had this been done overtly, or through the Government’s less onerous subpoena powers, we would have requested that a Special Master to be appointed at the time.

It has also gotten Victoria Toensing to agree on the value of a Special Master (even though she requested she get first shot at reviewing her content).

Appoint a Special Master from the list of candidates proposed by the parties or another suitable candidate identified by the Court to oversee the process and resolve any disputes that may arise;

When former SDNY US Attorney Rudy Giuliani and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Victoria Toensing made those comments, though, they probably didn’t think through the implication of filter team protocols that both presumably know or once knew, but which the government was kind enough to spell out in their reply to the lawyers’ letters:

As is its practice, the filter team did not release any potentially privileged materials based on the possible application of waiver or crime fraud principles, even if the applicability of those exceptions was apparent on the face of the document.

SDNY filter teams will not pass on potentially privileged materials seized from an attorney even if there is an obvious crime-fraud exception. By description, SDNY suggests that “the applicability of [such] exceptions was apparent on the face of” some of the communications — new copies of which SDNY seized last month — SDNY’s filter team reviewed already. But they couldn’t pass them on because that’s not how SDNY filter team protocols work.

And yet, as a result of Barbara Jones’ review of material seized from Donald Trump’s attorney’s devices, SDNY obtained evidence — of Michael Cohen negotiating hush payments with two women — that might otherwise have been privileged, but that was clearly evidence of a crime. In fact, Trump thought about fighting the release, except after Judge Kimba Wood ruled that legal disputes have to be public, Trump decided not to challenge its release.

An SDNY filter team cannot share evidence that shows a lawyer breaking the law in the service of doing Donald Trump’s dirty work.

But Special Masters can. And Barbara Jones already has.

When I first read these filings — especially SDNY’s very generous offer to pick up the tab for a Special Master — I thought it was just about timeliness, about getting Rudy’s evidence in hand as quickly as possible. But it’s not. It’s the only way that they can obtain materials that they know exist that show Rudy committing a crime in the guise of serving as a lawyer. Admittedly, it might just be materials implicating Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. But, as happened to Cohen, it might also cover things Rudy did while allegedly doing lawyer stuff for Donald Trump.

Remember, this whole process started when John Dowd claimed that Parnas and Fruman helped Rudy represent Trump, Rudy represented Parnas and Fruman, and they also helped Toensing represent Dmitro Firtash.

Be advised  that Messrs. Parnas and Fruman assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman have also been represented by Mr. Giuliani in connection with their personal and business affairs. They also assisted Joseph DiGenova and Victoria Toensing in their law practice. Thus, certain information you seek in your September 30, 2019, letter is protected by the attorney-client, attorney work product and other privileges.

John Dowd made an absurd claim that, even then, was a transparent attempt to hide real dirt behind attorney-client privilege. That’s precisely the material that SDNY is asking Barbara Jones to review to see whether it’s really privileged.

Update: Lev Parnas renewed his bid to force DOJ to go look for materials that help him at trial and support his selective prosecution claim. Along with describing some communications that he believes to exist that would be in Rudy’s files (such as proof of Rudy saying that one of their mutual Fraud Guarantee victims did no due diligence), Parnas outlines the evidence that he was prosecuted to shut him up. The Dowd actions are central to that.

The Government argues that, since Parnas was not yet attempting to cooperate with Congress at the time he was arrested, his selective prosecution claim is without merit. However, by the time of Parnas and Fruman’s arrest, Parnas had received a demand letter seeking evidence from the House Intelligence Committee, and been referred by Giuliani and Toensing to Attorney John Dowd—who had previously represented former President Trump. Attorney Dowd then secured a conflict waiver from Trump—who claimed not to know Parnas—by e-mail through the President’s chief impeachment counsel, Jay Sekulow. Next, Dowd met with Parnas and took custody of materials that he believed were responsive to Parnas’ demand letter. Then, Dowd informed the Intelligence Committee that Parnas would not be appearing as requested, and the evening before Parnas and Fruman were arrested wrote an e-mail to Giuliani, Jay Sekulow, Toensing, and others assuring that Parnas and Fruman would not be appearing to give a deposition or evidence against the former President. Giuliani then backed out of a planned trip to Vienna with Parnas and Fruman, and they were arrested as they boarded their flight. The following day, then-Attorney General William P. Barr made a “routine” visit to the SDNY, and, in the following months, sought the removal of SDNY U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman under still-undisclosed circumstances that may well have related to prosecutorial decisions made in Parnas and his co-defendants’ case.

Update: Oetken has indeed appointed Jones.

Lev Parnas Says Bill Barr Should Recuse … But Doesn’t Say Why

In this post, I laid out why Lev Parnas’ current publicity tour may not be as insane, from a defense standpoint, as it seems. I laid out how Barr would have significant ability to protect potential co-conspirators of Parnas — starting with Rudy and extending to Rudy’s client. I explained how Barr’s veto authority over some of this might limit Parnas’ ability to cooperate his way out of his legal problems, and at the very least increases the chance he’s stuck holding the bag for various plots that include far more powerful people. Most interesting, however, were the ways Parnas hinted at but stopped short of implicating Barr in the plot by suggesting,

  • He had been told, by Rudy and others, they had spoken to Barr about all this
  • He had witnessed Rudy and others speaking to Barr about all this
  • He might have texts proving Barr’s involvement, but couldn’t remember whether that was the case or not

To be clear: Parnas is obscuring the degree to which he insinuated himself in Trump’s circles to make all this possible. He is pretending everything he did was ordered by powerful Americans, when the evidence suggests otherwise. So it might not serve justice for him to try to cooperate with prosecutors (because he could well be the most responsible). But I’m beginning to understand how pursuing this angle might be a reasonable defensive approach.

Today, Parnas’ lawyer Joseph Bondy just sent a request to Barr requesting his recusal, copying it to his docket.

It actually flubs the argument it tries to make about how impeachment relates to this criminal case, describing how both the July 25 Trump-Zelensky call transcript and the whistleblower complaint mention Barr over and over, without mentioning that Parnas and Igor Fruman were also incorporated in the whistleblower complaint by repeated reference to this article, which includes the influence peddling for which the grifters were already indicted. That is, the case is far stronger than this letter lays out, because both Parnas and Barr were named in the whistleblower complaint.

Worse still, this letter doesn’t talk about any of the things Bill Barr’s DOJ has done that obstructed full investigation of the complaint:

  • Scoping the assessment of the complaint to specifically avoid connecting the complaint to the investigation of Parnas and Fruman
  • Not sharing the complaint, as required by MOU, with the FEC, which would have led the FEC to tie the complaint to the pre-existing investigation it had of Parnas and Fruman
  • Getting OLC to invent reason to withhold the complaint from Congress, which if it had been successful would have prevented all investigation of these activites

In short, the actions of DOJ overseen by Barr, not just his mention in the complaint and ties to Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, mandate his recusal. But for some reason (perhaps because that would be more aggressive than even Bondy is willing to go), Bondy doesn’t include those actions.

Most interestingly, Bondy doesn’t include any of the allegations Parnas had made publicly about Barr’s potential more direct role. Nor does he answer the question of whether or not Parnas has texts more directly implicating Barr.

What Bondy does do, in the wake of the press blitz he has choreographed, is note that “evidence has been brought to light linking you further to your long-time colleagues Victoria Toensing and Joseph DiGenova, as well as to Mr. Giuliani, which undoubtedly creates at least the public appearance of a conflict of interest.” I mean, there is, absolutely, the appearance of a conflict of interest, but Bondy was the one who brought all that evidence to light!

Finally, though, Bondy suggests, with uncertain veracity, that SDNY has done things that suggest a purported conflict has already harmed Parnas.

In addition to harmful perceptions, this conflict of interest appears to have caused actual harm to Mr. Parnas who, given delays in the production of discovery in his federal case, was rendered unable to comply with a duly-issued congressional subpoena in time for congressional investigators to make complete use of his materials or properly assess Mr. Parnas as a potential witness. Furthermore, prosecutors have, thus far, refused to meet with Mr. Parnas and to receive his information regarding the President, Mssrs. Giuliani, Toensing, DiGenova and others–all of which would potentially benefit Mr. Parnas if he were ever to be convicted and sentenced in his criminal case.

For better and worse, getting FBI to image a bunch of phones and return them to a defendant within three months including two major holidays is not that long a wait. It took two months before Special Master Barbara Jones first started making privilege designations in the Michael Cohen case (involving one of the same prosecutors), and that was an even more politically sensitive case than this one. So while mentioning the delay is useful for Democrats (especially when the Senate tries to refuse to hear Parnas’ testimony because it didn’t get turned over in time), and valuable from a defense standpoint as it lays groundwork for appeal, it’s not a real injury on the part of prosecutors.

With regards to prosecutors’ refusal to meet with Parnas about cooperating against his possible co-conspirators, as the WSJ reported yesterday, late last year Bondy failed to convince SDNY that Parnas was not — as accused in his indictment — directed by a still-unnamed Ukrainian official to try to oust Marie Yovanovitch.

At a meeting with prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office late last year, people familiar with the matter say, Mr. Parnas’s attorney disputed that he pushed for the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the behest of a Ukrainian official—one of the charges in the campaign finance indictment.

This is another way of saying that Parnas is unwilling to plead to the allegations in the existing indictment, and may also suggest that while Parnas is happy to incriminate Rudy and his American buddies, he’s not willing implicate his original boss, whoever that might be. So prosecutors likely have good reason not to meet with Parnas to hear him implicate Rudy and friends (not least, because they already have this documentary evidence that implicates them anyway, and now Parnas is providing whatever testimony they might need on the Rachel Maddow Show).

Bondy is absolutely right: Bill Barr should have recused from this — and all review of the whistleblower complaint — back in August when it was clear he was named. Even assuming Barr took no action on any of this influence peddling, this goes well beyond just the appearance of conflict to known participation in known events — such as the meeting with Rudy that DOJ admitted to only last week after covering it up for months — that merit recusal.

But Bondy is also being less than candid with his letter, playing the public docket as much as he is making a real legal request.

Rudy Is Relying on Tapes to Claim Buzzfeed Is Phony: But There Aren’t Tapes of Everything

Yesterday, I noted that Rudy could not be sure the Buzzfeed story was phony when Trump’s lawyers called Mueller’s office Friday, because the White House should have no knowledge of what Michael Cohen said in his interviews with law enforcement.

Today, the New Yorker provided Rudy’s latest splutter explaining why he believed he could be sure the story was phony.

Where are we now with Trump and Cohen and the BuzzFeed story, and your response to it?

I guess the BuzzFeed story—I don’t remember what it said about Cohen—but it said there was corroboration that the President talked to Cohen and told him to lie about, I guess it was, the Moscow proposal. There are no tapes, there are no texts, there is no corroboration that the President told him to lie. That’s why the special counsel said that the story was inaccurate. First time the special counsel has ever done that. As a prosecutor, having done that for fifteen years, that is quite a heavy rebuke of BuzzFeed. And the reality is that the President never talked to him and told him to lie. And I don’t know what Cohen is saying, but certainly the idea that two federal agents said that there was corroboration is totally untrue.

Did President Trump’s lawyers or you yourself reach out to the special counsel’s office after the story, as has just been reported?

I can’t discuss that. President Trump would not have done that. If anybody would have done it, obviously it would have been his lawyers, and I really can’t discuss that. That would be confidential.

Do you—

But I can tell you, from the moment I read the story, I knew the story was false.

Because?

Because I have been through all the tapes, I have been through all the texts, I have been through all the e-mails, and I knew none existed. And then, basically, when the special counsel said that, just in case there are any others I might not know about, they probably went through others and found the same thing.

Wait, what tapes have you gone through?

I shouldn’t have said tapes. They alleged there were texts and e-mails that corroborated that Cohen was saying the President told him to lie. There were no texts, there were no e-mails, and the President never told him to lie.

So, there were no tapes you listened to, though?

No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this.

This passage explains everything we need to know both about why Mueller’s office set the bar on Cohen’s testimony where they did, and why the White House responded the way it did.

But it doesn’t mean Rudy can be certain that Cohen didn’t tell authorities that Trump ordered him to lie.

Remember that when Cohen was raided, Trump squealed like having his fixer raided was the biggest constitutional crime of the century. Both Trump Org and Trump himself insisted on paying $1 million to get a special master appointed to conduct the privilege review.

The results were expansive and seemingly an expensive dud for Trump. Special Master Barbara Jones ended up finding just 7,434 items out of boxes and boxes of evidence to be privileged. There were 57 other items Trump and friends wanted to claim were privileged, but not enough to argue why they were publicly.

In her summary, Jones described that altogether 7,434 items had been deemed privileged. Trump and or Cohen had objected to Jones’ designations with regards to 57 items, but were unwilling to fight to have Wood overrule Jones’ designation if their arguments would be public.

It was part way through the Special Master process when Cohen started talking about being abandoned by Trump and warming up to flipping on the guy he had been loyal to for so long.

On July 2 and July 13, Jones started releasing big chunks of non-privileged items. Almost 2.2 million items were turned over. On July 10, Cohen moved to share all these materials with Guy Petrillo. By this point, Cohen felt he had been abandoned by Trump and was preparing to flip against his client. July 23 is when Jones reported that Cohen and Trump had withdrawn designations of privilege with respect to 12 audio files, which were then released to the government (and began to be leaked on cable shows).

I guess I was wrong when I said this process was an expensive dud. Trump’s lawyers weren’t using it to assert privilege over stuff they knew was mostly not.

They were using it to assess how much damage Cohen could do to the President. Once they reviewed that discovery, they recognized they didn’t have to continue to dangle a pardon for Cohen, because there wasn’t documentary or recorded evidence to back up the most damning allegations he might make against the President. It’d just be Cohen’s word against Trump’s.

And that’s the basis on which the White House contacted Mueller’s office Friday: Having reviewed everything seized from Cohen’s raid, including any tapes Cohen made of conversations with Trump, they believed they could assert to Mueller’s office that the Buzzfeed story was not true.

This also explains why Mueller set the bar on Cohen’s allocution where he did. Cohen may well have told Mueller that he believed Trump ordered him to lie. Trump likely did! Certainly, Rudy is not denying that happened. But unless Cohen recorded that conversation — as he did for the hush payments — then Mueller is not going to set himself up to have to prove that. That necessarily partly explains (in addition to the issues I raised here) the difference in how SDNY allocuted Cohen and how Mueller did. SDNY has tapes, courtesy of Cohen, of Trump ordering him to pay off his sex partners; Mueller does not have tapes, courtesy of Cohen, of Trump ordering Cohen to lie to Congress.

That said, Rudy still should have no basis for asserting what Cohen has said to one or another law enforcement agent. While it’s not clear what Cohen’s status was at various times of this process, he would only have been recorded by the FBI if he was in custody. And the White House should not have his 302s (nor might they have all the other materials from others who have been interviewed, though admittedly would have lot from having done Trump Organization’s document production and being in a joint defense agreement with most of the relevant people).

One more thing: The degree to which Rudy emphasizes that Trump would not have reached out to Mueller’s office makes me believe we’re shortly going to learn he did reach out to Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker.

President Trump would not have done that.

That’s one of the most logical explanations for the currently contradictory messages coming from seemingly official DOJ sources about what Rod Rosenstein’s office did.

Epic cheap-ass Donald Trump paid $500,000 to figure out whether Michael Cohen had recorded the most damning conversations between them. But it was worth it! He paid it to be able to do what he did Friday, demand a statement disclaiming what is obviously true: that has Trump repeatedly suborned perjury from his advisors to hide what he did with Russia.

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

On Use Immunity, Predictions of Doom for the Presidency, and the Voluntary Waiver of Privilege on the Hush Payment Tape

Don’t get me wrong. I think Trump is in a whole heap of trouble (though remember that, wielded in the hands of a competent man or similarly competent advisors, the power of the presidency is an awesome force). I think the SDNY’s investigation of Trump Organization’s involvement in illegal hush payments and NYS’s investigation of the Trump Foundation pose the additional risk that the Trump business empire will collapse as people scrutinize both its legal shenanigans and its debt. And I think that risk will bring Trump to fear US law enforcement as much as he fears Russia (which I suspect could also bankrupt Trump Org if a few key oligarchs put their mind to it).

But I think people are getting slightly ahead of the story when they predict that “The significance of [what they call Weisselberg’s] flip, paired with Cohen’s recent plea deal, cannot be overstated.” That’s true, in part, because Weisselberg got only limited immunity tied to grand jury testimony implicating Michael Cohen.

The person briefed on the deal said that it was narrow in scope, protecting Mr. Weisselberg from self-incrimination in sharing information with prosecutors about Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to tax and campaign finance charges. The latter charges stemmed from payments during the campaign to two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. It was not, the person said, a blanket immunity extending beyond the information he shared, and Mr. Weisselberg remains in his job at the Trump Organization.

While his testimony will be damaging to the Trump Org and, probably even more directly, Don Jr, Weisselberg in no way “flipped” on Trump. Indeed, there’s good reason to believe his cooperation may be an attempt to limit the fallout of the investigation of Cohen.

At the risk of proving my most recent post (in which I argued that the push for a Special Master didn’t gain the Trump camp very much) wrong, consider this detail. On July 23, Special Master Barbara Jones informed Judge Kimba Wood that “the parties” had withdrawn their privileged designation for 12 audio files, which she then released to the government.

On July 20, 2018, the parties withdrew their designations of “privileged” as to 12 audio items that were under consideration by the Special Master. Based upon those de-designations, the Special Master released the 12 items to the Government that day.

Those tapes are understood to include the tapes Cohen made in which he discussed the hush payments with Trump.

Two days later after that notice, Michael Cohen released a truncated version of the tape of him telling Trump he had spoken to Weisselberg about buying the rights of the Karen McDougal story, which unsurprisingly immediately preceded the news that prosecutors wanted to speak with Weisselberg.

Now, it may be that Cohen and Trump voluntarily waived privilege on those tapes to provide something to the press to get the titillated by the sex story and distracted from real financial graft. Or it may be that someone has a different plan of hanging out Cohen on the hush payments, limiting damage to Trump Jr and the organization, all in a bid to undercut Cohen’s value in a larger cooperation deal.

Or there may be some other explanation.

That being said, as of right now, the Trump camp is, as far as we know, dealing with three still separate investigations: SDNY, NYS, and Mueller. Don Jr is implicated directly in all of them and they have the possibility to collapse into one (with the added benefit of limiting the value of a Trump pardon of his son). Indeed, according to Vanity Fair, Mueller is very actively putting the squeeze on Junior in the more dangerous of those investigations.

Another theory for what’s motivating Trump’s increasingly unhinged tweets is that Mueller may be closing in on his son Don Jr. “A lot of what Trump is doing is based on the fact [that] Mueller is going after Don Jr.,” a person close to the Trump family told me. “They’re squeezing Don Jr. right now.”

Don Jr.’s lawyer said, “I’m not going to comment.” Another person briefed on the investigation disputed the term “squeeze,” but said the Mueller team continues to ask for documents.

Mueller may not wait for Junior to implicate Dad before he indicts the spawn (certainly, Senior and Rudy G have been laying the groundwork to exonerate Junior for his conspiring with Russians for at least three weeks, so they clearly expect that possibility). And to the extent that Don Jr gets in real legal trouble — something beyond a tax problem they can restate and a campaign finance violation that might be manageable — then Dad might be in real trouble.

But it’s quite possible Weisselberg and the Trump Org found a way to limit the damage of the Cohen investigation, for now, to things that don’t affect the core corruption of the Trump Organization business model, or the conspiracy with Russia to win the election, and along the way limited the damage to Don Jr.

The thing about Trump is there are so many bodies, it may actually take three or four people who know where the different kinds of bodies are buried — Weisselberg plus several others — to bring him down. And thus far, Weisselberg is not telling about most of those bodies.

Update: I’d like to add a point I meant to include before I went to yoga. One thing that’s going on with the hush payment story — one I’ve even seen reporters admit — is that it pertains to issues that reporters can understand. Sex! Scandal! Tax cheats!

Add in the fact that sources are talking here, whereas all the Mueller investigation sources, save those associated with Roger Stone and his band of rat-fuckers, have gone silent (and they were all defense witness sources anyway, and so unlikely to provide the full picture).

There’s nothing wrong with the possibility that reporters will make more of a story that they have sources for and can understand and sell to readers easily. For that reason, too, it may have more immediate impact on Congress, even while I highly doubt Republicans are going to ditch Trump for some hush payments (at least not until he becomes significantly more wounded). But it’s worth noting that some of that may be going on.

And if the focus on these hush payments buys Mueller some times — shifts Trump’s ire from Mueller to Sessions — that’s probably a benefit too.

The Trump Team’s Strategic Errors: Special Master Edition

Between Michael Cohen’s guilty plea and Paul Manafort’s guilty verdict, I’m struck this week by how badly two strategic decisions they made have failed. I’ll return to the issue of Manafort’s “rocket docket” strategy. Here, however, I’d like to note how little Michael Cohen and Donald Trump (AKA Individual-1) gained by fighting to have a special master review the materials seized in the April 9 raid of Cohen’s property.

As you recall, the Southern District of NY planned to use a taint team — basically, a second set of prosecutors — to sort through Cohen’s possessions. But Cohen and (especially) Trump complained about the impropriety of doing so when the President is one of the clients involved. Cohen invented an attorney-client relationship with Sean Hannity.

And after listening to all those arguments,on April 27, Judge Kimba Wood appointed Barbara Jones special master to make privilege determinations. It was definitely the right decision for the legitimacy of the proceeding. It might even have gotten the review done as quickly as SDNY could have done so.

But Trump and Cohen gained very little beyond what will end up being more than half a million dollar bill for their troubles. (Jones’ invoices for labor through the end of July, which are being split 50-50 between the plaintiffs — Cohen, Trump, and Trump Organization — and SDNY, add up to $1,050,022.)

It started on June 4, when Jones issued her first report on the hard copy documents and three devices that were the first things she received. Of the 172 items the plaintiffs tried to claim privilege over, she agreed in just 169 cases. Jones disagreed with the claims about three items (the circumstances with this report are murky, as she later reconsidered one item, and this appears to be the batch of materials from which Cohen and Trump later decided to reverse their privilege claim surrounding 12 recordings).

On June 6, the president’s lawyer, Joanna Hendon, wrote Kimba Wood on behalf of Trump, Cohen, and the Trump Organization, requesting that any challenge to a privilege determination appear under seal and ex parte. The next day the government responded that it had no problem with discussions of the content of documents to be submitted under seal and ex parte, but argued the legal discussions should be public.

There is no reason why the Government and the public should be deprived of access to the balance of the filing — such as the law upon which Cohen and the two Intervenors rely, or their legal analysis to the extent it does not directly describe the substance of the documents in question.

In other words, SDNY argued that if the plaintiffs wanted to fight Jones’ determinations, they would have to show their legal arguments in public.

In a June 8 order, Judge Wood agreed with the government that any legal discussion should be public. In response, the plaintiffs withdrew certain privileged designations, effectively deciding they weren’t willing to challenge Jones’ determinations with legal arguments the public could see.

After Jones amended her June 4 report on June 15, Judge Wood reviewed the substance of what Jones had found, effectively conducting a spot check of her work. Her June 22 order on the matter reveals that Michael Cohen did more consulting of lawyers than consulting as a lawyer.

The Court adopts the Report for the following reasons: 57 of these items are text messages between Plaintiff and his outside counsel, in which Plaintiff requests legal advice from his outside counsel or Plaintiff’s outside counsel provides legal advice; 55 of these items are text messages between Plaintiff and his outside counsel, in which Plaintiff requests legal advice from his outside counsel or Plaintiff’s outside counsel provides legal advice in anticipation of litigation; 22 of these items are email communications or portions of email communications in which Plaintiff receives or requests legal advice from outside counsel; 6 of these items are email communications in which Plaintiff receives or requests legal advice from outside counsel in anticipation of litigation; 7 of these items are email communications between Plaintiff and a client, containing legal advice made in anticipation of litigation; 1 of these items is an email communication in which Plaintiff receives a request to initiate legal representation; 9 of these items are legal memoranda from outside counsel, providing legal advice to Plaintiff or a client of Plaintiff; 1 of these items is a letter from Plaintiff’s outside counsel containing legal 2 of these items are retainer agreements between Plaintiff and outside counsel, containing requests for legal advice10; 1 of these items is a litigation document containing notes for Plaintiff’ s outside counsel, made in anticipation of litigation. The Court has also reviewed the 7 documents that the Special Master recommends withholding from the Government because they are Highly Personal. (ECF No. 81, at 2.) These documents all concern Plaintiffs family affairs and are not relevant to the Government’s investigation. With respect to the above items, the Court ADOPTS the Amended Report. [my emphasis]

That is, in this first batch of documents, even the privileged ones only included 8 files in which Cohen was the lawyer providing advice. The rest involved Cohen getting advice for himself or a client.

On July 2 and July 13, Jones started releasing big chunks of non-privileged items. Almost 2.2 million items were turned over. On July 10, Cohen moved to share all these materials with Guy Petrillo. By this point, Cohen felt he had been abandoned by Trump and was preparing to flip against his client. July 23 is when Jones reported that Cohen and Trump had withdrawn designations of privilege with respect to 12 audio files, which were then released to the government (and began to be leaked on cable shows).

Here are the determinations Barbara Jones described making in reports dated July 19, July 24, July 28, August 2, and August 9. Claimed privilege, here, is what Cohen or Trump or Trump organization claimed. The next two columns show what Jones labeled those files as. The objections are items for which the plaintiffs still argued there was a privilege claim after her recommendations, though they did not fight any of these designations.

In her summary, Jones described that altogether 7,434 items had been deemed privileged. Trump and or Cohen had objected to Jones’ designations with regards to 57 items, but were unwilling to fight to have Wood overrule Jones’ designation if their arguments would be public.

What Jones didn’t mention is that along the way, she had overruled the plaintiffs’ designation of something as privileged or highly sensitive around 6,200 times (these numbers don’t entirely add up, possibly because of overlapping categories).

While Trump and Cohen may have achieved the goal of delay, within 134 days after the raid on his home, Cohen had found a new lawyer and pled guilty to 8 counts. And while it’s not clear whether Jones applied a similar or more stringent standard on privilege claims than SDNY’s privilege team would have, as it was, the Trump people paid half a million dollars to try but fail to keep over 6,200 items out of government hands.

Update, 8/27: Oops! I forgot to add this language from the plea hearing, Prosecutor Andrea Griswold explained this about the evidence.

The proof on these counts at trial would establish that these payments were made in order to ensure that each recipient of the payments did not publicize their stories of alleged affairs with the candidate. This evidence would include:

Records obtained from an April 9, 2018 series of search warrants on Mr. Cohen’s premised, including hard copy documents, seized electronic devices, and audio recordings made by Mr. Cohen.

We would also offer text messages, messages sent over encrypted applications, phone records, and emails.

We would also submit various records produced to us via subpoena, including records from the corporation referenced in the information as Corporation One and records from the media company also referenced in the information.

She makes it clear that the audio recording — apparently the same ones that Cohen and Trump waived privilege over — were part of the evidence on those charges.

Update: Added more punctuation for those of you who thought I’d leave out an Oxford comma.

Mueller Frees Up the Troll Team

In the background of the celebrating over the Carpenter SCOTUS decision — which held that the government generally needs a warrant to access historical cell phone location — there were a few developments in the Mueller investigation:

  • The George Papadopoulos parties moved towards sentencing, either on September 7 or in October. If Mueller told Papadopoulos his wife Simon’s Mangiante seeming coordination of the Stefan Halper smear with Sam Clovis (and his lawyer, Victoria Toensing) and Carter Page got him in trouble, we got no sign of that.
  • Amy Berman Jackson dismissed a Paul Manafort attempt to limit the criminal penalties of his Foreign Agent Registration Act violations; this isn’t very sexy, but if the well-argued opinion stands, it will serve as a precedent in DC for other sleazy influence peddlers.
  • After ABJ made sure Rick Gates ask Mueller if he really didn’t mind Gates going on a trip without his GPS ankle bracelet, Gates got permission to travel — with the jewelry.
  • Kimba Wood accepted Special Master Barbara Jones’ recommendations, which among other things held that just 7 of the files reviewed so far pertain to the privilege of anyone, presumably including Trump,  to whom Michael Cohen was providing legal services. So Cohen and Trump just paid upwards of $150,000 to hide the advice Cohen has gotten from lawyers and seven more documents — that is, for no really good reason.
  • In two separate filings, four DOJ lawyers filed notices of appearance in the Internet Research Agency/Concord Management case.

It’s the latter that I find most interesting. Mueller has added a team of four lawyers:

  • Deborah A. Curtis
  • Jonathan Kravis
  • Kathryn Rakoczy
  • Heather Alpino

To a team with three (plus Michael Dreeben):

  • Jeannie Sclafani Rhee
  • Rush Atkinson
  • Ryan Kao Dickey

Devlin Barrett (he of the likely impressive link map) reported that Mueller did this to prepare for the moment when his office shuts down and the Concord Management nuisance defense drags on for years.

People familiar with the staffing decision said the new prosecutors are not joining Mueller’s team, but rather are being added to the case so that they could someday take responsibility for it when the special counsel ceases operation. The case those prosecutors are joining could drag on for years because the indictment charges a number of Russians who will probably never see the inside of a U.S. courtroom. Russia does not extradite its citizens.

The development suggests Mueller is contemplating the end of his work and farming out any potentially outstanding prosecutions to other parts of the Justice Department.

Except this doesn’t make sense. Not only are Concord and the judge, Dabney Friedrich, pushing for a quick trial, but Atkinson and Dickey are themselves DOJ employees, so could manage any residual duties.

Far more likely, Mueller is ensuring one of his A Teams — including Dickey, DOJ’s best cyber prosecutor — will be able to move on to more important tasks on the central matters before him.