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The 900 Pages of George Nader Testimony the Government Wants to Keep Hidden

Brad Heath spotted this Beryl Howell opinion granting George Nader’s request to get a copy of his own grand jury transcript.

We can be sure it’s Nader because of the details she includes: Someone currently jailed for crime with significant mandatory minimums charged using evidence from a phone seized in the Mueller investigation, awaiting trial early next year. The person provided testimony with immunity on four occasions in February and March 2018.

That all fits Nader and only Nader.

In my continuing interest in tracking the dregs of the Mueller investigation, several details are of interest. Howell describes that his transcript is 900 pages long. Several of the redactions suggest Nader may need the transcripts to craft a defense in potential additional charges, which would more obviously raise a need to consult the transcript and the limits of his immunized testimony. And, the government claims that Nader was asked “questions regarding ongoing investigations.”

That’s not surprising in the least. Nader’s testimony touched on so many crimes it is unsurprising some of them remain active investigations (note the attached picture, which shows Nader with Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman.

The question is how he wants to use this transcript. It’s possible he needs it to argue that potentially pending charges against him are improperly based on immunized testimony (and as such wants to eliminate criminal exposure before making the best plea deal he can).  Or it’s possible he wants the transcript to be able to explain the risks any cooperation he’d offer would pose to powerful people.

The Mueller Report Was Neither about Collusion Nor about Completed Investigation(s)

In the days since BuzzFeed released a bunch of backup files to the Mueller Report, multiple people have asserted these 302s are proof that Robert Mueller did an inadequate investigation, either by suggesting that the information we’re now seeing is incredibly damaging and so must have merited criminal charges or by claiming we’re seeing entirely new evidence.

I’ve had my own tactical complaints about the Mueller investigation (most notably, about how he managed Mike Flynn’s cooperation, but that might be remedied depending on how Emmet Sullivan treats Sidney Powell’s theatrics).  But I have yet to see a complaint that persuades me.

You never know what you can find in the Mueller Report if you read it

Let’s start with claims about how the release revealed details we didn’t previously know. Virtually all of these instead show that people haven’t read the Mueller Report attentively (though some don’t understand that two of the six interview reports we’ve got record someone lying to Mueller, and all are interviews of human beings with imperfect memories). Take this Will Bunch column, which claims that Rick Gates’ claims made in a muddled April 10, 2018 interview reveal information — that Trump ordered his subordinates to go find Hillary emails — we didn’t know.

Rick Gates, the veteran high-level political operative who served as Donald Trump’s deputy campaign manager in 2016, told investigators he remembers exactly where he was — aboard Trump’s campaign jet — when he heard the candidate’s desires and frustrations over a scheme to defeat Hillary Clinton with hacked, stolen emails boil over. And he also remembered the future president’s exact words that day in summer 2016.

Gates’ disclosure to investigators was a key insight into the state of mind of a campaign that was willing and eager to work with electronic thieves — even with powerful foreign adversaries like Russia, if need be — to win a presidential election. Yet that critical information wasn’t revealed in Mueller’s 440-page report that was supposed to tell the American public everything we needed to know about what the president knew and when he knew it, regarding Russia’s election hacking.

The passage in question comes from an interview where a redacted section reflecting questions about what Gates knew in May 2016 leads into a section on “Campaign Response to Hacked Emails.” What follows clearly reflects a confusion in Gates’ mind — and/or perhaps a conflation on the part of the campaign — between the emails Hillary deleted from her server and the emails stolen by Russia. The passage wanders between these topics:

  • People on the campaign embracing the Seth Rich conspiracy
  • Don Jr asking about the emails in “family meetings
  • The campaign looking for Clinton Foundation emails
  • Interest in the emails in April and May, before (per public reports) anyone but George Papadopoulos knew of the stolen emails
  • The June 9 meeting
  • Trump exhibiting “healthy skepticism” about some emails
  • The anticipation about emails after Assange said they’d be coming on June 12
  • The fact that the campaign first started coordinating with the RNC because they had details of upcoming dates
  • RNC’s media campaigns after the emails started coming out
  • Trump’s order to “Get the emails” and Flynn’s efforts to do so
  • Details of who had ties to Russia and the Konstantin Kilimnik claim that Ukraine might be behind the hack
  • China, Israel, Kyrgyzstan
  • Gates never heard about emails from Papadopoulos
  • Sean Hannity

This seems to be more Gates’ stream of consciousness about emails, generally, then a directed interview. But Gates’ claim that 1) he didn’t know about emails from Papadopoulos but nevertheless 2) was party to discussions about emails in April and May is only consistent with some of these comments pertaining to Hillary’s deleted emails.

Once you realize that, then you know where to look for the “Get the emails” evidence in the Mueller Report: in the description of Mike Flynn making extensive efforts to get emails — albeit those Hillary deleted.

After candidate Trump stated on July 27, 2016, that he hoped Russia would “find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump asked individuals affiliated with his Campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails.264 Michael Flynn-who would later serve as National Security Advisor in the Trump Administration- recalled that Trump made this request repeatedly, and Flynn subsequently contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails.265

264 Flynn 4/25/18 302, at 5-6; Flynn 5/1/18 302, at 1-3.

265 Flynn 5/1/18 302, at l-3.

The footnotes make it clear that in the weeks after Mueller’s team heard from Gates that Flynn used his contacts to search for emails, they interviewed Flynn several times about that effort, only to learn that that incredibly damning effort to find emails involved potentially working with Russian hackers to find the deleted emails. And to be clear: Bunch is not the only one confused about this detail–several straight news reports have not been clear about what that April 10 interview was, as well.

A November 5, 2016 email from Manafort — which the newly released documents show Bannon wanting to hide that Manafort remained a campaign advisor — is another thing that actually does show up in the Mueller Report, contrary to claims.

Later, in a November 5, 2016 email to Kushner entitled “Securing the Victory,” Manafort stated that he was “really feeling good about our prospects on Tuesday and focusing on preserving the victory,” and that he was concerned the Clinton Campaign would respond to a loss by “mov[ing] immediately to discredit the [Trump] victory and claim voter fraud and cyber-fraud, including the claim that the Russians have hacked into the voting machines and tampered with the results.”937

In other words, there is little to no evidence that the most damning claims (save, perhaps, the one that RNC knew of email release dates, though that may not be reliable) didn’t make the Report.

The Mueller Report is an incredibly dense description of the details Mueller could corroborate

The FOIAed documents are perhaps more useful for giving us a sense of how dense the Mueller Report is. They show how several pages of notes might end up in just a few paragraphs of the Mueller Report. The entirety of the three Gates’ interviews released Saturday, for example, show up in just four paragraphs in the Mueller Report: two in Volume I describing how the campaign made a media campaign around the leaks and how Trump once told him on the way to the airport that more emails were coming.

And two paragraphs in Volume II repeating the same information.

Worse still, because the government has released just six of the 302s that will be aired at the Roger Stone trial starting this week, much of what is in those interviews (undoubtedly referring to how Manafort and Gates coordinated with Stone) remains redacted under Stone’s gag order, in both the 302 reports and the Mueller Report itself.

Shocked — shocked!! — to find collusion at a Trump casino

Then there are people who read the 302s and were shocked that Mueller didn’t describe what the interviews show to be “collusion” as collusion, the mirror image of an error the denialists make (up to and including Bill Barr) in claiming that the Mueller Report did not find any collusion.

As I’ve pointed out since March 2017, this investigation was never about collusion. Mueller was tasked to report on what crimes he decided to charge or not, so there was never a possibility he was going to get into whether something was or was not collusion, because that would fall outside his mandate (and the law).

Worse still, in his summary of the investigation, Barr played a neat game where he measured “collusion” exclusively in terms of coordination by the campaign itself with Russia. It was clear from that moment — even before the redacted report came out — that he was understating how damning Mueller’s results would be, because Roger Stone’s indictment (and communications of his that got reported via various channels) made it crystal clear that he at least attempted to optimize the releases, but that involved coordination — deemed legal in part out of solid First Amendment concerns — with WikiLeaks, not Russia, and so therefore wouldn’t be covered by Barr’s narrow definition of “collusion.”

Of late, I’ve found it useful to use the definition of “collusion” Mark Meadows used in a George Papadopoulos hearing in 2018. In an exchange designed to show that in an interview where George Papadopoulos lied about his ongoing efforts to cozy up to Russia his denial that Papadopoulos, the coffee boy, knew about efforts to benefit from Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails, Meadows called that — optimizing the Clinton releases — “collusion.”

Mr. Papadopoulos. And after he was throwing these allegations at me, I —

Mr. Meadows. And by allegations, allegations that the Trump campaign was benefiting from Hillary Clinton emails?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Something along those lines, sir. And I think I pushed back and I told him, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. What you’re talking about is something along the lines of treason. I’m not involved. I don’t know anyone in the campaign who’s involved. And, you know, I really have nothing to do with Russia. That’s — something along those lines is how I think I responded to this person.

Mr. Meadows. So essentially at this point, he was suggesting that there was collusion and you pushed back very firmly is what it sounds like. [my emphasis]

One of the President’s biggest apologists has stated that if the campaign did make efforts to optimize the releases, then they did, in fact, collude.

The Roger Stone trial, which starts Tuesday, will more than meet that measure. It astounds me how significantly the previews of Stone’s trials misunderstand how damning this trial will be. WaPo measures that Mueller failed to find anything in Roger Stone’s actions, which is not what even the indictment shows, much less the Mueller Report or filings submitted in the last six months.

The Stone indictment suggests that what prosecutors found instead was a failed conspiracy among conspiracy theorists, bookended by investigative dead ends and unanswered questions for the team of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

And MoJo hilariously suggests we might only now, in the trial, establish rock solid proof that Trump lied to Mueller, and doesn’t even account for how some of its own past reporting will be aired at the trial in ways that are far more damning than it imagines.

Here’s why I’m certain these outlets are underestimating how damning this trial will be.

Along with stipulating the phone and email addresses of Erik Prince and Steve Bannon (meaning communications with them could be entered into evidence even without their testimony, though Bannon has said he expects to testify), the government plans to present evidence pertaining to four direct lines to Trump and three to his gatekeepers.

One way prosecutors will use this is to show that, when Trump told Rick Gates that more emails were coming after getting off a call he got on the way to Laguardia, he did so after speaking directly to Roger Stone. They’ll also date exactly when a call that Michael Cohen witnessed happened, after which Trump said the DNC emails would be released in upcoming days got put through Rhona Graff.

It’s not so much that we’ll get proof that Trump lied to Mueller (and not just about what he said to Stone), though we will absolutely get that, but we’ll get proof that Trump was personally involved in what Mark Meadows considers “collusion.”

The Mueller Report and the ongoing criminal investigations

Both Mueller critics and denialists are also forgetting (and, in some cases, obstinately ignorant) about what the Mueller Report actually represented.

We don’t know why Mueller submitted his report when he did — though there is evidence, albeit not yet conclusive, that Barr assumed the position of Attorney General planning to shut the investigation down (indeed, he even has argued that once Mueller decided he could not indict Trump — which was true from the start, given the OLC memo prohibiting it — he should have shut the investigation down).

A lot has been made of the investigative referrals in the Mueller Report, of which just 2 (Cohen and Greg Craig) were unredacted. We’ve seen just one more of those thus far, the prosecution of George Nader for child porn, a prosecution that may lead Nader to grow more cooperative about other issues. Some of the (IMO) most revealing details in the weekend’s dump were b7ABC FOIA exemptions for materials relating to Alexander Nix and Michael Caputo. Normally, that redaction is used for upcoming criminal prosecutions, so it could be that Nix and Caputo will have a larger role in Stone’s trial than we know. But it also may mean that there is an ongoing investigation into one or both of them.

In addition, investigations of some sort into at least three of Trump’s aides appear to be ongoing.

It is a fact, for example, that DOJ refused to release the details of Paul Manafort’s lies — covering the kickback system via which he got paid, his efforts to implement the Ukraine plan pitched in his August 2, 2016 meeting, and efforts by another Trump flunkie to save the election in the weeks before he resigned — because those investigations remained ongoing in March. There’s abundant reason to think that the investigation into Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman and Rudy Giuliani, whether it was a referral from Mueller or not, is the continuation of the investigation into Manafort’s efforts to help Russia carve up Ukraine to its liking (indeed, the NYT has a piece on how Manafort played in Petro Poroshenko’s efforts to cultivate Trump today).

It is a fact that the investigation that we know of as the Mystery Appellant started in the DC US Attorney’s office and got moved back there (and as such might not even be counted as a referral). What we know of the challenge suggests a foreign country (not Russia) was using one of its corporations to pay off bribes of someone.

It is a fact that Robert Mueller testified under oath that the counterintelligence investigation into Mike Flynn was ongoing.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Since it was outside the purview of your investigation your report did not address how Flynn’s false statements could pose a national security risk because the Russians knew the falsity of those statements, right?

MUELLER: I cannot get in to that, mainly because there are many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Currently?

MUELLER: Currently.

That’s consistent with redaction decisions made both in the Mueller Report itself and as recently as last week.

It is a fact that when Roger Stone aide Andrew Miller testified, he did so before a non-Mueller grand jury. When Miller’s lawyer complained, Chief Judge Beryl Howell reviewed the subpoena and agreed that the government needed Miller’s testimony for either investigative subjects besides Stone or charges beyond those in his indictment. Indeed, one of the most interesting aspects of Mueller’s statement closing his investigation is the way it happened as Miller was finally agreeing to testify, effectively ensuring that it would happen under DC, not Muller.

Again, these are all facts. No matter how badly Glenn Greenwald desperately wants to — needs to — spin knowing actual facts about ongoing investigations as denial, it is instead basic familiarity with the public record (the kind of familiarity he has never bothered to acquire). At least as of earlier this year — or last week! — there has been reason to believe there are ongoing investigations into three of Trump’s closest advisors and several others who helped him get elected.

At least two of those investigations continue under grand juries, impaneled in March 2019, that Chief Judge Beryl Howell can extend beyond January 20, 2021.

Why Mueller closed up shop

Nevertheless, it is indeed the case that Mueller closed his investigation after producing a report that showed abundant obstruction by the President, but stated that his investigation “did not establish” that the Trump campaign engaged in coordination or conspiracy with Russia, including regarding a quid pro quo.

In particular, the investigation examined whether these contacts involved or resulted in coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia providing assistance to the Campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future. Based on the available information, the investigation did not establish such coordination.

I’d like to end this post with speculation, one not often considered by those bitching about or claiming finality of the Mueller investigation.

In his closing press conference, Mueller emphasized two things: he saw his job as including “preserving evidence” against the President, and he noted that under existing DOJ guidelines, the President cannot be charged until after he has been impeached.

First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting President because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents are available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could now be charged.

And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.

In Mueller’s explanation of why he didn’t hold out for an interview with Trump, he said that he weighed the cost of fighting for years to get that interview versus the benefit of releasing a report  with “substantial quantity of information [allowing people] to draw relevant factual conclusions on intent and credibility” when he did.

Beginning in December 2017, this Office sought for more than a year to interview the President on topics relevant to both Russian-election interference and obstruction-of-justice. We advised counsel that the President was a ” subject” of the investigation under the definition of the Justice Manual-“a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.” Justice Manual § 9-11.151 (2018). We also advised counsel that”[ a]n interview with the President is vital to our investigation” and that this Office had ” carefully considered the constitutional and other arguments raised by . .. counsel, and they d[id] not provide us with reason to forgo seeking an interview.” 1 We additionally stated that “it is in the interest of the Presidency and the public for an interview to take place” and offered “numerous accommodations to aid the President’s preparation and avoid surprise.”2 After extensive discussions with the Department of Justice about the Special Counsel’s objective of securing the President’s testimony, these accommodations included the submissions of written questions to the President on certain Russia-related topics. 3

[snip]

Recognizing that the President would not be interviewed voluntarily, we considered whether to issue a subpoena for his testimony. We viewed the written answers to be inadequate. But at that point, our investigation had made significant progress and had produced substantial evidence for our report. We thus weighed the costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, with resulting delay in finishing our investigation, against the anticipated benefits for our investigation and report. As explained in Volume II, Section H.B., we determined that the substantial quantity of information we had obtained from other sources allowed us to draw relevant factual conclusions on intent and credibility, which are often inferred from circumstantial evidence and assessed without direct testimony from the subject of the investigation.

I take that to mean that Mueller decided to end the investigation to prevent Trump’s refusals to testify to delay the release of the report for two years.

In his testimony, Mueller agreed, after some very specific questioning from former cop Val Demings, that Trump was not truthful in his answers to Mueller.

DEMINGS: Director Mueller, isn’t it fair to say that the president’s written answers were not only inadequate and incomplete because he didn’t answer many of your questions, but where he did his answers show that he wasn’t always being truthful.

MUELLER: There — I would say generally.

She laid out what I have — that Trump refused to correct his lies about Trump Tower Moscow, as well as that he obviously lied about his coordination on WikiLeaks. So lies are one of the things the Mueller Report documents for anyone who reads it attentively.

But Trump’s obstruction extends beyond his lies. His obstruction, as described in the Report, included attempts to bribe several different witnesses with pardons, including at minimum Manafort, Flynn, Cohen, and Stone (those aren’t the only witnesses and co-conspirators the evidence shows Mueller believes Trump bribed with promises of pardons, but I’ll leave it there for now).

So here’s what I think Mueller did. I suspect he ended his investigation when he did because he was unable to get any further so long as Trump continued to obstruct the investigation with promises of pardons. So long as Trump remains President, key details about what are egregious efforts to cheat to win will remain hidden. The ongoing investigations — into Manafort and Stone, at a minimum, but possibly into others up to and including the President’s son — cannot go further so long as any prosecutorial effort can be reversed with a pardon.

That said, some of those details will be revealed for the first time starting this week, in the Stone trial. And, if the Parnas and Fruman influence operation is, indeed, related to Manafort’s own, then Trump’s personal criminal involvement in that influence operation is being revealed as part of a parallel impeachment inquiry.

Which is to say that I suspect Mueller got out of the way to allow investigations that cannot be fully prosecuted so long as Trump remains President to continue, even as Congress starts to do its job under the Constitution. And Congress has finally started doing so.

The Guy Who Defended Roger Stone’s Campaign Finance Shenanigans Did Not Testify to the Grand Jury

In response to an order from DC Chief Judge Beryl Howell, the government has revealed the two witnesses of interest to Congress who did not testify to the grand jury. The first, Don Jr, should not surprise anyone who has been following closely, as that was clear as soon as the Mueller Report came out.

The other–Don McGahn–is far more interesting, especially since he was interviewed on five different occasions: November 30, December 12, December 14, 2017; March 8, 2018; and February 28, 2019.

Most likely, the reason has to do with privilege, as McGahn’s testimony, more than almost anyone else’s, implicated privilege (in part because many witnesses’ testimony cut off at the transition). McGahn ended up testifying far more than Trump knew, and it’s possible he did that by avoiding a subpoena, but had he been subpoenaed, it would provide the White House opportunity to object.

Elizabeth De la Vega said on Twitter it likely had to do with how valuable McGahn was in his five interviews. By not making him testify to the grand jury, she argued, you avoid creating a transcript that might undermine his credibility in the future. That’s certainly consistent with the Mueller Report statement finding McGahn to be “a credible witness with no motive to lie or exaggerate given the position he held in the White House.” But that reference is footnoted to say, “When this Office first interviewed McGahn about this topic, he was reluctant to share detailed information about what had occurred and only did so after continued questioning.” Plus, while McGahn testified more than any other witness not under a cooperation agreement, Steve Bannon and Hope Hicks testified a bunch of times, too (four and three times respectively), but were almost certainly put before the grand jury.

But there is a different, far more intriguing possibility.

First, remember that Roger Stone was investigated for more than lying to Congress (indeed, just the last four warrants against him, all dating to this year, mentioned just false statements and obstruction). Which crimes got named in which warrants is not entirely clear (this government filing and this Amy Berman Jackson opinion seem to conflict somewhat). Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)(C), was named in all Stone’s warrants before this year. But at least by August 3, 2018, the warrants against Stone listed a slew of other crimes:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 3 (accessory after the fact)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 4 (misprision of a felony)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy)
  • 18 U.S.C. §§ 1505 and 1512 (obstruction of justice)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1513 (witness tampering)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (wire fraud)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (attempt and conspiracy to commit wire fraud)
  • 52 U.S.C. § 30121 (foreign contribution ban)

For whatever reason, the government seems to have decided not to charge CFAA (if, indeed, Stone was the actual target of that investigation). They may have given up trying to charge him for encouraging or acting as an accessory after the fact.

The Mueller Report explains — albeit in mostly redacted form — what happened with the 52 U.S.C. § 30121 investigation. First Amendment and valuation concerns about a prosecution led Mueller not to charge it, even though he clearly seemed to think the stolen emails amounted to an illegal foreign campaign donation.

But that leaves wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. During the month of August 2018, DOJ obtained at least 8 warrants relating to Stone including wire fraud. Beryl Howell — who in her order requiring the government unseal McGahn’s name, expressed puzzlement about why Don McGahn didn’t testify before the grand jury — approved at least five of those warrants. Rudolph Contreras approved one and James Boasberg approved two. So apparently, very late in the Stone investigation, three different judges thought there was probable cause Stone and others engaged in wire fraud (or tried to!).

And it’s not just those judges. Roger Stone’s aide, Andrew Miller, was happy to testify about WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0. But at least when his subpoena first became public, he wanted immunity to testify about the campaign finance stuff he had done for Stone.

Miller had asked for “some grant of immunity” regarding financial transactions involving political action committees for which he assisted Stone, according to Alicia Dearn, an attorney for Miller.

On that issue, Miller “would be asserting” his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions, Dearn said.

I’d like to consider the possibility that McGahn, Donald Trump’s campaign finance lawyer before he became White House counsel, was happy to testify about Trump’s attempt to obstruct justice, but less happy to testify about campaign finance issues.

Mind you, McGahn is not one of the personal injury lawyer types that Stone runs his campaign finance shenanigans with. Whatever else he is, McGahn is a professional, albeit an incredibly aggressive one.

That said, there are reasons it’s possible McGahn limited what he was willing to testify about with regards to work with Stone.

At Roger Stone’s trial the government plans (and has gotten permission) to introduce evidence that Stone lied about one additional thing in his HPSCI testimony, one that wasn’t charged but that like one of the charged lies, involves hiding that Stone kept the campaign in the loop on something.

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

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

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

It sounds like Stone cleared up this testimony (Stone sent two letters to HPSCI in 2018, and one of those would have come after Steve Bannon testified about emails that included a Stone demand that Rebekah Mercer provide him funding), which may be why he didn’t get charged on that front.

As I’ve suggested, if Stone was actively trying to deny that the work of his PACs had any interaction with the Trump campaign, it might explain why he threatened to sue me when I laid out how McGahn’s continued work for Trump related to Stone’s voter suppression efforts in 2016.

And remember: when Stone aide Andrew Miller did finally testify — after agreeing to at virtually the moment Mueller announced he was closing up shop — he did so before a new grand jury, after Beryl Howell agreed with prosecutors that they were in search of evidence for charges beyond what Stone had already been indicted on or against different defendants.

McGahn’s campaign finance work for Stone and Trump is one of the things he’d have no Executive Privilege claims to protect (though barring a showing of crime-fraud exception, he would have attorney-client privilege), since it all happened before inauguration.

Again, there are lot of more obvious explanations for why he didn’t testify before the grand jury. But we know that Mueller investigated these campaign finance issues, and we know McGahn was right in the thick of them.

The Problem with Letting the Client-in-Chief Rewrite Impeachment Strategy Mid-Week

Daily Beast confirms something I asserted in this post. Trump wrote the intemperate letter that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone signed his name to (with help from Rudy Giuliani, before Rudy started looking down the gun of indictment for conspiracy).

It was crafted, in large part, by President Donald Trump himself.

According to two people familiar with the process, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone had multiple meetings with President Trump in the days leading up to the issuance of the letter. During those meetings with Cipollone, the president would get especially animated when names such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee leading the probe into the whistleblower complaint, came up. The sources said that Trump enthusiastically suggested adding various jabs at Democratic lawmakers and would request that their “unfair” treatment of him be incorporated into the letter.

The result was what Bob Bauer, who served as President Obama’s White House counsel, called a “remarkable” and “extraordinarily political document.”

Trump had also privately consulted on the letter with Rudy Giuliani, his notably pugnacious personal lawyer who is at the center of the Ukraine and Biden-related scandal engulfing the administration. Trump talked to Giuliani about how he and the White House should proceed in fighting back and challenging the legitimacy of the impeachment probe, one of the sources noted.

The problem with this (well, one problem) is precisely the one I noted in my post.

The tell — for those teams of well-compensated journalists treating this as a factual document — might have been the addressees. While the letter got sent to Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel, and Elijah Cummings, it did not get sent to Jerry Nadler, who has been pursuing an impeachment inquiry of sorts since the Mueller Report came out. The White House knows Nadler is also part of the impeachment inquiry, because even as the White House was finalizing the letter, Trump’s DOJ was in DC Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s courtroom fighting a House Judiciary request for materials for the impeachment inquiry.

While Trump had Cipollone address the letter to all the Democratic Chairs he was furious at, at that moment, he did not address it to Jerry Nadler, who also has been pursuing impeachment. There’s perhaps good reason why Cipollone didn’t send it to Nadler: because none of the claims made about the Adam Schiff-led Ukraine-related impeachment inquiry are true of the Nadler-led Russia and other corruption led impeachment inquiry, which has tried accommodation, has allowed lawyers to cite White House equities in interviews, and included public hearings.

Indeed, even as Trump was writing this letter and making Cipollone sign it, Trump’s DOJ was arguing an entirely different strategy before DC’s Chief Judge Beryl Howell, effectively arguing that because Nadler was being so accommodating, DOJ could not be forced to turn over grand jury testimony.

The result is a rather significant whiplash to DOJ’s legal strategy with HJC. On Tuesday, in an apparent effort to convince Judge Howell that DOJ was not obstructing HJC’s requests for FBI 302s, which don’t have the protections of the grand jury, they (apparently for the first time) suggested that HJC was going to get most of the 302s they were asking for, including the 302s for two of the guys defending against turning them over, DAAG James Burnham and AAG Jody Hunt, both of whose names are on these filings.

The Department currently anticipates making the remaining FBI-302’s available under the agreed upon terms as processing is completed, so long as they do not adversely impact ongoing investigations and cases and subject to redaction and potential withholding in order to protect Executive Branch confidentiality interests. These include, in alphabetical order (1) Stephen Bannon; (2) Dana Boente; (3) James Burnham; (4) James Comey; (5) Annie Donaldson; (6) John Eisenberg; (7) Michael Flynn; (8) Rick Gates; (9) Hope Hicks; (10) Jody Hunt; (11) Andrew McCabe; (12) Don McGahn; (13) Reince Priebus; (14) James Rybicki; (15) Jeff Sessions. In addition, the Committee requested the FBI-302 for the counsel to Michael Flynn, which also has not yet been processed.

Last night, however, they submitted filings that suggested that because Congress is pursuing impeachment their prior offer for accommodation may no longer be valid.

Finally, as explained in the Department’s filing of October 8, 2019, and its September 13, 2019 response to the Committee’s Application, in early June, the Department agreed to provide to the Committee access to certain FBI-302s in order to accommodate its oversight responsibilities following the Committee’s issuance of a subpoena in April and subsequent letter in May. As further noted in paragraph two of the Department’s Tuesday filing, that agreement includes confidentiality provisions that significantly limit the use and dissemination of information that the Committee accesses. The Department has consistently viewed this agreement as part of the accommodation process in connection with the Committee’s oversight activities. As the Court is aware, subsequent to the filing of this application regarding Rule 6(e) materials, the Speaker of the House stated publicly that, in her view, the House of Representatives has now commenced an impeachment inquiry (in addition to its regular oversight responsibilities). To the extent the Committee now believes future productions in this process are part of that impeachment inquiry, that implicates very different issues for the Executive Branch as a whole–as set forth by the White House in its letter of Tuesday, October 8, 2019, to the Speaker and Chairmen of three committees. The Department and the Committee have not yet discussed whether they may need to amend the current agreement to ensure appropriate handing by the Committee in order for the accommodation process to continue as anticipated. The Department will work diligently with the Committee to resolve this issue and to continue a productive accommodation process.

Effectively, on Tuesday morning DOJ argued that HJC was wrong, their request was not part of an impeachment inquiry, in part because it was so accommodating, so it couldn’t have any grand jury material. Two days later, however, DOJ is saying the very same cooperative process has become an impeachment inquiry that — in spite of Jerry Nadler being excluded from the recipients of Cipollone’s letter — DOJ now considers an impeachment inquiry, and so DOJ won’t comply because other parts of Congress are playing hardball.

Heads I win and you can’t have grand jury materials, tails you lose and you can’t have grand jury materials, is effectively the argument here.

That, and (as noted) DOJ is now claiming that US v Nixon is not binding precedent.

This is what happens when you let the Client-in-Chief do all the lawyering.

DOJ Suddenly Decides It Can Share the McCabe, Comey 302s with Congress

After DOJ asserted to DC Chief Judge Beryl Howell that US v. Nixon would be decided differently today, the judge instructed the parties fighting over whether DOJ will share the grand jury materials from the Mueller investigation with Congress to get busy. She set of bunch of short deadlines to determine the validity of DOJ’s claims to secrecy. As part of that, she had DOJ explain which FBI 302s (interview reports) it had shared of those the House Judiciary Committee requested, then had HJC fact check that list.

According to HJC, DOJ’s declaration alerted them, for the first time, that some of the redactions in 302s were made to protect “Executive Branch confidentiality,” a claim they’ll move to challenge.

Although DOJ discussed the bases for redaction in its Supplemental Submission and at the October 8, 2019 hearing, see DOJ Supp. Sub. ¶ 4; Hr’g Tr. 48-49 (Oct. 8, 2019), none of the bases for redactions are listed or otherwise indicated on the FBI-302 reports reviewed by the Committee. Instead, portions of the FBI-302 reports are simply blacked out without any explanation. During the Committee’s on-site reviews of the FBI-302 reports and in calls between Committee and DOJ officials, the Committee has repeatedly requested that DOJ specifically identify the complete set of bases for its redactions. The Committee still has not received this information as to any of the FBI-302 reports it has reviewed. While the Committee is generally aware that there were redactions for personally identifiable information, until the discussion during yesterday’s hearing and in DOJ’s Supplemental Submission, the Committee was unaware, for example, that the bases for redactions included either “Executive Branch confidentiality interests,” DOJ Supp. Sub. ¶ 4, or “presidential communications,” Hr’g Tr. 48:19- 20 (Oct. 8, 2019).

The more interesting revelation from the exchange, however, pertains to whether or not DOJ was going to supply all 302s, and which ones they might suppress. As DOJ explains, it has given HJC 302s for 17  of the 33 people they asked for (though the Rob Porter and Uttam Dhillon 302s were mostly redacted):

The Committee requested FBI-302s for 33 individuals. To date the Department has provided access to the FBI-302s of 17 of those individuals, several of whom had multiple interviews. Those individuals are (in alphabetical order): (1) Chris Christie, (2) Michael Cohen (six separate FBI-302s); (3) Rick Dearborn; (4) Uttam Dhillon; (5) John Kelly; (6) Jared Kushner; (7) Cory Lewandowski; (8) Paul Manafort (seven separate FBI-302s); (9) Mary McCord; (10) K.T. McFarland (five separate FBI-302s); (11) Stephen Miller; (12) Rob Porter (two separate FBI-302s); (13) Rod Rosenstein; (14) Christopher Ruddy; (15) Sarah Sanders; (16) Sean Spicer; (17) Sally Yates.

But it has thus far withheld 302s from a group of others.

The Department currently anticipates making the remaining FBI-302’s available under the agreed upon terms as processing is completed, so long as they do not adversely impact ongoing investigations and cases and subject to redaction and potential withholding in order to protect Executive Branch confidentiality interests. These include, in alphabetical order (1) Stephen Bannon; (2) Dana Boente; (3) James Burnham; (4) James Comey; (5) Annie Donaldson; (6) John Eisenberg; (7) Michael Flynn; (8) Rick Gates; (9) Hope Hicks; (10) Jody Hunt; (11) Andrew McCabe; (12) Don McGahn; (13) Reince Priebus; (14) James Rybicki; (15) Jeff Sessions. In addition, the Committee requested the FBI-302 for the counsel to Michael Flynn, which also has not yet been processed.

It’s an interesting list to withhold.

Hicks, of course, was privy to a great deal (including Trump’s effort to lie about the June 9 meeting), and her testimony about certain communications during the campaign was actually fairly revealing.

At least two of these may be withheld for the pendency of the Roger Stone trial; both Steve Bannon and Rick Gates will be witnesses, and Mike Flynn’s discussions of WikiLeaks may come up as well.

These 302s (and Dhillon’s heavily redacted one) cover virtually all of the White House’s side of discussions not to fire Mike Flynn right away after discovering he lied about his call with Sergey Kislyak: James Burnham, John Eisenberg, Don McGahn, and Reince Priebus, and of course Flynn himself, were all key players in that. Of course, Eisenberg (who’s the lawyer who decided to hide the records on Trump’s call to Volodymyr Zelensky) was involved in other acts that might indicate obstruction, including advising KT McFarland not to create a false record about what Flynn said. And McGahn was involved in much else (and might even have been asked about Stone’s campaign finance issues, which McGahn represented him on, and the awareness of the Trump campaign about will be an issue at Stone’s trial). But I find it acutely interesting that DOJ is withholding a bunch of records that will make it clear how damning Trump’s reluctance to fire Flynn was, even as Flynn attempts a propaganda driven effort to give Trump an excuse to pardon him.

Then there are the 302s pertaining to the recusal of Jeff Sessions and firing of Jim Comey (and immediate pressure on Andrew McCabe). Those include Comey himself, McCabe, Rybicki, Hunt, Sessions, and Dana Boente. The fact that DOJ has been withholding these (and it’s suggestion that there are ongoing investigations) is really sketchy: it suggests that DOJ may have been withholding really damning 302s from Congress so it can decide whether to indict McCabe and — presumably — wait for DOJ IG to finish its investigation of the FISA orders some of these men approved. In other words, DOJ has been releasing one after another damning claim against Comey and McCabe, but withholding evidence about why they might be targeted.

It’s also noteworthy that Boente and McGahn’s memory regarding an effort McGahn made to shut down the Russian investigation is one of the greatest conflicts of testimony in the entire Mueller Report.

The 302s DOJ has been withholding also happens to include 302s of current DOJ officials. Boente is the FBI General Counsel. More alarmingly, Jody Hunt runs the Civil Division and Burnham is his Deputy. These are the men directing the DOJ effort to make breathtaking claims about impeachment, and they’re hiding their own actions in the investigation about which Congress is considering impeachment.

But, having been asked by Howell what the state of affairs is, DOJ has now decided that they’re going to turn over 302s they previously had suggested they might withhold. HJC expressed some surprise about the sudden change of plans.

With respect to the outstanding FBI-302 reports, the Committee was surprised but encouraged by DOJ’s statement in its supplemental filing that it “currently anticipates making the remaining FBI-302s available.” DOJ Supp. Sub. ¶ 5. The Committee had previously understood from its recent communications with DOJ that DOJ’s production was nearing completion and that there were only a limited number of remaining documents that DOJ would disclose.

It will be interesting if and when HJC obtains these records to see how DOJ tried to protect itself.

Update: I’m reminded of two things. First, as I copied out this URL, I recalled that Turkey, along with Russia, would have known that he lied about his calls with Sergey Kislyak.

Also, in the government’s most recently filing in the Mike Flynn case, they revealed that he had not been in possession of the interview reports from between the time he was initially interviewed and the time he pled guilty.

Based on filings and assertions made by the defendant’s new counsel, the government anticipates that the defendant’s cooperation and candor with the government will be contested issues for the Court to consider at sentencing. Accordingly, the government will provide the defendant with the reports of his post-January 24, 2017 interviews. The government notes that the defendant had counsel present at all such interviews.

This suggests that the government was withholding reports that would make it clear that Flynn continued to lie, even after he lawyered up.

The Press Gets Utterly Snookered on the White House Rebranding of the Same Old Unrelenting Obstruction of Congressional Prerogatives

Yesterday, the White House sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi and just some of the Committee Chairs conducting parts of an impeachment inquiry into the President, purporting to refuse to participate in that impeachment inquiry. Since then, there has been a lot of shocked coverage about how intemperate the letter is, with particular focus on the fact that White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, used to be considered a serious lawyer. There has been some attempt to analyze the letter as if it is a legal document and not instead the President’s rants packaged up in Times Roman and signed by one of his employees. A number of outlets have thrown entire reporting teams to do insipid horse race coverage of the letter, as if this is one giant game, maybe with nifty commercials on during halftime.

None I’ve seen have described the letter as what it is: an attempt to rebrand the same old outright obstruction that the White House has pursued since January.

The tell — for those teams of well-compensated journalists treating this as a factual document — might have been the addressees. While the letter got sent to Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel, and Elijah Cummings, it did not get sent to Jerry Nadler, who has been pursuing an impeachment inquiry of sorts since the Mueller Report came out. The White House knows Nadler is also part of the impeachment inquiry, because even as the White House was finalizing the letter, Trump’s DOJ was in DC Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s courtroom fighting a House Judiciary request for materials for the impeachment inquiry. In the hearing, DOJ literally argued that the Supreme Court’s 8-0 US v. Nixon was wrongly decided.

Howell picked up on that point by pressing DOJ to say whether then-U.S. District Court Chief Judge John Sirica was wrong in 1974 to let Congress access a detailed “road map” of the Watergate grand jury materials as it considered President Richard Nixon’s impeachment.

Shapiro argued that if the same Watergate road map arose today, there’d be a “different result” because the law has changed since 1974. She said the judge wouldn’t be able to do the same thing absent changes to the grand jury rules and statutes.

Howell sounded skeptical. “Wow. OK,” she replied.

DOJ also argued that Congress would have to pass a law to enshrine the principle that this binding Supreme Court precedent already made the law of the land.

In the HJC branch of the impeachment inquiry, the few credible claims made in yesterday’s letter — such as that Congress is conducting the inquiry in secret without the ability to cross-examine witnesses or have Executive Branch lawyers present — are proven utterly false. And with the claims made in yesterday’s hearing, the Executive demonstrated that they will obstruct even measured requests and negotiations for testimony.

The Trump White House obstructed normal Congressional oversight by absolutely refusing to cooperate.

The Trump White House obstructed an impeachment inquiry focused on requests and voluntary participation.

The Trump White House obstructed an impeachment inquiry where subpoenas were filed.

The Trump White House obstructed an impeachment inquiry relying on whistleblowers who aren’t parties to the White House omertà.

The Trump White House obstructed what numerous judges have made clear are reasonable requests from a co-equal branch of government.

Nothing in the White House’s conduct changed yesterday. Not a single thing. And any journalist who treats this as a new development should trade in her notebooks or maybe move to covering football where such reporting is appropriate.

It is, however, a rebranding of the same old unrelenting obstruction, an effort to relaunch the same policy of unremitting obstruction under an even more intransigent and extreme marketing pitch.

And that — the need to rebrand the same old obstruction — might be worthy topic of news coverage. Why the White House feels the need to scream louder and pound the table more aggressively is a subject for reporting. But to cover it, you’d go to people like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, who already seem to be preparing to explain votes against the President. You even go to people like Lindsey Graham, who is doing ridiculous things to sustain Rudy Giuliani’s hoaxes in the Senate Judiciary Committee — but who has condemned the principle of making the country dramatically less safe for whimsical personal benefit in Syria. Or you go to Richard Burr, who quietly released a report making it clear Russia took affirmative efforts to elect Trump in 2016.

This week, Trump looked at the first few Republicans getting weak in the knees and his response was to double down on the same old policies, while rolling out a campaign trying to persuade those weak-kneed members of Congress who are contemplating the import of our Constitution not to do so.

The President’s former lawyer testified earlier this year, under oath, that this has always been a branding opportunity to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the “greatest infomercial in political history.”

His latest attempt to cajole Republican loyalty is no different. It’s just a rebranding of the same intransigence. Treating it as anything but a rebranding is organized forgetting of what has taken place for the last nine months, and journalists should know better.

Beryl Howell’s Whack-a-Mole Grand Juries

Coverage of the May 29 court hearing that led Roger Stone aide Andrew Miller to testify before a different grand jury describes how his attorney, Paul Kamenar, tried to argue it would be an abuse of the grand jury, because Stone has already been indicted. But after prosecutors (including former Mueller prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky) explained why they needed Miller’s testimony ex parte, Howell upheld the contempt order. (See also CNN and ABC’s coverage.)

Miller, of St. Louis, was on speakerphone Wednesday for the hearing at which U.S. District Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell denied a last-ditch motion by Miller’s attorney, Paul D. Kamenar, to block his client’s grand jury appearance.

Kamenar argued it is an abuse of grand jury process for prosecutors to seek pretrial testimony from a witness about a subject who has already been indicted, also noting that Mueller has issued his final report.

[snip]

Howell said it was long-settled law that prosecutors can properly obtain grand jury testimony to develop additional charges against an indicted target, or to investigate individuals not yet facing charges. Prosecutors can also use evidence against Stone in his pending November trial if it was collected incidentally and not the primary focus of Miller’s questioning, she said.

“The government is not abusing the grand jury process in this case, and the government has need of Mr. Miller’s testimony,” Howell ruled from the bench, upholding her August contempt finding when Miller failed to testify.

“If Mr. Miller does not appear before the grand jury on Friday, he will be in contempt and there will be an arrest warrant issued for him. Do you understand, Mr. Miller?” Howell asked.

“Yes, your honor,” Miller answered over speakerphone.

Prosecutors told the judge in a sealed bench conversation about the ongoing matters in which they seek Miller’s help, but not before Kamenar said that in a May 6 email prosecutors confirmed that one question would regard “what work he did for Stone from 2016 on.”

Presumably, Howell would have known (because she has presided over Mueller’s grand jury from the start) that Miller would testify before a different grand jury.

We now know that Howell had a similar conversation over two months earlier in a hearing (starting at PDF 166) in the Mystery Appellant’s somewhat successful effort to withhold information the government wanted about a state-owned bank. At the hearing, DC Assistant US Attorney Zia Faruqui had replaced Zainab Ahmad as lead prosecutor on the issue (he had started to take over earlier in March, certainly by March 21).

Howell started the hearing by asking why the subpoena was still pending given that Mueller had announced the end of his investigation a week earlier.

Howell: [T]he first question I am going to ask the Government is in the last paragraph of their reply which is: What are we doing here? Why isn’t this whole matter over as of 5 p.m., March 22, when Mr. Mueller delivered his report?

Faruqui: Your Honor, I can say with absolute certainty that the case is robust, ongoing; we are working within our office. The matter was transferred back in fact to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We have met numerous times with agents. We have reviewed materials, and our plan is to go forward with our investigative steps. We are in constant communication with the special counsel’s office.

It’s very different, I think, to the outside world; but, within the Government, theoretically we are one Government. One AUSA may leave, one prosecutor; but, when there is a case of this import, there is no reason that it would stop because a separate focused matter has been presented with a letter and report.

In response, Howell makes it very clear that this subpoena — for which she would have seen abundant sealed description — was originally presented to her as part of the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election, which leads her to be really confused about why the government would still need the information.

Howell: Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but this matter was presented to the Court as one part of the investigation into whether there was Russian influence with the 2016 election, presidential election; and that’s been resolved by the — at least the summary of the special counsel’s report. So there are other aspects of that investigation that led in other directions. So I thought this part — this particular subpoena and leg of the investigation was also related precisely to what Mr. Mueller said he resolved in his report delivered at 5 p.m. on March 22.

So are you saying that this is a different aspect of this investigation related to different inquiries than that?

Faruqui: Yes. That’s correct, Your Honor. I am happy to approach. I think it’s —

Howell: Well, there’s been nothing submitted that — in the Government’s opposition papers that provides any detail about how these records have continuing relevancy to something subject to investigation by the grand jury to warrant continued fines to coerce additional compliance, which we’re going to get to in a minute, or whether there is anything all relevant to an ongoing grand jury investigation from these records that the Government’s continuing to seek.

Faruqui then explains that this matter started in the DC US Attorney’s Office, got bumped to Mueller, and has now been passed back to DC.

Faruqui: So if we can have an opportunity now, or we can refer to portions of the ex parte prior affidavits of the special counsel, I think we can either now or file supplemental briefing to Your Honor to try to further elucidate that. Certainly, the special counsel’s remit, I think, allowed them to take this investigation in.

The investigation initially came into our office and was passed to the special counsel at that time because I think there was a question within the realm of their remit. However, I think it’s very clear I think the matter —

Howell: So are you saying that this investigation started with the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office, spent some time within the special counsel’s jurisdiction, so to speak, and is now being given back to the U.S. Attorney’s Office?

Faruqui describes the investigation as being very time consuming and resource-intensive.

Faruqui: That is correct, Your Honor. And it does in fact involve issues that have not or are in any way close to being resolved and very much is a live issue that requires, I think, a great deal of resources, time, and attention by the Government, which is why we believe the subpoena is in fact still a live controversy that requires, I think, a great of [sic] deal resources, time, and attention by the Government, which is why we believe the subpoena is in fact still a live controversy that requires contempt because it goes to the core of the question in this investigation.

Howell: All right. Well, before I got the Government’s opposition, I didn’t know whether the Government’s opposition was going to be, oh, forget the whole thing. I have read all of the ex parte filings, and I am puzzled.

Faurqui: We can supplement —

Howell: What’s still going on here?

Faruqui: We can certainly supplement, Your Honor, with an additional ex parte supplement that will go into greater detail explaining what is being investigated and how it is in no way resolved by what may or may not be in the Mueller report or in AG Barr’s letter to Congress and the public.

These are live issues that require immediate attention from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and from which the grand jury — because the grand jury matter is still alive and being thoroughly investigated, we require the Court to intervene and assist us as we try to force the contemnor to comply fully with our subpoena.

Howell then makes sure the government still is really using a grand jury and Faruqui — in a detail that probably parallels and precedes what happened with Stone’s case — explains that they’re still using the existing grand jury but plan to move onto a new one when the Mueller one expires.

Howell: So you are still presenting evidence to this grand jury that was being used by the special counsel’s office?

Faruqui: We — yesterday, anticipating that the grand jury may or may not — what its life cycle is, it’s a little unclear.

Howell: Well, I am very aware of its life cycle.

Faruqui: We are unaware. I apologize, Your Honor, Yes. It’s your grand jury; you certainly know.

We are trying to sort those issues out with the special counsel. However, we have reopened it yesterday in the grand jury, understanding that the current grand juries that are soon to expire; but with the intention that, when those expire, we will reopen a new one. We do plan to seek additional records, both in — and, potentially, additional testimony as well.

This exchange has significance beyond the Mystery Appellant matter, to Stone and (because the government insists there is are ongoing investigations pertaining to the stuff covered in Paul Manafort’s plea breach hearing) Manafort as well. This case might not even be considered a referral in Mueller’s report, given that it started in DCUSAO. But from Faruqui’s description — and Mystery Appellant’s invocations, at times, to only being bound by Presidential sanctions and turning this into a diplomatic incident — this is a very significant and serious investigation.

Howell, having read multiple secret filings that led her to believe this was about Russian interference in the US election, got really confused after reading Bill Barr’s 4-page memo declaring victory and then learning that something this big, that must, in some way, relate to Russian interference, is still pending.

Aside from being a testament to just how misleading Barr’s memo was, that such confusion was possible for someone privy to the details of the investigation should focus far more attention on the limited scope of Barr’s exonerations. They pertain just to Russian election interference (not, say, graft), and just conspiring with the Russian government (though, if it’s a Russian bank, the Mystery Appellant clearly counts as that). And even the election-related events continue only through the Transition, not afterwards.

The Mueller Investigation is over and Trump has declared victory, but it appears that what Mueller achieved was protecting significant aspects of it long enough to see them metastasize to new grand juries.

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. 

What the Stone Search Warrants Suggest about the Ongoing Investigation into Him

In a filing opposing Roger Stone’s effort to suppress the fruits of 18 searches against him, the government lays out some details about the investigation into Stone that — especially combined with reports of Andrew Miller’s testimony yesterday — provide some idea of how the investigation into Stone evolved. Here’s how the government describes the 18 search warrants against Stone.

Between August 2017 and February 2019, the government obtained eighteen search warrants for electronic facilities and properties related to Roger Stone. Doc. 109, Exs. 1-18. Many of these search warrants were issued in the District of Columbia by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell. Doc. 109, Exs. 1-10, 16, 18. Three warrants were issued in the District by other district judges. See Ex. 11 (Judge Contreras); Ex. 12-13 (Judge Boasberg). Others were issued by magistrate judges in other districts. Exs. 14 (S.D.N.Y); Exs. 15, 17 (S.D. Fl.).

Fourteen of the affidavits (“the 1030 warrant affidavits”) allege probable cause that the search will yield evidence of a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030, which makes it a crime to “intentionally access[] a computer without authorization or exceed[] authorized access and thereby obtain[]…information from any protected computer.” 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)(C). See Exs. 1- 13, 18. In brief, each of these affidavits (at a minimum) states that Stone communicated with the Twitter account Guccifer 2.0 about hacked materials Guccifer had posted. Each affidavit states that on June 15, 2016, Guccifer 2.0 publicly claimed responsibility for the hack of the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”). Each affidavit states that Organization 1 published materials stolen from the DNC in the hack. Each affidavit describes Stone’s communications (including his own public statements about them) with Guccifer 2.0, Organization 1, and the head of Organization 1. Each affidavit submits that, based on those communications, there was probable cause to believe that evidence related to the DNC hack would be found in the specified location. Many of these affidavits contain additional evidence alleging probable cause to believe evidence will be found of violations of additional crimes, including 18 U.S.C. § 3 (accessory after the fact); 18 U.S.C. § 4 (misprision of a felony); 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy); 18 U.S.C. §§ 1505 and 1512 (obstruction of justice); 18 U.S.C. § 1513 (witness tampering); 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (wire fraud); 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (attempt and conspiracy to commit wire fraud), and 52 U.S.C. § 30121 (foreign contribution ban). See, e.g., Exs. 7-13 (all crimes). Stone raises no arguments regarding these other crimes.

In addition, four of the affidavits (the “false statement warrant affidavits”), issued close in time to Stone’s indictment, allege probable cause that the search will yield evidence of false statements, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering. See Exs. 14-17. Those affidavits set forth evidence supporting the allegations in the indictment that Stone made false statements in his September 2017 testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (“HPSCI”), obstructed ongoing investigations, and tampered with a witness.

The warrants laid out may look something like this: [Note: per this ABJ opinion, this is not correct; Stone’s lawyers did not list the warrants in order.]

  1. Beryl Howell, August 2017, CFAA
  2. Beryl Howell, CFAA
  3. Beryl Howell, CFAA
  4. Beryl Howell, CFAA
  5. Beryl Howell, CFAA
  6. Beryl Howell, CFAA
  7. Beryl Howell, CFAA: include “all crimes” (18 U.S.C. § 3 (accessory after the fact); 18 U.S.C. § 4 (misprision of a felony); 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy); 18 U.S.C. §§ 1505 and 1512 (obstruction of justice); 18 U.S.C. § 1513 (witness tampering); 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (wire fraud); 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (attempt and conspiracy to commit wire fraud), and 52 U.S.C. § 30121 (foreign contribution ban)
  8. Beryl Howell, CFAA: includes “all crimes”
  9. Beryl Howell, CFAA: includes “all crimes”
  10. Beryl Howell, CFAA: ¶¶ 35-40 discuss Stone’s communications with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange: includes “all crimes”
  11. Rudolph Contreras, CFAA: ¶ 24 discusses private Twitter message between Stone and Guccifer 2.0: includes “all crimes”
  12. James Boasberg, CFAA: includes “all crimes”
  13. James Boasberg, CFAA: includes “all crimes”
  14. SDNY, January 2019, False Statements
  15. SDFL, January 2019, False Statements
  16. Beryl Howell, January 2019, False Statements
  17. SDFL, January 2019, False Statements
  18. Beryl Howell, February 2019, CFAA and False Statements: ¶¶ 64-77 relate to Stone’s conversations with Randy Credico

A May 14, 2019 Amy Berman Jackson minute order demanding that Stone clean up the first iteration of an exhibit list reveals that there were some warrants obtained in August 2018, which may be those from the other DC District judges (and which may suggest they did not come from Mueller’s grand jury, or maybe that Howell took a vacation in August last year).

The Court notes that defendant’s Search Warrant Exhibit, Dkt. 101 (sealed), purports to be a list of the search warrants attached to the motion, but the list lacks exhibit numbers, and the order of the items listed does not correspond to what was actually provided. For instance, the first item on the list indicates that one of the warrants included in the motion was a warrant for the search of defendant’s former home issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, but neither that warrant nor the application has been supplied to the Court. Also, the Search Warrant Exhibit lists warrants issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on August 3, 2018 to three recipients, but only two warrants issued on that date were submitted to the Court (with one of them being filed twice). Finally, a search warrant issued by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on August 8, 2018 was filed with the Court but not listed on the Search Warrant Exhibit.

Even though Stone was listed among those Richard Burr told the White House Counsel’s Office on March 16, 2017 that the FBI was investigating, the government did not obtain a search warrant on him until August 2017. Probably, the government started with searches of Stone’s Twitter accounts.

If the warrants are listed in temporal order in Stone’s exhibit (which seems likely given the timing), then it appears that for 13 months, the government pursued Stone for some involvement in the actual hack and leak, with various theories implicating him in the crime, including conspiracy, accessory after the fact, and misprison of a felony.

It appears that got the government to the point where they were trying to get Jerome Corsi to explain how he and Stone learned that WikiLeaks would release John Podesta’s emails. Then he went all Jerome Corsi on the government, and appears to have diverted the investigation, such that the government finalized the false statements, obstruction, and witness tampering indictment currently being prosecuted, but moved away from charging a CFAA-related crime.

It appears likely the government got warrants for his properties in NY and FL and some other facilities in advance of his arrest on January 25. The additional warrant in Florida may reflect a search of a phone or other devices obtained in the raid.

Then (again assuming Stone’s cleaned up exhibit is temporal) there’s a February 2019 warrant, again from Howell (so presumably Mueller’s grand jury). The timing of this may coincide with the threat Stone issued against ABJ herself, possibly including a warrant to Instagram. And/or it could be a follow-up warrant based off something (such as previously unknown devices) discovered in the January 25 searches.

Yesterday, Andrew Miller finally testified after his year long attempt to avoid doing so. He reportedly testified about his relationship with Stone, Stone’s movements and schedule at the 2016 RNC, and Miller’s relationship since then. Given that prosecutors may have returned to their pursuit of a CFAA related case against Stone in February, there may be something about the RNC that they’ve been trying to pin down.

The Mueller Report seems to have a section, starting at Volume I page 176, explaining why distributing stolen emails isn’t a crime, which is consistent with what Barr has said publicly. It clearly has a section, starting at Volume I page 188, explaining why having stolen emails released for you is not an illegal campaign gift. The latter section clearly includes significant discussion of Stone. But given what this description of warrants shows, the first section might, as well.

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

Two Factors that May Change the Impeachment Calculus, Part Two: Criminalizing a Roger Stone Pardon

In this post, I described how recent developments in Michael Cohen’s case give Congress a number of reasons to use it as a basis for impeachment. The neat fit of so many details might affect the calculus on whether Democrats carry out an impeachment inquiry on Trump.

In this post, I’ll point to a cynical electoral reason to begin impeachment: to prevent Trump from preempting Stone’s pre-election trial which, if it takes place in November 2019 as scheduled, will be utterly damning to the President. Don’t get me wrong — Democrats should move to stop Trump from using pardons to suborn perjury as a basic rule of law thing. But the timing of Stone’s trial and the extent to which it will implicate the President makes that imperative electorally beneficial for Democrats as well.

Even as currently charged, Stone’s case implicates the President directly

As I’ve noted, because everything in the Mueller Report pertaining to Roger Stone got redacted to (appropriately) preserve Stone’s right to a fair trial, lots of details on how Trump himself was involved in pushing Stone to optimize the WikiLeaks releases is redacted.

[I]t seems highly likely that some of the information in these redacted passages is stuff that would only prejudice Stone’s case by raising the import of it to Trump.

Consider, for starters, that (unless I’m mistaken) not a word from Stone’s indictment appears in this Report. [For example,] the indictment makes it clear that Stone was talking to the campaign about WikiLeaks releases.

ROGER JASON STONE, JR. was a political consultant who worked for decades in U.S. politics and on U.S. political campaigns. STONE was an official on the U.S. presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) until in or around August 2015, and maintained regular contact with and publicly supported the Trump Campaign through the 2016 election.

During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about Organization 1 and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. STONE was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organization 1.

[snip]

By in or around June and July 2016, STONE informed senior Trump Campaign officials that he had information indicating Organization 1 had documents whose release would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. The head of Organization 1 was located at all relevant times at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, United Kingdom.

After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1.

We see outlines of precisely who those references are to in the report.

Most notably, after describing Trump’s enthusiasm after Stone told Trump while Michael Cohen was listening on the speaker phone that the DNC emails would drop in a few days just before they did (which Cohen described in his testimony to Oversight), these two paragraphs, appear to to describe Manafort and Trump’s enthusiasm after the DNC release, with Manafort telling both Stone directly and Gates that he wanted to be kept informed via Stone of what was coming. And having gotten some indication of what was coming, the campaign started making plans to optimize those releases. It appears that Gates, like Cohen before him, witnessed a Stone-Trump call where the rat-fucker told the candidate what was coming.

These pages also have more background about how important all this was to Trump, who was frustrated that Hillary’s deleted emails hadn’t been found (something also told, in Flynn’s voice, in the Peter Smith section).

The references to Stone in these passages may well be appropriately redacted. But the descriptions of conversations between Trump and Manafort or Gates should not impact Stone’s defense — unless you want to argue that Trump’s personal involvement in Stone’s rat-fucking might change the deliberations for a jury. They don’t serve to hide Stone’s actions. They hide Trump’s enthusiasm for using materials stolen by Russia to win.

So the part of the 2016 operation that clearly amounted to coordination but was not charged because of First Amendment considerations, and the part of the 2016 operation for which (perhaps because witnesses learned it would not be charged as a conspiracy) there’s the most evidence of Trump’s direct involvement, remains hidden from view out of concerns for Stone’s due process rights.

Right now, Stone’s trial is scheduled to start on November 5. A recent status report on Rick Gates’ cooperation makes it clear he is likely to be a witness at Stone’s trial. While Gates’ testimony is probably not necessary to prove that Stone lied to HPSCI, it would be useful to explain Stone’s motive: significantly, protecting Trump.

If Andrew Miller’s testimony leads to new charges, the tie to Trump may be still more damning

Tuesday, the DC Circuit Court issued its final order in Stone associate Andrew Miller’s challenge to a grand jury subpoena.

Yesterday — technically minutes after Mueller’s press conference announcing the investigation was completed and he’s going home — Judge Beryl Howell rejected another attempt by Miller to challenge the subpoena. Multiple outlets report that he has agreed to testify Friday at 9:30.

Miller’s testimony Friday is premised on potential new charges against Stone and before Howell rejected Miller’s challenge, Aaron “Zelinsky and Jonathan Kravis from the US Attorney’s Office in DC told the judge privately why they still needed Miller.”

Last night, Howell released some of the details behind Miller’s most recent challenge. Along with a useful timeline from Miller’s lawyers on their challenge, it makes it pretty clear that prosecutors are still looking for information on (as Miller lawyer Paul Kamenar describes it) “Roger Stone’s actions during the 2016 election and his involvement in WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s and the DNC’s emails and any collusion with Russia” or (as Aaron Zelinsky has described it), “Roger Stone’s connection to WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, Guccifer 2.0, Russia.”

In other words, it appears that prosecutors might still indict Stone with new crimes pertaining to the core issues that were under investigation.

That’s one reason I find the timing of Mueller’s announcement so interesting. The Howell hearing yesterday was technically after Mueller’s statement finished. I don’t know when yesterday’s announcement will become official, but it would seem to be final before Friday’s Miller grand jury appearance.

That would mean any charges that former Mueller prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky (as well as DC AUSA Jonathan Kravis, who has picked up the bulk of the ongoing matters from Mueller’s team) might decide to pursue after Friday would be subject neither to the logic of the Mueller investigation — which decided not to charge Stone for some WikiLeaks-related crimes in part based on First Amendment considerations, nor to the direct supervision of Attorney General Barr.

As I’ve noted, the logic EDVA used in its superseding indictment of Assange is in direct conflict with the logic Mueller used in deciding that WikiLeaks’ and Trump’s “wish lists” for Hillary emails do not establish a basis for a conspiracy charge in the same way WikiLeaks’ wish list for classified materials was used. That might mean that decisions made after Miller’s testimony Friday would work out differently than decisions on Stone’s charges in January. Mueller’s off the case. It’s DC US Attorney Jesse Liu’s decision now.

All of which is to say, even assuming Friday’s testimony doesn’t lead to new charges, unless Trump finds a way to pre-empt Stone’s trial, it will mean some of the most damning information about Trump’s involvement in what Mueller didn’t charge as conspiracy but which by most definitions would count as “collusion” will get aired less than a year before the 2020 election.

Given how rock solid that Stone indictment is, there are just two ways to avoid that: for Stone to flip on Trump or others (though prosecutors are unlikely to give Stone a deal without vetting his claims after the way Paul Manafort abused the process, and it would be too late to flip on Assange). Or for Trump to pardon Stone.

Some of the clearest evidence of obstruction of justice in the Mueller Report pertains to Trump floating pardons, including a 2.5 page redacted passage (Volume II pages 128-130) pertaining to Stone himself. Even Bill Barr says it would be a crime to float pardons to prevent someone from testifying truthfully. Note, too, that Mueller asked Trump whether he considered pardoning Assange before he was inaugurated (to which Trump gave a typically contemptuous non-answer), and Stone was involved in an attempt to pardon Assange as recently as January 2018, which has been the subject of Mueller’s questioning.

The political hit from a Stone trial — and the kind of pardon-related obstruction that Barr himself conducted to kill the Iran-Contra investigation — might well be enough for Trump to prefer the political hit of pardoning Stone. Democrats have one way of altering that calculus to ensure the Stone trial — with all the damning details of Trump’s actions it’ll reveal — happens as scheduled.

While I’m not, at all, a fan of gaming trials for political effect, the fact of the matter is that if Stone’s trial goes forward, it would present as damning a case against Trump’s cheating as any impeachment trial could do. But to ensure that happens, Democrats need to make it clear that pardoning his way out of this will incur even greater costs for the President.

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 Trump Men and the Grand Jury Redactions

Much of the discussion over the Mueller Report in the last day has centered on two questions: Why didn’t Mueller force both Donald Trumps to testify?

That discussion, however, has largely not taken notice of two redactions of grand jury materials. The first comes on page 117, at the beginning of the discussion of the June 9 meeting. After saying that the office had spoken with every participant of the meeting save Natalia Veselnitskaya and Don Jr, it explains that the President’s son would not testify voluntarily, which is followed by a grand jury redaction.

Update: Here’s a second instance where discussion of Jr’s testimony is redacted for grand jury reasons.

One likely explanation for these redactions is that they explain the Special Counsel’s consideration of subpoenaing the failson to appear before the grand jury. They might say, for example, that the grand jury did subpoena him, but that he invoked the Fifth. They might say they considered it but decided not to upon being told that he would invoke the Fifth.

The report does say (page 5 of Volume I) that some people invoked the Fifth but weren’t given immunity.

Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination and were not, in the Office’s judgment, appropriate candidates for grants of immunity.

There’s one other possible explanation for the redaction: It might say they decided against subpoenaing him since he was a target of the investigation (and given the very narrow statements about findings of criminal conspiracy, it’s possible his later conduct is still under investigation).

The second redaction comes on page 13 of the obstruction volume, in the discussion of attempts to get the President to provide testimony. After stating that the Special Counsel tried to get Trump to sit for a voluntary interview, only to have Trump stall for more than a year, there’s a redacted sentence or two.

The discussion explaining that the office had the authority and legal justification to call the President is not redacted. That suggests the redacted line must pertain to something actually involving the grand jury itself — perhaps a characterization of the discussion with the grand jurors about the issue or maybe even something noting that the grand jurors did want to subpoena the President.

Update: Here’s a second instance of a redacted grand jury discussion.

In other words, for both the Trump men, there remains an open question about how they dodged testifying about their actions. These two redactions are two of the things Bill Barr is protecting by refusing to ask Chief Judge Beryl Howell to approve sharing of grand jury material with the House Judiciary Committee, as is constitutionally proper. Given how little grand jury material we’re actually discussing, it is all the more problematic that Barr is hiding these two passages even while claiming — as he did yesterday — that the President fully cooperated with the investigation.

We don’t know why Mueller didn’t call Don Jr to testify, and we don’t know whether the grand jury wanted to force the President to testify.

Those are two questions, however, that House Judiciary Committee is in a constitutionally proper position to demand to know.

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.