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Bill Barr’s Attempt to Corrupt EDNY May Have Saved the Republic

Almost all of the witnesses the January 6 Committee has relied on are deeply conflicted people. The same Trump attorney, Justin Clark, who allegedly coached Steve Bannon to withhold information from the Committee about communications with Rudy Giuliani and Mike Flynn appeared on video claiming to have qualms about using fake electors in states where the campaign did not have an active legal challenge. Ivanka claimed to believe Bill Barr’s claims that voter fraud couldn’t change the election, but the Committee just obtained video of her saying otherwise. And Bill Barr himself has gotten credit for fighting Trump’s false claims of voter fraud even though he spent months laying the groundwork for those claims by attacking mail-in ballots.

But yesterday’s hearing was something else.

After Liz Cheney invited watchers to imagine what it would be like to have a DOJ that required loyalty oaths from lawyers who work there — a policy that Alberto Gonzales had started to implement in the Bush-Cheney Administration — Adam Kinzinger led former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue through a narrative about the Republican Party and the Department of Justice they might like to belong to.

The whole thing was a flashback. In May 2007, I was tipped off to cover Jim Comey’s dramatic retelling of the first DOJ effort to push back on Presidential — and Vice Presidential, from Liz Cheney’s father — pressure by threatening to quit. Only years later, I learned how little the 2004 Hospital Hero stand-off really achieved. So I’m skeptical of yesterday’s tales of heroism from the likes of Jeff Rosen and Steve Engel.

But that’s also because their record conflicts with some of the things they said.

For example, check out what Engel — someone who played an absolutely central role in Bill Barr’s corruption of the Mueller investigation, and who wrote memos that killed the hush payment investigation into Trump and attempted to kill the whistleblower complaint about Volodymyr Zelenskyy — had to say about politicization of investigations.

Kinzinger: Mr. Engel, from your perspective, why is it important to have a [White House contact] policy like Mr. Rosen just discussed?

Engel: Well, it’s critical that the Department of Justice conducts its criminal investigations free from either the reality or any appearance of political interference. And so, people can get in trouble if people at the White House are speaking with people at the Department and that’s why, the purpose of these policies, is to keep these communications as infrequent and at the highest levels as possible just to make sure that people who are less careful about it, who don’t really understand these implications, such as Mr. Clark, don’t run afoul of those contact policies.

Or consider how Special Counsels were described, as Kinzinger got the witnesses to discuss how wildly inappropriate it would have been to appoint Sidney Powell to investigate vote fraud. Here’s how Engel explained the limited times there’d be a basis to appoint one:

Kinzinger: So during your time at the Department, was there ever any basis to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate President Trump’s election fraud claims?

Engel: Well, Attorney General Barr and [inaudible] Jeffrey Rosen did appoint a Special Counsel. You would appoint a Special Counsel when the Department — when there’s a basis for an investigation, and the Department, essentially, has a conflict of interest.

Engel is presumably referring to John Durham with that initial comment. But Durham fails both of those tests: there was never a basis for an investigation, and for most of the time Durham has been Special Counsel, he’s been investigating people outside the Department that present absolutely no conflict for the Department. [Note: it’s not clear I transcribed this properly. The point remains: Rosen and Barr appointed a Special Counsel that violated this standard.]

In other words, so much of what Engel and Rosen were describing were abuses they themselves were all too happy to engage in, up until the post-election period.

Which is why I’m so interested in the role of Richard Donoghue, who moved from EDNY to Main Justice in July 2020, to be replaced by trusted Bill Barr flunkie Seth DuCharme. It happened at a time when prosecutors were prepared to indict Tom Barrack, charges that didn’t end up getting filed until a year later, after Merrick Garland and Lisa Monaco had been confirmed. The 2020 move by Barr looked just like other efforts — with Jessie Liu in DC and Geoffrey Berman in SDNY — to kill investigations by replacing the US Attorney.

That is, by all appearances, Donoghue was only the one involved in all these events in 2020 and 2021 because Barr was politicizing prosecutions, precisely what Engel claimed that DOJ, during his tenure, attempted to avoid.

That’s interesting for several reasons. First, in the context of explaining the January 3 stand-off in the White House, Donoghue described why environmental lawyer Jeffrey Clark was unqualified to be Attorney General.

Donoghue: Mr. President, you’re talking about putting a man in that seat who has never tried a criminal case. Who has never conducted a criminal investigation.

Well, neither had regulatory lawyer Jeffrey Rosen (or, for that matter, Billy Barr). That is, in explaining why Clark should not be Attorney General,  Donoghue expressed what many lawyers have likewise said about Barr, most notably during Barr’s efforts to undermine the Mike Flynn prosecution (the tail end of which Donoghue would have been part of, though DuCharme was likely a far more central player in that).

In the collective description of the showdown at the White House on January 3, it sounds like before that point, Donoghue was the first one who succeeded in beginning to talk Trump out of replacing Rosen, because it was not in Trump’s, or the country’s, interest.

Mr. President, you have a great deal to lose. And I began to explain to him what he had to lose. And what the country had to lose, and what the Department had to lose. And this was not in anyone’s best interest. That conversation went on for some time.

Donoghue also seems to have been the one to explain the impact of resignations in response to a Clark appointment.

Mr. President within 24, 48, 72 hours, you could have hundreds and hundreds of resignations of the leadership of your entire Justice Department because of your actions. What’s that going to say about you?

To be clear: Rosen would have pushed back in any case. As he described,

On the one hand, I wasn’t going to accept being fired by my subordinate, so I wanted to talk to the President directly. With regard to the reason for that, I wanted to try to convince the President not to go down the wrong path that Mr. Clark seemed to be advocating. And it wasn’t about me. There was only 17 days left in the Administration at that point. I would have been perfectly content to have either of the gentlemen on my left or right to replace me if anybody wanted to do that. But I did not want for the Department of Justice to be put in a posture where it would be doing things that were not consistent with the truth, were not consistent with its own appropriate role, or were not consistent with the Constitution.

But Rosen had already presided over capitulations to Trump in the past, including events relating to the first impeachment and setting up a system whereby Rudy Giuliani could introduce Russian-brokered disinformation targeting Joe Biden into DOJ, without exposing Rudy himself to Russian Agent charges. Repeatedly in yesterday’s hearing, I kept asking whether the outcome would have been the same if Donoghue hadn’t been there.

Plus, by all appearances, Donoghue was the one providing critical leadership in the period, including going to the Capitol to ensure it was secured.

Kinzinger: Mr. Donoghue, we know from Mr. Rosen that you helped to reconvene the Joint Session, is that correct?

Donoghue: Yes sir.

Kinzinger: We see here in a video that we’re going to play now you arriving with your security detail, to help secure the Capitol. Mr. Donoghue, thirty minutes after you arrived at the Capitol, did you lead a briefing for the Vice President?

Donoghue: I’m not sure exactly what the time frame was, but I did participate in a call and participate in a briefing with the Vice President as well as the Congressional leadership that night. Yes.

Kinzinger: Where’d you conduct that call at?

Donoghue: I was in an office, I’m not entirely sure where it was. My detail found it, because of the acoustics in the Rotunda were such that it wasn’t really conductive to having a call so they found an office, we went to that office, and I believe I participated in two phone calls, one at 1800 and one at 1900 that night, from that office.

Kinzinger: What time did you actually end up leaving the Capitol?

Donoghue: I waited until the Senate was back in session which I believe they were gaveled in a few minutes after 8PM. And once they were back in session and we were confident that the entire facility was secured and cleared — that there were no individuals hiding in closets, or under desks, that there were no IEDs or other suspicious devices left behind — I left minutes later. I was probably gone by 8:30.

Kinzinger: And Mr. Donoghue, did you ever hear from President Trump that day?

Donoghue: No. Like the AAG, the acting AG, I spoke to Pat Cipollone and Mark Meadows and the Vice President and the Congressional leadership but I never spoke to the President that day.

So it seems possible, certainly, that one of the few things that held DOJ together in this period is Donoghue, seemingly installed there as part of yet another Bill Barr plot to corrupt DOJ.

Congresswoman Cheney, who in her opening statement talked about how outrageous it was for Trump to demand that DOJ make an announcement about an investigation into voter fraud (but who voted against the first impeachment for extorting Volodymyr Zelenskyy for exactly such an announcement), ended the hearing by inviting those who had put their trust into Donald Trump to understand that he had abused that trust.

Junkets In Lieu of Investigation: John Durham Charged Ivan Danchenko without Ever Interviewing George Papdopoulos about Sergei Millian

Recently, Roger Stone invited George Papadopoulos onto his show to talk about how, even though Michael Sussmann was acquitted, it’s still proof of a grand conspiracy involving Hillary Clinton.

Stone invited Papadopulos to talk about how Durham and Billy Barr chased Papadopoulos’ conspiracy theories to Italy, which both the Rat-Fucker and the Coffee Boy seemed to take as proof that those conspiracies were true, even though Barr has publicly stated there was no there there.

The biggest news from Mr. Durham’s probe is what he has ruled out. Mr. Barr was initially suspicious that agents had been spying on the Trump campaign before the official July 2016 start date of Crossfire Hurricane, and that the Central Intelligence Agency or foreign intelligence had played a role. But even prior to naming Mr. Durham special counsel, Mr. Barr had come to the conclusion that he didn’t “see any sign of improper CIA activity” or “foreign government activity before July 2016,” he says. “The CIA stayed in its lane.”

Seemingly in hopes of finding details that Durham was ignoring, Stone asked Papadopoulos whether Durham had ever spoken to the Coffee Boy. Papadopoulos babbled for some time about his House testimony, then Stone followed up to get him to state that, no, Durham had never spoken to him.

Never.

Stone: You make a very good point. The fact that the Attorney General was on the trip means that he knows the origins of the Russian collusion fraud far earlier than other people realize. George, have you specifically met with either John Durham or representatives of his office to tell them what you know?

Papadopoulos: So, that’s a good question. In 2018, I was one of five witnesses who was invited by–under oath, behind closed doors–in front of the House Oversight Committee. And the other four witnesses, besides myself, were Rod Rosenstein, Sally Yates, uh, Jim Comey, and Loretta Lynch. Now, back in 2018, and there’s a Washington Post article, I think it’s called “Papadopoulos and Rosenstein about to testify behind closed doors,” back in 2018, people were scratching their heads, why on earth is George Papadopoulos one of four, one of five witnesses who is going to testify to both John Ratcliffe and Mark Meadows. Back then, obviously, before Mark Meadows was Chief of Staff at the White House and Ratcliffe was the head of DNI, they were Congressmen. They were in charge of the House Oversight Committee. During that testimony back then, both of those individuals who later served in senior White House, uh, Administrative capacities were asking me questions about wiretaps. They were asking me if I was being monitored while I was in Europe. They were asking me whether my lawyers were ever given so-called exculpatory information about any of, about Joseph Mifsud, any of these other type of operatives, both domestic and foreign. And I basically let them know, under oath, that I’m telling you. How I met him, what my background was, why I believe there was this target on my back, why I think it followed me all the way from the beginning, all the way until the summer of 2017, where they were, the FBI was trying to set me up while I was in Israel with this other bizarre exchange that I had, that I talk about in my book. So that testimony, I believe, was used with the Durham team, to help get this entire thing started, that’s how Durham and Barr flew to both to Rome, to talk to Italian intelligence services — not the FBI — to learn about Mifsud, and I believe — that’s why NBC has also been quoted as saying that Western intelligence officials have gone on the record and stated that it’s Papadopoulos’ breadcrumbs, if you want to call it that, that have led to Durham’s real conspiracy case that he’s trying to uh–

Stone: So, but to go to my direct question, have you had any direct contact with Durham or his office, or your attorneys?

Papadopoulos: No, I haven’t. No no no, no I haven’t. But my understanding is that that testimony, 2018, was used by the Durham, that’s my understanding.

This is fairly shocking — and damning news.

Papadopoulos’ testimony was not only not under oath (though committee staffers admonished the sworn liar not to do it to them), but it was a shitshow.

I’ve cataloged all the ways it was a shitshow below. But the fact that Billy Barr and Johnny D jumped on a plane together for their junket to Rome based off such a shitshow matters for two reasons.

First, it shows that they did no vetting of the conspiracy theories the Coffee Boy repeated in the hearing — which as I show below were really just rewarmed conspiracy theories parroted by John Solomon and Chuck Ross — before hopping on a plane for their junket. Importantly, one of those conspiracy theories was spread by Joseph Mifsud attorney Stephen Roh, who himself is suspected of sketchy ties to Russia.

The other reason it matters is because Durham’s Igor Danchenko prosecution treats Danchenko, whom the FBI found credible in 2017 and afterwards, as less credible than Sergei Millian. But George Papadopoulos, whose testimony Durham considered sufficiently credible to hop on a flight to Rome for, described Millian — in the context of details about his offer to hire him so long as he also worked in the Administration — as “a very shady kind of person.”

Q I guess there’s just one follow-up, because you said some kind of consultancy work for some — someone that Sergei Millian knew in Russia. What would have been the nature of that work? Like, what topic would the work have been on?

A My current understanding — and this is what I think it is, because this is a very shady kind of person — was that it was a former minister of some sort who had money and wanted to do PR work. But then, of course, we met in Chicago, and I felt that, you know, he was — I don’t know. I just felt that when he proposed this deal to me face-to-face that he might have been wearing some sort of wire. And he was acting very bizarre. And I don’t know what that was. Maybe I’m a paranoid person. But there were certain other events regarding Sergei Millian that made — that make me believe that he might have actually been working with the FBI.

Durham shouldn’t be able to have it both ways. If Papadopoulos’ testimony was deemed sufficiently credible, without any more vetting, to justify a taxpayer-paid trip to Rome, then his judgment that Millian is a “very shady person” the likes of whom might lie about a call with Igor Danchenko, then Durham should not rely on Millian’s unsworn Twitter ramblings for four charges against Danchenko.

In short, the fact that Durham hasn’t interviewed Papadopoulos at all, either before or after the junket, is yet more proof that Durham is hesitant to test any of his conspiracy theories with actual investigative work.


Catalog of Coffee Boy Testimony Shitshowery

One key piece of proof that Papadopoulos’ testimony before the Oversight Committee was a shitshow designed to elicit conspiracy theories about Mueller’s investigation rather than useful information is that the committee didn’t ask him for any emails or other records in advance — emails that Papadopoulos had earlier withheld from SSCI, with which request he only partly complied in 2019. Papadopoulos told the committee on at least 18 occasions he had emails or other records that would allow him to answer their questions — about when he joined the campaign, his communications with Olga Polanskaya, Joseph Mifsud, and Ivan Timofeev, his communications with Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Mike Flynn, KT McFarland, and Walid Phares, his communications with Sergei Millian, his meetings with Stefan Halper, his interactions with suspect Israelis — accurately, but that he couldn’t without those records. [Note the last several of these are out of order because I just kept finding more examples.]

1. Mr. Breitenbach. Is there any paperwork that you might have indicating when you actually began on the Trump campaign?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I believe we might have, we might have those emails.

Ms. Polisi. We have emails. We don’t have any official documentation.

Mr. Papadopoulos. I mean, if the emails would suffice, I think we have emails suggesting that I would be joining the campaign on this day, or Sam Clovis was telling me you’re on board, good job, or something like that.

[snip]

2. And I remember I even — where I’m going at is I don’t think I was talking to the same person [Olga Polanskaya]. That’s what I’m trying to say.

Q When you say talking?

A I mean writing back and forth.

Q By email? By text?

A Email. Email. And I remember there was even a point I messaged this person on Skype. And I said, are you the same person that I met a couple months ago or so? You know, it was just very odd. I think I, you know, I wrote that to her on Skype. Nevertheless, I think we could provide these emails of my interactions with this individual and Joseph Mifsud. What it seems was going on was that Mifsud was using her as some sort of Russian face or person.

[snip]

3. I could get into the details about what was going on with [Ivan Timofeev] or however —

Q Sure. A So I saw him as potentially the person that could, you know, introduce not only me, but the campaign to the people in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then act as the key point man for this potential Trump-Putin submit. We exchanged emails. We could provide those emails to you.

[snip]

4. Q Did you arrange for anyone else to travel to Russia? Let’s just keep it specifically —

A Yeah.

Q — based on your contacts with Mifsud at this point.

A Yes. I reached out directly to Paul Manafort, you know, and Corey Lewandowski and the top — the heads of the campaign, and openly told them I’m trying to arrange this. I mean, they were fully aware of what I was doing. This is all in emails. I’m not sure if you have those emails. I’m happy to provide them to you. That I’m trying to set up this meeting. Are we interested or are we not interested.

[snip]

5. Mr. Meadows. Are you indicating that there are some things that were reported that are not accurate?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s a kind way to say it. Okay. Let’s go back to April. I can’t remember exact dates in April, but April, and maybe we can send emails and when could corroborate certain things. I’m in talks with an Israeli diplomat named Christian Cantor, who was introduced to me through, I guess a friend at the Israeli embassy in D.C. named Dore Shapiro, who was an economic counselor. And you have to remember I was very connected to Israel and what was going on. So that was my network.

[snip]

6. Q So how often was that, would you say? Like how often would you be sending an email? I mean, I know it’s a rough estimate, but —

A It depends on the timing. I mean, there was a point where it was very frequent, and then I took a pause, then started up again. I can’t give a number. I really can’t. But there’s a lot of emails, and those are all documented.

Q Okay. So when the transition started, you said that you became introduced to Michael Flynn and K.T. McFarland.

A Over email.

Q Over email.

[snip]

7. Q And what was that project that you were discussing with Sergei Millian?

A Well, this — I never properly understood exactly what we were talking about. I believe I was asking him for a contract. And I have to go back, and I could share notes later on, but I — just giving off my current memory, that he wanted to do some sort of PR or consultancy for a friend of his or somebody that he knew in Russia. And I believe the terms of the agreement would have been $30,000 a month and some sort of office space and in New York. But then I felt that he wasn’t who he seemed to be and that he was working on behalf of somebody else when he was proposing this to me. And — I mean, we could get into that.

[snip]

8. Q With regard to Olga, you mentioned that she discussed sanctions with you in your correspondence. Does that ring a bell?

A I believe she did over email.

Q And what was the position on sanctions that she expressed over email?

A I can’t remember exactly, but we are happy to share them with — we have those emails in case you don’t. And are more than happy to share them with you.

[snip]

9. Q Did [Timofeev] correspond with you about any geopolitical issues in email?

A We certainly exchanged some emails. I can’t remember exactly what’s in those emails, but I’m more than happy to provide them to the committee.

[snip]

10 and 11. Q I’d also like to ask you about some of the communications that you referenced earlier with Trump campaign officials. You said earlier that you provided notes on President Trump’s — then candidate Trump’s big foreign policy speech to Stephen Miller?

A Yes.

Q What was the substance of those comments?

A I can’t remember but I’m more than happy to share them, because it is all in an email form.

Q And you said that you communicated with Steve Bannon by email as well. Is that right?

A Yes.

Q Would you be —

A Email and a couple of phone calls. What was that?

Q Would you be willing to share those emails with Steve Bannon with us as well?

A I’m more than happy to share whatever emails I have with the campaign with the committee.

[snip]

12. Q You mentioned a number of emails where both of you would have been copied. Did you and Mr. Phares have any direct communication just the two of you?

A We met face to face at the TAG Summit. And then we obviously met at the March 31st meeting. And I can’t remember if we met another time in person or not. But we certainly were in correspondence for months over email.

Q Did you discuss your efforts to set up the Putin-Trump meeting with Mr. Phares?

A I’m not sure he was copied on those particular emails, but I could send whatever emails I have with him to the committee. It’s fine with me.

[snip]

13. Q Did you reach out to anyone on the Trump campaign that day?

A That particular day? Like, I think, Steve Bannon, you know, just to say we did it or something like that. I can’t — like I said, I could provide all these emails, I just don’t know. I really can’t remember exactly what I did on that specific day.

[snip]

14. A Sergei Millian reached out to me out of the blue on LinkedIn around sometime in late July 2016. I can’t remember exactly how he presented himself, but he basically stated that he’s an American of Belarusian origin who worked for Trump or his organization, and he could be helpful in understanding the U.S.-Russia relationship, and he might be a good person to get to know. So I thought this was probably one of Trump’s people and he’s reaching out to me. That’s a good sign. I have the message somewhere. I could always present it to the committee here. And then we met shortly after that in New York.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. Do you know when in July of 2016, what the date was?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think it was around July 22nd. Mr. Meadows. And do you recall the date that you actually met with him?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I’m not even 100 percent sure of exactly the day in July. I could always go back in my records and provide that.

Mr. Meadows. That would be helpful. Those dates would be helpful, but when did you meet with him, in July or in August?

[snip]

15. You explained previously that Mr. — that Professor Mifsud had a connection to and introduced you to Ivan Timofeev. Is that right? A Via email, yes.

Q And did he explain at the time what the purpose of that introduction was?

A I assume he did. I just can’t remember exactly the language, the specific language of the introduction. But I have those emails and am more than happy to share that — those interactions with the committee.

[snip]

16. A I — as I’ve stated, I never met Timofeev in my life face-to-face, so I’m just trying to go back in my memory to see if he actually copied any Russian nationals on an email. I don’t recall that. But as I stated, I’m more than happy to share all communication I have with this person.

Q Great. Thank you.

A Yes.

Q Do you recall him introducing you to any other people in the emails or when you spoke to him by phone?

A I — I don’t recall. But they — but the emails should be in our possession, and we’re more than happy to provide them.

[snip]

17. Q Real quick, just following up on Congressman Ratcliffe’s questions in terms of timing with your conversation with Mr. Halper. You had mentioned it was sometime between September 13th through the 15th. But then you said that you had left London by flight, I suppose. So you might have a record on the day that you left?

A Yes.

Q And you think you met with him the day before you left.

A Yes.

Q Is that something you could provide to us?

A I believe so, yes. It shouldn’t be too hard.

[snip]

18. Mr. Meadows. So I want to follow up on one item from the previous hour, where you had talked about Mr. Tawil. I guess you had not heard from him about the $10,000. And then all of a sudden, you get an email, I assume an email out of the blue saying he wants his $10,000 back. Is that correct?

Mr. Papadopoulos. My memory of the past year, and any interactions I had with this individual — I’m more than happy to share his emails with the committee — was that he would reach out to me indirectly through contacts of mine, and ask how was George doing, what’s his news, even though I was all over the global media at that time. And I don’t remember him ever asking for his money back, even though I had offered to give him his money back, shortly after I left him in — wherever I left him. And going back into my records, I just looked at my email, and we can provide this to you, I think 2 days after I was sentenced, I think — so, September 9th of last month, he sends me an email and he says, not only am I thinking about suing you, but I want my money, and let’s act like we never met. Something along those lines.

Without these emails, the testimony was guaranteed to be useless with respect to 2016, but it gave Papadopoulos the opportunity to engage in wild conspiracy theorizing. The Coffee Boy didn’t much remember the events of 2016, but he did remember what he read in the Daily Caller, the Hill, and the NYT in the weeks before his testimony, which is what he spent much of his testimony telling Congress about.

A You know, I don’t want to espouse conspiracy theories because, you know, it’s horrifying to really think that they might be true, but just yesterday, there was a report in the Daily Caller from [Joseph Mifsud’s] own lawyer that he was working with the FBI when he approached me. And when he was working me, I guess — I don’t know if that’s a fact, and I’m not saying it’s a fact — I’m just relaying what the Daily Caller reported yesterday, with Chuck Ross, and it stated in a categorical fashion that Stephan Roh, who is Joseph Mifsud’s, I believe his President’s counsel, or PR person, said that Mifsud was never a Russian agent.

In fact, he’s a tremendous friend of western intelligence, which makes sense considering I met him at a western spying school in Rome. And all his interactions — this is just me trying to repeat the report, these are not my words — and when he met with me, he was working as some sort of asset of the FBI. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m just reporting what my current understanding is of this individual based on reports from journalists.

[snip]

But I guess the overwhelming evidence, from what I’ve read, just in reports, nothing classified, of course, because I’m not privy to anything like that, and considering his own lawyer is saying it, Stephan Roh, that Mifsud is a western intelligence source. And, I guess, according to reports yesterday, he was working with the FBI. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m just here to, you know, maybe, you know, let you — direct you in certain directions of what I’ve read and maybe, in case you haven’t read it.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. Are you aware of any potential exculpatory evidence that would exist that you just have not seen or your counsel have not seen?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I read John Solomon’s report, like I think probably everyone in this room did from The Hill a couple days ago, about Stefan Halper, which is another person. But in regarding Downer, no, I haven’t seen anything like that.

[snip]

Q Were you — are you aware of any other transcripts or recordings or exculpatory materials as Mr. Meadows referenced?

A This is what I currently understand. I read the John Solomon report about the Stefan Halper, I guess, tapes or recordings of some nature. And so — my old lawyer or — all I — my understanding is that they had a — that they gave me, my old lawyers, a passing reference to something about — I said about treason, and I am — no, about the exculpatory.

[snip]

A My current memory makes me believe that he was stating it as a fact, and I took it as well.

Q And did you believe him at the time?

A At the time, yeah.

Q And so —

A But at the time, also, I thought he was validating rumors. So that was really my impression of him. I mean, you have to understand this is a person who sold himself as the key to Moscow but then really couldn’t deliver on any one of real substance except Putin’s fake niece and the think tank analyst, and then now he’s drooping this information on me. It was very confusing. You can understand how confusing this process was over the month.

Q Do you not believe him now, given what you’ve learned, or do you — you know, do you continue to believe that he was given information that the Russians had Hillary Clinton’s emails?

A I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Everything I’ve ever tweeted or — probably, if that’s what you’re referring to, it’s just backed by things I’ve read in the media. And it’s not my job to dig into this person, because I really don’t care about this person. And legally, I’m not even allowed to talk to him directly or indirectly. So all I can do is read reports, read what his lawyer is saying, and take it with a grain of salt and just share that information with you that his lawyer, yesterday, said that he was working with the FBI. Was he? Is his lawyer a crazy person who’s slandering his client, or was he really working with the FBI and this was some sort of operation? I don’t have the answer to that, and I’m not sitting here telling you I do have the answer to that.

[snip]

Mr. Papadopoulos. Just who I am, my background in the energy business, because everyone was curious about my background in the energy business in Israel. And that’s another thing we’ll get to about what I think why I had a FISA on me, but I don’t know. She then apparently — I don’t remember it, I’m just reading The New York Times. She starts asking me about hacking. I don’t remember her actually asking me that, I just read it in The New York Times. Nevertheless, she introduces me the next time to Stefan Halper.

Mr. Meadows. She asked you about hacking?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember it. I just — I think I read that particular —

Mr. Meadows. You’ve read that?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Yes, that’s what I — I think I read it in The New York Times.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. You say a transcript exists. A transcript exists of that conversation?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s I guess what John Solomon reported a couple days ago.

Mr. Meadows. So are you aware of a transcript existing? I mean — Mr. Papadopoulos. I wasn’t aware of a transcript existing personally.

Mr. Meadows. So you have no personal knowledge of it?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I had no personal knowledge, no.

Mr. Meadows. But you think that he could have been recording you is what you’re suggesting?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Yes.

Having used the stories of Stephen Roh and John Solomon — key players in Russian influence operations — to float conspiracy theories about the Coffee Boy being set up, both Mark Meadows and John Ratcliffe then cued Papadopoulos to attack the Mueller investigation.

For example, Meadows suggested that the FBI had not read Papadopoulos his Miranda rights and had improperly searched his bags.

Mr. Meadows. They told you — I guess, they gave your Miranda rights?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember that. I don’t remember that. I’m sure there might be the video or a transcript of what was going on. You have to understand, I had just come off a trans-Atlantic flight.

In fact, when Papadopoulos told agents he was still represented by an attorney, they told him they would ask no further questions, read his rights and marked the Miranda form as waived. But even after being warned not to say anything without his lawyer present, he kept offering unsolicited comments. And in spite of Meadows’ insinuations, while in FBI custody Papadopoulos thanked the FBI agents for treating him well.

Meadows also found it deeply suspicious that the FBI would ask Papadopoulos to wear a wire to record Joseph Mifsud.

Mr. Meadows. Now, this is the same agent that said that he knew that you had said something. Is that the same person?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Same guy.

Mr. Meadows. And so, he was the one that said you had definitely — I want to make sure that we’re accurate with this. If you’ll — because the name keeps coming back. When you said you didn’t know what you had said to Mr. Downer, it’s the same agent that said, Oh, yes, you said it. Is that correct?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s how I remember it, yes.

Mr. Meadows. Okay. So go ahead.

Mr. Papadopoulos. So I told him, I’m not interested in wearing a wire.

Mr. Meadows. So on your second meeting with the FBI, they asked you to wear a wire?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Against Mifsud.

Mr. Meadows. Against Mifsud, who they believed at that time was doing what?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Well, I guess —

Mr. Meadows. Why did they want you to wear a wire for Mifsud?

The reason Meadows is so bothered that the FBI tried to investigate a suspected Russian agent is that he wanted proof that that Papadopoulos himself was taped. He was looking for something specific: transcripts.

Mr. Meadows. So as we look at this, I think getting our head around all of this is just — it’s hard to believe that it happened in the United States of America. And I think that that’s the trouble that I have with it. And I’ve seen nothing in the classified setting. I want to — for the record, I purposely have not gone into a classified setting to see things so that I can try to put this piece of the puzzle together. It is my belief that you were taped at some point or another by one of these officials, whether it be Mifsud or whether it be Downer or whether it be Halper. I don’t know which one of them did it, but I believe that certainly it is my strong belief that you were taped. Has anyone in the Department of Justice indicated to you that they may have a tape of a private conversation that you had with anyone of those three individuals?

The goal of Meadows and John Ratcliffe — probably the entire point of the hearing, which took place in the wake of a John Solomon article reporting on the topic — was to suggest that George Papadopoulos was deprived of exculpatory evidence, transcripts from his interactions with Halper, before he pled guilty and that he wouldn’t have pled guilty had he received it. Coached by Meadows and influenced by things he read at the Daily Beast, Papadopoulos says maybe the whole thing was a set-up.

Mr. Meadows. I guess if they had that, wouldn’t, before you pleaded guilty, wouldn’t that be something that they should have provided to you or let you know that there was exculpatory evidence out there?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Absolutely. And that would have changed my calculus 100 percent.

Mr. Meadows. Okay. So you, perhaps, would not have pleaded guilty if you knew that there was this tape of a private conversation with one of the three individuals that I just mentioned?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s correct. I guess, my thought process at the time —

Mr. Meadows. Because it could potentially have been a setup.

Mr. Papadopoulos. Absolutely could have been. And just going back in my memory, I guess the logic behind my guilty plea was that I thought I was really in the middle of a real Russia conspiracy, that this was all real, and that I had to plead out or face life in prison, the way they were making it seem. And after this conversation and after much information that’s come out, it’s clear that my — I was completely off on my calculus?

Here’s how former US Attorney Ratcliffe quizzes Papadopoulos about whether he was asked about his conversations with a confidential informant.

Mr. Ratcliffe. Again, to be real clear, the special counsel investigating collusion, potential collusion, or links between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government never asked you, the person around which this investigation was opened and centered, about any communications you had with an individual where you expressed that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s what I remember, yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. The reason I’m asking these questions, Mr. Papadopoulos, is your credibility is at issue, and will be at issue, because you have pled guilty to an 18 U.S.C. 1001 charge of lying to the FBI. And so there will be those that will call into question the truthfulness of your testimony. If you’ve lied to the FBI before, how do we know that you’re telling us the truth? But if there is a transcript of a conversation that you had where you expressed that you had no knowledge about collusion, that might corroborate your testimony. It might also raise obligations, obligations to you as a defendant, to your lawyers as defense counsel, and to various judges as arbiters of material facts.

Here’s how Meadows asked the same question.

Mr. Meadows. Both. I mean, obviously if the special prosecutor is trying to get to the truth and you’re having substantial conversations with Stefan Halper and they don’t ask any questions about it, I find that curious. Do you find that curious?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Now I do.

There are a few problems with Meadows and Ratcliffe’s story. First, Papadopoulos made clear that his lawyers did get the substance of the transcript in question, where Papadopoulos likened what Roger Stone did to treason.

Mr. Meadows. About recordings or transcripts of Mr. Halper?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I never saw anything, but my lawyers, to be clear, they had made a passing remark about something that I said about treason —

Worse still, when Meadows asked Papdopoulos about his conversation with Halper, the Coffee Boy tried to claim his purported disavowal of “collusion” was made to someone he never imagined could be investigating him.

Mr. Meadows. So when you pushed back with Stefan Halpern [sic], and you said, Listen, this is, you know, I’m not going to do that and colluding with the Russians would not be something that I would do. It would be against the law — I don’t want to put words in your mouth — you had no knowledge of being under an investigation at that particular time, is that correct?

Mr. Papadopoulos. So, that’s absolutely correct, and if I had even a scintilla of proof or belief that Stefan Halper was an FBI agent, there’s no way I would have be going and talking to him — I just wouldn’t, I don’t think I would. I don’t think anybody would be running into some sort of operation against themselves.

That’s false. According to the DOJ IG Report, he told another informant he thought Halper would tell the CIA what he said.

Papadopoulos said he believed Source 2 was going to go

and tell the CIA or something if I’d have told him something else. I assume that’s why he was asking. And I told him, absolutely not …. it’s illegal, you know, to do that.. .. [my emphasis]

That is, Papadopoulos admitted to a second FBI informant that he said what he had to Halper precisely because he believed Halper might share what he said with the IC.

Which is among the reasons the FBI believed his answer was a rehearsed cover story in real time.

Now, Papadopoulos’ claim that he never imagined Halper might tell the FBI what he said when in fact he said the nearly the opposite in real time is not the only false claim he made to Congress before Billy Barr and Johnny D went on their junket chasing his conspiracy theories.

This answer, for example, is mostly word salad. But it hides that Papadopoulos continued to pursue a meeting with Russia until September 2016, months after he reached out to Paul Manafort. The word salad obscures a topic — his later effort to set up a meeting with Russian — that Papaodpoulos refused to explain to Mueller.

And to the best of my understanding, that’s when, you know, I really stopped engaging about this Trump-Putin potential meeting.

[snip]

Q Were there other interactions with Mifsud about, I think I read about possibly setting up a trip to Russia about campaign officials? Is there other things you worked on with him aside from the Putin summit? A Yeah, I think what we were trying to do is bring — I was trying to bring the campaign, I think Sam Clovis and Walid Phares and I, we were talking about potentially going to Europe and meeting officials together. And I was trying to see who Mifsud potentially knew in the U.K., or in other parts of Europe that could facilitate that meeting. Of course, we never did it. I think Sam Clovis ended up telling me I can’t make it, I’m too busy, but if you and Walid want to go to this, whatever you’re trying to put together, go ahead. That’s what I remember.

Q And did that trip ever happen?

A I never traveled with Walid Phares, no.

Q Did you arrange for anyone else?

A What was that?

Q Did you arrange for anyone else to travel to Russia? Let’s just keep it specifically —

A Yeah.

Q — based on your contacts with Mifsud at this point.

A Yes. I reached out directly to Paul Manafort, you know, and Corey Lewandowski and the top — the heads of the campaign, and openly told them I’m trying to arrange this. I mean, they were fully aware of what I was doing. This is all in emails. I’m not sure if you have those emails. I’m happy to provide them to you. That I’m trying to set up this meeting. Are we interested or are we not interested. So Corey Lewandowski was informed, Paul Manafort was informed, Sam Clovis was informed about what I was doing and what my progress, I guess, if you want to call it that, was.

“It is a lot of risk,” the notes that Papadopoulos refused to explain appear to have said about a September meeting with Russia, originally scheduled for the same dates as he met Halper.

And when Democratic staffers tried to get back to the gist of the issue — away from the transcripts capturing coached answers Papadopoulos told because he thought the answer might get back to the CIA and to the charged conduct — Papadopoulos’ lawyer refused to let him answer.

Q Is it your position here today that you did not lie to the FBI during your first interview?

Ms. Polisi. I’m just going to advise my client not to answer that.

In several such interactions, the Democratic staffers identified material discrepancies between what Papadopoulos said to a Committee of Congress and what he had sworn to in his guilty plea.

So Mr. Papadopoulos, why did you lie to the FBI and claim that your interactions with Professor Misfud occurred before you became a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign?

Ms. Polisi. I’m going to object to this line of questioning.

Ms. Shen. What’s the objection based upon?

Ms. Polisi. We are here on a voluntary basis. We have answered all of your questions thus far. It is my advice to him that he not talk specifically about the offense conduct.

[snip]

Q Can you please turn to page 4. Mr. Papadopoulos, I believe earlier in this round, we were asking about your interviews with the FBI, and I believe that you said that you had brought up to the FBI the — the professor and your conversation with him. Is that correct?

A That is what I remember.

Q So if you could take a look at footnote 2 on this page, page 4, in the second paragraph, it reads, “To the contrary, the defendant identified the professor only after being prompted by a series of specific questions about when the defendant first learned about Russia’s disclosure of information related to the campaign, and whether defendant had ever, quote, ‘received any information or anything like that from a Russian government official’ unquote. In response, while denying he received any information from a Russian Government official that further identified the professor by name, while also falsely claiming he interacted with the professor ‘before I was with Trump though.'” Mr. Papadopoulos, what you just said earlier today during this interview doesn’t seem to jive with the information in this footnote. Can you explain the discrepancy?

Ms. Polisi. I’m still going to object to this line of questioning. I disagree with your characterization of his previous testimony. What’s written is written, you read it into the record.

Ms. Shen. Well, he just agreed with my characterization.

Ms. Polisi. No, he did not. He did not. He did not agree with your characterization.

Ms. Shen. I asked him if what we talked about earlier was correct — on the record.

Ms. Polisi. That is correct.

Ms. Shen. And then I read the paragraph from his sentencing memorandum, and you are not allowing him to respond to that.

Ms. Polisi. Correct, I’m not allowing him to respond to that.

I guess it makes sense that Durham would not interview Papadopoulos after this performance. It’s not actually clear whether he could tell the truth, and if he did, the truth — that the Coffee Boy was still pursuing a risky back channel to Russia even after the investigation into him was opened — would utterly destroy the objective of the Durham investigation.

So in the same way that Durham never subpoenaed Jim Baker before basing an entire indictment on his testimony, Durham never spoke to Papadopoulos, who would testify that in the same weeks when — Durham claims — Danchenko believed he had a sketchy call with Millian, Papadopoulos started having similar calls with the “very shady person” that Durham has made the centerpiece of his case against Danchenko.

January 6 Committee Details The Big Fraud Monetizing The Big Lie

The second hearing from the January 6 Committee was just as well choreographed as the first one, with an even greater reliance on Republican voices to make the case against Trump, including:

  • Bill Barr
  • Bill Stepien
  • Al Schmidt
  • Alex Cannon
  • Ivanka
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • Sidney Powell
  • Chris Stirewalt
  • Jason Miller
  • Ben Ginsberg

Here’s my live tweet of the hearing.

The presentation started by describing how Trump was told on election night that the news looked bad. The presentation ended by showing how those attacking the Capitol cited Trump’s lies to justify their actions.

Perhaps the most effective part of the hearing, however, was a video shown near the end that talked about how Trump monetized the Big Lie. He raised $250M telling lies about voter fraud.

Some of that money went to Mark Meadows’ “charity,” the Conservative Partnership Institute and even more went to Paul Manafort’s company, Event Strategies.

This is the kind of activity, fundraising making false claim, that got Steve Bannon charged with wire fraud and it’s the kind of scheme behind the investigation into Sidney Powell.

House January 6 Committee: Public Hearings – Day 1 [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Any updates will be published at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

This post and comment thread are dedicated to the House January 6 Committee hearings scheduled to begin Thursday June 9, 2022, at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Please take all comments unrelated to the hearings to a different thread.

The hearings will stream on:

House J6 Committee’s website: https://january6th.house.gov/news/watch-live

House J6 Committee’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ0yNe3cFx4

C-SPAN’s House J6 hearing page: https://www.c-span.org/video/?520282-1/open-testimony-january-6-committee

C-SPAN’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/c/C-SPAN/featured

Check PBS for your local affiliate’s stream: https://www.pbs.org/ (see upper right corner)

Twitter is carrying multiple live streams (NBC, PBS, Washington Post, Reuters, CSPAN, Bloomberg): https://twitter.com/i/events/1533876297926991877

MSNBC will carry coverage on their cable network with coverage beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET as well as on MSNBC’s Maddow Show podcast feed. Details at this link.

ABC, NBC, CBS will carry the hearings live on broadcast and CNN will carry on its cable network.

Fox News is not carrying this on their main network. Their weeknight programming including Tucker Carlson’s screed will continue as usual and will likely carry counterprogramming.

Twitter accounts live tweeting the hearing tonight:

Brandi Buchman-DailyKos: https://twitter.com/Brandi_Buchman/status/1535034512639512576

Scott MacFarlane-CBS: https://twitter.com/MacFarlaneNews/status/1535050143879266306

Chris Geidner-Grid News: https://twitter.com/chrisgeidner/status/1535052708922937345

JustSecurity’s team live tweeting: https://twitter.com/just_security/status/1534955708881457154

If you know of any other credible source tweeting the coverage, please share a link in comments.

Marcy will not be live tweeting as the hearing begins 2:00 a.m. IST/1:00 a.m. UTC/GMT. She’ll have a post Friday morning Eastern Time. Do make sure to read her hearing prep post, though.

An agenda for this evening’s hearing has not been published on the committee’s website.

~ ~ ~

Any updates will appear at the bottom of this post; please bear with any content burps as this page may be edited as the evening progresses.

Again, this post is dedicated to the House January 6 Committee  and topics addressed in testimony and evidence produced during the hearing.

All other discussion should be in threads under the appropriate post with open discussion under the most recent Trash Talk.

To new readers and commenters: welcome to emptywheel. New commenters, please use a unique name to differentiate yourself; use the same username each time you comment.

Comment policy

Community guidelines

If you are leaving a comment, please be concise; 100 words is the optimum length.

If you are sharing active links your comment may be delayed by auto-moderation.

If contributors and moderators seem slow, it’s because they’re dealing with higher than usual volume of comments including trolling.

Caution: moderators will have much lower tolerance for trolling.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 7:30 P.M. ET 10-JUN-2022 —

According to Scott MacFarlane-CBS there will be a total of six House J6 Committee hearings this month.

House J6 Committee hearing schedule (as of eve 6/10/2022):

Monday June 13 — Hearing: On the January 6th Investigation
10:00 AM | 390 Canon HOB
Host: Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack

Wednesday June 15 — Hearing: On the January 6th Investigation
10:00 AM | 390 Canon HOB
Host: Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack

Thursday June 16 — Hearing: On the January 6th Investigation
1:00 PM | 390 Canon HOB
Host: Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack

Tuesday June 21 — Hearing: On the January 6th Investigation
**10:00 AM ET | Date-Time-Place Subject to Confirmation**
Host: Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack

Thursday June 23 — Hearing: On the January 6th Investigation
**8:00 PM ET | Date-Time-Place Subject to Confirmation**
Host: Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack

Date, time, and location of the next three hearings have been published on the U.S. House of Representatives’ calendar. The last two have not yet been confirmed and published.

There Was No Crime Predicating the Durham Investigation

Deep in a NYT piece that suggests but does not conclude that John Durham’s purpose is to feed conspiracy theories, Charlie Savage writes,

Mr. Barr’s mandate to Mr. Durham appears to have been to investigate a series of conspiracy theories.

That’s as close as any traditional media outlet has come to looking at the flimsy predication for Durham’s initial appointment.

Billy Barr, however, has never hidden his goal. In his memoir, he describes returning to government — with an understanding about the Russian investigation gleaned from the propaganda bubble of Fox News, not any firsthand access to the evidence — with a primary purpose of undermining the Russian investigation. He describes having to appoint Durham to investigate what he believed, again based off Fox propaganda, to be a bogus scandal.

I would soon make the difficult decision to go back into government in large part because I saw the way the President’s adversaries had enmeshed the Department of Justice in this phony scandal and were using it to hobble his administration. Once in office, it occupied much of my time for the first six months of my tenure. It was at the heart of my most controversial decisions. Even after dealing with the Mueller report, I still had to launch US Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the genesis of this bogus scandal.

In his shameless excuses for bypassing MLAT to grill foreigners about their role in the investigation, Barr describes “ha[ving] to run down” whether there was anything nefarious about the intelligence allies shared with the US — a rather glorified description for “chasing George Papadopoulos’ conspiracy theories around the globe.”

Durham’s investigation was up and running by the late spring. Pending IG Horowitz’s completion of his review of Crossfire Hurricane, I asked Durham to focus initially on any relevant activities by the CIA, NSA, or friendly foreign intelligence services. One of the more asinine aspects of media coverage about Durham’s investigation was all the heavy breathing during the summer as news seeped out that I had contacts with foreign governments on Durham’s behalf. Various journalists and commentators claimed this indicated that I was personally conducting the investigation and suggested there was something nefarious about my communicating with allied governments about Russiagate. [sic] This coverage was a good example of the kind of partisan nonsense that passes as journalism these days.

One of the questions that had to be run down was whether allied intelligence services had any role in Russiagate [sic] or had any relevant information. One question was whether US officials had asked foreign intelligence services to spy on Americans. Various theories of potential involvement by British, Australian, or Italian intelligence agencies had been raised over the preceding two years. Talking to our allies about these matters was an essential part of the investigation. It should not surprise anyone that a prosecutor cannot just show up on the door- step of a foreign intelligence agency and start asking questions. An introduction and explanation at more senior levels is required. So— gasp!—I contacted the relevant foreign ambassadors, who in turn put me in touch with an appropriate senior official in their country with authority to deal with such matters. These officials quite naturally wanted to hear from me directly about the contours of the investigation and how their information would be protected.

Much later, when Barr claimed that Durham would not lower DOJ standards just to obtain results, Barr again described an investigation launched to “try to get to the bottom of what happened” rather than investigate a potential crime.

I acknowledged that what had happened to President Trump in 2016 was abhorrent and should not happen again. I said that the Durham investigation was trying to get to the bottom of what happened but “cannot be, and it will not be, a tit-for-tat exercise.” I pledged that Durham would adhere to the department’s standards and would not lower them just to get results. I then added a point, meant to temper any expectation that the investigation would necessarily produce any further indictments:

[W]e have to bear in mind [what] the Supreme Court recently re- minded [us] in the “Bridgegate” case—there is a difference between an abuse of power and a federal crime. Not every abuse of power, no matter how outrageous, is necessarily a federal crime.

And then Durham lowered DOJ standards and charged two false statement cases for which he had (and has, in the case of Igor Danchenko) flimsy proof and for which, in the case of Michael Sussmann, he had not tested the defendant’s sworn explanation before charging. Durham further lowered DOJ standards by turning false statement cases into uncharged conspiracies he used to make wild unsubstantiated allegations about a broad network of others.

This entire three year process was launched with no evidence that a crime was committed, and it seems likely that only the Kevin Clinesmith prosecution, which DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz handed Durham months after he was appointed as a fait accompli and which could easily have been prosecuted by the DC US Attorney’s Office, provided an excuse to convene a grand jury to start digging in the coffers of Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie.

There was no crime. Durham was never investigating a suspected crime and then, as statutes of limitation started expiring, he hung a conspiracy theory on a claimed false statement for which he had no solid proof. Eight months into Durham repeating those conspiracy theories at every turn — conspiracy theories that Durham admitted would not amount to a crime in any case! — a jury told Durham he had inadequate proof a crime was committed and that the entire thing had been a waste of time and resources.

“The government had the job of proving beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said, declining to give her name. “We broke it down…as a jury. It didn’t pan out in the government’s favor.”

Asked if she thought the prosecution was worthwhile, the foreperson said: “Personally, I don’t think it should have been prosecuted because I think we have better time or resources to use or spend to other things that affect the nation as a whole than a possible lie to the FBI. We could spend that time more wisely.”

Compare that to the Russian investigation, which was started to figure out which Trump associate had advance knowledge of Russia’s criminal hack-and-leak operation and whether they had any criminal exposure in it. Here’s how Peter Strzok described it in his book:

[A]gents often don’t even know the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. They have a term for that: an unknown subject, or UNSUB, which they use when an activity is known but the specific person conducting that activity is not — for instance, when they are aware that Russia is working to undermine our electoral system in concert with a presidential campaign but don’t know exactly who at that campaign Russia might be coordinating with or how many people might be involved.

To understand the challenges of an UNSUB case, consider the following three hypothetical scenarios. In one, a Russian source tells his American handler that, while out drinking at an SVR reunion, he learned that a colleague had just been promoted after a breakthrough recruitment of an American intelligence officer in Bangkok. We don’t know the identity of the recruited American — he or she is an UNSUB. A second scenario: a man and a woman out for a morning run in Washington see a figure toss a package over the fence of the Russian embassy and speed off in a four-door maroon sedan. An UNSUB.

Or consider this third scenario: a young foreign policy adviser to an American presidential campaign boasts to one of our allies that the Russians have offered to help his candidate by releasing damaging information about that candidate’s chief political rival. Who actually received the offer of assistance from the Russians? An UNSUB.

[snip]

The FFG information about Papadopoulos presented us with a textbook UNSUB case. Who received the alleged offer of assistance from the Russians? Was it Papadopoulos? Perhaps, but not necessarily. We didn’t know about his contacts with Mifsud at the time — all we knew was that he had told the allied government that the Russians had dirt on Clinton and Obama and that they wanted to release it in a way that would help Trump.

The answer, by the way, was that at least two Trump associates had advance knowledge, George Papadopoulos and Roger Stone, and Stone shared his advance knowledge with Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump, among others. By all appearances, DOJ was still investigating whether Stone had criminal exposure tied to his advance knowledge when Barr interfered in that investigation in February 2020, a fact that Barr hid until the day before the 2020 election.

With the Russian investigation, there was a crime: a hack by a hostile nation-state of a Presidential candidate, along with evidence that her opponent at least knew about the related leak campaign in advance. With the Durham investigation, there were only Fox News conspiracy theories and the certainty that Donald Trump shouldn’t be held accountable for encouraging Russia to hack his opponent.

The fact that this entire three year wild goose hunt was started without any predicating crime is all the more ridiculous given Durham’s repeated focus both on the predication of Crossfire Hurricane (in criticizing Horowitz’s report on Carter Page) and the Alfa Bank inquiry (during the Sussmann trial). John Durham, appointed to investigate conspiracy theories, deigns to lecture others about appropriate predication.

And that’s undoubtedly why, in the face of this humiliating result for Durham, Billy Barr is outright lying about what Durham’s uncharged conspiracy theories revealed about the predication of the Russian investigation.

He and his team did an exceptionally able job, both digging out very important facts and presenting a compelling case to the jury. And the fact that he … well, he did not succeed in getting a conviction from the DC jury, I think he accomplished something far more important, which is he brought out the truth in two important areas. First, I think he crystalized the central role played by the Hillary campaign in launching — as a dirty trick — the whole RussiaGate [sic] collusion [sic] narrative and fanning the flames of it, and second, I think, he exposed really dreadful behavior by the supervisors in the FBI, the senior ranks of the FBI, who knowingly used this information to start an investigation of Trump and then duped their own agents by lying to them and refusing to tell them what the real source of that information was.

That’s not what the trial showed, of course. Every witness who was asked about the centrality of the Alfa Bank allegations responded that there were so many other ties between Trump and Russia that the Alfa Bank allegations didn’t much stick out. Here’s how Robby Mook described it in questioning by Michael Bosworth.

[I]t was one of many pieces of information we had. And, in fact, every day, you know, Donald Trump was saying things about Putin and saying things about Russia. So this was a constituent piece of information among many pieces of information, and I don’t think we saw it as this silver bullet that was going to conclude the campaign and, you know, determine the outcome, no.

Q. There were a lot of Trump/Russia issues you were focused on?

A. Correct.

Q. And this was one of many?

A. Correct.

In response to questioning by Sean Berkowitz, Marc Elias traced the increased focus on Russia to Trump’s own request for Russia to hack Hillary.

Q. Let’s take a look — let me ask a different question. At some point in the summer of 2016, did Candidate Trump make any statements publicly about the hack?

A. Yes.

Q. What do you recall him saying and when?

A. There was a publication of emails, of DNC emails, in the days leading up to the Democratic National Convention. And it was in my opinion at the time clearly an effort by Russia to ruin what is the one clean shot that candidates get to talk to the American public. Right? The networks give you free coverage for your convention. And in the days before the convention, there was a major leak. And rather than doing what any decent human being might do and condemn it, Donald Trump said: I hope Russia is listening and, if so, will find the 30,000 Hillary Clinton emails that he believed existed and release them. That’s what I remember.

Q. Did you feel the campaign was under attack, sir?

A. We absolutely were under attack.

Q. And in connection with that, were there suggestions or possibilities at least in your mind and in the campaign’s mind that there could be a connection between Russia and Trump?

A. Again, this is, you know — this was public — Donald Trump — you know, the Republican Party historically has been very anti-Russia. Ronald Reagan was like the most anti-communist, the most anti-Soviet Union president.

And all of a sudden you had this guy who becomes the nominee; and they change the Russian National Committee platform to become pro-Russian and he has all these kind things to say about Putin. And then he makes this statement.

And in the meantime, he has hired, you know, Paul Manafort, who is, you know, I think had some ties to — I don’t recall anymore, but it was some pro-Russia thing in Ukraine.

So yeah. I thought that there were — I thought it was plausible. I didn’t know, but I thought it was an unusual set of circumstances and I thought it was plausible that Donald Trump had relations with — through his company with Russia.

Democrats didn’t gin up the focus on Trump’s ties to Russia, Trump’s own begging for more hacking did.

The trial also showed that this wasn’t an investigation into Trump. Rather, it was opened as an investigation into Kirkland & Ellis client Alfa Bank, which FBI believed had ties to Russian intelligence.

The investigation even considered whether Alfa Bank was victimizing Trump Organization.

Barr is similarly lying about whether supervisors revealed the source(s) of this information and what it was.

The source for the allegations was not Hillary, but researchers. And the trial presented repeated testimony that David Dagon’s role as one source of the allegations being shared with investigative agents. That detail was not hidden, but agents nevertheless never interviewed Dagon.

And even the purported tie to the Democrats was not well hidden. Indeed, the trial evidence shows that the FBI believed the DNC to be the source of the allegations, and that detail leaked down to various agents — including the two cyber agents, Nate Batty and Scott Hellman, whose shoddy analysis encouraged all other agents to dismiss the allegations — via various means.

Andrew DeFilippis made great efforts (efforts that lowered DOJ standards) to claim differently, but the evidence that key investigators assumed this was a DNC tip was fairly strong.

Three years after launching an investigation into conspiracy theories, Barr is left lying, claiming he found the result he set out to find three years ago. But the evidence — and the jury’s verdict — proves him wrong.

For years, Durham has been seeking proof that the predication of the Russian investigation was faulty. The only crime he has proven in the interim is that his own investigation was predicated on Fox News conspiracy theories.

Hillary Clinton’s Devious Plot to Get Oleg Deripaska to Install Paul Manafort as Trump’s Campaign Manager

Out of curiosity and a good deal of masochism, I listened to the latest podcast of “The Corner,” the frothy right wingers who spend their time spinning conspiracy theories about the Durham investigation.

It was painful.

At every step, these men simply assert evidence must exist — like a Democratic order to bring dirt to the FBI — for which there’s no evidence. They ignore really basic facts, such as that Sussmann was necessarily working with the FBI because his client was being systematically hacked, and therefore it wasn’t just Christopher Steele who had ongoing ties to the Bureau. They make a huge deal about the fact that the US government’s Russian experts know each other, and that Christopher Steele persistently reported on topics — like Rosneft — that really were and are important to British and US national security and on which he had legitimate expertise.

They’re already starting to make excuses for Durham (such as that Durham chose not to obtain privileged emails the same way Mueller and SDNY did, without noting that Mueller had probable cause of a crime, which Durham admits he does not, much less that Mueller got them in a different way and a different time then they believe he did).

They keep making much of the coincidence of key dates in 2016 — “We continue to have a very, very tight timeline that that accelerates” — but never mention either the WikiLeaks dump of the DNC emails or Trump’s request that Russia hack Hillary some more, a request that was followed closely by a new wave of attacks. Those two events in July 2016 explain most of the actions Democrats took in that period, and these men don’t even exhibit awareness (or perhaps the belief?) that the events happened.

Worse still, they are ignorant of, or misrepresent, key details.

For example, all but Hans Mahncke assert that John Brennan must have been acting on some kind of corrupt intelligence in July 2016, rather than real intelligence collected from real Russian sources. They do so even though Billy Barr described in his book bitching at Trump after Trump complained that Durham found that, “the CIA stayed in its lane in the run-up to the [2016] election.”

Emblematic of the fraying relationship between the President and me was a sharp exchange at the end of the summer in the Oval Office. To give the President credit, he never asked about the substance of the investigation but just asked pointedly when there might be some sign of progress. On this occasion, we had met on something else, but at the end he complained that the investigation had been dragging on a long time. I explained that Durham did not get the Horowitz report until the end of 2019, and up till then had been look- ing at questions, like any possible CIA role, that had to be run down but did not pan out.

“What do you mean, they didn’t pan out?” the President snapped.

“As far as we can tell, the CIA stayed in its lane in the run-up to the election,” I said.

The President bristled. “You buy that bullshit, Bill?” he snarled. “Everyone knows Brennan was right in the middle of this.”

I lost it and answered in a sarcastic tone. “Well, if you know what happened, Mr. President, I am all ears. Maybe we are wasting time do- ing an investigation. Maybe all the armchair quarterbacks telling you they have all the evidence can come in and enlighten us.”

Durham looked for this evidence for years. It’s not there (and therefore the intelligence Brennan viewed is something other than the dossier or even the Russian intelligence product that the frothers also spin conspiracies on).

All but Fool Nelson misrepresent a July 26, 2016 email from Peter Fritsch to WSJ reporter Jay Solomon, which says, “call adam schiff, or difi for that matter. i bet they are concerned about what page was doing other than giving a speech over 3 days in moscow,” suggesting that that must be proof the top Democrats on the Intelligence Committees had the Steele dossier, rather than proof that it was a concern to see an advisor to a Presidential campaign traveling to Russian and saying the things Page was saying. (Jeff Carlson makes the same complaint about former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul’s observations about something that all experienced Russia watchers believed was alarming in real time.)

They get the evidence against Carter Page wrong, among other ways by misstating that all his time in Moscow had been accounted for and that the rumor he met with Igor Sechin was ever entirely debunked. “Of course it’s impossible. He was chaperoned. He had a hotel. He had a driver. Without people noticing.” For example, the son of the guy who brought Page to Russia, Yuval Weber, told the FBI that they weren’t with Page 100% of the time and there was a rumor that he had met with Sechin.

In July, when Page had traveled to give the commencement speech at NES, Weber recalled that it was rumored in Moscow that Page met with Igor Sechin. Weber said that Moscow is filled with gossip and people in Moscow were interested in Page being there. It was known that a campaign official was there.

Page may have briefly met with Arkady Dvorkovich at the commencement speech, considering Dvorkovich was on the board at NES. But Weber was not aware of any special meeting.

[redacted] was not with Page 100% of the time, he met him for dinner, attended the first public presentation, but missed the commencement speech. They had a few other interactions. Page was very busy on this trip.

This testimony was consistent with Mueller’s conclusion about Page’s trip: given boasts he made to the campaign, “Page’s activities in Russia — as described in his emails with the Campaign — were not fully explained.”

They badly misrepresent emails between a handful of journalists and Fusion GPS, spinning real skepticism exhibited by journalists as journalists somehow conspiring with Fusion. Indeed, they repeatedly point to an email from WaPo’s Tom Hamburger pushing back on the Sechin claim, “That Page met with Sechin or Ivanov. ‘Its bullshit. Impossible,’ said one of our Moscow sources.” They claim that Hamburger nevertheless reported the story after that. They’re probably thinking of this story, which reported Page’s 2014 pro-Sechin comments, not that he had met with the man in 2016.

After the Obama administration added Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin to its sanctions list in 2014, limiting Sechin’s ability to travel to the United States or do business with U.S. firms, Page praised the former deputy prime minister, considered one of Putin’s closest allies over the past 25 years. “Sechin has done more to advance U.S.-Russian relations than any individual in or out of government from either side of the Atlantic over the past decade,” Page wrote.

In other words, they’re claiming journalists doing actual journalism and not reporting what Fusion fed them is somehow corrupt, when it is instead an example, among many, of failed attempts by Fusion to get journalists to run with their tips.

They complain that Fusion was pointing journalists to Felix Sater, in spite of the fact that Sater really was central to tying Trump Organization to Russian funding and really did pitch an impossibly lucrative real estate deal in the year before the campaign that involved secret communications with the Kremlin and sanctioned banks and a former GRU officer, a deal that Michael Cohen and Trump affirmatively lied to cover up for years.

They grossly misrepresent a long text to Peter Strzok reflecting someone else’s early inquiries on the DNS allegation to Cendyn, imagining (the redaction notwithstanding) that it reflects the FBI concluding already at that point that there was nothing to the DNS allegations and not that the FBI inquiry instead explains why Trump changed its own DNS records shortly thereafter (addressing one but not both of the questions raised by NYT reporting).

Obviously, none of them seem interested in the nearly-contemporaneous text from Strzok noting that “Russians back on DNC,” presumably reflecting knowledge of the serial Russian effort to steal Hillary’s analytics stored on an AWS server, a hack that — because it involved an AWS server, not a DNC-owned one — not only defies all the favorite right wing claims about what went into the Russian attribution, but also explains why Sussmann would be so concerned about seeming evidence of ongoing covert communication between Trump and a Russian bank. The Russians kept hacking, both in response to Trump’s request in July, and in the days before and after Sussmann met with James Baker in September.

Crazier still, none of these men seem to have any understanding of two details of the back-and-forth between Sussmann, the FBI, and NYT, one that is utterly central to the case against Sussmann. They conflate a request FBI made to NYT days after Sussmann’s meeting with the FBI to kill the story — one made with the assent of Sussmann and Rodney Joffe — with later follow-up reporting by the NYT reporting that the FBI had not substantiated the DNS allegation. Those were at least two separate calls! Durham had chased down none of them before he indicted Sussmann. It wasn’t until almost six months after charging Sussmann that Durham corroborated Sussmann’s HPSCI testimony that Sussmann and Joffe agreed to help kill the initial NYT story, which provides a lot of weight to Sussmann’s explanation for his meeting with James Baker, that he wanted to give the FBI an opportunity to investigate the allegation before the press reported on it. As a result, Mahncke states as fact that Sussmann’s September 18 text telling Baker, “I’m coming on my own – not on behalf of a client or company – want to help the Bureau,” (even ignoring the temporal problem it creates for Durham’s charge) proves Sussmann lied, when in fact, his and Joffe’s efforts to help the Bureau kill the story strongly supports Sussmann’s public story.

If you don’t know that Sussmann and Joffe helped the FBI to kill what would have been a damning story about Trump, you’re not assessing the actual evidence against Sussmann as opposed to Durham’s conspiracy theories.

All that said, laying out all the ways the supposed experts on the frothy right prove they’re unfamiliar with the most basic details about events in 2016 and since is not why I wrote this post.

I wrote this post because of the way Fool attempted to explain away the inconvenience of Paul Manafort to his narrative. Fool went on at length showing how (a possible Russian fabrication claiming) Hillary’s plan to focus on Trump’s ties to Russia must have predicated an investigation that started before that point. He ignored, entirely, that an FBI investigation had already been opened on Page by then (and all four frothers ignore that Fusion started focusing on Page when Paul Singer was footing the bill). But Fool does acknowledge that the money laundering investigation into Manafort had already been opened before Crossfire Hurricane started. He treats Manafort’s very real corrupt ties to Putin-backed oligarchs as a lucky break for what he imagines to be Hillary’s concocted claims, and not a fact that Trump ignored when he hired the man to work for him “for free.” “Luckily, I don’t know if this was a coincidence or not, Manafort joined the Trump campaign and that gave them a reason to look deeper.” In other words, Fool suggests Manafort’s hiring might be part of Hillary’s devious plot, and not the devious plot of Oleg Deripaska to get an entrée to Trump’s campaign or the devious alleged plot of Mohammed bin Zayed to direct Trump policy through Tom Barrack.

Because I expect the circumstances of Manafort’s hiring may become newsworthy again in the near future and because Deripaska was pushing an FBI investigation into Manafort before Hillary was, I wanted to correct this detail.

According to Gates, the effort to install Manafort as campaign manager started earlier than most people realize, in January 2016, not March.

In January 2016, Gates was working mostly on [redacted] film project. Gates was also doing some work on films with [redacted] looking for new DMP clients, and helping Manafort pull material together to pitch Donald Trump on becoming campaign manager. Roger Stone and Tom Barrack were acting as liaisons between Manafort and Trump in an effort to get Manafort hired by the campaign. Barrack had a good relationship with Ivanka Trump.

Tom Barrack described to Mueller how Manafort asked for his help getting hired on Trump’s campaign in that same month, January 2016.

But Manafort may have started on this plan even before January 2016. Sam Patten told SSCI Kilimnik knew of the plan in advance. Patten’s explanation of his involvement in the Mueller investigation describes Ukrainian Oligarch Serhiy Lyovochkin asking him about it in late 2015.

In late 2015, Lyovochkin asked me whether it was true that Trump was going to hire Manafort to run his campaign. Just as I told Pinchuk that Putin’s perception of America’s capabilities was ridiculous, I told Lyovochkin that was an absurd notion; that Trump would have to be nuts to do such a thing.

In any case, even before his hiring was public, on March 20, Manafort wrote his Ukrainian and Russian backers to let them know he had installed himself with the Trump campaign. He sent one of those letters to Oleg Deripaska, purportedly as a way to get the lawsuit Deripaska had filed against Manafort dropped.

Gates was shown an email between Gates and Kilimnik dated March 20, 2016 and four letters which were attached to this email. Gates stated he was the person who drafted the letters on Manafort’s behalf. Manafort reviewed and approved the letters.

Manafort wanted Gates to draft letters announcing he had joined the Trump Campaign. Manafort thought the letters would help DMP get paid by OB and possibly help confirm that Deripaska had dropped his lawsuit against Manafort. Manafort wanted Kilimnik to let Deripaska know he had been hired by Trump and he needed to make sure there were not lawsuits against him.

Gates was asked why Manafort could not have employed counsel to find out of the Deripaska lawsuit had been dropped. Gates stated Manafort wanted to send Deripaska a personal note and to get a direct answer from Deripaska. Gates also thought this letter was a bit of “bravado on Manafort’s part.”

Gates was asked if the purpose of the letter to Deripaska was to determine if the lawsuit had been dropped, why didn’t the letter mention the lawsuit. Gates stated that Manafort did not want to put anything about the lawsuit in writing.

This explanation, true or not (and it’s pretty clear the FBI didn’t believe it), is critical to the frothers because even before Christopher Steele started collecting information on Trump, he was collecting information on Manafort at the behest of Deripaska in conjunction with this lawsuit. And Steele was feeding DOJ tips about Deripaska’s lawsuit before he started feeding the FBI dirt paid for by Hillary’s campaign. The first meeting at which Steele shared dossier information with Bruce Ohr, for example, Steele also pushed the Deripaska lawsuit, and not for the first time.

Either the Deripaska lawsuit was a cover story Manafort used consistently for years (including through his “cooperation” with Mueller in 2018), or it was real. Whichever it was, it bespeaks some kind of involvement by Deripaska long before Hillary got involved. Viewed from that perspective, the dossier (and Deripaska’s presumed success at filling it with disinformation) was just part of a brutal double game that Deripaska was playing with Manafort, one that led Manafort to share campaign strategy and participate in carving up Ukraine, another event the frothers are trying to blame on the ever-devious Hillary. Whichever it is, the process by which a bunch of Putin allies in Ukraine knew Trump was going to hire Manafort before Trump did is a big part of the story.

But according to the frothers, Hillary Clinton is just that devious that she orchestrated all of this.

Josh Marshall’s “Team on the Field:” Putting GOP on Defense Over Russia Requires Reversing Their Offense

Josh Marshall argued yesterday that the Democratic Party needs to start going on offense on the GOP’s complicity in Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

A new AP poll says that 54% of Americans think President Biden has been “not tough enough” on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. These kinds of public perceptions can be shaped by perceptions of a leader as much as they drive them. So you think Biden is weak as your starting point and therefore you think he’s not being tough enough on Russia rather than the other way around. Also notable, Americans’ hawkishness over Ukraine has dipped a bit from a month ago. But the first, second and third most important thing about this poll is that this is what you get when you’re not reminding Americans every day — and I mean every god-damned day — that the GOP has spent the last 7 years boosting, allying with and even conspiring with Russia.

[snip]

Will pushing the GOP’s guilt and complicity on Russia make people stop caring about inflation? Of course not. But if you’re not even putting that team on the field you are simply not doing the simplest blocking and tackling of politics. It’s that bad. [my emphasis]

I don’t disagree with him. But for a guy with his own media outlet, he needs to start taking his own advice. That’s because his site has done little to undercut the flood of disinformation that the GOP has used to hide their own complicity.

Between the tag, “Durham,”

And “John Durham,” Marshall’s site shows four stories this year.

The tag, “Hunter Biden,” returns just two things this year.

While I haven’t focused on undermining the ridiculous claims the GOP are making about the “Hunter Biden” “laptop” — I have written just three stories this year (one, two, three), though that number would be far more if you count my focus on the investigation into Rudy — I’ve written 28 stories on the Durham investigation this year. Among other things, I have shown that:

One of the only other reporters covering this stuff with any attention, Charlie Savage, has to cater to a general audience. Meanwhile, an absolute torrent of propaganda from the frothy right has ignored the accumulated evidence not just of prosecutorial abuse, but shocking sloppiness. Instead, they spin Durham’s unsubstantiated conspiracy theories as fact, and from that, conclude that Trump wasn’t really badly implicated by Russia, but instead that was all made up by Hillary ahead of time.

If I weren’t alone swimming against this tide, Durham’s rank ignorance would actually be a great vehicle to correct the frothers. As I’ve noted, Durham and his rubes appear entirely unaware that the suspicions of the researchers trying to understand the Alfa Bank anomalies — that Trump had back channel communications with the Kremlin, that people close to Trump were laundering payments from oligarchs close to Trump, and that a family member of an Alfa Bank oligarch might be helping — all proved to be true.

The story of the Durham investigation is that he has criminalized people investigating reasonable inferences that turned out to be true. And yet the story that has gotten told, largely because other reporters are largely silent about it, is that he continues to chase Russian-seeded conspiracy theories in defiance of the evidence obtained as part of the Mueller investigation.

Josh Marshall has been far more successful than me in the two decades we’ve done this online journalism thing, so I’m in no place to tell him how to run his business.

But people believe that Biden is weak on Ukraine not just because Democrats aren’t screaming about how complicit Trump and his enablers are. They believe it because Trump has seeded two screaming conspiracy theories that have filled that void with false denials that all the suspicions about Trump turned out to be true.

Update: Added a third “Hunter Biden” “laptop” story.

Tom Barrack Appears to Claim Trump Knew Barrack Was Catering US Foreign Policy to the Emirates

In this post, I described the import of the false statement and obstruction charges against Tom Barrack. While Barrack may have been honest about his ties to the Emirates in a 2017 interview with Robert Mueller’s prosecutors, he is accused of lying about those ties in 2019, which — if DOJ has the goods on those later lies — will make it clear he was affirmatively hiding his role at that point.

[A]ssuming the FBI didn’t charge a billionaire with false statements without having him dead to rights on the charges, by June 2019, the FBI foreclosed several of the defenses that Barrack might offer going forward: that he was doing all this as a legal commercial transaction (which is exempt from the foreign agent charges) or that he wasn’t really working for UAE, he just thought the alliance really served US interests and indulged the Emiratis by referring to MbZ as “boss.” By denying very basic things that the FBI appears to have records for, then, Barrack made it a lot harder to argue — in 2021 — that’s there’s an innocent explanation for all this.

[snip]

This case will sink or swim on the strength of the false statements charges, because if Barrack’s alleged lies in June 2019 were clearcut, when he presumably believed he would be protected by Barr and Trump, then it makes several likely defenses a lot harder to pull off now.

The government made the same argument in a filing last month responding to Barrack’s motion to dismiss: If Barrack did not know his back channel with the Emirates was a problem, why did he (allegedly) lie about it?

Although not dispositive to Barrack’s vagueness challenge, if Barrack actually believed that he had done nothing wrong, it is unclear why he allegedly lied to FBI special agents during his voluntary June 20, 2019 interview as set forth in Counts Three through Seven of the Indictment.

It’s now clear that Barrack’s alleged false statements are even more important than that.

That’s because Barrack is now arguing that, because the Trump Administration approved of how Barrack was peddling US policy to the Emirates, Barrack could not have been a secret foreign agent under 18 USC 951.

That revelation has slowly become clear over the course of a dispute over discovery (motion, response, reply) pertaining to Barrack’s demand, among other things, for, “all communications between Mr. Barrack and the Trump Campaign and Administration regarding the Middle East.”

In the government’s response, they note that 18 USC 951 requires notice to the Attorney General, not to members of a private political campaign.

The defendants argue that evidence of Barrack’s disclosure of his UAE connections to members of the Trump Campaign are exculpatory. But Section 951 requires notice to the Attorney General, not to private citizens affiliated with the Trump Campaign. See 18 U.S.C. § 951(a). This makes sense, since the Attorney General is the official charged with enforcing the law and the senior official in charge of the FBI, the agency responsible for investigating and responding to unlawful foreign government activity inside the United States. By contrast, members of the Trump Campaign have no such responsibilities with respect to the internal national security of the United States and had no authority to sanction or bless the defendants’ illegal conduct. They are not government officials, and even if they were, they are not the Attorney General or a representative thereof.

According to the indictment, Paul Manafort not only knew that Barrack was working for the Emirates, but was cooperating with Barrack’s efforts.

In Barrack’s reply, after a heavily redacted passage, he complains about DOJ’s claim — made in the press conference announcing his arrest — that he had deceived Trump about what he was doing.

The government’s position is particularly astonishing in light of its public claim at the time of Mr. Barrack’s arrest that he had deceived Mr. Trump and the administration. Specifically, the then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division announced that the “conduct alleged in the indictment is nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former President,” and that this indictment was needed to deter such “undisclosed foreign influence.” [citation removed] In that same press release, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI NY Field Office asserted that the indictment was about “secret attempts to influence our highest officials.” Id. When Mr. Barrack raised concerns with the government about these false statements in the press release, the government responded that these statements were a fair representation of the conduct alleged in the indictment. [citation removed] Thus, in one breath the government claims that Mr. Barrack deceived Mr. Trump and the administration and that such evidence is part of its case, but in the next breath contends that contrary evidence is neither relevant nor exculpatory and apparently withheld such discovery on that basis.

Barrack’s lawyers include the 2021 comments about whether Trump knew of all this as exhibits, but more recent correspondence about it remains sealed.

In other words, Barrack seems to be arguing, he didn’t betray Trump; Trump wanted him to cater American foreign policy to rich Gulf Arab nations.

Barrack spends four pages of his reply making the same kinds of complaints about the documentation of his 2019 FBI interview that Mike Flynn made in 2020, even complaining that the fact that the AUSAs prosecuting the case were in the room makes them conflicted on the case. It’s clear why he did so: because if Barrack did lie to an FBI run by Trump’s appointed FBI Director and ultimately overseen by Bill Barr in 2019, then he was continuing to hide his influence-peddling from the one person that mattered under the law, Bill Barr (though given what we know of Barr’s interference in Ukraine investigations, I would be unsurprised if Barr knew that Trump knew of Barrack’s ties to the Emirates, which would explain why he swapped out US Attorneys in EDNY at the time).

Remember: Barrack is alleged to have been pursuing policies pushed by Mohammed bin Zayed. But among the things he is accused of doing for the Emirates was to “force” the White House to elevate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (then just the Deputy Crown Prince) during a visit to DC in March 2017. At the time the FBI interviewed Barrack in June 2019, Trump was under significant pressure for his possible complicity in the Jamal Khashoggi assassination.

And now — at a time when EDNY is talking about indicting Barrack’s not-yet indicted co-conspirators — we learn that MbS invested $2 billion dollars in Jared Kushner’s brand new firm even in spite of all the reasons not to.

Six months after leaving the White House, Jared Kushner secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi crown prince, a close ally during the Trump administration, despite objections from the fund’s advisers about the merits of the deal.

A panel that screens investments for the main Saudi sovereign wealth fund cited concerns about the proposed deal with Mr. Kushner’s newly formed private equity firm, Affinity Partners, previously undisclosed documents show.

Those objections included: “the inexperience of the Affinity Fund management”;the possibility that the kingdom would be responsible for “the bulk of the investment and risk”; due diligence on the fledgling firm’s operations that found them “unsatisfactory in all aspects”; a proposed asset management fee that “seems excessive”; and “public relations risks” from Mr. Kushner’s prior role as a senior adviser to his father-in-law, former President Donald J. Trump, according to minutes of the panel’s meeting last June 30.

But days later the full board of the $620 billion Public Investment Fund — led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and a beneficiary of Mr. Kushner’s support when he worked as a White House adviser — overruled the panel.

Barrack’s apparent claim that Trump knew exactly what he was doing does nothing to change his legal posture before Trump became President, and DOJ indicted this before the statute of limitation expired on that conduct.

But the apparent claim that Trump knew about this — and the possibility that Barr did too, at least after the fact — would change the kind of crime that happened in 2017, after Trump became President. And, possibly, the culprit.

Bill Barr’s Legal Exposure May Lead Him to Lie about the Hunter Biden Laptop

In case you missed it on Twitter, I am currently reading the former Attorney General’s fictional autobiography, which is predictably awful. I’ll write it up at more length in the days ahead.

The most newsworthy detail — by far! — in the parts I’ve read thus far is this admission describing how he “had” to open the Durham investigation, not because there was a suspected crime, but because Barr believes Trump’s “adversaries” pushed it to hobble his Administration.

I saw the way the President’s adversaries had enmeshed the Department of Justice in this phony scandal and were using it to hobble his administration. Once in office, it occupied much of my time for the first six months of my tenure. It was at the heart of my most controversial decisions. Even after dealing with the Mueller report, I still had to launch US Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the genesis of this bogus scandal.

[snip]

I always suspected that the preelection peddling of Steele’s dossier and other similar collusion claims comprised an attempt to carry out a classic campaign dirty trick: first, develop scurrilous allegations about one’s opponent, then get them into the hands of an investigative authority, and, finally, leak the “fact” that the allegations are being investigated. This way, unverified allegations are publicized and given instant credibility on the theory that authorities thought them worthy enough to investigate. News organizations can justify publishing dubious allegations by claiming they are really just reporting the facts of a pending investigation. Before Election Day, the Clinton campaign had a good motive for instigating the collusion narrative: besides hurting Trump, it diverted attention from her own e-mail server scandal, which seemingly came to a head in early July when FBI director Comey held a news conference sharply criticizing Clinton for her mishandling of classified e-mails. [my emphasis]

Over and over, Billy situates in advance — sometimes even before he returned to government — his belief in conspiracy theories that John Durham is currently chasing. The book goes a long way to substantiating that Durham is and always was using a criminal investigation to tell a story developed before either Barr or Durham had looked at any evidence.

This entire three year investigation was started because Billy Barr wanted to get revenge, not because he wanted to investigate a crime.

That’s important background for a recent appearance Barr made to claim that the decision by social media companies not to allow the NY Post story on an unverified laptop go viral swung the election.

So when former staffer Larry Kudlow on Thursday interviewed former attorney general William P. Barr for his Fox Business show, the conversation operated from shared assumptions about Trump’s successes and the toxicity of the political left. The result was that Barr outlined a remarkable hierarchy of importance for actions that might have affected the results of a presidential contest.

Russian interference in 2016, he said, was just “some embarrassing emails about Hillary Clinton and Bernie.” The effort to “suppress” information about Hunter Biden’s laptop, meanwhile, was “probably even more outrageous” and “had much more effect on an election.”

Philip Bump lays out all the evidence that Barr’s claim the media ignored the story is false and links to a contemporaneous analysis of the uncertainties about the laptop — though not this recent, overlooked WaPo article that revealed “the data contained on the drive [that purportedly comes from Hunter Biden’s laptop] was so compromised by a variety of factors that definitive conclusions about most of its contents were impossible.”

Bump is wrong, in my opinion, to treat this recent Hunter laptop surge as a mere political conversation on the right. It’s not. It is part of a plan to undermine the investigation — and likely, by then, prosecution — of Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to obtain dirt that is believed to closely if not exactly resemble what he ended up releasing under the guise of a discovered abandoned Hunter Biden laptop. If Republicans win the House, Jim Jordan will dedicate the resources of the House Judiciary Committee full time to investigating this “story,” and will use it to sabotage whatever legal proceedings are working against Rudy at that point.

And that’s why it’s important that a once respected lawyer is going on TV endorsing conspiracy theories.

After all, Barr is legally implicated himself.

As I said, I’ll write far more about the lies Barr told in his narrative. But one key detail is his explanation for appointing Richard Donoghue as a gate-keeper over any Ukraine investigations.

In January, as the impeachment process headed toward conclusion, Deputy Attorney General Rosen issued a memo to all US attorneys’ offices designating Richard Donoghue, the US attorney in the Eastern District of New York, to coordinate Ukraine-related cases. This was done not just for efficiency but also to protect the department from manipulation by foreign interests. As we headed into an election year, we had good reason to worry that Ukraine—a hotbed of political intrigue and conspiracy theories—posed a special concern. It was a channel through which all sides could inject disinformation into our system. This could be done by feeding spurious “evidence” of supposed criminality to US law enforcement authorities. This vulnerability was compounded in a Justice Department in which any one of ninety-three US attorneys’ offices around the country can initiate an investigation based on information it receives. In addition to ensuring information sharing and avoiding conflicts, we wanted to ensure that Ukrainian actors couldn’t instigate cases willy-nilly in different jurisdictions around the country. For this reason, we selected one office to take the lead and also serve as a “traffic cop,” coordinating existing and any new cases. Rich Donoghue was chosen for this role because he already had related matters pending in his Brooklyn office and was one of the most experienced and respected US attorneys in the department.

This is not entirely a lie. It is true that Jeffrey Rosen wrote a memo giving Donoghue veto authority over any investigations pertaining to Ukraine. But the move had the exact opposite effect of what Barr claimed in his narrative.

It had the effect of ensuring that Rudy could continue to chase disinformation from a known Russian agent, Andrii Derkach, to use in the election with no legal consequences.

On November 4, 2019, SDNY executed searches — searches that Main Justice would have had to be informed about — on Rudy and Victoria Toensing’s cloud accounts. In subsequent months, SDNY would execute searches on Yuri Lutsenko and several other Ukrainians, but not Andrii Derkach, not even after Rudy flew to Ukraine to meet with Derkach personally on December 5, 2019.

In the wake of those searches, on January 17, 2020, Jeffrey Rosen issued a memo putting his trusted deputy, Richard Donoghue, in charge of all Ukraine-related investigations.

As has been publicly reported, there currently are several distinct open investigations being handled by different U.S. Attorney’s Offices and/or Department components that in some way potentially relate to Ukraine. In addition, new information potentially relating to Ukraine may be brought to the attention of the Department going forward. The Department has assigned Richard Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), who currently is handling certain Ukraine-related matters, to coordinate existing matters and to assess, investigate, and address any other matters relating to Ukraine, including the opening of any new investigations or the expansion of existing ones.

[snip]

Any and all new matters relating to Ukraine shall be directed exclusively to EDNY for investigation and appropriate handling.

[snip]

Any widening or expansion of existing matters shall require prior consultation with and approval by my office and EDNY.

Now that we know about the Rudy search in November 2019, the effect of this memo is clear: it limited the SDNY investigation to the scope of the investigation as it existed at that time, into the Lutsenko attempt to fire Yovanovitch (which was included in the original Parnas indictment), but not Rudy’s meeting with a Russian agent to help Trump win re-election.

Instead, EDNY presided over all the Ukraine goings-on during the election, during which time they could have done something about ongoing tampering. Indeed, after Geoffrey Berman succeeded in ensuring that Audrey Strauss would replace him after Barr fired him to try to shut down ongoing investigations (including, undoubtedly, the one into Rudy and Barr’s friend Victoria Toensing), Barr and Rosen replaced Donoghue with another trusted flunky, Seth DuCharme. Under DuCharme, then, EDNY sat and watched while Derkach interfered in the election and did nothing until — per yesterday’s NYT story — “the final months of the Trump administration.” According to the public timeline, it appears that they just let a known Russian agent play around in our democracy.

This step didn’t protect American democracy from Russian tampering. It protected the Russian tampering.

And now Barr is out there claiming that an effort by social media companies to protect democracy was the real crime.

The Guy Investigating the Claimed Politicized Hiring of a Special Counsel Insists that the Hiring of a Special Counsel Cannot Be Political

On Monday, both John Durham and Michael Sussmann submitted their motions in limine, which are filings to argue about what can be admitted at trial. They address a range of issues that I’ll cover in several posts:

Sussmann:

Durham wants to:

  • Admit witnesses’ contemporaneous notes of conversations with the FBI General Counsel
  • Admit emails referenced in the Indictment and other, similar emails (see this post)
  • Admit certain acts and statements (including the defendant’s February 2017 meeting with a government agency, his December 2017 Congressional testimony, and his former employer’s October 2018 statements to the media) as direct evidence or, alternatively, pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b)
  • Exclude evidence and preclude argument concerning allegations of political bias on the part of the Special Counsel (addressed in this post)
  • Admit an October 31, 2016 tweet by the Clinton Campaign

I will link my discussions in serial fashion.


Here’s how John Durham moved to exclude any evidence that his team was ordered to produce results in time for the 2020 election, bullied witnesses, or treated Hillary Clinton as a more dangerous adversary than Russia.

The Government expects that defense counsel may seek to present evidence at trial and make arguments that depict the Special Counsel as politically motived or biased based on his appointment by the prior administration. Notwithstanding the patently untrue nature of those allegations, such matters are irrelevant to this case and would create a substantial danger of unfair prejudice, confusion, and delay. In particular, the government seeks to preclude the defendant from introducing any evidence or making any argument concerning the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the Special Counsel and alleged political bias on the part of the Special Counsel’s Office. Indeed, the defendant has foreshadowed some of these arguments in correspondence with the Special Counsel and others, and their assertions lack any valid basis.

Only relevant evidence is admissible at trial. Fed. R. Evid. 402. The definition of relevance is inclusive, see Fed. R. Evid. 401(a), but depends on the possibility of establishing a fact that “is of consequence in determining the action,” Fed. R. Evid. 401(b). Evidence is therefore relevant only if it logically relates to matters that are at issue in the case. E.g., United States v. O’Neal, 844 F. 3d 271, 278 (D.C. Cir. 2016); see Sprint/United Management Co. v. Mendelsohn, 552 U.S. 379, 387 (2008). The party seeking to introduce evidence bears the burden of establishing relevancy. Dowling v. United States, 493 U.S. 342, 351 n.3 (1990).

Here, the defendant is charged with making a false statement to the FBI General Counsel in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. A jury will have to decide only whether the defendant knowingly and willfully made a materially false statement to the FBI General Counsel. Nothing more, nothing less. Baseless political allegations are irrelevant to the crime charged. See, e.g., United States v. Regan, 103 F. 3d 1072, 1082 (2d Cir. 1997) (claims of Government misconduct are “ultimately separate from the issue of [a defendant’s] factual guilt”); United States v. Washington, 705 F. 2d 489, 495 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (similar). Evidence or argument concerning these issues should therefore be excluded. See Fed. R. Evid. 402; see, e.g., O’Neal, 844 F,3d at 278; United States v. Stone, 19 CR 18 (D.D.C. Sept. 26, 2019) ECF Minute Order (granting the government’s motion in limine to exclude evidence or argument regarding alleged misconduct in the government’s investigation or prosecution of Roger Stone).

The only purpose in advancing these arguments would be to stir the pot of political polarization, garner public attention, and, most inappropriately, confuse jurors or encourage jury nullification. Put bluntly, the defense wishes to make the Special Counsel out to be a political actor when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.11 Injecting politics into the trial proceedings is in no way relevant and completely unjustified. See United States v. Gorham, 523 F. 2d 1088, 1097-1098 (D.C. Cir. 1975) (upholding trial court’s decision to preclude evidence relevant only to jury nullification); see also United States v. Rushin, 844 F. 3d 933, 942 (11th Cir. 2016) (same); United States v. Castro, 411 Fed. App’x 415, 420 (2d Cir. 2011) (same); United States v. Funches, 135 F.3d 1405, 1408-1409 (11th Cir. 1998) (same); United States v. Cropp, 127 F.3d 354, 358-359 (4th Cir. 1997). With respect to concerns about jury nullification, this Circuit has opined:

[Defendant’s] argument is tantamount to the assertion that traditional principles concerning the admissibility of evidence should be disregarded, and that extraneous factors should be introduced at trial to become part of the jury’s deliberations. Of course a jury can render a verdict at odds with the evidence and the law in a given case, but it undermines the very basis of our legal system when it does so. The right to equal justice under law inures to the public as well as to individual parties to specific litigation, and that right is debased when juries at their caprice ignore the dictates of established precedent and procedure.

Gorham, 523 F.2d at 1098. Even if evidence related to the defendant’s anticipated allegations had “marginal relevance” to this case (which it does not), the “likely (and presumably intended) effect” would be “to shift the focus away from the relevant evidence of [the defendant’s] wrongdoing” to matters that are, at most, “tangentially related.” United States v. Malpeso, 115 F. 3d 155, 163 (2d Cir. 1997) (upholding exclusion of evidence of alleged misconduct by FBI agent). For the foregoing reasons, the defendant should not be permitted to introduce evidence or make arguments to the jury about the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the Special Counsel and alleged political bias on the part of the Special Counsel.

11 By point of fact, the Special Counsel has been appointed by both Democratic and Republican appointed Attorneys General to conduct investigations of highly-sensitive matters, including Attorneys General Janet Reno, Michael Mukasey, Eric Holder, Jeff Sessions and William Barr. [my emphasis]

Durham stuck the section between an extended section arguing that Judge Christopher Cooper should treat the interlinked investigations — by those working for the Hillary campaign and those, working independently of the campaign, who believed Donald Trump presented a grave risk to national security — into Trump’s ties to Russia as a unified conspiracy and another section asking that Clinton Campaign tweets magnifying the Alfa Bank allegations be admitted, even though the argument to include them is closely related.

Even ignoring how Durham pitches this issue, the placement of this argument — smack dab in the middle of an effort to treat protected political speech he admits is not criminal like a criminal conspiracy — seems like a deliberate joke. All the more so coming from prosecutors who, with their conflicts motion,

stir[red] the pot of political polarization, garner[ed] public attention, and, most inappropriately, confuse[d potential] jurors

It’s pure projection, presented in the middle of just that kind of deliberately polarizing argument. From the moment the Durham team — which relied heavily on an FBI Agent who reportedly sent pro-Trump texts on his FBI phone — tried to enhance Kevin Clinesmith’s punishment for altering documents because he sent anti-Trump texts on his FBI phone, Durham has criminalized opposition to Trump.

And Durham himself made his hiring an issue by claiming that the guy who misrepresented his conflicts motion by using it to suggest that Sussmann and Rodney Joffe should be executed, Donald Trump, is a mere third party and not the guy who made him a US Attorney.

But it’s also misleading, for multiple reasons.

The initial bias in question pertains to covering up for Russia, not helping Republicans

Sussmann’s likely complaints at trial have little to do with the fact that Durham was appointed by a Republican. Rather, a key complaint will likely have to do with the fact that Durham was appointed as part of a sustained campaign to misrepresent the entire set of events leading up to the appointment of his predecessor as Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, by a guy who auditioned for the job of Attorney General based on his claims — reflecting his warped Fox News understanding of the investigation — that the confirmed outcome of that investigation was false.

You cannot separate Durham’s appointment from Billy Barr’s primary goal in returning as Attorney General to undermine the evidence of improper Trump ties to Russia. You cannot separate Durham’s appointment, in the same days as Mueller acquired key evidence in two investigations (the Egyptian bank donation and Roger Stone) that Barr subsequently shut down, from Barr’s attempt to undermine the past and ongoing investigation. You cannot separate Durham’s appointment from what several other DC District judges (Reggie Walton, Emmet Sullivan, and Amy Berman Jacksonthe latter, twice) have said was Barr’s improper tampering in the Russian investigation.

That is, Durham was appointed to cover-up Trump’s confirmed relationship with Russia, not to attack Democrats. But in order to cover up for Russia, Durham will, and has, attacked the Democrats who were first victimized by Russia for viewing Russia as a threat (though I believe that Republicans were victimized, too).

That bias has exhibited in the following ways, among others:

  • Treating concern about Trump’s solicitation of further hacks by Russia and his confirmed ties to Russian money laundering as a partisan issue, and not a national security issue (something Durham continues with this filing)
  • Treatment, in the Danchenko case, of Charles Dolan’s involvement in the most accurate report in the Steele dossier as more damning that the likely involvement of Dmitri Peskov in the most inflammatory reports that paralleled the secret communications with Dmitry Peskov that Trump and Michael Cohen lied to cover up
  • Insinuations from Andrew DeFilippis to Manos Antonakakis that it was inappropriate for DARPA to ask researchers to investigate ongoing Russian hacks during an election
  • A prosecutorial decision that risks making sensitive FISA information available to Russia that will, at the same time, signal that the FBI won’t protect informants against Russia

There are other indications that Durham has taken probable Russian disinformation that implicates Roger Stone as instead reliable evidence against Hillary.

Durham’s investigation into an investigation during an election was a key prop during an investigation

Another thing Durham may be trying to stave off is Sussmann calling Nora Dannehy as a witness to explain why she quit the investigation just before the election. Even assuming Durham could spin concerns about pressure to bring charges before an election, that pressure again goes to Billy Barr’s project.

When Durham didn’t bring charges, some of the same documents Durham was reviewing got shared with Jeffrey Jensen, whose team then altered several of them, at least one of them misleadingly, to present a false narrative about Trump’s opponent’s role in the investigation. Suspected fraudster Sidney Powell seems to have shared that false narrative with Donald Trump, who then used it in a packaged attack in the first debate.

This is one of the reasons why Durham’s submission of Bill Priestap’s notes in such a way as to obscure whether those notes have some of the same indices of unreliability as the altered filings in the Mike Flynn case matters.

In other words, Durham is claiming that scrutinizing the same kind of questions that Durham himself has been scrutinizing for years is improper.

The bullying

I find it interesting that Durham claims that, “the defendant has foreshadowed some of these arguments in correspondence with the Special Counsel and others,” without citing any. That’s because the only thing in the record is that Sussmann asked for evidence of Durham bullying witnesses to alter their testimony — in response to which Durham provided communications with April Lorenzen’s attorneys.

On December 10, 2021, the defense requested, among other things, all of the prosecution team’s communications with counsel for witnesses or subjects in this investigation, including, “any records reflecting any consideration, concern, or threats from your office relating to those individuals’ or their counsels’ conduct. . . and all formal or informal complaints received by you or others” about the conduct of the Special Counsel’s Office.” Although communications with other counsel are rarely discoverable, especially this far in advance of trial, the Government expects to produce certain materials responsive to this request later this week. The Government notes that it is doing so despite the fact that certain counsel persistently have targeted prosecutors and investigators on the Special Counsel’s team with baseless and polemical attacks that unfairly malign and mischaracterize the conduct of this investigation. For example, certain counsel have falsely accused the Special Counsel’s Office of leaking information to the media and have mischaracterized efforts to warn witnesses of the consequences of false testimony or false statements as “threats” or “intimidation.”

And this set of filings reveals that Durham is still trying to force Rodney Joffe to testify against Sussmann, even though Joffe says his testimony will actually help Sussmann.

In other words, this may be a bid by Durham to prevent evidence of prosecutorial misconduct under the guise of maintaining a monopoly on the right to politicize the case.

Normally, arguments like this have great merit and are upheld.

But by making the argument, Durham is effectively arguing that the entire premise of his own investigation — an inquiry into imagined biases behind an investigation and later appointment of a Special Counsel — is illegitimate.

As we’ll see, what Judge Christopher Cooper is left with is nothing more than competing claims of conspiracy.