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675 Days after Mike Flynn Blew Up His Probation Plea Deal, We Learn There Never Was an “Original 302”

It has been 675 days since Mike Flynn was originally scheduled to be sentenced on December 18, 2018.

In the interim period, he fired his competent attorneys, Covington & Burling, hired firebreathing TV lawyer Sidney Powell, and had her write a letter to Billy Barr and Jeffrey Rosen demanding they appoint an outside lawyer to review the case. Among other things, the letter demanded “the original draft” of the Flynn 302.

The original draft of the Flynn 302 and all subsequent drafts, including the A-1 file that shows everyone who had possession of it. It appears that SCO has never produced the original 302. There were multiple drafts. It stayed in “deliberative/draft” stage for an inordinate time. Who influenced it, how, and why?

Then, in what was crafted to be an effort to insinuate that DOJ had not complied with Judge Emmet Sullivan’s standing Brady order, she asked for the 302 again, on reply even claiming that the claims in the 302 weren’t backed by the notes that Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka wrote during the interview.

Last December, Sullivan wrote an unbelievably meticulous opinion laying out why all the things she was demanding weren’t actually Brady material. In it, Judge Sullivan rejected Flynn’s “speculat[ion]” that an original 302 showing the agents believed Flynn was telling the truth could exist, not least because their notes mapped all versions of the draft and final 302s.

Mr. Flynn speculates that the government is suppressing the “original 302” of the January 24, 2017 interview, Def.’s Reply, ECF No. 133 at 28; he claims that the lead prosecutor “made it sound like there was only one 302,” id. at 29; and he makes a separate request for the FBI to search for the “original 302” in one of the FBI’s databases, id. at 28-30. In Mr. Flynn’s view, the “original 302”—if it exists—may reveal that the interviewing FBI agents wrote in the report “their impressions that [Mr.] Flynn was being truthful.” Id. at 28. Mr. Flynn claims that the FBI destroyed the “original 302” to the extent that it was stored in the FBI’s files. Id. at 30. Comparing draft FD-302s of Mr. Flynn’s January 24, 2017 interview to the final version, Mr. Flynn claims that the FBI manipulated the FD-302 because “substantive changes” were made after reports that Mr. Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian Ambassador “contrary to what Vice President Pence had said on television previously.” Id. at 14-15. Mr. Flynn points to the Strzok-Page text messages the night of February 10, 2017 and Ms. Page’s edits to certain portions of the draft FD-302 that were “material.” Def.’s SurSurreply, ECF No. 135 at 8-9.

To the extent Mr. Flynn has not already been provided with the requested information and to the extent the information exists, the Court is not persuaded that Mr. Flynn’s arguments demonstrate that he is entitled to the requested information. For starters, the Court agrees with the government that there were no material changes in the interview reports, and that those reports track the interviewing FBI agents’ notes. See, e.g., Gov’t’s Surreply, ECF No. 132 at 4; Def.’s Reply, ECF No. 133 at 20. Mr. Flynn ignores that FBI agents rely on their notes and memory to draft the interview reports after the completion of an interview. See United States v. DeLeon, 323 F. Supp. 3d 1285, 1290 n.4 (D.N.M. 2018) (discussing the drafting process for FD-302s). While handwritten notes may contain verbatim statements, the notes of FBI agents are not verbatim transcripts of the interview. United States v. Forbes, No. CRIM.302CR264AHN, 2007 WL 141952, at *3 (D. Conn. Jan. 17, 2007). And persuasive authority holds that the government’s production of summaries of notes and other documents does not constitute a Brady violation. See, e.g., United States v. Grunewald, 987 F.2d 531, 535 (8th Cir. 1993) (finding no Jencks Act or Brady violations where the government produced summaries of handwritten notes instead of the actual notes); United States v. Van Brandy, 726 F.2d 548, 551 (9th Cir. 1984) (holding that the government fulfilled its Brady obligations by producing summaries of the FBI’s file because Brady “does not extend to an unfettered access to the files”).

As an initial matter, the Court notes that the government has provided Mr. Flynn with the relevant FD-302s and notes rather than summaries of them. See, e.g., Gov’t’s Surreply, ECF No. 132 at 6-7; Gov’t’s Opp’n, ECF No. 122 at 10, 15; Gov’t’s App. A, ECF No. 122-1 at 2; Gov’t’s Notice of Disc. Correspondence, ECF No. 123 at 1-3. And the government states that it will provide Mr. Flynn with the FD-302s of his post-January 24, 2017 interviews. Gov’t’s Opp’n, ECF No. 122 at 4 n.1. Having carefully reviewed the interviewing FBI agents’ notes, the draft interview reports, the final version of the FD302, and the statements contained therein, the Court agrees with the government that those documents are “consistent and clear that [Mr. Flynn] made multiple false statements to the [FBI] agents about his communications with the Russian Ambassador on January 24, 2017.” Gov’t’s Surreply, ECF No. 132 at 4-5. The Court rejects Mr. Flynn’s request for additional information regarding the drafting process for the FD-302s and a search for the “original 302,” see Def.’s Sur-Surreply, ECF No. 135 at 8- 10, because the interviewing FBI agents’ notes, the draft interview reports, the final version of the FD-302, and Mr. Flynn’s own admissions of his false statements make clear that Mr. Flynn made those false statements.

Then, as matters moved towards sentencing and DOJ responded to Flynn’s refusal to cooperate and his conflicting sworn statements, by asking for prison time, Powell got desperate. She filed a bunch of motions to try to get Flynn out of his guilty pleas. And, magically, Billy Barr appointed St. Louis US Attorney Jeffrey Jensen to do what Powell had demanded seven months earlier, to review the case. That “review” used documents already reviewed by Mueller’s team, DOJ IG, John Durham, and — many of them — even Judge Sullivan — to claim DOJ had discovered “new” documents that justified blowing up Flynn’s prosecution.

Before long, Jensen started submitting documents and claims that made it clear his team was either lying or had zero understanding of the documents they used to claim DOJ should withdraw from Flynn’s prosecution. Nevertheless, Jensen kept churning out documents, even — ultimately — releasing an insta-302 showing that a key pro-Trump FBI agent on the case claimed not to understand this was a counterintelligence investigation, professed ignorance of key pieces of evidence, but nevertheless held sway in the Mueller team’s conclusion that they did not have proof that Trump ordered Flynn to blow up sanctions on Russia. They altered evidence in such a way that would support their prior false claims about key dates, and that altered evidence made its way, almost instantaneously and probably via Jenna Ellis, the Trump campaign lawyer with whom Sidney Powell remained in regular touch, into a Trump campaign attack. Ultimately, they admitted to some — but not all — of the evidence that had been altered and asked for a mulligan (but didn’t explain who had altered one of those exhibits).

Along the way, Jensen submitted evidence that made it clear that — not only didn’t Peter Strzok have it in for Mike Flynn — but he pushed the pro-Trump FBI Agent whose view held sway to join the Mueller team. As Sullivan’s amicus has noted, DOJ’s current argument relies on Strzok’s reliability, even while claiming that Strzok cannot be considered a reliable witness.

Jensen also submitted evidence that showed that meetings immediately after Flynn’s interview map perfectly onto Flynn’s existing 302, showing that there are completely credible witnesses who will attest that Strzok described the interview just as the 302 does immediately after the interview happened, including that Flynn lied.

Jensen also provided evidence that made it clear why Flynn’s lies were material — which was ostensibly the reason DOJ blew up his prosecution in the first place. His lies served to hide that Flynn coordinated with Mar-a-Lago on his efforts to blow up sanctions, something that even Billy Barr’s DOJ conceded might be evidence of coordination with Russia.

And then, on Tuesday, perhaps realizing that now that Strzok and Andrew McCabe have gotten discovery in their lawsuits for wrongful termination, DOJ should stop releasing documents that show Trump’s claims about the two of them were false, but also DOJ’s alterations of Strzok and McCabe documents, Jensen stopped.

According to a notice of discovery correspondence released last night, via letter to Sidney Powell sent on Tuesday DOJ told her there are no documents left and, in fact, there never was an “original 302.”

We write to respond to your recent discovery requests. On October 20, 2020, you requested “immediate production of any additional information that has been uncovered by Durham or the FBI or any federal officer or agent and provided to US Attorney Jensen–and not previously provided to the defense.” As we have previously disclosed, beginning in January 2020, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri has been conducting a review of the Michael T. Flynn investigation. Beginning in April 2020, and continuing through October 2020, we have disclosed on a number of occasions documents identified during that review. We are aware of no other documents or information at this time that meet the standard for disclosure in the Court’s Standing Order (Doc. 20).

You also requested “the original 302 and later drafts . . . , or the data evidencing their destruction.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a well-documented record management program and retention plan that provides specific instructions for the collection of information, the maintenance of documents, and the retention or disposal of documents. Those guidelines state that “[w]orking files, such as preliminary drafts, notes, and other similar materials, are to be destroyed when the final documents have been approved by the FBI official with authority to do so.” The policy applies to “all drafts created in any medium.” See Records Management Policy Guide, at p. 31, available at https://vault.fbi.gov/records-management-policy-guide-0769pg-part-01-of01/Records%20Management%20Policy%20Guide%200769PG%20Part%2001%20of%2001/vie w#document/p4.

Here, the FD-302 of your client’s January 24, 2017, interview was created in SENTINEL, which is the FBI’s electronic records management system for all criminal and intelligence gathering activities:

SENTINEL provides FBI employees the ability to create case documents and submit them through an electronic workflow process. Supervisors, reviewers, and others involved in the approval process can review, comment, and approve the insertion of documents into the appropriate FBI electronic case files. Upon approval, the SENTINEL system serializes and uploads the documents into the SENTINEL repositories, where the document becomes part of the official FBI case file. SENTINEL maintains an auditable record of all transactions

See Privacy Impact Assessment for the SENTINEL System, May 28, 2014, at p. 1, available at https://www.fbi.gov/services/information-management/foipa/privacy-impactassessments/sentinel.

In this this case, SSA 1 began drafting the FD-302 on the evening of January 24, 2017. The FD-302 was electronically accessed by SSA 1 and former DAD Peter Strzok in SENTINEL on several occasions. The FD-302 was electronically approved by FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence E.W. Priestap on February 15, 2017. Our review of SENTINEL’s audit trail establishes that no other FBI personnel accessed the FD-302 electronically prior to its approval and serialization. Consistent with the FBI’s records retention policy, no prior drafts of the FD-302 were maintained within SENTINEL.

You have previously been provided with three draft versions of the FD-302, dated February 10, 11, and 14, 2017, that were circulated in PDF format by email to FBI personnel for review; these are the only draft versions of the FD-302 that we have located during our diligent searches.

Finally, you requested “all the comms retrieved of McCabe with Comey, Page, Strzok, Baker, Priestap or anyone else about Flynn, Crossfire Razor or any other name for General Flynn or Michael G. Flynn, and any comms of Comey or any FBI member with anyone in the Obama White House about Flynn.” As discussed above, we have reviewed those communications and have disclosed all such communications that we have identified that meet the standard for disclosure in the Court’s Standing Order (Doc. 20). [my emphasis]

This doesn’t mean Barr is done with his shenanigans. After all, in spite of past assertions that no one at DOJ engaged in any abuse in its discovery compliance, this letter suggests (falsely, per Sullivan’s December 2019 opinion and all precedent) that the documents they’ve been dribbling out did meet “the standard for disclosure in the Court’s Standing Order.” Couple that with the fact that DOJ seems to be hiring for a Brandon Van Grack adjacent job, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re going after him, even while hiding evidence showing that Bill Barnett liked and trusted Van Grack.

Plus, ultimately Trump will pardon Flynn (indeed, Powell already told Sullivan that she had discussed a pardon with Trump).

But it does mean that, 675 days after Flynn could have started serving a probation sentence, we finally learn that one key premise on which he blew up this prosecution was false. There is no original 302.

In the wake of learning that her witch hunt came up short yesterday, Sidney Powell was complaining about the delay that she herself caused.

Docket Tea Leaves: Manafort, Bannon, and Flynn

I’d like to point to some curious docket doings in cases pertaining to Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, and Mike Flynn

Manafort

First, two things pertaining to Paul Manafort, who is serving his prison sentence from home. In his book, Andrew Weissmann raises the “other investigation” in which Manafort, on the day he succeeded in getting a plea deal, implicated someone — almost certainly Jared Kushner — and wondered why the material still hadn’t been released.

Most notably, at one point we asked him about an email he’d received in August 2016 from Roger Stone. Manafort gave a long explanation, the gist of which was to implicate two senior Trump campaign officials; it was related to an investigation in New York. (As the precise material is still under seal I cannot discuss the details, although it is unclear to me what the continued basis is for keeping all this material under seal.) We were trying to assess his credibility, fixating on signs of dishonesty—any indication that Manafort was still angling for a pardon, or attempting to play us. Volunteering this information, which implicated senior officials, suggested he may have written that possibility off, even though we all had continuing doubts.

It’s a damn good question given that Manafort’s defense and prosecutors filed a sealed joint motion about what else could be unsealed from Manafort’s breach determination. At the time, the government was proposing to unseal at least some of the information — and had even given proposals to Manafort’s lawyers to unseal them.

On May 29, 2020, the government provided counsel for Mr. Manafort with the last of the government’s proposals for lesser-redacted materials. Counsel for Mr. Manafort is now considering the government’s proposals, and the parties respectfully request additional time for counsel for Mr. Manafort to do so, and for the parties to confer and prepare the joint report for the Court.

But Judge Amy Berman Jackson hasn’t ruled yet. She’s busy as hell, but some of this information would be fairly important for voters to consider before they vote.

Meanwhile, in Manafort’s case in chief, on Tuesday, one of the two DC AUSAs who were on the docket swapped out for a different one.

The United States of America, by and through its attorney, the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, and Assistant United States Attorney Arvind Lal, hereby informs the Court that he is entering his appearance in this matter on behalf of the United States. Assistant United States Attorney Zia M. Faruqui no longer represents the United States in this matter.

Manafort’s serving his prison sentence from home. And the AUSA on the unsealing docket, Molly Gaston, remains on this one (so it shouldn’t pertain to the unsealing debate). There doesn’t seem to be a need to add new AUSAs when all he’s going to do is continue to sit in his condo until Trump pardons him.

Bannon

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a sealed document was placed in Steve Bannon’s docket.

This could be a lot of things, and Bannon has three co-defendants, so it’s not even clear that it pertains to him. But it’s the first sealed document (as a simple fraud case, this shouldn’t involve any classified evidence). And it was filed the same day as the Hunter Biden faux-scandal broke.

NBC reported that the FBI is investigating whether this faux-scandal has ties to foreign intelligence.

Federal investigators are examining whether emails allegedly describing activities by Joe Biden and his son Hunter and found on a laptop at a Delaware repair shop are linked to a foreign intelligence operation, two people familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The FBI seized the laptop and a hard drive through a grand jury subpoena. The subpoena was later published by the New York Post. The bureau has declined to comment.

Though there are other sketchy aspects to the story, such as the claim that the shop owner, having been subpoenaed for the laptop, also made a copy and gave it to Rudy’s lawyer, Robert Costello.

“Before turning over the gear, the shop owner says, he made a copy of the hard drive and later gave it to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello,” the Post said. “Steve Bannon, former adviser to President Trump, told The Post about the existence of the hard drive in late September and Giuliani provided The Post with a copy of it on Sunday.”

Bannon’s Chinese benefactor, Guo Wengui, was hyping the dirt before it was released.

Weeks before the New York Post began publishing what it claimed were the contents of Hunter Biden’s hard drive, a Sept. 25 segment on a YouTube channel run by a Chinese dissident streamer, who is linked to billionaire and Steve Bannon-backer Guo Wengui, broadcast a bizarre conspiracy theory. According to the streamer, Chinese politburo officials had “sent three hard disks of evidence” to the Justice Department and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi containing damaging information about Joe Biden as well as the origins of the coronavirus in a bid to undermine the rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Three days later, a Twitter account linked to Guo and Bannon’s Himalaya movement subsequently amplified an edited clip of the segment alongside the pledge of a “Bombshell… 3 hard disk drives of videos and dossiers of Hunter Biden’s connections with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have been sent to Nancy Pelosi and DOJ. Big money and sex scandal!”

And Bannon was boasting of having the laptop on September 28.

If the FBI was already investigating this — including why the shop owner was handing out copies of the purported laptop — then the FBI may have been aware of Bannon’s activities before Wednesday.

The point is, some of this — particularly if it delves into fraud — would be a bail violation. There’s a status conference on October 26, so it’s possible we’ll get hints then.

Ultimately, I think Bannon is virtually guaranteed to be pardoned, because he still hasn’t told the full truth about 2016. So even if he were jailed, it’d likely be for a matter of days until Trump got him out again.

Flynn

Finally, there’s Flynn’s case. The one unopposed amicus — filed by the NACDL — got docketed today. It’s a strong case — far stronger than a similar argument that Sidney Powell tried to make — that Flynn should not be held in contempt for the lies he has told in Judge Emmet Sullivan’s case. It’s an argument that Sullivan would, I imagine, normally find persuasive, and the fact that he has docketed it today makes me wonder if he’s relying on it in his order on Flynn’s case.

The only problem with the brief is it misunderstands the full scope of Flynn’s lies to the court. The brief assumes all his lies pertain to his guilty pleas, and argue that defendants can’t be held accountable for perjury on coerced guilty pleas.

But — as I’ve noted repeatedly — the sworn declaration Flynn submitted as part of his attempt to withdraw his guilty plea, which DOJ’s recent excuses for blowing up his prosecution increasingly rely on, also conflicts with what Flynn said to the grand jury as well as evidence submitted in this docket, which shows notes from Covington recording Flynn telling lies about his engagement with Turkey (see the bold for a conflicting statement).

  • June 26, 2018: Mike Flynn testified to an EDVA grand jury, among other things, that:
    • “From the beginning,” his 2016 consulting project “was always on behalf of elements within the Turkish government,”
    • He and Bijan Kian would “always talk about Gulen as sort of a sharp point” in relations between Turkey and the US as part of the project (though there was some discussion about business climate)
    • “For the most part” “all of that work product [was] about Gulen”
    • When asked if he knew of any work product that didn’t relate to Gulen, Flynn answered, “I don’t think there was anything that we had done that had anything to do with, you know, anything else like business climates or stuff like that”
    • He was not aware of “any work done on researching the state of the business climate in Turkey”
    • He was not aware of “any meetings held with U.S. businesses or business associations”
    • He was not aware of “any work done regarding business opportunities and investment in Turkey”
    • He and his partner “didn’t have any conversations about” a November 8, 2016 op-ed published under his name until “Bijan [] sent me a draft of it a couple of days prior, maybe about a week prior”
  • January 29, 2020: Mike Flynn submitted a sworn declaration. Among the assertions he made were:
    • “On December 1, 2017 (reiterated on December 18, 2018), I pled guilty to lying to agents of the FBI. I am innocent of this crime.”
    • “I gave [Covington] the information they requested and answered their questions truthfully.”
    • “I still don’t remember if I discussed sanctions on a phone call with Ambassador Kislyak nor do I remember if we discussed the details of a UN vote on Israel.”
    • “My relationship with Covington disintegrated soon thereafter.” [After second proffer session.]
    • “I did not believe I had lied in my White House interview with the FBI agents.”
    • “In the preceding months leading up to this moment [when he agreed to the plea deal], I had read articles and heard rumors that the agents did not believe that I had lied.”
    • “It was well after I pled guilty on December 1, 2017, that I heard or read that the agents had stated that they did not believe that I had lied during the January 24, 2017, White House interview.”
    • “I agreed to plead guilty that next day, December 1, 2017, because of the intense pressure from the Special Counsel’s Office, which included a threat to indict my son, Michael, and the lack of crucial information from my counsel.”
    • “My former lawyers from Covington also assured me on November 30, 2017, that if I accepted the plea, my son Michael would be left in peace.”
    • “Regretfully I followed my lawyers’ strong advice to confirm my plea even though it was all I could do to not cry out ‘no’ when this Court asked me if I was guilty.”
    • “In truth, I never lied.”

Not to mention, Flynn’s sworn declaration is internally inconsistent. [Update: a few more of the amicus briefs have been approved, including one from former prosecutors.]

It’s also worth noting that the Bill Barnett 302, which included about a page worth of paragraphs that were “pending unsealing by the court” that have yet to be unsealed. Some of those must pertain to things Flynn claimed in his declaration. (Flynn’s defense, but not Judge Sullivan, has an unredacted copy.)

Finally, yesterday, DOJ either posted or updated a job description that could be Brandon Van Grack’s job leading DOJ’s more focused FARA practice, which Van Grack got moved to after the Mueller investigation (though it could also be a more junior position reporting to Van Grack).

The attorney for this position will focus on administering and enforcing FARA, with at least 50% of the attorney’s time devoted to FARA matters. The attorney’s FARA responsibilities will include preparing for and leading civil litigation, managing criminal investigations, conducting inspections, and drafting advisory opinions.

When DOJ tried to blow up Flynn’s prosecution, Van Grack withdrew from the case but did not quit, though the frothy right claimed he had been ousted. Just in the last while, Bruce Ohr was finally ousted from the office for a trumped up complaint that he shared intelligence on Russian threats, as he had done for years. Van Grack hasn’t filed anything in PACER since DOJ moved to withdraw the prosecution. That said, DOJ has repeatedly said DOJ did not violate Brady.

I don’t really know what to make of all this. But I thought I’d note what I’m seeing in the bottom of my tea cup.

The Desperation of the Jeffrey Jensen Investigation Already Made Clear that John Durham Won’t Indict

Yesterday, a sick man called into Maria Bartiromo’s show and wailed that his opponents had not been indicted.

Bartiromo: Mr. President. We now know from these documents that John Ratcliffe unveiled that it was Hilary Clinton’s idea to tie you to Russia in some way. It was successful. The whole country was talking about it for two and a half years. But what comes next, Mr. President? We can have all of these documents, we can see exactly what happened but unless John [Durham] comes out with a report or indictments unless Bill Barr comes out with a — a — some kind of a ruling here, do you think this is resonating on the American people?

Trump: Unless Bill Barr indicts these people for crimes, the greatest political crime in the history of our country, then we’re going to get little satisfaction unless I win and we’ll just have to go, because I won’t forget it. But these people should be indicted, this was the greatest political crime in the history of our country and that includes Obama and it includes Biden. These are people that spied on my campaign and we have everything. Now they say they have much more, OK? And I say, Bill, we’ve got plenty, you don’t need any more. We’ve got so much, Maria, even — just take a look at the Comey report, 78 pages of kill, done by Horowitz, and I have a lot of respect for Horowitz, and he said prosecute. He recommended prosecute and they didn’t prosecute. I was — I couldn’t believe it, but they didn’t do it, because they said we have much bigger fish to fry. Well, that’s OK, they indicted Flynn for lying and he didn’t lie. They destroyed many lives, Roger Stone, over nothing. They destroyed lives. Look at Manafort, they sent in a black book, it was a phony black book, phony, they made up a black book of cash that he got from Ukraine or someplace and he didn’t get any cash.

In the comment, he described speaking directly to Billy Barr about the urgency of prosecuting his political opponents.

In response to this attack, Billy Barr has started telling Republican members of Congress that John Durham isn’t going to indict before the election.

Attorney General Bill Barr has begun telling top Republicans that the Justice Department’s sweeping review into the origins of the Russia investigation will not be released before the election, a senior White House official and a congressional aide briefed on the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans had long hoped the report, led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, would be a bombshell containing revelations about what they allege were serious abuses by the Obama administration and intelligence community probing for connections between President Trump and Russia.

  • “This is the nightmare scenario. Essentially, the year and a half of arguably the number one issue for the Republican base is virtually meaningless if this doesn’t happen before the election,” a GOP congressional aide told Axios.
  • Barr has made clear that they should not expect any further indictments or a comprehensive report before Nov. 3, our sources say.

Barr is excusing the delay by saying that Durham is only going to prosecute stuff he can win.

What we’re hearing: Barr is communicating that Durham is taking his investigation extremely seriously and is focused on winning prosecutions.

  • According to one of the sources briefed on the conversations Barr said Durham is working in a deliberate and calculated fashion, and they need to be patient.
  • The general sense of the talks, the source says, is that Durham is not preoccupied with completing his probe by a certain deadline for political purposes.

This back and forth represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what must be going on.

The Durham investigation should not, at this point, be considered separately from the Jeffrey Jensen investigation attempting to invent a reason to blow up the Flynn prosecution. That’s been true since Barr appointed Jensen because Durham hadn’t yet discovered anything to dig Sidney Powell out of the hole she had dug Flynn. But it’s especially true now that documents that would be central to the Durham inquiry are being leaked left and right — whether it’s the report that the FBI knew that Igor Danchenko had been investigated (like Carter Page and Mike Flynn) as a possible Russian agent, or specific details about when the FBI obtained NSLs on Mike Flynn.

The investigative integrity of the Durham investigation has been shot beyond recovery.

Plus, the sheer desperation of the Jensen investigation raises real questions about whether a credible investigation could ever find anything that could sustain a prosecution, in any case. That’s because:

  • Jensen has repeatedly provided evidence that proves the opposite of what DOJ claims. For example, the Bill Priestap notes that DOJ claimed were a smoking gun actually show contemporaneous proof for the explanation that every single witness has offered for Mike Flynn’s interview — that they needed to see whether Flynn would tell the truth about his calls with Sergey Kisklyak. Plus, now there’s a Priestap 302, one DOJ is hiding, that further corroborates that point. That evidence blows all the claims about the centrality of the Logan Act to interviewing Flynn out of the water, and it’s already public.
  • Jensen’s investigators submitted altered exhibits to sustain easily disprovable claims. DOJ has claimed that this tampering with evidence was inadvertent — they simply forgot to take sticky notes off their files. That doesn’t explain all the added dates, however, undermining their excuse. Moreover, if they didn’t intentionally tamper with evidence, they’re left claiming either that they haven’t read the exhibits they’ve relied on thus far in this litigation, or that they’re so fucking stupid that they don’t realize they’ve already disproven their own assumptions about dates. Add in the way their “errors” got mainlined to the President via a lawyer meeting with Trump’s campaign lawyer, and the whole explanation gets so wobbly no prosecutor would want to proceed toward prosecution with problems that could so easily be discoverable (or already public).
  • Jensen’s investigators got star witness William Barnett to expose himself as a partisan willing to forget details to help Trump. Along with an analyst that was skeptical of the Flynn case (but who was moved off before the most damning evidence came in), Barnett would need to be the star witness in any case alleging impropriety in the investigation. But rather than hiding Barnett’s testimony and protecting his credibility, Jensen made a desperate bid to get his claims on the record and make it public. And what the 302 actually shows — even without a subpoena of Barnett’s personal ties and texts sent on FBI phones — is that in his interview, Barnett claimed not to understand the case (even though documents he filed show that he did, contemporaneously), and either did not remember or deliberately suppressed key evidence (not least that Flynn told Kislyak that Trump had been informed of his calls).  The 302 further showed Barnett presenting as “truth” of bias claims that instead show his willingness to make accusations about people he didn’t work with, even going so far as to repackage his own dickish behavior as an attempt to discredit Jeannie Rhee. Finally, by hiding how many good things Barnett had to say about Brandon Van Grack, DOJ has made it clear that the only thing Barnett can be used for is to admit that he, too, believes Flynn lied, didn’t have a problem with one of the key investigators in the case, and that his views held sway on the final Mueller Report. Had Durham managed this witness, Barnett might have been dynamite. Now, he would be, at best, an easily discredited partisan.

Jensen is working from the same evidence that Durham is. And what the Jensen investigation has shown is that it takes either willful ignorance or deliberate manipulation to spin this stuff as damning. And in the process, Jensen has destroyed the viability of a witness and possibly other pieces of evidence that any credible prosecution would use.

DOJ might make one last bid in giving Trump what he wants, allegations against his adversaries, by using the initial response in the McCabe and Strzok lawsuits as a platform to make unsubstantiated attacks on them (DOJ got an extension in both cases, but one that is still before the election). But those attacks will crumble just like the Jeffrey Jensen case has, and do so in a way that may make it easier for McCabe and Strzok to get expansive discovery at the underlying actions of people like Barnett.

Billy Barr has largely shot his wad in drumming up accusations against Trump’s critics. And along the way, he has proven how flimsy any such claims were in the first place.

Bill Barnett’s Second Gratuitous Swipe at the Mueller Investigation Collapses

Shortly after FBI Agent William Barnett’s 302 came out, I pointed out his attack on Jeannie Rhee said more about his own workplace behavior problems than it did about Rhee. Because she asked questions on the Russian side of Mike Flynn’s exposure, he reacted hostilely, and even in response to a polite comment that she looked forward to working with Barnett, he responded with a dickish statement that he would not work with her.

In the 10 days since the release of Barnett’s 302, his attack on Andrew Weissmann has also collapsed.

Barnett offered this as an example to substantiate his claim that there was a “get Trump” attitude among some Mueller prosecutors, especially what he refers to as the “all stars.”

BARNETT said it sees there was always someone at SCO who claimed to have a lead on information that would prove the collusion only to have the information be a dead end. BARNETT provided an example: WEISSMANN said there was a meeting on a yacht near Greece that was going to be proof of collusion, “quid pro quo.” BARNETT said with a day or two the information was no substantiated.

In his book (completed before Barnett’s interview but released after it), Weissmann described such leads otherwise: as a lead dug up by the press that investigators had to chase down, often wasting a lot of time.

Now, however, the Special Counsel’s Office was enjoying a rare upside of working a high-profile case: As we began boring into the events of the campaign time period, a swarm of enterprising reporters was churning up their own evidence in parallel. At times, the stories the media published proved to be dead ends, which we, nevertheless, were obliged to spend time running down. These numerous leads would include our spending months debunking reports about Trump’s watering down support for Ukraine in the Republican Party platform during the convention—which would have been favorable to Russia’s interests in Ukraine and thus raised a red flag—and our running to ground, around the globe, the claim by a Belarusian call girl that she had tapes of Deripaska admitting to Russian election interference in the 2016 election.

Plus, as Weissmann explained to Politico the other day, Barnett was not in a position to know what Weissmann was doing.

Weissmann said he had a general awareness of who Barnett was but “never dealt with him” because Barnett was not assigned to his team. The top FBI agent and analyst assigned to the Manafort unit, Weissmann said, “got along really well.”

“I read that and I was trying to understand,” Weissmann said of Barnett’s complaints. “I just couldn’t make any sense of it because he seemed supportive of the [Flynn] prosecution but just generally negative about the office.”

Weissmann also wondered about the timing, noting Barnett interviewed with internal DOJ investigators in recent weeks, and his interview summary was made public just days later.

“It was certainly odd for that to be submitted in court so quickly,” he said. “But I’m not part of that litigation and I don’t know all of the ins and outs — I haven’t heard the government’s reasoning and maybe there is a rationale for it.”

DOJ is hiding Barnett’s apparently complimentary views on the main prosecutor Barnett worked with, the only one whose behavior is pertinent to the Flynn prosecution, while releasing his comments that show either a willingness to comment on parts of the investigation with which he’s unfamiliar or, in the case of Rhee, to repackage his hostile workplace behavior as an attack on the woman involved.

Update to reflect that the sex worker lead and the boat lead here are different. The one that Barnett references is Manafort’s trip with Tom Barrack immediately after leaving the case. That one also was part of the investigation for a long time, with the Barrack funding of Manafort even longer.

DOJ Hid Material Comments about Brandon Van Grack from Judge Sullivan in the William Barnett 302

The redactions on the 302 of William Barnett — the pro-Trump FBI Agent who recently gave an interview riddled with contradictions that Republicans have tried to use to undermine the Mike Flynn case — look like they were done by a five year old with finger paint.

It appears there were at least two and possibly three passes on redactions. There are redactions with rounded edges that appear to redact information that is actually classified. There may be more substantive redactions done of full sentences, including a passage marked to be “pending unsealing” by the court. There’s information on the investigation into Mike Flynn’s secret work for Turkey that is redacted, too, which is problematic, given that Judge Emmet Sullivan asked about that investigation into Flynn in Tuesday’s hearing. It’s clear from the unredacted bits of the 302 that Barnett had fewer problems, if any, with that investigation than he did with Flynn’s cover-up of his calls to Sergey Kislyak, so by redacting those discussions, the FBI is hiding Barnett making positive comments about part of the investigation into Flynn.

Then there’s a bunch of stuff — that includes names but also material that appears to be unflattering to General Flynn — that appears to have been redacted with block redactions after the fact, such as this redaction that seems to fade away to nowhere.

The redactions of names are a mess too, with irregular box redactions and in a few places, different typeface sizes.

That’s mostly aesthetics. But it suggests that — in spite of an FBI declassification stamp applied on September 24 — some or all of these redactions weren’t done by the people who normally do such things.

It’s the treatment of names where things delve into legally suspect area. The name of Barnett, Peter Strzok, and Andrew McCabe are not redacted. The names of other FBI and DOJ personnel generally are, though some have labels so you can follow repeated discussions of those people.

It’s in the treatment of Robert Mueller’s lawyers where things get inexcusable.

DOJ has a general rule that all Mueller AUSAs are public (as seen in the Mueller 302s released under FOIA, as well as phone records FOIAed by Judicial Watch), but all FBI personnel are not. Here, however, FBI left the name of some Mueller prosecutors unredacted, and redacted others. The unredacted names are those the GOP would like to spin as biased (including with an attack on Jeannie Rhee which actually shows Barnett being an abusive dick simply because Rhee tried to do her job):

Meanwhile there are at least two Mueller prosecutors whose names are redacted:

The FBI might be excusing this disparate treatment by making a distinction between lawyers who’ve left DOJ and those who haven’t.

Except that raises questions about whether there are unmarked references to Zainab Ahmad who, as the second prosecutor on the Flynn case, should show up in any interview of Barnett’s work with Mueller, but who has also left DOJ (and so would be unredacted if that’s the rule purportedly adopted here).

I have made several inquiries at DOJ for an explanation but gotten no response. But we know that someone at DOJ did these redactions, because Jocelyn Ballantine shared an unredacted copy of the 302 with Flynn’s lawyers, explaining that DOJ would submit the redacted copy to the docket themselves. Ken Kohl, who (multiple people have described) has a history of problematic actions, is the one who actually signed the filing uploading the 302 to the docket.

If I were Ballatine, I’d think very seriously about whether I wanted to remain silent after having witnessed how this 302 was submitted.

The result of redacting Van Grack’s name is that it hides from Judge Sullivan (and Amicus John Gleeson) many complimentary things that Barnett had to say about Van Grack:

DOJ’s star witness purportedly backing its claim that the investigation into Mike Flynn was abusive had a number of good things to say about the prosecutor that purportedly committed some of the abuse. Significantly, DOJ’s star witness, Barnett, claims that Van Grack agreed with Barnett in viewing KT McFarland’s lies in the least incriminating light.

And DOJ redacted Van Grack’s name, thereby obscuring that.

Sidney Powell made a number of allegations about Van Grack on Tuesday, including that Van Grack demanded Mike Flynn lie in the Bijan Kian case, something sharply at odds with Barnett’s claim that Van Grack interpreted McFarland’s answers in the least damning light. And Judge Sullivan asked about the significance of Van Grack’s withdrawal from the case Tuesday, something DOJ dismissed as irrelevant even while they were hiding material details about Van Grack.

So Brandon Van Grack’s conduct is central to the matter before Judge Sullivan. And DOJ is withholding favorable information about Van Grack by redacting his name in this 302, even while relying on the 302 for what DOJ claims is damning information elsewhere.

It would be clear legal misconduct to hide that information, effectively hiding evidence that debunks DOJ’s claims of abuse with a treatment of redactions that is plainly inconsistent with past DOJ practice (including on the release of a 302 discussed in Barnett’s own 302).

And yet that’s what DOJ has done.

In His 302, William Barnett Admitted to Saving Trump [While Ignoring at Least Four Pieces of Evidence Implicating Him]

I didn’t even unpack all the glaring inconsistencies in William Barnett’s 302 in this post. But given that his statement does contradict both itself and the public record, I want to examine the story that it tells from a different view.

His 302 shows that an FBI Agent was retained on the investigation even after DOJ IG investigated Mueller team texts that — I’ve been told — should have shown he sent pro-Trump texts from his FBI phone (DOJ IG has declined to comment about this). It shows that he remained on the case even after claiming on at least three occasions to want off the case. He remained on, he explains, to prevent “group think” about Mike Flynn’s guilt (even though his own 302 professes to be unaware of several key pieces of evidence, and the 302 redacts at least one other piece of evidence he dismissed). And by remaining on the case, his testimony reveals but does not admit explicitly, he prevented the Mueller team from reaching a conclusion that might have supported a quid pro quo charge.

It has always been inexplicable why Mike Flynn got the sweet plea deal he did, a False Statements charge letting him off for secretly working for a foreign government while getting classified briefings with the candidate, particularly given that — unlike Rick Gates — it was always clear Flynn didn’t want to fully cooperate (and did not fully cooperate, professing not to remember key repeated contacts regarding a back channel with Russia that the White House tried to cover up in other ways).

And now William Barnett is taking credit for all that.

Barnett remained on the Mike Flynn case after trying four times to stay off it

Not explained in Barnett’s 302 is how he ended up investigating Mike Flynn through to prosecution when he repeatedly expressed a disinterest in doing so.

Barnett started, in August 2016, tasked to investigate both Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn. He describes any actions he took early on in the Flynn investigation to be an effort to clear the investigation (and he spoke of it, at all times, in terms of criminal activity, not threats to national security, in spite of his own closing memo admitting that the investigation also investigated the latter). A possible interview in the post-election period, the interview that happened on January 24, the review of call records that would disclose further lies from Flynn, and other evidence that remained redacted — all that was, in Barnett’s mind, just box-checking in advance of closing the investigation. At numerous times in his 302, he seems to suggest he would have been happy to continue on the Manafort investigation, but wanted off the Flynn one.

His 302 describes how, in early 2017 (when false allegations about Andrew McCabe were beginning to be floated, but before an FBI Investigation Division into them started), he asked to be taken off the case.

In or about early February 2017, BARNETT discussed his wish to be removed from the RAZOR investigation with FBI Unit Chief [Unit Chief] and [Special Agent]. [Unit Chief and Special Agent] asked why BARNETT wished to be removed from the investigation. BARNETT said the Inspector General (IG) was looking at the Clinton Case and BARNETT believed the RAZOR investigation was problematic and could result in an IG investigation. FBI policy does not allow for an agent to pick and choose his/her cases. An agent can request to be removed from a case. If an agent is not removed but wanted to leave, they could do a “sit down strike,” meaning the agent asks for approval to do everything and creates enough problems to have them removed from the case.

In spite of providing an explanation of how Barnett could have gotten off the case if he really wanted to, he did not do so (even though it’s possible that the delay in obtaining call records reflects such a sit down strike).

Then, again in April, Barnett exchanged notes with an analyst who wanted off the case. In his testimony, he described that he believed the “collusion” theory that the call records would have supported, “did not make sense.”

BARNETT was asked about a Lync message on 04/06/2017 from [Analyst 1] to BARNETT regarding [Analyst 1] being removed from the RAZOR investigation. BARNETT said [Analyst 1] was very skeptical of the FLYNN collusion [sic] investigation. BARNETT also thought it was a “dumb theory” that did not make sense.

Then, apparently after the appointment of Mueller in May, Barnett tried to undermine any investigation into Flynn by not briefing on it, at a briefing specifically called to review Flynn. This is the passage taken by credulous readers as damning to Jeannie Rhee, when it in fact shows that Barnett was insubordinate and rude.

BARNETT was told to give a brief on FLYNN to a group including SCO attorney Jean Rhee (RHEE), [four other people], and possibly [a fifth] BARNETT said he briefly went over the RAZOR investigation, including the assessment that there was no evidence of a crime, and then started to discuss [redacted — probably Manafort] which BARNETT thought was the more significant investigation. RHEE stopped BARNETT’s briefing [redacted] and asked questions concerning the RAZOR investigation. RHEE wanted to “drill down” on the fees FLYNN was paid for a speech FLYNN gave in Russia. BARNETT explained logical reasons for the amount of the fee, but RHEE seemed to dismiss BARNETT’s assessment. BARNETT thought RHEE was obsessed with FLYNN and Russia and she had an agenda. RHEE told BARNETT she was looking forward to working together. BARNETT told RHEE they would not be working together.

After this briefing, Barnett told someone — almost certainly Brandon Van Grack — that he didn’t like Rhee and didn’t want to be on the Flynn investigation.

BARNETT expressed his concern about RHEE to [SCO Atty 1, probably Van Grack]. BARNETT told [probably Van Grack] that he wanted nothing to do with the RAZOR investigation.

In spite of saying, repeatedly, that he didn’t want to work on the Flynn case, Barnett affirmatively chose to continue on it, to prevent others from “group think.”

On the day following the brief that BARNETT provided to RHEE, BARNETT was contacted by STRZOK. STRZOK said he (STRZOK) really wanted BARNETT to work with the SCO. STRZOK said he (STRZOK) knew BARNETT had a problem with RHEE. BARNETT told STRZOK that he (BARNETT) wanted to work [redacted–probably Manafort] and did not wish to pursue the collusion investigation as it was “not there.” STRZOK said he (STRZOK) would run interference between BARNETT and RHEE. [Probably Van Grack] and STRZOK told BARNETT he (STRZOK) could work on things other than what RHEE was looking into. BARNETT decided to work at the SCO hoping his perspective would keep them from “group think.”

So: Barnett expresses a wish to get off the Flynn case in February, he expresses a wish to get off the Flynn case in April, in May, he says he wants nothing to do with the Flynn case while refusing to brief on it, and then he affirmatively chose to stay on the Flynn case, in hopes of preventing others from “group think.”

There’s some real proof that Robert Mueller (and Peter Strzok!!) sought out people who had it in for Trump!

I actually think it was a good thing that Mueller included skeptics. But Barnett is not just a skeptic; in his 302 he misstated what the evidence showed.

Barnett ignores or dismisses at least four pieces of evidence implicating Flynn

Barnett’s 302 records him claiming that there was “no” evidence showing Trump directed Flynn, even calling such a suspicion “astro projection.”

BARNETT said numerous attempts were made to obtain evidence that TRUMP directed FLYNN concerning [redacted] with no such evidence being obtained. BARNETT said it was just an assumption, just “astro projection,” and the “ground just kept being retreaded.”

Ultimately, Barnett offered a different reason why Flynn (and KT McFarland) told what he admits were clear lies: they were just trying to keep — or get — a job.

Regarding FLYNN, some individuals in the SCO assumed FLYNN was lying to cover up collusion [sic] between the TRUMP campaign and Russia. BARNETT believed FLYNN lied in the interview to save his job, as that was the most plausible explanation and there was no evidence to contradict it.

Barnett’s stated opinion is, like most things pertaining to Flynn, precisely the conclusion drawn institutionally by the Mueller team, best expressed in Flynn’s sentencing memo: Flynn started telling lies in response to the Ignatius report, and then just kept lying.

Except Barnett repeatedly dismisses evidence that makes it clear that’s not true.

Barnett describes FBI responding to the David Ignatius article revealing Flynn’s calls with Sergey Kislyak, and not Flynn’s public lies about them. Every single other witness asked about this investigation and abundant contemporaneous evidence has said the lies, not the article, were the motivating factor behind FBI’s increased attention. Barnett’s testimony doesn’t even admit they exist.

Then Barnett was asked about — something — that remains redacted.

Clearly, whatever this was, other witnesses seem to have believed it cause cause for concern. Barnett doesn’t agree.

Then Barnett describes what might have been call records showing that Mike Flynn’s lies had served to cover up his coordination with Mar-a-Lago in advance of his calls to Sergey Kislyak, disclosing another lie (and probably the point of his other lies) to the FBI.

BARNETT said the information gathered was what was expected to be found and there was, in BARNETT’s opinion, no evidence of criminal activity and no information that would start a new investigative direction.

Later, he says that the NSL returns, which would have disclosed call records that show further lies on Flynn’s part were not evidence that Flynn was working with the Russian government.

The information obtained through the NSLs did not change BARNETT’s mind that FLYNN was not working with the Russian government.

This answer is a tell, both about Barnett and those interviewing him. When the FBI obtained call records that showed that Mike Flynn’s lies served to cover up his consultation with Mar-a-Lago before calling Kislyak, it would have raised questions about the White House. That is, those call records made it clear that there might be another suspect reason for Flynn’s activities, because he was directed by Trump to pay off a quid pro quo (which is the reason a Main DOJ-approved sentencing memo argued might have been the explanation).

Then, not mentioned here at all, is the Flynn testimony that he and KT McFarland wrote a cover email to hide that he had spoken about sanctions with Kislyak.

After the briefing, Flynn and McFarland spoke over the phone. 1258 Flynn reported on the substance of his call with Kislyak, including their discussion of the sanctions. 1259 According to McFarland, Flynn mentioned that the Russian response to the sanctions was not going to be escalatory because they wanted a good relationship with the incoming Administration.1260 McFarland also gave Flynn a summary of her recent briefing with President-Elect Trump. 1261

The next day, December 30, 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov remarked that Russia would respond in kind to the sanctions. 1262 Putin superseded that comment two hours later, releasing a statement that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time. 1263 Hours later President-Elect Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin).” 1264 Shortly thereafter, Flynn sent a text message to McFarland summarizing his call with Kislyak from the day before, which she emailed to Kushner, Bannon, Priebus, and other Transition Team members. 1265 The text message and email did not include sanctions as one of the topics discussed with Kislyak. 1266 Flynn told the Office that he did not document his discussion of sanctions because it could be perceived as getting in the way of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.1267 [my emphasis]

Nor does Barnett mention that — at a time when the only known communications to Trump were through McFarland — Flynn told Kislyak that Trump was aware of their conversation.

FLYNN: and, you know, we are not going to agree on everything, you know that, but, but I think that we have a lot of things in common. A lot. And we have to figure out how, how to achieve those things, you know and, and be smart about it and, uh, uh, keep the temperature down globally, as well as not just, you know, here, here in the United States and also over in, in Russia.

KISLYAK: yeah.

FLYNN: But globally l want to keep the temperature down and we can do this ifwe are smart about it.

KISLYAK: You’re absolutely right.

FLYNN: I haven’t gotten, I haven’t gotten a, uh, confirmation on the, on the, uh, secure VTC yet, but the, but the boss is aware and so please convey that. [my emphasis]

While that’s not proof that Trump ordered Flynn to undermine sanctions, it is clear Flynn told Russia that Trump had been apprised about the content of their calls before the last call with Kislyak.

Of the evidence that is public, then, Barnett claims the following does not exist:

  1. Flynn publicly lied in response to the Ignatius story, creating a counterintelligence risk
  2. Call records showed that, on top of all his other lies about the substance of his calls with Sergey Kislyak, Flynn lied about coordinating with Mar-a-Lago before making those calls
  3. Flynn testified that he wrote an email summarizing his call so as to hide that he and Kislyak had discussed sanctions
  4. Flynn told Kislyak — at a time when his only known communications with Trump went through McFarland — that Trump was aware of the calls by December 31

In fact, Barnett doesn’t even mention a fifth piece of evidence: Steve Bannon’s testimony.

While the testimony of Steve Bannon described in the Mueller Report (which may post-date Barnett’s involvement on the Mueller team) disclaims knowledge of any discussions of sanctions in advance, in the the HPSCI transcripts, Bannon revealed that the White House had scripted him to provide a bunch of no answers to HPSCI.

MR. SCHIFF: Mr. Bannon, who wrote these questions?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: My understanding, Mr. Schiff, is that these came from the transcript.

MR. SCHIFF: No, no, no. The questions that Mr. Conaway just asked you the questions. I asked you earlier if you had been authorized by the White House to answer all in the negative. Who wrote these questions?

MR. BANNON: Same answer.

MR. SCHIFF: What’s the same answer? Who wrote the questions?

MR. BANNON: My understanding is they came from the transcript.

MR. SCHIFF: What transcript are you talking about?

MR. BANNON: This transcript of my first interview.

[snip]

MR. SCHIFF: Well, how were they produced? How do you know that the White House has authorized you to answer them? [Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: My counsel informed me that these were the questions the White House authorized me to answer.

MR. SCHIFF: But you didn’t write these questions?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. SCHIFF: And your counsel didn’t write these questions?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. SCHIFF: So these questions were supplied to you by the White House?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: As far as I know.

One of the questions that Bannon described — shortly before his first interview by the Mueller team — being scripted by the White House to answer no to was any discussion about sanctions after inauguration.

MR. CONAWAY: Once you were part of the administration, were you a part of any discussions about how to approach the Russian, vis-à-vis the sanctions, whether to do away with them or in any way minimize the effects of the sanctions?

MR. BANNON: No.

The scripted answer pointedly did not ask whether Bannon discussed them beforehand, one he may not have been able to answer in the same way.

Barnett describes undermining the quid pro quo case against Donald Trump

Particularly given that Barnett may not have been around anymore when Bannon started testifying, much less started testifying honestly (which didn’t start until much later), the KT McFarland testimony is particularly important to this narrative.

Barnett describes that he was the only one who believed that KT McFarland was telling the truth when she said that she did not remember Trump directing Flynn’s efforts to undermine sanctions. Significantly, he describes this question as — in Mueller’s view — “key to everything.”

Many at the SCO had the opinion that MCFARLAND had knowledge TRUMP was directing [sanction discussions] between FLYNN and the Russian Ambassador. When MCFARLAND did not provide the information sought, it was assumed she was lying. When BARNETT suggested it was very possible MCFARLAND was providing truthful information, one of the SCO attorneys participating in the interview said BARNETT was the only person who believed MCFARLAND was not holding back the information about TRUMP’s knowledge of [the sanction discussions]. MUELLER described MCFARLAND as the “key to everything” because MCFARLAND was the link between TRUMP, who was at Mar-a-Lago with MCFARLAND, and FLYNN, who was in the Dominican Republic on vacation, when [the calls] were made.

Again, it is stunning that Barnett was permitted to give this answer without being asked about the call records, which showed Flynn lied about consulting with Mar-a-Lago, to say nothing about the way that McFarland’s forgetfulness matched Flynn’s and then her unforgetting similarly matched Flynn’s. It’s not a credible answer, but Jeffrey Jensen doesn’t need credible answers.

Then, having made it clear that he believed that Mueller treated McFarland as the “key to everything,” BARNETT described how he single-handedly managed to prevent the entire team from concluding that Trump was in the loop.

BARNETT was told at one point he was being taken off the MCFARLAND proffer interview because SCO attorneys thought would be easier for MCFARLAND to talk without BARNETT there, due to her attitude toward BARNETT during past interviews.

McFarland has complained publicly about being caught in a perjury trap by the FBI agents who first interviewed her (and the 302s show a continuity among the FBI agents), so Fox viewers have actually seen evidence that McFarland had a gripe with Barnett.

BARNETT insisted he be on the interview. When BARNETT was told he would not be allowed on the interview, BARNETT suggested he might take the matter to the Inspectors General or to “11.” BARNETT believed some at SCO were trying to get MCFARLAND to change her story to fit the TRUMP collusion [sic] theory. [Probably Van Grack] later contacted BARNETT and said BARNETT would be part of the MCFARLAND interview.

During the proffer interview with MCFARLAND, the “obstruction team” was leading the interview. BARNETT described the “obstruction team’s” questions as general. They did not ask follow-up or clarifying questions. BARNETT was perplexed by their lack of asking follow-up questions. BARNETT began asking MCFARLAND follow-up questions and direct questions. BARNETT was trying to “cut to the chase” and obtain the facts. BARNETT asked questions such as “Do you know that as a fact or are you speculating?” and “Did you pass information from TRUMP to FLYNN?” Andrew Goldstein (GOLDSTEIN), a SCO Attorney, called “time-out” and cautioned BARNETT by saying, “If you keep asking these questions, we will be here all day.”

It’s unclear whether Barnett’s depiction is correct or not. The 302 of that interview is heavily redacted, but doesn’t show a “time out” in it. What matters for the purposes of this post is that Barnett is claiming he singlehandedly prevented McFarland from implicating the President. And the conclusions of the Report on this point adopt Barnett’s view, so he may be right.

Some evidence suggests that the President knew about the existence and content of Flynn’s calls when they occurred, but the evidence is inconclusive and could not be relied upon to establish the President’s knowledge.

[snip]

Our investigation accordingly did not produce evidence that established that the President knew about Flynn’s discussions of sanctions before the Department of Justice notified the White House of those discussions in late January 2017.

What this 302 does, then, is show that:

  • Barnett joined Mueller’s team solely to avoid concluding that Mike Flynn was involved in “collusion”
  • He claims to be unaware of at least four pieces of evidence showing the contrary
  • Having disclaimed knowledge of evidence that is public, he takes credit for the conclusion that there was no quid pro quo

For what its worth, Jerome Corsi — in language that is hilariously close to Barnett’s — claimed to have prevented Mueller from obtaining “the key” piece of evidence, an explanation of how Stone got foreknowledge of the WikiLeaks releases. And Andrew Weissmann’s book apparently describes the sharing of poll data as another such “key” piece of evidence. So it’s not the case that Barnett singlehandedly prevented Mueller from showing a quid pro quo or some other kind of conspiracy. But he did prevent two key witnesses from being more aggressively questioned about it.

Barnett’s shit-show 302 may have been really poorly timed

This 302 — and the witness that gave it — would not do well under competent cross-examination. There are just too many internal contradictions, too many instances where Barnett professes to be unaware of public evidence, too many times that Barnett’s current claims conflict with his past actions taken as an FBI Agent, too many times his claims conflict with the public record.

Which is why it’s interesting that (as Adam Goldman has pointed out), Barnett is not among those witnesses demanded in an investigation at Senate Judiciary Committee led by Flynn associate Barbara Ledeen. Lindsey Graham’s subpoena request asks for documents and testimony from virtually everyone else in this investigation, but not Barnett.

Trisha Anderson, Brian Auten, James Baker, William Barr, Dana Boente, Jennifer Boone, John Brennan, James Clapper, Kevin Clinesmith, James Comey, Patrick Conlon, Michael Dempsey, Stuart Evans, Tashina Gauhar, Carl Ghattas, Curtis Heide, Kathleen Kavalec, David Laufman, Stephen Laycock, Jacob Lew, Loretta Lynch, Andrew McCabe, Mary McCord, Denis McDonough, Arthur McGlynn, Jonathan Moffa, Sally Moyer, Mike Neufield, Sean Newell, Victoria Nuland, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Stephanie L. O’Sullivan, Lisa Page, Joseph Pientka, John Podesta, Samantha Power, E.W. “Bill” Priestap, Sarah Raskin, Steve Ricchetti, Susan Rice, Rod Rosenstein, Gabriel Sanz-Rexach, Nathan Sheets, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Glenn Simpson, Steve Somma, Peter Strzok, Michael Sussman, Adam Szubin, Jonathan Winer, Christopher Wray, and Sally Yates

After the WaPo released an unbelievably credulous article on Barnett’s testimony the other day, SJC tweeted it out as a Committee press release.

Apparently, Lindsey and Barbara Ledeen (who served as a channel in efforts to discredit the investigation) don’t think Barnett could withstand competent cross-examination on these issues, either.

As it happens, though, the interview was done before — but released after — two key decisions, which will give Lisa Page, Peter Strzok, and Andrew McCabe discovery into the events that led to the public disclosure of their texts (in the first two cases) or their firing (in the latter two).

While not originally included in the discovery requests in this case, against the background of the claims he made in his 302, Barnett’s testimony would be relevant to numerous inquiries pertinent to one or several of these lawsuits, including:

  • Why Barnett wasn’t removed from the Mueller team when his texts exhibited (as I’ve been told they would have) pro-Trump bias
  • If Barnett’s texts indeed exhibited a pro-Trump bias, why his texts weren’t also made public when Page and Strzok’s were
  • Whether Barnett was the source behind two claims sourced by right wing propagandists who first floated the claims to Agents involved in the Mike Flynn case, but always debunked by actual firsthand witnesses, that Andrew McCabe had it in for Mike Flynn

The latter is a particularly important point. The McCabe IG investigation that ultimately led to his firing stemmed from attempts to understand who sourced that right wing propaganda about McCabe, claims that started by May 2017, not long after the time Barnett claims he knew there would be an IG Investigation of the Flynn investigation, claims that continued through the time that Barnett threatened to launch the IG investigation that he once claimed he wanted no part of.

Barnett is now on the record with testimony that conflicts with the public record, including with regards to McCabe’s micro-management of the investigation. Particularly given the hints that he has an ongoing relationship with staffers in Congress who floated these claims, it seems at least plausible he was the source for one or both of those investigations, investigations he seemingly predicted before anyone else did.

At the very least, Barnett’s easily falsifiable claims — including about McCabe’s actions themselves — in this 302 would seem to give McCabe reason to ask for Barnett’s phone records and witness testimony to DOJ IG, if not a deposition.

So while SJC doesn’t seem to think Barnett could withstand cross-examination on these claims, by releasing this 302 in advance of potential discovery (which will take forever), DOJ may have made that more likely.

Update: Fixed the description about the “boss” comment.

Sidney Powell Accuses William Barnett of Committing “Outrageous, Deliberate Misconduct” and Kenneth Kohl Hides Evidence that Brandon Van Grack Did Not

I want to pause for a moment and look at the maneuvers that Billy Barr pulled last night to try to substantiate a reason to blow up the Mike Flynn case.

First, on Wednesday, the less crazy attorneys on Mike Flynn’s team, William Hodes and Lindsay McKesson, moved to withdraw. It’s an awfully weird time for lawyers to withdraw from a case, unless they’re trying to leave town before the shit starts hitting the fan.

Unless I’m missing something, Sullivan has not approved their motion.

Then, last night, Sidney Powell submitted a memo with a bunch of exhibits, every single one of which have Bates stamps reflecting these are SCO documents:

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

Exhibit D:

Exhibit E:

That means that Mueller team members involved in Flynn’s case would have had access to these documents.

In her memo, Powell argues that the exhibits “establish[] misconduct” and are proof of Brady violations. She emphasizes that these documents were “long concealed by the Special Counsel and FBI.”

On May 7, 2020, the Government moved to dismiss with prejudice the prosecution of General Flynn. ECF No. 198. Until this case is dismissed with prejudice, the Government has a continuing obligation to provide to the defense all evidence that is exculpatory of General Flynn, establishes misconduct by the Government in its many capacities that contributed to this wrongful prosecution, or otherwise is favorable to the defense. Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The defense has a continuing obligation to make a record that mandates this dismissal— especially in view of this court’s unprecedented procedures and position.

[snip]

These documents provide information long known to the agents and others at the highest levels of the Department of Justice and the FBI; information long concealed by the Special Counsel and FBI. This evidence shows outrageous, deliberate misconduct by FBI and DOJ—playing games with the life of a national hero.

Then, later in the night, DOJ released a 302 memorializing a recent interview with William Barnett which I showed  was a self-contradictory shitshow. In the accompanying memo, Kenneth Kohl, Acting Principal Assistant US Attorney in DC, noted that Barnett, “handled the counterintelligence investigation of Mr. Flynn, and was thereafter assigned to the Special Counsel’s Office.”

Pursuant to that continuing review, an interview was recently conducted of the former case agent, SA William Barnett, who handled the counterintelligence investigation of Mr. Flynn, and was thereafter assigned to the Special Counsel’s Office investigating Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Which is to say that yesterday, Sidney Powell submitted a brief arguing that William Barnett — her new star witness — engaged in “outrageous, deliberate misconduct,” and then later in the day, DOJ submitted a contradiction-riddled interview with that Agent that Powell had earlier accused of engaging in “outrageous, deliberate misconduct.”

Things get stranger.

In her filing, Powell claims that she has included Exhibits D and C as proof that Flynn satisfied the registration obligation.

Newly produced notes of Peter Strzok show: Strzok met with Bruce Schwartz, Lisa, and George at DOJ on March 28, 2017, where he noted Flynn Intel Group “satisfied the registration obligation” and “no evidence of any willfulness.” Nonetheless, “Bruce” decided to issue subpoenas to Flynn Intel Group “and more.” Exhibits C, D.

Exhibit D seems to show something dramatically different. It seems to show that the AG (that is, Jeff Sessions) met with Turkish Ministers and tried to vouch for Flynn about the secret work that Turkey was doing.

It seems odd to go to the guys who were hoping to keep their relationship with Flynn secret to ask them whether it was secret. Moreover, if they’re the ones vouching for it — and not Flynn’s cut-out, Ekim Alptekin — it would seem to suggest Flynn was working for Turkey, which is what he testified to under oath but not what he wrote on his delayed FARA filing. If so, this doesn’t help Flynn at all. It only serves to hurt him.

Things get stranger still.

Contrary to Powell’s claim, Exhibit C has nothing to do with Turkey. Instead, it’s a set of Peter Strzok’s notes from Jim Comey’s debrief of a meeting at the White House on January 5, 2017.

 

We’ve seen these notes before. They are a copy of notes submitted in June (which also have a — different — SCO Bates stamp on them, indicating that Barnett, the man Powell has accused of “outrageous, deliberate misconduct,” had access to those too).

 

The primary difference, aside from DOJ’s decision to newly release notes indicating that President Obama said to put the right people on this, is that the version submitted last night, the version that Powell claims to be about a March 28, 2017 meeting on Turkey is dated, “1/4-5/17.”

When Powell submitted the notes in June, she said they were proof that Vice President Biden “personally raised the idea of the Logan Act.”

Strzok’s notes believed to be of January 4, 2017, reveal that former President Obama, James Comey, Sally Yates, Joe Biden, and apparently Susan Rice discussed the transcripts of Flynn’s calls and how to proceed against him. Mr. Obama himself directed that “the right people” investigate General Flynn. This caused former FBI Director Comey to acknowledge the obvious: General Flynn’s phone calls with Ambassador Kislyak “appear legit.” According to Strzok’s notes, it appears that Vice President Biden personally raised the idea of the Logan Act.

I noted then that there was no question about date the notes were written, because they obviously describe a meeting that multiple documents (including one that has been public since February 2018, long before Flynn allocuted his guilt a second time) make clear happened on January 5, 2017. Nevertheless, Powell claimed (and set off a predictable resulting frenzy, which was probably the point) that they were proof that Biden had it in for Mike Flynn.

Now, normally, when you make an accusation to a court that later gets debunked, you make a filing with the court admitting you were wrong. In this case, Powell would have also had to admit that anyone who believed these notes were from January 3 — as Jeffrey Jensen had suggested they might be — provably knew fuckall about what he was looking at.

But if Powell were to do that, she’d be admitting that Jensen doesn’t know fuckall about what he is investigating on the same day she accused Barnett to have engaged in “outrageous, deliberate misconduct.” So instead, Powell just slipped the exhibit in with her filing without calling attention to her prior false claims.

But wait. Things get still stranger.

Finally, Kohl submitted the 302 with redactions of the name of an “SCO Atty 1.” Now, it has been the standing rule in DOJ that the AUSAs who worked for Mueller are public. That way Trump can rant about their political leanings at rallies.

Last night, for the first time ever, DOJ has decided that these attorneys are not senior enough to have their names released.

Several of those redactions of “SCO Atty 1’s” name, however, make it clear that the person has a two part last name, one that wraps at the end of a line.

Just one of Mueller’s attorneys has such a name (Adam Jed is the only one whose last name is short enough to fit in the first part of those redactions). That attorney is Brandon Van Grack. Indeed, the 302 from an interview that Barnett discussed in his interview makes it clear that Van Grack was the one Barnett is working with. So along with submitting proof that Barnett engaged in “outrageous, deliberate misconduct” as well as providing proof that Jensen led others to make a material misrepresentation to Emmet Sullivan, Kohl just submitted proof that Van Grack routinely took the side of Barnett. And that he, Kohl, was hiding that.

Call me crazy, but John Gleeson can just look at yesterday’s filings to show that Sidney Powell and Kenneth Kohl are accusing each other and Jeffrey Jensen of misconduct, at the same time that they’re hiding evidence that Van Grack did not engage in misconduct. That’s the the kind of misconduct that Emmet Sullivan might use to justify refusing to dismiss the prosecution.

Update: It’s not really clear whether the Bates reflects documents obtained by SCO or those investigating SCO. If it’s the latter, it raises real questions about whether Strzok’s notes are one or two copies.

Bill Barr’s Screed Is About Mike Flynn, Nora Dannehy, and Robert Mueller

Bill Barr delivered a remarkable screed last night at the radical right Hillsdale College. Numerous people have and will unpack both the glaring contradictions and the dangerous assertions in it.

But I want to point out that it is quite obviously about Barr’s attempts to overturn the prosecutions of Trump’s flunkies for covering up their efforts to help Russia interfere in the election.

A big part of it is targeted towards independent counsels (though, tellingly, Barr assails the independent counsel statute that used to be, not the one that left Robert Mueller closely supervised by Rod Rosenstein).

As Justice Scalia observed in perhaps his most admired judicial opinion, his dissent in Morrison v. Olson: “Almost all investigative and prosecutorial decisions—including the ultimate decision whether, after a technical violation of the law has been found, prosecution is warranted—involve the balancing of innumerable legal and practical considerations.”

And those considerations do need to be balanced in each and every case.  As Justice Scalia also pointed out, it is nice to say “Fiat justitia, ruat coelum. Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall.”  But it does not comport with reality.  It would do far more harm than good to abandon all perspective and proportion in an attempt to ensure that every technical violation of criminal law by every person is tracked down, investigated, and prosecuted to the Nth degree.

[snip]

This was of course the central problem with the independent-counsel statute that Justice Scalia criticized in Morrison v. Olson.  Indeed, creating an unaccountable headhunter was not some unfortunate byproduct of that statute; it was the stated purpose of that statute.  That was what Justice Scalia meant by his famous line, “this wolf comes as a wolf.”  As he went on to explain:  “How frightening it must be to have your own independent counsel and staff appointed, with nothing else to do but to investigate you until investigation is no longer worthwhile—with whether it is worthwhile not depending upon what such judgments usually hinge on, competing responsibilities.  And to have that counsel and staff decide, with no basis for comparison, whether what you have done is bad enough, willful enough, and provable enough, to warrant an indictment.  How admirable the constitutional system that provides the means to avoid such a distortion.  And how unfortunate the judicial decision that has permitted it.”

Justice Jackson understood this too.  As he explained in his speech:  “If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants. Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted.”  Any erosion in prosecutorial detachment is extraordinarily perilous.  For, “it is in this realm—in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies. It is here that law enforcement becomes personal, and the real crime becomes that of being unpopular with the predominant or governing group, being attached to the wrong political views, or being personally obnoxious to or in the way of the prosecutor himself.”

And part of it is a restatement of the arguments Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall made before the DC Circuit, arguing that even bribery was not reason for a judge to override DOJ’s decisions on prosecutions.

I want to focus today on the power that the Constitution allocates to the Executive, particularly in the area of criminal justice.  The Supreme Court has correctly held that, under Article II of the Constitution, the Executive has virtually unchecked discretion to decide whether to prosecute individuals for suspected federal crimes.  The only significant limitation on that discretion comes from other provisions of the Constitution.  Thus, for example, a United States Attorney could not decide to prosecute only people of a particular race or religion.  But aside from that limitation — which thankfully has remained a true hypothetical at the Department of Justice — the Executive has broad discretion to decide whether to bring criminal prosecutions in particular cases.

And the rest suggests that career prosecutors have been putting targets on the heads of politically prominent people and pursuing them relentlessly.

Once the criminal process starts rolling, it is very difficult to slow it down or knock it off course.  And that means federal prosecutors possess tremendous power — power that is necessary to enforce our laws and punish wrongdoing, but power that, like any power, carries inherent potential for abuse or misuse.

[snip]

Line prosecutors, by contrast, are generally part of the permanent bureaucracy.  They do not have the political legitimacy to be the public face of tough decisions and they lack the political buy-in necessary to publicly defend those decisions.  Nor can the public and its representatives hold civil servants accountable in the same way as appointed officials.  Indeed, the public’s only tool to hold the government accountable is an election — and the bureaucracy is neither elected nor easily replaced by those who are.

[snip]

We want our prosecutors to be aggressive and tenacious in their pursuit of justice, but we also want to ensure that justice is ultimately administered dispassionately.

We are all human.  Like any person, a prosecutor can become overly invested in a particular goal.  Prosecutors who devote months or years of their lives to investigating a particular target may become deeply invested in their case and assured of the rightness of their cause.

When a prosecution becomes “your prosecution”—particularly if the investigation is highly public, or has been acrimonious, or if you are confident early on that the target committed serious crimes—there is always a temptation to will a prosecution into existence even when the facts, the law, or the fair-handed administration of justice do not support bringing charges.

[snip]

That is yet another reason that having layers of supervision is so important.  Individual prosecutors can sometimes become headhunters, consumed with taking down their target.  Subjecting their decisions to review by detached supervisors ensures the involvement of dispassionate decision-makers in the process.

And it excuses, in one sentence, calling for probation even after a just prosecution.

Other times it will mean aggressively prosecuting a person through trial and then recommending a lenient sentence, perhaps even one with no incarceration.

Of course, none of this makes sense, and Barr’s own behavior — from removing Senate confirmed US Attorneys to put in people accountable only to him, from seeking prosecution of Democratic officials, and from launching the Durham investigation because he was just certain there was criminal wrong-doing in the Russian investigation — belies his words.

Perhaps it does so in the most basic way. If we hold our Attorney General politically accountable through elections, then we need to make sure elections are fair. We definitely need to make sure that elections are not influenced by hostile foreign powers cooperating with one candidate. The 2016 election wasn’t fair, and Bill Barr is doing his damndest to make sure the voters won’t be able to use the 2020 election to hold him politically accountable for interfering with the punishment of those who worked to cheat.

Because of Barr’s corrupt view on cheating at elections, he ensures that Vladimir Putin has more say over who gets prosecuted than experienced American prosecutors.

In Dire Need of Creative Extremists

MLK Memorial on the national Mall
(h/t Mobilus In Mobili CC BY-SA 2.0)

While many would point to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial  in August 1963 as his most powerful, the words from King that most move me come from a letter written four months earlier, as he sat in the Birmingham jail. It was a letter written to local pastors, who expressed support for his cause but concern for the manner in which he came to Birmingham to protest. When looking back at historical letters, there are some that are products of their time that illuminate the events of that day, but which need footnotes and commentary to explain to contemporary readers.

King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is *not* one of those letters. I wish it was, but it isn’t. It’s all too clear, and speaks all too clearly even now.

In that letter, King identified “the great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom” not as the hoodwearing Klanners or the politically powerful White Citizens Council folks, but the white moderate. These are folks who

  • are more devoted to order than justice
  • prefer a negative peace – the absence of tension – to a positive peace – the presence of justice
  • constantly say they agree with your goals but not your direct methods for achieving them
  • feel no problem in setting a timetable for someone else’s freedom
  • live by the myth of time, constantly urging patience until things are more convenient

Anyone who has watched the news at any time over the last three years knows that this great stumbling block to freedom and justice, the Moderate, is an all-too-familiar presence, appearing in various guises. For example . . .

  • police officers who, as one African-American after another is beaten, abused, and killed by one of their colleagues, silently watch the attack as it unfolds, who refuse to intervene, who write up reports to cover for this conduct, and who by their silence and their words defend and justify assault and murder done under the color of law;
  • staffers at ICE facilities who, as children are separated from their parents, as people are crammed into unlivable facilities, as basic necessities like toothbrushes and soap are withheld, clock in and clock out without saying a word;
  • personal assistants, co-workers, and superiors who watch as victim after victim were abused by powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Jeffrey Epstein, and untold others, and who said nothing;
  • Susan Collins, hand-wringer extraordinaire, who expresses her deep concerns about this rightwing nominee or that destructive proposed policy, and nevertheless puts her concerns aside time and time and time again to confirm the nominee or enact the proposal into law;
  • media figures who practice “he said/she said journalism,” who twist themselves into pretzels in order to maintain their “access” to inside sources, and who refuse to call a lie a lie in the name of “balance”;
  • corporate bean counters, who place such things as quarterly profits and shareholder value ahead of worker safety and well-being, ahead of environmental concerns, or ahead of community partnership, saying “we can’t afford to . . .” when what they really mean is “we choose not to spend in order to . . .”;
  • lawyers who provide legal cover to those who abuse, torture, and terrorize, and the second group of lawyers who “let bygones be bygones” in order to not have to deal with the actions of the first group;
  • bishops and religious leaders who privately chastise abusive priests and pastors, but who fail to hold them publicly accountable and seek justice, out of a concern to not cause a scandal that would bring the religious organization into disrepute; and
  • leaders of sports programs who value winning so much that they are willing to look the other way when coaches, trainers, and doctors abuse athletes.

The tools of the Moderate are things like Non-Disclosure Agreements, loyalty to The Team, and the explicit and implicit power of the hierarchy. The Moderate may not be at the top of the pyramid, but as long as the Moderate can kiss up and kick down, they think they will be OK. They’ll keep their powder dry, waiting for a better time to act. But all too often, the Moderate refuses to use what they’ve been saving for that rainy day, even when they are in the middle of a Category 5 hurricane.

But there are signs of hope, and we’ve seen some of them as well over the last three years:

  • career government professionals – at the State Department like Marie Yovanovitch, at the Department of Defense like Captain Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, at the Department of Health and Human Services like Dr. Richard Bright, at the Department of Justice like Brandon Van Graak, and others like them – who refused to worry about personal consequences to themselves and fudge the data, ignore the facts, shade the advice,  or stand silently by while others do so;
  • passers-by to acts of injustice, who not only document what is being done but who take action to hold perpetrators to account (NY dog walkers, represent!);
  • young voices like Greta Thunberg who refuse to go along to get along, who ask the tough questions of those in power, and who question the answers that mock the truth, and old voices like Elizabeth Warren who do the same; and
  • voices of political relative newcomers like Katie Porter, AOC, Stacy Abrams, who do not let their low spot on the political totem pole (or lack of a spot at all) keep them from speaking out for justice.

This past week, longtime AIDS activist Larry Kramer passed away. He founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis to care for gays stricken with AIDS, while the government turned its eyes away from the problem. Later on, he founded ACT-UP, when he saw GMHC had become too domesticated and unwilling to rock the boat when the boat desperately needed rocking. He called out the gay community and he called out government officials, even those who were trying to help like Anthony Fauci, for not doing anywhere close to what was needed.

And in many respects, it worked. Maybe not as fast as it should have, or as well as Kramer would have liked, but it made a difference. From Kramer’s NY Times obituary:

The infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was one who got the message — after Mr. Kramer wrote an open letter published in The San Francisco Examiner in 1988 calling him a killer and “an incompetent idiot.”

“Once you got past the rhetoric,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview for this obituary, “you found that Larry Kramer made a lot of sense, and that he had a heart of gold.”

Mr. Kramer, he said, had helped him to see how the federal bureaucracy was indeed slowing the search for effective treatments. He credited Mr. Kramer with playing an “essential” role in the development of elaborate drug regimens that could prolong the lives of those infected with H.I.V., and in prompting the Food and Drug Administration to streamline its assessment and approval of certain new drugs.

In recent years Mr. Kramer developed a grudging friendship with Dr. Fauci, particularly after Mr. Kramer developed liver disease and underwent the transplant in 2001; Dr. Fauci helped get him into a lifesaving experimental drug trial afterward.

Their bond grew stronger this year, when Dr. Fauci became the public face of the White House task force on the coronavirus epidemic, opening him to criticism in some quarters.“We are friends again,” Mr. Kramer said in an email to the reporter John Leland of The New York Times for an article published at the end of March. “I’m feeling sorry for how he’s being treated. I emailed him this, but his one line answer was, ‘Hunker down.’”

Which brings me back to King’s letter and the title of this post:

. . . though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

We’ve got plenty of extremists like Stephen Miller and the cop who knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he died. We’re in dire need of more creative extremists.

Which leaves me with one question: how will you be a creative extremist today?

In an Attempt to Absolve Mike Flynn, Eli Lake Accidentally (and Erroneously) Accuses Flynn of “Outright Espionage,” Then Lies about the Evidence

As part of the campaign to magnify the cover story for Mike Flynn, Eli Lake has written a long, prettily edited piece laying out the same narrative everyone else uses. It has drawn applause from the typical facilitators of gaslighting: Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan, and Pepe the Frog.

But it also got plaudits from someone who normally cares about accuracy and facts as much as pretty narrative, Noah Shachtman, which led me to do a long thread pointing out all the times Eli misrepresented the record or outright lied about it. You can read that thread or read the post I did on Glenn Greenwald’s attempt to defend Flynn and Bill Barr, because Eli makes many of the same false claims that Glenn did, as if there’s a script these men are working from.

Unlike Glenn, though, Eli performs the entire Logan Act part of the script. He claims, as if reading from a Sidney Powell script, that the FBI researched the Logan Act solely to keep any case against Flynn alive.

Bringing up this old chestnut suggests that the FBI was looking for any conceivable pretext to keep its Flynn hunt alive. To that end, the FBI officer overseeing the Flynn case, Peter Strzok, eagerly provided a Congressional Research Service report on the history and utility of the Logan Act to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who was working in the office of Comey’s deputy, Andrew McCabe.1 In his 2019 memoir, McCabe writes that in “high-level discussion at the relevant agencies and at Justice, the question arose: Was this a violation of the Logan Act?”

And then he points to two more references to the Logan Act in support of a claim that the FBI was considering it.

Then Eli steps in it.

Eli then turns to the scope memo describing what potential crimes Mueller was investigating in 2017, makes no mention that there were four things on the list (none of which are the Logan Act), but does claim the FBI was investigating one of two things: the Logan Act, or “outright espionage.”

Moreover, a recently declassified “scope memo” on the Mueller probe—a document defining the range of issues Mueller was to examine—drafted on August 2, 2017, by then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized Mueller’s team to investigate whether Flynn had “committed a crime or crimes by engaging in conversations with Russian government officials during the period of the Trump transition.” The only crime or crimes that could be found in this case would either be outright espionage or a violation of the Logan Act.

Here’s the document in which Eli claims to see Flynn investigated for “outright espionage.”

Somehow, Eli skips the opening memo for the Flynn investigation, which names the crimes actually under investigation in August 2016 (and still, on January 24, 2017, along with the Logan Act): FARA and 18 USC 951. Had Eli examined that memo, his entire Logan Act canard would have been clear, and his silence about the evidence showing that the Flynn interview always prioritized Foreign Agent component would be more damning.

The goal of the investigation is to determine the captioned subject, associated with the Trump Team, is being directed and controlled by and/or coordinating activities with the Russian Federation in a manner which may be a threat to the national security and/or possibly a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, 18 U.S.C section 951 et seq, or other related statutes.

It is true that early in 2017, the FBI had decided Flynn’s calls with Russia did not make him a Foreign Agent of Russia (though later obtained evidence may have changed that view). And the Foreign Agent investigation listed in the 2017 memo focused on Flynn’s hidden relationship with Turkey, not Russia.

Nevertheless, in an attempt to defend Flynn, Eli Lake either lies or appears to describe 18 USC 951 as “outright espionage.”

If 18 USC 951 is “outright espionage,” as Eli claims, then an “outright espionage” charge is what Flynn was avoiding when he pled guilty to the false statement charge that Eli is now misrepresenting. Here’s how Brandon Van Grack explained that to Judge Emmet Sullivan at Flynn’s aborted sentencing in 2018.

THE COURT: I think that’s fair. I think that’s fair. Your answer is he could have been charged in that [EDVA] indictment.

MR. VAN GRACK: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: And that would have been — what’s the exposure in that indictment if someone is found guilty?

MR. VAN GRACK: Your Honor, I believe, if you’ll give me a moment, I believe it was a conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 371, which I believe is a five-year offense. It was a violation of 18 U.S.C. 951, which is either a five- or ten-year offense, and false statements — under those false statements, now that I think about it, Your Honor, pertain to Ekim Alptekin, and I don’t believe the defendant had exposure to the false statements of that individual.

THE COURT: Could the sentences have been run consecutive to one another?

MR. VAN GRACK: I believe so.

THE COURT: So the exposure would have been grave, then, would have been — it would have been — exposure to Mr. Flynn would have been significant had he been indicted?

MR. VAN GRACK: Yes. And, Your Honor, if I may just clarify. That’s similar to the exposure for pleading guilty to 18 U.S.C. 1001.

THE COURT: Right. Exactly. I’m not minimizing that at all. It’s a five-year felony.

MR. VAN GRACK: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Excuse me one second. (Brief pause in proceedings.)

THE COURT: Yes, Counsel.

MR. VAN GRACK: Your Honor, I’d clarify that the maximum penalty for 18 U.S.C. 951 is a ten-year felony and five years —

According to Flynn’s own sworn statement, that 15 year sentence is what Covington’s lawyers advised he might be facing if he didn’t take a plea deal that (if Flynn behaved) would result in probation.

November 16, 2017, was the first day of the proffer with the SCO. That same evening, after concluding the first proffer, we returned to the Covington offices where my attorneys told me that the first day’s proffer did not go well and then proceeded to talk me through a litany of conceivable charges I was facing and told me that I was looking at the possibility of “fifteen years in prison.”

That Eli considers Flynn’s exposure to 18 USC 951 because he was secretly on Turkey’s payroll “outright espionage” is telling, because — way at the end of the story, as if the Turkish investigation didn’t happen in parallel with the Russian one — Eli finally gets around to mentioning it. When he does, Eli outright lies about the record on Flynn’s work for Turkey. First, he lies that Inovo was the client, not Turkey.

The reason that Flynn put his name to something he knew was not true was that Mueller’s investigators were squeezing him on an unrelated matter.

In August 2016, Flynn took a contract to represent a Dutch firm known as Inovo BV on a project aimed at investigating and defaming Fetullah Gulen, a charismatic Turkish cleric who had become a mortal enemy of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and was living in exile in Pennsylvania. In 2016, Erdogan survived a military coup he blamed on Gulen’s followers. Erdogan’s regime sought Gulen’s extradition back to Turkey, where he would almost certainly have faced the death penalty.

Taking that contract showed horrendous judgment on Flynn’s part. He was the Trump campaign’s national-security adviser and had no business getting himself in the middle of this. That said, it was a potential political problem for Trump, not the national-security threat that many in the resistance now say it was. It’s fair game for journalists and Democrats to make a stink about the Inovo contract. But it was highly unusual for Flynn’s missteps in this case to be the basis for a criminal prosecution on the grounds that Flynn had violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

According to Flynn’s grand jury testimony — almost the only sworn statement that Flynn has not reneged on yet — the work was always being done for Turkey.

Q From the beginning of the project what was your understanding about on whose behalf the work was going to be performed?

A I think at the — from the beginning it was always on behalf of elements within the Turkish government.

[snip]

Q Did he ever mention to you that the project had significantly changed in any way? A He d.id not, no. No, we pretty much stayed on the same track.

Q Did he ever mention to you that the principal beneficiary of the project had changed?

A He did not. He did not, no.

[snip]

Q Let me finish the question if you it be fair to say, as you testified would, General. So would earlier, that the principal beneficiary was the government of Turkey?

A Yes.

Q Or these high-government officials?

A Yeah.

Q Did he ever mention to you that that principal beneficiary or those principal beneficiaries had changed throughout the project ?

A No, no.

Flynn’s testimony describes how, after Ekim Alptekin said the Turkish clients had given him permission to discuss “confidentiality” and budget with Flynn, just days before Flynn sat in on his first classified candidate briefing with Trump, the named client changed to Inovo.

Q Do you see the first part of the email where Mr. Alptekin says, “Gentlemen, I just finished in Ankara after several meetings today with Min. of Economy Zeybekci and M.F.A. Cavusoglu. I have a green light to discuss confidentiality, budget, and the scope of the contract”?

A Mm-hmm.

Q Is this email an example of how Turkish government officials provided the initial approval for the project?

A Sure is.

Q Originally what was the planned source of funding for the project?

A Initially I was told that the Turkish government would likely — you know, may fund it. And then it changed when that came back that they would not fund it, that it would be funded, you know, via different means, via Ekim’s business, basically.

Q Who told you that the Turkish may fund the project originally?

A Bijan. Conversations we had.

Q Do you recall the name of Mr. Alpteikin’s company?

A Inovo.

Not only does Eli outright lie about whom Flynn was working for, he misrepresents the source of Flynn’s registration problems, the reason they became so acute he faced 15 years in prison over them.

Flynn had initially registered the Inovo contract in August 2016 through a less stringent law known as the Lobbying Disclosure Act. He did so on the advice of his counsel at the time. And when Flynn took the contract, that advice was sound. The legal environment for FARA registrations was quite permissive at the time. But at the end of 2017, and with Mueller in hot pursuit and with unlimited resources, Flynn—and his son, Michael Jr.—could have found themselves facing years in prison. So Flynn, in financial ruin and wishing to get his son out of Mueller’s crosshairs, agreed to cooperate.

Eli doesn’t explain that in March 2017, after Trump had been elected, after Flynn had engaged, as incoming National Security Advisor, in discussions about a Russian-Turkish peace plan for Syria, after Flynn had been fired for hiding details of his conversations with Russia, Flynn registered under FARA, but even then lied about having worked for the Turkish government until days before he became National Security Advisor.

This was not, as Eli falsely portrays, about misrepresenting work for a foreign company. It wasn’t even just that, as Flynn, with his Top Secret clearance, was sitting in on Trump’s first classified briefing, he was also inking a deal to secretly work for Turkey. It’s that Flynn continued to lie about it, even in his official FARA filing in March 2017.

And claimed national security hawk Eli Lake, in a bid to make Flynn look less sketchy, repeats the very same lies that got Flynn in such deep legal trouble, Flynn’s cover story for his relationship with the government of Turkey.

It’s one thing to work for foreign entities and hide that fact if you’re a washed out campaign pro, as Paul Manafort was when he hid that he was secretly working for Ukraine’s ruling oligarchs for years. It’s another thing to sit in on classified briefings with a man running for President while hiding that you’re in talks with Turkish government ministers for a half-million dollar deal.

Eli, in a moment of candor or sloppiness, called this “outright espionage.”

That’s Eli’s representation, not mine. In reality, 18 USC 951 is more ambivalent than that, covering a range of secret relationships with foreign governments. But if the facts of Flynn’s relationship weren’t so damning, then why did Eli lie so aggressively to hide them?

Update: Meanwhile, Flynn’s Turkish handler is outraged that the IC might have read his communications with Flynn.