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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.

Government Caught Between a Recusal Motion and Desperation

Last week, Sidney Powell made her first formal request that Judge Emmet Sullivan recuse.

In response, Judge Sullivan said (while noting the proper time for such a request was last year), file a motion.

Sidney did.

It was a shitshow.

Nevertheless, Judge Sullivan politely invited the government to weigh in.

They’ve now done so. While not disagreeing with Flynn, they argue that the way to proceed is on the motion to dismiss — and press for urgent response.

The United States of America, by and through its undersigned counsel, respectfully files this response to General Michael T. Flynn’s Motion to Disqualify Judge Emmet Sullivan, United States v. Flynn, 17-cr-232 (Doc. 161), filed on October 7, 2020. As this Court is aware, during the mandamus proceedings before the en banc Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, General Flynn asked that “any further proceedings be conducted by a different judge.” In re Flynn, No. 20-2153, Doc. 1846621 at 24. While the government did not address that request in its written pleadings, when asked during oral argument, the government offered that it had “reluctantly come to the view that there is now at least a question about appearances of impartiality” because this Court’s filing of a petition for en banc review suggested a “level of investment in the proceedings that is problematic.” In re Flynn, No. 20-2153, Doc. 1859900 (Transcript of the August 11, 2020, Hearing) at 54. The D.C. Circuit rejected that view. In re Flynn, No. 20-5143, 2020 WL 5104220, at *16 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 31, 2020).

Based in part on subsequent events, including the hearing held before the Court on September 29, 2020, General Flynn again raises the serious charge that this Court is biased and has engaged in misconduct. The government does not believe that adjudicating General Flynn’s motion is the most appropriate way for this Court to proceed. Consistent with the en banc D.C. Circuit’s statement that “[a]s the underlying criminal case resumes in the District Court, we trust and expect the District Court to proceed with appropriate dispatch,” In re Flynn, 2020 WL 5104220, at *7, the government respectfully submits that instead the Court should immediately grant the unopposed motion to dismiss the criminal information with prejudice. Doing so would avoid any further delay to General Flynn and to the government, and would eliminate any need for the Court to address the disqualification motion, which would be moot.

This is a nifty way to use the purportedly agreeing sides against each other.

The government wants this done by November 3. That makes Sulliavan’s response to Powell on recusal easier.

 

Sidney Powell Switches Her FARA Villain Mid-Stream

In a still pending motion to withdraw Mike Flynn’s guilty plea submitted in January, Sidney Powell told this story about how the baddies in DOJ’s FARA unit — led by David Laufman — entrapped the General in lies.

I’ve linked to the exhibits where Powell claims her arguments are supported, though in places, they show the opposite — for example, Flynn lying to his lawyers claiming that he came up with the idea to write the op-ed himself — and in at least one case, the page Powell cites doesn’t exist.

The next day—Mr. Flynn’s first day out of the White House, with media camped around his house 24/7—Rob Kelner and Brian Smith of Covington, and Kristen Verderame, called Mr. Flynn to give him a status update on the FARA issues. Mr. Flynn accepted their recommendation that it was better to file, and he instructed the lawyers to “be precise.”11

On February 21, 2017, David Laufman, Heather Hunt, Tim Pugh, and multiple others from the FARA Unit telephone-conferenced with Covington. Ex. 8. Laufman directed the content, scope, and duration of the call. In this lengthy conversation, Kelner exacerbated his prior mistake, stating that “Flynn wrote [the op-ed],” and that Mr. Rafiekian, Mr. Flynn’s former business partner, provided “input.” Ex. 8 at 2. Kelner apparently misremembered or misspoke, but the SCO parlayed the description in the FARA form into a felony attributable to Mr. Flynn. Meanwhile, Covington—instead of owning any error and correcting it—began a campaign of obfuscation that deepened the conflicts, created Mr. Flynn’s criminal exposure, and led to repeated instances of ineffective assistance of counsel.12

That evening, Heather Hunt requested a meeting the next day at Covington’s offices to review the draft FARA filing in person. She and several others from the FARA unit, arrived and reviewed the FARA draft and discussed logistics. Mr. Smith made notes of matters to include in the filing, such as the New York meeting with Turkish officials, payments to Inovo, specifics of the Sphere contract, and Sphere’s budget (if established). The team noted that if Turkey was involved, it must be listed on the filing, and they created various reminders. Finally, Ms. Hunt reminded the Covington team to file by email and send a check to cover filing fees by a courier. 13 Ex. 9.

Covington filed the forms on March 7, 2017. Hunt acknowledged receipt at 10:50 p.m., prompting Smith to remark to his colleagues, “They are working late at the FARA Unit.” Ex.12.

Hardly had the FARA registration been uploaded on the FARA website when the onslaught of subpoenas began.14 On May 17, 2017, Special Counsel was appointed, and the much-massaged “final” Flynn 302 was reentered for use by the SCO. Soon thereafter, the SCO issued a search warrant for all Flynn’s electronic devices. Meanwhile, Covington’s August 14, 2017, invoice alone was $726,000, having written off 10% of its actual time. Ex. 13 at 3.

11 Ex. 7: Smith Notes of 2/14/17 call.

12 Covington lawyer Brian Smith’s notes of January 2, 2017, and reconfirmed in his 302 of June 21, 2018, show that Mr. Flynn stated Rafiekian wrote the first draft. ECF No. 151-12 at 17. ECF No. 150-5 at 7. Rafiekian told Covington this also, and the emails confirmed it. Ex. 10.

13 On March 3, 2017, Kelner emailed Hunt to tell her “we are not quite ready to file, but close.” Hunt wanted more detail and demanded to know, “close as in later today, or close as in next week?” Kelner responded, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Ex. 11.

14 Covington received multiple subpoenas from the DOJ FARA unit, as well as subpoenas from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and then Special Counsel Office. In response to these subpoenas, Covington provided many thousands of documents in sixteen productions from April 2017 through October 2017 alone, and Mr. Flynn’s legal fees exceeded two million dollars.

Powell is shading here, covering up the fact that Flynn told Covington & Burling he was writing his Fethullah Gulen op-ed to benefit the Trump campaign rather than entirely for the benefit of clients he knew to be Turkish government ministers. The claim by itself demonstrates how Powell provides evidence that her client lied, even while wailing about unfair prosecution.

But for my purposes, I’m primarily interested in the villains of this story: Flynn’s Covington lawyers who repeated Flynn’s lies, FARA Unit lawyer Heather Hunt who promptly confirmed receipt of a filing, and David Laufman.

Laufman, then Chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section at DOJ, was an early villain in the evolving conspiracies about the investigation into Trump and his flunkies, even while he is the hero of the Trump flunky’s complaints that Jim Comey didn’t let Julian Assange extort the US government with Vault 7 files.

I raise all this because I’m trying to determine whether the other two documents that Jeffrey Jensen’s team decided to date (notes from an ODAG meeting that Jensen purports took place on March 6, 2017 and notes from a meeting involving Bruce Swartz that Jensen purports took place on March 28, 2017) have affirmatively incorrect dates. Here are the notes “inadvertently” dated March 28:

In her filing accompanying the latter, Powell ignores that the notes show that Jeff Sessions asked two Turkish ministers what Flynn had been doing for them in an engagement that — Flynn’s official filing submitted on March 7, 2017 claimed — he wasn’t actually sure whether he had been working for Turkey. Rather than puzzling through why the Turkish foreign ministers would know the answer to that if Flynn was instead working for Ekim Alptekin, Powell instead complains that on March 28, 2017, Swartz “decided” to subpoena Flynn’s company even though (she claims) he had just been told that Flynn had 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.

Whereas Laufman had been her villain, now Bruce Swartz is.

The thing is, that claim seems to be inconsistent with what her star witness, pro-Trump FBI Agent Bill Barnett, had to say in his interview with Jensen’s team (though since they’ve redacted Brandon Van Grack’s name it’s hard to tell). He seems to have said the Turkish case “was far stronger than the [Russian] investigation, in that there was specific information that could be investigated. BARNETT was working closely with [Van Grack]. BARNETT had worked with VAN GRACK on other matters.

In any case, the actual subpoena shows that it didn’t happen in March (as the purported date might suggest) but instead on April 5, a week later. And it wasn’t Swartz who filed it, nor even Van Grack, but EDVA AUSA William Sloan.

That doesn’t mean the date that Jensen’s team “inadvertently” applied to Strzok’s notes is wrong. It certainly may have taken a week to put together the subpoena.

But it does show that Powell’s current story doesn’t cohere with her past (still-pending) one.

Sidney Powell Falsely Claims All Jeffrey Jensen’s Errors Have Been Corrected

Sidney Powell doesn’t want anyone writing Judge Sullivan correcting the erroneous record that she and DOJ have entered in the Mike Flynn case. She wrote a letter asking him to strike the letters from lawyers for Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe informing him that exhibits Powell received via Jeffrey Jensen’s review and uploaded to the docket and integrated into her accusations against others were false.

I guess she realizes there are additional errors that need to be fixed.

More remarkably, after taking a swipe at Strzok and McCabe in her letter (sounding like President Trump wailing for indictments), she claims that the Jensen “errors” have been corrected.

When Mr. Strzok and Mr. McCabe become parties to criminal proceedings, they are welcome to file objections in their own cases. Until then, they are free to write directly to the Department of Justice with their concerns, but they may not engage in ex parte or extrajudicial communications with the judge in this case, nor insert themselves into proceedings in which they have no standing. The Department of Justice has already taken appropriate action to correct the unintentional error. The defense only filed what it had been provided by the government.

This is, of course, false. The original claim not to know when the January 5, 2017 meeting was remains, as does Powell’s own attack on Joe Biden based off that false claim.

This ought to draw more, not less, attention to how Judge Sullivan’s docket has become a seeding ground for false campaign attacks.

The “Scanned” Andrew McCabe Notes Weren’t [Just] “Scanned”

The story DOJ offered yesterday to explain why they had altered several exhibits of undated notes raise more questions then they answered. In both cases where DOJ has admitted the exhibits had added dates — Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe — those dates are problematic.

Plus, the excuse offered for those dates — that someone forgot to take off a clear sticky and post-it notes before copying the exhibit — can’t explain the third instance where DOJ added a date, where they incorporated it into the redaction of notes taken from a meeting involving ODAG’s office.

Indeed, the redaction may even cover an existing date (see what look like the slashes of a date, outlined in red, though that could also record the names of other attendees), with a date added in the redaction (outlined in yellow).

Moreover, there’s a problem with the excuse DOJ offered about the McCabe notes, which went as follows:

Similarly, the government has learned that, at some point during the review of the McCabe notes, someone placed a blue “flag” with clear adhesive to the McCabe notes with an estimated date (the notes themselves are also undated). Again, the flag was inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters, before they were forwarded to our office for production.

That is, DOJ is claiming that “someone” missed a blue “flag” when they were “scanning” McCabe’s notes and so inadvertently left a date — the wrong date, probably — on the exhibit, without leaving any sign on the exhibit itself.

The problem with this explanation is that we know precisely what a blue sticky left on an actual “scan” looks like. It looks just like what we say in the Bill Priestap notes submitted three times under two different Bates stamp numbers.

That is, if the document were just scanned, it would show up quite obviously, as it does here, and would be impossible to miss.

And yet this “scan” attributed to “somebody” doesn’t show up, possibly because the redaction covers it.

 

Sidney Powell Has Become No More than a Channel for the Fevered Rantings of Her Twitter Followers

Sidney Powell has outdone herself in this motion for recusal, submitted 16 months after the appropriate time for such a motion. This thread unpacks it.

I want to look at the crazy-ass echo chamber that Powell is engaged in.

In her filing, she argues that because “a random sample of tweets of citizens in response to the hearing” suggest Judge Emmet Sullivan is biased, it supports a claim that he appears biased.

Because “unbiased, impartial adjudicators are the cornerstone of any system of justice worthy of the label, [a]nd because ‘[d]eference to the judgments and rulings of courts depends upon public confidence in the integrity and independence of judges,’ jurists must avoid even the appearance of partiality.” Al Nashiri, 921 F.3d at 233- 234. The court jettisoned any appearance of neutrality before and throughout the hearing. Judge Sullivan’s words and conduct prior to and during the hearing have had a profound negative affect on “public confidence in the integrity of the judicial process” and require him to recuse himself under §455(a) and §455(b)(1). Liljeberg v. Health Servs. Acquisition Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 860 (1988). See Ex. A (a random sample of tweets of citizens in response to the hearing).

[snip]

The court’s hostile tenor made its abject bias resounding to thousands who listened or who read the transcript. Countless tweets from Americans who were watching what became a circus reflect their view of the federal judiciary. Ex. A. It was apparent that the court was desperate to find something wrong.

Here’s the list of tweets she draws on.

The first is “Undercover Huber,” one of the two most ardent recyclers of her garbage propaganda. For some reason Powell redacts his avatar but here it is:

Powell has likely violated PACER rules with this filing, as she submitted the personal information of a bunch of random people without redacting it. Suffice it to say that these people are responding to:

  • High Gaslighter Catherine Herridge
  • Powell herself
  • Mike Flynn himself
  • QAnon account @SSG_Pain
  • Jack Posobiec
  • Epoch Times
  • John W Huber
  • Lara Logan
  • President Trump
  • Tom Fitton
  • The Last Refuge

 

 

Some are fairly obviously bots.

But the craziest bit is that Sidney Powell includes these two tweets in her totally random collection of tweets which she has obviously searched for by searching on “Eric” and “Judge Sullivan” (which means they’re not random at all):

It turns out, however, that one of just a few that had that reaction to this hearing. The rest of tweets that come up on such a search invoke a more generalized conspiracy about a black judge being friends with a black former Attorney General.

That doesn’t matter to Sidney Powell. She’s got a point to manufacture.

Back in her motion to recuse, she suggests (having lauded Sullivan in the past in this case because of his actions in the Ted Stevens case) that the reason Sullivan did dismiss Stevens’ case but not Flynn’s is because Holder made the motion in the former.

There are only two material differences between the government misconduct here and that in the Stevens case. The first is that the government misconduct against General Flynn is far worse—and it goes all the way to the Obama oval office. ECF No. 248; Exs. D, E. The second is the name of the Attorney General. As the court noted on the record last week, “Eric” moved to dismiss the wrongful Stevens case—with prejudice—and the court granted it immediately on a two-page motion. Hr’g Tr. 09-29-20 at 90.

I think the suggestion is that if a black Attorney General had made the request here, Sullivan would have granted it.

And from there, she goes exactly where her Twitter nutjobs want her to, and demands — with no basis whatsoever — all communications between Emmet Sullivan and Eric Holder.

All communications and visits with Eric Holder about this case or General Flynn, identification of the number of visits Eric Holder has made to Chambers about this case or General Flynn, or other personal meetings regarding General Flynn with Eric Holder to whom Emmet Sullivan referred as “Eric” on the record in the hearing. Hr’g Tr. 09-29-20 at 89.

Powell’s fevered motions have literally become just the expression of the Id of her own crazed Twitter thread.

 

McCabe Casts Doubt on the Date Added to His Notes, Too

In my coverage of the way DOJ has added dates to undated notes, I’ve always said that I have no reason to believe that the date DOJ added to Andrew McCabe’s notes was erroneous.

Now I do.

In a letter that McCabe’s lawyer, Michael Bromwich sent to Judge Sullivan last week, he explains why the May 10, 2017 date added to McCabe’s notes couldn’t be remotely credible. That’s because he was busy cleaning up the Jim Comey firing.

The date “5/10/17” that appears on Exhibit B is not in Mr. McCabe’s handwriting and he did not enter the date that now appears there. Further, contrary to counsel’s claim, Mr. McCabe did not brief the Senate Intelligence Committee on anything on May 10. That was the day after President Trump had fired FBI Director Comey and Mr. McCabe was consumed with various other responsibilities. Mr. McCabe did participate in a public Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing and closed briefing on worldwide threats, along with other intelligence community officials, on May 11. Neither the public hearing nor the secret briefing had anything to do with Mr. Flynn. Counsel did not seek to confirm the accuracy of its claims with Mr. McCabe or us about Mr. McCabe’s notes before filing the Third Supplement.

Update: Bromwich is not saying that the date is not correct. He’s saying that the implication, created by the redaction, that McCabe briefed Flynn to SSCI on May 10, 2017 is incorrect.

These appear to be notes tracking McCabe’s day. The top half, redacted save the time and description, explains that at 5:15 PM on whatever day this was, McCabe was doing World Wide Threat hearing prep.

Then, on the same day but in no way related to it, he reviewed the Flynn case in some way or another.

The redaction also almost certainly splits the Flynn related information in half (note the bracket starting at “closed” and extending well into the redaction).

In any case, nothing in these notes suggest this happened after Comey’s firing, which is the point they’re trying to make of it.

Update: According to McCabe’s book, nothing happened after he attended a WWT prep session on May 10, because that took several hours, he had already been in two draining meetings at the White House that day, and he was pooped.

As the president requested, I went back to the White House that afternoon. When I arrived, at 2 P.M., the bodyguard Keith Schiller came down again and greeted me like I was his buddy, like someone he sees every day—Hey, what’s going on?

[snip]

When I left the Oval Office, I went straight to a prep session at the Bureau. Jim Comey had been preparing for two weeks to testify at the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Worldwide Threats Hearing—an annual event where the director of national intelligence and the heads of the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency, and Defense Intelligence Agency share their assessments of the most urgent threats to U.S. national security and answer questions from senators about those threats. Preparation for the hearing typically involves a number of lengthy background sessions with staff and a review of hundreds of pages of briefing material; it also requires drafting an official statement for the record.

[snip]

So when I left the Oval Office, I went straight back to a prep session that night. I had been to a lot of these meetings for Comey and Mueller—when I was involved in the prepping. Usually I had been the guy sitting at the right hand of the director, listening to everyone else’s contributions and trying to distill it all into better formulations.

Chiming in when you have a shapely little idea, I quickly discovered, is very different from sitting at the head of the table while a dozen people to your right and left argue the pros and cons of issue after issue, firing ideas and comments at you nonstop—all of which you have to take in while also assessing how those answers will be interpreted and processed by members of Congress, the president, and the media. I had never fully appreciated the complexity of that task. After two and a half hours of this, my tank was full. I had to get some sleep.

The passage makes clear that he had been a part of Comey’s prep before Comey was fired, and that prep had been going on for two weeks. Which suggests that McCabe could have attended a WWT hearing any time in the previous two weeks.

That’s not definitive, of course (though it was almost certainly written with the benefit of McCabe’s notes). But this passage suggests the date is wrong, and the Flynn briefing took place before Comey’s firing.

DOJ Admits Jeffrey Jensen’s Team Added Erroneous Date to Peter Strzok’s Notes, Asks for Mulligan

In a filing in the Mike Flynn case, DOJ has explained why an erroneous date was added to Peter Strzok’s notes from what DOJ has already submitted evidence happened on January 5, 2017.

In response to the Court and counsel’s questions, the government has learned that, during the review of the Strzok notes, FBI agents assigned to the EDMO review placed a single yellow sticky note on each page of the Strzok notes with estimated dates (the notes themselves are undated). Those two sticky notes were inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters, before they were forwarded to our office for production. The government has also confirmed with Mr. Goelman and can represent that the content of the notes was not otherwise altered.

Similarly, the government has learned that, at some point during the review of the McCabe notes, someone placed a blue “flag” with clear adhesive to the McCabe notes with an estimated date (the notes themselves are also undated). Again, the flag was inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters, before they were forwarded to our office for production. Again, the content of the notes was not otherwise altered.

Along with the filing, they’ve included the three exhibits they added dates to (there’s a third where they added a date in a redaction covering over something that could be a date), asking that they be replaced.

DOJ offered no explanation about why they added an erroneous date that they’ve provided proof they know is erroneous to a filing that they had previously submitted without the erroneous date. Nor have they explained why this erroneous date range differs from the previous erroneous date range they gave to Sidney Powell that she used to launch an attack on Joe Biden.

I guess they’re hoping that Judge Sullivan was too tired after the long hearing last week to notice that that erroneous date had been worked into an attack by President Trump on Joe Biden just hours after the hearing.

Whatever they’re hoping, they’ve now admitted that Jeffrey Jensen’s team is either unbelievably incompetent, hasn’t read the evidence they claim they used to convince Billy Barr to dismiss the case, or simply tampering with the evidence to set up attacks from Sidney Powell and Donald Trump.

DOJ Has Submitted Proof They Knew the January 5, 2017 Meeting Took Place on January 5, 2017

I’ve been harping on the process that facilitated Sidney Powell — and then President Trump — falsely blaming Joe Biden for raising the Logan Act in the context of the government’s response to Mike Flynn’s attempts to secretly undermine sanctions on Russia.

That process started on June 23, when prosecutor Jocelyn Ballantine sent an undated copy of Peter Strzok’s notes to Sidney Powell, explaining that they had been found as part of Jeffrey Jensen’s review. Using the royal “we,” she professed uncertainty about when those notes were written.

The enclosed document was obtained and analyzed by USA EDMO during the course of its review. This page of notes was taken by former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. While the page itself is undated; we believe that the notes were taken in early January 2017, possibly between January 3 and January 5.

Sidney Powell, referencing those notes, claimed they were believed to date from January 4 and asserted that they showed Joe Biden raising 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.

Then, on September 23, Ballantine sent Powell a set of Strzok’s notes with a different Bates stamp than the first. When it was submitted — by Powell — to the docket, it had a date on it that did not appear on the earlier set: 1/4-5/17.

Then, five days after Powell (who has had multiple conversations with Trump’s campaign lawyer, Jenna Ellis, including about this case) loaded the now-dated notes onto the docket, President Trump publicly accused Joe Biden of giving “the idea for the Logan Act against General Flynn” in their first debate.

President Donald J. Trump: (01:02:22)
We’ve caught them all. We’ve got it all on tape. We’ve caught them all. And by the way, you gave the idea for the Logan Act against General Flynn. You better take a look at that, because we caught you in a sense, and President Obama was sitting in the office.

Thus it happened that an error introduced into the Flynn proceeding got turned into a campaign prop.

The thing is, DOJ has abundant proof that Jeffrey Jensen knew (or should have known) there was no uncertainty about the date when those notes were handed over to Powell. Indeed, if he did not know, then the entire premise of their motion to dismiss falls apart.

In Timothy Shea’s motion to dismiss, he obliquely attributed the radical change in DOJ’s view of Mike Flynn’s prosecution to Jeffrey Jensen’s review of the case, citing three dockets where Powell uploaded information that Ballantine had shared with the explanation (one, two) that the material came out of Jeffrey Jensen’s review.

After a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information appended to the defendant’s supplemental pleadings, ECF Nos. 181, 188-190,1 the Government has concluded that the interview of Mr. Flynn was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn—a no longer justifiably predicated investigation that the FBI had, in the Bureau’s own words, prepared to close because it had yielded an “absence of any derogatory information.”

1 This review not only included newly discovered and disclosed information, but also recently declassified information as well.

All the purportedly “newly discovered” information, then, comes from Jensen.

Bill Barr cited Jensen’s review even more explicitly in an interview with Catherine Herridge.

What action has the Justice Department taken today in the Michael Flynn case?

We dismissed or are moving to dismiss the charges against General Flynn. At any stage during a proceeding, even after indictment or a conviction or a guilty plea, the Department can move to dismiss the charges if we determine that our standards of prosecution have not been met.

As you recall, in January, General Flynn moved to withdraw his plea, and also alleged misconduct by the government. And at that time, I asked a very seasoned U.S. attorney, who had spent ten years as an FBI agent and ten years as a career prosecutor, Jeff Jensen, from St. Louis, to come in and take a fresh look at this whole case. And he found some additional material. And last week, he came in and briefed me and made a recommendation that we dismiss the case, which I fully agreed with, as did the U.S. attorney in D.C. So we’ve moved to dismiss the case.

So this decision to dismiss by the Justice Department, this all came together really within the last week, based on new evidence?

Right. Well U.S. Attorney Jensen since January has been investigating this. And he reported to me last week.

In other words, both Shea and Barr represented that the case laid out in the motion to dismiss is the case that Jensen made that persuaded Barr to drop the prosecution.

That means we should expect Jensen to have deep familiarity with all the documents that — the motion to dismiss claims — formed the basis of his review.

I put a list of those exhibits here (along with an explanation that virtually everything cited in it was already known when DOJ first charged Flynn, when Michael Horowitz concluded the investigation was properly predicated, and when Bill Barr’s DOJ called for prison time in January).

Among those documents that Timothy Shea — and before him, Jeffrey Jensen — relied on to claim that DOJ should drop Flynn’s prosecution is the 302 from Mary McCord’s July 17, 2017 interview with Mueller’s team. The motion to dismiss cites McCord at least 26 times, relying on her interview to understand details of what happened in early January 2017, after the government discovered Flynn’s calls that explained why Russia didn’t retaliate for sanctions. Of particular note, the motion to dismiss that arose from Jensen’s analysis cites McCord’s interview regarding the discussion about the Logan Act — including that the investigation remained a counterintelligence one after discussing the Kislyak description. McCord’s description of the Logan Acti discussion reveals precisely who first raised it: ODNI GC Bob Litt.

General Counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Bob Litt raised the issue of a possible Logan Act violation. McCord was not familiar with the Logan Act at the time and made a note to herself to look it up later.

DOJ should never have let Powell form the conclusion that Joe Biden first suggested the Logan Act, because they were relying on a document that made it clear that Litt had already raised it. That’s where Jim Comey got the idea, before he went into that January 5, 2017 meeting.

Another document Shea and Jensen relied on in arguing that DOJ should end the Flynn prosecution is the 302 from Sally Yates’ August 15, 2017 interview with Mueller’s team. Shea’s motion to dismiss — based off Jensen’s analysis — cites Yates’ 302 at least 20 times, including in its discussion of the Logan Act. What Shea didn’t cite, but what shows up in the first substantive paragraph of the 302, is a description of how Yates first learned of the Flynn-Kislyak calls at a meeting at the White House on January 5, 2017.

Yates first learned of the December 2016 calls between (LTG Michael) Flynn and (Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey) Kislyak on January 5, 2017, while in the Oval Office. Yates, along with then-FBI Director James Comey, then-CIA Director John Brennan, and the-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, were at the White House to brief members of the Obama Administration on the classified Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian Activities in Recent U.S. Elections. President Obama was joined by his National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, and others from the National Security Council. After the briefing, Obama dismissed the group but asked Yates and Comey to stay behind. Obama started by saying he had “learned of the information about Flynn” and his conversation with Kislyak about sanctions. Obama specified he did not want additional information on the matter, but was seeking information on whether the White House should be treating Flynn any differently, given the information. At that point, Yates had no idea what the President was talking about, but figured it out based on the conversation. Yates recalled Comey mentioning the Logan Act, but can’t recall if he specified there was an “investigation.” Comey did not talk about prosecution in the meeting. It was not clear to Yates from where the President first received the information. Yates did not recall Comey’s response to the President’s question about how to treat Flynn. She was so surprised by the information she was hearing that she was having a hard time processing it and listening to the conversation at the same time.

That long paragraph that very clearly describes the meeting at the White House captured in Peter Strzok’s notes directly precedes one that Shea (and so by association, Jensen) rely on heavily. According to Yates, Jim Comey was the one who raised the Logan Act in that meeting, not Joe Biden. And McCord, which they also rely on, makes it clear Comey got the idea from Litt.

Finally, the Shea motion to dismiss based on Jensen’s analysis relies on Jim Comey’s HPSCI testimony — one of just two documents that DOJ may not already have reviewed before Mike Flynn’s guilty plea. It cites the Comey transcript 16 times, including for a paragraph on the Logan Act.

As Sally Yates did, Comey described that the meeting at the White House involving the two of them took place on January 5.

I had not briefed the Department of Justice about this, and found myself at the Oval Office on the 5th of January to brief the President on the separate effort that you all are aware of by the Intelligence Community to report on what the Russians had done during the election. And in the course of that conversation, the President mentioned this [redacted] And that was the first time the Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, had heard about it.

In no place does the Timothy Shea motion to dismiss, based off Jeffrey Jensen’s analysis, raise any questions about the veracity of these witnesses. Indeed, the motion relies on those documents as reliable descriptions of what happened in January 2017.

That means that either the DC US Attorney’s Office and Jeffrey Jensen are very familiar with the documents they rely on heavily to argue that Judge Sullivan must dismiss Flynn’s prosecution, in which case they affirmatively misled the court when they claimed to have no idea on what date the meeting described by both Yates and Comey occurred. That would mean, though, that Jensen affirmatively misled the court about a detail three months before the President used that error to make a campaign attack. And somehow an exhibit got altered to match that affirmative misinformation.

Alternately, none of the people claiming that these documents justify dismissing Flynn’s prosecution really know what these documents say.

Certainly, all parties should be on the hook for an exhibit that got altered to suggest the meeting could have taken place on January 4.

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.