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Rat-Fucker Rashomon: Steve Bannon and Dirty Tricks

Thus far in my Rat-Fucker Rashomon story, I’ve shown strong evidence that Roger Stone not only knew that John Podesta’s emails were coming, but knew or had the contents of some documents pertaining to an attack he had already been making on John Podesta. I showed that the timing of that release — via whatever means — likely served more to drown out the Russian attribution than the Access Hollywood tape, which has important implications for how he might have coordinated with WikiLeaks. And I suggested that the evidence Stone had far earlier knowledge of what the Russians were doing, even during the period when they were still hacking the DNC’s servers, makes some of all this focus on Podesta less important.

But there’s a limit to that claim. That’s because we still don’t know whether, when Stone promised he knew how to get Trump elected in the same period he was pursuing the Podesta files, that plan consisted just of optimizing the Podesta files, or whether there was something more. That makes the stories not told at Roger Stone’s trial all the more exasperating.

One of the most unsatisfying aspects of the Roger Stone trial, particularly for inattentive watchers, was that prosecutors never told us how Stone had gotten advance knowledge of what stolen emails would be released — nor even asserted as fact that he did.

As I keep noting, that’s not what they had to prove to win a guilty verdict.

But even more frustrating is the way DOJ proved its case that Stone had discussed WikiLeaks with the campaign. On at least three different occasions, the prosecution pointed to far more enticing communications about what really happened, but did not tell us what those communications meant.

The texts between Stone and Erik Prince on October 4, 2016 are one innocuous example.

They clearly pertain to WikiLeaks, which is all the prosecution needed to prove — that Stone had communications with people like Prince about advance knowledge of WikiLeaks that he subsequently lied about to cover up. But in the exhibit (which was entered by the FBI Agent; Prince was not called as a witness) there’s a reference — “Yes,” Stone confirmed he had heard more “from London” in the interim 7.5 hours since he had told Prince he was “checking” whether Assange had chickened out, then said, “want to talk on a secure line — got Whataspp?” to something far more interesting.

Affidavits obtained in early 2019 show that Stone first downloaded WhatsApp on October 4, suggesting he downloaded it solely to communicate with Prince (even though Stone already had Signal on his phone).

This is one of the rare areas where the Mueller Report provided more evidence than appeared at the trial. It revealed that Prince testified that,

Stone and Prince did speak subsequently, and Stone said that WikiLeaks would release more materials that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign. Stone also indicated to Prince that he had what Prince described  as almost “insider stock trading” type information about Assange.

But Prince didn’t testify at the trial, and it would be beyond the scope of what prosecutors needed to prove, and so we didn’t get to hear more about this “insider stock trading” information. Damnit.

In two other cases, though, prosecutors pointed to more substantive discussions that weren’t clearly labeled as WikiLeaks discussions, but which prosecutors presented as evidence that Stone was talking to the campaign about the upcoming releases. One was the August 3, 2016 email to Paul Manafort where he floated “an idea … to save Trump’s ass.”

As I noted in this post, Manafort seemed to try to hide this email and any follow-up conversation up in an interview with Mueller. And while Stone’s defense challenged whether this email was really related to WikiLeaks, in his closing argument, Jonathan Kravis argued that the plan was to use WikiLeaks releases to discredit Hillary.

On August 3rd, 2016, Stone writes to Manafort: “I have an idea to save Trump’s ass. Call me please.” What is Stone’s idea to save Trump’s ass? It’s to use the information about WikiLeaks releases that he just got from Jerome Corsi. How do know that’s what he had in mind; because that’s exactly what he did. As you just saw, just days after Stone sends this email to Paul Manafort, “I have an idea to save Trump’s ass,” he goes out on TV, on conference calls and starts plotting this information that he’s getting from Corsi: WikiLeaks has more stuff coming out, it’s really bad for Hillary Clinton.

Tactically, introducing the email was not at all necessary. Prosecutors had more than proven that Stone had lied about talking to the campaign. And the SSCI Report makes clear there was a shit-ton of other evidence that made this clear they could have used instead. But for whatever reason, they did include it, tying Stone’s attempts to cover up these conversations with the way Trump won.

Prosecutors introduced a similar exchange with Steve Bannon, the guy who took over from Manafort weeks later: an August 18, 2016 email exchange  where Stone claimed Trump could “still win” … “but it ain’t pretty,” and Bannon responded by asking to talk ASAP.

Manafort didn’t testify at Stone’s trial. But Bannon did. Prosecutors had Bannon sitting there on the stand, forcing him to repeat what he had said to a grand jury earlier in the year, yet they only asked him to say this much about what all this means, in which he begrudgingly admitted he believed this discussion about using social media to win was about WikiLeaks:

Q. At the bottom of this email Mr. Stone states, “Trump can still win, but time is running out. Early voting begins in six weeks. I do know how to win this, but it ain’t pretty. Campaign has never been good at playing the new media. Lots to do, let me know when you can talk, R.” Did I read that correctly?

A. That’s correct.

Q. Then you respond, “Let’s talk ASAP”; am I correct?

A. That’s correct.

Q. When Mr. Stone wrote to you, “I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty,” what in your mind did you understand that to mean?

A. Well, Roger is an agent provocateur, he’s an expert in opposition research. He’s an expert in the tougher side of politics. And when you’re this far behind, you have to use every tool in the toolbox.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. Well, opposition research, dirty tricks, the types of things that campaigns use when they have got to make up some ground.

Q. Did you view that as sort of value added that Mr. Stone could add to the campaign?

A. Potentially value added, yes.

Q. Was one of the ways that Mr. Stone could add value to the campaign his relationship with WikiLeaks or Julian Assange?

A. I don’t know if I thought it at the time, but he could — you know, I was led to believe that he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

Even though prosecutors didn’t lay out precisely what happened next — something that other evidence suggests may have implicated Jared Kushner — Stone’s team never challenged the prosecution claim that this email and the subsequent exchanges did pertain to WikiLeaks. Perhaps, because they had reviewed Bannon’s grand jury and more recent testimony, they knew how he would respond and thought better off leaving it unchallenged.

Perhaps, too, they didn’t want to have to explain how long this exchange persisted. For example, the Stone affidavits — starting with one obtained after Bannon’s first testimony — showed this particular email exchange lasted two more days, through August 19 and 20 (the day before the Podesta “time in the barrel” tweet).

On August 19, 2016, Bannon sent Stone a text message asking if he could talk that morning. On August 20, 2016, Stone replied, “when can u talk???”

And those discussions may have continued into face-to-face meetings in September.

On September 4, 2016, Stone texted Bannon that he was in New York City for a few more days, and asked if Bannon was able to talk.

[snip]

On September 7, 2016, Stone and Bannon texted to arrange a meeting on September 8, 2016 at the Warner Center in New York.

On September 7, 2016, Bannon texted Stone asking him if he could “come by trump tower now???”

On September 8, 2016, Stone and Bannon texted about arranging a meeting in New York.

This is a lot of back-and-forth to discuss the “the tougher side of politics.”

The August exchange is one of the most substantive things presented at Stone’s trial that doesn’t appear in the Mueller Report.

It does show up, in abbreviated form, in the SSCI Report, but given what else SSCI includes, how the bipartisan report described Trump’s campaign manager eagerly responding to the rat-fucker deserves note. The SSCI Report describes how Gates and Manafort responded to Stone’s proposal — amid these promises of additional WikiLeaks releases — of a plan “to save Trump’s ass” right in the body of the report.

Stone spoke by phone with Gates that night, and then called Manafort the next morning, but appeared unable to connect. 1559 Shortly after placing that call, Stone emailed Manafort with the subject line “I have an idea” and with the message text “to save Trump’s ass.”1560 Later that morning, Manafort called Stone back, and Stone tried to reach Gates again that afternoon. 1561

Bizarrely, the SSCI Report relegates the parallel conversation with Stone involving Steve Bannon, just two weeks later, to a footnote.

1589 (U) Ibid.; Testimony of Steve Bannon, United States v. Stone, pp. 850, 857- 861. In an email on August 18, Stone wrote to Bannon: “I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty.” Email, Stone to Bannon, August 18, 2016 (United States v. Stone, Gov. Ex. 28). Bannon responded, “Let’s talk ASAP.” Ibid.

This is the guy who was in charge when the Podesta emails dropped. And yet the SSCI Report buries the fact that with Bannon, too, Stone pitched a plan to win using WikiLeaks. Moreover, the SSCI Report doesn’t mention that that plan focused on social media at all, or that discussions about it may have extended over three weeks.

And yet, having buried this pitch from Stone about using social media to win in a footnote, the SSCI Report then provides six pages of detail about how central the Podesta files were to the campaign, including in their social media campaign.

Before it presents that, however, the SSCI Report provides important context to an email exchange involving Stone and Bannon included in the Mueller Report, the Stone indictment, and released at the trial, context none of the other stories provide. It shows that before Breitbart reporter Matthew Boyle emailed Stone to find out what was up with Assange on October 4, Bannon had already reached out to Breitbart’s editors to track the release.

(U) The Trump Campaign tracked Stone’s commentary and the news about WikiLeaks. On October 2, Andrew Surabian, who ran the Campaign’s war room, emailed Stone’s Twitter prediction about a Wednesday release to Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and the Trump Campaign press team. 1643 On October 3, Dan Scavino emailed the October 3 WikiLeaks Twitter announcement to Bannon.1644 That evening, Bannon reached out to two Breitbart editors, Wynton Han and Peter Schweizer, to ask if they would be awake “to get what he [Assange] has live.”I.645

(U) Separately, also on October 3, Bannon received an email from Matthew Boyle, another Breitbart editor, forwarding Boyle’s correspondence from earlier that day with Stone. In it, Boyle had asked Stone, “Assange-what’s he got? Hope it’s good.” Stone responded, “It is. I’d tell Bannon but he doesn’t call me back.” In his email to Bannon, Boyle advised Bannon to call Stone, and when Bannon said he had “important stuff to worry about,” Boyle replied, “Well clearly he knows what Assange has. I’d say that’s important.”1646

[snip]

(U) Trump was frustrated with the absence of a WikiLeaks release on October 4. Gates recalled that Trump had anticipated something would be released and later asked: “When is the other stuff coming out?”1653

(U) Following the announcement, Bannon complained to Stone by email about the lack of any new releases, asking “what was that this morning???”1654 Bannon wrote to Stone because Stone had said he “knew WikiLeaks and knew Julian Assange.”1655 Stone responded, echoing information he had received from Credico and Assange’s own announcement: “Fear. Serious security concern. He thinks they are going to kill him and the London police are standing done ” [sic]. However-a load every week going forward.” 1656

That Bannon used Breitbart as a cut-out to track what Assange was doing is important for several reasons. Bannon had had to ask the Mercers for permission before leaving Breitbart and joining the campaign, in part to avoid tying the Breitbart brand to any possible Trump loss. In August, Breitbart reporter Lee Stranahan had been in direct contact with Guccifer 2.0 and had gotten early access to a file on Black Lives Matter. Stone would use Breitbart as a platform for some of his own releases after the Podesta emails dropped. And there’s good reason to believe that whatever files Corsi prepped got shared with Breitbart itself.

Plus, in his first interview (one the SSCI Report treats, inexplicably, as credible), Bannon made a slew of claims denying enthusiasm regarding the Podesta release, claims utterly disproven by the documentary evidence. It’s possible Bannon believed he had hidden this enthusiasm from Mueller’s gaze at Breitbart.

Nevertheless, as the SSCI Report makes clear, there’s a great deal of evidence showing what a concerted focus the campaign paid to the stolen emails, how much of it focused on social media, and how the campaign couldn’t care less that this windfall had come from Russia. (The footnotes of this section of the SSCI Report are particularly valuable for the way they expose precisely who was involved in this campaign.)

(U) Despite the contemporaneous statement by the U.S. Government warning of Russian responsibility for the hacking and leaking of the DNC, DCCC, and Clinton Campaign documents and emails, the Trump Campaign considered the release of these materials to be its “October surprise.”1691 The Trump Campaign’s press team first found out about the WikiLeaks release when it “hit the press” on October 7,1692 and the Campaign quickly turned to capitalize on the Podesta emails: the following morning, October 8, the communications team began compiling information from the release that it could use to attack Clinton. 1693 WikiLeaks information was later integrated with Trump’s tweets, 1694 into his speeches, 1695 and into his press releases. 1696 Other members of the Trump family also scrutinized the news. 1697 And, the Campaign tracked WikiLeaks releases in order to populate a fake Clinton Campaign website, clintonkaine.com. 1698

[snip]

(U) Within the Campaign, there was no policy that governed using materials released by WikiLeaks.1717 To the contrary, the Campaign treated the releases as just another form of opposition research. 1718 Bannon’s view was that “anything negative that comes out [against an opponent] is clearly helpful to a campaign.”1719 According to Stephen Miller, “[i]t would have been political malpractice not to use the WikiLeaks material once it became public.” 1720 Gates described a “growing belief’ within the Campaign that Assange was, in fact, assisting their effort.”1721

(U) Rather than regulating the Campaign’s use ofWikiLeaks materials, Trump praised and promoted WikiLeaks repeatedly in the closing month of the campaign1722:

  • (U) October 10, 2016: “This just came out. WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.”
  • (U) October 12, 2016: “This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart, you’·gotta read it.”
  • (U) October 13, 2016: “It’s been amazing what’s coming out on WikiLeaks.”
  • (U) October 31, 2016: “Another one came in today. This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.”
  • (U) November 2, 2016: “WikiLeaks, it sounds like, is going to be dropping some more . . Ifwe met tomorrow. I’d tell you about it tomorrow.”
  • (U) November 4, 2016: “Getting off the plane, they were just announcing new WikiLeaks, and I wanted to stay there, but I didn’t want to keep you waiting. Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks.”

(U) Using Trump to promote WikiLeaks was a deliberate strategy employed by the Campaign, not only in his remarks, but also on social media. In mid-October, Ivanka Trump tasked the Campaign’s senior officials (including Bannon, Scavino, Stephen Miller and Jason Miller) with preparing two Trump tweets every day linking to WikiLeaks content, which, she said, would help “refocus the narrative.”1723 Trump tweeted direct references to WikiLeaks throughout October and November 2016, including on October 11, 12, 16, 17, 21 (twice), 22, 24, 27 and November 1.1724

[snip]

(U) The Campaign’s preoccupation with WikiLeaks continued until the general election. As the general election approached, Scavino, a member of the communications team who also had a role in administering Trump’s Twitter account during the campaign, 1739 increasingly forwarded updates relating to WikiLeaks to other Campaign officials, using subject lines like · “WIKI ABOUT TO DROP SOME BOMBS … 4 pmE” and “The WikiLeaks BOMB!” and linking to the latest WikiLeaks twitter post or its website. 1740 To one, Donald Trump Jr. responded: “Blow it out.” 1741

1691 (U) FBI, FD-302, Gates 4/19/2018.

1692 (U) Epshteyn Tr., p. 212.

1693 (U) See, e.g., Email, Shah to Ditto, Cheung, J. Miller, and Hicks, October 8, 2016 (DJTFP00019278) (attaching document titled “Wikileaks October 7, 2016 John Podesta Email Release”); Email, Epshteyn to Ellis, October 8, 2016 (DJTFP00019302-19304) (requesting “talkers on this asap” in reference to leaked speech excerpts). In his testimony, Bannon downplayed the relative importance of the WikiLeaks release in light or the Access Hollywood tape. Bannon recalled that the Campaign learned of the tape approximately 60 minutes before it was released, in the middle of debate preparation with Trump. See Bannon Tr., p. 206. According to Bannon, the tape was an “extinction level event,” and precipitated Republican Party efforts to “remove the candidate” the following day .. Ibid., pp. 207-208. Bannon claimed that he not recall finding out about the WikiLeaks release or speaking about it with Trump until the evening after the debate. Ibid., pp. 206-207.

1694 (U) Email, J. Miller to Giuliani, Hicks, Scavino, and S. Miller, October 11, 2016 (DJTFP00019376) (linking to WikiLeaks story in the LA Times).

1695 (U) Email, Gabriel to S. Miller and Ditto, October 27, 2016 (DJTFP00020051) (providing teleprompter script for Springfield, Ohio speech referencing WikiLeaks).

1696 (U) Email, Gates to Bannon, October 27, 2016 (SKB_SSCl-0001369-1370) (stating “This is good and exactly what we need,” and forwarding written Trump statement using WikiLeaks releases to attack Clinton under the subject line, “FW: Donald J. Trump Statement.”).

1697 (U) Email, J. Miller to Shah, et al., October 9, 2016 (DJTFP00024165) (discussing Eric Trump’s question about the WikiLeaks release, “Are we discussing Hillary selling weapons to Isis [sic] as per WikiLeaks email dump?”).

1698 (U) Email, Hemming to Parscale, Bannon, and Hall, “Re: Top Twenty-Five Wikileaks Revelations,” October 15, 2016 (SKB_SSCl-0001528-1530).

[snip]

1717 (U) Bannon Tr., p. 177; S. Miller Tr., p. -110.

1718 (U) For example, Hope Hicks told the Committee: “[E]veryone has opposition research, and this just happened to be available to everyone.” Hicks Tr., pp. 66–67. Kushner described the releases as a “popular topic” that “everyone was talking about.” Kushner II Tr., pp. ’52-54.

1719 (U) Bannon Tr., p. 171-172.

1720 (U) S. Miller Tr., p. 91.

1721 (U) FBI, FD-302, Gates 3/1/2018.

1722 (U) Some of these are reproduced in a video by The Washington Post. “Watch Trump Praise WikiLeaks,” The Washington Post, April 11, 2019. Public tabulations of the number of references in speeches, interviews, rallies, and debates Vary, but place it in excess of 100 mentions. See, e.g., Gabrielle Healy, “Did Trump really mention WikiLeaks over 160 times in the last month of the election cycle?” PolitiFact, April 21, 2017; David Choi and John Haltiwanger, “5 times Trump praised WikiLeaks during his 2016 election campaign,” Business Insider, April 11, 2019.

[snip]

1739 (U) Epshteyn.Tr,, p. 135.

1740 (U) Email, Scavino to Bannon; E. Trump, Trump Jr., Kushner, S. Miller, and Hicks, October 31, 2016 (TRUMPORG_69_016159); Email, Scavino to Bannon, Hicks, Kushner, S. Miller, Trump Jr., and E. Trump, (TRUMPORG_69_016934). See also Email, Scavino to Bannon, Hicks, Conway, and S. Miller, November 4, 2016 (TRUMPORG_69_017232) (“Tweet by WikiLeaks on Twitter”); Email, Scavino to Scavino, November 6, 2016 (TRUMPORG_69 _017455) (“8,263 DNC EMAILS RELEASED” and linking to WikiLeaks tweet); Email, Scavino to Bannon, S. Miller, Kushner, E. Trump, Trump Jr., November 7, 2016 (TRUMPORG_ 69 _ 017463) (subject “Wiki – CIIlCAGO PROTESTS COSTS” and linking to WikiLeaks documents).

1741 (U) Email, Trump Jr. to Scavino, Bannon, E. Trump, Kushner, S. Miller, and Hicks, October 31, 2016 (TRUMPORG _ 69_016164).

In light of Bannon’s meetings with Stone, his trial testimony, and the details of how the campaign exploited the stolen emails, the most obvious explanation for Stone’s “how to win this but it ain’t pretty” comment is that this response to the Podesta drop was prepared starting in August (which makes the timing of Stone’s “time in the barrel” comment, coming in the wake of the Stone and Bannon discussions, all the more intriguing).

Particularly given the timing of Stone’s meeting or meetings with Bannon in NY, that’s not the only possibility. The other ones are far more damning.

But the trial and affidavits both tell stories that suggest there’s far more to Stone’s proposals, to two consecutive Trump campaign managers, on how to win the campaign. The SSCI Report provides one answer, the most obvious answer, for what that plan was. And yet the SSCI Report, which frowns at the campaign for its embrace of emails stolen by Russia but consistently backs off the most damning conclusions regarding Trump, fails to connect whether there’s a tie between Stone’s promise, which it hides in a footnote, and the massive effort to capitalize on the emails.

Or worse.


The movie Rashomon demonstrated that any given narrative tells just one version of events, but that by listening to all available narratives, you might identify gaps and biases that get you closer to the truth.

I’m hoping that principle works even for squalid stories like the investigation into Roger Stone’s cheating in the 2016 election. This series will examine the differences between four stories about Roger Stone’s actions in 2016:

As I noted in the introductory post (which lays out how I generally understand the story each tells), each story has real gaps in one or more of these areas:

My hope is that by identifying these gaps and unpacking what they might say about the choices made in crafting each of these stories, we can get a better understanding of what actually happened — both in 2016 and in the investigations. The gaps will serve as a framework for this series.

Erik Prince Was Like a “Kid at Christmas” When He Met the Sanctioned Russian Bearing Normalized Business Relations

DOJ released the latest bunch of Mueller 302s in response to the BuzzFeed FOIA last night. They include the 302 from an Erik Prince interview on April 4, 2018.

There are, as is the norm for DOJ’s politicized treatment of this FOIA, redactions of embarrassing stuff and unredacted descriptions that later testimony would prove to be a lie. Much of that hides Prince’s relationship with Roger Stone, including his funding of Stone’s racist voter suppression efforts in 2016.

But with regards to Prince’s meeting with Kirill Dmitriev in the Seychelles in January 2017, the 302 is crazy. It makes it clear that Prince walked into the meeting hoping to make a buck and denied to the FBI knowing that making a buck from Dmitriev would require lifting sanctions on Russia.

Prince describes knowing George Nader back to 2006, when he was working for the Vice President of Iraq — Prince called Nader a “courtesan.” Prince provided details about the meeting, during the election, when Nader set up a meeting with Joel Zamel, offering social media products. The meeting was specifically tied to overturning Obama’s Iran deal, and Prince is the one who decided to bring Don Jr rather than Steve Bannon.

Early in the interview, Prince described his mercenary business with the Emirates, explaining that he focused on “‘peripheral’ areas where the Department of Defense does not have a significant presence, such as Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.” As part of his description of his relationship with Mike Flynn, whom he first met in June 2016, Prince describes “another time” meeting with Flynn in an Irish bar to talk “about how to put out fires in peripheral areas,” the same phrase he used to describe the places his mercenaries work.

Prince described knowing nothing about the December 15, 2016 meeting between Flynn, Kushner, Bannon, and Mohammed bin Zayed in NYC. But then the FBI showed him texts showing that he and Nader met right around the meeting, and Nader said he could not wait to “Follow up on our excited mission,” which Prince understood as a reference to using his mercenaries in Yemen. Prince also confirmed that texts from December 20 pertaining to “big real hunting” in the “neighboring country” also pertained to his plan to use mercenaries in Yemen. Prince’s description of the meeting he had with MbZ in the Seychelles immediately preceding his meeting with a back channel to Russia also invoked, “peripheral countries where the UAE had troops, like Somalia, Libya and Yemen.”

Over and over, this 302 makes it clear that MbZ was dangling more mercenary contracts for Prince, and he was eager to get them.

In precisely that period in December when Nader was floating business deals in “peripheral countries,” per a question Prince was asked, Nader sent him a picture of himself with Vladimir Putin, which Prince offered some lame excuse for.

Prince does not know why Nader sent Prince an image of Nader and Putin together, other than the fact that Nader always likes to show off his connections.

It’s in that context that Prince and Nader ended up planning and then  meeting in New York at least twice on January 3 and 4, 2017, possibly bracketing at least one meeting Prince had with Bannon at Trump Tower.

In the same way Prince had no explanation for the Putin image, Prince had no explanation for why Nader sent him information on Kirill Dmitriev on January 3 and 4. Nor did he have any recollection of calling … someone, whose name is redacted (earlier, the interview established that Prince had Trump’s direct phone line). Later, however, after his meeting in the Seychelles with Dmitriev, Prince recalls sharing the very same bio with Bannon, though it may have been a separate screen cap of the same bio.

But the context of his meeting with Dmitriev, set up by someone Prince called a courtesan, is that Prince badly wanted more business with MbZ, and that’s how he was lured to a meeting with a sanctioned Russian after getting sent a picture of Putin.

Prince was like a kid at Christmas about his meeting with MBZ, he could only focus on the presents under the tree. Prince had previously conducted significant business with the UAE and he hoped to gain business for the future.

Before Prince had the meeting with Dmitriev, MbZ first asked Prince — the self-described kid at Christmas eager for presents from MbZ — whether he could deliver the Trump Administration.

In Prince’s mind, Prince was not there on behalf of the upcoming Trump administration. Prince did not play up his relationship with Bannon or anyone else close to Trump. MBZ asked though whether Prince thought that the Trump administration would support the ideas that they were discussing. In response, Prince cited Trump’s campaign promises and what Prince had heard from Trump’s Strategic Policy Advisor, Bannon, on the issues.

Only then, after giving MbZ — the guy from whom Prince wanted Christmas presents in the form of more contracts for mercenary work  — the answers he wanted, did Prince meet with Dmitriev, the back channel from Russia. Here’s how savvy man of the world and self-described kid at Christmas seeking presents Erik Prince addressed sanctions.

Dmitriev also talked about the two countries resuming normal trade relations, but Prince does not recall Dmitriev specifically mentioning sanctions.

Then there’s this interesting bit where Prince presumes to speak for what Dmitriev, whom he claims he met for mere minutes over beer, was thinking.

Dmitriev knew Prince had been a loud advocate for Trump but Prince does not recall Dmitriev speaking as if Prince was a contact to the Trump people.

[snip]

Dmitriev insinuated to Prince that he wanted Prince to pass along the message of better relations to people in the U.S. Dmitriev emphasized wanting to get past the past. Prince does not recall any discussion of potential Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. [my emphasis]

There’s a paragraph in the 302, right after Prince offers yet more ridiculous explanations for why he would have gotten Dmitriev’s bio before meeting if the meeting weren’t pre-arranged that should explain whether Prince knew, having read Dmitriev’s bio, he understood that his bank was under sanctions. But it is redacted for privacy reasons.

In spite of all the evidence that he couldn’t explain of advance warning that this was a back channel meeting with Russia, Erik Prince by his own description was an easy mark. A child, hoping to open Christmas presents he would only get in context with this back channel meeting.

They dangled more contracts before the mercenary and he took a meeting with a sanctioned Russian, then reported back to Steve Bannon.

The Closed Mueller Investigations: Erik Prince Skates on the Seychelles

Fresh off an ex parte hearing, DOJ released a spreadsheet of original Mueller redactions they’re now willing to withdraw (on top of the ones they withdrew after the Roger Stone trial).

There’s a bunch of Internet Research Agency redactions the government has withdrawn I won’t lay out.

More interesting are the select few the government withdrew pertaining to Trump flunkies.

There are three search warrants withdrawn:

  • A warrant for Rob Goldstone’s Facebook account (see footnote 298)
  • A warrant for George Papadopoulos’ Linked In account (see footnote 458)
  • A warrant for Erik Prince’s location data (see footnote 1047)

The only surprising disclosure is the last one. This suggests that any investigation into Prince’s lies about the Seychelles is good and dead.

Then there are the redactions of ongoing and referred investigations DOJ no longer considers secret. Those include:

  • The investigation of Podesta Group, Mercury/Clark & Weinstock, which SDNY closed
  • The references to FTI Consulting in the Greg Craig entry on D-4
  • An investigation into foreign campaign contributions, item 11 on ongoing investigations, which would have been closed by the DC US Attorney, and probably was the Mystery Appellant case.
  • A reference to Left Hand Ventures:
    • Left Hand Enterprises – During the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel’s Office uncovered evidence of potential wire fraud and FECA violations pertaining to Trump Campaign vendor Left Hand Enterprises That evidence was referred to the Public Integrity Section within DOJ’s Criminal Division and the FBI’s Washington Field Office
  • A reference to Rebuilding America Now:
    • Rebuilding America Now – During the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel’s Office uncovered evidence of potential FECA violations and potential kickback schemes pertaining to the Rebuilding America Now PAC That evidence was referred to the Public Integrity Section within DOJ’s Criminal Division and the FBI’s Washington Field Office

Both of the last two involve suspect Paul Manafort graft, including the kickback system by which he was suspected of getting paid.

This seems to suggest the investigation into some of Paul Manafort’s epic graft is also dead.

That means the bulk of the redacted ongoing investigations remain ongoing (or otherwise sensitive — and they could be counterintelligence investigations). They include around 10 referrals — including anything pertaining to Roger Stone (including Jerome Corsi) and the presumed George Nader child porn referral already prosecuted.

Update: Corrected an error to note the closure of item 11, the suspected bribe involving the Mystery Appellant. h/t d

Another Trump Campaign Manager Indicted for Money Laundering

Steve Bannon and three associates just got indicted in SDNY for defrauding investors in their We Build the Wall “charity,” from which they skimmed about a million dollars.

The alleged fraud here is pretty garden variety: raising funds to pay for a wall and instead pocketing a good chunk of the money.

But it’s significant because it comes just months after Billy Barr tried to replace then-US Attorney Geoffrey Berman with a handpicked successor. Berman responded by insisting that all SDNY investigations would continue as they were proceeding, and he refused to resign until he ensured that his Deputy, Audrey Strauss, would take over.

No one knew this indictment was in the works (and the arrest, by postal agents, makes the surprise more delicious). Which means the other times that Barr has hastily replaced a US Attorney with a flunky could represent similar cases into fraud well beyond the Russian-related crimes we know about. (Note, the Timothy Shea indicted along with Bannon is not the Barr flunky named Timothy Shea whom Barr installed in DC.)Indeed, Erik Prince was a key advisor to this organization; there’s good reason to suspect that an investigation into him got killed at the same time Barr intervened in the Flynn and Stone prosecutions.

Michael Cohen warned the entire Republican Party. If they didn’t stop hanging out with Trump, they would go to jail.

He tried to warn them, anyway.

There’s Lots of Reason to Think Steve Bannon Lied; But He May Also Have Told the Truth, Once

The LAT has a big scoop on some criminal referrals the Senate Intelligence Committee made on July 19, 2019. The biggest news is that SSCI referred Steve Bannon for his unconvincing story about his Russian back channel — though it’s likely that Bannon cleaned up that testimony in January 2019.

Don Jr

The LAT describes that the Committee believed that the Trump spawn lied about when they learned about the Aras Agalarov meeting.

In the two page-letter, the committee raised concerns that testimony given to it by the president’s family and advisors contradicted what Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign chairman, told the Special Counsel about when people within the Trump campaign knew about a June 9 meeting at Trump tower with a Russian lawyer.

This conflict in stories was previously known; it shows up in the Mueller Report.

It’s interesting primarily because the referral took place after Don Jr’s second SSCI interview, which was on June 12, 2019. It stands to reason that the failson’s willingness to sit for a second interview with SSCI — but not any interview with Mueller — strongly suggests that he had reason to know that Mueller had evidence that SSCI did not. If the only thing that SSCI believed Don Jr lied about was the June 9 meeting, then it suggests they did not know Mueller’s full focus.

Sam Clovis

LAT also says that SSCI believes Clovis lied about his relationship with Peter Smith, the old Republican rat-fucker who made considerable effort to find Hillary’s deleted emails.

The committee also asked the Justice Department to investigate Sam Clovis, a former co-chairman of the Trump campaign, for possibly lying about his interactions with Peter W. Smith, a Republican donor who led a secret effort to obtain former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.

Clovis could not be reached.

That Clovis lied is not surprising — it’s obvious from the interview reports released thus far in the BuzzFeed FOIA that his story changed radically over the course of a few hours. Notably, however, SSCI only referred Clovis for lying about Peter Smith. It’s pretty clear that Clovis also lied, at least at first, about the campaign’s willingness to cozy up to Russia.

There are four redacted descriptions of people who lied to Mueller in the Report; one of those may explain why Clovis was not charged.

Note that Clovis’ lack of candor about other topics makes his denials that George Papadopoulos told him about the email warning equally dubious.

Erik Prince and Steve Bannon

Finally, the story says SSCI referred Erik Prince and Steve Bannon for their conflicting stories about their back channel to Kirill Dmitriev.

According to the letter, the committee believed Bannon may have lied about his interactions with Erik Prince, a private security contractor; Rick Gerson, a hedge fund manager; and Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian sovereign fund.

It is well-established that Prince lied (indeed, HPSCI also referred his testimony). His lawyer made similar denials to the LAT as he has made elsewhere.

Matthew L. Schwartz, a lawyer for Prince, defended his client’s cooperation with Capitol Hill and Mueller’s office.

“There is nothing new for the Department of Justice to consider, nor is there any reason to question the Special Counsel’s decision to credit Mr. Prince and rely on him in drafting its report,” he said.

Given that DOJ turned over an email from Schwartz to Aaron Zelinsky in response to a FOIA in the Stone case, it’s clear both that Prince was being investigated for issues beyond just his lies about the Russian back channel, but also that it’s likely that Billy Barr interfered with that investigation while he was “fixing” the Mike Flynn and Roger Stone ones, as well.

That’s interesting because SSCI referred Bannon as well.

Like everyone else, it’s not news that he shaded the truth at first. Bannon was scripted by the White House to deny discussing sanctions prior to Mike Flynn’s call to Sergei Kislyak. Bannon’s efforts to shade the trute were apparent from one of his early 302s. A Stone warrant affidavit describes Bannon denying his conversations with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks before he admitted at least one.

When BANNON spoke with investigators during a voluntary proffer on February 14, 201’8, he initially denied knowing whether the October 4, 2016 email to STONE was about WikiLeaks. Upon further questioning, BANNON acknowledged that he was asking STONE about WikiLeaks, because he had heard that STONE had a channel to ASSANGE, and BANNON had been hoping for releases of damaging information that morning.

And for Bannon’s fourth known Mueller interview, he got a proffer, suggesting his testimony changed in ways that might have implicated him in a crime.

What’s most interesting, given how everyone agrees his testimony and Prince’s materially differ, is that he testified to things before the grand jury he subsequently tried to back off. More interesting still, only the relevant parts of Bannon’s grand jury testify got shared with Stone. That means other parts — presumably, given the proffer agreement, the more legally damning parts — remain secret.

SSCI believes that Bannon may have lied to the committee.

But unlike all the others listed here, there’s reason to believe Bannon may also have told the truth to the grand jury, once, possibly relating to his actions involving Erik Prince.

That all may be moot if Barr managed to squelch any Prince investigation while he was negating the Stone and Flynn prosecutions. But he can’t entirely eliminate grand jury testimony.

The Maryland US Attorney’s Office Included Erik Prince in a FOIA Response on the Stone Sentencing

Jason Leopold once again did more for overseeing DOJ than the House Judiciary Committee managed — this time beginning the process of liberating documents held by the US Attorney’s Office pertaining to Roger Stone’s sentencing. As Leopold notes in his story on the documents, this was the first of several installments, so more interesting documents may come out later.

This installment clearly all came from the Maryland US Attorney’s office, reflecting the mailbox of Aaron Zelinsky, who has always been and remains employed there; he returned there full time after he resigned as a Special AUSA assigned to the Mueller team. The remaining installments — at least those from the EOUSA — will likely mirror this production, but also include emails involving Timothy Shea’s Chief of Staff, David Metcalf, JP Cooney, John Crabb, and Alessio Evangelista, who were also involved in the events of February 10 and 11.

Maryland may have responded quickly to this FOIA because it is more sympathetic to Zelinsky’s efforts. Indeed, the most interesting exchanges in these emails show Zelinsky discussing these matters with people in that office. On February 10, he kept Jonathan Lanzner in the loop, letting him know when, “looks like they are blinking.” The following day, just after DOJ disavowed the sentencing memo approved just the night before (which the prosecutors appear to have found out about via media reports), Zelinsky made an urgent request of three others in MD USAO. There was some discussion of precedent and a drafting of a document. But after Zelinsky withdrew from the case, he alerted them that “we will not have the opportunity to do” whatever they were trying to do.

As discussed, I have filed the withdrawal motion and emailed the public corruption chief JP Cooney. I withdrew just after I sent the email below notifying him. As we discussed, I do not believe he has the power to compel  me to stay in the case. There are currently three attorneys on the docket for the United States. In addition, JP has indicated that Main Justice will file a motion of somekind in the case later today and we will not have the opportunity to do this.

Nevertheless, there’s a follow-up with Lenzner later in the day. In it, Zelinsky makes it clear that his Memorandum of Understanding (presumably pertaining to his SAUSA role tied to Mueller) only pertains to Roger Stone.

The suggestion that these events may have affected other cases, to which Zelinsky’s MOU did not apply, is particularly interesting given that DOJ deemed an email to Zelinsky from Erik Prince’s lawyer attaching a story about that investigation, sent after everything started blowing up, to be responsive to this FOIA.

I see no reason why that email would be included in this FOIA response (the attached WSJ story, for example, does not mention the Stone). But for some reason, Maryland’s US Attorney’s office considers it responsive to the Leopold FOIA.

I’ll have more to say about this FOIA response in a bit.

I have included all the emails, save some inquiries from journalists, in the timeline below. Note that it is difficult to distinguish between b5 (deliberative) and b6 (privacy) in these redactions, so I may have gotten a few of those wrong.

February 10

7:49: Zelinsky sends his US Attorney email, “Zelinsky Withdrawal Motion Draft 2.docx.”

7:52: Zelinsky forwards his draft withdrawal motion, still titled, “Zelinsky Withdrawal Motion Draft 2.docx,” to Adam Jed and Jonathan Kravis (but not Michael Marando), stating, “A much slimmer version — let me know what you think.” Note that the email he attached the draft to has a time stamp of 7:46, preceding the one above. This appears to be substantially the motion he submitted the following day.

9:01: A Maryland US Attorney employee, Paul Budlow, responds to Zelinksy regarding a “Presentations Skills for Training and Trial” course in March, saying only “Thanks.” The email was likely responsive because of what Zelinsky said to Budlow on Friday, February 7, which is redacted under b6.

9:40: Email from John Kruzel at The Hill.

1:25: Zelinsky sends Marando his withdrawal letter, now titled, “Zelinsky Withdrawal Motion Draft Final.docx.”

2:04: Zelinsky writes Jonathan Lenzner at Maryland’s US Attorney’s office with the subject line, “Looks like they are blinking.” It is redacted under b5.

2:05: Timothy Shea’s Chief of Staff David Metcalf emails Zelinsky, “If you actually want to talk, let me know.” The rest is redacted under b6.

2:07: Zelinsky responds to Metcalf. The first line is redacted under b6. The email then says, “What would you like to discuss? I am a bit busy because of Stone sentencing memo (as I’m sure you’re aware) and I [redacted, b6].

2:08: Lenzner responds. It is redacted under b5.

2:11: Zelinsky responds. It is redacted under b5.

3:25: Michael Marando emails the other three prosecutors, attaching a “Joint Submission re Redactions.docx,” with the subject link, “Can you let me know if this is OK?”

3:58: Zelinsky responds again to Metcalf, “I’m headed out now. Happy to talk by phone.” The rest of the email is redacted under b6.

4:22: Marando forwards email reading, “Counsel, the attached documents were filed with the Court under seal today.” Marando’s email that forwarded the PACER entry to Stone’s lawyers cc’ing the other prosecutors, which is (still sealed) docket number 278, is included in this FOIA production as well, but the time is not legible.

4:22: Kravis emails Zelinsky, “Final draft attached. Let me know when we have the ok to file.” He attaches, “stone sentencing memo 2-10-20.docx.”

4:22: Kravis emails Cooney, John Crabb, Alessio Evangelista, cc’ing the Stone prosecutors. “Final draft attached. Let me know when we have the ok to file.” Attached is “stone sentencing memo 2-10-20.”

4:28: Zelinsky responds to Kravis, “This says [redacted] got thirteen months. I thought it was 14?

4:30: Zelinsky responds again to Kravis, “Never mind. Looks like thirteen in all news stories.”

4:32: Zelinsky responds to Marando, “Thanks for doing this.”

6:02: Zelinsky receives ECF notice of the prosecutors’ sentencing memo, which was filed at 6:01.

6:07: Cooney emails “Team,” stating, “I just let Jonathan know that you have the green light to file the pleading.” The rest of the email is redacted under a b6.

7:04: Zelinsky responds to Cooney thanking him. The rest of the email is redacted under b6.

10:57: Zelinsky receives notice of Stone’s sentencing memo, which was filed at 10:55.

February 11

7:03 AM: Zelinsky forwards the sentencing memo from Stone’s attorneys, including the leniency letters, to the other prosecutors in the case, making some comment that was redacted for b5 and b6 reasons.

7:04 AM: Zelinsky responds to the Cooney email from the evening stating, “Thanks JP,” with the balance redacted for b6.

8:32: Adam Jed writes the other Stone prosecutors with the subject line, “Stone’s sentencing memo.” The content is redacted under b5.

9:50: Zelinsky responds to the other prosecutors regarding an email all four plus Timothy Shea got sent, calling them “Corrupt Whores” and “Are Poor FuckingEvil,” complaining they called for “7 to 9 years for Rodger [sic] Stone?” and calling them, “COCKROACHES.” Apparently this email merited a response, because he said,

I’ll draft a response. Good news– we know the U.S. Attorney won’t get this threat because he doesn’t use email.

12:02: Marando forwards an inquiry from The Hill’s John Kruzel, asking about the Fox story that DOJ is changing Stone’s sentencing recommendation, to Cooney, saying only “FYI.”

12:07:11: Cooney responds to Marando’s question, False.

12:07:32 PM: Marando forwards the 12:07:11 email from JP Cooney to Zelinsky.

12:13: Zelinsky responds to Marando and Kravis in the Cooney “False” thread, linking CNN journalist Shimon Prokupecz’s tweet quoting DOJ disavowing of the sentencing memo:

DOJ on Roger Stone: “This is not what had been briefed to the department,” the official told CNN. “The department believes the recommendation is extreme and excessive and is grossly disproportionate to Stone’s offenses.”

12:50: Zelinsky sends “Zelinsky Withdrawal Motion Draft February 11.pdf” to Neil White and John Sippel at Maryland’s US Attorney’s office, stating,

Dear Neil and John,

Sorry to buy you with an urgent request.

Quick background:

[long paragraph redacted under b5]

1:00: White responds. The first line is redacted under b5. The rest reads,

Jon briefed me about this earlier today. I tried calling you and I am happy to chat this afternoon. I can be reached at [redacted].

1:04: Zelinsky responds to White, cc’ing Roann Nichols, “Neil — on phone with DC now. Will call in a moment.”

1:13: Zelinsky emails Neil White cc’ing Roann Nichols, “Just tried you again. Thanks,”

1:55: Cooney sends an email, with only two periods, to Kravis, with the subject “memo.”

2:02: Kravis forwards the email from Cooney to the other prosecutors.

2:34: Zelinsky receives ECF notice of a letter in support of sentencing.

2:55: Kravis sends Zelinsky an email with the subject line, “Send me your notice?”

2:55:18: Zelinsky responds to Kravis. The first sentence is redacted under b5. The rest says, “JP approved this yesterday. If you see any typos, let me know!” He attaches, “Zelinsky Withdrawal Motion Draft February 11.docx.”

2:59: Zelinsky receives ECF notice of his withdrawal motion, which was filed at 2:58.

2:59:23: Zelinsky emails Cooney, cc’ing the other prosecutors, Withdrawal, attaching, “Zelinsky Withdrawal Final Signed FINAL.pdf”:

Dear JP,

Pursuant to our conversation yesterday and your approval of this filing yesterday, I am now filing the attached withdrawal from the Stone case and resigning as a SAUSA in DC.

2:59: Zelinsky again responds to Kravis with the file, “Zelinsky Withdrawal Motion Draft February 11.docx.”

3:00: Cooney responds to Zelinsky, “I am not approving of you withdrawing from this case right now.”

3:02: Zelinsky forwards Nichols and White the Cooney response, adding:

Dear Roann and Neil,

As discussed, I have filed the withdrawal motion and emailed the public corruption chief JP Cooney. I withdrew just after I sent the email below notifying him. As we discussed, I do not believe he has the power to compel  me to stay in the case. There are currently three attorneys on the docket for the United States. In addition, JP has indicated that Main Justice will file a motion of somekind in the case later today and we will not have the opportunity to do this.

Thanks for all yoru [sic] help.

3:04: Leo Wise responds to Zelinsky, explaining, Attached is a rough redlined draft. Also attached is the case [redacted] is also attached. The subject of the email and the names of the attachment are also redacted.

3:30: News Alerts from Law360 that includes reference to the sentencing memo filed the day before.

3:41: Steven Brill writes the Stone prosecutors urging them to “speak out against improper internal pressure.”

3:55: Zelinsky receives Kravis’ withdrawal motion from ECF; it was filed at 3:54.

4:04: Zelinsky forwards an email from NBC’s Kevin Breuninger asking for a statement on his withdrawal to the press people in Maryland’s US Attorney’s office, telling them, “I’m just going to forward these to you. THanks! Sorry!” Other standard emails he forwarding included one from The Hill, CNN (Katelyn Polantz), CBS, CNN (Wolf Blitzer).

4:04: Zelinsky forwards an email from Reuters’ Brad Heath, with the subject line 44.5, asking if the notice of withdrawal was his own decision; Zelinsky forwarded it to the press people in Maryland’s US Attorney’s office

4:38: Zelinsky receives ECF notice that John Crabb filed an appearance in the case

4:46: Zelinsky receives ECF notice of the revised sentencing memo, which was filed at 4:44

5:01: Marcia Murphy, one of the press people in MD USA, responds Zelinsky regarding an email he forwarded from CNN explaining,

Aaron,

I have responded to all the inquiries you forwarded with something similar to the below statement. I tried to make it clear that I was responding on your behalf, so they wouldn’t think the office was preventing you from making a statement. If you get anymore, I will be happy to respond. Have a good evening. Hope you get some rest! Marcy

5:32: Zelinsky receives Marando’s notice of withdrawal from ECF; it was filed at 5:30.

7:08: Michael Cunningham, in the Maryland US Attorney’s Office, emails the NYT story on the Stone prosecutors withdrawing to Zelinsky, saying, “Very proud of you!”

9:10: Zelinsky responds to Cunningham: “Thanks! Just doing what any of us would have done in the circumstance.”

10:03: Lenzner responds to the Nichols and White email. His response is redacted under b5.

10:21: Zelinsky responds to Lenzner, starting, “Thanks. My MOU is certainly only for the Stone case.” The rest is redacted under b5.

10:36: Zelinsky responds to a thread involving Stuart Sears about a panel on Political Prosecutions involving, among others, Jeannie Rhee (the panel would later get delayed until September). The first part is redacted under b5. It finishes, “Thanks for the kind invitation.”

11:26: Zelinsky forwards an email from Erik Prince’s lawyer, Boies Schiller’s Matthew Schwartz to Michael Marando, explaining, FYI I don’t plan to respond. The email itself reads:

Aaron —

I hope all is well. I couldn’t help but notice the article just published in the Wall Street Journal, which suggests that the Department is on the verge of charging Mr. Prince. What’s going on?

 

Reggie Walton Seems Interested Revealing Some of Mueller’s Referrals

I made at least one error in this post. I surmised, based on the exemptions DOJ had claimed in a reprocessed version of the Mueller Report released last month, that there might be ongoing investigations into Rudy Giuliani’s grifters reflected in it.

But the sentencing of George Nader a week later reminded me that it cannot be the case that DOJ did a full reprocessing of the Mueller Report. Warrants made it clear that Nader’s prosecution for child porn — which developed into a prosecution for sexually abusing a boy — was a referral from the Mueller team.

Yet the reprocessed Mueller Report continues to redact all the referrals in Appendix D not previously unsealed (that is, all but the Michael Cohen and Greg Craig ones), including one that must be the Nader prosecution, under b7A redactions signaling an ongoing investigation, quite possibly this one.

The Nader referral, because it was prosecuted, should not be redacted under any exemption. Well before this reprocessing, Nader’s prosecution was public (meaning the privacy exemptions are improper), and by the time of this reprocessing, his conviction had been entered, so was no longer ongoing.

The reprocessing did change two Stone-related referrals to the same privacy exemption used for most other referrals — b(6)/b(7)(C-4) instead of b(6)/b(7)(C-3). (These are the newly reprocessed redactions; compare with pages 240-241 of the initial FOIA release.)

The change from C-3 to C-4 signifies that the person involved was only mentioned in the report, but that category is unrelated to whether or not the person remains under a separate investigation. But all referrals still use the b7(A) exemption, even though we know at least one — that of George Nader — is no longer ongoing.

That’s a very complicated way of saying that we can be certain DOJ is claiming some of these referrals are ongoing investigations even though no investigation is ongoing, whether because — like Nader — the investigation has been completed, because the investigation was properly closed, or because Billy Barr intervened and improperly closed them (as might be the case for investigations known to be targeting Erik Prince and Jared Kushner).

And that’s why some filings this week in this lawsuit are so interesting.

A month ago, Judge Reggie Walton, after having reviewed an unredacted copy of the Mueller Report, canceled a public status conference and instead scheduled an ex parte hearing on July 20 at which DOJ would have to answer his questions about the redactions.

Knowing that it would have to answer Walton’s questions, yet claiming to respond to an earlier BuzzFeed/EPIC filing, DOJ offered up that it was preparing to reissue the report in light of the completion of the Roger Stone prosecution. It released that copy — the one that claims at least one investigation that has been completed is ongoing — on June 19.

Which brings us to this week. On Monday, Judge Walton ordered the government to answer questions he raised in an Excel spreadsheet addressing the redactions.

To accord the Department knowledge of the questions that the Court has regarding some of the redactions prior to the ex parte hearing, the Court has prepared an Excel spreadsheet that catalogues these questions, which is attached as Exhibit A to this Order. 1 To the extent that the Department is able to respond to the Court’s questions in writing, it is hereby

ORDERED that, on or before July 14, 2020, at 5:00 p.m., the Department shall file2 under seal its responses to the Court’s questions by completing Column G of Exhibit A. 3

SO ORDERED this 6th day of July, 2020.

1 Exhibit A will be issued under seal and will remain under seal unless otherwise ordered by this Court.

2 The Department shall coordinate with chambers regarding the delivery of a hard copy of its submission.

3 The Court will advise the Department as to whether the Department’s written explanations obviate the need for the ex parte hearing currently scheduled for July 20, 2020.

Judge Walton gave DOJ just over a week to answer the questions.

Yesterday, DOJ asked for more time. DOJ described that they needed to consult with other entities to respond to Walton’s questions, and explained that they had not yet gotten answers from some of the “entities” they needed to hear from.

The Department has been diligently working to comply with the Court’s Order. That work has involved consultations with numerous Department components, including the Office of Information Privacy, the National Security Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. Attorney’s Offices. However, the Department requires one additional week—until 5:00 PM on July 21, 2020—to coordinate and provide responses to all of the Court’s questions. This additional time is necessary because the majority of Court’s inquiries concerning the redactions require the Department to consult with various entities with equities in the information at issue, both within and outside the Department. The Department has received information from some, but not all, of the entities. Once the Department has completed its consultation with these entities, the Department needs time to compile information received from those entities into a detailed response that addresses all of the Court’s questions. Those entities then need time to review the compiled draft responses before the responses are filed under seal with the Court.2 The Department’s goal with this process is to ensure fulsome responses to the Court’s questions that would obviate the need for a hearing. [my emphasis]

This paragraph is fairly dense, but two things are worth noting. First, after describing “Department components” it would need to consult, the filing then notes that the entities with which DOJ must consult aren’t all inside the Department. This reference may be innocent. After all, any investigations into Russians or other foreigners might implicate foreign intelligence agencies, and Treasury has an ongoing sanctions process working against Oleg Deripaska, another possible referral. So those non-departmental entities could be CIA, NSA, and Treasury, among others.

Or, those non-departmental entities could be the White House.

There has already been abundant evidence that DOJ is consulting with the White House on its response to the BuzzFeed/EPIC FOIA (or at least deferring to their goals), particularly with regards to the 302 releases. Perhaps they’re doing so in the guise of honoring executive privilege claims that Trump never claimed during the investigation. But particularly if this involves hiding details about the investigation into Don Jr and/or Jared, it would be particularly abusive here.

Meanwhile, the reference to US Attorney’s Offices, plural, strongly suggests that these questions get into b7(A) redactions, because the primary reason to need to ask US Attorney’s Offices about these redactions is if they’re investigating or prosecuting cases.

We know of Mueller referrals to, at least, DC, SDNY, and EDVA. The GRU indictment was sent back to WDPA, where it started. And there were reports that investigations into Jared, Tom Barrack, and Elliot Broidy were in EDNY (though it’s unclear which of those, if any, were referrals from Mueller).

That doesn’t necessarily mean these consultations are about unknown referrals. But a footnote to the DOJ filing strongly suggests they are.

2 Although “the question in FOIA cases is typically whether an agency improperly withheld documents at the time that it processed a FOIA request,” in the interest of saving resources and promoting efficiency, if the Department determines during its review that there no longer exists a basis for a redaction, the Department plans to indicate as such in its response to the Court’s questions, withdraw the redaction, and reprocess the Report with the redaction lifted at the appropriate time. ACLU v. Dep’t of Justice, 640 F. App’x 9, 13 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (unpublished); see also Bonner v. Dep’t of State, 928 F.2d 1148, 1152 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (“To require an agency to adjust or modify its FOIA responses based on post-response occurrences could create an endless cycle of judicially mandated reprocessing.”). The Report was originally processed in spring 2019. A basis may no longer exist for a redaction if, for example, material was redacted concerning a prosecution that had been ongoing at the time of the redaction that has now been completed. See Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Wash. v. Dep’t of Justice, 746 F.3d 1082, 1097 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (stating that because a “proceeding must remain pending at the time of our decision,” an agency’s “reliance on Exemption 7(A) may become outdated when the proceeding at issue comes to a close”).[my emphasis]

DOJ directly addresses b7(A) redactions, claiming that if the investigation was ongoing when it originally did the FOIA review, it is not in violation of FOIA if it hasn’t since released the information (the filing is silent on the reprocessing done last month).

Mind you, DOJ will argue that all of these redactions are still proper under privacy protections. But on that point, DOJ (and Billy Barr personally) has outright lied publicly, claiming that these redactions only protect tangential third parties and not people like the President’s son or son-in-law.

Having looked at Walton’s questions, DOJ directly addressed redactions that originally protected ongoing investigations and contacted more than one US Attorney’s Office for consultations. That says he may consider ordering DOJ to release information about investigations that were started but did not end in prosecution.

Which makes the delay more interesting. It may be totally innocent, the slow pace of bureaucracy, particularly as offices still recover from COVID shut-downs. But one US Attorney’s Office of interest has undergone a sudden change of leadership between the time Judge Walton asked for this information and the time DOJ will respond. Last night, Billy Barr swapped EDNY US Attorney Richard Donoghue with PDAAG Seth DuCharme. While Barr has shown trust in both (he put Donoghue in charge of reviewing Ukraine related allegations), DuCharme has been one of the people who has orchestrated his efforts to undermine the Russian investigation. Whatever answers DOJ provides to Walton, then, will be answers that Barr’s newly appointed flunky will oversee. That’s by no means the most suspicious part of DuCharme’s appointment, but it is something DuCharme will review in his first week on the job.

DOJ may successfully argue that all of this should remain redacted for privacy reasons. And, with the possible exception of an Erik Prince referral, if they’re disclosed as closed investigations, it would not necessarily indicate whether they were closed through more Barr interference. But it certainly suggests Walton may be thinking that some of this should be public.

Driving Carter Page: What the 302 Says

One of the seventeen Woods violations the DOJ IG Report cites in its list of errors in the Carter Page report involves a chauffeured car.

It involves a June 1, 2017 interview with Yuval Weber, who is the son of Shlomo Weber, the academic who invited Page to speak before the New Economic School. The IG Report seems to raise doubts about the more important allegation here — that Page was rumored to have met with Igor Sechin (which would match a claim made in the Steele dossier).

A June 2017 interview by the FBI of an individual closely tied to the President of the New Economic School in Moscow who stated that Carter Page was selected to give a commencement speech in July 2016 because he was candidate Trump’s “Russia-guy.” This individual also told the FBI that while in Russia in July 2016, Carter Page was picked up in a chauffeured car and it was rumored he met with Igor Sechin. However, the FD-302 documenting this interview, which was included in the Woods File for Renewal Application No. 3, does not contain any reference to a chauffeured car picking up Carter Page. We were unable to locate any document or information in the Woods File that supported this assertion. 371

This week’s release of Mueller 302s includes the 302 from this interview. It shows that, amid a broad discussion of the way that Russia tries to cultivate Americans (including using invitations such as the one offered to Mike Flynn), Weber described,

SA [redacted] later asked why would NES want a speaker [redacted] Weber said that it was because he was Trump’s Russia-guy. The university typically had heads of state and Nobel Laureates as commencement speakers; in fact, Weber claimed they could have any Nobel Laureate they wanted for the speech.

[redacted]

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

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

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

The 302 notes the follow-up call (but, as the IG Report correctly notes, does not mention the chauffeured car):

On 6/06/2017, SA [redacted] and SA [redacted] conducted a brief telephone follow-up interview of Weber. Weber provided the following information:

SA [redacted] asked a question specifying Weber’s previous statement that it was rumored in Moscow in July of 2016 that Page had met with Igor Sechin, as stated above, Weber said “I think so.” Weber described that Page mentioned in July that he previously met with the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. Weber was surprised that Page would meet a head of state, but it made him less surprised about the rumor of Page meeting Sechin.

Weber also told the agents that if they wanted to chase the rumor that Moscow had started monitoring Trump when oligarchs started “moving” money into NY real estate, they should,

…speak to any billionaire who purchased real estate from Trump, including [redacted] and Kirill Dimitriev.

Dmitriev, of course, is the Russian who successfully reached out to the Trump Transition via Erik Prince and Rick Gerson.

Ultimately, this was still just a rumor, and the FBI accurately noted it as such in the FISA application. The detail about a chauffeured car — which in this day and age could be an Uber! — seems unnecessary to the application, but also did make it into the application in violation of Woods procedures.

Still, as always, the real problems with Page’s applications were not the Woods procedure violations; they involved the more substantive exculpatory information that didn’t make it into the application.

The Size of Bill Barr’s Cover-Up Hints at the Magnitude of What He’s Covering Up

After the Tuesday Afternoon Massacre — where four prosecutors withdrew from the Roger Stone case rather than be party to Bill Barr interfering in the prosecution of Trump’s rat-fucker — we learned on Friday that Bill Barr had deployed a third US Attorney — Saint Louis’ Jeffrey Jensen — to the DC US Attorney’s office as part of an elaborate cover-up for Trump’s crimes. I’m going to attempt to lay out the full scope of Barr’s attempted cover-up. This post will serve as an overview and I will update it with links to the known or suspected evidence and crimes that Barr is covering up. I’m not including efforts to launch or sustain investigations into those Trump perceives to be his enemies.

The cover-up has the following aspects:

Interim US Attorneys oversee investigations implicating Trump’s actions

Geoffrey Berman, Southern District of New York: For the most part, Berman seems to have operated independently after his appointment as US Attorney for SDNY, but there are recent concerns that investigations implicating Trump have been stymied:

  • Hush payments: After getting Michael Cohen to plead guilty to covering up Trump’s past sex partners during the election and obtaining testimony from National Enquirer, the investigation closed with no further charges on or before July 17, 2019.
  • Ukrainian grifters: There are conflicting stories about the scope of the investigation into Ukrainian grifters Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, particularly with regards to how seriously SDNY is considering charges against Rudy Giuliani. WaPo reported steps taken implicating Rudy’s activities on February 14, 2020. But Parnas has insinuated that his sudden arrest on October 9 was an attempt to keep him silent; Barr visited SDNY that day and subsequently visited Rupert Murdoch at his home. SDNY showed unusual concern for the privacy of third parties as Parnas tried to share more information with the House Intelligence Committee. And Bill Barr has not recused in spite of a clear conflict and a request from Parnas.
  • Halkbank: Barr tried to pre-empt an indictment of Turkey’s Halkbank with a settlement.

Timothy Shea, District of Columbia: While Berman worked for several years without any show of corruption, that’s not true of Timothy Shea, a trusted Barr aide. The very first day he started work — having been installed by Barr with just a day’s notice — he started questioning the guidelines sentence of Roger Stone, who has promised to remain silent about details of Trump’s involvement in his efforts to optimize the release of emails stolen by Russian. Then, Shea worked with Bill Barr to reverse the guidelines sentence recommended by career prosecutors. In addition, Shea’s appointment coincided with the start of a “review” of other prosecutions and investigations of Trump associates in DC including, but not limited to, Mike Flynn and Erik Prince.

Confirmed US Attorneys “review” investigations into Trump and his associates

John Durham, Connecticut: In May 2019, Barr ordered John Durham to conduct an investigation into the origins of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation of Trump associates’ ties to Russia. He predicated the investigation, explicitly, on the absence of evidence. In clear contrast to the Mueller investigation, DOJ has produced no documentation regarding the scope of the investigation (including whether Durham could pursue crimes by Trump’s associates or even Barr himself if he found evidence of a crime), and Barr has remained personally involved, completely negating the entire point of appointing a US Attorney to conduct the investigation. Republicans have described the point of this investigation as an effort to discredit the Mueller investigation. It has included the following:

  • Bill Barr’s worldwide tour chasing the hoaxes rolled out through George Papadopoulos via the right wing echo chamber
  • Some disinformation likely fed via Rudy
  • The legitimate criminal investigation of FBI Attorney Kevin Clinesmith, the actual venue for which should be Washington DC
  • CIA’s 2016 determination — confirmed by more recent intelligence collection and reviewed approvingly by the Senate Intelligence Committee — that Russia not only wanted to hurt Hillary, but help Trump in the 2016 election
  • Communications between John Brennan and Jim Comey and Andrew McCabe

Jeffrey Jensen, Eastern District of Missouri: The “review” Jeffrey Jensen is conducting of DC US Attorney cases seems to couple with Durham’s investigation. It reportedly is second-guessing decisions made by prosecutors on the Mike Flynn and Erik Prince investigation, as well as other non-public investigations. The review is almost certainly assessing rumors started by known propagandists that have already been investigated three times, including by FBI’s Inspection Division, rumors already reviewed and dismissed in a meticulous 92-page opinion from Emmet Sullivan. This “review” seems to have been part of the installment of Shea at DC and may amount to an attempt to thwart investigations that Jessie Liu let proceed without political interference.

DOJ diverts disinformation from Rudy Giuliani to another confirmed US Attorneys

In recent weeks, Barr has appointed Scott Brady, US Attorney for Western District of Pennsylvania, to vet incoming information from Rudy’s foreign influence peddling in Ukraine. It’s unclear whether Barr did this to try to make something out of that disinformation, or to prevent evidence that might support foreign influence peddling charges against Rudy from getting to prosecutors in SDNY.

Richard Donoghue, Eastern District of New York: Donoghue is apparently “handling certain Ukraine-related matters.” In connection to that, Jeffrey Rosen put Donoghue in charge of coordinating all investigations that pertain to Ukraine,

to avoid duplication of efforts across Offices and components, to obviate the need for deconfliction at a later stage of potentially overlapping investigations, and to efficiently marshal the resources of the Department to address the appropriate handling of potentially relevant new information.

That in and of itself is not problematic. But by putting Jensen in charge of intake, presumably before it gets to Donoghue, Rosen has ensured that information that — because it is disinformation — would be incriminating to Rudy, not Joe Biden (or anyone else).

DOJ prevents full investigation of Ukraine complaint

Barr and his DOJ engaged in multiple acts of obstruction of the Ukraine complaint. First, Barr did not recuse from a complaint mentioning him by name. Then (knowing that Barr was personally implicated), DOJ did not conduct a full assessment of the whistleblower complaint, which would have identified a tie to the SDNY investigation of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Then OLC invented an excuse not to share whistleblower complaint with Congress, which resulted in a significant delay and almost led Ukraine to make concessions to obtain aid. Then, DOJ did not share whistleblower complaint with FEC as required by Memorandum of Notification. Finally, DOJ made a comment claiming Trump was exonerated, precisely the abuse — speaking about ongoing investigations — that Jim Comey got fired for.

The Black Hole Where SSCI’s Current Understanding of WikiLeaks Is

Four years after it started, the Senate Intelligence Committee continues its investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference, this week releasing the report on what the Obama Administration could have done better. For a variety of reasons, these reports have been as interesting for their redactions or silences as for what the unredacted bits say.

This latest report is no different.

Putin responded to Obama’s warnings by waggling his nukes

The most interested unredacted bit pertains to Susan Rice’s efforts, scheduled to occur just before ODNI and DHS released their report attributing the hack to Russia, to warn Russia against continuing to tamper in the election. That would place the meeting at just about precisely the moment the Access Hollywood video and Podesta email release happened, a big fuck you even as Obama was trying to do something about the tampering. The meeting also would have occurred during the period when Sergei Kislyak was bitching about FBI efforts to prevent Russia from sending election observers to voting sites.

The description of the meeting between Rice and Kislyak is redacted. But the report does reveal, for the first that I heard, that Russia responded to being warned by raising its nukes.

Approximately a week after the October 7. 2016. meeting, Ambassador Kislyak asked to meet with Ambassador Rice to deliver Putin’s response. The response, as characterized by Ambassador Rice, was “denial and obfuscation,” and “[t]he only thing notable about it is that Putin somehow deemed it necessary to mention the obvious fact that Russia remains a nuclear power.”

This exchange is all the more interesting given that there’s an entirely redacted bullet (on page 37) describing actions that “Russian cyber actors” took after Obama warned Putin. Given that the state and county scanning and the alleged hack of VR Systems shows up, there’s something we either still don’t know about or SSCI continues to hide more details of the VR Systems hack.

The page long post-election response to the election year attack

The longest subsection in a section devoted to describing Obama’s response is redacted (pages 39-41).

Here’s what the timing of the unredacted parts of that section is:

  • A: Expulsion of Russian diplomats (December 29, 2016)
  • B: Modifying the EO and sanctions (December 29, 2016)
  • C: redacted
  • D: Cybersecurity action in the form of the issuance of two technical reports (December 29, 2016 and February 10, 2017)
  • E: Tasking the ICA Report (initiated December 6, 2016; completed December 30, 2016; published January 5 and 6, 2017)
  • F: Protecting election infrastructure (January 5, 2017)

That might suggest that whatever secret action the Obama Administration took happened right in December, with everything else.

John Brennan was proved fucking right

There’s a redacted passage that may undermine the entire premise of the John Durham investigation, which purports to review what agencies, other than FBI, did to lead to an investigation focused on Trump’s campaign. Some reporting suggests Durham is investigating whether CIA tricked FBI into investigating Trump’s flunkies.

But this report describes how, in spite of knowing about related Russian hacks in 2015 and Russia’s habit of leaking information they stole, the IC really wasn’t aware of what was going on until John Brennan got an intelligence tip during the summer of 2016. That intelligence tip was described at length in a WaPo story that resembles this section of the report.

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent. Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year. In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks.

But at the highest levels of government, among those responsible for managing the crisis, the first moment of true foreboding about Russia’s intentions arrived with that CIA intelligence.

The section in this report is redacted.

Effectively, this report seems to confirm the WaPo reporting (which may have been based off sources close to those who testified to SSCI). It also emphasizes the import of this intelligence. But for this intelligence, the IC may have continued to remain ignorant of Putin’s plans for the operation.

The IC won’t let SSCI share its current understanding of WikiLeaks

But the most interesting redactions pertain to WikiLeaks.

There are four redacted paragraphs describing how hard it was for the IC to come up with a consensus attribution for the hack and leak operation.

Senior administration officials told the Committee that they hesitated to publicly attribute the cyber efforts to Russia m1til they had sufficient information on the penetration of the DNC network and the subsequent disclosure of stolen information via WikiLeaks, DCLeaks, and Guccifer 2.0.

More interesting still, almost the entirety of the page-plus discussion (relying on testimony from Ben Rhodes, Michael Daniel, Paul Selva, Mike Rogers, and others) of why it took so long to understand WikiLeaks remains redacted.

One reference that is unredacted, however, describes WikiLeaks as “coopted.”

This information would be of particular interest as the prosecution of Julian Assange goes forward. That — and the fact that some of this determination, relying as it does on former NSA Director Mike Rogers, appears to rely on NSA information — may be why it remains redacted.

Update: I’ve deleted the remainder of this post. It came from Wyden’s views, not the report itself.