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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.

Steve Bannon’s 302 of Laughter and Forgetting

I want to wade through some half truths Steve Bannon told in his second Mueller interview, because it serves as a useful baseline to understand what has happened since, including Bannon’s testimony in Roger Stone’s trial.

Bannon had, according to the unredacted entries on a list of all Mueller FBI 302s, interviews with Mueller’s team on four days:

  • February 12, 2018 (26 pages)
  • February 14, 2018 (37 pages)
  • October 26, 2018 (16 pages; the interview list lists three different interviews, but they are likely just copies of the same one)
  • January 18, 2019 (4 pages)

The report (called a 302), notes, and backup for the February 14, 2018 interview were released via FOIA just before the Stone trial.

I knew — when this interview was first released — that he was shading the truth, because there was already public evidence that contradicted the story he told back in it and prosecutors caught him in a number of forgetfulness and omissions even within the interview. His Stone testimony and some other 302s released since that time make that even more clear. Which makes how he told the original half truths particularly interesting, as it points to several topics, at least some of which remain under investigation, where Bannon tried to obscure the truth.

Finding the line between false statements and being ousted from the right wing

Consider the background to the interview. Through the entire time he worked on the campaign and in the White House, Bannon was at odds with Jared Kushner, which ultimately led to his ouster from the White House in August 2017. In early January 2018, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, which rather obviously relied heavily on Bannon as a source, came out. Among the incendiary claims Bannon was described as making in the book was that Don Jr’s acceptance of the June 9 meeting was “treasonous.” Even though he issued a sort of apology, Bannon was still ousted from Breitbart, cut off from the wingnut gravy train that is key to his power. Days later, Mueller used Bannon’s comments as an opportunity to subpoena him, long after obtaining testimony from similarly situated people in the investigation (Mueller may have waited because of the evidence Bannon had been part of some back channels during the transition). Between the time Mueller subpoenaed Bannon and he testified with Mueller, he testified to HPSCI, effectively previewing a story he knew would be shared with the White House. All those events likely made Bannon want to tell a story that backed off the inflammatory claims he shared with Wolff, while still hewing closely enough to the truth to avoid prison.

This was a long interview. The report extends 37 pages, the longest of any Mueller interview report noted.

The beginning focuses on obstruction. After five redacted pages, the interview discusses Trump’s disdain for Jeff Sessions. Five pages later, the interview remained focused on Trump’s obstruction, having moved onto his efforts to fire Mueller.

Several pages later, it moved to the June 9 meeting. Bannon said he had no knowledge of the meeting at the time it happened (remember, he joined the campaign in August 2016), which made it easy for him to accuse Jared of treason, since he was uninvolved.

Bannon can’t decide whether he got Manafort fired or tried to protect him

But Bannon’s response to and insulation from the June 9 meeting is important background to where things start to get interesting, an apparent attempt to get Kushner fired in the wake of the June 9 meeting revelations.

On page 14 of the interview, Bannon got shown a July 24 email (PDF 174), which shows him forwarding a July 24, 2017 story implicating Jared in Russian money laundering to someone at Breitbart, telling them not to touch it yet. But the subsequent conversation makes it clear that Bannon was preparing to try to get Jared fired in the wake of the June 9 meeting revelation.

Bannon’s explanation to Mueller’s team was totally nonsensical, not least because he doesn’t appear to address the article at all, but important for everything that came after. He talks about what happened when he joined the campaign.

Bannon knew Kushner was on vacation off the coast of Croatia with a Russian billionaire when Bannon took over the campaign. Kushner was with Wendy Deng, the Russian billionaire, and the Russian’s girlfriend. Bannon said his friends in the intelligence community said the girlfriend was “questionable.” Bannon called Kushner and told him to come back from vacation. They had 85 days to go, no money and they needed Kushner to come back and fire Paul Manafort.

Both by date — 85 days before the election would be — and by public reporting, Bannon is referring to something that happened in mid-August 2016, when Ivanka and Jared were pictured on David Geffen’s boat off of Dubrovnik, probably a hit piece meant to suggest that Kushner was really a Democrat. Later, the frothy left had, in 2017, made much of the fact that Dmitry Rybolovlev was in Dubrovnik at the same time Kushner was. But in his interview, Bannon was basically answering a question about a hit piece from the weeks before he was ousted by making a claim that he had had to recall Kushner from that vacation in Dubrovnik at a time the campaign was failing to fire Paul Manafort.

Two pages later, the interview turns to how Bannon get set up with Trump in the first place — both how he had earlier been aligned with other outsider candidates and then swooped in in August 2016 to take over the campaign. The notes, but not the report itself, reveals that he got to know Sam Nunberg pretty well. The narrative loops through discussions of Cruz and Lewandowski, includes discussions from June 2016, then turns back to where Bannon anachronistically put his answer to the previous question: to what sorry shape the campaign was in when he took over in mid-August.

At the time Trump was 16 points down, the campaign had no organization, no money, 75% of the population through the country was in decline, they were working with the “deplorables,” and  Bannon had a 100% certitude that they would win. Bannon believed that the big task was to give people permission to vote for Trump as commander in chief.

Bannon’s story shifts immediately back to how he ousted Manafort, but this time he tells a story that differs from what he told Mueller just pages earlier.

The next day Bannon met with Manafort, which was the same time that the news about the “Black Ledger” was breaking. Bannon was at campaign headquarters when Manafort told Bannon to come up to Trump Tower. When Bannon arrived, Manafort showed him something about a NY Times story about the “Black Ledger” and $15 million dollars from the Ukraine. Bannon asked when this story was coming out. Manafort replied that he had known about the story coming out for approximately 2 months and had not gotten involved in it. Bannon subsequently told Trump to keep Manafort, to not fire him, and to keep him around for a couple of weeks. Bannon called Kushner, and asked him to get back in order to do something publicity wise to counteract the negative press surrounding the story. Trump had asked Bannon at one time about “what was this thing with Manafort out of the Ukraine,” and they talked for approximately 15 minutes on it. Trump was never linked with other Russian news stories at the time, and he believed Manafort was a promoter. Trump was more worried about how they [sic] story made them look. Bannon believed that Trump talked with Manafort about the story.

Just pages earlier, Bannon had claimed he called Kushner back to fire Manafort; here he said he called Kushner back to do publicity to make it feasible to keep him on.

Bannon claims not to remember how Prince scripted Trump’s answers on Russia for the last debate

Then the interview moves to Erik Prince.

Remember, this interview takes place against he background of Mueller’s efforts to figure out Bannon’s role in sending Prince to set up a back channel with Kirill Dmitriev in the Seychelles. But rather than go there, the interview focuses on whether whether Prince had scripted the answers on Russia that Trump used in the final debate on October 19, 2016.

Bannon explained that he had never had a conversation with Prince about foreign policy with respect to the Trump campaign. Then, prosecutors asked him about a series of documents that proved him wrong:

  • Some talking points Prince sent on September 8, 2015 (PDF 181), effectively pitching his services, which Bannon forwarded to Corey Lewandowski
  • An email exchange showing Bannon forwarding those talking points, Bannon following up (after just having spoken to Prince) asking whether Lewandowski had read the Prince brief, Lewandowski responding they were meeting with Flynn shortly, followed by Bannon offering Prince to brief Trump
  • An email showing Bannon setting up an interview (possibly with Prince) regarding the GOP spat over Section 215 in December 2015
  • A January 14, 2016 where Bannon gave Prince a reference for someone he described as Muslim who was living in India, possibly suggesting Prince should hire him
  • A March 17, 2016 email showing Bannon inviting Prince on his show and trying to set up another Prince-Trump meeting
  • A May 23, 2016 email with Prince suggesting Trump meet with Oleg Hladkovskyy, then the National Security Advisor of Ukraine, who was being hosted by a Prince friend who was in the aerospace business
  • An October 18, 2016 email (PDF 196) from Prince suggesting that, “Mr. T should introduce, an alternative narrative” on Russian election interference by arguing that Putin and Lavrov, “know your weaknesses and your penchant for recklessness, ignoring rules and regulations, which has provided a treasure trove of sensitive information while you were Secretary of State” (!!!)
  • A November 16, 2016 email from Mark Corallo that Prince forwarded to Bannon showing that Corallo was fluffing Bannon with reporters, with the explanation, “We are getting you more PR help”

In response to seeing these documents, Bannon claimed to forget almost all of it.

He professed to not remembering whether Prince had briefed Trump in September 2015, and claimed — the written record notwithstanding — that he spoke to Prince infrequently. He then claimed to not remember whether Prince had come on his show but excused it because Prince was “on the right;” he doesn’t appear to have answered whether Prince briefed Trump. Bannon did not remember the Hladkovskyy pitch, but explained that by saying Prince “as someone with a good relationship with Trump.” Bannon appears to have responded to the Prince advice on how to change the Russian narrative — what the original question was directed towards — by suggesting that campaign headquarters were “loosey goosey” meaning Prince may have come in with free reign during the period Bannon was the campaign CEO (meaning that Bannon couldn’t be pinned down as the exclusive via which Prince scripted that question). Bannon claimed not to remember Prince going out of his way to help Bannon get good PR.

In other words, Mueller’s team first asked Bannon if he had been the channel for Prince to inject policy views — specifically the view that the US should partner with Russia to go after ISIS — into the campaign. Bannon said no. And then prosecutors showed him a bunch of emails showing that’s probably what happened, including Prince offering a scripted answer about Russia for the last debate.

The MBZ back channel

Mueller’s prosecutors then moved to another of the sensitive things Bannon had a role in: the meeting with Mohammed bin Zayed during the transition.

The story goes back to a meeting Trump had with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, something George Papadopoulos had claimed credit for. Bannon gave Kushner the credit. He claimed he didn’t know if they talked about Russia. He also claimed that if he met George Nader, they did little more than shake hands (Bannon would retain ties with Nader for quite some time after this).

There’s a heavily redacted paragraph that, in the notes, clearly involves George Nader. Given his role in brokering the meeting between Prince and Dmitriev, that may be what the passage is about.

Bannon then claims that he last heard from Nader two or three months earlier (that is, late 2017), but that Nader hadn’t reached out to him about being forced to testify to Mueller the month earlier.

Bannon remembers Rick Gerson

Immediately after catching Bannon forgetting how central he was to channeling Prince into the campaign (above), he was asked about Rick Gerson, who would play a key role, with Kirill Dmitriev, in scripting the initial phone call between Trump and Putin. When he was first asked, Bannon said he didn’t remember him.

Then, after the Nader discussion, he was shown a picture, and Bannon recognized that he was Kushner’s hedge fund buddy whom he had referenced earlier. There are two redacted paragraphs, after which Bannon is again asked whether he spoke to Nader about his testimony. Bannon claimed to have learned of Nader’s testimony from the newspaper, “but then said that he could be wrong.” It seems like prosecutors knew it was wrong.

Bannon disclaims any knowledge of Trump’s Russian business ties

After over two redacted pages, the interview then turns to the Trump Tower Russia deal. Bannon started by blaming Michael Cohen for the shit he protected Trump from (a particularly notable comment since Wolff had reported him claiming that Cohen had “taken care of” a “hundred women” during the campaign).

Bannon described Cohen as the kind of guy who thought it would be a good idea to send $130,000 to Stormy Daniels.

Bannon was then shown a document about Trump Tower (which was not released in the FOIA). In response, he tried to claim he had no knowledge of Trump having any business deals.

Bannon was told “zero” deals involving Russia and the Trump Organization. Candidate Trump would say he didn’t know any Russians and there was no collusion. This came up during the campaign a couple of times. Bannon never asked Trump about any Russian business deals. In regard to the emails [sic] reference to Felix Sater, Bannon stated that this went back to the House Intelligence Committee, that they had a signed term sheet in December 2015 on Trump Tower Moscow. This was a big deal to Bannon, and Bannon described it as a “big reveal.”

Mostly, they’re asking Bannon about the cover story that wouldn’t be exposed as such for months after this interview. But it’s significant because before and after the question, Bannon claimed that when Manafort’s Russian ties were creating problems in August 2016, he had no knowledge that Trump had ties to Russia.

After a number of redacted paragraphs, the interview turns to Bannon’s knowledge — which he had reportedly bragged about to Wolff — of the Stormy Daniels payment. Bannon claimed, dubiously, to have spoken to Breitbart people about the payment (which happened while he was CEO of the campaign), but not anyone on the campaign. This dubious claim is of particular interest given that, shortly after Cohen was raided two months after this interview, Bannon started pushing to fire Rod Rosenstein to end the investigation.

Then the discussion returns to Trump’s Russian business deals. After twice already claiming that he had no knowledge of Trump’s Russian business ties, Bannon then admitted:

  • Having read stories from March and April in 2016 on the topic, but not discussing them with anyone on the campaign
  • Learning, while he was on the campaign, of the Dmitry Rybolovlev purchase of Trump’s mansion, but accepting Trump’s “plausible” explanation for it
  • Learning the limited hangout Trump Tower story, but reaching out to people at The Intercept, Fox, the Guardian, and ABC, and because they had no knowledge of it, thinking no further of it
  • Claiming to have “never talked to Trump on how he thought all these stories on his business dealings with Russia was absurd”

Bannon was then shown an email (this is out of order, in the back-up section starting at PDF 234) where he had asked Cohen about claims about Sergey Millian, which he didn’t remember getting, nor does he remember discussing it with the campaign, even though he included Kellyanne Conway, Jared, Stephen Miller, and two other people in his question to Cohen about it. It consisted of a September 22, 2016, response from Sergei Millian to an FT reporter on how sanctions affected deals with Russia, a follow-up four days later, followed by a specific disavowal on September 27 that he had worked, personally, for Trump. Millian forwarded it to Cohen that same day, and Cohen forwarded it to the campaign, misstating what Millian said as a disavowal of any relationship. When Bannon asked what the context was, Jared responded by explaining that Hillary was playing commercials claiming that Trump wasn’t releasing his taxes to hide his ties to Russian oligarchs.

Effectively, Bannon made a not very credible case, one undermined by the documentary record, that he never learned — and never asked about — the Russian business ties of his boss.

But her emails and those other emails and other emails still

Much of the rest of the interview focuses on at least five different uses of emails, oppo research, and social media during the campaign: Cambridge Analytica, Bannon’s own oppo research, Hillary 33,0000 emails, Papadopoulos’ advance notice of the Russian operation, and Stone’s activities. One interesting aspect of this is the way the interview seems to shift back and forth between these seemingly distinct issues, starting with Sam Nunberg, going through Cambridge Analytica and the 33,000 emails, then returning to Stone. That may be because this section is heavily redacted (much of it for ongoing investigative reasons, and not just the parts pertaining to Stone), but it also may have to do with the fact that Bannon’s role went from outside purveyor of junk oppo research and lackey of the Mercers to the guy leading the campaign. Remember, the Mercers funded both Bannon’s Government Accountability Institute and CA. While it’s not yet clear why, the way in which these two streams collapsed in August 2016 remains important.

First, Bannon was asked about a June 5, 2015 email from Barbara Ledeen (PDF 199) sharing her proposal to find Hillary’s missing 33,000 emails (which was specifically pitched in terms of opposition research, not — in Ledeen’s function on SJC — as an oversight goal). The Bates stamp on it suggests it came from his response to subpoena. Bannon said that was part of his work on Government Accountability Institute, and was part of his effort to package allegations about the Clinton Foundation into the book, Clinton Cash, that would go on to be the basis of an FBI investigation during the campaign.

Next, Bannon explained an August 4, 2015 email to Bannon saying that Lewandowski had “just confirmed green light on Trump :-)))”. It pertained to voter targeting, but the data operation people were not retained.  Bannon seems to have responded to this 2015 email by explaining that someone from Cambridge Analytica introduced Bannon to Ivanka and Jared after Ted Cruz withdrew in May 2016, which was the first time he met them.

Next, Bannon was asked about a June 12, 2016 email from someone in the UK (PDF 226). Based on the length of some of the redactions, Alexander Nix was almost certainly involved. The email pitched Bannon meeting with someone while on a trip to the UK in the next two weeks to discuss the Super PAC. Bannon responded “Love it,” but in the interview he claimed not remembering talking to what is almost certainly Nix about this meeting. Parts of this email are redacted under the b7ABC exemption, reflecting an ongoing investigation in November when it was released.

Then Bannon was asked whether he had worked with George Papadopoulos on setting up the meeting with al-Sisi as a way to ask if he had heard Papadopoulos’ information about Russian dirt. Bannon claimed that Flynn would be on the hook for the al-Sisi meetings Papadopoulos was floating, so he didn’t need to interact with Papadopoulos.

Importantly, Bannon said he “had all the dirt he needed from Clinton Cash and Uranium One,” so he didn’t need “any more dirt from ‘clowns’ like Papadopoulos and Clovis.” This is an important issue: Bannon claimed, back in February 2018, that he believed there was a finite amount of dirt needed between the dirt he had invented and the dirt others — the Russians — were offering. By saying he already had his own dirt, he was effectively disavowing an interest in dirt that came from Russia and suggesting they were separate. Note, too, that the answer is particularly interesting because when Papadopoulos told Alexander Downer about the Russian offer, he mentioned that the campaign already had a ton of dirt, which presumably would have been Bannon’s.

It appears, given his name appearing in the notes but not in unredacted form in the 302, that the discussion then turned to Sam Nunberg, who may have sent Bannon an email on January 7, 2016 — long before Bannon joined the campaign — referring to the “Data Guy in Trump Tower.” Bannon thought the name in the email was wrong though did remember meeting a “data guy” there in January 2016. He thought Nunberg did a great job running the campaign by himself for a year (which is interesting because he seemed to have a good relationship with Lewandowski, who was nominally running it).

Bannon is then shown two emails which were not released in FOIA, at least one of which pertains to CA. His responses are redacted under ongoing investigation exemptions.

Bannon then explained that in August 2016, Kushner was in charge of the digital campaign and fundraising, and “the campaign had almost no cash and they were receiving only a small amount from online contributions.” Thus, he repeats the refrain he used at the beginning of the interview, but this time in the specific context of social media and online fundraising.

The interview then turns to an April 20, 2016 email (this is out of order at PDF 239) showing what may be Bannon following up on a meeting by referring to someone else, with the interlocutor asking to call the next day. Bannon claimed not to remember that email.

Bannon is then shown a May 4, 2016 email (which seems to be an automatically forwarded text) that came from Cambridge Analytica. The CA sender described someone — either Ken Cuccinelli or someone who worked for him — being a “total pretender,” because “We worked on our very first pilot program with him in 2013.” Bannon believed that this pertained to an earlier email he had been shown (one of the ones not released under FOIA), and explained that “Cambridge Analytica claimed they could help micro-target voters on Facebook.” He goes on to discuss a project for CA.

The interview turns to two more emails, not provided under FOIA, withheld under the ongoing investigations exemptions.

The next refers to an email to someone dated August 26, 2016, asking if the recipient (by redaction length, this could be Stone) could talk because Bannon Had some ideas.

Bannon claimed not to remember what the ideas in question were. As noted, it was withheld as part of an ongoing investigation.

The next document was from Ted Malloch, dated August 30, 2016, who offered up the idea that Trump should hand Hillary an indictment during the first debate. Malloch said he’d been “in constant touch with the campaign” though the rest is redacted. Bannon claimed to have no contact, apparently with Malloch though possibly with Jerome Corsi (who was in contact with him at the time).

Bannon was shown another email, about which there was a short entirely redacted description. Then the interviewers took a 10 minute break. He was asked about the email again, and there was an extensive description, per the notes, possibly integrating two more issues. Whatever the email was, it is a significant part of this interview, redacted for ongoing investigations.

But it likely pertains to Stone, because Bannon claimed he was interested in the 33,000 emails, but not the John Podesta information.

Bannon was always interested in the missing 33,000 emails, but was not interested in the John Podesta information since he believed it was not going to impact the election. Bannon clarified that he was talking to [several sentences redacted] Bannon was interested in the verified 33,000 emails and how it related to Uranium One. Bannon might have talked with [redacted] at one time, about the 33,0000 emails. After Bannon came onto the campaign, it got into Candidate Trump’s “head” that the 33,000 emails might be important. Trump was focused on “crooked Hillary” and the Uranium One story, and thought the 33,000 missing emails might unlock it. They never discussed that the Russians might have them. Bannon thought that some hackers in Bulgarian might have them. There was not much of a response from Trump and every now and then he would bring up the 33,000 emails. One time when the Podesta emails were released, Trump asked if it was a big deal. Bannon [redacted] with Trump. Flynn or Kellogg might have had a disc on finding the 33,000 emails. Bannon though Flynn might have had an idea about using an outside company and finding the 33,000 missing emails. If it was anything cyber related, Bannon would always refer to Bannon and the cyber guys. Bannon did not think the WikiLeaks releases were that big of a deal, the important information was the 33,000 missing emails. Kellogg thought the same thing, and he was not a cyber guy. Priebus and Miller had talked about the 33,000 missing emails.

There’s a lot that’s obvious invention here (notably that no one thought Russia might have the 33,000 emails and that Bannon wasn’t interested in the WikiLeaks releases). But I’m particularly interested in the degree to which Bannon again pitches these things as unrelated — the 33,000 emails are one thing, the WikiLeaks releases are another. When Bannon joined the campaign, after all, Roger Stone was bragging about how the following dumps would be the missing emails.

The interview then turned to a discussion of the way the Podesta emails came out jut as the Billy Bush tape came out, with Bannon claiming that he “never thought the Podesta releases were a big deal.”

The interview then reviews three more emails, the discussion of one of which is redacted for ongoing investigations but the email itself appears largely unredacted in the backup.

This is, then, an email about debate prep for the same October 19 debate where Erik Prince appears to have scripted Trump’s answer on Russia, though this time there’s a reference to “Our friend in FL,” which might be Stone.

The next email and discussion is not redacted. It pertains to a Prince fundraiser, which leads Bannon to disavow any coordination issue. As I’ll discuss in a follow-up, we know that Prince was fundraising for Stone at this time, which did pose coordination problems. The issue was supposed to come up at Stone’s trial, but did not.

Then Bannon is asked about the September 21 email via which Trump Jr sends a link to a WikiLeaks site (though Bannon was forwarded the email — he didn’t get it directly). The discussion of the email is not interesting. But Bannon’s disavowals on WikiLeaks, again, have been refuted by his subsequent testimony, including during Stone’s trial.

Bannon did not remember anyone else in contact with WikiLeaks. There was discussion during the campaign on how WikiLeaks could impact the race. Bannon did not think anyone had any ideas on where WikiLeaks had got their information. Bannon did not remember anyone reaching out to [redacted, almost certainly Stone], WikiLeaks, or any other intermediary to see what information might be coming.

Indeed, Bannon’s claims were almost immediately challenged in the interview, when Bannon was asked about the November 5, 2016 thread that started with Paul Manafort sending Jared a memo warning that Hillary would,

move immediately to discredit the [Trump] victory and claim voter fraud and cyber-fraud, including the claim that the Russians have hacked into the voting machines and tampered with the results.

Jared forwarded it to Bannon and David Bossie, in response to which Bannon said,

We need to avoid this guy like the plague.

They are going to try and say the Russians worked with wiki leaks to give this victory to us.

Paul is a nice guy but can’t let word get out he is advising us.

In response to being shown an email where he suggests Manafort was advising the campaign (the Mueller Report reveals that Rick Gates, in an interview just two days before this one, had revealed that Manafort told Gates he was still speaking with Trump, Kushner, and Bannon himself), Bannon claimed he,

was not aware of any instances of Manafort advising, or being involved in the campaign after his ouster.

Then, Bannon claimed that,

Candidate Trump never said to Bannon that he was in contact with [redacted, almost certainly Stone] or Manafort.

The substantive part of the interview ends, then, with Bannon making a tie between Manafort and (almost certainly) Stone that admits a tie between Stone and WikiLeaks that Bannon would later testify to, repeatedly, under oath, even while disclaiming any tie to Stone, even though emails would prove that false.

Bannon tells Mueller want to obtain warrants for

The last major paragraph of the interview lays out Bannon’s claims about his communications habits, including:

  • Bannon had three cell phones but did not use either the campaign one or the “secure” one provided by the Federal government to ensure his communications remained secure
  • He didn’t use the campaign iPad much
  • He had no idea that his cell phone had been set up to not archive text messages (which is pertinent because his messages with Prince got deleted)
  • He claimed not to use secure apps during the campaign and transition, but got ProtonMail and Signal not long before leaving the White House
  • Bannon never used Slack, though Breitbart did
  • Bannon got Wickr on Prince’s recommendation, but used Signal with other people
  • He claimed not to know of all the people using secure apps
  • After having just said he primarily used his personal cell phone, Bannon claimed not to have used his personal phone for White House business
  • Bannon several times disclaimed any discussion of the importance of keeping his text messages to comply with the Federal Records Act
  • Bannon said he primarily used his White House email to do business, but then described using his “arc-ent” one, but claimed they got archived a the White House

This language would be particularly useful for prosecutors to use in warrants.

But it’s also important for another reason. Most, if not all, of the referenced Bates stamps in this interview were clearly Steve Bannon’s own production, what he turned over himself. But we know of at least two key emails that don’t appear in this interview, either because they’re redacted, or because Bannon didn’t turn them over. One is an August 18, 2016 email from Stone, sent immediately after Bannon was publicly announced to be joining the campaign, promising Bannon he knew how to win the election. Another is an exchange from October 4 2016, showing Bannon showing great interest in WikiLeaks, in contradiction to the unredacted parts of his testimony. Plus, there’s a text from Bannon’s assistant, Andrea Preate, congratulating Stone after WikiLeaks stomped on the Access Hollywood tape.

To the extent that Mueller relied in this interview (and the earlier one, two days earlier) on Bannon’s production — and it’s not clear whether that’s what happened or not — it would leave the possibility that Bannon didn’t turn over things that were clearly responsive to any Mueller subpoena.

Again, we don’t know whether that happened or not. But Bannon’s unredacted testimony is inconsistent with exchanges with Stone we know were documented. And, as mentioned above, when Cohen was raided, Bannon lost it, pushing to fire Rosenstein after he had told Jared that firing Comey was the stupidest political decision in modern history.

As I disclosed in 2018, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation. And as a reminder, a significant part of my PhD work involved Czech literature. 

Loose Ends as the Stone Trial Moves to Closing Arguments

Somewhat unexpectedly, the government announced this morning it would rest after testimony from Rick Gates and the FBI Agent, Michelle Taylor. My overall take is that Stone is likely to be found guilty on a number of the false statements charges, though may skate on witness tampering. But that nevertheless will be a win for him, because he has been playing for a pardon, not acquittal, and he retreated to a new cover story — that he had no intermediary with WikiLeaks — which is what Trump needed him to say. I think the smartest thing Stone has done in the last several years was not to take the stand and I half wonder whether prosecutors tried to bait him to do so by finishing early.

Stone filed for an acquittal, which is fairly normal. By my read, it misstated the indictment, pretending that Stone was accused of lying about having an interlocutor with WikiLeaks rather than lying about who his was (which, again, serves his goal of getting a pardon). Amy Berman Jackson seemed to adhere to my reading as well, noting that none of the charges require that Stone actually have an interlocutor (though she did warn prosecutors they need to be very specific about what language in the transcript they’re saying are lies). Nevertheless, ABJ reserved judgment on that motion.

I’ll say more about what I think really went down once the final exhibits are released to journalists and after closing arguments tomorrow.

But I wanted to capture a number of loose threads from the trial (and this is based off live tweeting, so it’s more vague than I would wish):

  • Prosecutors made sure to get Steve Bannon to explain the relationship between Ted Malloch and Erik Prince and the campaign, yet Prince did not testify and Malloch’s testimony wasn’t entered. So why include that detail?
  • The government tried to enter Bannon’s grand jury testimony, unsuccessfully, after he had to be held to his prior testimony. Was there a discrepancy or a different articulation prosecutors were trying to hold him to?
  • Footnote 989 of Volume I of the Mueller Report seems to suggest that Bannon’s testimony came in under a proffer agreement (and his first interview clearly stretched the truth). But that proffer did not get introduced into evidence. Why not?
  • The defense did not raise the most obvious challenge to Gates’ testimony, that his claim Stone knew of hacked emails in April 2016 might represent a confusion with Hillary’s FOIAed emails. Since they could only make this argument with Gates’ testimony, I’m curious why they didn’t raise it.
  • The defense spent a lot of time talking to Gates about Stone’s role in compiling voter rolls. Why?
  • Prosecutors named a bunch of Stone’s flunkies as witnesses, and subpoenaed and flew in Andrew Miller. They seem to have first informed Miller he’d be testifying at what would be the end of a full week trial (what they initially said they expected), then held him through Stone’s defense, suggesting they might use him as a rebuttal witness. But he never testified. Why not?
  • The government never presented something they had planned to as 404b information — that Stone also lied about whether the campaign knew of his campaign finance shenanigans. They didn’t do so. Why not? (This may related to the Miller question.)
  • Prosecutors made a point of having Gates describe Stone asking for Jared Kushner’s contact so he could brief him on stolen emails. But that point was dropped. That loose end is particularly interesting given that they had Bannon testify about the July 18 email Stone sent him, which probably pertains to an investigation that was ongoing in March.

Update: I’ve reviewed the acquittal motion and actually think Stone may win on this point:

COUNT 6 – FALSE STATEMENT

STONE testified falsely that he had never discussed his conversations with the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary” with anyone involved in the Trump Campaign.

Evidence as to Count 6 suffers from the same infirmity as Counts 4 and 5. The count fails because of the government’s failure to prove the conversations with the Trump Campaign contained, or specifically related to, information Mr. Stone received from Mr. Credico. There was no evidence presented that any of the information was not already available in the public domain. Furthermore, there was no evidence presented that the conversation were about, or relating to, Russian interference. “And did you discuss your conversations with the intermediary with anyone involved in the Trump campaign?” HPSCI transcript, at 102 (emphasis added). No, the conversation had nothing to do with Randy Credico. Even if, arguendo, Stone spoke to a Campaign official, Bannon, Trump, or if Stone had non-public information from an intermediary, but did not cite to Credico in those communications, then the answer is not false. The government must live with the imprecise wording of Count VI.

Stone absolutely did lie about speaking to Trump people about what he knew about WikiLeaks. But in doing so, as far as we know, he always attributed his information to Assange directly, not to Credico or Corsi (though I’m fairly certain he could prove that he gave Corsi credit). So I actually think that’s why ABJ reserved on this front: because Stone is right. The government fucked up the wording on this.

 

It Doesn’t Matter for Prosecutors’ Case that Randy Credico Was Bragging or (Purportedly) Drunk

Some reporters appear to be getting their understanding of the Roger Stone trial from Stone’s defense attorneys rather than from actually reading the indictment and the trial exhibits, because they report as truth that it will harm prosecutors’ case if Credico can be shown to be drunk or bragging when he suggested to Stone he had ties to Julian Assange. Here’s the NYT:

Complicating the prosecution’s case, both men appear to have repeatedly lied to and about each other. And both appear to have exaggerated their connections with WikiLeaks, either privately or publicly.

Mr. Credico testified that many of his claims regarding WikiLeaks amounted to “braggadocio” and that he repeatedly overstated his access to Mr. Assange partly as a way to “one-up” Mr. Stone.

While it is true that Stone’s lawyers are arguing that poor little Roger with the Nixon-tattoo Stone got lied to by both Credico and Jerome Corsi, that defense doesn’t actually exonerate Stone of the charges against him (which is noteworthy in and of itself). Stone is not accused of having a back channel to WikiLeaks, which claims about Credico’s credibility might undermine; he’s accused of lying about his claims about having one and who that is. Most notably, Stone is accused of lying about how he communicated with his claimed back channel(s), and no attacks on Credico can make the abundant correspondence between Stone and Credico disappear.

Consider the evidence presented to prove that Stone lied just last week, on top of what was already referenced in the indictment (which I laid out here).

1. STONE testified falsely that he did not have emails with third parties about Assange, and that he did not have any documents, emails, or text messages that refer to Assange.

In addition to having Credico and Steve Bannon introduce their own emails (and texts in the case of Credico) that mention Assange, FBI Agent Michelle Taylor introduced the Erik Prince texts described in the indictment that reference Assange (and confirm that those texts were with Prince), as well as an October 3, 2016 Stone email to Prince stating that he, “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming.”

2. STONE testified falsely that his August 2016 references to being in contact with the head of WikiLeaks were references to communications with a single “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary,” who STONE identified as Credico.

As noted, the only evidence that Credico and Stone spoke about Assange post-dates the days in early August when Stone claimed to have an intermediary. Multiple comms from Credico show him pointing that out to Stone over and over and over (once even before the election and more explicitly in early 2017): he couldn’t be Stone’s intermediary because all their discussions of Assange post-date Stone’s claims to having an intermediary. Indeed, Credico and Stone even spoke about Stone’s intermediary when Stone appeared on Credico’s show on August 23, 2016.

To disprove that Credico could not be his intermediary, Stone would need to introduce evidence he and Credico talked about WikiLeaks before that. All Stone offered to disprove that were some Credico tweets from 2016 dated June 17, July 22, and July 24, none of which were addressed to Stone and only the first of which addresses upcoming email drops.

In addition, the government introduced communications that make it clear Stone was aware of Corsi’s import before he testified. For example, on March 24, 2017, Stone sent Corsi and Gloria Borger his attorneys’ letter to HPSCI stating he was “anxious to redress the false and misleading way he has been portrayed by some on the Permanent Select Committee.” That letter got sent one day after Corsi had posted the cover story he and Stone started working on the previous year.

Further, one of the most damning exhibits introduced last week shows that on October 19, 2017, Stone forwarded Credico an email from his attorney, Grant Smith, with the subject line “Credico Paragraph.” The email purported to share the paragraphs in an October 13, 2017 letter to HPSCI naming Credico as Stone’s source. But the version Smith sent to Stone which got forwarded to Credico materially differs from the one sent to HPSCI, in part by offering a half paragraph of complimentary language on Stone’s relationship with Credico that wasn’t actually included in the letter to HPSCI.

But it also includes this paragraph:

Mr. Stone noticed Credico had traveled to London on at least two occasions and conducted two landmark interviews with Julian Assange on WBAI. To be absolutely clear, Credico was only asked to confirm for Mr. Stone that the postings and interviews by Assange in which he claimed to have the Clinton data ,both of June 21 [sic], were accurate. Mr. Credico never said he knew or had any information as to source or content of the material. Mr. Credico never said he had confirmed this information with Mr. Assange himself. Mr. Stone knew Credico had his own sources within WikiLeaks and is credible. Mr. Stone concedes that describing Credico as a go-between or intermediary is a bit of salesmanship for his InfoWars audience but the confirmation by Credico turned out to be 100 % accurate. [emphasis original]

The unitaliczed text does show up in a form in Stone’s letter, albeit phrased in a way to downplay any potential request from Stone. But the italicized language does not show up in Stone’s letter. It’s effectively a script for Credico, one that might placate Credico’s concerns about Stone overstating his knowledge, but one that was false on its face.

3. STONE testified falsely that he did not ask the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary,” to communicate anything to the head of Organization 1 and did not ask the intermediary to do anything on STONE’s behalf.

As I noted in this post, there are emails showing Stone requested both Corsi and Credico do things with regards to Assange. Two emails introduced last week prove that Stone knew he had such emails. On April 3, 2018, Stone’s lawyer Grant Smith wrote Stone cc’ing Corsi stating, “At Roger’s request, I attach the only 2 emails on the subject between the two of you.” That wasn’t true: An August 15, 2016 Corsi email stating, “More to come than anyone realizes,” is almost certainly also a reference to stolen emails.

Tellingly, the very next day, April 4, 2018, Stone sent Credico an email saying, “Everything I know about the WikiLeaks disclosures I heard from you and can prove it.”

More damning still, on March 10, 2018, Stone forwarded Credico the thread of emails, dating from September 2016, in which he requested that Credico ask Assange if he had emails on Libya. The thread includes Credico claiming, “I asked one of [Assange’s] lawyers,” a reference to Margaret Ratner Kunstler. Stone sent it as a threat — and indeed, his threats to attack Kunstler were probably among the most effective Stone used with Credico, per Credico’s testimony. But by sending it (this time not even involving his lawyers), Stone proved that he knew of the request he made of Credico in September 2016, and knew he had communications reflecting the request.

4. STONE testified falsely that he and the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary” did not communicate via text message or email about WikiLeaks.

As the above shows, Stone not only did communicate extensively with Credico — his claimed intermediary — via text and email, but he was aware of it. Likewise, he was aware that he had communicated via email, the intermediary the government suggests he was trying to hide, with Corsi.

5. STONE testified falsely that he had never discussed his conversations with the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary” with anyone involved in the Trump Campaign.

Ultimately, the government argues that this trial is going to be about Stone trying to hide how damning all this is for Trump, and it’s in Stone’s communications with the campaign that are most damning. Stone already proved he knew of the Bannon email introduced at trial last week when he shared it after Bannon went to the NYT. Much of the rest of the proof of this will show up in this week’s testimony, not least from Rick Gates.

Which is why Stone’s current defense story is so interesting: because it highlights that Stone continues to lie to cover up the Trump campaign’s knowledge of all this. By suggesting that Stone believed Corsi was also an intermediary for him, Stone’s lawyers are basically pleading guilty to several of the false statements charges against Stone — lies 1 through 4 as numbered here — as part of his defense! Effectively, this is not a defense to the charges against Stone. It is, instead, a new lie, meant to deny what he did not in his HPSCI testimony, that he had an intermediary, as a retreat position on his larger lie, that Trump didn’t know about any of this.

That Stone is still obstructing that fact is made all the more clear by two other exhibits introduced last week.

First, the government introduced the letter by which Stone cleaned up his lie denying speaking to any Russians. On June 15, 2018, after Michael Caputo described his testimony with Mueller’s team, Stone’s lawyer, Grant Smith, sent a letter to Devin Nunes admitting he and Stone entertained Henry Greenberg’s (whom Caputo correctly introduced to him as a Russian) offer of dirt on Hillary, only to say Stone and Trump wouldn’t spend money for such things.

Smith sent another letter on December 20, 2018, in which he asserted that, “Mr. Stone’s testimony provided during the interview was forthcoming, truthful, and wholly consistent with his many detailed public statements on the matters being investigated.” In other words, as recently as December of last year, Smith reaffirmed that Stone’s claims to have one intermediary who was Credico remained the operative story.

Given that Stone cleaned up the Greenberg story, it raises real questions why, at a time when Stone knew people had testified against him and after months during which emails proving Stone’s lies about having communications about Assange were lies had been aired publicly, Stone didn’t clean up his intermediary story in the December letter by saying what his attorneys are now arguing in court, that an epic rat-fucker was duped by a comedian and a hoaxster. That would have saved him a year of legal fees and a significantly diminished ability to work.

But it would have served to acknowledge that Corsi was an interlocutor before Robert Mueller closed up shop.

Update, 2/17/20: Fixed date on Credico email.

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

What Prosecutors Need to Show to Prove Roger Stone Guilty

There has been some absolutely shitty coverage in advance of Roger Stone’s trial that doesn’t even understand the indictment. So to try to minimize the bad coverage, I’m going to lay out what the prosecutors need to prove to show that Roger Stone is guilty.

Stone is accused of telling 5 lies to the House Intelligence Committee, plus intimidating Randy Credico in an attempt to talk him out of testifying honestly. Together, those actions will prove the obstruction charges.

I’ve mapped out each of the lies, below, with what the government needs to do to prove they’re lies, and the evidence the government has already said it’ll offer to prove that. The italicized sentences come from the indictment; where I didn’t otherwise replace it, Organization 1 is WikiLeaks.

Stone has emails with others mentioning Julian Assange and knew that when he testified

STONE testified falsely that he did not have emails with third parties about the head of Organization 1, and that he did not have any documents, emails, or text messages that refer to the head of Organization 1.

The government needs to show not only that he had emails with others (and documents and texts) talking about Julian Assange but that he knew that when he testified.

The emails and texts they’ll use to prove this include:

  • A July 25, 2016 email to Corsi with the subject line, “Get to [the head of Organization 1].” The body of the message read, “Get to [the head of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” On or about the same day, Person 1 forwarded STONE’s email to an associate who lived in the United Kingdom and was a supporter of the Trump Campaign (GX35)
  • A July 31, 2016 email to Corsi with the subject line, “Call me MON.” saying that Ted Malloch, “should see Assange.” (GX 36)
  • An August 2, 2016 email from Corsi to Stone stating that, “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging. … Time to let more than [the Clinton Campaign chairman] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke – neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.” (GX 37)
  • An August 19, 2016 text from Credico saying, “I’m going to have [Assange] on my show next Thursday.” (GX 46)
  • An August 21, 2016, text from Credico saying, “I have [Assange on Thursday so I’m completely tied up on that day.” (GX 46)
  • An August 26, 2016 text exchange with Credico where Credico said, “[Assange] talk[ed] about you last night,” Stone asked what Assange said, and Credico responded, “He didn’t say anything bad we were talking about how the Press is trying to make it look like you and he are in cahoots.” (GX 47)
  • August 27, 2016 text messages from Credico saying, “We are working on a [Assange] radio show,” and that, “[Assange] has kryptonite on Hillary.”
  • A September 18, 2016, email to Credico asking, “Please ask [Assange] for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30—particularly on August 20, 2011 that mention [the subject of the article] or confirm this narrative.” (GX 48)
  • A September 19, 2016, text to Credico writing, “Pass my message . . . to [Assange].” Credico responded, “I did.” (GX 49-57)
  • An October 1, 2016, text from Credico claiming, “big news Wednesday . . . now pretend u don’t know me . . . Hillary’s campaign will die this week.” (GX 58)
  • An October 2, 2016, email from Stone to Credico saying “WTF?,” linking an article saying that Assange was canceling “highly anticipated Tuesday announcement due to security concerns.” Credico responded, “head fake.” (GX 59)
  • An October 2, 2016, text to Credico stating, “Did [Assange] back off.” On October 3, 2016, Credico responded, “I can’t tal[k] about it.” Then said, “I think it[’]s on for tomorrow.” Credico added later that day, “Off the Record Hillary and her people are doing a full-court press they [sic] keep [the head of Organization 1] from making the next dump . . . That’s all I can tell you on this line . . . Please leave my name out of it.” (GX 58)
  • An October 3, 2016 email or text, probably to Erik Prince, stating, “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming.”
  • An October 3, 2016 email from Matthew Boyle asking, “Assange – what’s he got? Hope it’s good.” Stone responded, “It is. I’d tell [Bannon] but he doesn’t call me back.” (GX 31)
  • An October 4, 2016 email between Bannon and Stone asking what Assange had. (GX 32)
  • An October 4 2016 text, probably from Prince, saying “hear[d] anymore from London,” to which Stone replied, “Yes – want to talk on a secure line – got Whatsapp?” (GX 32)
  • An October 7, 2016 text from Bannon assistant Alexandra Preate saying “well done.” (GX44)

The government also has to prove that Stone knew he had all these comms. One way they’ll do so is by showing they were still in Stone’s possession when they searched his home. Another way they’ll prove it is by showing that Stone shared many of them, on the record, with reporters as he was trying to walk back his story.

Stone’s references to an intermediary are not to Credico

STONE testified falsely that his August 2016 references to being in contact with the head of WikiLeaks were references to communications with a single “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary,” who STONE identified as Credico.

The government has to prove that 1) Credico could not have been the intermediary Stone referred to publicly in early August and 2) there was at least one other person that Stone was using as an attempted intermediary to Assange.

To prove this, first of all, the government will show that there were no communications between Credico and Stone until Credico told Stone that he was going to have Assange on his show on August 19, which was after Stone repeatedly claimed to have an intermediary.

The government will also show that Stone had communications with Corsi that amount to treating him as an intermediary. It will do this by showing the following communications:

  • A July 25, 2016 email to Corsi with the subject line, “Get to [the head of Organization 1].” The body of the message read, “Get to [the head of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” On or about the same day, Person 1 forwarded STONE’s email to an associate who lived in the United Kingdom and was a supporter of the Trump Campaign
  • A July 31, 2016 email to Corsi with the subject line, “Call me MON.” saying that Ted Malloch, “should see Assange.”
  • An August 2, 2016 email from Corsi to Stone stating that, “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging. … Time to let more than [the Clinton Campaign chairman] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke – neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.”

The government will further show that Stone knew Credico couldn’t be the intermediary because he spoke to both Credico and Corsi about that. For example, they’ll show

  • On January 6, 2017, Credico texted Stone, “Well I have put together timelines[] and you [] said you have a back-channel way back a month before I had [the head of Organization 1] on my show . . . I have never had a conversation with [the head of Organization 1] other than my radio show . . . I have pieced it all together . . .so you may as well tell the truth that you had no back-channel or there’s the guy you were talking about early August.” (GX 61)
  • On November 30, 2017, after Stone asked Corsi to write something about about Credico, Corsi asked, “Are you sure you want to make something out of this now? Why not wait to see what [Person 2] does. You may be defending yourself too much—raising new questions that will fuel new inquiries. This may be a time to say less, not more.” (GX 41)

The government may show there was another intermediary (probably the source Corsi refused to give up when he stopped cooperating) — and in fact, this prosecution may be an attempt to force Stone to admit that.

Stone asked for favors from his intermediaries to Assange

STONE testified falsely that he did not ask the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary,” to communicate anything to the head of Organization 1 and did not ask the intermediary to do anything on STONE’s behalf.

The government will need to prove that he asked for favors from intermediaries. This will show, at least:

  • The July 25, 2016 email to Corsi with the subject line, “Get to [the head of Organization 1].” The body of the message read, “Get to [the head of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” On or about the same day, Person 1 forwarded STONE’s email to an associate who lived in the United Kingdom and was a supporter of the Trump Campaign. This was a request not for information about emails, but the emails themselves.
  • A September 18, 2016, email to Credico asking, “Please ask [Assange] for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30—particularly on August 20, 2011 that mention [the subject of the article] or confirm this narrative.”
  • A September 19, 2016, text to Credico writing, “Pass my message . . . to [Assange].” Credico responded, “I did.”

The government will prove he remembered that when he testified because after he testified, he threatened Margaret Kunstler, through whom Credico asked Assange for help. I suspect they have additional proof on this front.

Stone communicated with an intermediary about Assange

STONE testified falsely that he and the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary” did not communicate via text message or email about WikiLeaks.

The government can prove this with both the Credico and Corsi communications (though I suspect it knows of more). As above, they can prove Stone knew he had these communications because he offered them up to people and indicated he knew of them in real time to Corsi.

Stone discussed his outreach via an intermediary with the Trump campaign

STONE testified falsely that he had never discussed his conversations with the person he referred to as his “go-between,” “mutual friend,” and “intermediary” with anyone involved in the Trump Campaign.

The government needs to show Stone passed on information he represented as coming from an intermediary to Assange to the Trump campaign. To prove this the government will show:

  • Starting in June, Stone told Trump campaign officials that emails were coming.
  • Around July 18, Stone called Trump at his Trump Organization phone (patched through via Rhona Graff) and told Trump the emails would be coming out that week.
  • Sometime after the July 22 release, Stone called Trump on his cell phone and told him more emails were coming; after Trump hung up, he told Rick Gates (who was driving with him to Laguardia) that more emails were coming.
  • In October, Stone claimed to have information from WikiLeaks to both Bannon and Erik Prince.

The government will prove Stone remembered this with comms with Credico and Corsi, making it clear he was protecting Trump (any one of his pleading emails telling Trump he was protecting him since then would do the trick, as well).

The government will also show that Stone was discussing his campaign finance shenanigans with the campaign, and lied about that to HPSCI, before he cleaned up his testimony.

Stone tried to prevent Credico from telling HPSCI that he was not Stone’s intermediary

The government will show abundant communications, including from third parties, to document the pressure Stone put on Credico to lie for him. That includes:

  • A November 19, 2017 text instructing Credico to, “‘Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan’ . . . Richard Nixon.” (GX 63)
  • Multiple texts, starting on December 1, 2017, instructing Credico to do a Frank Pentangeli.” (GX 69)
  • On December 1, 2017, Stone texted Credico stating, “And if you turned over anything to the FBI you’re a fool.” Later that day, Credico responded, “You need to amend your testimony before I testify on the 15th.” Stone responded, “If you testify you’re a fool. Because of tromp I could never get away with a certain [sic] my Fifth Amendment rights but you can. I guarantee you you are the one who gets indicted for perjury if you’re stupid enough to testify.” (GX 69)
  • On or about December 24, 2017, Credico texted Stone, “I met [the head of Organization 1] for f[i]rst time this yea[r] sept 7 . . . docs prove that. . . . You should be honest w fbi . . . there was no back channel . . . be honest.” Stone replied approximately two minutes later, “I’m not talking to the FBI and if your smart you won’t either.” (GX 69)
  • On April 9, 2018, emailed Credico, “You are a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds.” Stone also threatened to take Bianca away: “take that dog away from you,” and then added, “I am so ready. Let’s get it on. Prepare to die [expletive].” (GX 112-114)
  • When Credico emailed Stone on May 21, 2018, “You should have just been honest with the house Intel committee . . . you’ve opened yourself up to perjury charges like an idiot.” Stone replied, “You are so full of [expletive]. You got nothing. Keep running your mouth and I’ll file a bar complaint against your friend [Margaret Kunstler].” (GX 124-126)

The government will also show that when Stone got in trouble for 2007 for leaving a threat for Eliot Spitzer’s father, he blamed it on Credico.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And two paragraphs in Volume II repeating the same information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mueller Report and the ongoing criminal investigations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Currently?

MUELLER: Currently.

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

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

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

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

Why Mueller closed up shop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

MUELLER: There — I would say generally.

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

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

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

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

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