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Paul Manafort’s Claims about WikiLeaks in His September 13, 2018 Interview

Paul Manafort’s September 13, 2018 interview is the only one where he is believed to tell the truth about a number of topics. It was the last one before Mueller gave him a plea deal that staved off an election season trial, leading to a period of cooperation during which Manafort substantively backed off much of what he admitted on September 13. Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, then told Rudy Giuliani what Manafort got asked.

The publicly released version includes substantive redactions regarding Roger Stone, WikiLeaks, and Jared Kushner (as well as Konstantin Kilimnik and the kickback system via which Manafort got paid). But the Senate Intelligence Committee appears to have obtained an unredacted version. So I wanted to summarize what the SSCI Report shows about WikiLeaks and Kushner. Where I can identify it, I will italicize the information that was not redacted in the BuzzFeed release. Everything else was hidden as part of an ongoing investigation in January 2, 2020 but was no longer considered sensitive when SSCI released its report (this may reflect ongoing investigative work that Bill Barr killed).


fn 539: Manafort told the FBI that, after his resignation, but before the election, he and Trump had spoken “a few times. ”

fn 540: While Manafort claimed to have not recalled the substance of these interactions, he did recall giving Trump advice on Trump’s performance in the second debate and giving Trump ideas for the third debate.

fn 542: Manafort also told the SCO that from the time he left the Campaign until the election, he met with Kushner “once or twice” and spoke to Kushner on the phone “five or six times.”

fn 543: Manafort said that both sides reached out to one another.

fn 544: According to Manafort, Donald Trump and others in his family were aware that Manafort and Kushner were in contact, and Kushner “thought it would be good” for Manafort to call Trump.

fn 547: On November 5, 2016, Manafort sent a document entitled “Securing the Victory” to at least Trump, Kushner, and Reince Priebus.[snip] While Manafort recalled in his interview with the SCO that he sent the memorandum to Trump’s executive assistant, the Trump Organization did not produce any such document as part of the Committee’s request. Because of other known deficiencies in the Trump Organization’s document responses, the Committee does not draw the conclusion that no document was sent. Not all senior individuals in the Trump Campaign engaged in substantive interactions with Manafort after his departure. For instance, while Steve Bannon was the recipient of short messages of encouragement from Manafort and responded in kind, Bannon made clear internally that he thought further interactions with Manafort would negatively impact the Campaign. In response to Priebus forwarding Manafort’s November 5, 2016 memorandum to him, Bannon responded, “We need to avoid manafort like he has a disease. Dems will say that the Russians are helping us win.” Email, Bannon to Priebus, November 5, 2016 (SKB_SSCl0000964)

fn 549: Manafort told the SCO that that he had “no information” that Russia hacked voting machines.

fn 550 Manafort also sent the memorandum to Sean Hannity, although he said he did not expect Hannity to talk to Trump about it.

fn 1444: Manafort also recalled hearing from Stone sometime in June 2016 that “a source close to WikiLeaks confirmed that WikiLeaks had the emails from Clinton’s server.”

fn 1445: Like Gates, Manafort recalled Stone telling him that the emails would be released “soon,” but Stone “did not know when.”

fn 1446: Manafort, who was not convinced that the documents were coming out, directed Gates to check in with Stone “from time to time” to see if his WikiLeaks · information remained “real and viable.”

fn 1475: Because Manafort was initially dubious that Stone had accurate information about WikiLeaks, he instructed Stone “not to tell Trump until they could. confirm it.” Manafort said that he wanted to keep Trump focused on speeches and meeting members of Congress, not distracted “by the titillation of a WikiLeaks release.”

fn 1476: In addition, Manafort believed Stone would have told Trump anyway because he ”wanted the credit for knowing in advance.”

fn 1494: Witness testimony indicates that Stone may have raised WikiLeaks again to Trump in late July, shortly before the DNC release occurred. Although Manafort did not know whether Stone and Trump spoke about WikiLeaks that week, he assumed they did.

fn 1507: On the afternoon of July 22, Manafort and Trump discussed how they could use the DNC emails relating to Debbie Wasserman Schultz

fn 1508: Although Manafort was confused by Stone’s prediction, which was that WikiLeaks had emails from “Clinton’s server,” whereas the document released that day came from the DNC, he. still used the “fact of the hack and the substance of the emails” to attack Clinton and deflect attention from Trump’s comments towards Senator Ted Cruz and Cruz’s wife. [snip] For example, Manafort sought to “draw [a] comparison to [the] fact that the Dems attack Russia for hacking them but want us to believe that the server in HC[‘s] home was safe from hacking” and that Clinton had “put national security at risk.” Email, Manafort to Spicer, Miller, Parscale, Reed, Gates, Fabrizio, and Kushner, July 24, 2016

fn 1513: Similarly, despite Manafort’s initial skepticism, after the email release on July 22, Manafort “thought that Stone had been right.”

fn 1518: Senior Campaign officials believed that the [Russia are you listening] statement was unscripted. 

fn 1523: In response [to Manafort’s reminder that Stone claimed to have access to WikiLeaks, sourced to GJ in Mueller Report], Trump directed Manafort to stay in touch with Stone to see if there were more emails coming out.

fn 1524: Manafort then spoke with Stone during the week of the Democratic National Convention. Stone was in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, which occurred directly prior to the Democratic National Convention.

fn 1525: At the time, Stone said he did not know what else would come out or when, but he agreed to follow up, although he did not say when he would do so.

fn 1617: At the end of September, Stone privately conveyed information about a future WikiLeaks release to Trump and Manafort. Manafort, who had left the Campaign in August, recalled speaking with Stone around the first presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, which took place on September 26, 2016. 

fn 1618: Stone told Manafort that “John Podesta was going to be in the barrel” and that “there were going to be leaks of John Podesta’s emails.”

fn 1678: Manafort recalled Trump acknowledging to him that “Stone had information on the release in advance” of it becoming public.

fn 1679: Manafort spoke with Stone by phone and told Stone that Stone had been right. Stone’s cell phone records show a 17-minute call with Manafort on October 12, although they may have been in touch through other means following the Podesta release.

In Previously Undisclosed December 2018 Interview, Jared Kushner Got Warned Falsely Claiming to Not Recall Is Still a Lie

BuzzFeed released another tranche of Mueller documents the other night. Generally, they’re as interesting for the small details as for any blockbuster reveals.

Someone got interviewed in October 2018 about recordings he made of Jay Sekulow’s conversations with him. A woman voluntarily allowed the FBI to take a forensic image of her refurbished iPhone 7 in October 2018, apparently so they could try to get the comms of its previous owner. The 302 for Brittany Kaiser (the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower) shows no b7A redactions for ongoing investigation, even though other 302s with CA related information do.

But I’m particularly intrigued that Jared Kushner had a previously undisclosed December 19, 2018 interview that didn’t even show up on the master list of Mueller interviews. It was conducted by Andrew Goldstein, Andrew Weissmann, and Zainab Ahmad, so it definitely was a (high profile) Mueller interview. (One Paul Manafort lie Meuller’s team was trying to sort through at the time likely pertained to Kushner, though I’m not sure Ahmad would be involved in an interview on that topic.)

Most of the interview, like the other Kushner interviews, is redacted, mostly under b5 (deliberative) redactions, though there are some b7A ones.

About the only thing left unredacted is this warning from Goldstein:

SASC Goldstein advised Kushner that the interview was being conducted under the same terms as the prior interview. SASC Goldstein advised Kushner that it was a crime to lie during the interview. SASC Goldstein advised Kushner that answering a question with “I don’t recall,” when you do recall, is a lie.

Which doesn’t say much about what Kushner said in this interview. It does reveal what he had said in past interviews.

In other words, Kushner at least attempted to pursue the same strategy his father-in-law did, by not recalling really damning information.

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.

Steve Bannon’s Bas-Relief Confession that Trump Told Him to Deny Discussing Sanction Relief

After a week of writing about Mike Flynn and more Mike Flynn, I’m finally getting around to the transcripts the House Intelligence Committee wrote last week. A bunch of frothy right wingers have pointed to the transcripts as PROOF OF NO COLLUSION, which is hilarious. I’ve barely begun reviewing them, but some glaring holes in the investigation include:

  • The key players — Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort, but also Rick Gates — did not testify
  • Two witnesses (Michael Cohen and Roger Stone) were convicted for the lies they told to the committee and a third (Erik Prince) is reportedly under investigation, even if Billy Barr’s DOJ doesn’t prosecute Trump flunkies
  • Multiple witnesses (Michael Caputo, Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner, for starters) denied knowing people or having evidence their Mueller materials show they had

Republicans mostly asked each witness, “did you collude?” which predictably elicited the “no” answers the frothers are now pointing to as PROOF. Democrats spent most of their time trying to get recalcitrant witnesses to answer questions they refused to answer rather than trying to corner them into something useful.

The investigation was a shit-show.

The craziest thing (thus far, anyway), is Steve Bannon’s two appearances. Bannon testified in January 2018 and invoked White House guidance to refuse to answer questions from both the transition and post-inauguration periods, periods others had addressed. He also claimed any communications of interest would have been turned over by the campaign, thereby hiding emails he had with Roger Stone using his personal email where they explicitly discussed Julian Assange.

When Bannon went back a month later, having consulted with Devin Nunes in the interim and after Nunes appears to have shared a transcript of Bannon’s first appearance with the White House, he provided the committee a bunch of questions he would answer — all “no” answers.

Here’s how just some of those questions parroted back (for the second time in the hearing) looked:

MR. CONAWAY: After November 8th, 2016, did you meet with Ambassador Kislyak?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: On March 27, 2017, The New York Times reported that in mid-December of 2016 Kushner met with Sergei Gorkov of the VEB. Were you aware of this meeting?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Did you attend a December 2016 meeting with Kushner that Kushner had with Gorkov?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Did Mr. Prince have any role in the current administration?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Was there any discussion on January 27th, 2017, at the White House regarding Mr. Papadopoulos, who was contacted by the FBI that day?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Has Mr. Papadopoulos had any contact with anyone at the White House concerning the fact that the FBI had approached him?

MR. BANNON: Not to my knowledge.

MR. CONAWAY: Was the fact that the FBI approached Mr. Papadopoulos on January 27th communicated to President Trump?

MR. BANNON: Not to my knowledge.

MR. CONAWAY: Did Mr. Trump ever discuss with you any conversations between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks after the election?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Did you ever meet with Devin Nunes about the Russia investigation?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: While at the White House, were you ever instructed to take any action that you believe could hinder the Russian investigation in any way?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Were you ever given any instruction at the White House that you felt might amount to an effort to obstruct justice?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. CONAWAY: Did you have any conversations with Director Comey after the election about whether he would remain the head of the FBI?

MR. BANNON: No.

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

MR. BANNON: No.

Here’s how Adam Schiff got Bannon to admit that he was literally reading from a script the White House gave him (remember that Bannon’s lawyer, William Burck, also represented White House Counsel Don McGahn).

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

[Discussion off the record.]

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

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

MR. BANNON: Same answer.

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

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

MR. SCHIFF: What transcript are you talking about?

MR. BANNON: This transcript of my first interview.

[snip]

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

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

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

MR. BANNON: No.

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

MR. BANNON: No.

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

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: As far as I know.

The thing is, most of these are now recognizably misdirection from some known damning detail. For example, Bannon did not attend the November 30, 2016 meeting with Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower, but he was invited. Bannon’s lack of knowledge of Jared Kushner’s December meeting with Sergei Gorkov doesn’t make the meeting itself less damning — arguably, it suggests Kushner kept it on a close hold — and it doesn’t rule out Bannon being involved in a meeting with Gorkov sometime after that. Bannon’s narrow denial that Erik Prince had a role in the administration distracts from Prince’s role as a go-between with Russia during the transition, something Bannon was personally involved with (and covered up by deleting his relevant text messages). There was a discussion among senior campaign officials of the link that WikiLeaks sent Don Jr in September 2016, but it was during the election, not after it. Bannon didn’t have conversations with Jim Comey about firing him, but he had a ton of conversations about firing Comey, eight times on May 3 and 4, 2017 alone. Even the questions about obstruction of justice are consistent with explicit requests that Bannon obstruct, but that took place somewhere else, like Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster (and it’s notable that Bannon’s initial testimony dramatically backed off some of the claims Bannon made to Michael Wolff that had just been published in Fire and Fury).

As Adam Schiff begins to figure out what happened, he asks questions that make it clear that Bannon did not meet — in person — with Nunes, but did speak to him on the phone.

MR. SCHIFF: Now, I see there’s a question on here, did you ever meet with Devin Nunes about the Russia investigation, and you’ve answered that “no.” But you’ve also answered, when my colleague asked you, that you have discussed — you had discussions with Mr. Nunes and you refused to answer the question about whether it was about the Russian investigation. Is that correct?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: However I answered, it’s in the transcript.

MR. SCHIFF: Let me just ask you again. Did you ever meet with Devin Nunes about the Russian investigation?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. SCHIFF: Did you ever discuss the Russia investigation with Devin Nunes?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: That’s not a question I’m authorized to answer.

Even before that, Schiff cops on to Bannon’s denial about something — whether George Papadopoulos alerted the White House after he was first questioned about the FBI — that Bannon knows nothing about.

MR. SCHIFF: So one of the questions that you were supplied by the White House was, has Mr. Papadopoulos had any contact with anyone at the White House concerning the fact that he had been — that the FBI had approached him? How do you know the answer to that, Mr. Bannon?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: Can you just ask the question again?

MR. SCHIFF: Yes. One of the questions that the White House gave you to answer to our committee was, has Mr. Papadopoulos had any contact with anyone at the White House concerning the fact that the FBI had approached him?

MR. BANNON: I think I said, “Not to my knowledge.”

MR. SCHIFF: So you really did don’t know, do you?

MR. BANNON: That’s — not to my knowledge.

MR. SCHIFF: Why did the White House propose a question to you that you couldn’t answer within your knowledge?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: You have to ask the White House that.

In Papadopoulos’ Congressional testimony (which took place in October 2018, so six months after Bannon’s second HPSCI interview), the coffee boy would admit that he emailed Marc Kasowitz, who was then Trump’s personal attorney, sometime after his FBI interview.

Q And you didn’t talk to anyone from the Trump organization about that interview with the FBI?

A I don’t think I did, no.

Q So you were interviewed again by the FBI —

A I can’t remember if I reached out to Marc Kasowitz about either that or my subpoena from the Senate. And I emailed him and I said, Look, would you be interested in representing me? I think that’s what happened. But I don’t — I can’t remember exactly why I emailed him, but I think I emailed Marc Kasowitz’ firm sometimes after the interview, but I don’t remember if he ever responded or anything like that.

This post writes up what we know about Papadopoulos’ testimony.

This makes it clear, then, that the script Bannon was given was a ham-handed attempt to get a bunch of denials in the record, denials of things that actually did happen.

Among the questions the White House included was one designed to get him to deny he had discussed eliminating sanctions on Russia.

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

MR. BANNON: No.

Of course, this “no” answer only says Bannon didn’t continue to discuss ending sanctions on Russia after inauguration, but he did beforehand.

There is testimony on the Mueller Report about Bannon’s personal involvement in discussions about the Russian sanctions imposed on December 28, 2016. But Bannon — in testimony on February 12, 2018, so three days before he read this script before HPSCI — claimed to have forgotten those conversations.

Shortly thereafter, McFarland and Bannon discussed the sanctions. 1235 According to McFarland, Bannon remarked that the sanctions would hurt their ability to have good relations with Russia, and that Russian escalation would make things more difficult. 1236 McFarland believed she told Bannon that Flynn was scheduled to talk to Kislyak later that night. 1237

[snip]

In addition to her conversations with Bannon and Reince Priebus, at 4:43 p.m., McFarland sent an email to Transition Team members about the sanctions, informing the group that “Gen [F]lynn is talking to russian ambassador this evening.” 1251 Less than an hour later, McFarland briefed President-Elect Trump. Bannon, Priebus, Sean Spicer, and other Transition Team members were present. 1252

[snip]

Flynn recalled discussing the sanctions with Bannon the next day and that Bannon appeared to know about Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak. 1274 Bannon, for his part, recalled meeting with Flynn that day, but said that he did not remember discussing sanctions with him. 1275

[snip]

Flynn recalled discussing the sanctions issue with incoming Administration official Stephen Bannon the next day. 100 Flynn said that Bannon appeared to know about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak, and he and Bannon agreed that they had “stopped the train on Russia’s response” to the sanctions. 101

1275 Bannon 2/12/18 302, at 9.

101 Flynn 1/19/18 302, at 4-5. Bannon recalled meeting with Flynn that day, but said he did not remember discussing sanctions with him. Bannon 2/12/18 302, at 9.

The White House gave Bannon a script, telling him to deny his involvement in reaching out to Russia on sanctions. And the specific form of the question — which asks about doing away with them — suggests those conversations on December 28, 2016 went further than the Mueller Report describes.

Which explains why Trump is trying to ensure Flynn avoids prison time for hiding that detail.

What a “Reopening the Economy Story” Would Look Like

The WaPo has a remarkable 2,400-word story that purports to explain how the White House plans to reopen the economy.

Nine paragraphs into the story, it includes this factually erroneous paragraph that also points out that’s not what this story is doing.

The White House cannot unilaterally reopen the country. Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued federal guidance advising people to avoid social gatherings, work from home and use pickup and delivery options for food, it is state officials who have put the force of law behind those suggestions.

The paragraph is factually erroneous because the guidelines released by the White House are not the basis for the state-by-state shutdown orders and in fact fall far short of what all but a handful of states have in place. The governors have put the force of law behind more stringent measures, that rightly treat the White House ones as inadequate.

But once you’ve acknowledged, as this paragraph does, that the governors — not Trump — will decide when to reopen the economy, then an editor should remove virtually all the rest of the paragraphs in the story as access journalism fluff that dangerously misrepresents the state of things.

Paragraph 16, though, is a keeper. It describes the things that Trump has some control over that still haven’t happened — most notably, far more testing.

Health experts say that ending the shutdown prematurely would be disastrous because the restrictions have barely had time to work, and because U.S. leaders have not built up the capacity for alternatives to stay-at-home orders — such as the mass testing, large-scale contact tracing and targeted quarantines that have been used in other countries to suppress the virus.

The story doesn’t describe that the Federal government just inexplicably ended, rather than expanded, testing. Nor does it reference a very good WaPo story from earlier this week, on which Josh Dawsey, who is bylined in this story, is also bylined. That story describes the utterly inconceivable fact that the White House was just this week beginning to debate what a national testing strategy would look like.

In recent days, the White House coronavirus task force has begun debating what a national testing strategy would look like, according to several senior administration officials. Leading that effort are Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, and Brett P. Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services.

At a Monday task force meeting, according to a participant who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, Birx and Giroir debated where to send the newest coronavirus tests — a version produced by Abbott Laboratories that can deliver results on-site in as little as five minutes, as opposed to tests that can take hours and must be processed by a laboratory.

Back on March 31, Dr. Birx suggested that states were just sitting on Abbott testing capacity that the government had already gotten to states, not using it.

DR. BIRX:  So, even today — which is, I have to say, coming out of laboratories and developed tests and worked on vaccines and then gone to the field to actually combat epidemic — it is disappointing to me right now that we have about 500,000 capacity of Abbott tests that are not being utilized.  So they are out.  They’re in the states.  They’re not being run and not utilized.

So now we have to figure out how do we create awareness, because sometimes when you put an early platform out — like our first platform out when the high speed was Roche — so you get that out, people get dependent on that, and then don’t see that there’s availability of other tests.

So right now, there’s over a half a million tests sitting — capacity — that are not being utilized.  So we’re trying to figure out: How do we inform states about where these all are?  How do we work through every laboratory association so they’re aware?  And how do we raise awareness so people know that there’s point of care, there’s Thermo Fisher, there’s Abbott testing, and there’s Roche?  And if you add those together, that’s millions of tests a week.

[snip]

Q    So why aren’t they being used?

Q    What’s the reason they’re being used?

DR. BIRX:  Because when people get used to a single platform, they keep sending it back to that lab.  So it’s getting in a queue to wait to get on a Roche machine, rather than being moved to this other lab that may have Abbott capacity.  Because they’re all in different laboratories.  And so —

Q    So how do you break that bottleneck?

DR. BIRX:  I think — well, actually, Admiral Giroir is figuring it out, to really create some kind of visual so that every governor and every health commissioner can see all of their capacity in their countries — I mean, in their states, county by county, so that they know where the tests are.

So we pushed a lot of tests out, but they’re not all being utilized.  And so —

But a week after that, per the WaPo article on testing, Birx was still just debating a plan on how to use the Abbott capacity?

A tenth of the work force has applied for unemployment benefits, millions more are not working right now, small businesses are going under, all to give the federal government (or barring that, our states) time to develop a plan to get people back to work, safely. And only two weeks after the stay-at-homes went into place was the White House trying to devise a national strategy? Are you fucking kidding me?!?!?!?!

And yet the failures of the White House to do the single most important thing it can do to get the country back to work doesn’t show up in this story until paragraph 16.

That failure is important background for another detail in this story: That Jared Kushner, after promising yet failing to get testing into Big Box parking lots, will now have a key role in getting the economy back together again.

Trump is preparing to announce this week the creation of a second, smaller coronavirus task force aimed specifically at combating the economic ramifications of the virus, according to people familiar with the plans.

The task force is expected to be led by Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and include Larry Kudlow, the president’s chief economic adviser, and Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, along with outside business leaders. Others expected to play a role are Kevin Hassett, who has been advising Trump on economic models in recent weeks, and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, administration officials say.

You can’t combat the economic ramifications until you fix the problem that Kushner was put in charge of but then failed to fix — testing. Putting him a key role to fail yet again will do real damage to this country.

Ultimately, this story could — and should — look like this:

  1. Trump wants to get the country back to work
  2. But it’s not up to him, it’s up to the Governors
  3. Trump has failed, miserably, at the one thing he should be doing — rolling out widespread testing
  4. Trump now wants to put the guy who failed to fix the testing problem in charge of economic recovery

I don’t mean to be an asshole about this, but Trump uses national media stories about him as a mirror, to gauge his own performance. The last thing he needs to see is a mirror that utterly distorts the things he can control — testing — and instead allows him to focus on the things he can’t control — ending stay-at-home orders.

Last Night, Trump Admitted that Jared Kushner — Who Promised Testing in Big Box Parking Lots — Had Failed

Back on March 13, in the same press conference where he first declared an emergency, the Administration made several claims about their plan to roll out testing.

First, the White House said the White House was intimately involved in the effort to increase testing. The effort to expand testing was a public-private initiative, as Mike Pence explained.

Mr. President, I know I join you in saying that every American should be proud of this incredible public-private partnership that’s going to speeding access of testing to millions of Americans in the weeks ahead.

As Dr. Deborah Birx explained, Donald Trump was at the center of this public-private initiative.

DR. BIRX:  Thank you, Mr. President.  It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you.

I think you know — at the beginning of this epidemic, HHS, through CDC, proactively developed an assay built on the existing flu surveillance system.  That surveillance system was then converted to diagnostic system.

But last Tuesday, seeing the spread of the virus around the globe, the President realized that our current approach to testing was inadequate to need — to meet the needs of the American public.  He asked for an entire overhaul of the testing approach.  He immediately called the private sector laboratories to the White House, as noted, and charged them with developing a high-throughput quality platform that can meet the needs of the American public.

We are grateful to LabCorp and Quest for taking up the charge immediately after the meeting and within 72 hours bringing additional testing access, particularly to the outbreak areas of Washington State and California, and now across the country.

We are also very grateful to the universities and large hospital systems that took up the charge to develop their own quality tests made available by new FDA guidance.  This has resulted in expanded testing across New York, California, Washington, Colorado, and you see sometimes those drive-thru options that have been made available through these high-throughput options.

Following the meeting last week, major commercial laboratory equipment and diagnostic companies took immediate action to adopt and develop new testing systems.  Last night, the initial company, Roche, received FDA approval, moving from request to development to approval in record time.

This innovative approach centered fully on unleashing the power of the private sector, focusing on providing convenient testing to hundreds of thousands of Americans within short turnaround times.  In less than two weeks together, we have developed a solution that we believe will meet the future needs — testing needs of Americans.

Both Pence …

But today, I trust that people around the country that are looking on at this extraordinary public and private partnership to address the issue of testing with particular inspiration.  After you tapped me to lead the White House Corona Task Force, Mr. President, you said this is all hands on deck, and you directed us to immediately reach out to the American business sector commercial labs to meet what we knew then would be the need for testing across the spectrum.  And today, with this historic public-private partnership, we have laid the foundation to meet that need.

And for Americans looking on, by this Sunday evening, we’ll be able to give specific guidance on a — on when the website will be available.  You can go to the website, as the President said.  You’ll type in your symptoms and be given direction whether or not a test is indicated.

And then, at the same website, you’ll be directed to one of these incredible companies that are going to give a little bit of their parking lot so that people can come by and do a drive-by test.

[snip]

But what the President charged us with, when I was tasked to take over the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was: Open up tests all across the country.  And the President said, a few days ago, that we made it clear that any American that wanted to get a test would be able, clinically, to get a test.  Because I literally heard from the Governor of Washington State, who said the doctors in Washington State were saying that if you were only mildly symptomatic, they would not order a test.  And fortunately, the President directed CDC to clarify that.

Now anyone in consultation with their physician, regardless of their symptoms can request a test and their doctors will contact those agencies, those labs in their state.  But very soon, Americans will be able to go to these — these drive-in sites and be able to obtain and participate in a test.

Dr. Birx…

So we want to also announce this new approach to testing, which will start in the screening website up here, facilitated by Google, where clients and patients and people that have interest can go, fill out a screening questionnaire — move down for symptoms or risk factors, yes.  They would move down this and be told where the drive-thru options would be for them to receive this test.  The labs will then move to the high-throughput automated machines to be able to provide results in 24 to 36 hours.

That is the intent of this approach.

And Trump himself  promised drive-thru testing.

At the same time, we’ve been in discussions with pharmacies and retailers to make drive-thru tests available in the critical locations identified by public health professionals.  The goal is for individuals to be able to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave your car.

The CEO of WalMart, Doug McMillon, even got into the act of claiming to be working towards drive-thru testing.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Tony.

If I could, some of these folks we know; they’re celebrities in their own right.  They’re the biggest business people, the greatest retailers anywhere in the world.  And one of them is Doug McMillon from Walmart.  And I’d like to have Doug, if you would, say a few words, wherever you may be.

Doug, please.

MR. MCMILLON:  When we got the call yesterday from the White House, we were eager to do our part to help serve the country.  And given what we’re facing, that’s certainly important to do.  We should all be doing that.

So we’ve been asked to make portions of our parking lot available in select locations in the beginning, and scaling over time as supply increases, so that people can experience the drive-thru experience that the President described.

We’ll stay involved and do everything we can from a supply-chain point of view to be of assistance.

Thank you, sir.

Within days, it became clear that the President’s son-in-law was behind the promises for both the website and the drive-thru testing in the parking lots of Big Box stores.

Following the news conference, it quickly became evident that the announcement, engineered by the office of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, far exceeded the actual preparations.

Asked about the specific plans afterward, representatives of the four companies — Target, Walgreens, Walmart and CVS — said they had few details on how the tests would be administered or where or when they would begin.

And an hour after the president and his aides left the Rose Garden, a Google communications account tweeted a comment from Verily, the life sciences division of Google parent company Alphabet, that suggested the idea of building a broadly available website is preliminary.

Almost a month  and over 10,000 deaths later, the Big Box stores that got the free advertising associated with these planned parking lot drive-thru test sites still have fewer than two dozen sites open.

Walgreens said Tuesday that it plans to open 15 drive-thru testing locations for the coronavirus across seven states, starting later this week.

The sites will be in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas, the drugstore chain said in a news release. They will use Abbott Laboratories’ rapid COVID-19 test.

Walgreen’s expansion of drive-thru testing marks the acceleration of an effort that the White House announced more than three weeks ago. President Donald Trump met with leaders of major U.S. retailers and health-care companies March 13 and announced in the Rose Garden that four companies — Walmart, Target, CVS Health and Walgreens — would host drive-thru testing in their parking lots. The U.S. has lagged behind other countries in the availability of coronavirus testing.

Since then, only about a handful of sites have opened in the retailers’ parking lots. Most are staffed by government health-care workers. Walmart has two drive-thrus and Walgreens has one drive-thru in the Chicago area, but they restrict tests to first responders. CVS has a drive-thru in Massachusetts and said Monday that it would open two new drive-thru locations: one in Atlanta and one near Providence, Rhode Island. These latest sites are not in CVS parking lots, but at larger locations that can support multiple lanes of cars.

Last night, when Trump got asked about the inadequate state of testing in the country, he got snippy.

Kristen Fisher: I know you don’t want to talk about the Inspector General Report, but testing is still a big issue in this country. [Trump sighs audibly.] When can hospitals expect–

Trump [speaking over her]: Can you put that slide up again please

Fisher: When can hospitals expect to receive a quick test of the test results?

Trump [again speaking over her]: Are you ready? Are you ready? Hospitals can do their own testing also. States can do their own testing. [points at her] States are supposed to be doing testing. Hospitals are supposed to be doing testing. You understand that? We’re the Federal government — [reporter tries to restate] Listen [points at her] We’re the Federal government. We’re not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing. They go to doctors. They go to hospitals. They go to the state. The state is a more localized government. You have fifty of them. And they can go — fifty — within — you also have territories, as you know. And they do the testing. And if you look at the chart, if you take a look, have you put it up? Yeah. Just take a look. And these are testing, and the results are now coming in very quickly. Initially speaking, the tests were old, obsolete, and not really prepared. We have a brand new testing system that we developed very quickly and that’s your result. And you should say Congratulations, great job, instead of being so horrid in the way you asked a question.

There’s a lot that’s bullshit in this comment. There were no “old, obsolete” tests when this started (though it is true that Trump’s Administration was, “not really prepared.” It’s not clear anyone has a definitive count of tests, as claimed in Trump’s chart.

But his key claim here — that the Federal government is “not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing” — is unresponsive to Fisher’s question (which was about turnaround), but was a defense against the observation that Trump and the totally unqualified family member he brought in to this process have utterly failed to deliver something promised 25 days ago, drive-thru testing, the closest thing America could get to standing on the street corner testing people.

It may or may not be the Federal government’s job to stand on street corners testing, but that is what he promised, and that is what Jared Kushner has utterly failed to deliver.

Three Things: The GOP’s Trumpian Death Panels [UPDATE-1]

[Check the byline, thanks! Update at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

Remember all the squealing by conservatives and Republican members of Congress back in 2009-2010 during the debate about health care, crying crocodile tears about “death panels“?

Well here they are, death panels brought to you by the same whiny selfish leeches who claimed socialized medicine would result in Democratic bureaucrats picking off Americans to limit health care.

~ 3 ~

I won’t embed video here. Open these links at your own risk, knowing these may be triggering to those who’ve had bad experiences in hospitals.

1 — Bergamo Italy hospital

2 — Brescia and Rome Italy hospitals

But this I’m going to share.

Those are Italian military trucks carrying away the dead to churches and cremation facilities, some outside of Bergamo because Bergamo’s own facilities are at capacity.

This, in a very much pro-life country which is predominantly Catholic.

This, in a country which has more hospital beds per 1000 persons than the U.S.

Some of those patients who are not in ICU have likely been labeled “codice nero” — death is imminent, do not resuscitate — during triage due to the shortage of ventilators. They are more likely to be over 60 years old because they are prioritizing critical care services and equipment for those more likely to survive.

This is what conservatives and Republicans really wanted: death panels, but conducted by the poor overtaxed health care workers who are themselves at risk because of incompetent governance by conservatives and Republicans.

I hope Americans are ready to see the dead hauled away by the truck load after the GOP’s death panel is through with them.

~ 2 ~

$34,927.43.

That’s the price for multiple tests and trips to the ER over seven days for COVID-19 an uninsured Boston-area patient was charged. You can imagine some people aren’t going to want to deal with that bill — or that swamped hospitals may discourage the uninsured — leading to a lack of treatment and more deaths. Many patients will be too sick to hassle with chasing a lower cost approach as charges can vary widely across many health care providers.

A death panel by health care expense.

Capitalism unto death.

~ 1 ~

Death panels may be composed of single individuals.

John Bolton, with Trump’s imprimatur, chose to kill the National Security Council’s pandemic response team, which has now lead to the deaths of Americans.

Mike Pompeo’s crappy diplomatic work failed to develop and build relationships with China, South Korea, other countries facing the same pandemic threat in order to obtain and share usable information and assistance to reduce American deaths.

Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller pulled a grossly negligent EU travel ban out of their asses, executing it so poorly that the resulting crush of travelers in the airports last week will sure increase American deaths in the weeks ahead many times over.

And the malignant narcissist-in-chief continues to push bad information jeopardizing lives both here and abroad after more than two months of inaction. Trump pushed a non-peer reviewed study on hydrochloroquine and azithromycin by tweet today after pushing this drug combo during a presser. There’s already been a run on the anti-malarial potentially hurting lupus patients for whom this has been prescribed; there’ve also been reports of poisonings in Nigeria after users self-medicated with the anti-malarial.

Trump has also mentioned and then lied about the Defense Production Act. There has been no real effort to order production of personal protection equipment for health care workers under the DPA. He’s choosing to expose first responders to COVID-19.

Mass death panels by Trumpism.

~ 0 ~

Sadly, it’s not just Americans who will face so-called conservatives’ death panels. The UK is already entering a state of crisis as its hospitals’ ICUs exceed capacity. There is no sign of constructive decision making by Boris Johnson to alleviate the capacity problem nor realistically halt the rate of infection.

Instead, Johnson’s government and now Trump’s Department of Justice are seeking powers to detain people instead of doing what is already within their ability and purview to do to stem contagion and aid respective health care systems.

Death panels by Tory conservatives and Trump fascists.

By the way, where’s Sarah Palin now? Still licking her polyester-pink wounds after her recent fiasco appearance on The Masked Singer when the show’s death panel gave her the much-deserved axe?

This is an open thread.

UPDATE-1 — 22-MAR-2020 — 11:00 P.M. ET

This video features Rep. Katie Porter’s sister who’s an emergency room physician. She breaks down what the Trump-GOP death panel will decide by the numbers.

Are you one in 50? Or are you one of the 49 which Trump and the GOP have decided in their pro-life hypocrisy won’t be saved?

At First, KT McFarland Told a Similarly Misleading Version of the Story Mike Flynn Will Be Pardoned For

In his abundant free time, the President tweeted about pardoning Mike Flynn on Sunday.

According to Matt Gertz, this was a response to a Lou Dobbs segment with John Solomon where Dobbs said there are 302s that “can’t be found.” Per transcripts Gertz shared, this is a reference to Sidney Powell’s claim — repeated with Dobbs the day before — that the first draft of Flynn’s 302 is missing (she also complained that Flynn never received a January 2017 memo stating that DOJ did not believe Flynn was an agent of Russia, which is unrelated to whether he was an agent of Turkey or lied to the FBI about his interactions with Russia).

Emmet Sullivan has already judged Trump’s complaint to be baseless

In December, Emmet Sullivan already judged this complaint to be baseless because the notes written before any “original 302” and all the 302s already provided Flynn track each other and the 302s consistently capture Flynn’s lies.

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

To the extent Mr. Flynn has not already been provided with the requested information and to the extent the information exists, the Court is not persuaded that Mr. Flynn’s arguments demonstrate that he is entitled to the requested information. For starters, the Court agrees with the government that there were no material changes in the interview reports, and that those reports track the interviewing FBI agents’ notes.

[snip]

Having carefully reviewed the interviewing FBI agents’ notes, the draft interview reports, the final version of the FD302, and the statements contained therein, the Court agrees with the government that those documents are “consistent and clear that [Mr. Flynn] made multiple false statements to the [FBI] agents about his communications with the Russian Ambassador on January 24, 2017.” Gov’t’s Surreply, ECF No. 132 at 4-5. The Court rejects Mr. Flynn’s request for additional information regarding the drafting process for the FD-302s and a search for the “original 302,” see Def.’s Sur-Surreply, ECF No. 135 at 8- 10, because the interviewing FBI agents’ notes, the draft interview reports, the final version of the FD-302, and Mr. Flynn’s own admissions of his false statements make clear that Mr. Flynn made those false statements.

Even though a judge has already ruled that this complaint is baseless, Trump took a break from mismanaging a pandemic to inch closer to a Flynn pardon based on it.

Given the increasing likelihood Trump will use the cover of the epidemic to pardon Flynn, it’s worth pointing to another set of evidence that Flynn’s prosecution for lying was sound: he’s not the only one who tried to cover up the Trump Transition’s efforts to undercut President Obama’s sanctions on Russia.

Like Flynn, KT McFarland hid Trump Transition efforts to undercut sanctions at first

In FBI interview reports (302s) released in the BuzzFeed/CNN FOIAs, some details of KT McFarland’s interviews prior to his guilty plea have been released. McFarland was interviewed four times before Flynn’s plea deal became public: August 29 (this 302 has not yet been released), September 14, October 17, and October 19, 2017.  Those 302s show that, at first, KT McFarland downplayed the Trump Transition efforts to undermine Obama’s sanctions on Russia that Mike Flynn got fired and prosecuted for (as well as tried to protect Jared Kushner in his role trying to undercut Obama policies on Israeli settlements).

McFarland’s first interview, on August 29, came in the wake of Mueller’s team acquiring Transition emails from the General Services Administration without notice to the campaign, followed by a warrant to read them. It’s likely her (still unreleased) initial interview and the beginning of her second one were based off a presumption that some emails making it clear the Transition had discussed sanctions would not get shared with Mueller’s team. When she got showed them, she claimed not to remember all details about them.

Her initial interview, as noted, has not been released. The unredacted passages from her second one (she did all pre-Flynn interviews without a lawyer, but in the presence of her spouse, who is a lawyer) show she shaded the truth about things she should have known the FBI had counter-evidence to. (In what follows, I’m bolding things she said in early interviews that her later testimony contradicts.)

For example, in that second interview, McFarland professed to not recall who attended a Presidential Daily Brief on December 28, 2016 where sanctions were discussed.

McFarland was shown a calendar entry for December 28, 2016 and confirmed the entry would have represented a PDB. She sat in the briefing, but did not recall who was there besides [Deputy Director of National Intelligence Edward] Gistaro. It was a small number of people and it took place in a basement studio apartment in the hotel.

Note: Gistaro had already testified at least once before this interview, on June 14, but that was likely focused on Trump’s demand that Dan Coats “help with the [Russian] investigation.” But it’s certainly possible his is one of the interviews in the interim that remain undisclosed.

In addition to her vague memories about meetings at Mar-a-Lago, McFarland also claimed she “did not recall any conversations she may have had with Flynn the day sanctions were announced.” While her description of what Flynn told her about his call with Sergey Kislyak is largely redacted, it’s clear she told the FBI it pertained to “Russian President Putin’s desire for a contemporary video conference after the inauguration.” This is the cover story Flynn asked her to tell the press in January 2017, and it’s part of what Flynn got fired for. Yet she was still relying on it in an interview with the FBI seven months later.

In her third interview, McFarland admitted that sanctions may have come up, but claimed again not to have specific knowledge of it.

News that the Obama Administration planned to impose sanctions on Russia started to come out on December 28, 2016, but they had not been officially announced and specifics were unknown. Sanctions were just one of “several and many things” going on at that time. McFarland, who was in Mar-a-Lago with the President-elect, did not recall what specific conversations she had at which times or to whom she spoke, but sanctions were in the news so it would make sense to her they were among the topics discussed.

In this interview report, McFarland’s explanation for an email involving Tom Bossert discussing sanctions is redacted, but the unredacted parts claim,

McFarland never discussed the specific terms of the sanctions with anyone. She would have told Michael Flynn about how the session with the President-elect went during one of their phone calls.

This claim would have been especially sketchy to the FBI since Flynn had already told the FBI, in January, that he only learned about sanctions from those at Mar-a-Lago.

McFarland also claimed not to remember what she discussed with Flynn when.

She did not have specific recollections about the times of the calls with Flynn or what was discussed in which call. Flynn mentioned several times several issues he intended to discuss with the Russians, and McFarland believed she would have given her theories about the sanctions.

McFarland’s memory started to grow clearer after outlines of Flynn’s testimony were released when he pled guilty on December 1, 2017.

McFarland’s post-Flynn plea memories grow significantly clearer

As the Mike Flynn cooperation addendum laid out, one reason Flynn’s reluctant cooperation was useful is it led others — including, but not limited to, McFarland — to unforget the truth.

[T]he defendant’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate likely affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming with the SCO and cooperate. In some instances, individuals whom the SCO interviewed before the defendant’s guilty plea provided additional, relevant details about their knowledge of key events after his cooperation became publicly.

Days after Flynn’s guilty plea, on December 5, she must have realized that he had given testimony that contradicted hers and informed FBI agents she was in the process of lawyering up. McFarland asked one of the FBI Agents she had been interacting with for the Tom Bossert and Mike Flynn emails she had already testified about, which were included in a December 2 NYT story on Flynn’s plea.

McFarland asked whether SSA [redacted] could provide two emails which he and SA [redacted] had shown to her in her interviews. She did not have the emails, but they were now apparently widely held, including by the New York Times, which published, but grossly misrepresented them. The emails were one from her dated December 29, 2016 in which she discussed President Obama’s three political objectives in imposing sanctions and mentioned Flynn’s scheduled call with the Russian ambassador that evening; and an email from Flynn to her the next day, December 30, 2017, in which Flynn reported on his conversation with the ambassador. McFarland felt she was at a a disadvantage since “everyone in the world” had copies of the emails except for her.

McFarland’s fourth 302 — which the Mueller Report heavily relies on — is heavily redacted. But what’s not redacted shows McFarland remembering details about conversations she had had about sanctions that she had professed not to remember in her earlier interviews.

McFarland and Bannon met on December 29. [redacted] but they also talked about sanctions. [redacted] Bannon told McFarland the sanctions would hurt their ability to have good relations with Russia. [redacted] Bannon thought a Russian escalation would make things more difficult. McFarland thought she told him Flynn was scheduled to talk to the Russian ambassador later that night. [redacted]

McFarland stated that she may have run into Priebus and given him a short version of her conversation with Bannon about the sanctions. [redacted] She may have told Priebus that Flynn was scheduled to talk to the Russian ambassador that night, but was not sure.

[redacted]

McFarland and Flynn spoke on the telephone at around 4:00 pm on December 29.

[redactions and snip]

McFarland knew before the [sic] Flynn’s call that Flynn was going to feel out the Russian ambassador on the overall relationship, knowing that the sanctions would influence it.

There’s a heavily redacted section that nevertheless shows that McFarland provided significant details about the meeting with Trump on December 29 (including that Trump “said he had reason to doubt it was the Russians” who had hacked the DNC). Even with the redactions, it’s clear she discussed what might happen with the sanctions at that meeting. And she admitted that “someone may have mentioned Flynn’s scheduled call with Kislyak as they were ending the meeting.”

Additionally, McFarland laid out all the details of conversations with Flynn she had previously claimed not to remember, both before and after his calls with Kislyak.

[Flynn] told McFarland the Russian response was not going to be escalatory because they wanted a good relationship with the Trump administration.

[snip]

When Flynn and McFarland spoke on December 31, Flynn told McFarland he talked to the Russian ambassador again. He said something to the effect of “Well, they want a better relationship. The relationship is back on track.” Flynn said it was a good call and he thought his own call had made a difference but not the only difference. [redacted] McFarland congratulated Flynn for his work.

In short, contrary to what she claimed in her earlier interviews, McFarland proved she had memories of:

  • Discussions she had with at least Steve Bannon about sanctions before Flynn’s call with Sergey Kislyak, and possibly Reince Priebus
  • The specific times of at least some of her calls with Flynn
  • Details of the meeting at which sanctions were discussed with Trump
  • Specific details of calls between her and Flynn, both before and after his calls with Kislyak

McFarland is not the only one whose memory grew clearer after it became clear Mueller had heard at least one truthful version of what had transpired in late December 2017; the story Bannon initially told, even after Flynn’s plea, almost certainly evolved as well (his later interviews have been withheld thus far, but we know his memories about the WikiLeaks releases got clearer over time). Reince Priebus’ first interview, on October 13, 2017, has not yet been released. The tiny unredacted bits of Priebus’ Janaury 18, 2018 interview, conducted in the wake of Flynn’s plea, showed that he hedged but did admit they may have discussed Flynn’s call in advance.

The consistency with which those who were present at Mar-a-Lago on December 29, 2017 tried not to remember discussing sanctions in advance of General Flynn’s calls, much less what might have gone down with Trump, suggests this is not a matter of Flynn being a rogue liar. Rather, it suggests a concerted effort to downplay what happened and to minimize any involvement Trump had in it, one that was undercut by Flynn’s plea deal.

One story downplaying efforts to undermine sanctions is a lie; multiple stories is a cover-up

That’s why no one should credit Trump’s claims to believe that Flynn was mistreated in his prosecution. Not only has Judge Sullivan ruled that it’s not true, but the available evidence — even with proof that Bill Barr’s DOJ is abusing the FOIA response process to hide the true extent of all this — shows that multiple people with consistent memories of what happened at Mar-a-Lago on December 29, 2017 initially professed not to remember what happened that day.

That’s not Flynn being ambushed and improperly prosecuted. That’s Flynn — who up until he decided to plead guilty was part of the Joint Defense Agreement with the President and others — being the first break in an effort to cover-up what really went down.

And the public record has one more highly damning detail that shows Flynn knew from the start that this was a cover-up.

In the section of the Mueller Report incorporating details Flynn and McFarland unforgot in November and December 2017, it reveals that Flynn intentionally excluded the details about the Kislyak follow-up call about sanctions when he sent McFarland a text message reporting on the call.

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

[snip]

According to McFarland, Flynn remarked that the Russians wanted a better relationship and that the relationship was back on track. 1270 Flynn also told McFarland that he believed his phone call had made a difference. 1271 McFarland recalled congratulating Flynn in response. 1272 [my emphasis]

In her second interview, months before she unforgot that they had had a self-congratulatory conversation about Flynn’s success in undermining Obama’s efforts to punish Russian for interfering in the election, McFarland also claimed not to be concerned that Flynn hadn’t mentioned sanctions in a text he sent her after the call. “She did not recall being concerned that Flynn did not mention sanctions in this email.”

Except that it would not be a matter of concern. It would be a matter of knowing that Flynn had created a false record of what happened. And months later, she would admit that she did know that was a false record. This appears to be the text (which she forwarded as an email) that she tried to obtain from the FBI once she realized that Flynn had flipped.

None of this will prevent Trump from pardoning Flynn. But it does provide reason why Judge Reggie Walton should review the 302s of those involved in the December 2017 events even as he reviews the full Mueller Report, which almost certainly includes an explanation of why Mueller did not charge McFarland for her initial misleading comments. The public deserves to have all the evidence that, in pardoning Flynn, Trump won’t be pardoning someone he believes to have been ambushed and who as a result told a misleading story. He’ll be pardoning the one person who paid a price for covering up the Trump Transition’s efforts to undercut sanctions imposed to punish Russia for tampering in the 2016 election.

The Recruitment of Jared Kushner

The other day, DOJ provided its sixth installment of Mueller 302s in response to BuzzFeed and CNN’s FOIAs. The batch includes files that have previously been referred to other agencies, such as multiple pages from Steve Bannon’s February 14, 2018 interview that were sent to DOD, which has determined they must be protected under b5 (deliberative) and one b4 (trade secrets) exemption.

A whole set of previously referred interview reports pertain to Russian outreach to Jared Kushner. These reports include:

In addition, the 302 of Richard Burt and some other people from Center for National Interest — Simes’ think tank — were released.

As a reminder, CNI served as the host for Trump’s first foreign policy speech on April 27, 2016. There were allegations that CNI provided feedback on the speech and questions about whom Sergey Kislyak spoke with at the speech. Simes continued to advise Kushner on policy pertaining to Russia throughout the campaign. When Kushner wanted to vet an email from Vladimir Putin immediately after the election, he reached out to Simes for Kislyak’s contact information. Then, a series of meetings arranged via Kislyak during the Transition, during one of which Kushner asked for a back channel, resulted in a meeting with the head of sanctioned bank, Vnesheconombank, Sergei Gorkov.

Parallel to the Kislyak-led effort, Russia made three other attempts to establish a back channel during the Transition. One, via Robert Foresman reaching out to Mike Flynn, one via CNI Board Member and Alfa Bank board member Richard Burt through Simes, and a third — the most successful — in which Kirill Dmitriev reached out first via George Nader and then through Kushner’s college buddy Rick Gerson.

None of these newly released interview reports have exemption markings akin to the ones on Bannon’s reprocessed pages describing which agency they had been referred to (which may suggest they were reviewed by CIA), but they seem to pertain to the cultivation of the President’s son-in-law.

To be very clear: while Dmitriev, using Gerson, succeeded in setting the agenda for the first phone call between Putin and Trump, the Mueller Report found no evidence that Russia succeeded in using CNI has a back channel.

The investigation did not identify evidence that the Campaign passed or received any messages to or from the Russian government through CNI or Simes.

That said, all of this remains appears to remain under active investigation. Between Simes’ first and second interviews, over 200 redactions cite a b7A exemption for an ongoing investigation; many of those also cite b3, which may indicate classified information. 25 redactions in Burt’s interview cite b7A and there are a number of b3 exemptions. Four paragraphs in what may be a continuation of the Simes discussion in Kushner’s interview include b7A redactions. There are also b7A redactions (some also marked b3) in the interview reports of fellow CNI employees, Jacob Heilbrunn and Paul Saunders.

And while the available reports suggest Kushner was just an easy mark in all of this (as he likely is for all the foreign countries he negotiates with — there’s nothing unique about Russia here), there are a few details about how this got written up in the Mueller Report worth noting. For example, the Mueller Report describes Kushner reaching out to Simes because they had so little support from experienced foreign policy people.

Kushner told the Office that the event came at a time when the Trump Campaign was having trouble securing support from experienced foreign policy professionals and that, as a result, he decided to seek Simes’s assistance during the March 14 event.

The underlying 302 report describes Kushner “admitt[ing] to ‘pursuing’ SIMES.”

A paragraph in the Mueller Report describing Kushner’s periodic contact with Simes during the campaign depicts Kushner as the passive recipient of Simes’ attention.

Between the April 2016 speech at the Mayflower Hotel and the presidential election, Jared Kushner had periodic contacts with Simes.648 Those contacts consisted of both in-person meetings and phone conversations, which concerned how to address issues relating to Russia in the Campaign and how to move forward with the advisory group of foreign policy experts that Simes had proposed.649 Simes recalled that he, not Kushner, initiated all conversations about Russia, and that Kushner never asked him to set up back-channel conversations with Russians.650 According to Simes, after the Mayflower speech in late April, Simes raised the issue of Russian contacts with Kushner, advised that it was bad optics for the Campaign to develop hidden Russian contacts, and told Kushner both that the Campaign should not highlight Russia as an issue and should handle any contacts with Russians with care.651 Kushner generally provided a similar account of his interactions with Simes.652

648 Simes 3/8/18 302, at 27.

649 Simes 3/8/18 302, at 27.

650 Simes 3/8/18 302, at 27.

651 Simes 3/8/18 302, at 27. During this period of time, the Campaign received a request for a high-level Campaign official to meet with an officer at a Russian state-owned bank “to discuss an offer [that officer] claims to be canying from President Putin to meet with” candidate Trump. NOSC00005653 (5/17/16 Email, Dearborn to Kushner (8: 12 a.m.)). Copying Manafort and Gates, Kushner responded, “Pass on this. A lot of people come claiming to carry messages. Very few are able to verify. For now I think we decline such meetings. Most likely these people go back home and claim they have special access to gain importance for themselves. Be careful.” NOSC00005653 (5/17/16 Email, Kushner to Dearborn).

652 Kushner 4/11 /18 302, at 11-13.

But the unredacted details in Kushner’s 302 are of interest. They describe Simes sending Kushner a “memo on what Mr. Trump may want to say about Russia.” And in his interview, Kushner described never receiving information from Simes that could be “operationalized” (this passage appears before a description of Simes floating dirt on Clinton).

Similarly, the Mueller Report does not include something that appears in Kushner’s 302 describing the President’s son-in-law asking for a back channel, that Kushner asked to be connected with people “who can make decisions.” Days later, of course, Kislyak started to set up the meeting with Sergei Gorkov.

The Report notes that these meetings took place in either Kushner’s office or that of Colony Capital (Tom Barrack’s office). But the passage from Kushner’s 302 which the Report cites for the location of the Gorkov meeting (page 19) remains redacted.

The one-on-one meeting took place the next day, December 13, 2016, at the Colony Capital building in Manhattan, where Kushner had previously scheduled meetings. 1152

1152 Kushner 4/11/18 302, at 19; NOSC00000130-135 (12/12/16 Email, Kushner to Berkowitz).

And there’s a detail made public since the Mueller Report that suggests Kushner may not have been entirely candid in his interview: in testimony before Congress last year, Rex Tillerson disputed a key detail from Kushner’s testimony — that he had passed along a document from Dmitriev shared via Rick Gerson. There’s no record Mueller interviewed Tillerson.

To be fair, DOJ has released two details not included in the Mueller Report, which by the standards of this FOIA release is generous. Yet Jared also happens to be a top Trump advisor — the beneficiary of absurd levels of nepotism — involved in every aspect of foreign policy. He could not obtain security clearance on his own. And the details of these FOIA releases suggest that’s because it’s not yet clear what happened with Russian efforts to cultivate him during the election.

Given how the Mueller Report leaves out key details of Kushner’s vulnerability to such cultivation, DOJ should be forced to release more of this 302.

The Israeli Focus and Others’ Criminality at the Beginning of Mike Flynn’s “Cooperation”

I’m working on a post showing how Mike Flynn and KT McFarland’s “cooperation” with prosecutors evolved. Since Flynn’s aborted December 2018 sentencing, it has been implicit that like Flynn, KT McFarland didn’t tell the truth about Flynn’s December 2016 conversations about sanctions with Sergey Kislyak at first. But once Flynn pled, she quickly realized she needed to straighten out her story, and did so weeks later. But between the release of some of her 302s and Sidney Powell’s release of Covington & Burling’s notes about discussions of Flynn’s early proffers, we have new detail on how that happened.

As I was working on that post, I realized something that seems very significant given the “peace” “plan” that Jared Kushner rolled out this week, partly in an attempt to save Bibi Netanyahu from legal consequences for his corruption.

After Flynn was fired, prosecutors mainly engaged with Flynn’s attorneys on his relationship with Turkey, which led to warnings to Flynn on August 30, 2017 that his former partner Bijan Kian might be indicted. While they were doing that, though, prosecutors secretly obtained Presidential Transition emails and devices (they obtained them from GSA on August 23 and probably got a warrant to access them on August 25) and they interviewed KT McFarland, Flynn’s deputy during the transition several times.

There’s one McFarland interview from August 29, 2017, which is 11 pages long, that the government hasn’t released. Her next interview was September 14, 2017. She had another on October 25, 2017. From the parts that are unredacted in these two interviews, you can see how she shaded the truth on the December 29, 2016 call with Sergei Kislyak. In the September one she denied remembering a security briefing at which sanctions came up and claimed not to remember a long call with Flynn that she has since admitted pertained to sanctions. She seems to have adopted the same excuse Flynn had used (and had had her repeat) all the way back in January: that the call with Kislyak was about setting up a video conference after inauguration. She describes an email that Flynn sent that both knew served as cover for his sanctions discussion (in that it didn’t mention it), and claimed not to be concerned that Flynn hadn’t mentioned sanctions.  In the October interview, she was shown emails that we now know to pertain to prep for that call, but which she claimed were general discussions about sanctions. She claimed to have no memory of specific discussions about sanctions she would later recall in December.

In the September interview, however, she discussed two other topics: Egypt (including a person with whom she was apparently warned against meeting after she joined the Administration) and Israel.

I’m interested in the extended questions (which led the interview) about Flynn’s efforts to get countries to vote against a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Remember, failing to admit his call with Kislyak as part of this effort is one of Flynn’s charged lies.

There are two details of interest. First, McFarland does not mention Jared Kushner (though the better part of one paragraph is redacted). Indeed, she claimed, “she was not aware of any else helping him on this.”

Most stunning, however, she likens the effort to Nixon’s secret negotiations with South Vietnam and Reagan’s negotiations with Iran, both efforts still considered great scandals to the extent they’re acknowledged.

Based on her study of prior presidential transitions, McFarland believed the sorts of things Flynn did were not unusual. She cited Richard Nixon’s involvement in Vietnam War peace talks and Ronald Reagan’s purported dealings with Iran to free American hostages during an incoming administration. Most incoming administrations did similar things. No “red light” or “alarm bells” went off in her head when she heard what Flynn was doing. The President-elect mae his support for Israel very clear during the campaign and contrasted his position with President Obama, who he believed had not treated Israel fairly.

On November 1, Jared had his first substantive interview, the 302 for which is 5-pages long (there is an earlier 1-page 302 on October 24, which is likely organizational). CNN’s report on the meeting described it as an effort to ensure that Jared did not have exculpatory information on Flynn.

That same afternoon, Flynn’s lawyers had a meeting with Mueller’s team to talk about bringing Flynn in for a proffer. Mueller’s team described that Flynn was facing FARA, false statements on FARA, and false statements “regarding contacts with Russian officials” during the transition.

They had a follow-up on November 3, where Brandon Van Grack explained what they expected they might ask him in a proffer:

  • Communications your client had during transition with foreign officials, including Russian officials.
  • Whether anyone provided him directions on those communication. [sic]
  • Communications he is aware of that other members of the transition had with foreign officials.
  • Communications he had with foreign officials during his time in the WH.
  • Communications other people had with foreign officials.

When asked how that related to his potential charges, Zainab Ahmad explained:

We’re eventually going to want to talk about everything. That will include topics he has criminal exposure on. We aren’t interested in Turkey right now. We’re asking him to come in because we think he has information that will shed criminality on other actors. It will cover everything. [my emphasis]

By “criminality on other actors,” Ahmad may have signaled no more than that Mueller was trying to catch others — definitely including McFarland and possibly including Kushner — in lies. Certainly, once McFarland saw Flynn’s statement of the offense, she moved to straighten out her testimony, meaning the effort resulted in getting real answers about a key part of the investigation.

But we don’t know what happened with the Israeli part of the investigation. DOJ has refused to turn over any of Jared’s 302s (and seems to be insinuating we should not know if someone running great swaths of US policy from the White House is under criminal investigation). Plus, under cover of impeachment, Bill Barr just replaced the US Attorney overseeing most of the ongoing investigations into Trump’s flunkies with his loyal aide, meaning he may be moving to shut down whatever remains ongoing.

Back in November 2017, Mueller’s prosecutors wanted to know whether Flynn’s lies covered for himself or for others. And particularly with respect to Jared, we don’t know whether those lies prepared the groundwork for the sop to Israel rolled out last week.

Update: South Vietnam, not North, corrected. Thanks to David for pointing out my sloppiness.

Update: Here is Jared’s November 1, 2017 302.