Posts

Aileen Cannon Calls an Investigation into “What’s Literally a Stolen Diary” … “Politicized”

This is a minor point, but one that deserves more attention. Plus, I plan to use it in future posts about the unlawful assault on property rights that Judge Aileen Cannon has mounted in her opinion appointing a Special Master to stall the investigation into Donald Trump’s suspected theft of classified documents.

In a footnote of her opinion, Judge Cannon pointed to the Special Master appointed in the Project Veritas case as a precedent of a judge (Analisa Torres, in this case), appointing a Special Master “in politicized circumstances.”

Moreover, at least one other court has authorized additional independent review for attorney-client privilege outside of the law firm context, in politicized circumstances. See In re Search Warrant dated November 5, 2021, No. 21-Misc-813, 2021 WL 5845146, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 8, 2021) (appointing a special master to conduct review of materials seized from the homes of employees of Project Veritas for potentially attorney-client privileged materials).

To be fair, I kept waiting for Trump’s lawyers to raise this precedent (though not for the principle Cannon did).

But they didn’t.

Not in the original complaint (in which they relied heavily on the Lynne Stewart and Michael Cohen precedent). Not in their supplement (in which they added the Rudy precedent to those they relied on). Similarly, it didn’t come up in the hearing (in which Rudy featured prominently).

This was Judge Cannon going out of her way to find what she believed was a precedent on her own, one that she said supported an, “independent review for attorney-client privilege outside of the law firm context, in politicized circumstances.” But the opinion isn’t about attorney-client privilege. It was, explicitly, about press privileges.

In light of the potential First Amendment concerns that may be implicated by the review of the materials seized from Petitioners, the Court finds that the appointment of a special master will “help[] to protect the public’s confidence in the administration of justice.”

The opinion further holds there is no basis of law to do what Cannon did–intervene because of leaks (more on the leaks Cannon made up later).

Project Veritas and O’Keefe request that the Court order the Government to conduct a search for alleged leaks related to the Government’s investigation. O’Keefe Mot. II at 1. Petitioners do not provide a legal basis for their request or allege that the Government violated any specific rule, law, or policy

Crazier still, there’s no mention in the opinion, at all, about politics.

Nor should there be. This is a case about theft. We know it’s about theft because the two people who’ve already pled guilty in the case acknowledged it in real time (and pled guilty to transporting stolen goods across state lines).

They are in a sketchy business and here they are taking what’s literally a stolen diary and info . . . and trying to make a story that will ruin [the Victim’s] life and try and effect the election. [The Victim] can easily be thinking all her stuff is there and not concerned about it. .  . we have to tread even more carefully and that stuff needs to be gone through by us and if anything worthwhile it needs to be turned over and MUST be out of that house.

We know, too, that it’s not just about a stolen diary. In addition to the diary (which by the way included Ms. Biden’s extensive accounts of her own addiction treatment, the most personal kind of medical record), the thieves stole,

tax records, a digital camera, a digital storage card containing private family photographs, a cellphone, books, clothing, and luggage.

Aileen Cannon believes that the investigation of this theft — the culprits have admitted it!! — is politicized.

Presumably Aileen Cannon believes an investigation into stolen property must be about politics because she believes James O’Keefe’s claim that this was an investigation started under Joe Biden. Had she done as much work to fact-check O’Keefe as she did to find precedents for Trump, though, she would know that this investigation was not started under Joe Biden.

It was started under Donald Trump.

The first call records in this investigation were obtained in November 2020, while Bill Barr was Attorney General (under Merrick Garland, such a step might have required the AG’s approval, but Barr was less interested in such protections). The first warrant targeting people purporting to play the role of journalists was obtained on January 14, 2021. That one, I imagine, did require Main DOJ approval, hopefully even from then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

Aileen Cannon argues that the investigation started under Bill Barr and Jeffrey Rosen into the theft — this is not contested! — of things including medical and tax records is politicized, mostly because the victim is the current President’s daughter.

Effectively, then, Judge Cannon is arguing that private citizen Ashley Biden can have no recourse for when someone literally steals her medical and tax records, but Trump must have special judicial interference to prevent the FBI taking medical and tax records in the process of investigating 11,000 stolen records.

Bill Barr’s Attempt to Corrupt EDNY May Have Saved the Republic

Almost all of the witnesses the January 6 Committee has relied on are deeply conflicted people. The same Trump attorney, Justin Clark, who allegedly coached Steve Bannon to withhold information from the Committee about communications with Rudy Giuliani and Mike Flynn appeared on video claiming to have qualms about using fake electors in states where the campaign did not have an active legal challenge. Ivanka claimed to believe Bill Barr’s claims that voter fraud couldn’t change the election, but the Committee just obtained video of her saying otherwise. And Bill Barr himself has gotten credit for fighting Trump’s false claims of voter fraud even though he spent months laying the groundwork for those claims by attacking mail-in ballots.

But yesterday’s hearing was something else.

After Liz Cheney invited watchers to imagine what it would be like to have a DOJ that required loyalty oaths from lawyers who work there — a policy that Alberto Gonzales had started to implement in the Bush-Cheney Administration — Adam Kinzinger led former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue through a narrative about the Republican Party and the Department of Justice they might like to belong to.

The whole thing was a flashback. In May 2007, I was tipped off to cover Jim Comey’s dramatic retelling of the first DOJ effort to push back on Presidential — and Vice Presidential, from Liz Cheney’s father — pressure by threatening to quit. Only years later, I learned how little the 2004 Hospital Hero stand-off really achieved. So I’m skeptical of yesterday’s tales of heroism from the likes of Jeff Rosen and Steve Engel.

But that’s also because their record conflicts with some of the things they said.

For example, check out what Engel — someone who played an absolutely central role in Bill Barr’s corruption of the Mueller investigation, and who wrote memos that killed the hush payment investigation into Trump and attempted to kill the whistleblower complaint about Volodymyr Zelenskyy — had to say about politicization of investigations.

Kinzinger: Mr. Engel, from your perspective, why is it important to have a [White House contact] policy like Mr. Rosen just discussed?

Engel: Well, it’s critical that the Department of Justice conducts its criminal investigations free from either the reality or any appearance of political interference. And so, people can get in trouble if people at the White House are speaking with people at the Department and that’s why, the purpose of these policies, is to keep these communications as infrequent and at the highest levels as possible just to make sure that people who are less careful about it, who don’t really understand these implications, such as Mr. Clark, don’t run afoul of those contact policies.

Or consider how Special Counsels were described, as Kinzinger got the witnesses to discuss how wildly inappropriate it would have been to appoint Sidney Powell to investigate vote fraud. Here’s how Engel explained the limited times there’d be a basis to appoint one:

Kinzinger: So during your time at the Department, was there ever any basis to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate President Trump’s election fraud claims?

Engel: Well, Attorney General Barr and [inaudible] Jeffrey Rosen did appoint a Special Counsel. You would appoint a Special Counsel when the Department — when there’s a basis for an investigation, and the Department, essentially, has a conflict of interest.

Engel is presumably referring to John Durham with that initial comment. But Durham fails both of those tests: there was never a basis for an investigation, and for most of the time Durham has been Special Counsel, he’s been investigating people outside the Department that present absolutely no conflict for the Department. [Note: it’s not clear I transcribed this properly. The point remains: Rosen and Barr appointed a Special Counsel that violated this standard.]

In other words, so much of what Engel and Rosen were describing were abuses they themselves were all too happy to engage in, up until the post-election period.

Which is why I’m so interested in the role of Richard Donoghue, who moved from EDNY to Main Justice in July 2020, to be replaced by trusted Bill Barr flunkie Seth DuCharme. It happened at a time when prosecutors were prepared to indict Tom Barrack, charges that didn’t end up getting filed until a year later, after Merrick Garland and Lisa Monaco had been confirmed. The 2020 move by Barr looked just like other efforts — with Jessie Liu in DC and Geoffrey Berman in SDNY — to kill investigations by replacing the US Attorney.

That is, by all appearances, Donoghue was only the one involved in all these events in 2020 and 2021 because Barr was politicizing prosecutions, precisely what Engel claimed that DOJ, during his tenure, attempted to avoid.

That’s interesting for several reasons. First, in the context of explaining the January 3 stand-off in the White House, Donoghue described why environmental lawyer Jeffrey Clark was unqualified to be Attorney General.

Donoghue: Mr. President, you’re talking about putting a man in that seat who has never tried a criminal case. Who has never conducted a criminal investigation.

Well, neither had regulatory lawyer Jeffrey Rosen (or, for that matter, Billy Barr). That is, in explaining why Clark should not be Attorney General,  Donoghue expressed what many lawyers have likewise said about Barr, most notably during Barr’s efforts to undermine the Mike Flynn prosecution (the tail end of which Donoghue would have been part of, though DuCharme was likely a far more central player in that).

In the collective description of the showdown at the White House on January 3, it sounds like before that point, Donoghue was the first one who succeeded in beginning to talk Trump out of replacing Rosen, because it was not in Trump’s, or the country’s, interest.

Mr. President, you have a great deal to lose. And I began to explain to him what he had to lose. And what the country had to lose, and what the Department had to lose. And this was not in anyone’s best interest. That conversation went on for some time.

Donoghue also seems to have been the one to explain the impact of resignations in response to a Clark appointment.

Mr. President within 24, 48, 72 hours, you could have hundreds and hundreds of resignations of the leadership of your entire Justice Department because of your actions. What’s that going to say about you?

To be clear: Rosen would have pushed back in any case. As he described,

On the one hand, I wasn’t going to accept being fired by my subordinate, so I wanted to talk to the President directly. With regard to the reason for that, I wanted to try to convince the President not to go down the wrong path that Mr. Clark seemed to be advocating. And it wasn’t about me. There was only 17 days left in the Administration at that point. I would have been perfectly content to have either of the gentlemen on my left or right to replace me if anybody wanted to do that. But I did not want for the Department of Justice to be put in a posture where it would be doing things that were not consistent with the truth, were not consistent with its own appropriate role, or were not consistent with the Constitution.

But Rosen had already presided over capitulations to Trump in the past, including events relating to the first impeachment and setting up a system whereby Rudy Giuliani could introduce Russian-brokered disinformation targeting Joe Biden into DOJ, without exposing Rudy himself to Russian Agent charges. Repeatedly in yesterday’s hearing, I kept asking whether the outcome would have been the same if Donoghue hadn’t been there.

Plus, by all appearances, Donoghue was the one providing critical leadership in the period, including going to the Capitol to ensure it was secured.

Kinzinger: Mr. Donoghue, we know from Mr. Rosen that you helped to reconvene the Joint Session, is that correct?

Donoghue: Yes sir.

Kinzinger: We see here in a video that we’re going to play now you arriving with your security detail, to help secure the Capitol. Mr. Donoghue, thirty minutes after you arrived at the Capitol, did you lead a briefing for the Vice President?

Donoghue: I’m not sure exactly what the time frame was, but I did participate in a call and participate in a briefing with the Vice President as well as the Congressional leadership that night. Yes.

Kinzinger: Where’d you conduct that call at?

Donoghue: I was in an office, I’m not entirely sure where it was. My detail found it, because of the acoustics in the Rotunda were such that it wasn’t really conductive to having a call so they found an office, we went to that office, and I believe I participated in two phone calls, one at 1800 and one at 1900 that night, from that office.

Kinzinger: What time did you actually end up leaving the Capitol?

Donoghue: I waited until the Senate was back in session which I believe they were gaveled in a few minutes after 8PM. And once they were back in session and we were confident that the entire facility was secured and cleared — that there were no individuals hiding in closets, or under desks, that there were no IEDs or other suspicious devices left behind — I left minutes later. I was probably gone by 8:30.

Kinzinger: And Mr. Donoghue, did you ever hear from President Trump that day?

Donoghue: No. Like the AAG, the acting AG, I spoke to Pat Cipollone and Mark Meadows and the Vice President and the Congressional leadership but I never spoke to the President that day.

So it seems possible, certainly, that one of the few things that held DOJ together in this period is Donoghue, seemingly installed there as part of yet another Bill Barr plot to corrupt DOJ.

Congresswoman Cheney, who in her opening statement talked about how outrageous it was for Trump to demand that DOJ make an announcement about an investigation into voter fraud (but who voted against the first impeachment for extorting Volodymyr Zelenskyy for exactly such an announcement), ended the hearing by inviting those who had put their trust into Donald Trump to understand that he had abused that trust.

House January 6 Committee: Public Hearings – Day 5

This post and comment thread are dedicated to the House January 6 Committee hearings scheduled to begin Thursday June 23, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Please take all comments unrelated to the hearings to a different thread.

The hearings will stream on:

House J6 Committee’s website: https://january6th.house.gov/news/watch-live

House J6 Committee’s YouTube page: TBD

C-SPAN’s House J6 hearing page: https://www.c-span.org/video/?521076-1/hearing-investigation-capitol-attack

C-SPAN’s YouTube page: https://youtu.be/9Vj7FJwF35M

Check PBS for your local affiliate’s stream: https://www.pbs.org/ (see upper right corner) or watch here: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/how-to-watch-the-jan-6-hearings

(I wish Twitter was carrying multiple live streams but they have yet to publish an Event. I guess Twitter has decided this historic series of hearings isn’t worth their time.

4:00 p.m. — Oh, look, Twitter finally got their shit together and just in time for recess. https://twitter.com/i/events/1540059136305397760)

ABC is carrying the hearing live on broadcast; CNN, NBC Now and MSNBC on their cable networks.

(CBS has likewise thrown in the towel like Twitter as I don’t see the hearing listed under their channel.)

Twitter accounts live tweeting the hearing tonight:

Marcy’s Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1540049823365218306

Brandi Buchman-DailyKos: https://twitter.com/Brandi_Buchman/status/1540046031462842369

Laura Rozen: https://twitter.com/lrozen/status/1540047956811960328

Scott MacFarlane-CBS: https://twitter.com/MacFarlaneNews/status/1540055344973504515

If you know of any other credible source tweeting the coverage, please share a link in comments.

Today’s scheduled witnesses:

Jeffrey A. Rosen, Former Acting Attorney General

Richard Donoghue, Former Acting Deputy Attorney General

Steven Engel, Former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel

There may be more not yet shared by the committee in their Twitter feed since the hearings to date have had two panels.

~ ~ ~

Any updates will appear at the bottom of this post; please bear with any content burps as this page may be edited as the hearing progresses.

Again, this post is dedicated to the House January 6 Committee  and topics addressed in testimony and evidence produced during the hearing.

All other discussion should be in threads under the appropriate post with open discussion under the most recent Trash Talk.

To new readers and commenters: welcome to emptywheel. New commenters, please use a unique name to differentiate yourself; use the same username each time you comment.

Comment policy

Community guidelines

If you are leaving a comment, please be concise; 100 words is the optimum length.

If you are sharing active links your comment may be delayed by auto-moderation.

If contributors and moderators seem slow, it’s because they’re dealing with higher than usual volume of comments including trolling.

Caution: moderators will have much lower tolerance for trolling.

~ ~ ~

 

Bill Barr’s Legal Exposure May Lead Him to Lie about the Hunter Biden Laptop

In case you missed it on Twitter, I am currently reading the former Attorney General’s fictional autobiography, which is predictably awful. I’ll write it up at more length in the days ahead.

The most newsworthy detail — by far! — in the parts I’ve read thus far is this admission describing how he “had” to open the Durham investigation, not because there was a suspected crime, but because Barr believes Trump’s “adversaries” pushed it to hobble his Administration.

I saw the way the President’s adversaries had enmeshed the Department of Justice in this phony scandal and were using it to hobble his administration. Once in office, it occupied much of my time for the first six months of my tenure. It was at the heart of my most controversial decisions. Even after dealing with the Mueller report, I still had to launch US Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the genesis of this bogus scandal.

[snip]

I always suspected that the preelection peddling of Steele’s dossier and other similar collusion claims comprised an attempt to carry out a classic campaign dirty trick: first, develop scurrilous allegations about one’s opponent, then get them into the hands of an investigative authority, and, finally, leak the “fact” that the allegations are being investigated. This way, unverified allegations are publicized and given instant credibility on the theory that authorities thought them worthy enough to investigate. News organizations can justify publishing dubious allegations by claiming they are really just reporting the facts of a pending investigation. Before Election Day, the Clinton campaign had a good motive for instigating the collusion narrative: besides hurting Trump, it diverted attention from her own e-mail server scandal, which seemingly came to a head in early July when FBI director Comey held a news conference sharply criticizing Clinton for her mishandling of classified e-mails. [my emphasis]

Over and over, Billy situates in advance — sometimes even before he returned to government — his belief in conspiracy theories that John Durham is currently chasing. The book goes a long way to substantiating that Durham is and always was using a criminal investigation to tell a story developed before either Barr or Durham had looked at any evidence.

This entire three year investigation was started because Billy Barr wanted to get revenge, not because he wanted to investigate a crime.

That’s important background for a recent appearance Barr made to claim that the decision by social media companies not to allow the NY Post story on an unverified laptop go viral swung the election.

So when former staffer Larry Kudlow on Thursday interviewed former attorney general William P. Barr for his Fox Business show, the conversation operated from shared assumptions about Trump’s successes and the toxicity of the political left. The result was that Barr outlined a remarkable hierarchy of importance for actions that might have affected the results of a presidential contest.

Russian interference in 2016, he said, was just “some embarrassing emails about Hillary Clinton and Bernie.” The effort to “suppress” information about Hunter Biden’s laptop, meanwhile, was “probably even more outrageous” and “had much more effect on an election.”

Philip Bump lays out all the evidence that Barr’s claim the media ignored the story is false and links to a contemporaneous analysis of the uncertainties about the laptop — though not this recent, overlooked WaPo article that revealed “the data contained on the drive [that purportedly comes from Hunter Biden’s laptop] was so compromised by a variety of factors that definitive conclusions about most of its contents were impossible.”

Bump is wrong, in my opinion, to treat this recent Hunter laptop surge as a mere political conversation on the right. It’s not. It is part of a plan to undermine the investigation — and likely, by then, prosecution — of Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to obtain dirt that is believed to closely if not exactly resemble what he ended up releasing under the guise of a discovered abandoned Hunter Biden laptop. If Republicans win the House, Jim Jordan will dedicate the resources of the House Judiciary Committee full time to investigating this “story,” and will use it to sabotage whatever legal proceedings are working against Rudy at that point.

And that’s why it’s important that a once respected lawyer is going on TV endorsing conspiracy theories.

After all, Barr is legally implicated himself.

As I said, I’ll write far more about the lies Barr told in his narrative. But one key detail is his explanation for appointing Richard Donoghue as a gate-keeper over any Ukraine investigations.

In January, as the impeachment process headed toward conclusion, Deputy Attorney General Rosen issued a memo to all US attorneys’ offices designating Richard Donoghue, the US attorney in the Eastern District of New York, to coordinate Ukraine-related cases. This was done not just for efficiency but also to protect the department from manipulation by foreign interests. As we headed into an election year, we had good reason to worry that Ukraine—a hotbed of political intrigue and conspiracy theories—posed a special concern. It was a channel through which all sides could inject disinformation into our system. This could be done by feeding spurious “evidence” of supposed criminality to US law enforcement authorities. This vulnerability was compounded in a Justice Department in which any one of ninety-three US attorneys’ offices around the country can initiate an investigation based on information it receives. In addition to ensuring information sharing and avoiding conflicts, we wanted to ensure that Ukrainian actors couldn’t instigate cases willy-nilly in different jurisdictions around the country. For this reason, we selected one office to take the lead and also serve as a “traffic cop,” coordinating existing and any new cases. Rich Donoghue was chosen for this role because he already had related matters pending in his Brooklyn office and was one of the most experienced and respected US attorneys in the department.

This is not entirely a lie. It is true that Jeffrey Rosen wrote a memo giving Donoghue veto authority over any investigations pertaining to Ukraine. But the move had the exact opposite effect of what Barr claimed in his narrative.

It had the effect of ensuring that Rudy could continue to chase disinformation from a known Russian agent, Andrii Derkach, to use in the election with no legal consequences.

On November 4, 2019, SDNY executed searches — searches that Main Justice would have had to be informed about — on Rudy and Victoria Toensing’s cloud accounts. In subsequent months, SDNY would execute searches on Yuri Lutsenko and several other Ukrainians, but not Andrii Derkach, not even after Rudy flew to Ukraine to meet with Derkach personally on December 5, 2019.

In the wake of those searches, on January 17, 2020, Jeffrey Rosen issued a memo putting his trusted deputy, Richard Donoghue, in charge of all Ukraine-related investigations.

As has been publicly reported, there currently are several distinct open investigations being handled by different U.S. Attorney’s Offices and/or Department components that in some way potentially relate to Ukraine. In addition, new information potentially relating to Ukraine may be brought to the attention of the Department going forward. The Department has assigned Richard Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), who currently is handling certain Ukraine-related matters, to coordinate existing matters and to assess, investigate, and address any other matters relating to Ukraine, including the opening of any new investigations or the expansion of existing ones.

[snip]

Any and all new matters relating to Ukraine shall be directed exclusively to EDNY for investigation and appropriate handling.

[snip]

Any widening or expansion of existing matters shall require prior consultation with and approval by my office and EDNY.

Now that we know about the Rudy search in November 2019, the effect of this memo is clear: it limited the SDNY investigation to the scope of the investigation as it existed at that time, into the Lutsenko attempt to fire Yovanovitch (which was included in the original Parnas indictment), but not Rudy’s meeting with a Russian agent to help Trump win re-election.

Instead, EDNY presided over all the Ukraine goings-on during the election, during which time they could have done something about ongoing tampering. Indeed, after Geoffrey Berman succeeded in ensuring that Audrey Strauss would replace him after Barr fired him to try to shut down ongoing investigations (including, undoubtedly, the one into Rudy and Barr’s friend Victoria Toensing), Barr and Rosen replaced Donoghue with another trusted flunky, Seth DuCharme. Under DuCharme, then, EDNY sat and watched while Derkach interfered in the election and did nothing until — per yesterday’s NYT story — “the final months of the Trump administration.” According to the public timeline, it appears that they just let a known Russian agent play around in our democracy.

This step didn’t protect American democracy from Russian tampering. It protected the Russian tampering.

And now Barr is out there claiming that an effort by social media companies to protect democracy was the real crime.

Jeffrey Rosen Targeted Project Veritas’ Office Manager Long before Merrick Garland Targeted James O’Keefe

According to a recent NYT story, Project Veritas paid $50,000 to a former Mike Pence lawyer and House staffer, Mark Paoletta, to get members of Congress to push back against the criminal investigation into the rat-fucking organization.

After the criminal investigation into Project Veritas became public last fall, a prominent Republican lawyer who was lobbying on behalf of the organization and Mr. O’Keefe briefed a group of congressional Republicans on the case, to urge them to try to persuade the Justice Department to back off the investigation because the group did nothing wrong, according to a person briefed on the matter.

[snip]

Lobbying filings show that Mr. Paoletta was paid $50,000 during the last two months of last year to inform members of Congress about the F.B.I. raid on Mr. O’Keefe.

That’s really telling. After Project Veritas won a fight to get a Special Master appointed to review records seized in a raid on James O’Keefe and others last year, they balked at DOJ’s effort to make them foot the entire bill, telling a tale about their gritty “upstart journalism.”

The government argues that an upstart journalism organization with a current annual budget that recently hovers around $22 million is better suited to fund Special Master proceedings than a goliath arm of the U.S. government featuring a long-standing bloated budget, currently at $31.1 billion.2 The government’s demand that a press entity bear considerable financial burdens to defend against the government’s unconstitutional attack on a free press is corrosive to the First Amendment. The exercise of First Amendment rights is a guaranteed right, not a luxury subject to taxation at the government’s whim. Imposing daunting costs during the pendency of an investigation meant to resolve important First Amendment questions inflicts its own kind of abridgement. When exorbitant costs may be levied against the media simply for acting in accord with settled First Amendment precedent, the process becomes the punishment.

[snip]

For Project Veritas, an upstart journalism organization, each dollar spent on Special Master fees and expenses is a dollar not spent publishing news stories or investigating leads.

They won that fight and thus far, Special Master Barbara Jones has billed almost $40,000, which will be split 50-50.

It turns out, though, that PV’s claim that they would spend every cent saved on Special Master fees on what they euphemistically call “news stories,” was false. Instead, they were spending it to get Chuck Grassley (whose former top staffer Barbara Ledeen used to have close ties to PV), Jim Jordan, and other of the most corrupt Republicans to write letters to Merrick Garland complaining about “brazen and inconsistent standards” and “partisan or other improper motive.” (As we’ll see, it turns out they should have been complaining to Jeffrey Rosen.)

What’s interesting is those letters that Barbara Ledeen’s former boss and Jim Jordan and Ron Johnson signed all suggest they took their understanding of PV’s actions entirely from the public record. They cite news articles.

Congress was told that Don Jr was involved before the stupidest Republicans wrote to complain

Not so, as reported by the NYT. Paoletta apparently knew — and shared — details that had not yet been reported by the press. Paoletta knew of a September 6, 2020 fundraiser held by Elizabeth Fago and attended by Don Jr where Ashley Biden’s diary — allegedly stolen — was passed around.

In August, Ms. Harris reached out to Robert Kurlander, a friend who had been sentenced to 40 months in prison in the 1990s on a federal fraud charge and had expressed anti-Biden sentiments online, to say she had found the diary. The two believed they could sell it, allowing Ms. Harris to help pay for the lawyers representing her in the custody dispute.

New details from interviews and documents have further fleshed out what happened next. Mr. Kurlander contacted Elizabeth Fago, the Trump donor who would host the fund-raiser attended by Donald Trump Jr. When first told of the diary, Ms. Fago said she thought it would help Mr. Trump’s chances of winning the election, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Richard G. Lubin, a lawyer for Ms. Fago, declined to comment.

On Sept. 3, Ms. Fago’s daughter alerted Project Veritas about the diary through its tip line.

Three days later, Ms. Harris and Mr. Kurlander — with the diary in hand — attended the fund-raiser attended by Donald Trump Jr. at Ms. Fago’s house in Jupiter, Fla., to see whether the president’s re-election campaign might be interested in it. While there, Mr. Kurlander showed others the diary. It is unclear who saw it.

It appears that Paoletta had originally been told — and told members of Congress — that Don Jr advocated calling the FBI, only to follow up to express uncertainty about that point.

The lawyer, Mark Paoletta, said that upon learning about the diary at the fund-raiser, Donald Trump Jr. showed no interest in it and said that whoever was in possession of it should report it to the F.B.I. But shortly thereafter Mr. Paoletta, who had served as Vice President Mike Pence’s top lawyer in the White House, called back the congressional Republicans to say he was unsure whether the account about Donald Trump Jr.’s reaction was accurate.

We know from past history, Don Jr doesn’t call the FBI when offered dirt on an opponent. Instead, he says “If it’s what you say, I love it, especially closer to the election.”

Project Veritas was willing to pay $50,000 to tell members of Congress that this crime might impact powerful fundraisers (Fago was named on the PV warrants) and the former President’s son, but didn’t want to foot the full bill for a Special Master.

SDNY always gets emails before they do an overt search

The fact that PV told members of Congress that this involved the former President’s son explains why PV is so pissed upon discovering what has been obvious to me from the start: That before obtaining warrants to seize James O’Keefe’s phones, DOJ had first obtained emails that provided the evidence to get the warrants for his phones.

The Government disclosed many of its covert investigative steps in the ex parte context of the Affidavit, including each email search warrant it had obtained pursuant to the SCA in this investigation.

This is precisely what SDNY did with Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani, and it’s what Magistrate Judge Sarah Cave was talking about when she referred to the “considerable detail” in the affidavit.

Third, the Court has reviewed the Materials in camera and observes that they contain considerable detail about individuals who may have already provided information to the Government—voluntarily or involuntarily—such that unsealing of the Materials “could subject [them] to witness tampering, harassment, or retaliation.”

PV revealed that in a motion asking Judge Analisa Torres to claw back this information.

The government apparently disdains the free press, and candor to the Court and opposing counsel. In light of the government’s violations of Project Veritas’s First Amendment, journalistic, and attorney-client privileges, as well as the government’s attendant failure to disclose these matters before or during the litigation of our motion for appointment of a Special Master, Project Veritas requests that this Court, pursuant to its supervisory powers, inherent authority, and Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(g), enter an Order requiring the government to:

(1) immediately halt access, review, and investigative use of Project Veritas materials that the government obtained from Microsoft (cf. November 12, 2021 Order acknowledging pause in government extraction and review of James O’Keefe’s mobile devices);

(2) inform this Court and counsel whether the government used a filter team to conduct a review of the data it seized from Microsoft on the basis of both attorney-client and journalistic privileges;

(3) inform this Court and counsel of the identities of any prosecutors, agents, or other members of the investigative team who have reviewed any data seized from Microsoft, what data they reviewed, and when they reviewed it; and

(4) disclose to the Court and counsel the identity of any other third party to which the government issued demands for Project Veritas data under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”) with or without a non-disclosure order.

This interim relief is necessary to avoid compounding the harm to Project Veritas caused by the government’s violations of law and principles of candor and to enable Project Veritas to seek appropriate further relief.

I’ve put the dates of these warrants below; those dates and targets totally undermine everything PV has been complaining about.

PV has been complaining about “journalists” when DOJ first found evidence of a crime from their office manager

That’s because the first person targeted at PV was their “human resources” manager; that may be a reference to Jennifer Kiyak, who is named in the warrant targeting O’Keefe but listed on Project Veritas Exposed as PV’s Office Manager.

An office manager would have been the one to arrange payment of $40,000, and by getting her emails and — given that the FBI first targeted her in a subscriber record, may have been traced backwards from contacts with Ms. Biden — DOJ probably obtained plenty of evidence that the “journalists” had done far more than journalism.

Moreover, the first warrant to get “journalists'” emails was obtained while Jeffrey Rosen was Acting Attorney General, and all but one of these warrants for email (the one against O’Keefe) were obtained before Merrick Garland was confirmed. All of these email warrants were obtained before Garland imposed his new media guidelines, guidelines that Billy Barr’s DOJ never adhered to.

In other words, PV has been complaining for months that Merrick Garland targeted “journalists” when in fact they should be complaining that Jeffrey Rosen targeted someone who would, in no way, under any administration, be covered by media guidelines.

DOJ tells PV to hold their complaints until they are indicted

DOJ’s response to PV’s wails (which I wrote up in more detail here) is genuinely hysterical. They say, over and over, that PV can wait until they’re indicted to challenge these warrants.

Movants can raise these issues if there is an indictment filed charging them in connection with the investigation,

[snip]

The materials referenced by the Movants were obtained pursuant to duly authorized legal process that are not subject to challenge by the Movants in this pre-indictment stage.

[snip]

Second, the Movants seek pre-indictment discovery regarding the process used to review the materials referenced by the Movants, the identities of those who participated in that process, and the identities of third parties on which other legal process may have been served in the course of the investigation.

[snip]

To the extent the Movants may potentially be entitled at some point to the disclosures that they seek, any such entitlement would only be triggered, if at all, by the filing of an indictment charging them in connection with the investigation, and not before.2 In the event of a criminal proceeding, as Judge Oetken noted, they would have the opportunity to litigate any privilege or suppression issues, but they cannot do so during the pre-indictment phase of an ongoing grand jury investigation.

They acknowledge that PV would love to know who or what else has been investigated.

Of course, the Movants, like any subjects of a federal grand jury investigation, would like to know about every investigative step the Government is taking during the course of a criminal investigation, but that is not the law, for good reason.

No doubt so would Don Jr.

It also suggested there are other aspects of this investigation that DOJ is keeping secret.

The Government refrained from publicly disclosing details of the investigation, and continues to do so, for the same reasons that this Court denied production to the Movants of the affidavit (the “Affidavit”) submitted in support of the issuance of the search warrant dated November 5, 2021 that is the focus of this Part I matter and that Judge Cave ruled should remain sealed: to protect the ongoing grand jury investigation.

Keep in mind, there are necessarily other warrants out there that list other crimes, such as ones involving Harris and Kurlander that would name theft itself. In fact, the first order targeting PV mentions 18 USC 873 — blackmail.

Which means we can’t rule out that the nomination of Fago to the National Cancer Advisory Board a month after the election might be under investigation too.

These events are covered by three SDNY dockets: 21-mc-813 for James O’Keefe21-mc-819 for Eric Cochran, and 21-mc-825 for Spencer Meads.

2020

June: Ashley Biden moves to Philadelphia.

July: Aimee Harris moves into space formerly occupied by Ms. Biden.

August: Harris reaches out to fraudster Robert Kurlander, who contacts Elizabeth Fago.

September 3: Stephanie Walczak offers diary to PV.

September 6: Diary is shared at a fundraiser attended by Jr.

Mid-September: Kurlander and Harris fly to NY with the diary.  Spencer Meads travels to Florida and Harris shows more of Ms. Biden’s belongings.

Early October: A PV operative calls Ms. Biden and claims he wants to return the diary; PV takes her agreement as confirmation the diary is hers.

October 12: O’Keefe sends email, not mentioning Ms. Biden by name (but clearly referring to her) explaining his decision not to publish “Sting Ray” Story.

October 16: PV calls Joe Biden to extort an interview.

Late October: PV pays $40,000 for the diary.

October 25: National File publishes pages from Ashely Biden’s diary, linking parallel New York Post campaign targeting Hunter. It explains the provenance of the diary this way:

National File also knows the reported precise location of the physical diary, and has been told by a whistleblower that there exists an audio recording of Ashley Biden admitting this is her diary.

[snip]

National File obtained this document from a whistleblower who was concerned the media organization that employs him would not publish this potential critical story in the final 10 days before the 2020 presidential election. National File’s whistleblower also has a recording of Ashley Biden admitting the diary is hers, and employed a handwriting expert who verified the pages were all written by Ashley. National File has in its posession a recording of this whistleblower detailing the work his media outlet did in preparation of releasing these documents. In the recording, the whistleblower explains that the media organization he works for chose not to release the documents after receiving pressure from a competing media organization.

November 3: PV provides the diary to local law enforcement in FL.

November 22: DOJ uses subpoena for subscriber information of PV’s Human Resources Manager.

November 24: DOJ obtains 2703(d) order for HR manager’s email headers from 9/1/2020 to present.

December 8: Fago appointed to National Cancer Advisory Board.

2021

January 14: DOJ obtains warrant for emails of Eric Cochran, Spencer Meads, and HR manager from 1/1/20 through present.

January 26: DOJ obtains warrant for emails from another PV “journalist” from 1/1/20 through present.

March 5: DOJ obtains warrant for emails of three other PV “journalists” from 1/1/20 through 12/1/20.

March 9: DOJ obtains email headers for additional PV “journalist” from 9/1/20 through 12/1/20.

April 9: DOJ obtains warrant for O’Keefe’s emails from 9/1/20 through 12/1/20.

October 26: Paul Calli call DOJ, asks for AUSA Mitzi Steiner, and asked to speak about the PV investigation; Steiner asked how Calli had obtained her name, what else he had obtained, and declined to speak with Calli.

October 27: Lawyers for Project Veritas inform the DOJ that they will accept service for a subpoena relating to the investigation

November 3, 3:49 PM: Search warrants for Eric Cochran and Spencer Meads approved.

November 4, AM: FBI executes search warrants on former PV employees, Cochran and Spencer Meads.

November 4: PV lawyers accept service of subpoena.

November 4, one hour after the search: Mike Schmidt reaches out to Cochran and O’Keefe for comment about the investigation.

November 5, 11:18 AM: Warrant for O’Keefe authorized

November 5: NYT publishes story on investigation including language that PV would later baseless claim had to have come from the FBI.

November 6: FBI executes a search warrant on James O’Keefe

November 6: Schmidt contacts O’Keefe for comment.

November 6: Lawyers for Project Veritas ask the FBI to sequester material from the phone.

November 7: DOJ declines PV’s request and states the FBI has complied with all media guidelines.

November 8, 6:11PM: DOJ emails PV and tells them the extraction may start as soon as the next day.

November 8: After PV says it’ll file a legal challenge, FBI says it’ll only stop extraction after PV files such a challenge.

November 10: On behalf of PV, Calli Law moves to appoint a Special Master.

November 11, 12:51-12:53AM: Calli asks for confirmation that DOJ stopped extraction and review on O’Keefe’s phone on November 8.

November 11, 7:57AM: DOJ responds that the substantive review of O’Keefe’s phone was paused upon filing of motion on November 10.

November 11; 2:13PM: Judge Analisa Torres sets initial briefing schedule; in response to Torres order, DOJ stops extraction of O’Keefe phone.

November 12: In response to DOJ request, Torres extends briefing schedule.

November 12: Greenberg Traurig lawyer Adam Hoffinger, representing Eric Cochran, asks for Special Master to apply to materials seized from him, as well.

November 12: Letter signed by FL attorney Brian Dickerson but apparently docketed by NY lawyer Eric Franz asks for Special Master to apply to Spencer Meads

November 12, 3:49PM: Calli asks for clarification on review and extraction.

November 12, 3:59PM: DOJ responds that, “upon the filing of your motion, the Government paused the review of all material obtained from the search of your  client’s residence.”

November 14: Calli submits clarification letter regarding extraction and review.

November 15: Torres sets schedule in Cochran docket.

November 15: DOJ requests permission to reply to PV on November 19.

November 15: Calli requests inquiry into government leaks to NYT.

November 16: Torres grants permission to respond on November 19.

November 16: Ian H. Marcus Amelkin asks to delete initials of PV source, A.H., from docket.

November 17: Torres denies Amelkin request without prejudice.

November 17: Cochran motion to appoint Special Master.

November 18: For Meads, Dickerson formally moves for Special Master (and also complains that FBI seized dated devices).

November 19: Calli requests extension on response deadline for PV subpoena.

November 19: Government files opposition to request for Special Master and inquiry into purported leaks.

November 19: DOJ requests permission to respond to motion for extension on subpoena. Torres grants request.

November 21: DOJ opposition to extend subpoena deadline.

November 21: Government motion to oppose unsealing affidavits.

November 22: Torres denies motion for extension on subpoena.

November 22: PV reply to government opposition to Special Master.

November 23: Torres denies motion (including from RCFP) to unseal affidavits.

November 23: Cochran reply to government opposition to unseal affidavits.

November 24: Meads reply to refusal to unseal affidavits, including letters from House and Senate complaining to DOJ.

The Executive Privilege Puzzle: The Co-Equal Branch of Government

As I noted during the summer, DOJ did two things in close succession.

On July 21, it rolled out the contacts policy that codifies that, “the Justice Department will not advise the White House concerning pending or contemplated criminal or civil law enforcement investigations or cases unless doing so is important for the performance of the President’s duties and appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.” At least from that point forward, Joe Biden would learn no details of the investigation into his predecessor unless absolutely necessary.

On July 26, DOJ wrote Jeffrey Rosen and several other former senior DOJ officials — including Jeffrey Clark —  informing them that DOJ was waiving privilege for interviews the House and Senate wanted to conduct on, “any efforts by President Trump or any DOJ officials to advance unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud, challenge the 2020 election results, stop Congress’s count of the Electoral College vote, or overturn President Biden’s certified victory.” As the letter from Bradley Weinsheimer laid out, this permission arose from a balancing of Legislative and Executive branch interests and determining that the Legislative interest was so significant as to warrant the waiver.

After balancing the Legislative and Executive Branch interests, as required under the accommodation process, it is the Executive Branch’s view that this presents an exceptional situation in which the congressional need for information outweighs the Executive Branch’s interest in maintaining confidentiality.

The letter continues by explaining that DOJ consulted with the White House Counsel’s Office to get their approval for waiving Executive Privilege.

Because of the nature of the privilege, the Department has consulted with the White House Counsel’s Office in considering whether to authorize you to provide information that may implicate the presidential communications privilege. The Counsel’s Office conveyed to the Department that President Biden has decided that it would not be appropriate to assert executive privilege with respect to communications with former President Trump and his advisors and staff on matters related to the scope of the Committees’ proposed interviews, notwithstanding the view of former President Trump’s counsel that executive privilege should be asserted to prevent testimony regarding these communications. See Nixon v. Administrator of General Servs., 433 U.S. 425, 449 (1977) (“[I]t must be presumed that the incumbent President is vitally concerned with and in the best position to assess the present and future needs of the Executive Branch, and to support invocation of the privilege accordingly.” see also id. (explaining that the presidential communications privilege “is not for the benefit of the President as an individual, but for the benefit of the Republic”) (internal citation omitted).

These events seems to have set up the series of developments — including Trump’s lawsuit to attempt to prevent the Archives from turning over documents to Congress, and aborted attempts by Jeffrey Clark, Steve Bannon, and Mark Meadows, among others, to shield their own testimony by invoking Executive Privilege.

As was laid out in the DC Circuit hearing the other day, this put the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch in agreement that the documents Congress requested from the Archives should be released.

You’ve got Biden insulated from investigative details, making decisions about Executive Privilege for an investigation being conducted by a coequal branch of government.

Which is one of the reasons why I find Adam Schiff’s comments from the other day so interesting. When asked if he wanted DOJ to be more aggressive, Schiff did not assent. Instead, he said that “it is certainly possible” Congress’ effort to “expose the malefactors” “will inform the Justice Department of other facts that they may not yet be aware of yet.”

We are now trying to expose the full facts of the former President’s misconduct, as well as those around him. It is certainly possible that what we reveal in our investigation will inform the Justice Department of other facts that they may not yet be aware of yet. And so we will pursue our role in this, which is to expose the malefactors, to bring about legislation as a result of our investigation, to protect the country. But we will count on the Justice Department to play its role.

There’s a high likelihood the January 6 Commission will discover things DOJ has not found on its own. After all, Biden is waiving privilege for their inquiry, not for DOJ’s criminal investigation. So the Jan 6 is (or soon will be) examining a set of materials that are — as far as we know — otherwise inaccessible to DOJ. But, Schiff assures us, if they find something that DOJ doesn’t know about, they’ll inform DOJ.

As I’ve noted and as Schiff knows well, Mueller relied on the Intelligence Committee investigations for key evidence in his investigation. But here, it seems like the dual investigations provides a way to free up otherwise privileged materials involving Trump without having Biden violate contact rules prohibiting him learning about the ongoing criminal investigation.

Why Did DOJ Delay Seven Months before Letting Jeffrey Rosen Testify?

On January 22 — after Jeffrey Rosen was no longer Acting Attorney General but before Trump’s second impeachment trial — Katie Benner published a story describing Trump’s efforts to get Jeffrey Bossert Clark to undermine those at DOJ, including Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, who refused to endorse Trump’s lies about the election.

As I noted the other day, that story included all the details that have been dribbling out from the House Oversight Committee in recent weeks: Trump’s efforts to get DOJ to intervene in Georgia, Rosen and Donoghue’s refusal, followed by Trump’s effort to put Clark in charge at DOJ on January 3. Benner had all that nailed in January.

The day after Benner’s January 22 story, the holdover members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to DOJ citing the story and asking for documents behind it.

On January 22, The New York Times reported astonishing details about an alleged plot between then-President Donald Trump and then-Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division Jeffrey Bossert Clark to use the Department of Justice to further Trump’s efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.[1]  These efforts culminated on January 6, when Trump incited a violent mob that attacked Congress as it counted the electoral votes and prepared to affirm President Biden’s victory.  The information revealed by this story raises deeply troubling questions regarding the Justice Department’s role in Trump’s scheme to overturn the election.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct vigorous oversight of these matters.  As a first step, we seek your immediate assurance that the Department will preserve all relevant materials in its possession, custody, or control.  Please also produce the following materials as soon as possible, but no later than February 8, 2021:

  • All documents and communications, including emails, text messages, and calendar entries, referring or related to the reported December 15 meeting between then-President Trump and then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and reported follow-up calls and meetings between President Trump and Mr. Rosen;
  • All documents and communications, including emails, text messages, and calendar entries, referring or related to reported complaints President Trump made to Justice Department leaders regarding then-U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak prior to Pak’s resignation;
  • All documents and communications, including emails, text messages, and calendar entries, regarding a reported draft letter that Mr. Clark prepared and requested be sent to Georgia state legislators; and
  • All documents and communications, including emails, text messages, and calendar entries, involving the reported January 3 White House meeting involving Mr. Clark and Mr. Rosen.

That letter set a deadline of February 8, over a month before Merrick Garland was confirmed and over 70 days before Lisa Monaco was confirmed.

In May, House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney sent Rosen a request (which hasn’t been made public) for a transcribed interview.

Seemingly in response to that — though the letter cites both the January request and the May one — DOJ (in the guise of Bradley Weinsheimer, who was elevated from NSD to DOJ’s institutional accountability role at Associate Deputy Attorney General by Jeff Sessions, and so was a colleague of those DOJ officials), wrote Rosen and five other former top DOJ officials permitting them to testify about a carefully defined set of events. The testimony is basically limited to, “any efforts by President Trump or any DOJ officials to advance unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud, challenge the 2020 election results, stop Congress’s count of the Electoral College vote, or overturn President Biden’s certified victory.” It is limited to events that happened after Attorney General Barr resigned on December 14. The letter specifically prohibits discussing any prosecutorial decisions the men made, or discussing investigations that were ongoing when they left.

Discussion of any pending criminal cases and possible charges also could violate court rules and potentially implicate rules of professional conduct governing extra-judicial statements.

But within that scope, the letter permits these former DOJ officials to answer questions that would otherwise be covered by executive privilege.

[T]he Department authorizes you to provide unrestricted testimony to the Committees, irrespective of potential privilege, so long as the testimony is confined to the scope of the interviews as set forth by the Committees and as limited in the penultimate paragraph below.

Of particular note, DOJ asked President Biden — via the White House Counsel — whether he wanted to invoke privilege; he chose not to.

Because of the nature of the privilege, the Department has consulted with the White House Counsel’s Office in considering whether to authorize you to provide information that may implicate the presidential communications privilege. The Counsel’s Office conveyed to the Department that President Biden has decided that it would not be appropriate to assert executive privilege with respect to communications with former President Trump and his advisors and staff on matters related to the scope of the Committees’ proposed interviews, notwithstanding the view of former President Trump’s counsel that executive privilege should be asserted to prevent testimony regarding these communications. See Nixon v. Administrator of General Servs., 433 U.S. 425, 449 (1977) (“[I]t must be presumed that the incumbent President is vitally concerned with and in the best position to assess the present and future needs of the Executive Branch, and to support invocation of the privilege accordingly.” see also id. (explaining that the presidential communications privilege “is not for the benefit of the President as an individual, but for the benefit of the Republic”) (internal citation omitted).

As Benner wrote in a story offering details of Jeffrey Rosen’s testimony, Rosen has been trying to get permission to testify for “much of the year.” As soon as DOJ gave it, he rushed to testify before Trump could intervene.

Mr. Rosen has spent much of the year in discussions with the Justice Department over what information he could provide to investigators, given that decision-making conversations between administration officials are usually kept confidential.

Douglas A. Collins, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said last week that the former president would not seek to bar former Justice Department officials from speaking with investigators. But Mr. Collins said he might take some undisclosed legal action if congressional investigators sought “privileged information.”

Mr. Rosen quickly scheduled interviews with congressional investigators to get as much of his version of events on the record before any players could ask the courts to block the proceedings, according to two people familiar with those discussions who are not authorized to speak about continuing investigations.

He also reached out directly to Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, and pledged to cooperate with his investigation, according to a person briefed on those talks.

The question is why. After all, these events were knowable to DOJ since they happened, and for the entirety of that time, DOJ has been conducting an investigation into efforts to obstruct the vote count. For some of that period, in fact, Rosen himself was in ultimate charge of the investigation, and he could have ordered or authorized himself to testify.

Benner didn’t specify whether Rosen might have been interviewed by the FBI, though the implication is he has not been asked.

Similarly, DOJ IG has been investigating related issues since then as part of a specific investigation into the BJ Pak firing and a general investigation into January 6. While Michael Horowitz could not subpoena Rosen, he could simply have asked Rosen to provide testimony. But Benner is quite clear that Rosen has not yet testified even to Horowitz.

During that period, too, there was an instance where DOJ IG asked someone for an interview, but the person quit to avoid the testimony.

During the course of an ongoing administrative misconduct investigation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) informed a then senior DOJ official, who was a non-career member of the Senior Executive Service, that the senior DOJ official was a subject in the investigation and that the OIG sought to interview the senior DOJ official in connection with the investigation. After several unsuccessful attempts to schedule a voluntary interview with the senior DOJ official, the OIG instructed the senior DOJ official to appear for a compelled interview and informed the senior DOJ official that neither the answers the senior DOJ official provided nor any evidence gained by reason of those answers could be used against the senior DOJ official in a criminal proceeding. The senior DOJ official failed to appear for the compelled interview and resigned from Department employment shortly thereafter.

The OIG concluded that the senior DOJ official violated both federal regulations and DOJ policy by failing to appear for a compelled OIG interview while still a DOJ employee. The OIG offered the senior DOJ official the opportunity to cure that violation by participating in a voluntary interview after leaving the Department, but the senior DOJ official, through counsel, declined to do so. The OIG has the authority to compel testimony from current Department employees upon informing them that their statements will not be used to incriminate them in a criminal proceeding. The OIG does not have the authority to compel or subpoena testimony from former Department employees, including those who retire or resign during the course of an OIG investigation.

Those events were reported on April 19.

There are two more dates of interest. First, DOJ only released its new contact policy — under which the request for a privilege determination may have been passed — on July 21. I’m curious whether the request for a  waiver of executive privilege waiver came after that. Executive privilege considerations were a key limitation on the Mueller investigation overseen in its final days partly by Rosen himself.

At least as interesting, however, is that DOJ sent the letter just one day before DOJ submitted a court filing in the Eric Swalwell lawsuit — speaking of members of Congress but using more generalized language — arguing that no federal officials can campaign in their official capacity and further noting that attacking one’s employer is not within the scope of someone’s job description.

The record indicates that the January 6 rally was an electioneering or campaign activity that Brooks would ordinarily be presumed to have undertaken in an unofficial capacity. Activities specifically directed toward the success of a candidate for a partisan political office in a campaign context—electioneering or campaign activities—are not within the scope of the office or employment of a Member of the House of Representatives. Like other elected officials, Members run for reelection themselves and routinely campaign for other political candidates. But they do so in their private, rather than official, capacities.

This understanding that the scope of federal office excludes campaign activity is broadly reflected in numerous authorities. This Court, for example, emphasized “the basic principle that government funds should not be spent to help incumbents gain reelection” in holding that House or Senate mailings aimed at that purpose are “unofficial communication[s].” Common Cause v. Bolger, 574 F. Supp. 672, 683 (D.D.C. 1982) (upholding statute that provided franking privileges for official communications but not unofficial communications).

[snip]

Second, the Complaint alleges that Brooks engaged in a conspiracy and incited the attack on the Capitol on January 6. That alleged conduct plainly would not qualify as within the scope of employment for an officer or employee of the United States, because attacking one’s employer is different in kind from any authorized conduct and not “actuated . . . by a purpose to serve” the employer. Id. § 228(1)(c). Brooks does not argue otherwise. Instead, he denies the Complaint’s allegations of conspiracy and incitement. The Department does not address that issue here because the campaign-related nature of the rally independently warrants denial of certification, and because the Department is engaged in ongoing investigations into the events of January 6 more generally. But if the Court were to reject our argument that the campaign nature of the January 6 rally resolves the certification question, the Court should not certify that Brooks was acting within the scope of his office or employment unless it concludes that Brooks did not engage in the sort of conduct alleged in the Complaint. [my emphasis]

It’s possible that this seven month delay is inexcusable.

It’s also possible that it reflects the time DOJ took to come to other determinations about whether privileged information could be used to investigate a former President and if so how to obtain it.

Update: On both June 24,

I assure the American people that the Department of Justice will continue to follow the facts in this case and charge what the evidence supports to hold all January 6th perpetrators accountable.

And July 6,

The Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General encouraged the team to continue to follow the facts in this case and charge what the evidence supports to hold all January 6th perpetrators accountable.

Garland made statements reiterating his commitment to charge all perpetrators against whom the evidence supported charges.

19 Minutes: The Tuberville Call and DOJ’s Use of Obstruction in January 6 Prosecutions

Nine minutes after President Trump called Tommy Tuberville at 2:26PM on January 6 to ask him to raise more objections in an effort to delay the vote count, riot defendant Brady Knowlton entered the Capitol in what DOJ alleges was an intentional effort to delay the vote count.

Nineteen minutes after Trump placed that call, at 2:45PM, Knowlton entered the Senate Gallery, maybe fifteen minutes after Tuberville had told the President he had to hang up because the Senators were being evacuated because people like Knowlton were invading the Capitol.

A number of people have pointed me to this article on Tuesday’s hearing before Judge Randolph Moss in Knowlton’s challenge to DOJ’s use of 1512(c)(2) to charge those who, DOJ alleges, came to the insurrection with the intention of delaying or stopping the certification of the votes. Here’s my live thread of the hearing and my own post on it; I’ve linked some of my other posts on the application of obstruction below.

The article is a good summary of the legal questions around the application. But in my opinion, its emphasis does not adequately convey what went on at the hearing. For example, the headline and first three paragraphs emphasize Judge Moss’ concerns about constitutional vagueness, which Moss didn’t focus on until an hour into the hearing.

Lead felony charge against Jan. 6 defendants could be unconstitutionally vague, U.S. judge warns

A federal judge has warned that the lead felony charge leveled by the government against Capitol riot defendants could be unconstitutionally vague, potentially putting convictions at risk of being overturned on appeal.

U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss identified the latest hurdle for federal prosecutors investigating January’s attack on Congress during a two-hour hearing this week over whether to dismiss the “obstruction of an official proceeding” charge from a 10-count indictment against two men from Colorado and Utah.

Moss’s remarks highlight the challenge prosecutors have faced in defining the most severe criminal conduct allegedly committed on Jan. 6. Prosecutors have employed the obstruction charge rather than sedition or insurrection counts in accusing at least 235 defendants of corruptly disrupting Congress’s certification of the 2020 electoral-college vote.

It doesn’t mention how Moss started the hearing — by expressing skepticism about Knowlton’s argument — until the last line of the fourth paragraph.

Attorneys for Brady Knowlton and Patrick Montgomery claimed that specific offense did not apply to them, arguing that the joint House and Senate session that met Jan. 6 does not qualify as an official proceeding of Congress. Moss made clear he was not persuaded by that claim at this point. [my emphasis]

At least before Moss, then, this challenge faces an uphill climb (some of the other challenges to this application of obstruction make a slightly different legal argument that may have more promise of success). And while the WaPo piece notes that Moss asked for additional briefing from both sides, it doesn’t note what I consider a fairly major strategic error from Knowlton’s team: choosing to define an “official proceeding” as one in which the ultimate decision of the proceeding is an adjudication that has real import to the life and liberty of those involved.

In effect, Knowlton lawyer Brent Mayr claimed that Joe Biden (and the 81 million Americans who voted for him) would have suffered no harm if Congress had been so intimidated by the people roaming the hallways threatening their assassination that they certified Donald Trump as the victor of the 2020 election instead of Biden, or if the insurrectionists managed to cause lasting unrest that delayed the certification indefinitely, giving Trump a chance to attempt another desperate ploy to remain in power.

By making that argument, Mayr provided DOJ the opportunity to lay out — in the additional briefing Moss ordered — the real adjudication that took place on January 6 and the import to justice and rule of law that the adjudication had, something DOJ has done, albeit in less focused fashion, in other filings in this investigation. Mayr gave DOJ an opportunity to explain that there was a very real risk that the lawfully elected President of the United States would not have his victory officially recognized, which was precisely the goal, DOJ would argue, that Brady Knowlton sought.

Mayr gave DOJ that opportunity even amid heightened coverage of how real the threat of a travesty of justice was.

The reporting on Jeffrey Rosen’s testimony about Jeffrey Bossert Clark’s attempt to force DOJ to endorse Trump’s Big Lie makes it clear how corrupt all this was (showing corrupt intent is key to proving Knowlton or anyone else guilty of the obstruction charge).

Filling in just one more detail will tie together Trump’s efforts to recruit DOJ in telling his Big Lie and Brady Knowlton’s response to that Big Lie of flying to DC, invading the Capitol, and heading to the place where the vote was supposed to be counted.

[B]ody-worn camera footage from the Metropolitan Police Department [] shows Knowlton and [Knowlton’s co-defendant Patrick] Montgomery outside the Capitol at around 2:00 p.m.  In the video, Knowlton confronts officers who are making their way through the crowed and yells at them saying, “You took an oath! You took an oath!” and pointedly asking them, “Are you our brothers?” Montgomery is standing right behind Knowlton. The government also located another body-worn camera video of both defendants after they left the Senate Gallery, confronting officers inside the Capitol in a hallway near Senate Majority Leader Schumer’s office. In the video, both Knowlton and Montgomery direct officers to move out of the way. Knowlton tells the officers, “We don’t wanna push through there. We do not wanna push through there.” Knowlton also tells the officers, “This is happening. Our vote doesn’t matter, so we came here for change.”

That detail is that Donald Trump made an effort to ensure the Senators would still be there when Knowlton and others arrived.

“How’s it going, Tommy?” the president asked.

Taken a little aback, Lee said this isn’t Tommy.

“Well, who is this? Trump asked. “It’s Mike Lee,” the senator replied. “Oh, hi Mike. I called Tommy.”

Lee told the Deseret News he realized Trump was trying to call Sen. Tommy Tuberville, the newly elected Republican from Alabama and former Auburn University football coach. Lee walked his phone over to Tuberville who was talking to some colleagues.

“Hey, Tommy, I hate to interrupt but the president wants to speak with you,” Lee said.

Tuberville and Trump talked for about five to 10 minutes, Lee said, adding that he stood nearby because he didn’t want to lose his cellphone in the commotion. The two were still talking when panicked police ordered the Capitol to be evacuated because people had breached security.

As police were getting anxious for senators to leave, Lee walked over to retrieve his phone.

“I don’t want to interrupt your call with the president, but we’re being evacuated and I need my phone,” he said.

Tuberville said, “OK, Mr. President. I gotta go.”

To be clear: there’s no evidence that Knowlton had direct ties to Trump (though Knowlton is one of just seven defendants thus far from Utah, and a week after the riot, Rudy Giuliani appears to have been in contact with James Sullivan, the brother of defendant John Sullivan, who told Rudy he had gotten his “agent” and three others from Utah out of trouble). There’s even less evidence that, at the moment Knowlton crossed the threshold of the Capitol, he knew Trump had just tried to convince Tuberville to delay long enough for Knowlton to arrive in the Senate.

This is not yet a conspiracy that ties the President’s actions to obstruct the vote count with Brady Knowlton’s alleged actions to achieve the same goal.

But even as Brady Knowlton’s lawyers have argued that an official proceeding is one in which the parties can suffer dire consequences if rulings don’t go in their favor, more evidence is coming out about how Knowlton’s actions fit into a larger, undeniably corrupt scheme to deprive Joe Biden (and Kamala Harris, who was present and participating on that day) of their electoral win.

If that’s the standard, then Knowlton’s lawyers have made a compelling argument against his case.

The WaPo’s not wrong about the seriousness of this larger challenge. And whether or not this argument succeeds, it’s still not clear that DOJ will be able to prove that Knowlton had the requisite corrupt intent to delay the vote.

But Knowlton’s argument may be overtaken by the new evidence proving just how corrupt this effort was.


Posts on obstruction

July 17, 2021: General thoughts on the application of obstruction in advance of the Paul Hodgkins’ sentencing

June 4, 2021: How Ethan Nordean’s challenge to the application of obstruction degrades the challenge

June 14, 2021: How the III Percenter conspiracy indictment might use the threats of violence enhancement from the obstruction statute

July 31, 2021: How DOJ blew an opportunity to explain the difference between the Brett Kavanaugh protests and the January 6 rioters

July 27, 2021: How Donald Trump might be charged with obstruction

August 3, 2021: Brady Knowlton’s lawyer falsely claimed his client’s alleged obstruction posed no harm of injustice

August 4, 2021: Trump’s Big Lie demonstrates the threat of harm from insurrectionists’ obstruction

List of all obstruction challenges

 

“Leave the Rest to Me and the R Congressmen:” Trump’s Big Lie and the Actual Harm of January 6 Obstruction

As I noted, yesterday lawyers for January 6 defendant Brady Knowlton argued before Judge Randolph Moss that Congress’ certification of the vote count is not an official proceeding covered by the obstruction statute Knowlton was charged under. Knowlton’s argument was going as well as could be expected, in my opinion, until his attorney, Brent Mayr, argued that the vote certification was not an official proceeding because no one faced actual harm based on the outcome of the proceeding. Unbelievably, Mayr seems to have given zero consideration to the harm that the lawfully elected President, Joe Biden, might suffer if Congress failed to certify his win, to say nothing of the 81 million voters who voted for him.

The argument happened even as notes and other documents coming out of the House Oversight Committee make it how clear how real that risk was.

Before the notes that have been released start, Trump had already tweeted out an announcement for the January 6 “protest” on December 19.

Trump tweets: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election” and “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

On December 27, Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue took notes from a call where Trump laid out the alleged fraud that merited DOJ involvement. Donoghue noted Trump saying, “You guys may not be following the Internet the way I do.” Donoghue recorded multiple times that DOJ officials told Trump his election claims were wrong, detailing the investigations that DOJ had already done into the allegations. He recorded Trump’s intimation that he might start replacing people with Jeffrey Bossert Clark if they didn’t back his claims of fraud.

At one point, Trump demanded, “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.”

That day, Trump tweeted about the January 6 riot again.

December 27, 2020: Trump tweets, “See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Don’t miss it. Information to follow.”

The next day, Clark wrote a draft letter to Georgia instructing them to run another election. Donoghue responded, “There is no chance I would sign this letter or anything remotely like it.”

Days later, on January 1, Trump pitched the January 6 protest again, branding it an attempt to “stop the steal.”

Trump himself tweets, “The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C. will take place at 11:00 A.M. on January 6th. Locational details to follow. StopTheSteal!”

On January 2, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen reiterated, “I confirmed again today that I am not prepared to sign such a letter,” calling on Georgia to send alternate votes to Congress.

On January 3, Trump attempted to make good on the threat he made on December 27, to replace Rosen with someone who would help him steal the election, Clark. Because he didn’t want to distract from his efforts to overturn the election, Trump backed down.

[Clark] informed Mr. Rosen midday on [January 3] that the president intended to replace him with Mr. Clark, who could then try to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College results. He said that Mr. Rosen could stay on as his deputy attorney general, leaving Mr. Rosen speechless.

Unwilling to step down without a fight, Mr. Rosen said that he needed to hear straight from Mr. Trump and worked with the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, to convene a meeting for early that evening.

[snip]

Around 6 p.m., Mr. Rosen, Mr. Donoghue and Mr. Clark met at the White House with Mr. Trump, Mr. Cipollone, his deputy Patrick Philbin and other lawyers. Mr. Trump had Mr. Rosen and Mr. Clark present their arguments to him.

Mr. Cipollone advised the president not to fire Mr. Rosen and he reiterated, as he had for days, that he did not recommend sending the letter to Georgia lawmakers. Mr. Engel advised Mr. Trump that he and the department’s remaining top officials would resign if he fired Mr. Rosen, leaving Mr. Clark alone at the department.

Mr. Trump seemed somewhat swayed by the idea that firing Mr. Rosen would trigger not only chaos at the Justice Department, but also congressional investigations and possibly recriminations from other Republicans and distract attention from his efforts to overturn the election results.

After nearly three hours, Mr. Trump ultimately decided that Mr. Clark’s plan would fail, and he allowed Mr. Rosen to stay.

Mr. Rosen and his deputies concluded they had weathered the turmoil. Once Congress certified Mr. Biden’s victory, there would be little for them to do until they left along with Mr. Trump in two weeks. [my emphasis]

On the same day Trump tried to replace Rosen with Clark, January 3, he instructed his Acting Secretary of Defense to make sure the National Guard protected his supporters.

The following day, January 4, Trump made DOJ the lead agency for incident response on January 6 (Update: see comments–this happened on January 3). But the people who had almost just been replaced claim that didn’t happen. Whatever the reality, however, DOJ’s inaction is what led to DOD’s delayed response during the insurrection on January 6.

According to Mr. McCarthy, on January 4, the White House designated DOJ as the lead federal agency for January 6: “Sunday evening, after Acting Secretary Miller and General Milley met with the President, they got the lead [f]ederal agency established, all of the pieces started coming together.”559 Mr. Miller also recalled that DOJ was designated as the lead federal agency at some point prior to January 6, but he did not know what role the White House played in the decision.560

Although DOD understood that DOJ was designated as the lead federal agency, there appears to have been no clearly established point of contact within the department, according to Mr. McCarthy, which he found “concerning.”561 Prior to January 6, Mr. McCarthy sent a letter to Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen outlining the Army’s operational plan in support of the Mayor’s request and reached out informally to David Bowdich, FBI Deputy Director, because the two had worked together previously.562 But Mr. McCarthy claimed, even during the attack, he was never provided an official point of contact at DOJ and had no contact with DOJ or FBI officials until approximately 4:00 p.m. 563 General McConville also stated that DOJ was designated as the lead federal agency; however, he noted that DOJ did not conduct any interagency rehearsals or have an integrated security plan, as DOJ did during the summer 2020 protests when it had also been designated as the lead federal agency.564 General McConville stressed the importance of integrated security plans and acknowledged that had there been one on January 6, DOD’s response time would have been quicker.565

In contrast, Mr. Miller stated Richard Donoghue, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General, served as DOJ’s operational lead on January 6.566 Notably, however, Mr. Miller acknowledged that, during the attack, he convened calls with Cabinet members to share information and ensure everyone was on the same page.567 When asked why he convened the calls, as opposed to the lead federal agency, Mr. Miller responded, “somebody needed to do it.”568 Mr. Miller was not familiar with any actions DOJ took to coordinate the federal response on January 6.569

On May 12, 2021, Jeffrey Rosen, the Acting Attorney General on January 6, testified at a House Oversight hearing that it was “not accurate” that DOJ was the lead federal agency for security preparations on January 6. 570 He stated that DOJ’s responsibilities were specific to intelligence coordinating and information sharing.571 DOJ has not acknowledged that it was designated the lead federal agency for January 6 and has yet to fully comply with the Committees’ requests for information. 572

These are the events that led up to Brady Knowlton breaching Congress with hundreds and thousands of other people. This is the back story to what led Knowlton to tell a cop that his vote — for the losing candidate of the election — didn’t count, and so he had shown up in the Senate Gallery to make his voice heard.

And according to the President who had set off this attack on another branch of government, all he needed was the claim the election was corrupt. Leave the rest to Trump and the Republican members of Congress, he instructed.

Brady Knowlton’s presence in the Senate Gallery was instrumental to that plan. Knowlton was what Trump had in mind when he said, “leave the rest to me.” And Knowlton helped to intimidate Republican members of Congress to help Trump steal the vote.

Both Brady Knowlton and the then-President seem to have understood that storming Congress was a way to inflict an egregious harm on Joe Biden. And yet Knowlton’s lawyer claims no one would face an injustice if such a harm resulted.

The Hole in the Senate January 6 Report Created by DOJ’s Non-Cooperation

The Senate Rules/Homeland Security Report on January 6 is as helpful for the holes it identifies as it is for the questions it answers.

The most amazing hole pertains to the actions of the Secret Service. The report notes that the Secret Service attended a preparatory meeting on January 5, and like the FBI, Secret Service raised no warnings about the violent mob that their primary protectee was convening in DC.

He has stated that in a January 5 meeting with USCP leadership, members of the Capitol Police Board, and officials from the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and DCNG, no entity “provided any intelligence indicating that there would be a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists.”153

The Report notes that then-Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund called Secret Service and asked for help on the day of the riot.

At 1:01 p.m., Mr. Sund also requested assistance from the United States Secret Service.79

[snip]

Mr. Sund testified that he first contacted MPD, followed closely by the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division.457

But the language about the agencies that did come to help does not mention Secret Service.

After 3:00 p.m., additional reinforcements from federal agencies began to arrive, and USCP turned to extracting and securing congressional staff.111 A number of agencies and entities provided assistance, including DHS; the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Montgomery County Police Department; the Arlington County Police Department; the Fairfax Police Department; and Virginia State Troopers.112 With this help, USCP secured the Senate and House chambers, along with the basement, subways, first floor, and crypts by 4:28 p.m. 113 DCNG personnel began arriving at the Capitol at approximately 5:20 p.m.114 By 6:14 p.m., USCP, DCNG, and MPD successfully established a security perimeter on the west side of the Capitol building.115

We’ve been focusing for months on the delayed response from DOD, but all this time Secret Service’s role has gone little noticed (and I’m still interested in Park Police’s absence). The silence here suggests that Secret Service blew off an explicit call for help as a mob threatened both Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.

As the report notes, Secret Service’s lead agency, DHS, has not yet fully complied with the Senate’s information requests.

Most entities cooperated with the Committees’ requests. There were notable exceptions, however: the Department of Justice and DHS have yet to fully comply with the Committees’ requests for information, the Office of the House of Representatives Sergeant at Arms did not comply with the Committees’ information requests, and a USCP Deputy Chief of Police declined to be interviewed by the Committees.

As to DOD’s slow response in deploying the Guard on the day of the attack, the report suggests that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy had a key role in it.

There are multiple conflicting stories about what happened at DOD. It was clear from his testimony that former Acting Secretary Christopher Miller genuinely didn’t understand how much of a delay there was with the deployment of the National Guard. An important detail included in the report is that Miller believed the Guard had his okay to deploy by 3:04, but McCarthy dawdled until after 4:32, after other law enforcement had secured much of the Capitol.

By 4:32 p.m., Mr. McCarthy and his D.C. counterparts had agreed upon a “task and purpose” for DCNG, “identif[ied] link-up locations, and confirm[ed] key leaders at each site.”656 Accounts differ as to who within DOD needed to approve the final plan in order to deploy DCNG troops to the Capitol. Mr. McCarthy briefed Mr. Miller on the plan, who raised no objections.657 But Mr. Miller informed the Committees that he did not need to approve the plan—in his view, his 3:04 p.m. authorization was all encompassing and as soon as Mr. McCarthy and General Walker finished their mission analysis, DCNG had all necessary authorizations to deploy.658 General McConville informed the Committees that, although he did not know for sure, he believed Mr. Miller did need to approve the deployment plan.659

The reason why McCarthy dawdled is important, though.

After a bunch of conflicting excuses about the delay itself, there’s a section addressing why the Quick Reaction Force wasn’t deployed (ironically, given that the Oath Keepers seemed more prepared to release theirs than the entire DOD). After yet more conflicting excuses, McCarthy said that one reason the QRF couldn’t be deployed was because DOD needed to “link up with an organization and contact.”

General Walker also testified that the QRF was outfitted with all the equipment needed to go to the Capitol and was “ready to go” before 5:00 p.m.694 General McConville stated that “there was never an intent to have a quick reaction force going in to clear the Capitol.”695 Neither Mr. McCarthy nor Mr. Miller recalled whether the QRF had its civil disturbance gear available at Joint Base Andrews. Mr. McCarthy also noted that he was never informed that the QRF was at the Armory, equipped, and prepared to depart for the Capitol.696 When asked whether the QRF was properly equipped to respond to the Capitol, even if that was not the original intent, General McConville reiterated the importance of the assigned mission: “it depends on what the mission was.”697

Mr. McCarthy also acknowledged that, even if properly equipped, the QRF still needed to be briefed on the new mission.698 “I wanted to be clear of the concept for operations and how we were going to bring these [available DCNG personnel, including the QRF] together, make sure they ha[d] the right equipment, a clear understanding of their mission, and then link up with an organization and contact.

In other words, the reason the Pentagon couldn’t send a QRF to fight mobs prepared with their own QRF was because there was no lead agency to oversee them.

One of the most important sections of this report describes how Trump made DOJ — the same agency that had deployed even BOP officials during the summer — the lead agency on January 6. But DOJ did nothing. Miller explained that’s why he got so involved — because DOJ did nothing. “Somebody needed to do it,” he explained. And then McCarthy repeatedly used the lack of a lead federal agency as his excuse not to deploy the Guard. This discussion of DOJ’s disavowals of being the lead federal agency is one of the few areas where the report reiterates that an agency refused to cooperate with the Senate.

All DOD officials interviewed stressed the importance of the designation of a lead federal agency to support operations on January 6. The lead federal agency is “the nexus and locus for all information flow” and ensures that everything is coordinated and synchronized across federal agencies and departments.556 Mr. Miller noted that DOD “should never, ever be the lead federal agency for domestic law enforcement,” except for the establishment of martial law.557 Indeed, Mr. McCarthy required an agency to be designated before supporting the Mayor’s request for National Guard assistance. 558 According to Mr. McCarthy, on January 4, the White House designated DOJ as the lead federal agency for January 6: “Sunday evening, after Acting Secretary Miller and General Milley met with the President, they got the lead [f]ederal agency established, all of the pieces started coming together.”559 Mr. Miller also recalled that DOJ was designated as the lead federal agency at some point prior to January 6, but he did not know what role the White House played in the decision.560

Although DOD understood that DOJ was designated as the lead federal agency, there appears to have been no clearly established point of contact within the department, according to Mr. McCarthy, which he found “concerning.”561 Prior to January 6, Mr. McCarthy sent a letter to Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen outlining the Army’s operational plan in support of the Mayor’s request and reached out informally to David Bowdich, FBI Deputy Director, because the two had worked together previously.562 But Mr. McCarthy claimed, even during the attack, he was never provided an official point of contact at DOJ and had no contact with DOJ or FBI officials until approximately 4:00 p.m. 563 General McConville also stated that DOJ was designated as the lead federal agency; however, he noted that DOJ did not conduct any interagency rehearsals or have an integrated security plan, as DOJ did during the summer 2020 protests when it had also been designated as the lead federal agency.564 General McConville stressed the importance of integrated security plans and acknowledged that had there been one on January 6, DOD’s response time would have been quicker.565

In contrast, Mr. Miller stated Richard Donoghue, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General, served as DOJ’s operational lead on January 6.566 Notably, however, Mr. Miller acknowledged that, during the attack, he convened calls with Cabinet members to share information and ensure everyone was on the same page.567 When asked why he convened the calls, as opposed to the lead federal agency, Mr. Miller responded, “somebody needed to do it.”568 Mr. Miller was not familiar with any actions DOJ took to coordinate the federal response on January 6.569

On May 12, 2021, Jeffrey Rosen, the Acting Attorney General on January 6, testified at a House Oversight hearing that it was “not accurate” that DOJ was the lead federal agency for security preparations on January 6. 570 He stated that DOJ’s responsibilities were specific to intelligence coordinating and information sharing.571 DOJ has not acknowledged that it was designated the lead federal agency for January 6 and has yet to fully comply with the Committees’ requests for information. 572

In this post, I suggested the January 6 investigation hypothetically could (which is no guarantee it will) reach far more of the potentially criminal behavior than virtually everyone not following closely believes.

But in addition to the two areas where I expressed doubt that could happen — members of Congress, and DOD itself — this report makes it clear that DOJ remains a key subject that should be investigated.

It’s not at all clear that the FBI can or would investigate DOJ’s former top leaders.

Admittedly, DOJ — along with DOD, DHS, and Interior — is conducting a review of DOJ’s role that day and in weeks leading up to it (it’s not clear DHS’ review will include Secret Service, which has its own IG).

Review Examining the Role and Activity of DOJ and its Components in Preparing for and Responding to the Events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021

The DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is initiating a review to examine the role and activity of DOJ and its components in preparing for and responding to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The DOJ OIG will coordinate its review with reviews also being conducted by the Offices of Inspector General of the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of the Interior. The DOJ OIG review will include examining information relevant to the January 6 events that was available to DOJ and its components in advance of January 6; the extent to which such information was shared by DOJ and its components with the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal, state, and local agencies; and the role of DOJ personnel in responding to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. The DOJ OIG also will assess whether there are any weaknesses in DOJ protocols, policies, or procedures that adversely affected the ability of DOJ or its components to prepare effectively for and respond to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. If circumstances warrant, the DOJ OIG will consider examining other issues that may arise during the review.

The DOJ OIG is mindful of the sensitive nature of the ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions related to the events of January 6. Consistent with long-standing OIG practice, in conducting this review, the DOJ OIG will take care to ensure that the review does not interfere with these investigations or prosecutions.

DOJ IG has suggested that it is looking into the late Trump term shenanigans. But it’s not clear that it would look at why DOJ let a violent mob assault the Capitol.

Which, given the Senate report, is an issue that needs far more scrutiny.