Posts

John Durham Wants Permission to Delay Providing Evidence of How Weak His Michael Sussmann Case Is

Donald Trump’s insurrectionists may be the only thing that can save John Durham’s indictment of Michael Sussmann.

That’s because Durham seems to think he’ll need to have two extra months over what Sussmann gauges should be necessary, and permission to delay production of Brady materials, to sustain the single false statement charge over Sussmann. As a Sussmann motion to set a trial date submitted yesterday revealed, his team and Durham’s are having a significant disagreement over when the trial should be scheduled. Durham wants four months from now to turn over discovery and wants to schedule the trial for July, whereas Sussmann thinks the trial should be held in May.

Given two exhibits Sussmann included with this motion (and other publicly available documents), it’s easy to see why Durham wants more time.

That’s because Jim Baker has said at least four different things that conflict with the alleged lie that Durham claims Sussmann told in a September 19, 2016 meeting with then-FBI General Counsel Baker:

On or about September 19, 2016, SUSSMANN met with the FBI General Counsel at FBI Headquarters in the District of Columbia to convey the Russian Bank-1 allegations. No one else attended the meeting. During the meeting, the following, in substance and part, occurred:

SUSSMANN stated falsely that he was not acting on behalf of any client, which led the FBI General Counsel to understand that SUSSMANN was conveying the allegations as a good citizen and not as an advocate for any client;

SUSSMANN stated that he had been approached by multiple cyber experts concerning the Russian Bank-1 allegations;

SUSSMANN provided the names of three cyber experts, but did not name or mention Tech Executive-1, the Clinton Campaign, or any other person or company referenced [in Durham’s indictment];

Durham has charged Sussmann with affirmatively lying about representing a client in that meeting.

In an earlier post, I argued that Durham probably hadn’t actually quoted what transpired in this meeting because his sources (meaning Baker, Bill Priestap’s hearsay notes of Baker’s account of the meeting, and some CIA personnel Sussmann met at a later meeting) offered different versions of what Sussmann actually said.

It’s quite possible that Durham has presented these allegations using such squishy language because what little evidence he has doesn’t actually agree on the claimed lies. That is, it may be that Baker believes Sussmann simply didn’t bother explaining which client he was working for, but Bill Priestap, the next in line in a game of telephone, differently understood from Baker’s report that Sussmann affirmatively failed to provide Baker information that (Priestap’s own notes prove) the FBI already had anyway, that he was working with Hillary Clinton.

But it’s far worse than that.

Jim Baker doesn’t agree with Jim Baker about what happened in the meeting. Baker has provided at least four different versions of his understanding of why Sussmann shared the Alfa Bank information with him (I’ve got longer excerpts below). At an October 3, 2018 interview with the Oversight Committee (where Baker brought it up), he said, “I don’t recall [Sussmann] saying that,” he worked for the DNC. At an October 10, 2018 interview with the Oversight Committee, he told Jim Jordan he didn’t “remember [Sussmann] saying that he was acting on behalf of a particular client.” In a July 15, 2019 interview with DOJ IG, Baker explained that Sussmann said their meeting “related to strange interactions that some number of people that were his clients, who were, he described as I recall it, sort of cyber-security experts, had found about some strange connection between some part of Donald Trump’s organizations and Alfa Bank.” In a June 2020 interview with Durham’s team (which as a 302 may be less reliable than the other sources), Baker said, “it did not seem like Sussmann was representing a client. Baker repeated his earlier assertion that he did not know Sussmann was representing the DNC at the time and Sussmann did not advise him of that fact at this particular meeting.” Presumably, Baker testified to the grand jury, too, but that interview would have been after all of these earlier versions. In none of the publicly available versions of Baker’s story does Sussmann affirmatively say he was not representing the DNC or any other client, and in one case — the DOJ IG interview — Baker remembered Sussmann commenting that he had a client; and that version (which Sussmann wouldn’t have had access to before getting it in discovery) matches Sussmann’s public story.

As Sussmann noted in his filing, Durham dumped a whole bunch of discovery on him shortly after the indictment, but it has taken over two months to turn over the conflicting evidence that goes to the core of the alleged false statements.

While the Special Counsel has produced significant discovery since Mr. Sussmann’s Indictment, the Special Counsel has delayed in producing key evidence, which the Special Counsel was required to timely disclose under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Indeed, it was only last week—nearly two and a half months after Mr. Sussmann’s indictment, and in the face of persistent demands by Mr. Sussmann’s counsel—that the Special Counsel for the first time disclosed some (but not all) of Mr. Baker’s statements about the September 19, 2016 meeting.1

[snip]

1 Moreover, significant portions of the statements that were disclosed were redacted, an issue which defense counsel has raised with the Special Counsel.

Durham seems intent on similar delays in producing evidence undermining his case. Besides the two month date discrepancy, there are a few subtle but significant differences in their proposed schedules. In the proposed order scheduling order Sussmann has submitted, Durham would be, “under a continuing and ongoing obligation to provide defense counsel any favorable or exculpatory information (Brady), whether or not admissible in evidence, as soon as reasonably possible.” [my emphasis] Durham’s proposed version takes out the words, “as soon as reasonably possible.” Durham, of course, has already violated that part of Sussmann’s proposed scheduling order by sitting on multiple pieces of proof that have been in his and DOJ’s possession for over a year that undermine the claim Sussmann lied.

Durham may suspect the Brady discovery will make this indictment unsustainable. Durham’s more extended schedule would give Sussmann just two weeks after the final deadline for Brady discovery, from March 25 to April 8, to file the motion to dismiss he has already said he’d file. Sussmann’s more condensed schedule nevertheless gives himself three weeks, from January 28 to February 18, to incorporate classified Brady discovery into his motion to dismiss, and over a month, from January 14 to February 18, to incorporate unclassified Brady discovery.

From the start, I noted that this indictment really isn’t about the alleged false statement. Rather, Durham clearly wants to wrap this up into a grand Conspiracy to Defraud the US charge, incorporating Rodney Joffe, the researchers, Fusion GPS, and maybe Christopher Steele.

It’s not just that Durham is working on a theory that Sussmann deliberately dealt garbage to the FBI (which GOP sources also did on the Clinton Foundation) while trying to hide that fact. It’s that data originally sourced from the government was used in doing that research.

It’s actually the kind of argument that DOJ prosecutors typically succeed with. Except it’s all premised on proving that Sussman was trying to hide all this in his meeting with Baker. Even if the evidence surrounding the meeting weren’t so flimsy, this is another degree of motive that Durham is straining mightily to make.

Durham needs Sussmann to have lied, because a deliberate attempt to obscure the rest is necessary for his “storyline.” His evidence that Sussmann lied — much less, deliberately — is shoddy. But if he can’t get that, then his hopes for a larger “narrative” collapse.

So one thing Durham is likely trying to do with his delayed schedule is to buy time to try to make that claim stick. There are already several details that have been made public that show Durham will struggle to make this claim. Durham left out exculpatory details about the researchers in his indictment. The Federalist obtained — but downplayed — evidence that the researchers were not (as Durham insinuated in his indictment) involved with Fusion GPS.

Further, unlike Joffe, who worked hand-in-hand with Sussmann, according to Fusion GPS employee Laura Seago, who had worked on the Alfa project, she was not aware of anyone at Fusion GPS communicating with either [David] Dagon or [Manos] Antonakakis. And while she had heard Dagon’s name before, Seago first came across Antonakakis’s name in a newspaper article.

Antonakakis has not had any contact with Sussman, Marc Elias, or Fusion GPS, his lawyer Mark Schamel told The Federalist. “In this case,” Schamel added, “he reviewed a narrative presented to him by a well-known and respected researcher and provided his feedback, as he does for more than 100 unpublished research articles he receives every year.” Attorneys representing Lorenzen and Dagon did not return requests for comment.

Durham already confessed that he had no evidence Sussmann was working directly with the Hillary campaign on this. Most importantly, all the researchers believed and still believe that the Alfa Bank DNS data showed a real anomaly, and they first discovered it in a legitimate attempt to identify further attempts Russia made to tamper in the 2016 election. If that case were made to the jury, then Sussmann will be able to explain why Baker didn’t apparently think it all that important to ask who Sussmann was representing: because it was an alarming anomaly, no matter who brought it to the FBI.

Still, Durham is likely to get the time he wants. The backlog of trials for incarcerated pre-trial defendants in DC (including 70 or so January 6 defendants) will more likely dictate the trial date for Michael Sussmann than the substance of the dispute between the two of them.

Update: I should have also noted that Beryl Howell’s order tolling Speedy Trial because of COVID protocols will give Durham a way to get out of the 70 day Speedy Trial rule.


October 3, 2018 Oversight/HJC Interview

Mr. Baker. He told — he said that there had been — I’m not sure exactly how they originally learned about that information, but what he told me was that there were cyber — Mr. Meadows. I mean, is he a normal intel operative? How would he have come by this? Mr. Baker. He told me that he had cyber experts that had obtained some information that they thought they should get into the hands of the FBI.

[snip]

[Shen] Okay. So when Mr. Sussman came to you to provide some evidence, you were not specifically aware that he was representing the DNC or the Hillary Clinton campaign at the time? A I don’t recall, I don’t recall him specifically saying that at that time.

[snip]

Q Okay. So I guess it is just my interpretation, but I believe last round it was somewhat implied that if he did have an association to the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign that that might lead someone to believe that something improper was done. And I wonder if you could just explain to me, you know, why your view is that it was not improper because, just the mere notion that someone who is a Democrat or Republican, you know, comes to you with information, should that information somehow be discounted or considered less credible because of, you know, partisan affiliation? A Well, the FBI is responsible for protecting everybody in this country. Period, full stop. And we do that, without regard to who they are or what their political background is or anything else. If they believe they have evidence of a crime or believe they have been a victim of a crime, we will do what we can within our lawful authorities to protect them. And so when a citizen comes with evidence, we accept it. That is my, just general understanding over many, many years. We, the Bureau, we, the Department of Justice. And so that is how I construed what Michael was doing. It was, he believed he had evidence, again, either of a crime or of a national security threat, and he believed it was appropriate to provide it to us. When he did, I didn’t think there was anything improper about it whatsoever.

[snip]

Mr. Jordan. Okay. Do you know how Sussman got this material? Mr. Baker. What I recall is he told me that there were some cyber experts that somehow would come across this information and brought it somehow to his attention, and that they were alarmed at what it showed, and that, therefore, they wanted to bring it to the attention of the FBI. Mr. Jordan. Did he — Mr. Baker. They and Sussman. Mr. Jordan. They. Any names? Mr. Baker. I don’t think I ever found out who these experts were. Mr. Jordan. Did he indicate that he got this — may have got some of this information from the Democratic National Committee? Mr. Baker. I don’t recall him saying that. Mr. Jordan. Did you know when he was giving this information did you know he was working for — that he did extensive work for the DNC and the Clinton campaign? Mr. Baker. I am not sure what I knew about that at the time. I remember hearing about him in connection — when the bureau was trying to deal with the hack and investigating the hack, that my recollection is that Michael was involved in that process to some degree. I didn’t interact with him on that, so I am not sure if I knew that before this meeting or after, but I don’t recall him specifically saying —

October 18, 2018 Oversight/HJC Interview

Mr. Baker. To the best of my recollection, he told me that it had been obtained by some type of cyber experts, and I don’t know who — how they started their inquiry into this. But that is what he told me, that some certain cyber experts had obtained information about some anomalous looking thing having, to my knowledge, nothing to do with the dossier. But anyway — Mr. Jordan. Did he mention — did Fusion GPS play a role in him getting information that he subsequently gave to you? Mr. Baker. I don’t remember him mentioning Fusion GPS in connection with this material. Mr. Jordan. Did he mention at all when he was talking to you? Mr. Baker. Not to my recollection, no. Mr. Jordan. What about Glenn Simpson? Mr. Baker. Not on this thing, no. Mr. Jordan. How about Christopher Steele? Mr. Baker. No. Mr. Jordan. Okay. Did you meet with anyone else at Perkins Coie relative to this issue, Russia investigation issue?

[snip]

Mr. Baker. Yes, sir. And there was some effort — there was some belief that this was a — being conducted in a way so as to make it a covert communications channel. Mr. Jordan. Okay. And my first question would be how’d you get this? Did you ask that question? Mr. Baker. I did ask that question at a high level, yes. And he explained that he had obtained it from, again, cyber experts who had — who had obtained the information, and he said that the details of it would explain themselves. That’s my recollection. Mr. Jordan. And was he representing a client when he brought this information to you? Or just out of the goodness of his heart, someone gave it to him and he brought it to you? Mr. Baker. In that first interaction, I don’t remember him specifically saying that he was acting on behalf of a particular client. Mr. Jordan. Did you know at the time that he was representing the DNC in the Clinton campaign? Mr. Baker. I can’t remember. I have learned that at some point. I don’t — as I think I said last time, I don’t specifically remember when I learned that. So I don’t know that I had that in my head when he showed up in my office. I just can’t remember. Mr. Jordan. Did you learn that shortly thereafter if you didn’t know it at the time? Mr. Baker. I wish I could give you a better answer. I just don’t remember. Mr. Jordan. I mean, I just find that unbelievable that the guy representing the Clinton campaign, the Democrat National Committee, shows up with information that says we got this, and you don’t ask where he got it, you didn’t know how he got it. But he got it from some, you know, quote, expert. Mr. Baker. Well, if I could respond to that. Mr. Jordan. Sure. Mr. Baker. I mean, so I was uncomfortable with being in the position of having too much factual information conveyed to me, because I’m not an agent. And so I wanted to get this — get the information into the hands of the agents as quickly as possible and let them deal with it. If they wanted to go interview Sussmann and ask him all those kind of questions, fine with me. Mr. Jordan. Did that happen? Mr. Baker. I don’t know that. But I — I mean, I — well, A, I did hand it off to the — to the investigators. Mr. Jordan. I think you told us you handed it off to Mr. Strzok and Mr. Priestap? Mr. Baker. My recollection is Mr. Priestap. Mr. Jordan. Okay. And you don’t know if they followed up or not? Mr. Baker. Bill Priestap told me that they did follow up extensively.

July 15, 2019 OIG interview

Did you generally have a sense that they represented, that their political law practice had a Democratic clientele?

MR. BAKER: Maybe I should have, but I didn’t really understand it at the time.

MS. TERZAKEN: Is that right?

MR. BAKER: I did not, no.

MS. TERZAKEN: Okay.

MR. BAKER: I came to understand, you know, that, that Perkins-Coie was playing a role with respect to the DNC hack. But the, the extensiveness of their contacts with the Democratic Party, I did not, at the time, have an understanding about, that I recall.

[snip]

MS. TERZAKEN: Okay. With Michael Sussman, your conversations with him before the election, if you could briefly describe how the conversations came about, what information he provided to you.

MR. BAKER: So, I’ll go into the Sussman stuff, yeah, okay. So he came in, he, he, all of this is gone over in the transcript with the committee, so I won’t, I’ll try to just summarize briefly. My basic recollection is, in some way, shape, or form, Michael reached out, and wanted to come in and meet with me. And so we scheduled that. So Michael came in and met with me. And he had some amount of information, physical evidence, printed out, and also a thumb drive or two, that he said related to strange interactions that some number of people that were his clients, who were, he described as I recall it, sort of cyber-security experts, had found about some strange connection between some part of Donald Trump’s organizations and Alfa Bank, which was described as being controlled by the Kremlin. And that it appeared to be the case that this was a, it was, it, it was surmised that this was a back-channel, what do you call it, a back-channel of electronic communications. That, that somehow the Trump organization and Alfa Bank were using this, what looked like a, basically a surreptitious channel to communicate with each other.

June 2020 Durham interview (302)

Sussmann arrived at Baker’s office alone and gave Baker some electronic media and some paper approximately one inch thick. He and Baker met alone in Baker’s office, with no one else present. Sussmann advised Baker that some cyber security researchers had discovered the information and brought it to Sussmann’s attention. The information purported to describe a digital relationship between the Trump organization and Alfa Bank, and Sussmann gave Baker a technical description of that relationship. Sussmann also told Baker he thought it was important for the FBI to have the information. Sussmann also told Baker that the press had the information. Baker said that Sussmann did not specify that he was representing a client regarding the matter, nor did Baker ask him if he was representing a client. Baker said it did not seem like Sussmann was representing a client. Baker repeated his earlier assertion that he did not know Sussmann was representing the DNC at the time and Sussmann did not advise him of that fact at this particular meeting. Baker also said he did not know Sussmann’s firm, Perkins Coie, represented the Hillary Clinton campaign. Baker does not recall Sussmann advising him of the rationale for the cybersecurity researchers bringing the information to him. Additionally, Baker recalls Sussmann telling him that he believed the information was serious and credible. Baker said the meeting with Sussmann lasted approximately 15-20 minutes and he described it as short and cordial. He did not feel there was anything inappropriate about Sussmann meeting with him and providing the information to him.

[snip]

Baker said he could not recall telling Priestap at that time that Sussmann represented the DNC and the Clinton Foundation, but he (Baker) may have known it at the time.

 

Ten Things TV Lawyers Can Do Rather than Whinging about Merrick Garland

I continue to have little patience for the people–many of them paid to expound as lawyers on TV–who spend their time whinging that Merrick Garland is not moving quickly enough to hold Trump accountable rather than spending their time doing other more productive things to protect democracy.

I’m not aware that any of these people has tracked the January 6 investigation closely enough to name those one or two degrees away from the former President who have been charged or are clearly subjects of investigation. Similarly, I’ve seen none do reporting on the current status of Rudy Giuliani’s phones, which after a Special Master review will release a bunch of information to prosecutors to use under any warrant that DOJ might have. Indeed, many of the same people complain that Trump has not been accountable for his Ukraine extortion, without recognizing that any Ukraine charges for Trump would almost certainly have to go through that Rudy investigation. The approval for the search on Rudy’s phones may have been among the first decisions Lisa Monaco made as Deputy Attorney General.

It’s not so much that I’m certain DOJ would prosecute Trump for his serial attempts to overthrow democracy. There are tea leaves that DOJ could get there via a combination of working up from pawns who stormed the Capitol and down from rooks referred from the January 6 Commission. But I’m more exasperated with the claims that there were crimes wrapped with a bow (such as Trump’s extortion of Ukraine) that Garland’s DOJ could have charged on March 11, when he was sworn in. Even the Tom Barrack prosecution, a Mueller referral which reportedly was all set to indict in July 2020, took six months after Biden’s inauguration before it was indicted. The January 6 investigation started less than eleven months ago; eleven months into the Russian investigation, Coffee Boy George Papadopoulos had not yet been arrested and he was still months away from pleading guilty, on a simple false statements charge. We have no idea how much deliberate damage Billy Barr did to other ongoing investigations arising out of the Mueller investigation, but his public actions in the Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort cases suggests it is likely considerable. As for the January 6 investigation, as I’ve noted, it took nine months from the time FBI learned that a Capitol Police Officer had warned Jacob Hiles to delete his Facebook posts until the time DOJ indicted Michael Riley on two counts of obstruction. To imagine that DOJ would have already indicted Trump on anything he might be hypothetically under investigation at this point, particularly relating to January 6, is just denial about how long investigations take, even assuming the subject were not the former President with abundant access to free or RNC-provided legal representation.

It’s not that I don’t understand the gravity of the threat. I absolutely share the panic of those who believe that if something doesn’t happen by midterms, Republicans will take over the House and shut every last bit of accountability down. I agree the threat to democracy is grave.

But there is no rule that permits DOJ to skip investigative steps and due process simply because people have invested in DOJ as the last bulwark of democracy, or because the target is the greatest threat to democracy America has faced since the Civil War. DOJ investigations take time. And that is one reason why, if people are hoping some damning indictment will save our democracy, they’re investing their hopes in the wrong place, because an investigation into Trump simply will not be rolled out that quickly. Even if Trump were indicted by mid-terms, the Republicans have invested so much energy into delegitimizing rule of law it’s not clear it would sway Fox viewers or even independent voters.

I can’t tell you whether DOJ will indict Trump. I can tell you that if they do, it will not come in time to be the one thing that saves democracy.

And so, because I believe the panicked hand-wringing is about the least productive way to save democracy, I made a list. Here are ten way that TV lawyers could better spend their time than whinging that Merrick Garland hasn’t indicted Donald Trump yet:

  1. Counter the propaganda effort to treat the Jan 6 defendants as martyrs.
  2. Explain how brown and black defendants actually faced worse conditions in the DC jail — and have complained with no results for years.
  3. Explain how DOJ has lost cases against white terrorists (including on sedition charges) in the past.
  4. Describe what really goes into an indictment, what kind of evidence is required, how long it takes, and the approvals that are needed to help people understand what to really expect.
  5. Emphasize the prosecutions/charges/investigations that have or are occurring.
  6. Describe the damage done by Trump’s pardons.
  7. Describe the way that even loyal Trumpsters will be and have been harmed as he corrupts the rule of law.
  8. Focus on the efforts of Chuck Grassley, Jim Jordan, James Comer, and Ron Johnson to undercut the investigation into Project Veritas’ suspected theft of Ashely Biden’s diary
  9. Explain how shoddy John Durham’s indictments are.
  10. Focus on the legal threats to democracy in the states.

Counter the propaganda effort to treat the Jan 6 defendants as martyrs

Whether or not Trump is ever charged with crimes related to January 6, the right wing noise machine has already kicked into gear trying to make it harder to prosecute other culprits for the January 6 riot. They’ve done so by falsely claiming:

  • The event was just a protest like the protests of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, a claim DOJ already debunked, in part by showing that the Kavanaugh protestors who briefly halted his confirmation hearing had been legally admitted.
  • They’re being treated more harshly than those who used violence at BLM or Portland protests. DOJ has submitted multiple filings showing that such claims are based on cherry-picked data that ignore the state charges many of these defendants face, the better quality of evidence against Jan 6ers (in part because they bragged about their actions on social media), and the more heinous goal of the protest involved.
  • Large numbers of non-violent January 6 are being held in pretrial detention. In reality, the overwhelming majority of those detained were charged either in a militia conspiracy or for assaulting cops. The exceptions to this rule are generally people (like Brandon Fellows or Thomas Robertson) who violated pretrial release conditions. Additionally, a good number of those accused of assaulting cops have been released.
  • January 6 defendants are subjected to especially onerous treatment in jail. Many of the conditions they’re complaining about are COVID restrictions imposed on all detainees (though often more restrictive for those who, like a lot of January 6 defendants, choose not to get vaccinated). And in an inspection triggered by January 6 defendant Christopher Worrell’s complaints, the Marshals determined that the other part of the DC jail violated Federal standards, though the part in which the Jan 6ers are held did not.
  • January 6 defendants are just patriots trying to save the country. In reality, of course, these people were attempting to invalidate the legal votes of 81 million Americans.

Again, all these claims are easily shown to be false. But far too many people with a platform are allowing them to go unanswered, instead complaining that DOJ is not doing enough to defend the rule of law. This sustained effort to turn the Jan 6ers into martyrs will achieve real hold unless it is systematically countered.

Explain how brown and black defendants actually faced worse conditions in the DC jail — and have complained with no results for years

As noted above, after Proud Boy assault defendant Worrell complained about the treatment he received in DC jail, the Marshals conducted a snap inspection. They discovered that the older part of the DC jail, one housing other detainees but not Jan 6ers, did not meet Federal standards and have started transferring those detainees to a prison in Pennsylvania.

What has gotten far less attention is that problems with the DC jail have been known for decades. Even though the problems occasionally have gotten passing attention, in general it has been allowed to remain in the inadequate condition the Marshals purportedly discovered anew because a white person complained.

This is an example, then, when a white person has claimed himself to be the victim when, in fact, it’s yet another example of how brown and black people have less access to justice than similarly situated white people.

This development deserves focused attention, most of all because it is unjust. But such attention will flip the script that Jan 6ers are using in an attempt to get sympathy from those who don’t understand the truth.

Explain how DOJ has lost cases against white terrorists (including on sedition charges) in the past

There’s a lot of impatience that DOJ hasn’t simply charged January 6 defendants with sedition or insurrection.

Thus far, DOJ has chosen to use a less inflammatory and more flexible statute, obstruction, instead. Obstruction comes with enhancements — for threatening violence or especially obstructive behavior — that DOJ has used to tailor sentencing recommendations.

The wisdom of this approach will soon be tested, as several DC Judges weigh challenges to the application of the statute. If the application is overturned, it’s unclear whether DOJ will charge something else, like sedition, instead.

But DOJ probably chose their current approach for very good reason: because sedition is harder to prove than obstruction, and in the past, white terrorists have successfully beaten such charges. That’s true for a lot of reasons, partly because the absence of a material support statute makes association with a right wing terrorist group harder to prosecute.

A cable personality whom I have great respect for — NBC’s Barb McQuade — knows this as well as anyone, as she was US Attorney when a sedition conspiracy case against the Hutaree collapsed. In that case, DOJ had trouble proving that defendants wanted to overthrow the US government, the kind of evidentiary claim that DOJ will face in January 6 trials, even as currently charged.

There are real challenges to prosecuting white terrorism. Some education on this point would alleviate some of the impatience about the charging decisions DOJ has made.

Describe what really goes into an indictment, what kind of evidence is required, how long it takes, and the approvals that are needed to help people understand what to really expect

In the period between the time Steve Bannon was referred to DOJ for contempt and the time he was charged, a number of commentators used the delay to explain what it takes to get an indictment (against a high profile political figure) that stands a chance of work; one good example is this column by Joyce Vance.

There have been and are numerous examples of similar delays — the Tom Barrack indictment and the Rudy Giuliani Special Master review are two — that offer similar teaching opportunities about the process and protections involved in indicting someone.

Due process takes time. And yet in an era of instant gratification, few people understand why that’s the case. If we’re going to defend due process even while trying to defend our democracy, more education about what due process involves would temper some of the panic.

Emphasize the prosecutions/charges/investigations against Trump that have or are occurring

Given the din calling for prosecution of Donald Trump, you’d think none of his associates had been prosecuted. As Teri Kanefield noted the other day, it would be far better if, instead of saying Trump had suffered no consequences for his actions, there was some focus instead on where he had.

Trump’s business is currently under indictment with multiple investigations into it ongoing. His charity was shut down and fined for self-dealing. Trump’s Inauguration Committee will be civilly tried for paying above market rates to Trump Organization.

His Campaign Manager, his National Security Advisor, his Coffee Boy, his Rat-Fucker, and one of his personal lawyers were found guilty of lying to cover up what really happened with Russia in 2016. Several of these men (as well as a top RNC donor) also admitted they were secretly working for frenemy countries, including (in Mike Flynn’s case), while receiving classified briefings as Trump’s top national security aide. Trump’s biggest campaign donor, Tom Barrack, is being prosecuted for using the access he purchased to Trump to do the bidding of the Emirates. Another of Trump’s personal lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, is under investigation for the same crime, secretly working for another country while claiming to represent the interests of the President of the United States.

The sheer scale of this is especially breathtaking when you consider the projection the GOP has — successfully — focused on Hunter Biden for similar crimes. Even with years of effort and help from Russia, the GOP has not yet been able to prove that the President’s son’s influence peddling or potential tax accounting violated the law. Yet the GOP continues to focus on him relentlessly, even as the long list of Republicans who admit to the same crime continues to grow.

Trump has already proven to be the most corrupt president in some time, possibly ever. And instead of relentless messaging about that, Democrats are complaining about Merrick Garland.

Describe the damage done by Trump’s pardons

One reason why it’s hard to focus on all those criminal prosecutions is because Trump pardoned his way out of it. With the exception of Michael Cohen and Rick Gates, all the people who lied to cover up his Russian ties were pardoned, as was Steve Bannon and others who personally benefitted Trump.

Perhaps because these pardons happened in the wake of January 6, Trump avoided some of the shame he might otherwise have experienced for these pardons. But for several reasons, there should be renewed attention to them.

That’s true, for starters, because Trump’s pardons put the entire country at risk. By pardoning Eddie Gallagher for war crimes, for example, the US risks being treated as a human rights abuser by international bodies. The military faces additional disciplinary challenges. And those who cooperated against Gallagher effectively paid a real cost for cooperating against him only to see him escape consequences.

Paul Manafort’s pardon is another one that deserves renewed attention. That’s true not just because the pardon ended up halting the forfeiture that otherwise would have paid for the Mueller investigation, the cost of which right wingers claimed to care about. It’s true because Trump has basically dismissed the import of industrial scale tax cheating (even while right wingers insinuate that Hunter Biden might have made one error on his taxes). And finally, it’s true because Trump made an affirmative choice that a guy who facilitated Russia’s effort to undermine democracy in 2016, sharing information directly with someone deemed to be a Russian spy, should not be punished for his actions.

Finally, there should be renewed attention on what Trump got for his pardons. Did Steve Bannon and Mike Flynn pay central roles in January 6 in exchange for a pardon?

The US needs some means to prohibit such self-serving pardons like Trump pursued. But in the meantime, there needs to be some effort to shame Trump for relying on such bribes to stay out of prison himself.

Describe the way that even loyal Trumpsters will be and have been harmed as he corrupts the rule of law

Donald Trump pardoned Steve Bannon for defrauding a bunch of Trump loyalists. According to very recent reporting, Sidney Powell is under investigation (and being abandoned by her former allies) on suspicion she defrauded the thousands of Trump supporters who sent money to support her election conspiracy theories.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party continues to dump money into protecting Trump for his own crimes, even as Republicans lose races that could have benefitted from the money.

However, some RNC members and donors accused the party of running afoul of its own neutrality rules and misplacing its priorities. Some of these same officials who spoke to CNN also questioned why the party would foot the legal bills of a self-professed billionaire who was sitting on a $102 million war chest as recently as July and has previously used his various political committees to cover legal costs. According to FEC filings from August, the former President’s Make America Great Again committee has paid Jones Day more than $37,000 since the beginning of the year, while his Make America Great

Again super PAC has paid a combined $7.8 million to attorneys handling his lawsuits related to the 2020 election.

“This is not normal. Nothing about this is normal, especially since he’s not only a former President but a billionaire,” said a former top RNC official.

“What does any of this have to do with assisting Republicans in 2022 or preparing for the 2024 primary?” the official added.

Bill Palatucci, a national committeeman from New Jersey, said the fact that the RNC made the payments to Trump’s attorneys in October was particularly frustrating given his own plea to party officials that same month for additional resources as the New Jersey GOP sought to push Republican Jack Ciattarelli over the finish line in his challenge to incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

“We sure as heck could have used $121,000,” Palatucci told CNN.

Loyal Trumpsters are the victim of one after another grift, and that should be emphasized to make it clear who is really taking advantage of them.

And one after another former Trump loyalist get themselves in their own legal trouble. One of the messages Michael Cohen tried to share in his testimony before going to prison was that “if [other Republicans] follow blindly, like I have,” they will end up like he did, going to prison. Hundreds of January 6 defendants — some of whom imagined they, too, might benefit from Trump’s clemency (they still might, but they’ll have to wait) — are learning Cohen’s lesson the hard way.

Kleptocracy only benefits those at the top. And yet Trump’s supporters continue to aggressively pursue policies that will make the US more of a kleptocracy.

It’s fairly easy to demonstrate the damage degrading rule of law in exchange for a kleptocracy is. Except average people aren’t going to understand that unless high profile experts make that case.

Focus on the efforts of Chuck Grassley, Jim Jordan, James Comer, and Ron Johnson to undercut the investigation into Project Veritas’ suspected theft of Ashely Biden’s diary

The Project Veritas scandal remains obscure and may never amount to charges against PV itself. Yet even as it has become clear that DOJ is investigating theft, key Republicans Chuck Grassley, Jim Jordan, James Comer, and Ron Johnson are trying to shut down the investigation into that theft. Chuck Grassley’s efforts to do so are particularly noxious given that a long-term staffer of his, Barbara Ledeen, is a sometime co-conspirator of Project Veritas.

Republicans have undermined legitimate investigations into Trump, over and over, with little pushback from the press. This is an example where it would seem especially easy to inflict a political cost (especially since Grassley is up for re-election next year).

It would be far more useful, in defending rule of law, to impose political costs on undermining the investigations that commentators are demanding from DOJ than it is to complain (incorrectly) that such investigations aren’t happening. Merrick Garland (however imperfect) is not the enemy of rule of law here, Jim Jordan is.

Explain how shoddy John Durham’s indictments are

One of the complaints that David Rothkopf made in the column that kicked off my latest bout of impatience with the hand-wringing about Garland complained that Garland “is letting” Durham charge those who raise concerns about Trump’s ties to Russia, even while (Rothkopf assumes) ignoring Trump’s own efforts to obstruct the investigation.

We have seen that Garland is letting the highly politicized investigation of special prosecutor John Durham into the conduct of the Trump-Russia investigation continue (by continuing its funding). We therefore have the real prospect that those who sought to look into the Trump-Russia ties that both Mueller and Congressional investigations have demonstrated were real, unprecedented and dangerous might be prosecuted while those who actively sought the help of a foreign enemy to win an election will not be.

As I have noted, both of Durham’s indictments have been shoddy work, hanging charges on Twitter rants and other hearsay evidence.

And while there was some worthwhile criticism of the Michael Sussmann indictment (perhaps because he’s well-connected in DC), Democrats seem to take Durham’s word that Igor Danchenko — and not Christopher Steele or Russian disinformation — is responsible for the flaws in the dossier. Perhaps as a result, the legal experts who could point out how ridiculous it is to rely on a Twitter feed for a key factual claim have remained silent.

With such silence, it is not (just) Garland who “is letting [Duram’s] highly politicized investigation” continue unchecked, but also the experts whose criticism could do something to rein him in.

If the investigation is politicized — and it is — then Durham is a far more appropriate target than Garland.

Focus on the legal threats to democracy in the states

There has, admittedly, been deserved focus on the ways Republicans are chipping away at democratic representation in the states.

But that is where the battle for democracy is being fought. And in most of the states where Trump attempted to undermine the 2020 election, there are follow-on legal issues, whether it’s the investigation into the suspected voting machine theft in Colorado (including into a former campaign manager for Lauren Boebert), a seemingly related investigation in Ohio, or the effort to criminalize efforts to ease voting by seniors during the pandemic in Wisconsin.

Republicans are trying to criminalize democracy. That makes it all the more important to ensure that the call for rule of law remains laser focused on the criminal efforts to cheat to win, if for no other reason than to shame those involved.

The threat to democracy is undoubtedly grave. Republicans are deploying their considerable propaganda effort into legitimizing that attack on democracy (even while suggesting Biden has committed the kind of graft that Trump engaged in non-stop, classic projection).

In the face of that unrelenting effort, expert commentators who support democracy have a choice: They can defend the rule of law and shame those who have denigrated it, or they can spend their time complaining about the guy trying, however imperfectly, to defend it himself. The latter will make Garland less able to do his job, the former will help him do whatever he is willing and able to do.

Update: Added “suspected” to the PV bullet.

Killer Clown Attacks American’s Freedoms…and Dr. Fauci

Rep. Jim “Begged Witness Not to Squeal” Jordan went off on Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during the first round of questioning of Friday’s House Select Committee on COVID Oversight hearing.

The point of the hearing was to address the lack of a national strategy to contain COVID-19.

Jordan, as usual, derailed the hearing’s focus to score political points with Trump.

Fauci can’t say that any crowd is better than another at this point, not just because he’s supposed to provide ideology-free advice as a medical professional — not to mention Fauci can’t advocate shutting down an exercise of the First Amendment when Jordan asks “Should we limit the protesting?”

The doctor can’t say anything which would encourage activity in groups even with masks because it’s just too risky right now.

But Jordan, being the circus clown he is, continues to harangue Fauci in pursuit of usable digital content to help Trump’s agenda. Content later used like this idiotic context-sanitized bullshit:

Take a look around the internet; the right-wing horde seized on Jordan’s clown show with ALL CAPS and wrestling-action verbs like EXPOSES, HAMMERS, PRESSES, CRUSHES to describe Jordan’s antics. (Sadly, C-SPAN used “grills” which isn’t neutral.)

Fauci was too nice and too cautious on this point; he could have pointed to Trump’s misbegotten Tulsa campaign rally and Herman Cain’s subsequent death from COVID-19 but he didn’t.

Nor did Fauci refer to the study later submitted to the record which analyzed COVID-19 case counts after anti-racism protests.

The study found the protests did not result in increased COVID-19 cases.

Source:

Dave, Dhaval and Friedson, Andrew and Matsuzawa, Kyutaro and Sabia, Joseph and Safford, Samuel, Black Lives Matter Protests, Social Distancing, and COVID-19 (June 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27408, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3632635

So no, Killer Clown Jordan, protests in the streets against systemic racism in policing by mask-wearing participants do not increase COVID-19 cases or deaths.

If you want to be technical about it, there have been too many anecdotes of events indoors like church choir practices which have resulted in clusters of COVID-19 cases and deaths. These kinds of meetings needed to be outdoors with participants wearing masks, even if socially distanced and washing hands as appropriate. Being indoors was the key problem along with not wearing masks.

But there’s one more problem with the clown show Jordan put on.

What Jordan did with his usual ignorant and loud routine was not to educate the public, not to encourage an improvement in services from NIAID or CDC or Dr. Fauci.

What Jordan did with his typical filibuster is to continue to obstruct development of a national response to COVID-19.

What Jordan did was to continue the political genocide and ethnic cleansing of Americans by ensuring federal services are withheld under a national response to the pandemic.

Jordan denied Americans, particularly those in blue cities and minority communities, honest goods and services to which they are entitled. He’ll get away with it, though, because his circus act will fall under Speech or Debate.

Jim Jordan, killer clown, in name and in fact.

 

This is an open thread.

Jim Jordan, Killer Clown

You’ll want to read Marcy’s post about Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on politicization of the Department of Justice.

One thing that continues to bother the hell out of me: Republican Rep. Jim Jordan’s clown-y assholishness. It’s now his brand. He’s the GOP caucus’s id — the Goofus-looking, tantrum-throwing, jacket-avoiding persona happily adopted by the right-wing as a model for their party.

He’s a creepy bad clown whose running gags and interstitial bits aren’t funny or amusing; they’re meant to harass, ridicule, and obstruct Congress’s little-d democratic processes.

While he was repeatedly offered other GOP members’ time during the hearing to question the witnesses called before the committee, he made a point of not wearing his mask and yelling at the same time.

(Aside: there’s a paper waiting to be written about clowns who refuse to wear masks.)

He attended the rally in Tulsa this past weekend and like nearly everyone else in that venue in attendance, didn’t wear a mask and is now potentially an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19.

With this routine Jordan didn’t respect the well being of his fellow members of Congress. He showed he’s willing to hurt other members of Congress for his personal and partisan political aims.

Just scroll through the hearing video beginning with his opening remarks at 9:26 —

Perhaps Jordan was chosen as HJC ranking member to do all the heavy lifting for the GOP side of the committee exactly because he yells during his tantrums, attracting media’s attention thereby starving Democrats of oxygen for their side.

While his outbursts have been annoying in the past, this time Jordan forcefully pushed aerosolized exhalation through the hearing room Wednesday after being in proximity with others exposed to COVID-19 with Team Trump in Tulsa. He may have deliberately blown biological material around the hearing room, like so:

And perhaps he was chosen because his district OH-4 isn’t likely to give him a lot of crap since a good-sized chunk is rural.

OH-4 is also not as heavily impacted by COVID-19 as other more urban congressional districts in Ohio.

The counties in his district are Allen, Auglaize, Champaign, Crawford, Logan, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby and Union counties and parts of Erie, Huron, Lorain, Marion, and Mercer counties. Check them against the most recent COVID-19 data for the state of Ohio:

County Confirmed Deaths Cases per 1M people Recovered
Ohio – total 47651 2772 4127 No data
Adams County 20 1 703 No data
Allen County 261 38 2460 No data
Ashland County 46 0 865 No data
Ashtabula County 413 42 4075 No data
Athens County 29 1 448 No data
Auglaize County 93 3 2029 No data
Belmont County 516 21 7356 No data
Brown County 50 1 1119 No data
Butler County 1301 41 3516 No data
Carroll County 46 3 1598 No data
Champaign County 37 1 930 No data
Clark County 703 8 5106 No data
Clermont County 300 6 1506 No data
Clinton County 55 0 1312 No data
Columbiana County 1033 59 9603 No data
Coshocton County 64 0 1732 No data
Crawford County 126 5 2904 No data
Cuyahoga County 6111 346 4811 No data
Darke County 230 25 4355 No data
Defiance County 43 3 1106 No data
Delaware County 449 15 2518 No data
Erie County* 221 22 2879 No data
Fairfield County 438 15 2978 No data
Fayette County 45 0 1553 No data
Franklin County 8310 378 6311 No data
Fulton County 54 0 1270 No data
Gallia County 9 1 291 No data
Geauga County 372 41 3990 No data
Greene County 187 9 1148 No data
Guernsey County 49 3 1227 No data
Hamilton County 4337 191 5419 No data
Hancock County 68 1 906 No data
Hardin County 108 11 3373 No data
Harrison County 12 1 757 No data
Henry County 23 0 820 No data
Highland County 39 1 898 No data
Hocking County 75 7 2552 No data
Holmes County 169 3 3954 No data
Huron County 144 1 2420 No data
Jackson County 17 0 512 No data
Jefferson County 75 2 1090 No data
Knox County 36 1 588 No data
Lake County 390 17 1697 No data
Lawrence County 55 0 880 No data
Licking County 351 11 2099 No data
Logan County 51 0 1116 No data
Lorain County 889 67 2947 No data
Lucas County 2534 299 5759 No data
Madison County 179 8 4124 No data
Mahoning County 1682 227 7089 No data
Marion County 2717 36 41035 No data
Medina County 441 31 2545 No data
Meigs County 10 0 422 No data
Mercer County 259 8 6342 No data
Miami County 413 30 4015 No data
Monroe County 83 16 5691 No data
Montgomery County 1465 22 2725 No data
Morgan County 6 0 399 No data
Morrow County 111 1 3185 No data
Muskingum County 71 1 823 No data
Noble County 6 0 408 No data
Ottawa County 124 23 2995 No data
Paulding County 22 0 1133 No data
Perry County 26 1 716 No data
Pickaway County 2150 41 38400 No data
Pike County 19 0 664 No data
Portage County 382 58 2364 No data
Preble County 55 1 1307 No data
Putnam County 107 15 3120 No data
Richland County 296 4 2397 No data
Ross County 89 2 1137 No data
Sandusky County* 112 13 1844 No data
Scioto County 28 0 353 No data
Seneca County 31 2 549 No data
Shelby County 55 4 1115 No data
Stark County 977 107 2605 No data
Summit County 1839 202 3407 No data
Trumbull County 771 57 3684 No data
Tuscarawas County 454 10 4908 No data
Union County 73 1 1384 No data
Van Wert County 20 0 699 No data
Vinton County 22 2 1646 No data
Warren County 649 20 3020 No data
Washington County 120 20 1943 No data
Wayne County 343 52 2993 No data
Williams County 60 1 1596 No data
Wood County 345 51 2730 No data
Wyandot County 55 4 2424 No data
Key:
= District OH-11
= County split with OH-11
* = Pivot county

Based on the data above provided by The New York Times updated yesterday, there have been only 134 deaths in the counties which make up the Ohio 4th Congressional District, even with the hot spot at the prison in Marion, Ohio.

Note, too, that Jordan’s district OH-4 is more than 90% white, unlike nearby OH-9 (Rep. Marcy Kaptur) or OH-11 (Rep. Marcia Fudge), with a higher per capita income.

Compare to Cuyahoga County which makes up part of OH-9 — it’s had at least 346 COVID-19 deaths.

All of which means that Jordan’s career is relatively unaffected by COVID-19. He can be casually racist by ignoring the number of Black and other non-white deaths in Marion’s prison facility because the rest of his district won’t feel the pain of their loss — the mostly-minority incarcerated are disposable to white rural conservatives.

He can be deliberately threatening to Democrats in Congress because it’s encouraged by the White House.

Jordan won’t worry about anybody else getting COVID-19 because he can continue to be nothing more complicated than a loud, irritating clown and still earn his party’s support.

He’ll even get backup from other clowns in his party like Louis Gohmert banging on the desk during the course of the hearing to obstruct witness testimony — neither being sly Harlequins but an evil clown with a village idiot sidekick.

Not merely an evil clown, either, if Jordan intended to threaten and hurt other members of Congress.

Jim Jordan, killer clown — an existential threat to members of Congress who have to put up with him while they represent the rest of us.

 

This is an open thread.

HJC Democrats Do Little to Limit Jim Jordan’s Assault on Public Health and Rule of Law

Jim Jordan, a self-purported libertarian, garnered the love of authoritarian Donald Trump by yelling. And yelling. And yelling.

But his normally obtuse manner of engagement didn’t undermine the dual threat he posed in today’s hearing on the ways Billy Barr is politicizing justice. Democrats failed to get him to abide by the committee rule that he wear a mask when not speaking (not even while sitting in close proximity to Jerry Nadler, whose wife is seriously ill). At one point, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell called him out on it. But Republicans on the committee thwarted the means by which Nadler was enforcing the rule — which was to not recognize anyone not wearing a mask — by yielding their time to Jordan.

Jordan used the time he got to attack the integrity of the witnesses unanswered, make repeated false claims about the conduct of the Russian investigation (both pre-Mueller and under him), and softball Barr’s own actions.

There were exceptions, mind you. Joe Neguse brilliantly got Michael Mukasey to talk about how normal it is — and was for him, when he had the job — for Attorneys General to show up for oversight hearings. Neguse then revealed that the last time an Attorney General had as systematically refused to appear for oversight hearings as Barr, it was Bill Barr, in his first tenure in the job. Val Demings got Mukasey to lay out that Barr himself has said the President was inappropriately interfering in investigations, but no one followed up on the significance of that admission. Likewise, after Demings got Mukasey to affirm a statement he made during confirmation to be Attorney General that he was never asked what his politics were, she didn’t follow up and ask whether it would have been appropriate for Mueller to ask prosecutors about their politics, or even for Republicans to ask Zelinsky about the partisan leanings of Mueller prosecutors in this hearing. No one used Jordan’s repeated questioning of Mukasey about the sheer number of unmaskings of Mike Flynn to ask Mukasey to lay out the real national security questions that might elicit such a concerted response to what was apparently one conversation, to say nothing of testing whether Mukasey actually understood what Jordan was misrepresenting to him.

Worse still, no Democrats asked Mukasey questions that would have laid out how complicit he is with some of Trump’s crimes, particularly the politicization of investigations into Turkey.

Then, long after Republicans sand-bagged anti-trust attorney whistleblower John Elias, presenting cherry-picked results of the whistleblower complaint he submitted, Mary Gay Scanlon circled back and laid out how he submitted the complaint, how it got forwarded, and laid out that Office of Professional Responsibility didn’t actually deal with the substance of his complaint, but instead said even if true, it wouldn’t affect the prerogatives of the department. Even there, neither she nor anyone laid out the significance of OPR (which reports to the Attorney General) reviewing the complaint, rather than DOJ IG, which has statutory independence. The way Elias got sandbagged should have become a focus of the hearing, but was not.

And no Democrats corrected the false claims Jordan made, particularly about the Flynn case, such as when he ignored how Bill Priestap got FBI to cue Flynn on what he had said to Sergey Kislyak or the date of notes released today that Sidney Powell had every Republican, including Mukasey, claim came one day before they had to have. No one even asked Mukasey why he was agreeing with Jordan about Obama’s pursuit of Mike Flynn when the prosecution happened under Trump (and recent documents have shown both Peter Strzok and Jim Comey working hard to protect Flynn). Mukasey would have made the perfect foil for such questions. He even could have been asked how often DOJ flip flops on its position from week to week, as Barr has in the Flynn case.

Even worse, no one circled back to get Aaron Zelinsky to correct the premise of Jordan’s questions about whether Amy Berman Jackson’s final sentence accorded with the initial sentencing memo or not, much less his cynical reading of one sentence out of context to falsely portray ABJ as agreeing with DOJ’s second memo.

Finally, Democrats did almost no fact-finding (indeed, it took Jordan to lay out the hierarchy of the politicization of the Stone sentencing). For example, while Eric Swalwell got Zelinsky to agree that the Mueller Report showed gaps in the investigations, he did not invite Zelinsky to describe what specific gaps he would be permitted to identify in the Stone investigation, such as that DOJ was not able to recover any of Stone’s texts from shortly after the election until a year later, in 2017. No one circled back to invite Zelinsky to explain that he had been able to describe Paul Manafort’s testimony implicating Trump directly in Stone’s work because descriptions of that testimony were hidden by DOJ and just got declassified — months after Stone’s sentencing. Hakeem Jeffries got Zelinsky to lay out one thing that prosecutors had been forced to leave out in the initial sentencing memo — Randy Credico’s testimony about how freaked out he was about Stone’s threats — but he left it there, without follow-up to learn if there had been anything more (like Stone’s discussions personally with Trump).

The testimony of the witnesses — especially Donald Ayer, who had to testify over Louie Gohmert’s tapping of a pencil to try to drown out his testimony — was scathing. But the Democratic members of the committee left them hanging out there, which is going to further disincent other witnesses from testifying. This hearing was far too important not to do better prep work to ensure the risks the witnesses took on will be worth it going forward.

Sometime today, Nadler said he’s reconsidering his earlier statement that the committee would not impeach Barr. But unless Democrats seriously up their game — both on preparation and on discipline — then any impeachment of Barr will be as ineffectual of the Ukraine impeachment, if not worse.

The Very Limited Republican Concern about FISA

There are a number of FISA submissions made by the Trump Administration that the FISA Court has found problematic. They include:

March 24-27, 2017: FBI conducts queries on FISA data using identifiers for over 70,000 facilities associated with persons with access to FBI facilities and systems (noticed to the court on November 22, 2017)

April 7, 2017: Reauthorization of Carter Page FISA, signed by Jim Comey and Dana Boente, at a time when probable cause was thin and contrary evidence mounting

June 29, 2017: Reauthorization of Carter Page FISA, signed by Andrew McCabe and Rod Rosenstein, at a time when few believed the order was producing valuable intelligence and abundant contrary evidence was known

October 11, 2017: FBI conducts queries to identify cleared personnel on whom to serve process (noticed to the court on February 21, 2018)

November 22, 2017: FBI takes 8 months before notifying FISC of the March 2017 queries

December 1, 2017: FBI conducts over 6,800 queries using a group of social security numbers (noticed to the court on April 27, 2018)

December 7-11, 2017: FBI conducts queries on the identifiers of 1,600 people (noticed to the court on April 12, 2018)

Unknown date: FBI conducts queries of 57,000 identifiers (or individuals) that may not have been designed to return foreign intelligence information (noticed to the court on April 13, 2018)

February 5 and 23, 2018: FBI conducts 30 queries on potential sources (noticed to the court on June 7, 2018)

February 21, 2018: FBI conducts 45 queries on persons being considered as sources (noticed to the court on May 21, 2018)

March 27, 2018: Submission of FBI 702 querying procedures, accompanying an application that included a declaration from Christopher Wray, that fell far short of what Congress recently required

September 18, 2018: Submission of FBI 702 querying procedures that still fall short of standards mandated by Congress, including a supplemental declaration from Wray that relies, in part, on FBI’s “strong culture that places great emphasis on personnel consistently conveying true and accurate information”

Not only did both the Carter Page applications from which DOJ withdrew its probable cause claim come under the Trump Administration, but a slew of fairly alarming uses of FISA data happened under Trump as well. A bunch of them occurred under Chris Wray. Indeed, Chris Wray submitted a declaration to the FISC in September 2018 — long after there were questions about the Carter Page FISAs — suggesting the FBI shouldn’t have to write stuff down as it queries 702 data, in spite of what Congress required by law.

The Director anticipates that approach would divert resources from investigative work, delay assessment of threat information, and discourage its personnel from querying unminimized FISA information, to the detriment of public safety. Id. at 9-12. He also describes an alternative approach whereby personnel would be allowed to forgo such research and rely solely on their “personal knowledge” in making those assessments. Id. at 12. The Director expects that practice would “result in inconsistent and unreliable information in FBI systems,” id., thereby complicating other aspects of the FBI’s work – e.g., implementing its Section 702 targeting procedures. Id. at 13-14. The Director also expresses concern that such an approach would be inconsistent with the FBJ’s “strong culture that places great emphasis on personnel consistently conveying true and accurate information.” Id. at 14.

[snip]

The government further objects that requiring a written justification to examine the contents provided in response to U.S.-person queries of Section 702 information “would substantially hinder the FBI’s ability to investigate and protect against threats to national security.” Supplemental FBI Declaration at 17. Different fo1ms of hindrance are claimed.

[snip]

[At the heart of the government’s objections to the documentation requirement proposed by amici is an understandable desire to ensure that FBI personnel can] perform their work with the utmost efficiency and “connect dots” in an effort to protect the national security. Given the lessons learned following 9/11 and the Fort Hood shooting, as well as the FBI’s significant reliance on queries to effectively and efficiently identify threat streams in its holdings, the FBI is extremely concerned about anything that would impede, delay, or create a disincentive to querying FBI databases. Supplemental FBI Declaration at 7 (emphasis added).

Yet in spite of the fact that Chris Wray, himself, participated in a 18-month effort to ignore the will of Congress with respect to 702 queries, no one raised that in yesterday’s oversight hearing. Not to mention the GOP got plenty of facts wrong, such as treating FISA as a terrorism thing, and not, increasingly, the very same counterintelligence purpose used with Page.

To be sure, aside from some comments acknowledging that IG Report, Democrats weren’t raising any questions about FISA (though Jerry Nadler did thank Jim Sensenbrenner for agreeing to delay consideration of Section 215 reauthorization to allow for consideration of the IG Report).

Here’s the thing, though: The FISA Court has complained about FBI surveillance practices all occurring under Trump affecting up to 135,476 Americans.

And Republicans claiming to give a goddamn about FISA are really just concerned about one of those Americans.

Which is a pretty good indication they’re not really concerned about the surveillance at all.

A Diverse America Votes to Uphold the Constitution; A Largely Male White America Votes to Abrogate It

The House Judiciary Committee just voted to send two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the full House.

The entire vote took just minutes. But it said so much about the state of America today.

It will forever be portrayed as a party line vote, with 23 Democrats in favor, and 17 Republicans against. But it was also a tribute to the degree to which polarization in America today pivots on issues of diversity.

The Democrats who voted in favor included 11 women, and 13 Latinx and people of color (Ted Lieu missed the vote recovering from a heart procedure). Three (plus Lieu) are immigrants. One is gay. These Democrats voted to uphold the Constitution a bunch of white men, several of them owners of African-American slaves, wrote hundreds of years ago.

The Republicans who voted against were all white. Just two were women.  These Republicans voted to permit a racist white male President to cheat to get reelected in violation of the rule of law.

This is about a clash between the rising America and the past. And it’s unclear who will win this battle for America. But the stakes are clear.

 

The Republican Pre-Buttal Spins Republican and Non-Partisan Facts as a Democratic Plot

I’ll have a bit more to say about the Republican pre-buttal to the HPSCI Impeachment Report put out last night. But a good summary of the report looks like this:

  1. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  2. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  3. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  4. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  5. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  6. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  7. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  8. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  9. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  10. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  11. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  12. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  13. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  14. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  15. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  16. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  17. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  18. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  19. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  20. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  21. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  22. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat
  23. Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat Democrat

The report uses the word “Democrat” 226 times, all part of a ploy to suggest that facts presented in the impeachment hearing were a partisan plot.

It fails to acknowledge, however, that zero of the witnesses who testified were Democrats. Two (Jennifer Williams and Tim Morrison) testified they were partisan Republicans. Gordon Sondland didn’t testify to the point (indeed, in his statement he highlighted his past work with Democrats), but he got his position by dumping $1 million into Trump’s inauguration. The rest testified to being non-partisan.

Three of the witnesses — Kurt Volker, Morrison, and Sondland — were Republican witnesses. The testimony of the three of them, plus that of Bill Taylor, fully substantiates that Trump demanded investigations before he’d release aid to Ukraine.

The facts presented in the impeachment inquiry are not Democratic claims. They are non-partisan or Republican facts.

But in the Republican party in 2019, every fact that is damning to Donald Trump — even those shared by Republicans — is treated as a partisan conspiracy.

Jim Jordan Accuses Trump of Lying to Mueller in Latest Defense against Impeachment

Among the efforts Republicans employed to excuse the President’s inexcusable behavior in yesterday’s impeachment hearing, they tried to lay out reasons why Trump could legitimately think Ukraine was out to get him. Among the things Steve Castor laid out includes an op-ed Ukraine’s then Ambassador to the US Valeriy Chaly placed in the Hill in early August 2016, laying out how outrageous it was that Trump had recently suggested he would entertain recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

“Can you see how the simple fact of writing an op-ed, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the US might create a perception that there are elements of the Ukrainian establishment were advocating against then-candidate Trump,” GOP counsel Steve Castor asked about an op-ed in which Ukraine’s Ambassador defended the territorial integrity of his country and invoked resolutions where the US had committed to do so too. “That’s a tremendously sensitive issue in Ukraine,” Marie Yovanovitch explained, as if it weren’t evident.

In spite of how obvious that explanation for the op-ed is, Jim Jordan nevertheless returned to this attack, claiming that the op-ed was an example of an Ambassador trying to influence a host country election and suggesting Yovanovitch was negligent in not telling Ukraine to stop defending its territorial integrity. (Jordan also lobbed the Nellie Ohr attack that even Devin Nunes seems to have recognized constituted an attack on an experienced organized crime researcher being paid by GOP billionaire Paul Singer.)

Republicans are not outraged by John Solomon’s hit job in the Hill targeting an Ambassador who has served presidents of both parties, they’re not outraged that Mike Flynn was writing an op-ed to be placed in the Hill that was paid for by the Turkish state even while getting Top Secret briefings with Trump as candidate.

They are, however, outraged that a Hill op-ed by Ukraine’s Ambassador to the US points out that America has made past commitments to protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

But there’s something still crazier about this line of defense.

Chaly’s op-ed could only be viewed as an attack on Trump if he did, in fact, advocate recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Otherwise, the op-ed would simply be a matter of policy, as Yovanovitch patiently explained to Castor.

And it turns out that Trump has represented, in an answer submitted under oath to Robert Mueller, that he had no policy stance on Crimea. Mueller asked whether the very comments that the Chaly op-ed addressed represented an intention to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

On July 27, 2016, in response to a question about whether you would recognize Crimea as Russian territory and lift sanctions on Russia, you said: “We’ ll be looking at that. Yeah, we’ll be looking.” Did you intend to communicate by that statement or at any other time during the campaign a willingness to lift sanctions and/or recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea if you were elected?

1. What consideration did you give to lifting sanctions and/or recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea if you were elected? Describe who you spoke with about this topic, when, the substance of the discussion(s).

And while this answer was the most unresponsive among a slew of unresponsive answers, Trump nevertheless stated, under oath, that his statement did not amount to a policy position.

My statement did not communicate any position.

Republicans can’t have this both ways. The only way this op-ed could be an attack on Trump is if Trump really was supporting annexation of Crimea. He may well have been — except he has stated, under oath, that he was not.

Treating this op-ed as an attack on Trump, then, is also an accusation that Trump lied in his sworn answers to Mueller.

Why is Jim Jordan defending President Trump against impeachment by accusing him of lying under oath?

Devin Nunes Calls an Experienced Organized Crime Researcher Funded by Paul Singer a Democratic Operative

There’s a key part of Devin Nunes and Mark Meadows’ defense of the President yesterday that deserves far more attention, both for the way it distorts the factual record and how it suggests that simply being an expert on Russian and Ukrainian organized crime makes one a Democratic operative.

At issue is their bid to make the impeachment inquiry about Nellie Ohr, whom they’ve past falsely suggested had a role in mainlining the Steele dossier into DOJ and FBI. They’ve brought Nellie, the spouse of a key DOJ expert on organized crime, Bruce Ohr, back into their narrative by claiming she testified to Congress that Fusion GPS relied on Ukrainian sources. The idea is that Ohr’s testimony would prove that Trump had good reason to think Ukraine had it in for him in 2016, so could rightly ask Ukraine to investigate whether that amounted to tampering in the election.

Here’s how Nunes laid it out in his demand that Ohr be called to testify:

Nellie Ohr, former contractor for opposition research firm Fusion GPS. In a 2018 interview with the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, Ms. Ohr stated that, during her work with Fusion GPS that ultimately assisted in the production of the Steele dossier–comprising false allegations against then-candidate Trump–Fusion GPS used information from sources in Ukraine, including Serhiy Leshchenko who recently lost his post from the Ukrainian parliament. Given President Trump’s documented belief that the Ukrainian government meddled in the 2016 election to oppose his candidacy, which forms the basis for a reasonable desire for Ukraine to investigate the circumstances surrounding the election and any potential Ukrainian involvement, Ms. Ohr is a prime fact witness who can assist Congress and the American public in better understanding the facts and circumstances surrounding Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election.

In his demand, Nunes helpfully provides a footnote, to make it easy to see how many errors he makes in this paragraph. Here’s the passage of Ohr’s testimony before Congress that, Nunes falsely claims, backs his insinuations that Ohr tampered in the 2016 campaign.

GOP counsel Ryan Breitenbach is questioning her.

Q Was there indication from [her boss at Fusion GPS, Jake] Berkowitz or [Glenn] Simpson that they had any inside information as to whether there were suspicious connections with any of President Trump’s orbit of individuals including his family?

A What do you mean by “inside information”?

Q I would say any information that they specifically gave you, in terms of your employment with Fusion GPS, that would indicate that there were some level of connections with President Trump’s family and Russia?

A They would give me leads based on their open-source research and, you know, legal documents and other things.

Q Did they ever indicate that any of their leads were based off of sources of theirs?

A I don’t remember get- — regarding the Trump family, no.

Q Regarding any of the research during this year, 10-, 11-month period, was any — was any research based off of sources of theirs that you were aware of?

A Yes.

Q And who were the sources?

A I recall a — they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian.

Q And did they give you any indication as to Leshchenko’s connections with them, how they got to know him? Were they doing work for him?

A With Fusion GPS?

Q Correct.

A I am not aware of how they

Q Were you aware of how they had a connection with him?

A I am not aware.

Q But you were aware that he was a source of information that was leading to information that they had, that they were then presenting to you as reasons for following up on opposition research or what research —

A Yes.

Q — that is, on President Trump or his family?

A My understanding is that some — yes. And — yes, it was not necessarily on his family that Leshchenko’s research was on.

Q Are you aware of what his research, or what his source information included?

A His source information, I am not aware.

Q You are just aware that he was a source of —

A Yes.

Q — Glenn Simpson? Or was it a source of Mr. Berkowitz? Or both?

A I am not aware of a differentiation between them. Just a source for Fusion GPS.

Q That is one source. Were there any other sources that you were aware of?

A I don’t think so. I don’t recall that there were.

Q And were you aware of Mr. Leshchenko prior to him being mentioned to you as a potential source of their information?

A Yes.

Q In what way?

A He is very well-known, Ukrainian, anti-corruption activist. So I had read about him in the press.

Q Had you studied him before?

A What do you mean by “studied”?

Q Performed independent research for any prior employer.

A No. I followed him in the — you know, if I saw him mentioned in the press, I read — I read about it.

Q And previous to this particular incoming knowledge from Mr. Simpson or just from Fusion GPS, were you aware of any connections between Mr. Leshchenko — am I saying that name, by the way?

A Yes.

Q — Mr. Leshchenko and President Trump, or anyone in President Trump’s familial orbit or even friendly orbit?

A I was unaware of any connections before that. [my emphasis]

Before this colloquy, Ohr had already testified that she had “no reason to believe” that her work was integrated into the Steele dossier at all. Democratic staffers walked her through passage after passage in the Steele dossier and asked her if her work had provided background for it, which she said it did not. She also had already explained (to both Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows in separate interactions directly) that she, “did online open source research using Russian sources, media, social media, government, you know, business registers, legal databases, all kinds of things.” Ohr’s testimony was backed by Glenn Simpson’s earlier appearances before Congress — including an appearance before HPSCI that Nunes attended; Simpson also said his own research was based off open source research.

Moreover, both the reports Nellie did (PDF 216 to 299) and a table she put together on Trump and his flunkies’ ties to suspect Russians show that the bulk of her research for Fusion preceded the time when Christopher Steele was working on the dossier. Significantly, that means much of Nellie Ohr’s work was paid by GOP billionaire Paul Singer, not the DNC.

So in this passage, Nellie Ohr is talking leads she got from her boss at Fusion, Jake Berkowitz, based off open source research he had done, that she would use to do more open source research, for a project mostly paid for by a Republican billionaire interested in the ties between Trump and Russian organized crime.

And what the passage shows is that:

  • Ohr said the information from Berkowitz came from open source reporting
  • She described herself getting information on Serhiy Leshchenko’s efforts, because he was a very well-known anti-corruption activist who was covered in the press
  • She twice said she was not aware of how Berkowitz and Simpson got their information from Leshchenko
  • She also said she didn’t know where Leshchenko got his information
  • Ohr said that Leshchenko’s reporting wasn’t focused on the Trump family (it almost certainly was focused on Paul Manafort, about whom Ohr wrote a detailed timeline)

In short, the transcript Nunes says supports a demand that Ohr testify does no such thing. Instead, it shows that this side of Fusion’s work relied on open source reporting, and that information on Leshchenko’s efforts was available via open sources. It also shows that Ohr repeatedly denied knowing whether the Fusion focus on Leshchenko was based on anything but open source reporting.

This transcript also shows that if Republicans really wanted to know about how Leshchenko’s work informed Fusion’s work, they should ask Simpson or Berkowitz to testify, because Ohr was only ever working from open sources — that is, doing research, mostly paid for by a Republican billionaire.

That background is all critically important for how Nunes ended yesterday’s testimony. In his closing statement at the hearing, Nunes restated his demand that Schiff permit Republicans to call their chosen witnesses, which he listed as:

  • The whistleblower
  • The folks that he spoke to
  • Numerous Democratic operatives who worked with Ukraine to meddle in the election

Obviously, Nellie Ohr — an experienced researcher on Ukrainian and Russian organized crime — must fall into the latter category.

So on top of all the ways Nunes misrepresented the Ohr’s testimony (or her ability to testify on the issues he claims to want to hear), there’s this. The Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, believes that an expert on Ukrainian and Russian organized crime being paid to do open source research by a Republican billionaire must be a Democratic operative.