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Why a Clinton Foundation/Crossfire Hurricane Comparison Might Backfire

Billy Barr has suggested a couple of times that if Trump wins, he’ll shut down the Durham inquiry.

A story from NYT may provide some insight as to why (and also might explain why Nora Dannehy resigned). John Durham is comparing the decisions made on the Clinton Foundation investigation with those made on the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

Mr. Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut assigned by Mr. Barr to review the Russia inquiry, has sought documents and interviews about how federal law enforcement officials handled an investigation around the same time into allegations of political corruption at the Clinton Foundation, according to people familiar with the matter.

As NYT explains it, the basis of comparison is that when FBI agents tried to use the Clinton Cash book to get a subpoena, they were shot down, whereas the FBI did use oppo research — the Steele dossier — to get the Carter Page FISA.

The allegations against Mrs. Clinton were advanced in the book “Clinton Cash,” by Peter Schweizer, a senior editor at large at Breitbart News, the right-wing outlet once controlled by Mr. Trump’s former top aide Stephen K. Bannon. The book contained multiple errors, and the foundation has dismissed its allegations.

But the book caught the attention of F.B.I. agents, who viewed some of its contents as additional justification to obtain a subpoena for foundation records.

Top Justice Department officials denied a request in 2016 from senior F.B.I. managers in Washington to secure a subpoena, determining that the bureau lacked a sufficient basis for it and that the book had a political agenda, former officials said. Some prosecutors at the time felt the book had been discredited.

The decision frustrated some agents who believed they had enough evidence beyond the book, including a discussion that touched on the foundation and was captured on a wiretap in an unrelated investigation. Other F.B.I. officials at the time believed the conversation’s relevance to the foundation case was tenuous at best.

The disagreement erupted anew later in the summer of 2016, when a top Justice Department official suspected that F.B.I. agents in New York were trying to persuade federal prosecutors in Brooklyn to authorize a subpoena after the department’s officials in Washington had declined such a request. By the time the F.B.I. officials revisited the issue, the Justice Department officials were also concerned that serving subpoenas would violate the practice of avoiding such investigative activity so close to an election.

One obvious conclusion from this might be that, had the FBI vetted the Steele dossier the way they did the Clinton Cash book, they would have discovered problems and not obtained the application. (Never mind that the FBI was targeting a guy who might have been and later on did victimize Trump by claiming he represented him on Ukrainian matters, rather than Trump himself.)

It’s a fair point, if you ignore that Christopher Steele was an established informant.

But the comparison could also backfire in spectacular fashion.

After all, after multiple Inspector General reviews, Michael Horowitz never found proof that any political bias from Peter Strzok or others influenced an investigative decision. He did, however, show that the FBI agent running an informant on the Clinton Foundation was biased.

We reviewed the text and instant messages sent and received by the Handling Agent, the co-case Handling Agent, and the SSA for this CHS, which reflect their support for Trump in the 2016 elections. On November 9, the day after the election, the SSA contacted another FBI employee via an instant messaging program to discuss some recent CHS reporting regarding the Clinton Foundation and offered that “if you hear talk of a special prosecutor .. .I will volunteer to work [on] the Clinton Foundation.” The SSA’s November 9, 2016 instant messages also stated that he “was so elated with the election” and compared the election coverage to “watching a Superbowl comeback.” The SSA explained this comment to the OIG by saying that he “fully expected Hillary Clinton to walk away with the election. But as the returns [came] in … it was just energizing to me to see …. [because] I didn’t want a criminal to be in the White House.”

On November 9, 2016, the Handling Agent and co-case Handling Agent for this CHS also discussed the results of the election in an instant message exchange that reads:

Handling Agent: “Trump!”

Co-Case Handling Agent: “Hahaha. Shit just got real.”

Handling Agent: “Yes it did.”

Co-Case Handling Agent: “I saw a lot of scared MFers on … [my way to work] this morning. Start looking for new jobs fellas. Haha.”

Handling Agent: “LOL”

Co-Case Handling Agent: “Come January I’m going to just get a big bowl of popcorn and sit back and watch.”

Handling Agent: “That’s hilarious!” [my emphasis]

And, as Peter Strzok has said repeatedly, had he really wanted to sabotage Trump’s election, he would have leaked details of the investigation, particularly after, in August 2016, he was shot down in his effort to investigate more aggressively by doing things like issue a subpoena.

In precisely the same situation, the Clinton Foundation Agents did leak details of the investigation, and in fact did have an effect on the election.

Hell, if Durham were allowed to continue down this path of comparison, we might finally figure out which New York Field Office were leaking rampantly during the election, leading to promises of indictments on Fox News.

“The Buck Stops at the Top:” In January, Bill Barr’s DOJ Decided the Correct Decision Was to Send Mike Flynn to Prison

I’d like to make one more point about Billy Barr’s rant last night. Over and over again, Barr suggested that line prosecutors have been making hyper-aggressive decisions that the Department of Justice cannot answer for and that his involvement simply amounts to ensuring that the decisions DOJ makes are ones he’s willing to take responsibility for.

Indeed, aside from the importance of not fully decoupling law enforcement from the constraining and moderating forces of politics, devolving all authority down to the most junior officials does not even make sense as a matter of basic management.  Name one successful organization where the lowest level employees’ decisions are deemed sacrosanct.  There aren’t any.  Letting the most junior members set the agenda might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it’s no way to run a federal agency.  Good leaders at the Justice Department—as at any organization—need to trust and support their subordinates.  But that does not mean blindly deferring to whatever those subordinates want to do.

This is what Presidents, the Congress, and the public expect.  When something goes wrong at the Department of Justice, the buck stops at the top.  28 U.S.C. § 509 could not be plainer:  “All functions of other officers of the Department of Justice and all functions of agencies and employees of the Department of Justice are vested in the Attorney General.”

And because I am ultimately accountable for every decision the Department makes, I have an obligation to ensure we make the correct ones.  The Attorney General, the Assistant Attorneys General, and the U.S. Attorneys are not figureheads selected for their good looks and profound eloquence.

They are supervisors.  Their job is to supervise.   Anything less is an abdication.

To the extent Barr is talking about the Mueller investigation, every single prosecutorial decision was reviewed by Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. For those decisions, then, Barr’s not actually talking about decisions made by line prosecutors. He’s talking about decisions overseen by someone vested, like him, with all the authority of DOJ.

For precisely the reason Barr lays out — that DOJ must be able to answer for things DOJ does — it’s highly unusual for DOJ to flip-flop on prosecutorial decisions that past Attorneys General have approved.

But with one action in the Mike Flynn prosecution — possibly one he thought of when he invoked probation sentences in one of his last paragraphs — Barr’s interventions into the cases of Donald Trump’s flunkies is far worse than that.

In short, it is important for prosecutors at the Department of Justice to understand that their mission — above all others — is to do justice.  That means following the letter of the law, and the spirit of fairness.  Sometimes that will mean investing months or years in an investigation and then concluding it without criminal charges.  Other times it will mean aggressively prosecuting a person through trial and then recommending a lenient sentence, perhaps even one with no incarceration.

In moving to dismiss Flynn’s prosecution, Barr was overriding a decision he himself had approved of. In January, DOJ called for prison time for Flynn, citing the materiality of his lies and his abuse of trust.

The defendant’s offense is serious, his characteristics and history present aggravating circumstances, and a sentence reflecting those factors is necessary to deter future criminal conduct. Similarly situated defendants have received terms of imprisonment.

Public office is a public trust. The defendant made multiple, material and false statements and omissions, to several DOJ entities, while serving as the President’s National Security Advisor and a senior member of the Presidential Transition Team. As the government represented to the Court at the initial sentencing hearing, the defendant’s offense was serious. See Gov’t Sent’g Mem. at 2; 12/18/2018 Hearing Tr. at 32 (the Court explaining that “[t]his crime is very serious”).

The integrity of our criminal justice depends on witnesses telling the truth. That is precisely why providing false statements to the government is a crime. As the Supreme Court has noted:

In this constitutional process of securing a witness’ testimony, perjury simply has no place whatsoever. Perjured testimony is an obvious and flagrant affront to the basic concepts of judicial proceedings. Effective restraints against this type of egregious offense are therefore imperative. The power of subpoena, broad as it is, and the power of contempt for refusing to answer, drastic as that is — and even the solemnity of the oath — cannot insure truthful answers. Hence, Congress has made the giving of false answers a criminal act punishable by severe penalties; in no other way can criminal conduct be flushed into the open where the law can deal with it.

United States v. Mandujano, 425 U.S. 564, 576 (1975); see also Nix v. Whiteside, 457 U.S. 157, 185 (1986) (“[t]his Court long ago noted: ‘All perjured relevant testimony is at war with justice, since it may produce a judgment not resting on truth.’”) (quoting In re Michael, 326 U.S. 224, 227 (1945)). All persons carry that solemn obligation to tell the truth, especially to the FBI.

The defendant’s repeated failure to fulfill his obligation to tell the truth merits a sentence within the applicable Guidelines range. As the Court has already found, his false statements to the FBI were material, regardless of the FBI’s knowledge of the substance of any of his conversations with the Russian Ambassador. See Mem. Opinion at 51-52. The topic of sanctions went to the heart of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation. Any effort to undermine those sanctions could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia. For similar reasons, the defendant’s false statements in his FARA filings were serious. His false statements and omissions deprived the public and the Trump Administration of the opportunity to learn about the Government of Turkey’s covert efforts to influence policy and opinion, including its efforts to remove a person legally residing in the United States.

The defendant’s conduct was more than just a series of lies; it was an abuse of trust. During the defendant’s pattern of criminal conduct, he was the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General. He held a security clearance with access to the government’s most sensitive information. The only reason the Russian Ambassador contacted the defendant about the sanctions is because the defendant was the incoming National Security Advisor, and thus would soon wield influence and control over the United States’ foreign policy. That is the same reason the defendant’s fledgling company was paid over $500,000 to work on issues for Turkey. The defendant monetized his power and influence over our government, and lied to mask it. When the FBI and DOJ needed information that only the defendant could provide, because of that power and influence, he denied them that information. And so an official tasked with protecting our national security, instead compromised it.

This was no decision made by rogue line prosecutors, Brandon Van Grack and Jocelyn Ballantine. In December, Jessie Liu signed a request for an extension so that the “multiple individuals and entities” that had to approve the new sentencing recommendation could do so.

There are multiple individuals and entities who must review and approve the government’s submission, including any changes from the government’s prior sentencing memorandum and its specific sentencing recommendations.

And then again in January, Jessie Liu got an extension so the “multiple individuals and entities” who had to review the sentencing memo could do so.

As the government represented in its initial motion, there are multiple individuals and entities who must review and approve the government’s submission, including any changes from the government’s prior sentencing memorandum and its specific sentencing recommendations. The government has worked assiduously over the holidays to complete this task, but we find that we require an additional 24 hours to do so.

Bill Barr says he is responsible for making the correct decision, and his DOJ reviewed the decision to imprison Mike Flynn at length. Taking him at his word, that means Bill Barr believed, in January, knowing all the details that were “new” to Timothy Shea when he wrote his motion to dismiss, but not new to Michael Horowitz and John Durham, who had already reviewed them, that the correct decision was to send Mike Flynn to prison.

It’s bad enough that Barr has repeatedly refused to stand by decisions made by others imbued with the authority of the entire DOJ under 28 U.S.C. § 509.

But Bill Barr won’t even stand by his past decisions.

Bill Barr’s Screed Is About Mike Flynn, Nora Dannehy, and Robert Mueller

Bill Barr delivered a remarkable screed last night at the radical right Hillsdale College. Numerous people have and will unpack both the glaring contradictions and the dangerous assertions in it.

But I want to point out that it is quite obviously about Barr’s attempts to overturn the prosecutions of Trump’s flunkies for covering up their efforts to help Russia interfere in the election.

A big part of it is targeted towards independent counsels (though, tellingly, Barr assails the independent counsel statute that used to be, not the one that left Robert Mueller closely supervised by Rod Rosenstein).

As Justice Scalia observed in perhaps his most admired judicial opinion, his dissent in Morrison v. Olson: “Almost all investigative and prosecutorial decisions—including the ultimate decision whether, after a technical violation of the law has been found, prosecution is warranted—involve the balancing of innumerable legal and practical considerations.”

And those considerations do need to be balanced in each and every case.  As Justice Scalia also pointed out, it is nice to say “Fiat justitia, ruat coelum. Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall.”  But it does not comport with reality.  It would do far more harm than good to abandon all perspective and proportion in an attempt to ensure that every technical violation of criminal law by every person is tracked down, investigated, and prosecuted to the Nth degree.

[snip]

This was of course the central problem with the independent-counsel statute that Justice Scalia criticized in Morrison v. Olson.  Indeed, creating an unaccountable headhunter was not some unfortunate byproduct of that statute; it was the stated purpose of that statute.  That was what Justice Scalia meant by his famous line, “this wolf comes as a wolf.”  As he went on to explain:  “How frightening it must be to have your own independent counsel and staff appointed, with nothing else to do but to investigate you until investigation is no longer worthwhile—with whether it is worthwhile not depending upon what such judgments usually hinge on, competing responsibilities.  And to have that counsel and staff decide, with no basis for comparison, whether what you have done is bad enough, willful enough, and provable enough, to warrant an indictment.  How admirable the constitutional system that provides the means to avoid such a distortion.  And how unfortunate the judicial decision that has permitted it.”

Justice Jackson understood this too.  As he explained in his speech:  “If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants. Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted.”  Any erosion in prosecutorial detachment is extraordinarily perilous.  For, “it is in this realm—in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies. It is here that law enforcement becomes personal, and the real crime becomes that of being unpopular with the predominant or governing group, being attached to the wrong political views, or being personally obnoxious to or in the way of the prosecutor himself.”

And part of it is a restatement of the arguments Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall made before the DC Circuit, arguing that even bribery was not reason for a judge to override DOJ’s decisions on prosecutions.

I want to focus today on the power that the Constitution allocates to the Executive, particularly in the area of criminal justice.  The Supreme Court has correctly held that, under Article II of the Constitution, the Executive has virtually unchecked discretion to decide whether to prosecute individuals for suspected federal crimes.  The only significant limitation on that discretion comes from other provisions of the Constitution.  Thus, for example, a United States Attorney could not decide to prosecute only people of a particular race or religion.  But aside from that limitation — which thankfully has remained a true hypothetical at the Department of Justice — the Executive has broad discretion to decide whether to bring criminal prosecutions in particular cases.

And the rest suggests that career prosecutors have been putting targets on the heads of politically prominent people and pursuing them relentlessly.

Once the criminal process starts rolling, it is very difficult to slow it down or knock it off course.  And that means federal prosecutors possess tremendous power — power that is necessary to enforce our laws and punish wrongdoing, but power that, like any power, carries inherent potential for abuse or misuse.

[snip]

Line prosecutors, by contrast, are generally part of the permanent bureaucracy.  They do not have the political legitimacy to be the public face of tough decisions and they lack the political buy-in necessary to publicly defend those decisions.  Nor can the public and its representatives hold civil servants accountable in the same way as appointed officials.  Indeed, the public’s only tool to hold the government accountable is an election — and the bureaucracy is neither elected nor easily replaced by those who are.

[snip]

We want our prosecutors to be aggressive and tenacious in their pursuit of justice, but we also want to ensure that justice is ultimately administered dispassionately.

We are all human.  Like any person, a prosecutor can become overly invested in a particular goal.  Prosecutors who devote months or years of their lives to investigating a particular target may become deeply invested in their case and assured of the rightness of their cause.

When a prosecution becomes “your prosecution”—particularly if the investigation is highly public, or has been acrimonious, or if you are confident early on that the target committed serious crimes—there is always a temptation to will a prosecution into existence even when the facts, the law, or the fair-handed administration of justice do not support bringing charges.

[snip]

That is yet another reason that having layers of supervision is so important.  Individual prosecutors can sometimes become headhunters, consumed with taking down their target.  Subjecting their decisions to review by detached supervisors ensures the involvement of dispassionate decision-makers in the process.

And it excuses, in one sentence, calling for probation even after a just prosecution.

Other times it will mean aggressively prosecuting a person through trial and then recommending a lenient sentence, perhaps even one with no incarceration.

Of course, none of this makes sense, and Barr’s own behavior — from removing Senate confirmed US Attorneys to put in people accountable only to him, from seeking prosecution of Democratic officials, and from launching the Durham investigation because he was just certain there was criminal wrong-doing in the Russian investigation — belies his words.

Perhaps it does so in the most basic way. If we hold our Attorney General politically accountable through elections, then we need to make sure elections are fair. We definitely need to make sure that elections are not influenced by hostile foreign powers cooperating with one candidate. The 2016 election wasn’t fair, and Bill Barr is doing his damndest to make sure the voters won’t be able to use the 2020 election to hold him politically accountable for interfering with the punishment of those who worked to cheat.

Because of Barr’s corrupt view on cheating at elections, he ensures that Vladimir Putin has more say over who gets prosecuted than experienced American prosecutors.

Catherine Herridge Attempts to Relaunch Bullshit Conspiracies Answered by Peter Strzok’s Book

I hope to write a post arguing that Peter Strzok’s book came out at least six months too late.

But for the moment, I want to float the possibility that Nora Dannehy — John Durham’s top aide — quit last Friday at least in part because she read parts of Strzok’s book and realized there were really compelling answers to questions that have been floating unasked — and so unanswered — for years.

High-gaslighter Catherine Herridge raises questions already answered about Crossfire Hurricane opening

Yesterday, the Trump Administration’s favorite mouthpiece for Russian investigation conspiracies, Catherine Herridge, got out her high-gaslighter to relaunch complaints about facts that have been public (and explained) for years.

Citing an unnamed “former senior FBI Agent” and repeating the acronym “DIOG” over and over to give her high-gaslighting the patina of news value, she pointed to the fact that Strzok both opened and signed off on the Electronic Communication opening Crossfire Hurricane, then suggested — falsely — that because Loretta Lynch was not briefed no one at DOJ was. It’s pure gaslighting, but useful because it offers a good read on which aspects of Russian investigation conspiracies those feeding the conspiracies feel need to be shored up.

Note, even considering just the ECs opening investigations, Herridge commits the same lapses that former senior FBI Agent Kevin Brock made in this piece. I previously showed how the EC for Mike Flynn addresses the claimed problems. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that Herridge’s anonymous former senior FBI Agent is making the same errors I already corrected when former senior FBI Agent Kevin Brock made them in May.

All that said, I take from Herridge’s rant that her sources want to refocus attention on how Crossfire Hurricane was opened.

Peter Strzok never got asked (publicly) about how the investigation got opened

As it happens, that’s a question that Strzok had not publicly addressed in any of his prior testimony.

Strzok was not interviewed by HPSCI.

Strzok was interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee on November 17, 2017. But they don’t appear to have asked Strzok about the investigation itself or much beyond the Steele dossier; all six references to his transcript describe how the FBI vetted the Steele dossier.

Deputy Assistant Director Pete Strzok, at that point the lead for FBI’ s Crossfire Hurricane investigation, told the Committee that his team became aware of the Steele information in September 2016. He said, “We were so compartmented in what we were doing, [the Steele reporting] kind of bounced around a little bit,” also, in part, because [redacted] and Steele did not normally report on counterintelligence matters. 5952 Strzok said that the information was “certainly very much in line with things we were looking at” and “added to the body of knowledge of what we were doing.”5953

Peter Strzok explained that generally the procedure for a “human validation review” is for FBI’ s Directorate of Intelligence to analyze an asset’s entire case file, looking at the reporting history, the circumstances of recruitment, their motivation, and their compensation history.6005 Strzok recalled that the result was “good to continue; that there were not significant concerns, certainly nothing that would indicate that he was compromised or feeding us disinformation or he was a bad asset.”6006 However, Strzok also said that after learning that reporters and Congress had Steele’s information:

[FBI] started looking into why he was assembling [the dossier], who his clients were, what the basis of their interest was, and how they might have used it, and who would know, it was apparent to us that this was not a piece of information simply provided to the FBI in the classic sense of a kind of a confidential source reporting relationship, but that it was all over the place. 6007

[snip]

Strzok said that, starting in September 2016, “there were people, agents and analysts, whose job specifically it was to figure this out and to do that with a sense of urgency.”6021

Strzok was also interviewed in both a closed hearing and an open hearing in the joint House Judiciary and House Oversight investigations into whatever Mark Meadows wanted investigated. The closed hearing addressed how the investigation got opened, but an FBI minder was there to limit how he answered those questions, citing the Mueller investigation. And even there, the questions largely focused on whether Strzok’s political bias drove the opening of the investigation.

Mr. Swalwell. Let me put it this way, Mr. Strzok: Is it fair to say that, aside from the opinions that you expressed to Ms. Page about Mr. Trump, there was a whole mountain of evidence independent of anything you had done that related to actions that were concerning about what the Russians and the Trump campaign were doing?

Ms. Besse. So, Congressman, that may go into sort of the — that will — for Mr. Strzok to answer that question, that goes into the special counsel’s investigation, so I don’t think he can answer that question.

Even more of the questions focused on the decision to reopen the Clinton investigation days before the election.

To the extent that the open hearing, which was a predictable circus, addressed the opening of Crossfire Hurricane at all (again, there was more focus on Clinton), it involved Republicans trying to invent feverish meaning in Strzok’s texts, not worthwhile oversight questions about the bureaucratic details surrounding the opening.

The DOJ IG Report backs the Full Investigation predication but doesn’t explain individual predication

The DOJ IG Report on Carter Page does address how the investigation got opened. It includes a long narrative about the unanimity about the necessity of investigating the Australian tip (though in this section, it does not cite Strzok).

From July 28 to July 31, officials at FBI Headquarters discussed the FFG information and whether it warranted opening a counterintelligence investigation. The Assistant Director (AD) for CD, E.W. “Bill” Priestap, was a central figure in these discussions. According to Priestap, he discussed the matter with then Section Chief of CD’s Counterespionage Section Peter Strzok, as well as the Section Chief of CD’s Counterintelligence Analysis Section I (Intel Section Chief); and with representatives of the FBI’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC), including Deputy General Counsel Trisha Anderson and a unit chief (OGC Unit Chief) in OGC’s National Security and Cyber Law Branch (NSCLB). Priestap told us that he also discussed the matter with either then Deputy Director (DD) Andrew McCabe or then Executive Assistant Director (EAD) Michael Steinbach, but did not recall discussing the matter with then Director James Comey told the OIG that he did not recall being briefed on the FFG information until after the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was opened, and that he was not involved in the decision to open the case. McCabe said that although he did not specifically recall meeting with Comey immediately after the FFG information was received, it was “the kind of thing that would have been brought to Director Comey’s attention immediately.” McCabe’s contemporaneous notes reflect that the FFG information, Carter Page, and Manafort, were discussed on July 29, after a regularly scheduled morning meeting of senior FBI leadership with the Director. Although McCabe told us he did not have an independent recollection of this discussion, he told us that, based upon his notes, this discussion likely included the Director. McCabe’s notes reflect only the topic of the discussion and not the substance of what was discussed. McCabe told us that he recalled discussing the FFG information with Priestap, Strzok, then Special Counsel to the Deputy Director Lisa Page, and Comey, sometime before Crossfire Hurricane was opened, and he agreed with opening a counterintelligence investigation based on the FFG information. He told us the decision to open the case was unanimous.

McCabe said the FBI viewed the FFG information in the context of Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections in the years and months prior, as well as the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the DNC hack by a Russian Intelligence Service (RIS). He also said that when the FBI received the FFG information it was a “tipping point” in terms of opening a counterintelligence investigation regarding Russia’s attempts to influence and interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections because not only was there information that Russia was targeting U.S. political institutions, but now the FBI had received an allegation from a trusted partner that there had been some sort of contact between the Russians and the Trump campaign. McCabe said that he did not recall any discussion about whether the FFG information constituted sufficient predication for opening a Full Investigation, as opposed to a Preliminary Investigation, but said that his belief at the time, based on his experience, was that the FFG information was adequate predication. 167

According to Priestap, he authorized opening the Crossfire Hurricane counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016, based upon these discussions. He told us that the FFG information was provided by a trusted source-the FFG–and he therefore felt it “wise to open an investigation to look into” whether someone associated with the Trump campaign may have accepted the reported offer from the Russians. Priestap also told us that the combination of the FFG information and the FBI’s ongoing cyber intrusion investigation of the DNC hacks created a counterintelligence concern that the FBI was “obligated” to investigate. Priestap said that he did not recall any disagreement about the decision to open Crossfire Hurricane, and told us that he was not pressured to open the case.

It includes a discussion explaining why FBI decided against defensive briefings — a key complaint from Republicans. Here’s the explanation Bill Priestap gave.

While the Counterintelligence Division does regularly provide defensive briefings to U.S. government officials or possible soon to be officials, in my experience, we do this when there is no indication, whatsoever, that the person to whom we would brief could be working with the relevant foreign adversary. In other words, we provide defensive briefings when we obtain information indicating a foreign adversary is trying or will try to influence a specific U.S. person, and when there is no indication that the specific U.S. person could be working with the adversary. In regard to the information the [FFG] provided us, we had no indication as to which person in the Trump campaign allegedly received the offer from the Russians. There was no specific U.S. person identified. We also had no indication, whatsoever, that the person affiliated with the Trump campaign had rejected the alleged offer from the Russians. In fact, the information we received indicated that Papadopoulos told the [FFG] he felt confident Mr. Trump would win the election, and Papadopoulos commented that the Clintons had a lot of baggage and that the Trump team had plenty of material to use in its campaign. While Papadopoulos didn’t say where the Trump team had received the “material,” one could reasonably infer that some of the material might have come from the Russians. Had we provided a defensive briefing to someone on the Trump campaign, we would have alerted the campaign to what we were looking into, and, if someone on the campaign was engaged with the Russians, he/she would very likely change his/her tactics and/or otherwise seek to cover-up his/her activities, thereby preventing us from finding the truth. On the other hand, if no one on the Trump campaign was working with the Russians, an investigation could prove that. Because the possibility existed that someone on the Trump campaign could have taken the Russians up on their offer, I thought it wise to open an investigation to look into the situation.

It even explained how, by its read, the investigation met the terms of the DIOG for a Full Investigation.

Under Section 11.B.3 of the AG Guidelines and Section 7 of the DIOG, the FBI may open a Full Investigation if there is an “articulable factual basis” that reasonably indicates one of the following circumstances exists:

  • An activity constituting a federal crime or a threat to the national security has or may have occurred, is or may be occurring, or will or may occur and the investigation may obtain information relating to the activity or the involvement or role of an individual, group, or organization in such activity;
  • An individual, group, organization, entity, information, property, or activity is or may be a target of attack, victimization, acquisition, infiltration, or recruitment in connection with criminal activity in violation of federal law or a threat to the national security and the investigation may obtain information that would help to protect against such activity or threat; or
  • The investigation may obtain foreign intelligence that is responsive to a requirement that the FBI collect positive foreign intelligence-i.e., information relating to the capabilities, intentions, or activities of foreign governments or elements thereof, foreign organizations or foreign persons, or international terrorists.

The DIOG provides examples of information that is sufficient to initiate a Full Investigation, including corroborated information from an intelligence agency stating that an individual is a member of a terrorist group, or a threat to a specific individual or group made on a blog combined with additional information connecting the blogger to a known terrorist group. 45 A Full Investigation may be opened if there is an “articulable factual basis” of possible criminal or national threat activity. When opening a Full Investigation, an FBI employee must certify that an authorized purpose and adequate predication exist; that the investigation is not based solely on the exercise of First Amendment rights or certain characteristics of the subject, such as race, religion, national origin, or ethnicity; and that the investigation is an appropriate use of personnel and financial resources. The factual predication must be documented in an electronic communication (EC) or other form, and the case initiation must be approved by the relevant FBI personnel, which, in most instances, can be a Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) in a field office or at Headquarters. As described in more detail below, if an investigation is designated as a Sensitive Investigative Matter, that designation must appear in the caption or heading of the opening EC, and special approval requirements apply.

Importantly, per Michael Horowitz’s own description of the dispute, this is the topic about which John Durham disagreed. Durham reportedly believed it should have been opened as a Preliminary Investigation — but that would not have changed the investigative techniques available (and there was already a Full Investigation into Carter Page and Paul Manafort).

After first making the same error that Durham did in the Kevin Clinesmith, eleven days after publishing the report, DOJ IG corrected it to note the full implication of Crossfire Hurricane being opened as a counterintelligence investigation, implicating both FARA and 18 USC 951 Foreign Agent charges.

Crossfire Hurricane was opened by CD and was assigned a case number used by the FBI for possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), 22 U.S.C. § 611, et seq., and 18 U.S.C. § 951 (Agents of Foreign Governments). 170 As described in Chapter Two, the AG Guidelines recognize that activities subject to investigation as “threats to the national security” may also involve violations or potential violations of federal criminal laws, or may serve important purposes outside the ambit of normal criminal investigation and prosecution by informing national security decisions. Given such potential overlap in subject matter, neither the AG Guidelines nor the DIOG require the FBI to differently label its activities as criminal investigations, national security investigations, or foreign intelligence collections. Rather, the AG Guidelines state that, where an authorized purpose exists, all of the FBI’s legal authorities are available for deployment in all cases to which they apply.

And it provided this short description of why Strzok opened the investigation.

After Priestap authorized the opening of Crossfire Hurricane, Strzok, with input from the OGC Unit Chief, drafted and approved the opening EC. 175 Strzok told us that the case agent normally drafts the opening EC for an investigation, but that Strzok did so for Crossfire Hurricane because a case agent was not yet assigned and there was an immediate need to travel to the European city to interview the FFG officials who had met with Papadopoulos.

Finally, the IG Report provides a description of how the FBI came to open investigations against Trump’s four flunkies, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and — after a few days — Mike Flynn (though in the process, repeats but did not correct the error of calling this a FARA case).

Strzok, the Intel Section Chief, the Supervisory Intelligence Analyst (Supervisory Intel Analyst), and Case Agent 2 told the OIG that, based on this information, the initial investigative objective of Crossfire Hurricane was to determine which individuals associated with the Trump campaign may have been in a position to have received the alleged offer of assistance from Russia.

After conducting preliminary open source and FBI database inquiries, intelligence analysts on the Crossfire Hurricane team identified three individuals–Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn–associated with the Trump campaign with either ties to Russia or a history of travel to Russia. On August 10, 2016, the team opened separate counterintelligence FARA cases on Carter Page, Manafort, and Papadopoulos, under code names assigned by the FBI. On August 16, 2016, a counterintelligence FARA case was opened on Flynn under a code name assigned by the FBI. The opening ECs for all four investigations were drafted by either of the two Special Agents assigned to serve as the Case Agents for the investigation (Case Agent 1 or Case Agent 2) and were approved by Strzok, as required by the DIOG. 178 Each case was designated a SIM because the individual subjects were believed to be “prominent in a domestic political campaign. “179

Obviously, the extended account of how the umbrella investigation and individual targeted ones got opened accounts for Strzok’s testimony, but usually relies on someone else where available. That may be because Horowitz walked into this report with a key goal of assessing whether Strzok took any step arising from political bias, and while he concluded that Strzok could not have taken any act based on bias, he ultimately did not conclude one way or another whether he believed Strzok let his hatred for Trump bias his decisions.

But at first, the account made errors about what FBI was really investigating. And even in the longer discussions about how FBI came to predicate the four individual investigations (which follow the cited passage), it doesn’t really explain how FBI decided to go from the umbrella investigation to individualized targets.

Strzok, UNSUB, and his packed bags

So Strzok’s book, as delayed as I think the publication of it is, is in substantial part the first time he gets to explain these early activities.

In a long discussion about how the case got opened, Strzok talks about the difficulties of a counterintelligence investigation, particularly one where you don’t know whom your subject is, as was the case here.

Another reason for secrecy in the FBI’s counterintelligence work is the fundamentally clandestine nature of what it is investigating. Like my work on the illegals in Boston, counterintelligence work frequently has nothing to do with criminal behavior. An espionage investigation, as the Bureau defines it, involves an alleged violation of law. But pure counterintelligence work is often removed from proving that a crime took place and identifying the perpetrator. It’s gaining an understanding of what a foreign intelligence service is doing, who it targets, the methods it uses, and what the national security implications are.

Making those cases even more complicated, agents often don’t even know the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. They have a term for that: an unknown subject, or UNSUB, which they use when an activity is known but the specific person conducting that activity is not — for instance, when they are aware that Russia is working to undermine our electoral system in concert with a presidential campaign but don’t know exactly who at that campaign Russia might be coordinating with or how many people might be involved.

To understand the challenges of an UNSUB case, consider the following three hypothetical scenarios. In one, a Russian source tells his American handler that, while out drinking at an SVR reunion, he learned that a colleague had just been promoted after a breakthrough recruitment of an American intelligence officer in Bangkok. We don’t know the identity of the recruited American — he or she is an UNSUB. A second scenario: a man and a woman out for a morning run in Washington see a figure toss a package over the fence of the Russian embassy and speed off in a four-door maroon sedan. An UNSUB.

Or consider this third scenario: a young foreign policy adviser to an American presidential campaign boasts to one of our allies that the Russians have offered to help his candidate by releasing damaging information about that candidate’s chief political rival. Who actually received the offer of assistance from the Russians? An UNSUB.

The typical approach to investigating UNSUB cases is to open a case into the broad allegation, an umbrella investigation that encompasses everything the FBI knows. The key to UNSUB investigations is to first build a reliable matrix of every element known about the allegation and then identify the universe of individuals who could fit that matrix. That may sound cut-and-dried, but make no mistake: while the methodology is straightforward, it’s rarely easy to identify the UNSUB.

[snip]

The FFG information about Papadopoulos presented us with a text- book UNSUB case. Who received the alleged offer of assistance from the Russians? Was it Papadopoulos? Perhaps, but not necessarily. We didn’t know about his contacts with Mifsud at the time — all we knew was that he had told the allied government that the Russians had dirt on Clinton and Obama and that they wanted to release it in a way that would help Trump.

So how did we determine who else needed to go into our matrix? And what did we know about the various sources of the information? Papadopoulos had allegedly stated it, but it was relayed by a third party. What did we know about both of them: their motivations, for instance, or the quality of their memories? What were the other ways we could determine whether the allegation was true?

And if it was true, how did we get to the bottom of it?

Having laid out the challenge that lay behind the four predications, Strzok then described the circumstances of the trip (with a big gaping hole in the discussion of meeting with the Australians).

He describes how he went home over the weekend, not knowing whether they would leave immediately or after the weekend. That’s why, he explained, he wrote the EC himself, specifically to have one in place before they flew to London.

I quickly briefed him on the facts and asked him to get a bag ready to go to Europe to do some interviews.

When are we leaving? he asked me.

No idea, I told him. Probably not until Monday, but I want to be ready to go tomorrow.

How long are we going for? he asked.

I don’t know, I admitted. A few days at most. I wasn’t sure if we would get to yes with our counterparts, but our sitting there in Europe would make it harder for them to say no.

I had work to do before we could depart. When I left the office on Friday, I grabbed my assigned take-home laptop, configured to operate at a classified level on our secure network.

[snip]

Sitting in my home office, I opened the work laptop and powered it up. The laptops were balky and wildly overpriced, requiring an arcane multi-step process to connect. They constantly dropped their secure connections. Throughout the D.C. suburbs, FBI agents flew into rages when the laptops quit cold while they were trying to work at home. Chinese or Russian intelligence would have been hard-pressed to develop a more infuriating product. Nevertheless, they let you work away from the office.

After logging in, I pulled up a browser and launched Sentinel, our electronic case file system. Selecting the macro for opening an investigation, I filled in the various fields until I reached the blank box for the case name.

They didn’t leave over the weekend, but they did leave on Monday. When they came back, having heard Alexander Downer’s side of the story (probably along with his aide, with whom Papadopoulos met and drank more with on multiple occasions, but that’s not in the book), it seemed a more credible tip.

And in the interim, analysts had found four possible candidates to be the UNSUB.

I was surprised by the amount of information the analysts had already found. Usually, because initial briefings take place at the very beginning of an investigation, they are short on facts and long on conjecture about all the various avenues we might pursue for information. In this case there were already a lot of facts, and several individuals—not just one—had already cropped up in other cases, in other intelligence collection, in other surveillance activity.
Although I was just hours back from Europe, what I saw was deeply dis- concerting. Though we were in the earliest stages of the investigation, our first examination of intelligence had revealed a wide breadth and volume of connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. It was as if we had gone to search for a few rocks only to find ourselves in a field of boulders.

Within a week the team had highlighted several people who stood out as potentially matching the UNSUB who had received the Russian offer of assistance. As we developed information, each person went into the UNSUB matrix, with tick marks next to the matching descriptors.

All this description is surely not going to satisfy Republicans. Nor was it under oath or to law enforcement officers, as Strzok’s other testimony was.

But it’s a compelling description.

It also adds perspective onto the treatment of Mike Flynn. Until they learned about Papadopoulos’ ties with Joseph Mifsud, they still had no clues about who got the tip. Mike Flynn had been eliminated for lack of evidence — but then he picked up a phone and provided the FBI a whole lot of evidence that he could be the guy.

And unless you believe that receiving a credible tip from a close ally that someone is tampering in an election still three months away doesn’t merit urgency, then the other steps all make sense.

I have no idea if that’s why Catherine Herridge got sent to whip out her high-gaslight again. I have no idea whether Nora Dannehy read these excerpts, and in the process realized both the significance of the error in treating this as a FARA investigation, but also how that changes predication into individual subjects.

But there have long been answers to some of the most basic questions that Republicans have returned to over and over again. It’s just that few of the interim investigations ever asked to get those answers. And the one that did — the DOJ IG Report — never even understood the crimes investigated until after the report got published.

Nora Dannehy Just Gave Emmet Sullivan the Evidence of Extreme Abuse to Sentence Mike Flynn

Though the full DC Circuit sent the Mike Flynn case back for Judge Emmet Sullivan to rule on DOJ’s motion to dismiss, at least some of the judges on the panel seemed to believe only something extraordinary — like the judge witnessing bribery in his courtroom — would merit refusing to grant the motion to dismiss.

Nora Dannehy, in resigning from the Durham investigation Thursday night, just gave Judge Sullivan that extraordinary reason.

The Hartford Courant story breaking the news provides a one detail explaining why.

First, perhaps to explain the non-political aspect of why Dannehy quit, the report describes that she was told the assignment would take six months to a year when she first came back in March 2019.

Dannehy was told to expect an assignment of from six months to a year when she agreed to join Durham’s team in Washington, colleagues said. The work has taken far longer than expected, in part because of complications caused by the corona virus pandemic. In the meantime, team members – some of whom are current or former federal investigators or prosecutors with homes in Connecticut – have been working long hours in Washington under pressure to produce results, associates said.

That would have put whatever pre-determined conclusion Billy Barr expected between September 2019 and March 2020. Barr presumed he’d get that outcome, then, by the time around February 1 when he appointed Jeffrey Jensen — to review the Flynn prosecution and come up with some excuse to dismiss it.

When Catherine Herridge interviewed Barr in the wake of the motion to dismiss, Barr specifically said that he appointed Jensen when he did even though John Durham was investigating the very same things. He had to appoint Jensen, Barr explained, because of some filings in the case meant “we had to sorta move more quickly on it.”

President Trump recently tweeted about the Flynn case. He said, “What happened to General Flynn should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again.” Were you influenced in any way by the president or his tweets?

No, not at all. And, you know, I made clear during my confirmation hearing that I was gonna look into what happened in 2016 and ’17. I made that crystal clear. I was very concerned about what happened. I was gonna get to the bottom of it. And that included the treatment of General Flynn.

And that is part of John Durham, U.S. Attorney John Durham’s portfolio. The reason we had to take this action now and why U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen came in was because it was prompted by the motions that were filed in that case. And so we had to sorta move more quickly on it. But John Durham is still looking at all of this.

This is one particular episode, but we view it as part of a number of related acts. And we’re looking at the whole pattern of conduct.

Jensen, who was a firearms prosecutor, with no experience in counterintelligence, did truly shoddy work. At one point, he handed over some notes from Peter Strzok, claiming not to know they had to have been written on January 5, which caused the usual frothers to invent a new conspiracy theory out of them. Either he knew the overcall so poorly not to know the context, or he was just feeding the trolls. You decide.

He also made his decision without waiting to learn from Bill Priestap that the purpose of the Mike Flynn interview is precisely what every single piece of evidence said it was, to see whether Flynn would tell the truth about his calls with Sergei Kislyak. Instead, the decision came just before Covington and Burling would have had an opportunity to describe all the times Flynn lied to his lawyers in the process of submitting a FARA filing that still hid that he knew he had been working for Turkey.

In the second hearing before the DC Circuit, Jeff Wall revealed that the reason a hearing into DOJ’s reason for the motion to dismiss would do irreparable harm was because Billy Barr had a secret reason for dismissing the case, one pertaining to “non-public information from other investigations.”

The Attorney General sees this in a context of non-public information from other investigations.

[snip]

I just want to make clear that it may be possible that the Attorney General had before him that he was not able to share with the court and so what we put in front of the court were the reasons that we could, but it may not be the whole picture available to the Executive Branch.

[snip]

It’s just we gave three reasons; one of them was that the interests of justice were not longer served, in the Attorney General’s judgment, by the prosecution. The Attorney General made that decision, or that judgment, on the basis of lots of information, some of it is public and fleshed out in the motion, some of it is not.

[snip]

If all we had to do was show up and stand on our motion, no, we’ve already said that to the District Court.

The revised explanation prosecutor Jocelyn Ballantine offered for the motion to dismiss says that key witnesses, including Strzok, have been discredited (though as John Gleeson noted in his reply brief, her filing also relied on Strzok’s expertise).

All of which provides a good deal of evidence that Barr’s plan was to use Durham’s results to say that Mike Flynn shouldn’t be prosecuted (not even for selling out the country with Turkey). When those results didn’t come in on time, Barr told Jensen to go dig up evidence that had already been shared and reviewed by DOJ IG and the Durham inquiry, claim it was new (when much of it wasn’t even new to Judge Sullivan), and based on that, flip-flopped off of DOJ’s previous support for prison time.

Yesterday, Dannehy made it clear that the results of the Durham inquiry have also been pre-determined. (Though I half wonder whether the Durham team reviewed Peter Strzok’s book, found ready explanations to questions that neither HJC/OGR nor SSCI bothered to ask about the investigation — most likely about how the team chose four targets — and realized they were chasing hoaxes invented by Fox News.)

There’s is increasing evidence that Billy Barr moved to dismiss Flynn’s prosecution based of the results he is demanding Durham produce.

Barr may still get Durham to produce the results he has demanded. But that may not come before Judge Sullivan has an opportunity to ask about it.

Kevin Clinesmith Ordered to Cooperate with People Not on John Durham’s Team

According to multiple reports and live-tweeting from his plea hearing last week, John Durham is relying, in part, on former FBI Agents to conduct his investigation into an investigation he may not understand.

Mr. Durham is relying on a team of prosecutors, including Nora R. Dannehy and Neeraj Patel, from Connecticut, as well as former and current F.B.I. agents to complete his investigation. Anthony Scarpelli, a top prosecutor from the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, was detailed to the team along with a federal prosecutor from Manhattan, Andrew DeFilippis.

Two former F.B.I. agents, Timothy Fuhrman and Jack Eckenrode, are also assisting. An F.B.I. agent who oversaw public corruption in Chicago and served in Ukraine as an assistant legal attaché, Peter Angelini, has also joined Mr. Durham’s team.

That’s important because of a detail in the Kevin Clinesmith plea deal that the frothy right has totally misrepresented. The plea deal includes a paragraph — addressing the “use of self-incriminating information,” not cooperation — that requires Clinesmith’s cooperation with the FBI, not prosecutors.

10. Use of Self-Incriminating Information

As an express condition of this agreement, the defendant agrees to be personally debriefed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) regarding the FBI’s review of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) matters and any information he possesses, direct or indirect, that should be brought to the attention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISC”). The Government agrees pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 1B1.8(a), that information provided by your client pursuant to this Agreement or during the course of the aforementioned debriefing, and about which the Government had no prior knowledge or insufficient proof in the absence of the debriefing, will not be used at the time of sentencing for the purpose of determining the applicable guideline range. However, all information provided by the defendant may be used for the purposes and in accordance with the terms identified in U.S.S.G. § 1B1.8(b).

The paragraph even describes the topic of Clinesmith’s mandated cooperation: working with the FBI to figure out if there’s anything further he worked on that must be noticed to the FISA Court.

On December 5, then presiding FISA Judge Rosemary Collyer (she has been succeeded by James Boasberg, who also presides over Clinesmith’s prosecution) ordered the government to check every FISA application Clinesmith had been involved with to make sure he hadn’t done anything similar on other applications.

(1) Identify all other matters currently or previously before this Court that involved the participation of the FBI OGC attorney whose conduct was described in the Preliminary Letter and Supplement Letter;

(2) Describe any steps taken or to be taken by the Department of Justice or FBI to verify that the United States’ submissions in those matters completely and fully described the material facts and circumstances; and

(3) Advise whether the conduct of the FBI OGC attorney bas been referred to the I appropriate bar association(s) for investigation or possible disciplinary action.

Nothing in the public record indicates that FBI has completed this review. Which means the FBI still needs Clinesmith’s help to review the cases he worked on.

So the language here covers what happens if, in the course of this review, FBI finds other cases where he doctored the record or somehow lied to the FISA Court.

The emphasis on cooperating with the FBI (and Durham’s heavy reliance on retired FBI Agents) should have been hint enough that this is not some grand cooperation agreement that will land Jim Comey and John Brennan in prison. But there’s another clue. The plea deal specifically says the government will not file any downward departure for sentencing.

In addition, your client acknowledges that the Government is not obligated and does not intend to file any post-sentence downward departure motion in this case pursuant to Rule 35(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

There’s no cooperation agreement because there’s nothing on the table for Clinesmith to cooperate on, except to avoid further exposure.

And the plea agreement says there’s nothing more (some plea agreements have sealed addendums).

There’s no upside promised in this plea agreement. Which means Clinesmith has not promised to deliver any heads on a platter for the frothers.

Page’s Intelligence Officers, Plural, Versus His Serial Willingness to Be Recruited

One last post on the John Durham Criminal Information charging Kevin Clinesmith with one count of false statements (for making and using a false document). It appears that John Durham, DOJ IG, and CIA are placing a different emphasis on Carter Page’s ties with the CIA than the FBI did, based on a differential focus on a number of contacts Page had versus Page’s willingness to be recruited.

The FISA applications for Carter Page refer to three different interactions with Russians to establish probable cause that Page was willing to be recruited by Russian intelligence officers:

  • A year long relationship with Aleksandr Bulatov (2007 to 2008), during which Bulatov used Page to network and in at least one case obtain non-public information
  • A longer relationship with Victor Podobnyy (lasting at least from January 2013 to April 2014), during which Page again provided information and networking leads
  • A 2015 exchange, after the complaint against Podobnyy was unsealed, during which Page told a Russian Minister he was the person referenced in the complaint, seeming to confirm that Page knew he was being recruited

On quick read, the DOJ IG Report and the Criminal Information seem to suggest that on August 17, 2016, CIA informed FBI that they knew of both these relationships with Page and were collecting information through him. That’s because DOJ IG Report and the Information say that the CIA informed FBI that Page had shared information about “certain Russian intelligence officers.”

Here’s how it appears in the Information.

On August 17, 2016, prior to the approval of FISA #1, the OGA provided certain members of the Crossfire Hurricane team a memorandum (“August 17 Memorandum”) indicating that Individual #1 had been approved as an “operational contact” for the OGA from 2008 to 2013 and detailing information that Individual #1 had provided to the OGA concerning Individual #1’s prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers. [my emphasis]

That’s nearly a direct quotation from the DOJ IG Report.

On or about August 17, 2016, the Crossfire Hurricane team received a memorandum from the other U.S. government agency detailing its prior relationship with Carter Page, including that Page had been approved as an operational contact for the other agency from 2008 to 2013 and information that Page had provided to the other agency concerning Page’s prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers.

In other words, a quick read of both would suggest that those plural Russian intelligence officers are Bulatov and Podobnyy.

Except that’s not right. Indeed, logically that means Page was providing information on more known or suspected Russian intelligence officers in the years immediately after he returned from Moscow. It’s also the case that Page has provided at least three different stories about Bulatov, and that he does not appear to have (indeed, arguably could not have) told CIA about Podobnyy.

Partly in an interest in challenging some of the misinformation on this point, I’ve put a timeline of Page’s known interactions with CIA, FBI, and Russian intelligence officers below. That shows, first of all, that while the CIA continued to treat Page as an approved “operational contact” until 2013, the last time CIA spoke to him was in July 2011.

That means Page couldn’t have told them about Podobnyy, because he didn’t meed Podobnyy until 2013.

Indeed, the DOJ IG twice says, subtly, that the CIA did not provide any evidence that they knew about Page’s tie with Podobnyy.

The other agency did not provide the FBI with information indicating it had knowledge of Page’s reported contacts with another particular intelligence officer. The FBI also relied on Page’s contacts with this intelligence officer in the FISA application.

[snip]

As further described in Chapter Five, the other agency’s memorandum did not provide the FBI with information indicating it had knowledge of Page’s reported contacts with another particular intelligence officer. The FBI also relied on Page’s contacts with this intelligence officer in the FISA application.

But that means there must be other suspected Russian spooks about whom Page provided information in that earlier period. Indeed, in one place the DOJ IG Report appears to confirm that, too.

Page had disclosed to the other agency contacts that he had with Intelligence Officer 1 and certain other individuals,

There’s a reference in one of Page’s FBI interviews to his NYU students, whom he likened to Podobnyy, so perhaps that’s related.

In any case, as I noted, Page told at least three different stories about Bulatov, the person about whom he shared information with both FBI and CIA. According to the DOJ IG Report, CIA only knew (so presumably got told) that his ties extended back only to 2008. The FBI maintains, however, that his relationship with Bulatov extends back to 2007. In a March 2017 interview, in addition to obfuscating about telling the Russian Minister he was Male-1, Page claimed to not even remember Bulatov, even when pushed, claimed he had only met Bulatov for lunch once, even though in one of his earlier interviews with the FBI, he said he had contact with Bulatov after he had returned to Moscow in 2008. A few weeks later, Page still affirmed that he thought “the more immaterial non-public information I give them, the better for this country,” even while resisting when an FBI agent observed that this basically was a source-handler relationship.

I don’t necessarily think Page was lying (though on his later FISA applications, FBI pointed to this discrepancy). By March 2017, Page had been driven mostly nuts by this process. I think it possible he really misremembered his earlier, acknowledged ties by then.

Still, even on the one topic that overlapped — Bulatov — Page’s stories appear inconsistent (or at least had become inconsistent after the pressure of 2017).

Ultimately, one thing that appears to have happened is CIA, DOJ IG, and Durham have focused on Page’s sharing of information about multiple people of interest to CIA in 2010 and earlier. Meanwhile, FBI focused on Page’s seeming willingness to be cultivated by known Russian spies.

Understanding that different focus helps to understand a lot of what has gone on since.

Timeline

2004-2007: Carter Page lives in Russia. [IG Report 157]

2007: Carter Page’s ties with Aleksandr Bulatov begin. [IG Report 158]

April 2008: Carter Page first meets with CIA. CIA assesses, in contradistinction to FBI’s belief, that Page’s ties to Bulatov began in 2008. [IG Report 156]

June 2008: Bulatov returns to Moscow. [June 2017 Application 14]

August 2008: Per Carter Page interview, his last contact with Bulatov (who returned to Moscow two months earlier). [June 2017 Application 14]

June 18, 2009: FBI interviews Carter Page about contact with Bulatov. Page says he has been in contact with CIA, but FBI doesn’t ask about that. [DOJ IG 61, 158]

October 2010: Page tells CIA he met with Bulatov four times and that Bulatov asked him for information about another American. [IG Report 158]

July 2011: Final meeting between Page and CIA. [IG Report 159]

December 2012: Podobnyy arrives at UN mission. [June 2017 Application 15]

2013: Intelligence Officer 1 hands off Page to Victor Podobnyy [DOJ IG 61 In a June 2013 interview, Page told the FBI he met Podobnyy at an energy conference, and had subsequently provided Podobnyy information about the energy business. [Complaint 13]

April 8, 2013: FBI intercepts conversation between Podobnyy and Sporyshev about recruiting Page. [Complaint 12]

June 13, 2013: FBI interviews Page about Podobnyy. After FBI suggests that Podobnyy is an intelligence officer, Page says his acquaintance with Podobnyy was positive for him. Page says he hadn’t spoken with CIA in “about a year or so” (it was July 2011). CIA did not provide evidence that Page told them about Podobnyy. [Buryakov Complaint 12-13, IG Report 156, 158]

August 2013: FBI interviews Page about Podobnyy, who admits he has met with Podobnyy since their interview in June. [IG Report 62]

September 2013: Podobnyy leaves UN mission. [June 2017 Application 15]

January 23, 2015: Buryakov, Prodobnyy, and Igor Sporyshev charged. The complaint refers to an informant, CS-1, who is not Page. It also includes the transcript of an intercepted conversations about how Podobnyy tried to recruit Male-1, Page. [Complaint]

February 19, 2015: Buryakov et all indicted.

March 2, 2016: FBI interviews Page in preparation for Victor Podonyy trial and learns he informed a Russian Minister and others at the UN he was identified in the indictment in “the spirit of openness.” [IG Report 62]

March 21, 2016: Trump formally names Page a foreign policy advisor.

April 1, 2016: Counterespionage Section advises NYFO to open an investigation on Page. [IG Report 62]

April 6, 2016: NYFO opens investigation into Page (note, one reference to this says the investigation was opened on April 4). [IG Report 63]

May 16, 2016: Page requests permission from campaign to make trip to Russia

July 3 to 9, 2016: Page in Moscow

July 11 or 12, 2016: Page first meets Stefan Halper at a conference in London, though DOJ IG says that was not part of an FBI tasking. Page recruits Halper to join Trump campaign.

July 31, 2016: FBI opens Crossfire Hurricane.

Previous posts

In this post, I explained how John Durham likely gets to intent with Clinesmith even though the former FBI lawyer claims he didn’t intend to mislead about Carter Page’s ties to CIA. In this post, I explained why Durham’s description of Crossfire Hurricane as a “FARA” investigation suggests he may misunderstand very basic aspects of his investigation. And in this post, I noted that Billy Barr’s approval of the timing of this guilty plea undermines Barr and Trump’s complaints about the swifter pace of the Mueller investigation.

How Durham Gets to Intent on False Statements with Kevin Clinesmith

A lot of skeptics of the John Durham investigation have raised questions about the false statements charge against Kevin Clinesmith and intent.

Clinesmith claimed to DOJ IG that he did not intend to mislead when he altered an email saying that Carter Page was a “source” for CIA, but that he did so because he believed Page not to be a recruited asset but instead some kind of sub-source.

The OGC Attorney told us that- his belief that Page had never been a source for the other U.S. government agency, but instead interacted with a source-was based on telephone conversations with the Liaison. He said he recalled the Liaison “saying that [Page] was not a source of theirs,” but rather “incidentally reporting information via a source of theirs” and that they “ended up not actually opening him.”396

[snip]

We asked the OGC Attorney about this instant message exchange with SSA 2 in which he told SSA 2 that Carter Page was never a source. The OGC Attorney stated, “That was my, the impression that I was given, yes.” We also asked why he told SSA 2 in the instant message exchange that the other U.S. government agency “confirmed explicitly that he was never a source.” The OGC Attorney explained that his statement was just “shorthand” for the information provided by the other agency about Page and that he had no particular reason to use the word “explicitly.”

[snip]

We asked the OGC Attorney about the alteration in the email he sent to SSA 2. He initially stated that he was not certain how the alteration occurred, but subsequently acknowledged that he made the change. He also stated it was consistent with his impression of the information that he had been provided by the Liaison.

Clinesmith’s lawyer told a similar story to the NYT, so he either still believes that or has settled on that story to avoid further legal exposure.

Mr. Clinesmith’s argued that he did not change the document in an attempt to cover up the F.B.I.’s mistake. His lawyers argued that he had made the change in good faith because he did not think that Mr. Page had been an actual source for the C.I.A.

Neither Michael Horowitz nor Durham appear to believe this story. Durham quotes the CIA liaison saying that Clinesmith had no basis to formulate that belief.

The Liaison focused on the portion of the exchange in which the 0GC Attorney stated that Page “was never a source.” The Liaison told us that this statement was wrong, as was the 0GC Attorney’s statement that Page “was a U.S. sub-source of a source.” The Liaison said that such an assertion is “directly contradictory to the [documents]” the agency provided to the FBI. The Liaison also said it was inaccurate to describe Carter Page as “like a sub-source of [a digraph]” and to state that the other agency had “confirmed explicitly that [Page] was never a source.” We asked the Liaison whether the Liaison ever told the 0GC Attorney that Page was not a source. The Liaison said that, to the best of the Liaison’s recollection, the Liaison did not and would not have characterized the status of a “[digraph]” without either first reaching out to the other agency’s experts responsible for the underlying reporting, or relying on the proper supporting documentation for an answer. The Liaison stated, “I have no recollection of there being any basis for [the 0GC Attorney] to reach that conclusion, and it is directly contradicted by the documents.”

And Horowitz subtly suggested that Clinesmith formulated this belief without reading the documents that the CIA liaison had told him to refer to to understand Page’s tie with the CIA.

The Liaison responded that same day by providing the OGC Attorney with a list of documents previously provided by the other agency to the FBI mentioning Page’s name, including the August 17 Memorandum.

[snip]

We asked the OGC Attorney if he read the documents identified by the Liaison in her June 15, 2017 email. The OGC Attorney told the OIG that he “didn’t know the details of…the content of the [documents]” and did not think he was involved in reviewing them. He also said he “didn’t have access to the [documents] in the OGC space,” but that the investigative team was provided the list of documents and that they would have been reviewing them.

This is a detail that Durham repeated in the Criminal Information charging Clinesmith.

Later that same day, the OGA Liaison responded by email in which the liaison provided the defendant with a list (but not copies) of OGA documents.

Both seem to suggest that Clinesmith provided no credible explanation for how he came to conclude that Page was not a source, even if he maintains that he believed in good faith that an operational contact was not a source.

Still, the only proof of that is (at least as far as the public record goes) the CIA liaison’s imperfect memory of that conversation. He says, she says. Not a strong case that Clinesmith intentionally changed the email to mislead.

So how, a number of Durham skeptics are rightly asking, will Clinesmith allocute to guilt in changing the document, when he has consistently claimed he did not intend to mislead anyone by changing the email.

That’s not how Durham has formulated this false statements charge.

Clinesmith is not charged with lying about whether Page was a source. Rather, he’s charged under 18 USC 1001(a)(3), which reads:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—

(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;

shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.

That is, he’s not charged with lying, but instead with using a false document that he knew to contain a materially false statement.

The Information explains that,

Specifically, on or about June 19, 2017, the defendant altered the OGA Liaison’s June 15, 2017 email by adding that Individual #1 “was not a source” and then forwarded the email to the SSA, when in truth, and in fact, and as the defendant well knew, the original June 15, 2017 email from the OGA Liaison did not contain the words “not a source.”

This shifts the burden on intent significantly, because while Clinesmith contends he did not intend to mislead, he doesn’t deny altering the email, for whatever purpose. SSA 2 (SSA in the Information) has already testified to the IG (and presumably said the same thing to Durham) that that altered verbiage was material to him.

We discussed the altered email with SSA 2, who told us that the OGC Attorney was the person he relied upon to resolve the issue of whether Carter Page was or had been a source for the other U.S. government agency. SSA 2 told us that the statement inserted into the Liaison’s email-that Page was “not a source”- was the most important part of the email for him. SSA 2 said “if they say [he’s] not a source, then you know we’re good.” SSA 2 also said that if the email from the Liaison had not contained the words “not a source” then, for him, the issue would have remained unresolved, and he would have had to seek further clarification. SSA 2 stated: “If you take out ‘and not a source,’ it’s not wrong, but it doesn’t really answer the question.” He also said that something lesser, such as a verbal statement from the Liaison through the OGC Attorney, would not have resolved the issue for him. SSA 2 also told us it was important to him that the OGC Attorney had first sent the Liaison’s response email to the 01 Attorney, because if they discussed the issue and they have “decided we don’t have to do a footnote that he’s not a source … we’ve resolved this. We’re good to move forward.” He also said that he “would assume that the [OI Attorney]. .. received exactly what [SSA 2] received since it was a forward.”

SSA 2 has testified, then, that Clinesmith’s alteration of the email was material to his understanding of Page’s status; anything less than those words would have led him to include a footnote in the fourth Page application.

While I know a lot of Durham skeptics (including bmaz, who’ll promptly call me and yell at me) think Durham has a problem with allocution here, I think by crafting this under 18 USC 1001(a)(3), Durham avoids those problems. It doesn’t matter why Clinesmith altered the email (whether you believe him or not — and again, I don’t think Durham does). All Clinesmith is charged with is intentionally altering the email, which he has already admitted to.

One more point about intent. The frothy right has falsely claimed Clinesmith newly implicated his colleagues in altering this email. There’s nothing new here. The DOJ IG Report stated that Clinesmith forwarded the email, unaltered, to people who weren’t the affiants on the FISA application.

That same day, the OGC Attorney forwarded the Liaison’s email response to Case Agent 6 and an FBI SSA assigned to the Special Counsel’s Office, without adding any explanation or comment. The SSA responded by telling Case Agent 6 that she would “pull these [documents] for you tomorrow and get you what you need.”

This passage doesn’t get the frothy right where they think it does, either, at least not yet. They forget, for example, that Mueller has testified that he was not involved in the FISA process. And the information about Page’s role with the CIA was important to Mueller’s team for different reasons — most notably because in June 2017, Mueller’s team would be trying to assess what to make of FBI 302s where Page is recorded as equivocating about whether he had told anyone he was Male-1 in the Victor Podobnyy indictment, which would amount to an attempt to deny that he had gone out of his way to maintain contact with Russia even after it became clear those contacts were with intelligence officers.

It’s possible Durham thinks that something these two people did led Clinesmith to start lying about what kind of source Page was. But in addition to working with them, he also immediately told his boss that Page was a subsource–the explanation he has offered since.

The Clinesmith Information Suggests that John Durham Misunderstands His Investigation

Paragraph 2 of the Kevin Clinesmith Criminal Information reads:

On July 31, 2016, the FBI opened a Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) investigation known as Crossfire Hurricane into whether individual(s) associated with Donald J. Trump for President Campaign were witting of and/or coordinating activities with the Russian government. By August 16, 2016, the FBI had opened individual cases under the Crossfire Hurricane umbrella on four United States persons including a United States person referred to herein as “Individual 1.”

That paragraph is, at a minimum, deeply dishonest.

But I believe — and four experts I asked on the topic (which does not include Andrew Weissmann, who has since tweeted about this) agree — that it may be something worse. It appears to be evidence that John Durham doesn’t understand his own investigation.

The paragraph is dishonest because it suggests that the investigation into Carter Page arose exclusively out of the Crossfire Hurricane predication. That’s false.

As the DOJ IG Report made clear, the NY Field Office opened an investigation into Page during the spring of 2016 upon discovering that, when he was identified in the indictment of one of the Russians trying to recruit him in 2013, he went to other Russians and apparently tried to reassure them that he had not told the FBI about their efforts (and when interviewed by the FBI, Page repeatedly said sharing non-public economic information with known Russian intelligence officers was a positive for him).

On March 2, 2016, the NYFO CI Agent and SDNY Assistant United States Attorneys interviewed Carter Page in preparation for the trial of one of the indicted Russian intelligence officers. During the interview, Page stated that he knew he was the person referred to as Male-1 in the indictment and further said that he had identified himself as Male-1 to a Russian Minister and various Russian officials at a United Nations event in “the spirit of openness.” The NYFO CI Agent told us she returned to her office after the interview and discussed with her supervisor opening a counterintelligence case on Page based on his statement to Russian officials that he believed he was Male-1 in the indictment and his continued contact with Russian intelligence officers.

The FBI’s NYFO CI squad supervisor (NYFO CI Supervisor) told us she believed she should have opened a counterintelligence case on Carter Page prior to March 2, 2016 based on his continued contacts with Russian intelligence officers; however, she said the squad was preparing for a big trial, and they did not focus on Page until he was interviewed again on March 2. She told us that after the March 2 interview, she called CD’s Counterespionage Section at FBI Headquarters to determine whether Page had any security clearances and to ask for guidance as to what type of investigation to open on Page. 183 On April 1, 2016, the NYFO CI Supervisor received an email from the Counterespionage Section advising her to open a [redacted] investigation on Page.

[snip]

On April 6, 2016, NYFO opened a counterintelligence [redacted] investigation on Carter Page under a code name the FBI assigned to him (NYFO investigation) based on his contacts with Russian intelligence officers and his statement to Russian officials that he was “Male-1” in the SONY indictment. Based on our review of documents in the NYFO case file, as well as our interview of the NYFO CI Agent, there was limited investigative activity in the NYFO investigation between April 6 and the Crossfire Hurricane team’s opening of its investigation of Page on August 10. The NYFO CI Agent told the OIG that the steps she took in the first few months of the case were to observe whether any other intelligence officers contacted Page and to prepare national security letters seeking Carter Page’s cell phone number(s) and residence information. The NYFO CI agent said that she did not use any CHSs to target Page during the NYFO investigation. The NYFO investigation was transferred to the Crossfire Hurricane team on August 10 and became part of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

Carter Page was the subject of a legitimate counterintelligence investigation months before Crossfire Hurricane got opened, based off conduct that continued three years after CIA had ended approval for Page as an operational contact, based off conduct with multiple Russians — at least one a known intelligence officer — that Page did not share with the CIA. Carter Page was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation started irrespective of all ties Page had formerly had with the CIA that is the issue at the core of the Clinesmith Information.

By pretending that every investigation into Trump’s flunkies (including the ongoing Money Laundering investigation into Paul Manafort) got opened by Crossfire Hurricane, Durham creates a narrative that is every bit as dishonest as the worst stories about Crossfire Hurricane.

Durham is doing precisely what he is tasked with investigating others for.

But Durham’s mischaracterization of the investigation as a “FARA” investigation is far more troubling. Either he doesn’t know what he’s doing — replicating an error that DOJ IG had to fix in its Carter Page investigation — or he’s deliberately misrepresenting what was a counterintelligence investigation that, at the start, envisioned the possibility that Page was unwittingly being cultivated.

And from this error, paragraph 4 of the Information creates the (again, false) impression that the suspicions that Carter Page might be a willing agent of Russia all came from the Crossfire Hurricane team.

Each of these FISA applications allege there was probable cause that Individual #1 was a knowing agent of a foreign power, specifically Russia.

Again, that’s false! Page told the FBI, repeatedly, that he thought it was a good thing to share non-public information with people he knew to be Russian intelligence officers. He told the FBI that well before Kevin Clinesmith got involved at all. He told the FBI that years after CIA no longer considered him an approved operational contact. That was the basis for investigating him, long before any of the people Durham is investigating got involved.

As I’ve noted, it took DOJ IG eleven days after publishing its report in December before it discovered that it didn’t know what FBI was investigating. After those eleven days, it issued a correction for some (but not all) of the references where it incorrectly portrayed the investigation as limited to FARA.

On page 57, we added the specific provision of the United States Code where the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) is codified, and revised a footnote in order to reference prior OIG work examining the Department’s enforcement and administration of FARA.

But there remain incorrect treatments of this nuance, and the IG Report conducted a First Amendment analysis about Carter Page that should have been mooted as soon as he admitted he was sharing information — economic information with no political tie — with people he knew to be Russian intelligence officers.

Still, at least DOJ IG explained the source of confusion: for any investigation involving registering as a foreign agent, the FBI uses the same case file number.

Crossfire Hurricane was opened by CD and was assigned a case number used by the FBI for possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), 22 U.S.C. § 611, et seq., and 18 U.S.C. § 951 (Agents of Foreign Governments). 170 As described in Chapter Two, the AG Guidelines recognize that activities subject to investigation as “threats to the national security” may also involve violations or potential violations of federal criminal laws, or may serve important purposes outside the ambit of normal criminal investigation and prosecution by informing national security decisions. Given such potential overlap in subject matter, neither the AG Guidelines nor the DIOG require the FBI to differently label its activities as criminal investigations, national security investigations, or foreign intelligence collections. Rather, the AG Guidelines state that, where an authorized purpose exists, all of the FBI’s legal authorities are available for deployment in all cases to which they apply . 171

That’s why the EC opening the investigation — which has subsequently been released — calls this a “FARA” investigation; because it’s a bureaucratic detail that in no way circumscribes the scope of the investigation. But the EC opening the investigation into Flynn — and assuredly, the EC opening the investigation into Page, though no one has released that yet — specifically names 18 USC 951 as well.

[See the update below for the evolution of the case ID# 97 that was used with Crossfire Hurricane.]

From the start, this was about more than doing political work for Russians.

People who know how FBI filing systems work, or know how FARA overlaps with 951, or know what the “COUNTERINTELLIGENCE” label appearing before the designation of this as a FARA case, would understand that FARA’s not a description of the actual investigation.

Apparently, Durham and his team (which does not include any National Security Division personnel, at least on the Clinesmith Information) don’t know or don’t care about any of that. His spokesperson did not return a call asking for clarification.

The point is, these were all counterintelligence investigations. As DOJ IG explained, the FBI may believe the investigation focuses on threats to national security and/or it may believe the investigation focuses on potential crimes. As one person I spoke with characterized this error, it’s like not knowing that the wall between intelligence and criminal investigations came down after 9/11.

And yet, Durham — who in December suggested he didn’t believe this investigation that he still treats as a criminal investigation was not properly predicated as a full investigation — appears not to understand that very basic fact about this investigation.

If Durham believes, erroneously, that the FBI opening a criminal investigation into Page into something that overlaps with First Amendment protected activity, it might explain why he hasn’t just closed up shop right now. It may explain why he claimed this was not a properly predicated full investigation. It may explain why he doesn’t understand why FBI continued the investigation based on behavior entirely unrelated to the Steele dossier.

But now Durham has made an assertion that likely arises from a total misunderstanding of what he’s investigating. He has betrayed that his entire investigation appears premised on a misunderstanding.

Update: I’ve fixed a reference to “operational contact,” which I originally had as “operational conduct.”

Update: Per a recently released Mike Flynn file, we know the case ID# for Crossfire Hurricane was 97F-HQ-063661. NARA describes how that case ID # started as a way to codify the Foreign Agents Registration Act. But then in 1950 it also came to include those who had knowledge of espionage, counter-espionage, or sabotage from a foreign country. Likewise, the FBI itself makes it clear that 97 covers both FARA and 18 USC 951. Durham only had to refer to a public FOIA document to understand his error.

Jeff Wall: It Would Cause Attorney General Barr Irreparable Harm If He Had to Reveal His Secret Reason He Moved to Dismiss Flynn’s Prosecution

Before I explain the most important takeaway from the Mike Flynn hearing, let me note two points.

First, the Department of Justice is quite clear that none of the materials turned over recently to Mike Flynn were Brady material showing exculpatory evidence. DOJ has disclaimed any prosecutorial misconduct in Judge Sullivan’s courtroom. Bill Barr even said as much, under oath, before the House Judiciary Committee. DOJ has falsely claimed they were “new,” but some of the actual details weren’t even new to Flynn, much less new to DOJ, even if some of the documents were. That’s important because a number of the judges today seem to believe that DOJ wants to dismiss this case because they believe there was misconduct.

Nope.

The government disclosed approximately 25 pages of documents in April and May 2020 as the result of an independent review of this case by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. While those documents, along with other recently available information, see, e.g., Doc. 198-6, are relevant to the government’s discretionary decision to dismiss this case, the government’s motion is not based on defendant Flynn’s broad allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Flynn’s allegations are unfounded and provide no basis for impugning the prosecutors from the D.C. United States Attorney’s Office.

They want to dismiss the case because they don’t believe calling up the country that just attacked us and secretly undermining the punishment on them, then lying about it, is any big thing.

Second, in the second-to-last release to Flynn of materials that aren’t new but that Billy Barr used to invent a reason to dismiss the prosecution, DOJ either betrayed breathtaking ignorance of the investigation into Flynn, or they lied. In turning over notes from Peter Strzok that clearly memorialize a January 5, 2017 meeting that has been the subject of public disclosure going back years (well before Flynn reallocuted his plea deal), DOJ claimed not to know their date.

The enclosed document was obtained and analyzed by USA EDMO during the course of its review. This page of notes was taken by former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. While the page itself is undated; we believe that the notes were taken in early January 2017, possibly between January 3 and January 5.

That professed uncertainty led the frothy right to claim that Joe Biden suggested Flynn be prosecuted for the Logan Act, which led to FBI reopening the investigation, which led to his prosecution. It was obvious the notes were from January 5, and I’ve since confirmed that. That DOJ claimed not to know the date of these notes is either evidence that they’re using this process to invent campaign dirt, or evidence that all the people reviewing this material have no grasp on the facts.

Which is to say, the judges have the very mistaken impression that DOJ withheld material they should have turned over, and that DOJ itself has suggested (in the less damning reading of their actions) to have no grasp of basic facts about the investigation into Flynn or even basic physics about time. No. Both claims are, at best, reason to further scrutinize this case.

Even ignoring the fact that DOJ has presented two different explanations for why they want to dismiss a case that they, months earlier, argued merited prison time, taking just the original motion to dismiss on its face value (ignoring the obvious lies in it), three months later, no one understands why DOJ moved to dismiss the case.

That’s important, because Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall claims it would cause irreparable harm to the Executive Branch if DOJ had to answer any questions about why they dismissed the case.

That matters for two reasons. First, as the attorney representing Judge Emmet Sullivan, Beth Wilkinson, pointed out, what distinguishes this case from a Dick Cheney case that SCOTUS has said threatened the prerogatives of the Executive branch, DOJ has already proven willing to offer up reasons for their motion to dismiss, even if they are, partly, transparently false. DOJ is not claiming that they can’t respond to these questions, they’re offering up explanations unasked, and then objecting aggressively when asked question about those claims.

Indeed, Wall offered up a crazy new detail in this hearing: He implied that, in addition to believing that material lies are not the same for Flynn as other people and that secretly calling up the country that just attacked us to say, “no big deal,” is not alarming, there is also non-public information from other investigations that led Billy Barr to tank the Flynn prosecution.

The Attorney General sees this in a context of non-public information from other investigations.

[snip]

I just want to make clear that it may be possible that the Attorney General had before him that he was not able to share with the court and so what we put in front of the court were the reasons that we could, but it may not be the whole picture available to the Executive Branch.

[snip]

It’s just we gave three reasons; one of them was that the interests of justice were not longer served, in the Attorney General’s judgment, by the prosecution. The Attorney General made that decision, or that judgment, on the basis of lots of information, some of it is public and fleshed out in the motion, some of it is not.

[snip]

If all we had to do was show up and stand on our motion, no, we’ve already said that to the District Court.

Billy Barr has a secret. And that, Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall suggested, is why a mere hearing on this motion to dismiss would irreparably harm DOJ (even while Wall alluded to the information without being asked).

Wow.

The revised explanation why DOJ can’t prosecute Flynn that Flynn prosecutor Jocelyn Ballantine has offered (one in which the Solicitor General’s Office has also participated) is that DOJ can’t “prosecute” Mike Flynn because DOJ has collected so much impeaching evidence against those who investigated Flynn that they can’t prove the case he has twice pled guilty to even though witnesses like KT McFarland and Mike Pence support their case.

Furthermore, since the time of the plea, extensive impeaching materials had emerged about key witnesses the government would need to prove its case. Strzok was fired from the FBI, in part because his text messages with Page revealed political bias against the current administration and “implie[d] a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.” U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election xii (December 2018). The second interviewing agent has been accused of acting improperly in connection with the broader investigation. McCabe, who authorized Flynn’s interview without notifying either the Department of Justice or the White House Counsel, was fired for conduct that included lying to the FBI and lying under oath. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, A Report of Investigation of Certain Allegations Relating to Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe 2 (February 2018). In addition, significant witnesses have pending investigations or lawsuits against the Department of Justice, which could create further questions about their testimony at trial. See Strzok v. Barr, Civ. No. 19-2367 (D.D.C. Aug. 6, 2019); McCabe v. Barr, Civ. No. 19-2399 (D.D.C. Aug. 8, 2019); Page v. Dep’t of Justice, Civ. No. 19-3675 (D.D.C. Dec. 10, 2019). Those developments further support the government’s assessment about the difficulty it would have in proving its case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

That is, Ballantine says DOJ can’t sentence Flynn for his admitted crimes because they’ve also laid out how DOJ has trumped up investigations against all the people who investigated Flynn, and at least three of those people have credible legal claims against DOJ for those trumped up investigations.

That suggests one of several things.

It’s possible the secret Billy Barr doesn’t want to reveal deals with how 30-year intelligence veteran Mike Flynn sold his services to the government of Turkey while working for Trump, while trying to hide that fact, all without knowing why that’d be a problem. DOJ has not yet backed off the facts Flynn gave the grand jury (another basis for perjury charges against him, in addition to his plea allocutions, which the Circuit judges appeared to miss), and indeed has doubled down on the Bijan Kian investigation. So maybe DOJ is claiming that poor Mike Flynn was compromised by his non-professional partner out of naiveté?

Another possibility is that there are other secret investigations ongoing, whereby poor 30-year defense intelligence veteran General Flynn was targeted by Russian intelligence but was helpless to rebuff their entreaties and so must be forgiven for lying about all that.

A third possibility is that DOJ has been ordered by the President to make sure none of the people who protected him do prison time. Secret reason. Can’t be shared with judges. Checks out!

The most likely secret information Billy Barr is hiding — particularly given Wall’s reference to other investigations — is the Durham investigation, the possibility that John Durham will find something in his investigation into  Trump’s people where DOJ IG found nothing. That means either that Billy Barr took actions in May that John Durham has not charged in the interim three months. Or, that Billy Barr is trying to pre-empt Flynn’s prosecution believing — or expecting — that an investigation that has not yet completed will end up in criminal charges.

If that’s what’s happening, it would suggest that Barr has already decided what the outcome of the Durham investigation will be, prejudging its outcome and effectively neutering Durham, making his prosecutorial decision an afterthought.

Which is why I focused on DOJ’s false claim — possibly attributed to Jeffrey Jensen, the US Attorney Billy Barr directed to find reasons to blow up the Flynn prosecution while Durham continued to work — that Joe Biden raised the Logan Act before the FBI (and ODNI) raised it themselves. In that case, at least, Barr’s selected flunkies have proven themselves to either be willing to misrepresent evidence or to be painfully stupid about it. In that case, a US Attorney deputized into Billy Barr’s projects has admitted to either knowing fuckall or inventing facts for political purpose. That, by itself, raises questions about the presumption of regularity that Barr might otherwise be afforded.

DOJ claims they’ve given abundant reason why they wanted to dismiss the prosecution against Flynn, even though their reasons conflict with all precedent and the record that Bill Barr’s DOJ has established in this case.

But today we learned there’s another, secret, reason why Billy Barr wanted to dismiss the case against Flynn. Even while DOJ has made it clear they are either misrepresenting the record or unfamiliar with it.

Which is all the more reason why Judge Sullivan should have a hearing, and which likely explains why DOJ has claimed, multiple times now, that that would do irreparable harm to DOJ.