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When Julian Assange Testified before a Nation-State Investigation of a Suspected Spy…

Back on December 20, 2019, Julian Assange testified in a nation-state’s investigation of someone suspected of spying for another nation-state. He testified pursuant to international legal process that got challenged on jurisdictional grounds, but ultimately upheld. While El País provided a report of his testimony, the testimony itself was not open to the press.

As he testified, Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond sat in jail in Alexandria, VA, being held in contempt for refusing to testify, under a grant of immunity, in their own nation-state’s investigation of someone suspected of working with the intelligence services of another nation-state. Related charges are being challenged on jurisdictional issues. Manning, at least, claims she won’t testify because any hearing — like the one Assange testified in — would not be public. Tomorrow, prosecutors in EDVA will bring Manning before the grand jury again, in a third attempt to get her to testify before a hearing on Friday over her motion to be released based on an assertion the coercion of contempt will never bring her to testify.

This is just one irony about the way WikiLeaks supporters are treating the investigation of David Morales, the owner of a security contractor that provided the security for Ecuador’s embassy until 2018. Morales is accused of spying for the CIA — that is, spying for a third country’s intelligence service.

There are some problems or obvious alternative explanations for the accusations against Morales, but even assuming the allegations are true, there is little that separates what Morales would have done from what Assange did on at least one occasion: work as a willing participant in a third country’s intelligence service operation compromising the privacy of private citizens. Indeed, there are allegations of Russian involvement in two other WikiLeaks-related publications: there were Russians active in Stratfor hack chat rooms, and Joshua Schulte allegedly expressed an interest in Russian help (though the allegations are contradictory and post-date the initial leak to WikiLeaks, which I’ll return to).

You might argue that Morales’ surveillance of Assange — on whoever’s authority — constituted a far more serious privacy violation than those WikiLeaks has committed by publishing the private emails of John Podesta and the private information of Turkish, Saudi, and third party citizens. That might be true in first instance, but since some of the people exposed by WikiLeaks’ publications live in authoritarian countries, the secondary effects of WikiLeaks’ publication of details about private individuals might not be.

(I have heard, directly and indirectly, multiple consistent allegations about WikiLeaks itself engaging in practices that constitute privacy violations of the sort implicated by the surveillance of Assange, but it would take a law enforcement investigation to substantiate such claims, most of the affected parties would never want to involve law enforcement, and some investigations would be barred by privilege protections.)

Ultimately, though, Spain’s investigation into UC Global is the same thing the US investigation into WikiLeaks is: a properly predicated nation-state investigation into someone suspected of engaging in espionage-related activities with a foreign intelligence service. There are legitimate reasons why those who respect privacy might support both investigations.

WikiLeaks supporters might argue that it’s different because it’s the United States. That’s a perfectly justifiable stance, but if it’s the basis of supporting one investigation and another, should be admitted explicitly. WikiLeaks supporters might argue it’s different because Assange is the alleged victim, but that doesn’t change that there are victims (and not just spy agencies) that the US is trying to protect with its investigation.

Manning and Hammond say they are refusing to testify because they object to American grand jury practices. That amounts to civil disobedience, which is certainly their prerogative. They are paying a steep price for that civil disobedience (as both already paid with their decisions not to cooperate after pleading guilty). But when WikiLeaks supporters complain about the treatment Manning is suffering for her stance, they might think about the fact that — when it came to testifying in an equivalent inquiry — Julian Assange had none of the objections to testifying.

The Kinds and Significance of Russian Interference — 2016 and 2020

Trump’s meltdown last week — in which he purged top staffers at the Director of National Intelligence after a briefing on Russian interference in the 2020 election, followed by National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien making shit up on Meet the Press — has created a firestorm about Russian interference in the 2020 election. That firestorm, however, has spun free of what ways Russia interfered in 2016 and what effect it had.

Five ways Russia interfered in 2016

First, remember that there were at least five ways Russia interfered in 2016:

  • Stealing information then releasing it in a way that treats it as dirt
  • Creating on-going security challenges for Hillary
  • Using trolls to magnify divisions and feed disinformation
  • Tampering with the voting infrastructure
  • Influence peddling and/or attempting to recruit Trump aides for policy benefits

Stealing information then releasing it in a way that treats it as dirt

The most obvious way Russia interfered in 2016 was by hacking the DNC, DCCC, and John Podesta (it also hacked some Republicans it did not like). It released both the DNC and Podesta data in such a way as to exaggerate any derogatory information in the releases, successfully distracting the press for much of the campaign and focusing attention on Hillary rather than Trump. It released DCCC information that was of some use for Republican candidates.

Roger Stone took steps — not all of which are public yet — to optimize this effort. In the wake of Stone’s efforts, he moved to pay off one participant in this effort by trying to get a pardon for Julian Assange.

Creating on-going security challenges for Hillary

In addition to creating a messaging problem, the hack-and-leak campaign created ongoing security challenges for Hillary. Someone who played a key role in InfoSec on the campaign has described the Russian effort as a series of waves of attacks. The GRU indictment describes one of those waves — the efforts to hack Hillary’s personal server — which came in seeming response to Trump’s “Russia are you listening” comment. An attack that is often forgotten, and from a data perspective was likely one of the most dangerous, involved a month-long effort to obtain Hillary’s analytics from the campaign’s AWS server.

Whatever happened with this data, the persistence of these attacks created additional problems for Hillary, as her staff had to spend time playing whack-a-mole with Russian hackers rather than optimizing their campaign efforts.

Using trolls to magnify divisions and feed disinformation

Putin’s “chef,” Yevgeniy Prigozhin, also had staffers from his troll factory in St. Petersburg shift an ongoing campaign that attempted to sow division in the US to adopt a specific campaign focus, pushing Trump and attacking Hillary. Importantly, Prigozhin’s US-based troll effort was part of a larger multinational effort. And it was in no way the only disinformation and trolling entity involved in the election. Both parties did some of this, other countries did some, and mercenaries trying to exploit social media algorithms for profit did some as well.

Tampering with the voting infrastructure

Russia also tampered with US voting infrastructure. In 2016, this consisted of probing most states and accessing voter rolls in at least two, though there’s no evidence that Russian hackers made any changes. In addition, Russian hackers targeted a vendor that provided polling books, with uncertain results. The most substantive evidence of possible success affecting the vote in 2016 involved failures of polling books in Durham County, NC, which created a real slowdown in voting in one of the state’s most Democratic areas.

In recent days, there have been reports of a ransomware attack hitting Palm Beach County in September 2016, but it is unclear whether this was part of the Russian effort.

Because there’s no certainty whether the Russian hack of VR Systems was behind the Durham County problems, there’s no proof that any of these efforts affected the outcome. But they point to the easiest way to use hacking to do so: by making it harder for voters in particular areas to vote and harder for specific localities to count the vote.

Some of what Russia did in 2016 — such as probes of a particularly conservative county in FL — may have been part of Russia’s effort to discredit the outcome. They didn’t fully deploy this effort because Trump won.

Influence peddling and/or attempting to recruit Trump aides for policy benefits

Finally, Russia accompanied its other efforts with various kinds of influence peddling targeting Trump’s aides. It was not the only country that did so: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, UAE, and Israel were some of the others. Foreign countries were similarly trying to target Hillary’s campaign — and the UAE effort, at least, targeted both campaigns at once, through George Nader.

Importantly, however, these efforts intersected with Russia’s other efforts to interfere in the election in ways that tied specific policy outcomes to Russia’s interference:

  • An unrealistically lucrative Trump Tower deal involved a former GRU officer and sanctioned banks
  • At a meeting convened to offer Trump dirt about Hillary, Don Jr agreed in principle to revisit ending Magnitsky sanctions if Trump won
  • George Papadopoulos pitched ending sanctions to Joseph Mifsud, who had alerted him that Russia had emails they intended to drop to help Trump
  • Paul Manafort had a meeting that tied winning the Rust Belt, carving up Ukraine, and getting paid personally together; the meeting took place against the background of sharing internal polling data throughout the campaign

As I’ll note in a follow-up, information coming out in FOIAed 302s makes it clear that Mike Flynn’s effort to undercut Obama’s December 2016 sanctions was more systematic than the Mueller Report concludes. So not only did Russia make it clear it wanted sanctions relief, Trump moved to give it to them even before he got elected (and his Administration found a way to exempt Oleg Deripaska from some of these sanctions).

Manafort continued to pursue efforts to carve up Ukraine until he went to jail. In addition, Trump continues to take actions that undercut Ukraine’s efforts to fight Russia and corruption. Neither of these have been tied to a specific quid pro quo (though the investigation into Manafort’s actions, especially, remained inconclusive at the time of the Mueller Report).

So while none of these was charged as a quid pro quo or a conspiracy (and the reasons why they weren’t vary; Manafort lied about what he was doing, and why, whereas Mueller couldn’t prove Don Jr had the mens rea of entering into a quid pro quo), Russia tied certain policy outcomes to its interference.

Trump’s narcissism and legal exposure exacerbated the effects

The Russian attack was more effective than it otherwise would have been for two reasons. First, because he’s a narcissist and because Russia built in plausible deniability, Trump refused to admit that Russia did try to help him. Indeed, he clings more and more to Russian disinformation about what happened, leading the IC to refuse to brief him on the threat, leading to last week’s meltdown.

In addition, rather than let FBI investigate the people who had entered into discussions of a quid pro quo, Trump obstructed the investigation. Trump has spent years now attacking the rule of law and institutions of government rather than admit what DOJ IG found — there was reason to open the investigation, or admit what DOJ found — there was reason to prosecute six of his aides for lying about what happened.

The Russian effort was just one of the reasons Hillary lost

It’s also important to remember that Russia’s interference was just one of the many things that contributed to Hillary’s loss.

Other aspects were probably more important. For example, Republican voter suppression, particularly in Wisconsin and North Carolina, was far more important than any effect the VR Systems hack may have had in Durham County. Jim Comey’s public statements about the email investigation had at least as much effect as the Russian hack-and-leak campaign did on press focus. Hillary made some boneheaded choices — like barely campaigning in WI and MI; while I had worried that she made those choices because Russia tampered with her analytics (with the AWS hack), that doesn’t seem to have happened. Disinformation sent by the Trump campaign and associates was more significant than Russian disinformation. It didn’t help that the Obama Administration announced a sharp spike in ObamaCare prices right before the election.

The response matters

As noted, Trump’s narcissism dramatically increased the effect of the Russian efforts in 2016, because he has always refused to admit it happened.

Compare that to Bernie’s response to learning that Russia was trying to help his campaign, which accepted that it is happening and rejected the help.

“I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement. “My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.

“In 2016, Russia used Internet propaganda to sow division in our country, and my understanding is that they are doing it again in 2020. Some of the ugly stuff on the Internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters.”

This was not perfect — Bernie could have revealed this briefing himself weeks ago, Bernie blamed the WaPo for reporting it when it seems like the story was seeded by O’Brien. But it was very good, in that it highlighted the point of Russian interference — sowing divisions — and it reaffirmed the import of Americans selecting who wins. Plus, contrary to Trump, there’s no reason to believe Bernie would pursue policies that specifically advantaged Russia.

Other factors remain more important than Russian interference

There’s very serious reason to be concerned that Russia will hack the outcome of 2020. After all, it would need only to affect the outcome in a small number of precincts to tip the result, and the prospect of power outages or ransomware doing so in urgent fashion have grown since 2016.

That said, as with 2016, there are far more urgent concerns, and those concerns are entirely American.

Republicans continue to seek out new ways to suppress the vote, including by throwing large swaths of voters off the rolls without adequate vetting. There are real concerns about voting machines, particularly in Georgia (and there are credible concerns about the reliability of GA’s tally in past elections). Republicans have continued to make polling locations less accessible in Democratic precincts than in Republican ones.

Facebook refuses to police the accuracy of political ads, and Trump has flooded Facebook with disinformation.

And Bloomberg’s efforts this year — which include a good deal of trolling and disinformation — are unprecedented in recent memory. His ad spending has undercut the ability to weigh candidates. And his personnel spending is increasing the costs for other candidates.

Russian efforts to sway the vote are real. Denying them — as some of Bernie’s supporters are doing in ways that hurt the candidate — does not help. But, assuming DHS continues to work with localities to ensure the integrity of voting infrastructure, neither does overplaying them. Between now and November there’s far more reason to be concerned about American-funded disinformation and American money distorting our democratic process.

DOJ Is Withholding the Mike Flynn 302 Describing How the Campaign Considered Reaching Out to Julian Assange after the Podesta Leaks

As DOJ continues to respond to the BuzzFeed/CNN Mueller FOIAs by releasing big swaths of 302s (FBI interview reports) almost entirely redacted under b5 (deliberative) exemptions, there are a number of issues on which it is withholding information that are utterly critical to current debates.

For example, Trump renewed his claim the other day that Robert Mueller had interviewed for the FBI job before being named Special Counsel, which he claims presented a conflict. According to the Mueller Report, Steve Bannon, Don McGahn, and Reince Priebus all rebutted that claim, either on the facts or whether it presented a conflict. But Bill Barr’s DOJ has withheld all of McGahn’s 302s, as well as the Bannon one (from October 26, 2018) cited in the Mueller Report on this topic. And DOJ redacted all the substantial discussion of what Reince Priebus told the President about this purported conflict in his.

Plus there’s substantially redacted material in the Rod Rosenstein 302 that pertains to this topic (and possibly also in Jody Hunt’s 302). Which is to say that DOJ is letting the President make repeated assertions about this topic, while withholding the counter-evidence under claims of privilege.

A more glaring example, however, involves Mike Flynn. In response to the FOIA, DOJ has only released the same January 24, 2017 302 that got released as part of Flynn’s sentencing. Even as Barr has planted outside reviewers in the DC US Attorney’s office to second-guess Flynn’s prosecution, DOJ is withholding 302s that — the government has suggested — show that Flynn wasn’t even all that forthcoming after he was purportedly cooperating with Mueller.

Based on filings and assertions made by the defendant’s new counsel, the government anticipates that the defendant’s cooperation and candor with the government will be contested issues for the Court to consider at sentencing. Accordingly, the government will provide the defendant with the reports of his post-January 24, 2017 interviews. The government notes that the defendant had counsel present at all such interviews.

Even Flynn himself released a sworn declaration revealing that his Covington lawyers told him his first interview with Mueller, on November 16, 2017, “did not go well.”

More urgent, given today’s news that Julian Assange’s lawyers will claim that when Dana Rohrabacher met with Assange in August 2017 about trading a pardon for disinformation about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 operation, DOJ is withholding details about conversations Flynn participated in during the campaign about WikiLeaks, including a possible effort to reach out to them after the John Podesta release.

The defendant also provided useful information concerning discussions within the campaign about WikiLeaks’ release of emails. WikiLeaks is an important subject of the SCO’s investigation because a Russian intelligence service used WikiLeaks to release emails the intelligence service stole during the 2016 presidential campaign. On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. Beginning on October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks released emails stolen from John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. The defendant relayed to the government statements made in 2016 by senior campaign officials about WikiLeaks to which only a select few people were privy. For example, the defendant recalled conversations with senior campaign officials after the release of the Podesta emails, during which the prospect of reaching out to WikiLeaks was discussed.

Assange has created a firestorm with the mere allegation — one already reported in great depth in real time — that Trump was involved in the 2017 Rohrabacher effort.

Except Mike Flynn’s 302s report something potentially more inflammatory: that the campaign started pursuing this effort in October 2016.

The Slow Firing of Robert Mueller[‘s Replacement]

On December 5, I suggested that Speaker Pelosi delay the full House vote on impeachment until early February. I intimated there were public reasons — the possibility of a ruling on the Don McGahn subpoena and superseding charges for Lev Parnas — I thought so and private ones. One of the ones I did not share was the Stone sentencing, which at that point was scheduled for February 6. Had Pelosi listened to me (!!!) and had events proceeded as scheduled, Stone would have been sentenced before the final vote on Trump’s impeachment.

But things didn’t work out that way. Not only didn’t Pelosi heed my suggestion (unsurprisingly), but two things happened in the interim.

First, Stone invented a bullshit reason for delay on December 19, the day after the full House voted on impeachment. The prosecutors who all resigned from the case yesterday objected to the delay, to no avail, which is how sentencing got scheduled for February 20 rather than the day after the Senate voted to acquit.

Then, on January 6, Trump nominated Jessie Liu, then the US Attorney for DC, to be Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes, basically the person who oversees the process of tracking criminal flows of finance. She won’t get that position — her nomination was pulled yesterday in advance of a Thursday confirmation hearing. But her nomination gave Barr the excuse to install a trusted aide, Timothy Shea, at US Attorney for DC last Thursday, the day after the impeachment vote and in advance of the now-delayed Stone sentencing.

Liu, who is very conservative and a true Trump supporter, had been nominated for a more obvious promotion before. On March 5, Trump nominated her to be Associate Attorney General, the number 3 ranking person at DOJ. But then she pulled her nomination on March 28 because Senators objected to her views on choice.

But let’s go back, to late August 2018. Michael Cohen and Sam Patten had just pled guilty, and Cohen was trying to find a way to sort of cooperate. Rudy Giuliani was talking about how Robert Mueller would need to shut down his investigation starting on September 1, because of the election. I wrote a post noting that, while Randy Credico’s imminent grand jury appearance suggested Mueller might be close to finishing an indictment of Stone, they still had to wait for Andrew Miller’s testimony.

Even as a I wrote it, Jay Sekulow was reaching out to Jerome Corsi to include him in the Joint Defense Agreement.

During the entire election season, both Paul Manafort and Jerome Corsi were stalling, lying to prosecutors while reporting back to Trump what they were doing.

Then, the day after the election, Trump fired Jeff Sessions and installed Matt Whitaker. Whitaker, not Rosenstein, became the nominal supervisor of the Mueller investigation. Not long after, both Manafort and Corsi made their game clear. They hadn’t been cooperating, they had been stalling to get past the time when Trump could start the process of ending the Mueller investigation.

But Whitaker only reactively kept Mueller in check. After Michael Cohen’s December sentencing made it clear that Trump was an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot to cheat to win, Whitaker started policing any statement that implicated Trump. By the time Roger Stone was indicted on January 24, 2019 — after Trump’s plan to replace Whitaker with the expert in cover ups, Bill Barr — Mueller no longer noted when Trump was personally involved, as he was in Stone’s efforts to optimize the WikiLeaks releases.

But then, when Barr came in, everything started to shut down. Mueller moved ongoing prosecutions to other offices, largely to DC, under Jessie Liu’s supervision. As Barr came to understand where the investigation might head, he tried to promote Liu out of that position, only to have GOP ideology prevent it.

Barr successfully dampened the impeach of the Mueller Report, pretending that it didn’t provide clear basis for impeaching the President. It was immediately clear, when he did that, that Barr was spinning the Stone charges to minimize the damage on Trump. But Barr did not remove Mueller right away, and the Special Counsel remained up until literally the moment when he secured Andrew Miller’s testimony on May 29.

The next day, I noted the import of raising the stakes for Trump on any Roger Stone pardon, because Stone implicated him personally. That was more important, I argued, than impeaching Trump for past actions to try to fire Mueller, which Democrats were focused on with their attempt to obtain Don McGahn’s testimony.

Still, those ongoing investigations continued under Jessie Liu, and Stone inched along towards trial, even as Trump leveraged taxpayer dollars to try to establish an excuse to pardon Manafort (and, possibly, to pay off the debts Manafort incurred during the 2016 election). As Stone’s trial laid out evidence that the President was personally involved in optimizing the release of emails Russia had stolen from Trump’s opponent, attention was instead focused on impeachment, his more recent effort to cheat.

In Stone’s trial, he invented a new lie: both Randy Credico and Jerome Corsi had falsely led him to believe they had a tie to WikiLeaks. That didn’t help Stone avoid conviction: Stone was found guilty on all counts. But it gave Stone yet another cover story to avoid revealing what his ties to WikiLeaks actually were and what he did — probably with Trump’s assent — to get it. For some reason, prosecutors decided not to reveal what they were otherwise prepared to: what Stone had really done.

Immediately after his conviction, Stone spent the weekend lobbying for a pardon. His wife appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show and someone got inside White House gates to make the case.

But, as impeachment proceeded, nothing happened, as the Probation Office started collecting information to argue that Stone should go to prison for a long while. The day Democrats finished their case against Donald Trump, though, Bill Barr made his move, replacing Liu before she was confirmed, removing a very conservative Senate confirmed US Attorney to install his flunkie, Timothy Shea. But even that wasn’t enough. Prosecutors successfully convinced Shea that they should stick to the probation office guidelines recommending a stiff sentence. When Timothy Shea didn’t do what Barr expected him to, Barr intervened and very publicly ordered up the cover up he had promised.

Effectively, Bill Barr is micro-managing the DC US Attorney’s office now, overseeing the sentencing of the man who could explain just how involved Trump was in the effort to maximize the advantage Trump got from Russia’s interference in 2016, as well as all the other prosecutions that we don’t know about.

Trump has, finally, succeeded in firing the person who oversaw the investigations into his role in the Russian operation in 2016. Just as Stone was about to have reason to explain what that role was.

Timeline

August 21, 2018: Michael Cohen pleads guilty

August 31, 2018: Sam Patten pleads guilty

September 5, 2018: Jay Sekulow reaches out to Corsi lawyer to enter into Joint Defense Agreement

September 6, 2018: In first Mueller interview, Corsi lies

September 17, 2018: In second interview, Corsi invents story about how he learned of Podesta emails

September 21, 2018: In third interview, Corsi confesses to establishing a cover story about Podesta’s emails with Roger Stone starting on August 30, 2016; NYT publishes irresponsible story that almost leads to Rod Rosenstein’s firing

October 25, 2018: Rick Gates interviewed about the campaign knowledge of Podesta emails

October 26, 2018: Steve Bannon admits he spoke with Stone about WikiLeaks

October 31, 2018: Prosecutors probably show Corsi evidence proving he lied about source of knowledge on Podesta emails

November 1 and 2, 2018: Corsi continues to spew bullshit in interviews

November 6, 2018: Election day

November 7, 2018: Jeff Sessions is fired; Matt Whitaker named Acting Attorney General

November 9, 2018: Corsi appears before grand jury but gives a false story about how he learned of Podesta emails; Mueller threatens to charge him with perjury

November 15, 2018: Trump tweets bullshit about Corsi’s testimony being coerced

November 23, 2018: Corsi tells the world he is in plea negotiations

November 26, 2018: Corsi rejects plea

December 7, 2018: Trump nominates Bill Barr Attorney General

January 18, 2019: Steve Bannon testifies to the grand jury (and for the first time enters into a proffer)

January 24, 2019: Roger Stone indicted for covering up what really happened with WikiLeaks

February 14, 2019: Bill Barr confirmed as Attorney General

March 5, 2019: Jessie Liu nominated to AAG; Bill Barr briefed on Mueller investigation

March 22, 2019: Mueller announces the end of his investigation

March 24, 2019: Bill Barr releases totally misleading version of Mueller results, downplaying Stone role

March 28, 2019: Liu pulls her nomination from AAG

April 19, 2019: Mueller Report released with Stone details redacted

May 29, 2019: As Mueller gives final press conference, Andrew Miller testifies before grand jury

November 12, 2019: Prosecutors apparently change Stone trial strategy, withhold details of Stone’s actual back channel

November 15, 2019: Roger Stone convicted on all counts

January 6, 2020: Jessie Liu nominated to Treasury

January 16, 2020: Probation Office issues Presentence Report calling for 7-9 years

January 30, 2020: Bill Barr replaces Liu with Timothy Barr, effective February 3; DOJ submits objection to Presentence Report

February 3, 2020: Timothy Shea becomes acting US Attorney

February 5, 2020 : Senate votes to acquit Trump

February 6, 2020: Initial sentencing date for Roger Stone

February 10, 2020: Stone sentencing memoranda submitted

February 11, 2020: DOJ overrules DC on Stone sentencing memorandum, all four prosecutors resign from case

February 20, 2020: Current sentencing date for Roger Stone

The Black Hole Where SSCI’s Current Understanding of WikiLeaks Is

Four years after it started, the Senate Intelligence Committee continues its investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference, this week releasing the report on what the Obama Administration could have done better. For a variety of reasons, these reports have been as interesting for their redactions or silences as for what the unredacted bits say.

This latest report is no different.

Putin responded to Obama’s warnings by waggling his nukes

The most interested unredacted bit pertains to Susan Rice’s efforts, scheduled to occur just before ODNI and DHS released their report attributing the hack to Russia, to warn Russia against continuing to tamper in the election. That would place the meeting at just about precisely the moment the Access Hollywood video and Podesta email release happened, a big fuck you even as Obama was trying to do something about the tampering. The meeting also would have occurred during the period when Sergei Kislyak was bitching about FBI efforts to prevent Russia from sending election observers to voting sites.

The description of the meeting between Rice and Kislyak is redacted. But the report does reveal, for the first that I heard, that Russia responded to being warned by raising its nukes.

Approximately a week after the October 7. 2016. meeting, Ambassador Kislyak asked to meet with Ambassador Rice to deliver Putin’s response. The response, as characterized by Ambassador Rice, was “denial and obfuscation,” and “[t]he only thing notable about it is that Putin somehow deemed it necessary to mention the obvious fact that Russia remains a nuclear power.”

This exchange is all the more interesting given that there’s an entirely redacted bullet (on page 37) describing actions that “Russian cyber actors” took after Obama warned Putin. Given that the state and county scanning and the alleged hack of VR Systems shows up, there’s something we either still don’t know about or SSCI continues to hide more details of the VR Systems hack.

The page long post-election response to the election year attack

The longest subsection in a section devoted to describing Obama’s response is redacted (pages 39-41).

Here’s what the timing of the unredacted parts of that section is:

  • A: Expulsion of Russian diplomats (December 29, 2016)
  • B: Modifying the EO and sanctions (December 29, 2016)
  • C: redacted
  • D: Cybersecurity action in the form of the issuance of two technical reports (December 29, 2016 and February 10, 2017)
  • E: Tasking the ICA Report (initiated December 6, 2016; completed December 30, 2016; published January 5 and 6, 2017)
  • F: Protecting election infrastructure (January 5, 2017)

That might suggest that whatever secret action the Obama Administration took happened right in December, with everything else.

John Brennan was proved fucking right

There’s a redacted passage that may undermine the entire premise of the John Durham investigation, which purports to review what agencies, other than FBI, did to lead to an investigation focused on Trump’s campaign. Some reporting suggests Durham is investigating whether CIA tricked FBI into investigating Trump’s flunkies.

But this report describes how, in spite of knowing about related Russian hacks in 2015 and Russia’s habit of leaking information they stole, the IC really wasn’t aware of what was going on until John Brennan got an intelligence tip during the summer of 2016. That intelligence tip was described at length in a WaPo story that resembles this section of the report.

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent. Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year. In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks.

But at the highest levels of government, among those responsible for managing the crisis, the first moment of true foreboding about Russia’s intentions arrived with that CIA intelligence.

The section in this report is redacted.

Effectively, this report seems to confirm the WaPo reporting (which may have been based off sources close to those who testified to SSCI). It also emphasizes the import of this intelligence. But for this intelligence, the IC may have continued to remain ignorant of Putin’s plans for the operation.

The IC won’t let SSCI share its current understanding of WikiLeaks

But the most interesting redactions pertain to WikiLeaks.

There are four redacted paragraphs describing how hard it was for the IC to come up with a consensus attribution for the hack and leak operation.

Senior administration officials told the Committee that they hesitated to publicly attribute the cyber efforts to Russia m1til they had sufficient information on the penetration of the DNC network and the subsequent disclosure of stolen information via WikiLeaks, DCLeaks, and Guccifer 2.0.

More interesting still, almost the entirety of the page-plus discussion (relying on testimony from Ben Rhodes, Michael Daniel, Paul Selva, Mike Rogers, and others) of why it took so long to understand WikiLeaks remains redacted.

One reference that is unredacted, however, describes WikiLeaks as “coopted.”

This information would be of particular interest as the prosecution of Julian Assange goes forward. That — and the fact that some of this determination, relying as it does on former NSA Director Mike Rogers, appears to rely on NSA information — may be why it remains redacted.

Update: I’ve deleted the remainder of this post. It came from Wyden’s views, not the report itself.

Rick Gates Got Sent Two Key Jerome Corsi Posts

Last year, as Mueller was managing the failed Jerome Corsi cooperation deal, I did a series of posts suggesting that Corsi and Stone seemed to have gotten advanced information about the John Podesta email dump. I argued that, in part, because the two started crafting an elaborate Matryoshka cover-up by the end of August to excuse away Stone’s “time in the barrel tweet.” More importantly, Corsi wrote a piece picking up what the two men had been plotting in August on October 6, seemingly anticipating John Podesta documents that would only be dumped on October 11. In other words, Corsi and Stone seemed to know by mid-August what WikiLeaks would drop in October.

I posted the first of those posts on October 22.

Three days later, Mueller’s team interviewed Rick Gates (PDF 39). According to the headings in the interview, which were dates, the interview traced the key milestones of the WikiLeaks dump:

  • June 12, 2016 to July 22, 2016
  • Post July 22, 2016 WikiLeaks Releases
  • October 4, 2016
  • October 7, 2016
  • [Redacted]

Much of the content below that last redacted heading is redacted, but it’s clear the section as a whole relates to the two Corsi pieces that bookend my theory that he and Stone got the files ahead of time.

** Gates was shown an email [redacted] containing the subject line “Trump adviser: WikiLeaks plotting email dump to derail Hillary” **

Gates did not recall receiving the aforementioned email.

[redacted]

** Gates was shown an email [redacted] containing the subject line “Russia? Look who’s really in bed with Moscow — Podesta & Clinton Foundation money-laundering with Russia” **

[redacted]

The FOIAed backup for this interview includes the emails by which the articles were sent.

They obscure the date that the first one was sent, though it was posted on August 15; the second, which Corsi published on October 6, got sent 15 hours later, so just before mid-day on October 7. (Steve Bannon’s assistant Alexandra Preate sent Stone a text at 6:30PM telling him “Well done,” presumably for the actual WikiLeaks releases).

But it sure seems like the campaign was in the loop on some of this.

I’m fairly certain none of this will be aired at the Stone trial. The government doesn’t even plan to enter Stone’s “time in a barrel” tweet into evidence and there’s nothing in the draft exhibit list that looks like it could be these emails. Plus, much of their case seems designed not to have to rely on Corsi.

But it sure seems to have been of interest last year.

Roger Stone Once Again Limits His Denials

In addition to the government showing that Roger Stone is a disorganized crime figure the other day, Roger Stone submitted a curious filing of his own, in yet another apparent attempt to feed denialist propaganda.

A week earlier, the government made a detailed argument that Stone, in his sustained bid to make his trial an attempt to challenge the government evidence that Russia hacked the DNC, misunderstood what the case was about. All that matters, the government argues, is whether Stone’s lies materially affected the House Intelligence investigation into the Russian tampering.

Stone’s false statements also had a natural tendency to (and in fact did) affect HPSCI’s investigative steps, priorities, and direction—regardless of Russia’s 2016 activities. See United States v. Safavian, 649 F.3d 688, 691-92 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (statements material if they “were capable of influencing the course of the FBI’s investigation”). For example, HPSCI did not subpoena the written communications that Stone claimed not to exist, and HPSCI did not investigate the other intermediary (Person 1) when Stone claimed that Person 2 was his sole intermediary. Moreover, Organization 1’s activities and coordination with Stone were relevant to evaluating the Intelligence Community’s work, to assessing any risks that Organization 1 may pose, and to considering any future actions that should be taken to deter coordination with state and non-state actors seeking to influence American elections. None of these understandings of materiality depends in any way on whether Russia in fact participated in the hacks or transmitted the hacked materials to Organization 1, and therefore Stone’s evidence on that subject is not relevant to the materiality inquiry.4

As part of that discussion, in a footnote, they engage in some counterfactuals to show how, even if some alternative scenarios, including the main one suggested by Stone, were true, his lies would still be material.

4 Even under Stone’s crabbed view of materiality and HPSCI’s investigation, Stone’s statements were still material, regardless of Russia’s exact role. Stone now primarily focuses only on evidence about whether Russia transferred the stolen files. But even if Organization 1 received the files elsewhere, it does not follow that Organization 1 has no connection to Russia’s election interference. For example, Organization 1 could theoretically have received the files from someone who received them from Russia; Russia could theoretically have coordinated its other election interference activities with Organization 1’s posting of stolen documents even if Russia was not Organization 1’s source; and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign could theoretically have played a role coordinating the two. Under any view, Stone’s communications with and about Organization 1 were material, regardless of Russia’s exact role.

As you read this “theoretical” scenario, remember that the campaign considered reaching out to WikiLeaks after the John Podesta files got released. And Roger Stone was — at least in 2018 — among those Trump flunkies who were trying to get Julian Assange a pardon.

The government presents this as theoretical, but it demonstrates, correctly, that WikiLeaks’ role in the operation matters whether or not the person who dealt them one or another set of files was a Russian intelligence officer.

Stone spends much of his response claiming (nonsensically) that because the government wants to introduce a Julian Assange video to establish dates for the public record surrounding certain details (in that case, when it was publicly knowable that WikiLeaks would release more files), it makes the issue of how Russia got the files to WikiLeaks central. In the hands of better lawyers — or at least, lawyers who weren’t playing for a pardon — this argument might have merit. In Stone’s case it doesn’t, in part because he failed to describe what evidence he wanted to introduce, and in part because he doesn’t understand what files Bill Binney, one of his intended witnesses, is talking about (they’re not the John Podesta emails, and so are irrelevant to Stone’s lies).

The government objects to Roger Stone presenting two witnesses who will testify, and demonstrate, that WikiLeaks did not receive the relevant DNC and DCCC data from the Russian state. That evidence will establish that the relevant data was “leaked” to WikiLeaks, not transferred to WikiLeaks by the Russian State. The government claims such evidence will be irrelevant, unfairly prejudicial, and cause delay and would turn the subject matter into a “mini-trial.” The government states: “If a person chooses to make false statements to the government, he or she takes the risk that the false statement is material.” (Motion at 14). But, the government takes the same risk: that the alleged false statements might be deemed immaterial by the jury. 1

Stone should be permitted to present evidence that his answers did not materially affect the congressional investigation because the Indictment makes clear that the investigation was of a “Russian state hack.”

But along the way, Stone includes his own footnote where he (perhaps in an effort to present a quote that denialists like Aaron Maté can quote without context, as Maté has done repeatedly as the useful idiot of both Stone and Concord Management) misrepresents the government’s theoretical as instead genuine curiosity.

1 The government wonders if the Russian state hacked and stole the relevant data and then someone else coordinated the delivery of the data to WikiLeaks. See Dkt. #172 n. 4. The government, nor the Mueller report proved or disproved this scenario. But if WikiLeaks did not receive the data from the Russian state then Stone’s communications with WikiLeaks were immaterial.

Stone is absolutely right that the government doesn’t prove or disprove this scenario. The Mueller Report notes explicitly that,

The Office cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016. For example, public reporting identified Andrew Müller-Maguhn as a WikiLeaks associate who may have assisted with the transfer of these stolen documents to WikiLeaks.

The prosecutors in his case aren’t tasked with answering that question. Indeed, if pressed, they could argue that Stone’s lies might well have served to hide firsthand knowledge of how the Podesta emails did get to WikiLeaks, which would make them even more material.

From a legal standpoint, Stone’s argument is unlikely to work, even if it were argued with more legal rigor.

What I’m interested in, however, is how Stone homes in on just one part of the scenario, the hand-off of files to WikiLeaks. The government actually laid out three parts to its theoretical: WikiLeaks got the files stolen by Russia from a cut-out, but also coordinated with Russia on “other election interference activities,” and individuals associated with the Trump campaign played a role coordinating the handoff of the files and WikiLeaks’ other coordination with Russia.

  • Organization 1 could theoretically have received the files from someone who received them from Russia;
  • Russia could theoretically have coordinated its other election interference activities with Organization 1’s posting of stolen documents even if Russia was not Organization 1’s source;
  • Individuals associated with the Trump Campaign could theoretically have played a role coordinating the two.

It’s a series of tantalizing hypotheticals! And while the first two (the second of which is pretty oblique) could independently be true, the last one implies the two would not be independent, but that, instead, someone “associated” with the Trump campaign coordinated the first two steps.

But of course, the government presents all this as a theoretical possibility, not (as Stone falsely claims) as a question they’re seeking, here, to answer.

Stone, however, only deals with the first part of that scenario: “the Russian state hacked and stole the relevant data and then someone else coordinated the delivery of the data to WikiLeaks.” He doesn’t address the possibility that WikiLeaks had some other kind of role. And he definitely doesn’t address the possibility that someone “associated” with the Trump campaign had a role in coordinating the two. In a gesture towards addressing a government hypothetical (in part) that some individual associated with the Trump campaign might have coordinated other election year activities, Stone suggests that the only way the communications of a Trump associate with WikiLeaks would be material would be if the communications involved actual transfer of emails.

This is something Stone has long been doing — making narrowly tailored denials that don’t address some tantalizing possibilities: in this case, that Stone had a role arranging something else with WikiLeaks.

And all the while, Stone drops a suggestion that overstates the uncertainty of what the government knows.

The Parts of the Mueller Report withheld from Roger Stone Show the Centrality of His WikiLeaks Activities to Trump’s Obstruction

Along with denying most of Roger Stone’s frivolous challenges to his prosecution, Amy Berman Jackson also partly granted his motion to get some of the redacted Mueller Report. As she laid out, she permitted the government to withhold grand jury information, sources and methods, stuff that would harm the reputation of others, and prosecutorial deliberations.

But the Court was of the view that the Report of the Special Counsel should receive separate consideration since a great deal of deliberative material within the Report had already been released to the public.

[snip]

Having considered the defendant’s motion, the government’s response and supplemental submissions, and the Report itself, the Court has determined that the defense should have the limited access he requested to some, but not all, of the redacted material.32 Insofar as defendant’s motion to compel seeks any material that was redacted from the public report on the basis that its release would infringe upon the personal privacy of third parties or cause them reputational harm; pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e); or on the basis of national security or law enforcement concerns, including information that if revealed, could potentially compromise sensitive information gathering sources, methods, or techniques or harm ongoing intelligence or law enforcement activities, the Court will deny the motion.33 With respect to material that was withheld solely on the basis that its release could affect the ongoing prosecution of this case, the Court has concluded that the material to be specified in the order issued with this opinion should be provided to counsel for the defendant subject to the terms and conditions of the Protective Order in this case.

As she described, the government “submit[ed] unredacted portions of the Report that relate to defendant ‘and/or “the dissemination of hacked materials.”‘” Then she and the government conducted a sealed discussion about what could be released to Stone. In addition to her opinion, she submitted an order describing which specific pages must now be released to Stone.

We can compare what the government identified as fitting her order — this includes anything that fits the order, whether redacted or not — with what she has ordered released to Stone (note, the government either did not include Appendix D, showing referrals, or ABJ didn’t mention it, because in addition to an unredacted reference to Stone, there are referrals that the FOIA copies show to be related to Stone; nor did it include questions to Trump).

ABJ has not ordered the government to turn over anything pertaining to how GRU got stolen documents to WikiLeaks. This is precisely the kind of thing Stone is trying to get with his demands for Crowdstrike reports; after ABJ pointed out if they really wanted the reports, they would have tried subpoenaing Crowdstrike and they are now launching an attempt to do that. That ABJ has not ordered the government to turn this material over does not bode well for Stone’s plans to make this trial about the hack-and-leak rather than his lies. I would not be surprised if Stone made a second effort to get this information.

She has permitted the government to withhold all the prosecutorial decisions covered by her order except the one pertaining to Stone’s own lies. In addition, she let the government withhold one line about how they hadn’t determined whether or not Stone and Corsi had managed to optimize the release of the Podesta emails in October (though she did give Stone the more detailed discussion of that).

But ABJ has not included any of the references in the main part of Volume II in her order (presumably to protect Trump’s reputation!). That Volume includes three references to Trump and the campaign’s enthusiasm for or attempts to optimize the WikiLeaks releases through Stone, the reference to Richard Burr leaking news of the targets of the investigation (including Stone) to the White House before Jim Comey got fired, and three instances describing Trump floating pardons to Stone or otherwise encouraging him to remain silent.

It also includes the page on which this passage appears:

After Flynn was forced to resign, the press raised questions about why the President waited more than two weeks after the DOJ notification to remove Flynn and whether the President had known about Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak before the DOJ notification.244 The press also continued to raise questions about connections between Russia and the President’s campaign.245 On February 15, 2017, the President told reporters, “General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media.”246 On February 16, 2017, the President held a press conference and said that he removed Flynn because Flynn “didn’t tell the Vice President of the United States the facts, and then he didn’t remember. And that just wasn’t acceptable to me.” 247 The President said he did not direct Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak, but “it certainly would have been okay with me if he did. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him because that’s his job.”248 In listing the reasons for terminating Flynn, the President did not say that Flynn had lied to him.249 The President also denied having any connection to Russia, stating, “I have nothing to do with Russia. I told you, I have no deals there. I have no anything.”250 The President also said he “had nothing to do with” WikiLeaks’s publication of information hacked from the Clinton campaign.251 [my emphasis]

Clearly, it was included for Trump’s public denials — at the moment he fired Flynn in an attempt to stop the Russian investigation — of having anything to do with WikiLeaks’ publication of materials stolen from Hillary’s campaign. It is, on its face, a reference to the publication of the stolen emails, and as such qualifies under ABJ’s order. At that level, it is unremarkable.

But the government is treating it not as Trump making empty denials, but instead to make a claim specifically disavowing any involvement in WikiLeaks’ publication of stolen emails. Mueller’s team put the claim right next to a claim we know to be false, a claim designed to hide his Trump Tower deals. And he put all that amid a discussion of why he first did not, and then did, fire Mike Flynn.

Now consider something else: While it doesn’t appear in the Mueller Report at all, one thing Flynn told prosecutors was that after WikiLeaks started dumping John Podesta’s emails, he took part in conversations during which the campaign discussed reaching out to WikiLeaks.

The defendant also provided useful information concerning discussions within the campaign about WikiLeaks’ release of emails. WikiLeaks is an important subject of the SCO’s investigation because a Russian intelligence service used WikiLeaks to release emails the intelligence service stole during the 2016 presidential campaign. On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. Beginning on October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks released emails stolen from John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. The defendant relayed to the government statements made in 2016 by senior campaign officials about WikiLeaks to which only a select few people were privy. For example, the defendant recalled conversations with senior campaign officials after the release of the Podesta emails, during which the prospect of reaching out to WikiLeaks was discussed.

There’s nothing in the public record that suggests Flynn knew of Trump’s efforts, during the campaign, to build a Trump Tower. But he did know about Trump’s efforts to optimize WikiLeaks’ releases of stolen emails. And Trump would have known that when he considered the impact of Flynn’s ties to Russia being investigated by the FBI.

And the treatment of that references as a real denial — as Trump evincing guilt even as he fired Flynn — sure makes the Flynn firing more interesting.

Federal Judge Destroys the Hopes of RICO Salvation in DNC Lawsuit

Yesterday, Clinton-appointed Judge John Koeltl dismissed with prejudice the DNC’s lawsuit against Russia, Trump’s flunkies, and WikiLeaks alleging they conspired against the party in 2016. He also ruled against a Republican demand to sanction the DNC for sustaining their claim in the wake of Robert Mueller finding that he “did not establish” a conspiracy between Trump and Russia. Koeltl’s decision is unsurprising. But his decision is interesting nevertheless for what it reveals about his legal assessment of the events of 2016, not least because of the ways it does and does not parallel Mueller’s own decisions.

The scope of the two analyses is different: The Democrats alleged RICO and some wiretapping charges, as well as the theft of trade secrets; Mueller considered campaign finance crimes and a quid pro quo. A short version of the difference and similarity in outcome is that:

  1. Mueller charged the GRU officers who hacked the DNC for the hack (which DOJ has been doing for five years, but which has never been contested by a state-hacker defendant); by contrast, Judge Koeltl ruled that Russia’s hackers could not be sued under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (which is what the Mystery Appellant tried to use to avoid responding to a subpoena); notably, Elliot Broidy’s attempt to blame Qatar for his hack serves as precedent here. For the DNC, this meant the key players in any claimed conspiracy could not be sued.
  2. While Democrats made a bid towards arguing that such a conspiracy went beyond getting Trump elected to getting Trump to enact policies that would benefit Russia, Koeltl treated any Trump role as just that, attempting to get Trump elected. This meant that (for example) Stone’s alleged criminal obstruction after Trump got elected was not deemed part of any conspiracy.
  3. As Mueller did with both the hack-and-leak itself but also with any campaign finance violation associated with getting hacked documents as assistance to a campaign, Koeltl ruled that the Supreme Court’s decision in Bartnicki meant the First Amendment protected everyone besides the Russians from liability for dissemination of the stolen documents.
  4. DNC’s RICO fails because, while the Trump campaign itself was an association, the DNC claim that there was an Association in Fact under RICO fails because the ties between individuals were too scattered and their goals were not the same. Moreover, the goal of the Trump associates — to get Trump elected — is in no way illegal.

The most important part of the decision — both for how it protects journalism, what it says about the EDVA charges against Julian Assange, and what it means for similar hack-and-leak dumps going forward — is Koeltl’s First Amendment analysis, in which he argued that even WikiLeaks could not be held liable for publishing documents, even if they knew they were stolen.

Like the defendant in Bartinicki, WikiLeaks did not play any role in the theft of the documents and it is undisputed that the stolen materials involve matters of public concern. However, the DNC argues that this case is distinguishable from Bartnicki because WikiLeaks solicited the documents from the GRU knowing that they were stolen and coordinated with the GRU and the Campaign to disseminate  the documents at times favorable to the Trump Campaign. The DNC argues that WikiLeaks should be considered an after-the-fact coconspirator for the theft based on its coordination to obtain and distribute the stolen materials.

As an initial matter, it is constitutionally insignificant that WikiLeaks knew the Russian Federation had stolen the documents when it published them. Indeed, in Bartnicki the Supreme Court noted that the radio host either did know, or at least had reason to know, that the communication at issue was unlawfully intercepted.

[snip]

And, contrary to the DNC’s argument, it is also irrelevant that WikiLeaks solicited the stolen documents from Russian agents. A person is entitled [sic] publish stolen documents that the publisher request from a source so long as the publisher did not participate in the theft. … Indeed, the DNC acknowledges that this is a common journalistic practice.

[snip]

WikiLeaks and its amici argue that holding WikiLeaks liable in this situation would also threaten freedom of the press. The DNC responds that this case does not threaten freedom of the press because WikiLeaks did not engage in normal journalistic practices by, for example, “asking foreign intelligence services to steal ‘new material’ from American targets.” … The DNC’s argument misconstrues its own allegations in the Second Amended Complaint. In the Second Amended Complaint, the DNC states that “WikiLeaks sent GRU operatives using the screenname Guccifer 2.0 a private message asking the operatives to ‘[s]end any new material (stolen from the DNC] her for us to review.'” … This was not a solicitation to steal documents but a request for material that had been stolen. [citations removed]

Koeltl analyzes whether the Democratic claim that GRU also stole trade secrets — such as their donors and voter engagement strategies — changes the calculus, but judges that because those things were newsworthy, “that would impermissibly elevate a purely private privacy interest to override the First Amendment interest in the publication of matters of the highest public concern.”

Koeltl goes on to note that the analysis would be the same for Trump’s associates, even though they make no claim (as WikiLeaks does) to being part of the media.

[E]ven if the documents had been provided directly to the Campaign, the Campaign defendants, the Agalarovs, Stone, and Mifsud, they could  have published the documents themselves without liability because they did not participate in the theft and the documents are of public concern. … Therefore, the DNC cannot hold these defendants liable for aiding and abetting publication when they would have been entitled to publish the stolen documents themselves without liability. [citations removed]

That analysis is absolutely right, and even while Democrats might hate this outcome and be dismayed by what this might portend about a repeat going forward, it is also how this country treats the First Amendment, both for those claiming to be journalists and those making no such claim.

All that said, there are several aspects of this analysis worth noting.

This is a DNC suit, not a suit by all harmed Democrats

First, this is a suit by the DNC. Neither Hillary nor John Podesta are parties. “Podesta’s emails had been stolen in a different cyberattack,” Koeltl said, “there is not allegation they were taken from the DNC’s servers.” Had they been, they would have had to have been prepared to submit to discovery by Trump and his associates.

Including Podesta might have changed the calculus somewhat, though Koeltl does not deal with them (though he does suggest they would not have changed his calculus).

They might change the calculus, however, because (as Emma Best has noted) WikiLeaks did solicit something — the transcripts of Hillary’s speeches — that was subsequently obtained in the Podesta hack. The DNC did not include that in their complaint and that might have changed Koeltl’s analysis or, at a minimum, tested one of the theories the government is currently using in the Assange prosecution.

Similarly, while there is now evidence in the record that suggests Stone may have had advanced knowledge even of the July 2016 DNC dump, the allegations that would show him having had an impact on the release of documents pertains to the release of the Podesta emails. Jerome Corsi (who was added in the DNC’s second complaint but not as a conspirator) claimed that he had helped Stone optimize the Podesta release in an attempt to drown out the Access Hollywood video, but Mueller was not able to corroborate that.

More tantalizingly, a filing in Stone’s case shows that in at least one warrant application, the government cited some conversation in which he and others — possibly Corsi and Ted Malloch — were discussing “phishing with John Podesta.” That’s not something that will be public for some time. But even if it suggested that Stone may have had more knowledge of the Podesta hack then let on, it would be meaningless in a suit brought by the DNC.

No one knows why Manafort shared polling data and his plans to win the Rust Belt (indirectly) with Oleg Deripaska

The second DNC complaint mentions, but does not explain, that Paul Manafort had Rick Gates send polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik intended to  be share with oligarchs including Oleg Deripaska.

At some point during the runup to the 2016 election, Manafort “shar[ed] polling data . . . related to the 2016 presidential campaign” with an individual connected to Russian military intelligence. This data could have helped Russia assess the most effective ways to interfere in the election, including how best to use stolen Democratic party materials to influence voters.

[snip]

In March 2016, the Trump Campaign also hired Manafort. As noted above, Manafort was millions of dollars in debt to Deripaska at the time. He was also broke.55 Yet he agreed to work for the Trump Campaign for free. A few days after he joined the Trump Campaign, Manafort emailed Kilimnik to discuss how they could use Manafort’s “media coverage” to settle his debt with Deripaska.56 Manafort had multiple discussions with Kilimnik in the runup to the 2016 election, including one in which Manafort “shar[ed] polling data . . . related to the 2016 presidential campaign.”57 This data could have helped Russia assess the most effective ways to interfere in the election, for instance, by helping it determine how best to utilize information stolen from the DNC .

[snip]

Manafort lied about sharing polling data with Kilimnik related to Trump’s 2016 campaign.226

The Mueller Report’s further details on the sharing, including Manafort’s review of his strategy to win the Rust Belt, came too late for the complaint. And as such, Koeltl doesn’t really deal with that allegation (which would likely require naming others as conspirators in any case), and instead treats any conspiracy as limited to the hack-and-leak.

Thus, he does not treat the hints of further coordination, nor is there currently enough public evidence for the DNC to get very far with that allegation. This is a ruling about an alleged hack-and-leak conspiracy, not a ruling about any wider cooperation to help Trump win the election.

No one knows what happened to the stolen DNC analytics

Finally, while the DNC complaint extensively described the September hack of its analytics hosted on AWS servers — a hack that took place after Stone scoffed at the analytics released to date by Guccifer 2.0 — Koeltl doesn’t treat that part of the hack in detail because it was never publicly shared with anyone.

The Second Amended Complaint does not allege that any materials from the September 2016 hack were disseminated to the public and counsel for the DNC acknowledged at the argument of the current motions that there is no such allegation.

The DNC included the analytics in their trade secret discussion, but given that Russia had FSIA immunity, and given that the GOP is not known to have received any of this, Koeltl did not consider the later theft (which is not known to have had the same public interest value as the claimed trade secrets that got leaked).

The SAC asserts: “The GRU could have derived significant economic value from the theft of the DNC’s data by, among other possibilities, selling the data to the highest bidder.” There is no allegation that the Russian Federation did in fact sell the DNC’s data, and any claims against the Russian Federation under the federal and state statutes prohibiting trade secret theft are barred by the FSIA.

Finally, given that it was not released publicly Koeltl does not consider how the GRU hack of analytics after Stone’s discussion of analytics with Guccifer 2.0 might change the analysis on whether Stone was involved prior to any hacks.

Similarly, Stone is alleged to have contacted WikiLeaks through Corsi for the first time on July 25, 2016 and spoke to GRU officers in August 2016 — months after the April 2016 hack. Stone is not alleged to have discussed stealing the DNC’s documents in any of these communications, or to have been aware of the hacks until after they took place.

[snip]

DNC does not raise a factual allegation that suggests that any of the defendants were even aware that the Russian Federation was planning to hack the DNC’s computers until after it had already done so.

Again, there’s too little know about the purpose of this part of the hack (which virtually no one is aware of, but which would have been particularly damaging for the Democrats), and as such the DNC would not be in a position to allege it in any case. But it is a key part of the hack that shifts the timeline Koeltl addressed.

Which ultimately leaves Koeltl’s final judgment about the DNC attempt to obtain some kind of remedy for having Trump welcome and capitalize on a foreign state’s actions to tamper in the election. “Relief from the alleged activities of the Russian Federation,” Koeltl said, “should be sought from the political branches of the Government and not from the courts.”

One of the few ways to do that is to impeach.

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

Roger Stone Describes 67% of the Content of Sealed Warrant Affidavits for His Co-Conspirators

One of the reasons I believe Roger Stone knows he’s getting a pardon is because, in spite of the fact that he’s got six named attorneys on his team, his filings are unbelievably sloppy, as if the lawyers are letting their children submit them.

I’m just now reading a second one he submitted last Friday (it’s bolloxed in PACER but that may not be Stone’s fault), a reply on his request to have all his search warrants suppressed based on Bill Binney’s bogus claim that a document that is entirely unrelated to the charges against Stone was copied onto a thumb drive, and even if it were would be irrelevant to the question of whether Russia hacked the DNC.

The filing couldn’t have been reviewed before submission, because it gets key dates wrong:

This is especially so since Stone did not possess any of the stolen information, all of which these communications occurred well after June 22nd, 2016 – the first dissemination of the DNC emails on Wikileaks. [this should be July]

And includes sentence fragments:

Congress did not subpoena any documents regardless of form from Stone. But left it to Stone to determine which documents he should turn over that were not “widely available” or that “reasonably could lead to the discovery of any facts within the investigations publicly-announced parameters.”

[snip]

Comments about “friends at the embassy” by Corsi were made up. Speculation about an anticipated upcoming data dump was wrong.

And includes grammatical mishmash:

Even with knowledge of its early dissemination, is not a crime.

[snip]

The FBI has stated that they has conducted no direct research, nor collected any evidence of the DNC breach directly, which was confirmed by thenFBI director James Comey.

And a reference to paragraphs in exhibits that don’t list the paragraphs:

(Doc. 100 Ex. 17),

(Doc. 100 Ex. 18).

In short, the filing — like a number submitted beforehand in this case — shows utter contempt for the process.

But along the way, Stone describes at least 67% of the paragraphs of one of the affidavits (Exhibit 1) laying out probable cause for a CFAA change.

  • ¶¶1-7: Gap
  • ¶8: Jerome Corsi, Ted Malloch, Julian Assange, and Roger Stone “speak to each other about politics WikiLeaks, and ‘about phishing with John Podesta,'”
  • ¶¶9-19: Description of WikiLeaks receiving DNC data from Russian state.
  • ¶¶20-25: Gap
  • ¶26: Stone and he are friends, Manafort resigned as Chairman of the Trump Campaign, Manafort worked in for Washington, D.C. lobbying firms to influence U.S. policy toward Ukraine.
  • ¶¶27-37: Gap
  • ¶38: Stone and Assange were not really communicating about anything of relevance or consequence.
  • ¶¶39-40: Gap
  • ¶¶41-57: Corsi, Malloch, and Stone discussion what WikiLeaks is going to publish.
    • ¶47: Claim to Sam Nunberg that Stone had dinner with Assange.
    • ¶¶54-56: Description of Corsi’s “friends at the embassy” comment.
  • ¶¶58-65: References the infamous outtake footage from “Access Hollywood.” … Corsi and Stone spoke.
    • ¶65: Charles Ortel sent an email written to Stone and Stone sent it to Corsi after WikiLeaks disseminated Podesta’s emails. The email was titled “WikiLeaks – The Podesta Emails.”
  • ¶¶66-79: Stone is accused of having advanced knowledge of Podesta’s emails.
  • ¶¶80-81: Post-Podesta’s July 2016 [sic] release by WikiLeaks, Malloch said he would connect Corsi with Assange.
  • ¶¶82-83: Gap
  • ¶¶84-85: Corsi took credit for predicting the release of Podesta’s emails.
  • Unknown: Stone had Facebook accounts that he used to perpetuate his political writings including the writings about Podesta.

Included in that virtual recitation of what a document that remains under seal and covered by a protective order says, Stone makes it clear that the government obtained evidence of Stone talking with someone (it’s not clear who!) about John Podesta being phished, which Stone excuses this way:

They speak to each other about politics WikiLeaks, and “about phishing with John Podesta,” which may imply Podesta was phishing, or that Assange or Malloch were phishing Podesta, but clearly neither seem to be the point of the allegation. Doc. 100-1, ¶8.

In short, this is not a filing intended to win the argument in court (which is lucky for Stone, because legally the filing is crap). Rather, it is a disguised attempt to communicate with some potentially unidentified co-conspirator what the government actually knows about Stone’s knowledge of the phishing of John Podesta.

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