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John Durham Accuses One of His Key Fact Witnesses — Sergei Millian’s Twitter Account — of “Misinterpret[ing] Facts”

As I documented the other day, John Durham responded to the uproar over his conflicts filing stunt by claiming to have had nothing at all to do with the “third parties” who “overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the Government’s Motion.”

If third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the Government’s Motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the Government’s inclusion of this information.

The claim that the uproar was created by “third parties” is so obviously false it raises conflict problems for Durham himself.

Durham falsely claims those pushing lies are “third parties” to his investigation

As I laid out, one of the key perpetrators of the false claims — including the false claims (1) that Hillary paid Rodney Joffe, (2) that Joffe had “infiltrated” the White House, and (3) Joffe had done so when Trump was President — was Kash Patel, the originator of this entire line of inquiry in December 2017, and someone who for years had means to learn that those claims were false.

John Ratcliffe, whom Durham was meeting rather than interviewing Hillary staffers who could substantiate or debunk his accusations that Michael Sussmann was coordinating with the campaign, made these unsubstantiated claims in a TV appearance earlier this week:

  • There was a “Hillary Clinton campaign plan to falsely accuse Donald Trump of collusion with Russia”
  • Rodney Joffe used DNS data “for an unlawful purpose”
  • Sussmann “pitched” information “to the FBI as evidence of Trump-Russia connections that simply weren’t true and that the lawyer, Michael Sussmann, and the tech executive knew not to be true”

Donald Trump, who personally nominated John Durham as US Attorney and whose demands for criminal investigations led to Durham’s appointment as Special Counsel, asserted that his “presidency [was] spied on by operatives paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign in an effort to develop a completely fabricated connection to Russia.”

These are not “third parties.” These are:

  • The originator of the allegations against Sussmann
  • A self-described repeat Durham witness
  • The man who nominated Durham to be US Attorney and, ultimately, was his boss for almost 3 years

But there’s actually another key player in the effort to magnify Durham’s conflicts filing stunt who is even more central to Durham’s work: One of his most important “witnesses,” Sergei Millian’s twitter account.

The pipeline from online conspiracy theorists through former investigators to the former President

Yesterday, Glenn Kessler attempted to trace how the filing became a propaganda tool. The timeline he laid out looks like this (these times are ET):

11:33PM: Filing hits PACER.

12:43AM: Whispers of Dementia screencaps the filing, noting Durham claimed “Sussmann is likely to be in an “adversarial posture” against Perkins Coie.”

9:24AM: emptywheel notes that Durham is criminalizing lying to the FBI about traffic involving Trump Tower, which Trump himself did at the time.

9:25AM: Hans Mahncke links and screencaps the filing and claims,

Rodney Joffe and his buddies at Georgia Tech monitored Trump’s internet traffic *while* he was President of the United States.

9:39AM: Kessler’s gap

9:45AM: emptywheel RTs Mahncke and notes that this is about cybersecurity.

10:25AM: Techno Foggy tweets that,

DNC/Perkins Coie allies – Rodney Joffe, et al. – Joffe et al, “exploited a sensitive US govt arrangement” to gather intel on the “Executive Office of the President of the U.S.” They spied on Trump.

11:11AM: House Judiciary GOP [so a Jim Jordan staffer] RTs Foggy’s tweet, claiming:

We knew they spied. But it was worse than we thought.

11:44AM: Techno Foggy tweets out his Substack with the claim,

Clinton allies used sensitive data from the Office of the President to push false Trump/Russia claims to the CIA

Why did they risked jail to link Trump to Russia?

Maybe because the origin of their fraud was the “Russian hack” of the DNC.

2:27PM: John Ratcliffe responds to House Judiciary tweet with claim, “And now you’re finding out why…,” thereby seemingly endorsing the “spying” claim, and linking the Durham release with his own cooperation with Durham’s inquiry.

3:24PM: Mark Meadows RT’s Foggy’s tweet, claiming,

They didn’t just spy on Donald Trump’s campaign.

They spied on Donald Trump as sitting President of the United States.

It was all even worse than we thought.

5:51PM: Center for Renewing America tweets out Kash Patel statement making numerous false claims.

6:47PM: Trump’s spox tweets out his claims of spying.

This timeline is damning enough: It shows how these false claims went from “sleuths” who spend much of their time spinning Durham’s conspiracy theories, through Techno Foggy (a self-described lawyer who has for years interacted openly with lawyers like Sidney Powell and Billy Barr’s spox Kerri Kupec), to Jim Jordan’s staffer to Ratcliffe to Mark Meadows to Kash Patel to Trump. Every single one of these current and former officials have played a central role in these investigations; none is a “third party.”

Sergei Millian’s twitter account calls it spying

But there’s a very key step in Kessler’s timeline that is missing. At 9:39AM (the time shown here is Irish time) — which I’ve marked above in red — Sergei Millian’s twitter account tweeted, “They were spying on the White House, folks!!.”

This claim was before Techno Foggy made the spying claim. The first person to have made the “spying” claim in this timeline, then, was Sergei Millian’s twitter account.

In fact, the next day, Millian’s twitter account insinuated to have started all this in the first place — that the twitter account “had a direct line into the White House” via which it “told them who was working against them.”

Thanks for identifying this phone call, Sergei, because Igor Danchenko will now have cause to demand details of it in discovery, which will mean, on top of the other unprecedented discovery challenges Durham has taken on in prosecuting Danchenko, he’s now going to have to get Trump records from the Archives. Michael Sussmann, too, likely now has cause to demand those records.

The Millian twitter account RT of Mahncke to belatedly explain the spying claim makes it clear it is an active participant in the “Sleuths Corner” that drives many of the false claims about Durham. In fact the Millian twitter account even advertises it on the twitter account.

Durham says his key witness “misrepresented the facts”

This all amounts to Durham himself discrediting one of his witnesses, perhaps fatally.

As I have noted, when John Durham charged Igor Danchenko with four counts of lying about believing that he had spoken to Sergei Millian back in July 2016, Durham didn’t actually claim to have obtained testimony from the human being named Sergei Millian. Durham did not appear to have required that Millian show up and make statements for which he could be legally held accountable.

Instead, Durham presented an unverified twitter account to the grand jury and based on that, claimed “Chamber President-1 has claimed in public statements and on social media that he never responded to DANCHEKNO’s [sic] emails, and that he and DANCHENKO never met or communicated.”

I refer to this entity as “Sergei Millian’s twitter account” to emphasize that there is not a scrap of evidence in the public record showing that Durham did anything to confirm that Millian, the person, even operates it exclusively. While I have no reason to doubt that he does, from a legal standpoint, Durham is at least publicly relying on nothing but an unverified account, something journalists have been loathe to do for years with Millian.

And this claim attributed to an unverified twitter account is a very important piece of evidence. There’s nothing else in the public record that shows Durham affirmatively ruled out that Danchenko and Millian really did have a phone call.

When I first realized how reckless that was, I though it impossible for Durham to have been that negligent. But we’ve since learned that he accused Sussmann of coordinating with Hillary’s staffers without ever first interviewing a single full-time staffer. So perhaps it is, in fact, true that Durham charged a man based off the unsubstantiated claims of a twitter account.

Danchenko appears to have obtained a pre-trial subpoena on February 8; I have wondered whether it was for the Millian twitter account. If so, the subpoena might well obtain the traffic of what has happened in recent days.

As it stands, though, Durham makes no claim to have anything else.

Just that twitter account.

And that twitter account is part of a pipeline that took Durham’s filing and made egregiously false claims about it. Durham is now on the record claiming that that twitter account “misinterpreted the facts.” But Danchenko will have good reason — and abundant proof, given the details of last week’s little propaganda explosion — to argue that Sergei Millian’s twitter account is willing to make false claims to create a scandal around the Durham investigation.

That shreds the credibility of the only claimed “witness” that the call never happened.

Durham Says It’s Not His Fault His Former Boss Called for the Death of His Defendant

John Durham didn’t have much to say after being called out for making baseless accusations that their source Kash Patel lied about, leading the former President to suggest Michael Sussmann should be killed.

They’re not responsible for the death threats, the attorney who filed a notice of appearance in the wake of Friday’s stunt, Brittain Shaw, insists.

If third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the Government’s Motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the Government’s inclusion of this information.

She said this even while acknowledging it might be prudent to take measures against death threats in the future.

That said, to the extent the Government’s future filings contain information that legitimately gives rise to privacy issues or other concerns that might overcome the presumption of public access to judicial documents – such as the disclosure of witness identities, the safety of individuals, or ongoing law enforcement or national security concerns – the Government will make such filings under seal. United States v. Hubbard, 650 F. 2d 293, 317-323 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (setting forth factors for considering whether the presumption of public access is overridden, including (1) the need for public access to the documents at issue; (2) the extent of previous public access to the documents; (3) the fact that someone has objected to disclosure, and the identity of that person; (4) the strength of any property and privacy interests asserted; (5) the possibility of prejudice to those opposing disclosure; and (6) the purposes for which the documents were introduced during the judicial proceedings.) The Government respectfully submits that no such issues or concerns are implicated here. [my emphasis]

The former President implied the defendant and a witness should be killed. But it’s not Durham’s fault and so he doesn’t have to deal with the fact that it happened!!

This is factually specious. Kash Patel, who was among the first to make egregiously false claims, is not a “third party.” He is the originator of this inquiry, and he knew well his statements to be false. Donald Trump, who suggested Sussmann and others should be killed, is not a “third party.” He was Durham’s boss and his demands for prosecutions are what led to Durham being appointed Special Counsel in the first place.

Plus, Durham’s team have already made the identities of some grand jury witnesses public in discovery filings.

The claim that the architects of this mob are neutral “third parties” is all the more pathetic given the excuse Shaw provides for including the false insinuation that Rodney Joffe spied on Trump’s White House rather than tried to keep the White House safe from hackers at the time it happened to be occupied by Barack Obama.

The reason they mentioned the White House, you see (Shaw claims), is because of one of the conflicts they raised.

The Government included two paragraphs of limited additional factual detail in its Motion for valid and straightforward reasons. First, those paragraphs reflect conduct that is intertwined with, and part of, events that are central to proving the defendant’s alleged criminal conduct. Second, the Government included these paragraphs to apprise the Court of the factual basis for one of the potential conflicts described in the Government’s Motion, namely, that a member of the defense team was working for the Executive Office of the President of the United States (“EOP”) during relevant events that involved the EOP. [my emphasis]

Shaw here argues that events in February 2017 are “intertwined” with an alleged crime that took place five months earlier.

She also suggests that the reason they raised the White House is because one of Sussmann’s team members worked there (Charlie Savage has now IDed the lawyer as Michael Bosworth).

I mean, so did Kash Patel, a central player in the false claims that led to the former President calling for death.

Here’s what the actual conflict memo said about that purported conflict.

Based on its review of documents in its investigation and other information, the Special Counsel’s Office also has learned that one of the members of the defendant’s current defense team (“Defense Team Member-1”) previously worked as Special Counsel to the then-FBI Director from 2013 to 2014. In connection with that work, Defense Team Member-1 developed professional and/or personal relationships with several individuals who later were involved with and/or knowledgeable of the FBI’s investigation of the Russian Bank-1 allegations. For example, Defense Team Member-1 appears to have developed a professional relationship with the former FBI General Counsel to whom the defendant made his alleged false statement and who will likely be a central witness at trial.4 While it is unlikely that these past interactions and activities will give rise to an actual conflict of interest, the Government respectfully requests in an abundance of caution that the Court inquire with the defense concerning whether Defense Team Member-1’s relationships with persons and entities who might be witnesses in this case could give rise to a potential conflict or appearance issue and, if so, whether the defendant waives any such conflict.

4 Following his employment at the FBI, Defense Team Member-1 worked from 2014 to early 2017 as an attorney in the EOP which, as noted above, was involved in certain factual issues that the Government expects will be relevant at trial and any sentencing proceedings. Latham has represented to the Government that while employed at the EOP, Defense Team Member-1 had no role in the aforementioned events or arrangements involving Tech Executive-1, Internet Company1, and/or allegations involving the purported use of Russian-made phones. The Government similarly has not seen evidence to suggest that Defense Team Member-1 had any role in, or direct knowledge of, the Russian Bank-1 allegations or the FBI’s ensuing investigation. [my emphasis]

It’s the tie to Jim Comey and through him to James Baker, not the subsequent job at the White House, that Durham’s team presented as a potential conflict — and even then, Durham’s team admits this is not likely a conflict. By this standard, several members of the prosecutorial team, not to mention the guy from whom this allegation came from, Kash Patel, have a conflict. John Durham was hired by Donald Trump; that’s a more serious conflict than anything his team spins up as one.

The White House will not be called to the stand at Sussmann’s trial. None of this is actually about the White House. As Andrew DeFilippis noted in his filing making wild claims of conflict, the White House job was not one of those conflicts. Indeed, this is yet another marker of Durham’s dishonesty. This team member, as described, was a victim of Rodney Joffe’s purportedly vicious efforts to make sure the Obama White House was not hacked. The team member only has an adversarial relationship if one believes that protecting against hacks is an adversarial stance. But that’s not how they describe the purported conflict which even they admit is not one.

Which is a pretty big hint their understanding of conflicts here is whacked beyond all reason.

Even in a terse four page motion (which I guess is one way she’s an improvement over DeFilippis), Shaw still had room for bullshit.

Having given a transparently bogus excuse for raising the White House, she then says that raising it in a conflict memo is cool because Durham plans to later raise these issues in a motion in limine (pre-trial motions about what can and cannot be presented during the trial).

In light of the above, there is no basis to strike any portion of the Government’s Motion. Indeed, the Government intends to file motions in limine in which it will further discuss these and other pertinent facts to explain why they constitute relevant and admissible evidence at trial. Pursuant to caselaw and common practice in this and other districts, the filing of documents containing reference to such evidence on the public docket is appropriate and proper, even in highprofile cases where the potential exists that such facts could garner media attention. See, e.g., United States v. Stone, 19 Cr. 18 (D.D.C. October 21, 2019) (ABJ), Minute Order (addressing the Government’s publicly-filed motion in limine seeking to admit video clip from the movie “Godfather II” that defendant sent to an associate and permitting admission of a transcript of the video); United States v. Craig, 19 Cr. 125 (D.D.C. July 10, 2019) (ABJ), Minute Order (addressing Government’s publicly-filed Rule 404(b) motion to offer evidence of defendant’s efforts to assist Paul Manafort’s relative in obtaining employment); United States v. Martoma, S1 12 Cr. 973, 2014 WL 164181 (S.D.N.Y. January 9, 2014) (denying defendant’s motion for sealing and courtroom closure relating to motions in limine concerning evidence of defendant’s expulsion from law school and forgery of law school transcript);1 see also Johnson v. Greater SE Cmty. Hosp. Corp., 951 F. 2d 1268, 1277 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (holding that there is a “strong presumption in favor of public access to judicial proceedings”). Moreover, any potential prejudice or jury taint arising from such media attention can effectively and appropriately be addressed through the voir dire process during jury selection.

1 The publicly-filed evidentiary motions and judicial rulings in each of the above-cited cases received significant media attention. See, e.g., Prosecutors Can’t Show Godfather II Clip at Roger Stone Trial, Judge Rules, CNN, October 21, 2019 (https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/21/politics/godfather-ii-roger-stone/index.html; Greg Craig Pushed to Hire Manfort’s Relative at Skadden, Prosecutors Say, POLITICO, May 10, 2019 (https://www.politico.com/story/2019/05/10/greg-craig-hire-manaforts-relative-1317600); SAC’s Martoma Tried to Cover Up Fraud at Harvard, Documents Show, REUTERS, January 9, 2014 (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sac-martoma-harvard/sacs-martoma-tried-to-cover-up-fraudat-harvard-documents-show-idUSBREA081C720140109).

Roger Stone Roger Stone Roger Stone and Mueller, she throws in for good measure.

This is a fairly bald admission that the time to raise these issues, pretending they were relevant, would be the later 404(b) fight (over whether evidence of related conduct can be admitted at trial to help prove the case), not now, on a totally separate issue. That this might be a relevant issue later (which is itself admission that these topics are not direct evidence about Sussmann’s alleged lie and must first demonstrate relevance to even be admitted at trial) is not an excuse to use them in untimely and off-purpose fashion.

And yet that’s Durham’s excuse for saying a bunch of things that predictably led to calls for death.

According to John Durham’s logic of conflicts, he is the one with an unwaivable conflict. The guy who hired him to this job is the same guy suggesting, based off Durham’s filing, that the guy he is prosecuting should be executed.

Updated for clarity.

Update: Corrected Bosworth’s last name.

John Durham Chose to Meet with John Ratcliffe Rather than Witnesses Necessary to His Investigation

The evidence continues to mount that John Durham has done an epically incompetent investigation. I’ll pull together all that evidence later this week.

But one that I find hilarious and shocking can’t wait.

A piece written by the Fox News propagandist who played a key role in magnifying Kash Patel’s false claims over the weekend credulously continues the Murdoch effort to jack up the frothers by claiming that — rather than letting statutes of limitation expire with no charges — Durham has instead sped up his investigation. Fox also cites a single source claiming that Durham’s investigation has been run very professionally.

Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation has “accelerated,” and more people are “cooperating” and coming before the federal grand jury than has previously been reported, a source familiar with the probe told Fox News.

The source told Fox News Monday that Durham has run his investigation “very professionally,” and, unlike Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, his activities, and witness information and cooperation status are rarely, if ever, leaked.

Fox unsurprisingly doesn’t cite the part of a recent filing that makes it clear that April Lorenzen doesn’t think it has been run professionally.

In fact, this piece demonstrates that no one who would actually know whether Durham’s investigation has been conducted professionally would talk to them:

Durham’s Feb. 11 filing says that the “FBI General Counsel” will “likely be a central witness at trial.”

Baker did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Durham also provided grand jury testimony from “the above-referenced former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence.” It is unclear to which official Durham is referring, but the title could be a reference to Bill Priestap, who served as the FBI’s assistant director for counterintelligence from 2015 to 2018.

Priestap did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Durham also lists “a former FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Counterintelligence.” It is unclear to whom Durham is referring.

[snip]

Strzok, who was part of the original FBI investigation into whether the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, and later in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, was fired from the FBI in 2018 after months of scrutiny regarding anti-Trump text messages exchanged with former FBI General Counsel Lisa Page. Their anti-Trump text messages were uncovered by the Justice Department inspector general.

Fox News was unable to reach Strzok for comment.

[snip]

Elias’ law firm, Perkins Coie, is the firm that the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign funded the anti-Trump dossier through. The unverified dossier was authored by ex-British Intelligence agent Christopher Steele and commissioned by opposition research firm Fusion GPS.

A spokesperson for Elias did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. [my emphasis]

But somebody who would speak with Fox News is John Ratcliffe, the former AUSA who misrepresented his record to get elected but who nevertheless got to be Director of National Intelligence for a short period because Ric Grenell was so much more unsuited to hold the position.

As DNI, Ratcliffe made false claims about Chinese intervention in the election as a way to downplay Russia’s ongoing efforts to help Trump. Ratcliffe is currently spending a lot of time denying that his politicized views (and delay of) a mandated election interference report played some role in January 6 conspiracy theories.

We now know that Ratcliffe should be happy to make those denials to the January 6 Committee directly and under oath — because he has apparently been very happy to chat with Durham’s investigators.

Meanwhile, this week, sources told Fox News that former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe met with Durham on multiple occasions and told him there was evidence in intelligence to support the indictments of “multiple people” in his investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.

Ratcliffe’s meetings with Durham are significant (beyond suggesting he may be the single source who told Fox News this isn’t a shitshow investigation) because, days before Billy Barr made Durham a Special Counsel, Ratcliffe unmasked Hillary’s identity in foreign intercepts and burned collection on Russian internal intelligence analysis in order to release a report trying to insinuate that Hillary’s fairly unsurprising decision to tie Trump to Russia is what led the FBI to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia.

At issue is a report from John Ratcliffe, sent on September 29, 2020, explaining that,

In late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee. The IC does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.

The following week, presumably in an attempt to dredge up some kind of attack out of an absurd attack, Ratcliffe released the underlying reports that, he claimed in his original report, show the following:

According to his handwritten notes, former Central Intelligence Agency Director Brennan subsequently briefed President Obama and other senior national security officials on the intelligence, including the “alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.”

On 07 September 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forward an investigative referral to FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok regarding “U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server.”

By releasing the exhibits, Ratcliffe should raise real questions about his credibility. For example, I’m not at all sure this date, from Brennan’s notes, reads July 26 and not July 28, a critical difference for a ton of reasons.

The FBI report has a slew of boilerplate making it clear how sensitive this report was (for obvious reasons; effectively it shows that the CIA had some kind of visibility into Russian intelligence analysis), which makes it clear how utterly unprecedented this desperate declassification is. Former CIA lawyer Brian Greer discusses that in this Lawfare post.

Plus, Ratcliffe left out an unbelievably important part of the report: the role of Guccifer 2.0 in the Russian report. Intelligence collected in late July 2016 claimed that Hillary was going to work her alleged smear around neither the GRU (which had already been identified as the perpetrator of the DNC hack) nor WikiLeaks (which had released the DNC files, to overt celebration by the Trump campaign), but Guccifer 2.0, who looked to be a minor cut-out in late July 2016 (when this intelligence was collected), but who looked a lot more important once Roger Stone’s overt and covert communications with Guccifer 2.0 became public weeks later.

The report suggests Hillary magically predicted that days after this plot, President Trump’s rat-fucker would start a year’s long campaign running interference for Guccifer 2.0. Not only did Hillary successfully go back and trick George Papadopoulos into drunkenly bragging about Russian dangles in May 2016, then, Hillary also instantaneously tricked Stone into writing propaganda for Guccifer 2.0 days later.

The report never made any sense. As I noted at the time, to be true, it would require Hillary to have gone back in time to trick the Coffee Boy to learn of and pass on Russia’s plans. Worse still, the claim suggested that Roger Stone — whom FBI has evidence was in contact with the Guccifer 2.0 persona starting in spring 2016 — started parroting the same line the Russians were pushing, even before the FBI learned of it. In other words, read in conjunction with the actual evidence about 2016, the intelligence report on Russia actually suggested that Stone’s ties to Russian intelligence may have been far more direct than imagined.

But John Ratcliffe was too stupid to understand that, and everything we’ve seen about John Durham suggests he is too. That Durham has been repeatedly interviewing Ratcliffe suggests he buys Ratcliffe’s theory that this should have undermined the very real reason to investigate Trump. It also explains why, on the Sussmann indictment, Durham was so squishy about the July 2016 timeline: he needs this report to be more important than the fact that Trump stood up in public and asked Russia to hack some more (which is what led the researchers to look twice at this anomalous data).

Nevertheless, it appears that rather than interviewing witnesses who would be necessary to vet the charges he filed against Michael Sussmann, such as a single Hillary staffer, Durham has, instead, just kept going back to serial liars like Ratcliffe to renew his own conspiracy theories.

Ah well, this disclosure gives Michael Sussmann cause to subpoena Ratcliffe, just like this stunt has given him reason to subpoena Kash Patel. It’s increasingly clear that these addle-brained Republicans fed these conspiracies into Durham’s investigation, and now are magnifying them as Durham’s investigation gets exposed as incompetent, without disclosing that they’re the ones who provided the conspiracy theories in the first place.

Donald Trump Suggested Michael Sussmann Should Be Killed because Rodney Joffe “Spied” on Barack Obama

Michael Sussmann has filed his response to John Durham’s transparent attempt to inflame the frothers. In it, he notes what I did: Durham used an unrelated filing (one that, Sussmann’s filing noted, had already been addressed between the parties) to make claims that were not charged.

Importantly, he notes that Durham misrepresented the dates of the anomalous data found at the Executive Office of the Presidency that Sussmann presented at a February 9, 2017 meeting with the CIA. The data predates the Donald Trump inauguration.

In his Motion, the Special Counsel included approximately three pages of purported “Factual Background.” See Dkt. No. 35 at 2–5. Approximately half of this Factual Background provocatively—and misleadingly1 —describes for the first time Domain Name System (“DNS”) traffic potentially associated with former President Donald Trump, including data at the Executive Office of the President (“EOP”), that was allegedly presented to Agency-2 in February 2017. See id. at 3–4. These allegations were not included in the Indictment; these allegations post-date the single false statement that was charged in the Indictment; and these allegations were not necessary to identify any of the potential conflicts of interest with which the Motion is putatively concerned. Why then include them? The question answers itself.

1 For example, although the Special Counsel implies that in Mr. Sussmann’s February 9, 2017 meeting, he provided Agency-2 with EOP data from after Mr. Trump took office, the Special Counsel is well aware that the data provided to Agency-2 pertained only to the period of time before Mr. Trump took office, when Barack Obama was President. Further—and contrary to the Special Counsel’s alleged theory that Mr. Sussmann was acting in concert with the Clinton Campaign—the Motion conveniently overlooks the fact that Mr. Sussmann’s meeting with Agency-2 happened well after the 2016 presidential election, at a time when the Clinton Campaign had effectively ceased to exist. Unsurprisingly, the Motion also omits any mention of the fact that Mr. Sussmann never billed the Clinton Campaign for the work associated with the February 9, 2017 meeting, nor could he have (because there was no Clinton Campaign). [my emphasis]

Not only must Durham know the true dates of the data involved but so — as I’ve noted — must Kash Patel, who has known about this issue for four years. That means Patel insinuated that Hillary’s associates hacked Trump, knowing full well the claim was false.

And it led the former President to claim that those involved should be killed.

Sussmann has asked Judge Christopher Cooper to strike the improper language from the motion.

He has also provided yet more evidence that Durham didn’t take basic investigative steps necessary to vet the allegations he made in the indictment before actually indicting Sussmann. Durham didn’t interview any Clinton Campaign staffer to find out whether Sussmann coordinated with the campaign until after the indictment.

[T]he Special Counsel has been investigating for years, and some of the Special Counsel’s “ongoing” investigation seems to be work that should have been completed before indicting Mr. Sussmann. For example, the Special Counsel has alleged that Mr. Sussmann met with the FBI on behalf of the Clinton Campaign, but it was not until November 2021—two months after Mr. Sussmann was indicted—that the Special Counsel bothered to interview any individual who worked full-time for that Campaign to determine if that allegation was true. It is not.

As I noted earlier, Durham had to admit that he had no basis to substantiate claims of coordination with the Hillary Campaign in a filing last year. But that was October. It was not until after he had to confess he had overblown that claim in the indictment that Durham first interviewed a Hillary staffer.

In his filing, Sussmann makes it clear he intends to move to dismiss the indictment.

In addition, Mr. Sussmann reserves all rights to submit appropriate motions and seek appropriate relief concerning this conduct should the Indictment not be dismissed and should the case proceed to trial, including by seeking extensive voir dire about potential jurors’ exposure to prejudicial media resulting from the Special Counsel’s irresponsible actions.

If he keeps to the original filing deadline, that motion will be submitted this Friday. While not normally a basis to dismiss an indictment, Sussmann will be able to present entire swaths of proof that Durham didn’t take basic investigative steps before accusing Sussmann of things that turned out not to be true.

And now he’ll be able to point back to this filing to show that Durham misrepresented basic facts that might get someone killed.

Update: I managed a whole appearance on MSNBC without potty mouth.

Kash Patel Knew, and Did Nothing, about the Latest Durham-Related Frenzy

As predicted, the latest Durham filing has jacked up the frothy right. It even led the Former President to claim these actions should be “punishable by death.”

But the oddest statement came from “Former Chief Investigator for Russia Gate [sic]” and current key witness to an attempted coup, Kash Patel, sent out by the fake Think Tank that hosts some of the former Trumpsters most instrumental in covering up for Trump corruption.

Taken literally (which one should not do because it is riddled with false claims), the statement is a confession by Kash that he knew of what others are calling “spying” on Trump and did nothing to protect the President.

Let’s start, though, by cataloguing the false claims made by a man who played a key role in US national security for the entirety of the Trump Administration.

First, he claims that the Hillary Campaign, “ordered … lawyers at Perkins Coie to orchestrate a criminal enterprise to fabricate a connection between President Trump and Russia.” Thus far, Durham has made no claims about any orders coming from the Hillary Campaign (and the claim that there were such orders conflicts with testimony that Kash himself elicited as a Congressional staffer). The filing in question even suggests Perkins Coie may be upset about what Sussmann is alleged to have done.

Latham – through its prior representation of Law Firm-1 – likely possesses confidential knowledge about Law Firm-1’s role in, and views concerning, the defendant’s past activities.

In fact, in one of the first of a series of embarrassing confessions in this prosecution, Durham had to admit that Sussmann wasn’t coordinating directly with the Campaign, as alleged in the indictment.

Kash then claims that “Durham states that Sussmann and Marc Elias (Perkins Coie) … hired .. Rodney Joffe … to establish an ‘inference and narrative’ tying President Trump to Russia.” That’s false. The indictment says the opposite: Joffe was paying Perkins Coie, not the other way around. Indeed, Durham emphasized that Joffe’s company was paying Perkins Coie a lot of money.  And in fact, Durham shows that the information-sharing also went the other way. Joffe put it together and brought it to Perkins Coie. Joffe paid Perkins Coie and Joffe brought this information to them.

Kash then claims that “Durham writes that he has evidence showing Joffe and his company were able to infiltrate White House servers.” Kash accuses the Hillary Campaign of “mastermind[ing] the most intricate and coordinated conspiracy against Trump when he was both a candidate and later President.” This betrays either real deceit, or ignorance about the most basic building blocks of the Internet, because nowhere does Durham claim that Joffe “infiltrated” any servers. Durham, who himself made some embarrassing technical errors in his filing, emphasizes that this is about DNS traffic. And while he does reveal that Joffe “maintain[ed] servers for the EOP,” that’s not infiltrating. These claims amount to a former AUSA (albeit one famously berated by a judge for his “ineptitude” and “spying”) accusing a conspiracy where none has been charged, at least not yet. Plus, if Joffe did what Kash claims starting in July 2016, as Kash claims, then Barack Obama would be the one with a complaint, not Trump.

Finally, Kash outright claims as fact that Joffe “exploited proprietary data, to hack Trump Tower and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.” This claim is not substantiated by anything Durham has said and smacks of the same kind of conspiracy theorizing Louise Mensch once engaged in. Only, in this case, Kash is accusing someone who has not been charged with any crime — indeed, a five year statute of limitation on this stuff would have expired this week — of committing a crime. Again: a former AUSA, however inept, should know the legal risk of doing that.

Curiously, Kash specifies that the White House addresses involved were in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. That could well be true, but Durham only claims they were associated with EOP, and as someone who worked there, Kash should know that one is a physical structure and the other is a bureaucratic designation. But to the extent Kash (who has flubbed basic Internet details already) believes this amounted to hacking the EOP, it is based off non-public data.

So, like I said, the piece is riddled with false claims, but with two claims that go beyond anything Durham has said.

The statement is all the stranger given that Kash Patel knew about these allegations four years ago, at a time when he was one of the most powerful Congressional staffers on matters pertaining to intelligence.

And he did nothing about them.

Well. He did do something.

He started this line of inquiry — brought it up entirely out of the blue — in an interview of Michael Sussmann largely focused on Sussmann’s response to a hostile attack by Russia.

About a quarter of the way into an interview on December 18, 2017, after Sussmann debunked the frothy right’s conspiracy theory about the DNC being unwilling to share information with the FBI (which was a central focus of the interview), a staffer veered away from that line of questioning and asked about other meetings. Sussmann answered the questions that someone interested in cybersecurity would have wanted to know: how does the government share information with a high-profile victim of a nation-state attack?

Q Thats helpful. Thank you Going over to – moving on from CrowdStrike and the FBI, did you ever have any interactions with any other government agencies in relation to the DNC hack, Russian involvement in the 2016 elections, or anything like that, or any members of any government agencies?

A So.yes. For the intrusion, I believe our contacts initially and for a while were only with the FBI. And there came a time when we got involved with the Department of Homeland Security, and had a variety of ongoing meetings with them for various purposes. We reached out to State officials, to the State — Association of Chief Information Officers from the States.

But that’s not what this staffer was interested in. This staffer was thinking big.

Q Did you meet with anybody else, any members of the Intelligence Community, either officially or unofficially, to discuss these matters?

MS. RUEMMLER: With respect to the DNC?

Q The DNC, the 2016 Russia election, all things that fit under that sort of general big title.

Sussmann, perhaps sensing this staffer was about to deliver a gotcha, noted that he didn’t always know who was in a room.

A So let me provide one general exception. I had meetings and calls with the FBI when there were a lot of people in the room, and I don’t necessarily know —

Q Yeah, I don’t mean that.

A — who was there.

That’s not what this staffer was after either. The staffer wanted to know about a meeting Sussmann had with the CIA.

Q I don’t mean the FBI. I don’t mean those big conference calls or anything like that. I mean, did you have any engagements with any members of the Intelligence Community, not the FBI, one-on-one, or in small groups, or telephone calls, or communications with folks, say, such as the Central Intelligence Agency?

Sussmann responded as to the subject of the interview, the DNC hack: no, all the meetings were with FBI or DHS. That’s when the staffer in question revealed he wanted to know about other topics.

A I think as regards to the I think all of the hacking ~ I think all of the hacking stuff was limited to the FBI and DHS.

Q Okay. So you never had any communications with members of the CIA [redacted] discussing the ~ not only the hack, but also the possible Russian intrusion and Russian involvement in the 2016 election?

That’s when Kathryn Ruemmler, representing Sussmann, referred to the staffer in question by name: Kash. This line of questioning was done by Kash Patel (which isn’t surprising, seeing as how at the time he was the “Chief Investigator for Russia Gate [sic].”

MS. RUEMMLER: Kash, just to clarify, you’re talking about the 2016 timeframe here? [my emphasis]

The staffer now identified as Kash continued, making it clear he already knew the answer to the question he was asking. He already knew about this meeting.

Q Well, that’s when that incident occurred. I’m asking if you ever have from that time until today?

A So I have — I have various contacts with members of law enforcement and the Intelligence Community on behalf of a number of different clients. So I’m not sure how to —

Q Sure. I’ll narrow it down for you. Fair enough. As it relates to what you and I have been talking about here today

A Right

Q –that is, the DNC hack, the Russian involvement in the 2016 election, and any information that was derived therefrom, did you meet or discuss with any members of the Intelligence Community outside of the FBI to provide information, talk to them about these matters? Did they reach out to you? Did anything like that ever happen in 2016 or 2017

With her client having been asked about a topic that wasn’t among the topics he had prepared to discuss or among the clients whose privileged matters he had gotten prior authorization to discuss and apparently worried about ethical issues, Ruemmler asked if she and Sussmann need to take a minute to confer.

MS. RUEMMLER: Do you want to confer for a second?

MR. SUSSMANN: I just want to talk about the range of – I have a lot of different clients, and since we’ve just spoken —

MS. RUEMMLER: As long as you don’t reveal identity of them, which You’re not permitted to do under the rules, or any content.

MR. SUSSMANN: Can we step outside and talk about how to deal with the range of clients?

MS. RUEMMLER: Yes.

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. SUSSMANN: Thank you.

At this point, if Sussmann were really hiding this stuff (as John Durham claims), he could have refused to answer the question, citing that privilege and the off-topic question. But Sussmann didn’t do that. He consulted with Ruemmler (something that Durham is now making a stink about), then came back in the room, noted that Kash had asked an off-topic question, but nevertheless answered honestly.

[The reporter read the record as requested.]

MR. SUSSMANN: So I’m not clear as to the scope of what you’re asking your question, but I’m going to be sort of more expansive in my answer, because there’s nothing — you said in relation to the things that we discussed today, and this is not something we’ve discussed today.

But I did have — I don’t believe I had — s0 two things. I don’t believe I had — I didn’t have direct contact with [NSA] butI can relate to you some indirect contacts with [NSA]. And I had a meeting [at CIA] as well.

That’s what Kash was looking for.

Okay.

Sussmann explained, noting that this was classified.

A The [NSA] contact related to specifically my representation of the DNC, and my contact [with CIA] did not relate to my specific representation of the DNC, or the Clinton campaign, or the Democratic Party. And I also — I’m not — I will do the best that I can with you. I think there are limits to what I can discuss in an unclassified setting.

Kash asked about the CIA meeting.

Q Okay, fair enough. What was your contact [with CIA] about?

A So the contact [with CIA] was about reporting to them information that was reported to me about possible contacts, covert or at least nonpublic, between Russian entities and various entities in the Untied States associated with the — or potentially associated with the Trump Organization.

Q And when did that contact [with CIA] occur, month and year?

A February 2017.

Q Where did you get that information from to relay to [CIA]?

A From a client of mine.

Q Why did you go [to CIA]

After Ruemmler interrupted again to remind Sussmann not to violate privilege, he explained that he reached out on this front because he knew of Obama’s effort to get a review of potential Russian involvement in the election.

Q You did say, right, that you had — you’d received information from a client — I’m not asking who — that may be germane to the 2016 election and associates of the Trump campaign or people affiliated with the Trump campaign.

So my follow-up question was, why did you go to [CIA] with this information?

A Oh, I’m sorry. And I apologize. I remember what I was going to say. It was — it was, in large part, in response to President Obama’s post-election IC review of potential Russian involvement in the election. And in that regard, I had made outreach prior to the change in administration in 2016. And for reasons known and unknown to me, it took a long time to — or it took — you know, it took a while to have a meeting, and so it ended up being after the change in administration.

The line of questioning continued later with someone else, because Kash had to leave. In those questions, Sussmann factually answered the information came from a client he had represented before the DNC, and admitted he had the information prior to the election. He explained his motive for sharing the information with James Baker (which led the FBI to be able to intervene and prevent the NYT from publishing, something Durham didn’t bother to investigate before indicting Sussmann) and CIA. He admitted that Perkins Coie still represented the DNC when he met with the CIA, though he wasn’t doing work for them anymore. And, in a passage that will be a focal point of the trial, he described how he and Joffe decided together to share this information.

Q Okay. I want to ask you, so you mentioned that your client directed you to have these engagements with the FBI and [CIA] and to disseminate the information that client provided you. Is that correct?

A Well I apologize for the double negative. It isn’t not correct, but when you say my client directed me, we had a conversation, as lawyers do with their clients, about client needs and objectives and the best course to take for a client.

And so it may have been a decision that we came t0 together. I mean, I don’t want to imply that I was sort of directed to do something against my better judgment, or that we were in any sort of conflict, but this was — I think its most accurate to say it was done on behalf of my client.

In other words, Kash and his colleagues have known the outlines of this for over four years.

At the time, and in his next job at NSC, Kash would have had ready access to the CIA for more details about the meeting — indeed, he came into this interview knowing about it already.

At the time, and in his next job at NSC, and in his next job as DOD Chief of Staff, Kash would have had knowledge of Rodney Joffe’s contracts with FBI and NSA.

At the time, and in his next job at NSC, and in his next job as DOD Chief of Staff, Kash would have had access to the DARPA contract, which got extended afterwards.

In his comment, the Former President said that “those who knew about this” should be subject to criminal prosecution. And Kash Patel was, at all moments between December 2017 and January 2021, not only aware of the outlines and the players, but he did nothing.

Whatever else this kerfuffle has done, it has made Kash’s exposure as a witness in this case quite dicey. Because not only is Kash a witness that Sussmann was not hiding what he did, but he is someone who for years was in a position to do something about it, and he did nothing.

John Durham, Ask Not for Whom the Statute of Limitation Tolls …

As he did with Igor Danchenko, John Durham has raised a potential conflict as a way to air his conspiracy theories so he can jack up the frothy right. In this case, he describes an uncharged meeting at which Michael Sussmann, who no longer had anything to do with the DNC, shared an updated version of the Alfa Bank allegations with the CIA on February 9, 2017.

The Indictment further details that on February 9, 2017, the defendant provided an updated set of allegations – including the Russian Bank-1 data and additional allegations relating to Trump – to a second agency of the U.S. government (“Agency-2”). The Government’s evidence at trial will establish that these additional allegations relied, in part, on the purported DNS traffic that Tech Executive-1 and others had assembled pertaining to Trump Tower, Donald Trump’s New York City apartment building, the EOP, and the aforementioned healthcare provider. In his meeting with Agency-2, the defendant provided data which he claimed reflected purportedly suspicious DNS lookups by these entities of internet protocol (“IP”) addresses affiliated with a Russian mobile phone provider (“Russian Phone Provider-1”). The defendant further claimed that these lookups demonstrated that Trump and/or his associates were using supposedly rare, Russian-made wireless phones in the vicinity of the White House and other locations. The Special Counsel’s Office has identified no support for these allegations. Indeed, more complete DNS data that the Special Counsel’s Office obtained from a company that assisted Tech Executive-1 in assembling these allegations reflects that such DNS lookups were far from rare in the United States. For example, the more complete data that Tech Executive-1 and his associates gathered – but did not provide to Agency-2 – reflected that between approximately 2014 and 2017, there were a total of more than 3 million lookups of Russian Phone-Provider-1 IP addresses that originated with U.S.-based IP addresses. Fewer than 1,000 of these lookups originated with IP addresses affiliated with Trump Tower. In addition, the more complete data assembled by Tech Executive-1 and his associates reflected that DNS lookups involving the EOP and Russian Phone Provider-1 began at least as early 2014 (i.e., during the Obama administration and years before Trump took office) – another fact which the allegations omitted.

The frothy right is very excited that, among the data that someone heavily involved in cybersecurity like Rodney Joffe would have ready access to, was data that included the White House. They seem less interested that, to disprove the allegations Sussmann presented, Durham effectively (in their frothy minds) conducted the same “spying” on EOP networks of President Obama that Durham insinuates Joffe did of Trump.

Remember: This meeting is not charged. It’s not clear such a meeting with the CIA could be charged. Durham presents zero evidence Sussmann knows anything about the comparative value of this data, either.

That’ll become important in a bit.

The conflicts Durham raises to justify this filing are a bit more interesting than the ones he raised with Danchenko. Latham Watkins used to represent Perkins Coie and Marc Elias in this matter, now they represent just Sussmann, and Elias will be asked to testify about instructions Sussmann got about billing records in his representation of the DNC. Latham represented the DNC. Latham represented Sussmann in December 2017 House Intelligence testimony that significantly undermines Durham’s indictment (and shows that the allegations at the core of this indictment originally came from Kash Patel, who by the time of trial may be charged for his participation in helping Trump attempt a coup). Latham also provided Perkins Coie advice regarding a PR statement that, Durham admits, he’s not been able to pierce the privilege of and he knows those who made the statement had no knowledge that could implicate the statement in a conspiracy. Somebody on Sussmann’s team used to work at the FBI and then worked for the White House. Those are the conflicts — more substantive than the ones Durham raised about Danchenko, but probably nothing that problematic.

Which makes the relative timing of this filing all the more interesting.

With Danchenko, Durham raised the potential conflict, first, at a status hearing less than two weeks after Stuart Sears filed a notice of appearance for Danchenko, and then again, in a filing two weeks after Sears filed, for a less pressing imagined conflict involving different lawyers in Sears’ firm.

With Sussmann, Durham waited for almost five months after indicting Sussmann to raise the conflict, even though all but one element of the imagined conflict would have been immediately apparent to Durham, not least that Latham had previously represented Elias.

That doesn’t seem to reflect any real burning concern about this conflict.

But, as noted, it did give Durham an excuse to float previously unreleased information that may not even come in at trial, given that it’ll have to be presented as 404(b) evidence and it, in fact, as presented, undermines the claim that Sussmann was hiding his ties to Hillary from the Federal government.

If the information doesn’t come in at trial, this may be Durham’s only chance to jack up the frothy right with it.

And that’s interesting because of the date of that CIA meeting: February 9, 2017, five years and two days before Durham filed this belated notice of a conflict.

As I keep noting, Durham is obviously trying to pull his fevered conspiracy theories into an actual charged conspiracy, one tying together the DNC, Fusion GPS, Christopher Steele, and Hillary herself. If he succeeds, these flimsy charges (against both Sussmann and Danchenko) become stronger, but if he doesn’t, he’s going to have a harder time proving motive and materiality at trial.

After charging Sussmann on almost the last possible date before the statute of limitations expired for his claimed lie to the FBI, though, Durham would need something on which to hang a continuing conspiracy to be able to charge the others. One of those events could have been the PR statement issued in 2018, which Durham says is inaccurate.

Privilege logs and redacted emails obtained from Law Firm-1 in this investigation reflect that in the days before the issuance of these statements, Latham attorneys sent, received, and/or were copied on correspondence relating to the drafting and dissemination of the statements. (Much of the substance of those emails was redacted and withheld from the Special Counsel’s Office pursuant to Law Firm-1’s assertion of attorney-client privilege and attorney work product protections). Because the defendant was aware of and/or reviewed these media statements, the Government may seek to offer them as evidence pursuant to Rule 404(b) or other provisions of law to establish that the defendant sought to conceal the Clinton Campaign’s ties to the Russian Bank-1 allegations from the FBI and others.3

3 According to counsel for Law Firm-1, the attorneys at Law Firm-1 and Latham who participated in drafting and/or reviewing these statements were unaware at the time that the defendant had billed work on the Russian Bank-1 allegations to the Clinton Campaign.

Except, as laid out here, none of the Perkins Coie people involved in writing the statement knew how Sussmann had billed his time. And Durham hasn’t found a reason to otherwise pierce the privilege claims that went into the drafting of the statement.

So that’s probably not going to work to establish his continuing conspiracy.

The other event on which Durham might have hung a continuing conspiracy was that February 9 meeting. It involved updated work from Joffe, after all. And Durham claims Sussmann again deliberately hid who his client was rather than (as he now knows Sussmann did for tips from Jofffe that had nothing to do with Donald Trump) just shared a tip anonymously.

But instead of rolling out what Sussmann presented in that February 9 meeting five years and two days ago in a conspiracy indictment, Durham instead packaged it up in a filing pertaining to a potential conflict. This February 9 meeting, it appears, won’t be the hook on which Durham gets to charge a conspiracy.

I’m not saying that Durham won’t be able to pull together his grand conspiracy. He might next point to testimony in Congress (possibly Glenn Simpson’s) to claim that there was some grand cover-up of what he imagines was an attempt to smear Donald Trump. Except, as this filing admits, Sussmann’s sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee shows that when asked — by future coup investigative subject Kash Patel — Sussmann testified consistently with sharing this information on behalf of Joffe, which is what Sussmann’s currently operative story remains. Durham did suggest he thinks he can show Sussmannn misled members of Congress because he claims it was, “knowingly and intentionally misleading insofar as it failed to disclose that the defendant billed work on the Russian Bank-1 allegations to the Clinton Campaign,” except (as with the alleged lie more generally) that’s not what he was asked about.

By all means, John Durham, make Kash Patel a witness at your trial. Give Sussmann an opportunity to ask how Kash came to learn of this meeting in the first place, to say nothing about whether Kash has recently been involved in efforts to overthrow the US government.

Whatever Durham hopes to use to sustain the claim of a continuing conspiracy, this filing seems to concede that the lies Durham claims Sussmann told in that meeting that took place five years and a few days ago will not be charged.

Ask not for whom the statute of limitations toll, John Durham. They toll for you.

Mark Meadows Promised the Kind of National Guard Protection that Proud Boy Charles Donohoe Seemed to Expect

I argued last week that any contempt report for Mark Meadows will serve as much as a draft warrant affidavit for the FBI as it would the basis for a criminal contempt indictment.

The committee released their report last night and, as I expected, it describes some of the more damning evidence already obtained regarding Meadows. It includes 12 bullet points (included below), many derived from documents already turned over, describing Meadows’ role in sowing disinformation about the election and his early knowledge of the violence that might result.

As Politico reported, one of those bullets described Meadows emailing someone and saying that the National Guard would “protect pro Trump people.”

Mr. Meadows sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to ‘‘protect pro Trump people’’ and that many more would be available on standby.

Former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller told Congress that’s what Trump ordered him to do on January 3. But if Meadows passed on that privileged order the President gave to Miller, either directly or indirectly, to people involved in the riot, it might have helped them to plan.

And that’s interesting, because when Proud Boy Charles Donohoe saw a public report about the Guard being called in at 3:45 PM of on the day of the riot (these texts reflect the Washington State time zone in which Ethan Nordean’s phone was seized), he responded with surprise that the Guard would “attack … Trump supporters.”

If Meadows had a hand in alerting the Proud Boys that they would not face any response from the Guard, it would go a long way to explaining how they planned their operation in the way they did.

It also might explain why, minutes after Donohoe had just reported, minutes earlier, that “we are regrouping with a second force,” that second assault was abandoned.

As some of the bullets make clear, Mark Meadows had advance warning from organizers that things would get violent on January 6. And as the riot developed, he was in constant communication with Kash Patel, the Chief of Staff at the Defense Department that proved unwilling to deploy to protect the Capitol.

And it’s just possible he shared information that was central to the expectations of and plans by the militia that organized the assault.


Mr. Meadows was one of a relatively small group of people who witnessed the events of January 6 in the White House and with then-President Trump. Mr. Meadows was with or in the vicinity of then-President Trump on January 6 as he learned about the attack on the U.S. Capitol and decided whether to issue a statement that could stop the rioters.28 In fact, as the violence at the Capitol unfolded, Mr. Meadows received many messages encouraging him to have Mr. Trump issue a statement that could end the violence, and one former White House employee reportedly contacted Mr. Meadows several times and told him, ‘‘[y]ou guys have to say something. Even if the president’s not willing to put out a statement, you should go to the [cameras] and say, ‘We condemn this. Please stand down.’ If you don’t, people are going to die.’’29

Moreover, Mr. Meadows reportedly spoke with Kashyap Patel, who was then the chief of staff to former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, ‘‘nonstop’’ throughout the day of January 6.30 And, among other things, Mr. Meadows apparently knows if and when Mr. Trump was engaged in discussions regarding the National Guard’s response to the Capitol riot, a point that is contested but about which Mr. Meadows provided documents to the Select Committee and spoke publicly on national television after President Trump left office.31

Beyond those matters, the Select Committee seeks information from Mr. Meadows about issues including the following:

  • Mr. Meadows exchanged text messages with, and provided guidance to, an organizer of the January 6th rally on the Ellipse after the organizer told him that ‘‘[t]hings have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction. Please.’’32
  • Mr. Meadows sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to ‘‘protect pro Trump people’’ and that many more would be available on standby.33
  • Mr. Meadows received text messages and emails regarding apparent efforts to encourage Republican legislators in certain States to send alternate slates of electors to Congress, a plan which one Member of Congress acknowledged was ‘‘highly controversial’’ and to which Mr. Meadows responded, ‘‘I love it.’’ Mr. Meadows responded to a similar message by saying ‘‘[w]e are’’ and another such message by saying ‘‘Yes. Have a team on it.’’34
  • Mr. Meadows forwarded claims of election fraud to the Acting leadership of DOJ for further investigation, some of which he may have received using a private email account and at least one of which he had received directly from people associated with Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign.35
  • He also reportedly introduced Mr. Trump to then-DOJ official Jeffrey Clark.36 Mr. Clark went on to recommend to Mr. Trump that he be installed as Acting Attorney General and that DOJ should send a letter to State officials urging them to take certain actions that could affect the outcome of the November 2020 election by, among other things, appointing alternate slates of electors to cast electoral votes for Mr. Trump rather than now-President Biden.37
  • Mr. Meadows participated in meetings and calls during which the participants reportedly discussed the need to ‘‘fight’’ back against ‘‘mounting evidence’’ of purported voter fraud after courts had considered and overwhelmingly rejected Trump campaign claims of voter fraud and other election irregularities. He participated in one such meeting in the Oval Office with Mr. Trump and Members of Congress, which he publicly tweeted about from his personal Twitter account shortly after.38 He participated in another such call just days before the January 6 attack with Mr. Trump, Members of Congress, attorneys for the Trump re-election campaign, and ‘‘some 300’’ State and local officials to discuss the goal of overturning certain States’ electoral college results on January 6, 2021.39
  • Mr. Meadows traveled to Georgia to observe an audit of the votes days after then-President Trump complained that the audit had been moving too slowly and claimed that the signature-match system was rife with fraud.40 That trip precipitated Mr. Trump’s calls to Georgia’s Deputy secretary of state and, later, secretary of state.41 In the call with Georgia’s secretary of state, which Mr. Meadows and an attorney working with the campaign also joined, Mr. Trump pressed his unsupported claims of widespread election fraud, including claims related to deceased people voting, forged signatures, out-of-State voters, shredded ballots, triple-counted ballots, Dominion voting machines, and suitcase ballots, before telling the secretary of state that he wanted to find enough votes to ensure his victory.42 At one point during the call, Mr. Meadows asked ‘‘in the spirit of cooperation and compromise, is there something that we can at least have a discussion to look at some of these allegations to find a path forward that’s less litigious?’’43 At that point, Mr. Trump had filed two lawsuits in his personal capacity and on behalf of the campaign in Georgia, but the United States had not filed—and never did file—any. Mr. Meadows used a personal account in his attempts to reach the secretary of state before.44
  • Mr. Meadows was chief of staff during the post-election period when other White House staff, including the press secretary, advanced claims of election fraud. In one press conference, the press secretary claimed that there were ‘‘very real claims’’ of fraud that the Trump re-election campaign was pursuing and said that mail-in voting was one that ‘‘we have identified as being particularly prone to fraud.’’45

29Documents on file with the Select Committee (Meadows production); Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, I Alone Can Fix It, (New York: Penguin, 2021), p. 476.

30 Adam Ciralsky, ‘‘‘The President Threw Us Under the Bus’: Embedding with Pentagon Leadership in Trump’s Chaotic Last Week,’’ Vanity Fair, (Jan. 22, 2021), available at https:// www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/01/embedding-with-pentagon-leadership-in-trumps-chaotic-lastweek.

31Documents on file with the Select Committee (Meadows production); Transcript, ‘‘The Ingraham Angle,’’ Fox News, (Feb. 11, 2021), available at https://www.foxnews.com/transcript/ biden-warns-china-could-eat-our-lunch-after-phone-call-with-xi; Transcript, ‘‘Hannity,’’ Fox News, (Feb. 12, 2021), available at https://www.foxnews.com/transcript/new-yorker-who-lostmother-in-law-in-nursing-home-blasts-disgrace-cuomo; Testimony of Hon. Christopher C. Miller, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, (May 12, 2021), available at https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/Miller%20Testimony.pdf.

32Documents on file with the Select Committee (Meadows production).

33Documents on file with the Select Committee (Meadows production).

34Documents on file with the Select Committee (Meadows production).

35Documents on file with the Select Committee.

36Michael Bender, Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2021), p. 369.

37Documents on file with the Select Committee.

38Marissa Schultz, ‘‘Trump meets with members of Congress plotting Electoral College objections on Jan. 6,’’ Fox News, (Dec. 21, 2021), available at https://www.foxnews.com/politics/members-of-congress-trump-electoral-college-objections-on-jan-6; Tweet, @MarkMeadows, (Dec. 21, 2020 at 6:03 p.m.) (‘‘Several members of Congress just finished a meeting in the Oval Office with President @realDonaldTrump, preparing to fight back against mounting evidence of voter fraud. Stay tuned.’’).

39 Caitlin McFall, ‘‘Trump, House Republicans held call to discuss Electoral College rejection: Brooks,’’ Fox News, (Jan. 2, 2021), available at https://www.foxnews.com/politics/gop-splits-electoral-college-certification; Tweet, @RepMoBrooks, (Jan. 2, 2021 at 7:17 p.m.) (‘‘Our fight for honest & accurate elections gains momentum! @JimlJordan & I co-lead conference call w 50+ Congressmen who join & fight for America’s Republic! . . . President Trump & CoS Mark Meadows speaking. Morale is HIGH! FIGHT!’’); Paul Bedard, ‘‘Exclusive: Trump urges state legislators to reject electoral votes, ‘You are the real power’,’’ Washington Examiner, (Jan. 3, 2021), available at https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/exclusive-trump-urges-statelegislators-to-reject-electoral-votes-you-are-the-real-power.

40Linda So, ‘‘Trump’s chief of staff could face scrutiny in Georgia criminal probe,’’ Reuters, (March 19, 2021), available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-georgia-meadows-insight-idUSKBN2BB0XX.

41 Id.

42 ‘‘AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s made-up claims of fake Georgia votes,’’ Associated Press, (Jan. 3, 2021), https://apnews.com/article/ap-fact-check-donald-trump-georgia-elections-atlantac23d10e5299e14daee6109885f7dafa9; ‘‘Here’s the full transcript and audio of the call between Trump and Raffensperger, Washington Post, (Jan. 2, 2021), https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-raffensperger-call-transcript-georgia-vote/2021/01/03/2768e0cc-4ddd-11eb-83e3- 322644d82356—story.html.

43 ‘‘Here’s the full transcript and audio of the call between Trump and Raffensperger, Washington Post, (Jan. 2, 2021), https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-raffensperger-calltranscript-georgia-vote/2021/01/03/2768e0cc-4ddd-11eb-83e3-322644d82356—story.html.

44Documents on file with the Select Committee.

45Transcript of November 20, 2020, White House Press Conference, available at https:// www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/press-secretary-kayleigh-mcenany-white-house-press-conferencetranscript-november-20.

Two One-Time Devin Nunes Flunkies Under Investigation for Leaks

Michael Ellis, the Devin Nunes flunky who had been installed as NSA General Counsel over more qualified people, resigned from NSA after being placed on leave since Inauguration Day. I hadn’t realized until I read Ellen Nakashima’s report on Ellis’ resignation that he was being investigated for leaking classified information, though Catherine Herridge reported that investigation in real time, the very same day that Ellis’ attorney wrote NSA inquiring about the investigation.

Meanwhile, a long David Ignatius profile of another Nunes flunky, Kash Patel, mentions that he, too, is under investigation for leaking classified information.

Patel repeatedly pressed intelligence agencies to release secrets that, in his view, showed that the president was being persecuted unfairly by critics. Ironically, he is now facing Justice Department investigation for possible improper disclosure of classified information, according to two knowledgeable sources who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe. The sources said the investigation resulted from a complaint made this year by an intelligence agency, but wouldn’t provide additional details.

Both of these men (along with a third Nunes flunky, Derek Harvey) have been a real threat to national security and both have a history of writing crappy reports for Nunes (recent reporting reminds that Ellis was the author of an unnecessarily shitty Edward Snowden report, for example). There’s little doubt they have released the kinds of material that have never before been released, but much of that would either be legal and/or protected by Speech and Debate.

But the fact that both are being investigated for leaking classified information raises questions whether leak investigations are just being used as an easy way to take out intelligence community critics, whether they’re both suspected of leaking the same information, or whether there’s more there.

The Ignatius story, in particular, is of interest, not least because he’s the guy who first reported Mike Flynn’s conversation with Sergey Kislyak in a seemingly sanctioned leak, making this report a kind of book-end to the Trump Administration. All the more so given that Ignatius not only notes the sensitivity of the probe into Patel, but then tells a story that likely relies on classified information of how Patel’s incompetence almost blew up a SEAL rescue mission in Niger.

Anger toward Patel within the national security bureaucracy mounted after an Oct. 31, 2020, hostage rescue mission in Nigeria. The incident, never previously reported in detail, was described by four high-level sources.

It was a rescue mission that was nearly aborted partly because of inadequate coordination by Patel. SEAL Team Six had been assigned to rescue 27-year-old Philip Walton, a missionary’s son who had been kidnapped by gunmen in Niger, near the border with Nigeria. Patel, as a senior counterterrorism adviser, had assured colleagues that the mission had a green light, according to several sources. The SEALs were ready to parachute into the rescue site from high altitude (one source estimated 30,000 feet) when there was a last-minute hitch.

But as the SEALs were about to jump, military commanders and State Department officials realized that one necessary item hadn’t been completed: The Nigerian government hadn’t been informed prior to the operation inside their country, as required.

A frantic last-minute effort to obtain the necessary permission ensued. The SEAL team’s aircraft held over the target, flying in a racetrack pattern, for about 45 minutes while the State Department tried to locate a Nigerian national security official who could receive the official notice. Finally, just 15 minutes before the operational window closed, the Nigerians were given word, the SEALs parachuted down, and the hostage was rescued.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were angry that, in their view, Patel had prematurely said the operation was fully cleared, according to knowledgeable officials. One senior Pentagon official said he was “incensed” at Patel. A second senior Pentagon official described Patel’s actions as potentially “dangerous” for the SEALs.

The attack on Patel’s role in the hostage rescue may be a signal about what Patel is suspected of leaking.

While Ignatius provides no indication of what Patel is suspected of leaking, the WaPo columnist does link to an interview Patel did with Aaron Maté. The interview is about what you’d expect from a propagandist interviewing a propagandist.  Patel makes a slew of false claims that Maté encourages: the purpose of FISA, what normally goes in FISA applications, the intelligence against Carter Page, what servers the FBI obtained as part of its investigation into the hack (Maté still ascribes the single server fallacy!), what Crowdstrike actually had access to, what Bruce Ohr’s FBI interviews actually showed. Perhaps the most hysterical part of the interview is where Patel claimed that the way to conduct an investigation is to follow the money, but Maté never asked him why HPSCI didn’t follow the money on a single Trump associate, to say nothing of Trump’s role in money laundering for Russian oligarchs.

Nevertheless, in their discussion about the Russian investigation, Patel was quite careful to avoid revealing non-public information, not even for a report he authored claiming poor tradecraft on the Intelligence Community Assessment of the Russian attack that both SSCI and John Durham have investigated and dismissed.

Maté similarly let Patel dodge really answering questions about his conduct on January 6, even though some of the biggest questions about that day pertain to why DOD delayed for three hours before reinforcing the Capitol, including why it took over 30 minutes for an order to deploy to get from Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller to Guard Commander General William Walker who had been waiting on stand-by. In response to Maté’s question, Patel first repeated his selective breach of Executive Privilege to claim that Trump had already authorized Guard deployments, then answered a totally different question than the one Maté asked — not why DOD let the attack continue for 3 hours, long after it had gotten repeated requests for help, but how quickly DOD deployed the Guard after they had allowed an attack to happen across town while they watched.

We activated, from a start, the fastest augmentation and mobilization of uniformed military troops in the DC area since World War II, and we put 24,000 boots on the ground in less than 48 hours. I don’t know who’s saying we slow-rolled anything, because these are Guardsmen, they’re not active duty military.

While Patel violated Executive Privilege, there’s nothing classified about the belated Guard deployment.

It’s in-between those two conversations, though, where Patel may have succumbed to Maté’s persistent questioning about the very same topic about which Ignatius’ sources attack Patal: hostage rescues. Maté asked about a report that Patel had tried to negotiate the release of Austin Tice. Patel first responded to Maté by saying that he wouldn’t address whether Tice is alive or not. But then Maté followed up, and Patel told a self-serving story about his role in an attempt to free Tice. In it, Patel provided non-public details about his meeting with Assad representatives in Syria and may have confirmed an intercept on Bashar al-Assad.

Maté: Can you tell us anything about your discussions with Syrian officials, what they were asking from you, their level of openness to having talks with the US government?

Patel: Sure, I mean, look, that didn’t happen overnight. You know, one of President Trump’s priorities was, “go get American hostages home,” and I think we got over 50 — 53ish, hostages, detainees back — from 20-some countries maybe. Maybe a little less. But Austin Tice had been missing for, going on eight years, and we had made no headway, really, on it, so we made it a priority. We started working with our counterparts in the region. That trip was almost 18 months in the making. And we finally were able to land a meeting in Damascus because I told them, I said, “I’ll come see you. You send someone who can represent President Assad directly, because I can represent President Trump directly on this matter. And let’s go sit down.” And they said, “okay, come to Damascus.” And I don’t know if they thought we would show up or not. We did. And we were very clear. We said, “look, I understand I’m not getting Austin home on this trip, but I would like a proof of life. What would you like in return for that?” We had very frank conversations. They said, we want X amount of movement for the United States military. Troops stuff, and this and that. And I said, “look, all of that’s on the table. We can discuss all those things. I need a proof of life.” And they said they would take it back to Assad. Which they did. I know they did that. And then, I think shortly thereafter, I switched over to the Department of Defense, and tried to continue that mission, but, um, that one was one I just, unfortunately, didn’t succeed on. [my emphasis]

The most likely way that Patel would come to learn, with certainty, that whatever go-betweens he met with in Damascus actually did report back to Assad would be via an NSA or CIA intercept. If that is how he learned, then confirming that he knew Assad got a report back might have burned the intercept. Doing so with Maté at the Grayzone, which personally and as an outlet produce a lot of Assad apology, might be particularly sensitive. And the ease with which Maté appealed to Patel’s ego to get him to reveal these details would raise real questions about whether Patel played a role in the earlier WSJ story about the meeting, which was published on October 18, days before Patel almost fucked up the October 31 Niger mission.

That is, this Ignatius story seems like an effort to undermine Patel’s self-interested stories of heroism on hostage rescues, after he disclosed non-public details about one of them.

Which would also suggest that, whatever the merit of the investigation into Ellis (and I think GOP concerns about it have some merit), the investigation into Patel may be substantive.

Chain of Command: The AWOL Descriptions of the Commander in Chief’s Role in the National Guard Non-Response on January 6

The only formal explanation Trump has offered to describe his role in deploying the National Guard in response to the attack on the Capitol on January 6 came in his impeachment defense. As part of that defense, Bruce Castor pointed to things he claimed happened before Trump’s speech ended. In Castor’s inaccurate portrayal of the timeline, he suggested that the first action Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller took was when, at 1:05 (which Castor said was 11:05), Miller “received open source reports of demonstrator movements to the U.S. Capitol.” He continued to claim that,

At 1:09 PM, US Capitol Police Chief’s Steven Sund called the House and Senate Sergeants at Arms, telling them he wanted an emergency declared and he wanted the National Guard called. The point: given the timeline of events, the criminals at the Capitol were not there to even hear the President’s words. They were more than a mile away engaged in a preplanned assault on this very building.

Admittedly, this was probably no more than an incompetent parroting of the existing timeline released by DOD. It’s possible that Trump’s lawyers didn’t ask him what happened inside the White House that day, because if they did, it would not help their case.

Still: Trump’s own defense claimed that the first that Acting Secretary Miller did in the matter was at 1[1]:05 on January 6.

That’s mighty interesting because there have been two claims that Trump proactively offered up National Guard troops for January 6 in the days beforehand. The first came in a Vanity Fair piece written by a journalist that Trump’s DOD flunkies permitted to embed with them (he requested to do so before the insurrection, but didn’t start his embed until January 12, meaning the claims reported in this article were retrospective). That piece claimed that, the night before the attack, Trump told DOD they would need 10,000 people.

The president, Miller recalled, asked how many troops the Pentagon planned to turn out the following day. “We’re like, ‘We’re going to provide any National Guard support that the District requests,’” Miller responded. “And [Trump] goes, ‘You’re going to need 10,000 people.’ No, I’m not talking bullshit. He said that. And we’re like, ‘Maybe. But you know, someone’s going to have to ask for it.’” At that point Miller remembered the president telling him, “‘You do what you need to do. You do what you need to do.’ He said, ‘You’re going to need 10,000.’ That’s what he said. Swear to God.”

[snip]

“We had talked to [the president] in person the day before, on the phone the day before, and two days before that. We were given clear instructions. We had all our authorizations. We didn’t need to talk to the president. I was talking to [Trump’s chief of staff, Mark] Meadows, nonstop that day.”

[snip]

What did Miller think of the criticism that the Pentagon had dragged its feet in sending in the cavalry? He bristled. “Oh, that is complete horseshit. I gotta tell you, I cannot wait to go to the Hill and have those conversations with senators and representatives.”

[snip]

Miller and Patel both insisted, in separate conversations, that they neither tried nor needed to contact the president on January 6; they had already gotten approval to deploy forces. However, another senior defense official remembered things quite differently, “They couldn’t get through. They tried to call him”—meaning the president.

So according to Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, Trump had given him “clear instructions” to “do what you need to do,” and had warned him to have thousands of Guardsmen available. Miller said he was speaking non-stop to Mark Meadows, though an anonymous source stated that they tried but failed to get the President on the line.

Long after impeachment and even after his CPAC speech, Trump went to Fox to make the same claim that appeared in Vanity Fair.

Former President Trump told Fox News late Sunday that he expressed concern over the crowd size near the Capitol days before last month’s deadly riots and personally requested 10,000 National Guard troops be deployed in response.

Trump told “The Next Revolution With Steve Hilton” that his team alerted the Department of Defense days before the rally that crowds might be larger than anticipated and 10,000 national guardsmen should be ready to deploy. He said that — from what he understands — the warning was passed along to leaders at the Capitol, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — and he heard that the request was rejected because these leaders did not like the optics of 10,000 troops at the Capitol.

“So, you know, that was a big mistake,” he said.

Fox and other Trump mouthpieces have suggested that Nancy Pelosi rejected the Guard. That’s false. According to then Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund, House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving did.

On Monday, January 4, I approached the two Sergeants at Arms to request the assistance of the National Guard, as I had no authority to do so without an Emergency Declaration by the Capitol Police Board (CPB). My regular interactions with the CPB, outside of our monthly meetings regarding law enforcement matters, were conducted with the House and Senate Sergeant at Arms, the two members of the CPB who have law enforcement experience. I first spoke with the House Sergeant at Arms to request the National Guard. Mr. Irving stated that he was concerned about the “optics” of having National Guard present and didn’t feel that the intelligence supported it. He referred me to the Senate Sergeant at Arms (who is currently the Chair of the CPB) to get his thoughts on the request. I then spoke to Mr. Stenger and again requested the National Guard. Instead of approving the use of the National Guard, however, Mr. Stenger suggested I ask them how quickly we could get support if needed and to “lean forward” in case we had to request assistance on January 6.

Notably, Sund’s request and Irving’s response occurred before the conversation between Miller and Trump purportedly took place the night before the attack (which was far too late to deploy 10,000 people in any case). Moreover, Pelosi, Zoe Lofgren, and Mark Warner, among others, raised concerns about staffing for the day, so it’s not like Democrats weren’t raising the alarm.

Still, over a month after making no such claim as part of his Impeachment defense, Trump and his flunkies want to claim that Trump was proactive about deploying 10,000 people to defend the Capitol against his most ardent supporters.

That’s interesting background to the testimony offered by Robert Salesses, the “Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense and Global Security,” in a joint Rules/Homeland Committee hearing on January 6 yesterday. As several people noted during the hearing, for some reason DOD sent Salesses, who wasn’t involved in the key events on January 6, rather than people like General Walter Piatt or General [Mike’s brother] Charles Flynn — who were on a call with MPD Chief Robert Contee and Sund on January 6 and who have made disputed claims about what occurred, including that Piatt recommended against sending the Guard because of optics. Effectively, Salesses was repeating what others told him, offering no better (indeed, more dated) information than Vanity Fair was able to offer. Salesses apparently called General Piatt the day before and dutifully repeated Piatt’s claim that he did not use the word, “optics,” which DC National Guard Commander General William Walker had just testified did occur.

General Piatt told me yesterday, Senator, that he did not use the word, “optics.”

Salesses then gave more excuses, explaining,

Senator, in fairness to the committee, General Piatt is not a decision-maker. The only decision-makers on the Sixth of January were the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. It was a chain of command from the Secretary of Defense to Secretary McCarthy to General Walker. That was the chain of command.

General Walker, the Commander of the DC National Guard, responded by reiterating the response he had gotten from Piatt (and the brother of the guy who had incited many of the insurrectionists) implicitly correcting Salesses about chain of command. The Commander in Chief, of course, is in that chain of command.

Yes, Senator. So the chain of command is the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, [points to self] William Walker Commanding General District of Columbia National Guard.

After General Walker described more of the restrictions placed on him ahead of time, including the preapproval before moving a traffic control point from one block to another (which restriction, Walker said, he had never experienced in 19 years) and the issuance of riot gear, Salesses made more excuses (repeating his silence about the role of the President’s role in the chain of command). Remarkably, he described how Ryan McCarthy dithered from 3:04 until 4:10 because shots had been fired at the Capitol.

Salesses: Sir, Secretary Miller wanted to make the decisions on how the National Guard was going to be employed on that day. As you recall, Senator, the spring events, there was a number of things that happened during those events, that Secretary Miller as the Acting Secretary –

Rob Portman: Clearly he wanted to. The question is why? And how unusual. Don’t you think that’s unusual based on your experience at DOD?

Salesses: Senator, there was a lot of things that happened in the spring that the Department was criticized for — Sir, if I could. Civil Disturbance Operations? That authority rests with the Secretary of Defense. So if somebody’s gonna make a decision about employing military members against US citizens in a Civil Disturbance Operation —

Salesses: At 3:04, Secretary Miller made the decision to mobilize the entire National Guard. That meant that he was calling in all the National Guard members that were assigned to the DC National Guard. At 3:40–at 3:04 that decision was made. Between that period of time — between 3:04 and 4:10, basically, Secretary McCarthy had asked for — he wanted to understand, because of the dynamics on the Capitol lawn, with the explosives, obviously shots had been fired, he wanted to understand the employment of how the National Guard was going to be sent to the Capitol: what their missions were going to be, were they going to be clearing buildings, be doing perimeter security, how would they be equipped, he wanted to understand how they were going to be armed because, obviously, shots had been fired. He was asking a lot of questions to understand exactly how they were going to be employed here at the Capitol, and how many National Guard members needed to be deployed to the Capitol.

When asked whether restrictions placed on Walker hampered his defense, yes or no, Salesses again invoked the chain of command, again leaving out the Command-in-Chief.

Senator, General Walker, in fairness to him, can’t respond to a civil defense — a Civil Disturbance Operation without the authority of the Secretary of Defense.

Finally, Salesses explained a further 36-minute delay, from 4:32 until 5:08, when Walker was given approval to move, this way:

Salesses: In fairness to General Walker too, that’s when the Secretary of Defense made the decision, at 4:32. As General Walker has pointed out, cause I’ve seen all the timelines, he was not told that til 5:08.

Roy Blunt: How is that possible, Mr. Salazar [sic], do you think that the decision, in the moment we were in, was made at 4:32 and the person that had to be told wasn’t told for more than a half an hour after the decision.

Salesses: Senator, I think that’s an issue.

It’s not just that the people who were actually involved didn’t show up to explain all this to Congress. It’s not just that there were big gaps in the timeline, or gaps explained by dithering even after DOD learned about explosives and shots fired.

It’s that the guy sent to provide improbable answers seems to have removed the Commander-in-Chief, who was watching all this unfold on TV and now wants credit for proactively telling DOD they would need at least 10,000 people, from the chain of command he used to justify the delay.

That’s all the more striking given that — as Dana Milbank noted — the delay until Miller’s authorization (to say nothing of the 36-minute delay in informing Walker) also meant that DOD did not respond until after Trump had instructed his insurrection to go home.

Curiously, the Pentagon claims Miller’s authorization came at 4:32 — 15 minutes after Trump told his “very special” insurrectionists to “go home in peace.” Was Miller waiting for Trump’s blessing before defending the Capitol?

DOD’s selected witness yesterday said that General Walker couldn’t send the Guard to help protect the Capitol because of the chain of command. But the Commander-in-Chief seems to be AWOL from that chain of command.

Update: On Twitter AP observed that there is a discrepancy between Miller’s 10,000 person claim and Trump’s: Trump says it happened days before January 6, which would place it before Miller’s letter imposing new restrictions on the Guard.

Productive Ways to Hold Trump Accountable

On Friday, Jonathan Rauch published a god-awful argument for pardoning Trump. Today, Quinta Jurecic published a much better argument that a Truth Commission would be the ideal way to hold Trump accountable, but because that probably won’t work, we need to pursue other alternatives, including prosecution.

I’ve already laid out one reason why I think we need to prosecute Trump for his role in the insurrection: because if we don’t, it’ll hamper the ability to hold dangerous people accountable. Another reason is that so many defendants are excusing their actions because the then-President ordered them to storm the Capitol (indeed, that’s one reason, according to a new WaPo report, why DOJ might not charge some of the insurrectionists), the government must make it clear that order was illegal.

Still, I think there are solutions to the problem that both Rauch and Jurecic want to resolve: how to find accountability without derailing President Biden’s Administration.

Jurecic acknowledges that Republican resistance to accountability measures will exacerbate current political divisions.

[A] post-Trump investigation pursued along partisan lines could be doomed from the start. This is the irony: The exact conditions that led to and sustained the Trump era—white grievance, a polluted media ecosystem, and political polarization—are the same conditions that will likely prevent a truth commission from succeeding.

[snip]

In the short run, any of these measures could risk making the country’s social and political divisions worse.

Rauch argues that prosecutions will derail the Biden Administration.

If we want Biden’s presidency to succeed, accountability to be restored and democracy to be strengthened, then a pardon would likely do more good than harm.

Consider, first, Biden’s presidency.

Biden has made clear in every way he can that he does not want or intend to be President Not Trump. He has his own agenda and has been impressively disciplined about not being defined by opposition to Trump. He knows Trump will try to monopolize the news and public discourse for the next four years, and he needs Trump instead to lose the oxygen of constant public attention.

Legal proceedings against Trump, or even the shadow of legal proceedings, would only keep Trump in the headlines.

Rauch also argues (fancifully, for precisely the reasons Jurecic gives that a Truth Commission would be undermined by polarization) that a non-criminal counterintelligence investigation will succeed in a way criminal investigations won’t.

It is important, then, that Trump’s presidency be subjected to a full-scale, post hoc counterintelligence scrub. There should be a public element, modeled on the 9/11 commission, and also a nonpublic, classified element. Both elements could be complicated and hindered by the criminal investigation of Trump. The criminal and counterterrorism investigations would need to be continually deconflicted; Congress would be asked to back away from inquiries and witnesses that step on prosecutors’ toes; Trump himself could plead the Fifth Amendment—an avenue not open to him were he to accept a pardon.

Ignoring for the moment the necessity of including Trump in an investigation into January 6, I agree that, to the extent possible, there needs to be some kind of accounting of what happened during the Trump Administration without turning it into partisan warfare.

Here are some ways to contribute to doing that.

Drain the swamp

Investigations into Trump for things that either are already (Russia or Ukraine) or can be (the election) turned into a tribal issue will absolutely exacerbate political division.

But there are some topics where former Trump supporters can quickly be shown how he hurt them.

For example, an inquiry into Trump’s trade war, especially into the harm done to farmers, will provide a way to show that Trump really devastated a lot of the rural voters who, for tribal reasons, nevertheless support him.

Or Trump’s grifting. In the wake of the Steve Bannon pardon, a number of Trump supporters were furious that Bannon was pardoned for cheating them, even while rioters or other more favored pardon candidates were not. Bannon’s not the only Trump grifter whose corruption demonstrably hurt Trump voters. There’s Brad Parscale’s grifting. There’s Jared Kushner’s favoritism in COVID contracting, which made the country less safe. There’s PPP abuse by big corporations at the expense of small businesses. None of this has to be explicitly about Trump; it can instead be an effort to crack down on corruption generally which by its very nature will affect Trump’s flunkies.

Have Trump dead-enders approve charges

With the exception of some egregious US Attorneys, Biden has asked the remaining US Attorneys to stay on for the moment. That defers any political blowback in the case of John Durham (who in addition to being CT US Attorney is also investigating the Russian investigation) and David Weiss (who is investigating Hunter Biden).

But it also allows people who are nominally Trump appointees to preside over at least the charging of existing investigations targeting Trump or his flunkies. The one place this is known to be true is in Southern District of New York (where Rudy is being investigated). It might be true in DC US Attorney’s office (though Billy Barr shut a lot of investigations, including into Roger Stone and Erik Prince, down). There’s Texas, where Ken Paxton is under investigation.There were hints of investigations into Jared in Eastern District of New York and, possibly, New Jersey.

If Trump US Attorneys aren’t replaced before they charge Trump or his allies, then the act of prosecution will be one approved by a Trump appointee.

Give Republicans what they think they want

Because they’re gullible, Republicans believe that the record of the Russian investigation shows corruption. What is in fact the case is that a cherry-picked and selectively-redacted set of records from the Russian investigation can be gaslit to claim corruption.

But since they’ve been clambering for Trump to declassify it all (even while both John Ratcliffe and Andrew McCabe have suggested that might not show what Republicans expect), it gives Biden’s Administration a way to declassify more. For example, there’s at least one Flynn-Kislyak transcript (from December 22, 2016) that Trump’s Administration chose not to release, one with closer Trump involvement then the others. There are materials on Alex Jones’ interactions with Guccifer 2.0. There are Peter Strzok notes showing him exhibiting no ill-will to Mike Flynn. There are records regarding Paul Manafort’s interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik on April 2016. That’s just the tip of an iceberg of very damning Russian-related records that Trump chose not to release, but which GOP demands for more can be used to justify.

Fully empower Inspectors General

One particularly absurd part of Rauch’s piece is his claim that we know all of Trump’s criminal exposure.

If he committed crimes that we don’t already know about, they are probably not of a new kind or magnitude.

As for what we do know about, it seems clear that he committed criminal obstruction of justice, for example by ordering his White House counsel to falsify federal records. But his obstruction was a process crime, already aired, of limited concern to the public and hard to get a conviction on as a stand-alone charge. There might be more to the Ukraine scandal than we know, but that matter, too, has been aired extensively, may not have been a legal violation and was appropriately (if disappointingly) handled by impeachment. Trump might have committed some form of sedition when he summoned his supporters to the streets to overturn the election, but he would have a colorable First Amendment defense, and sedition is a complicated and controversial charge that would open a legal can of worms. The real problem with Trump is not that we do not know his misdeeds but that we know so much about them, and yet he remained in office for a full term.

One piece of evidence Rauch is mistaken is his certainty that Trump’s only exposure in the Russian investigation is regarding obstruction, when (just as one example) there’s an ongoing investigation into an Assange pardon that appears to be closer to a quid pro quo; or the closed investigation into a potential bribe from Egypt. Democrats were denied a slew of documents pertaining to the Ukraine scandal, especially from the State Department. Democrats were similarly denied records on Trump’s abuse of clearance and non-official records.

One way to deal with the outstanding questions from the Trump Administration is simply to fully staff and empower the Inspectors General who have been undermined for four years. If, for example, State’s IG were to refer charges against Mike Pompeo or DOD’s IG were to refer charges pertaining to Kash Patel’s tenure, it wouldn’t be Democrats targeting them for investigation, it would be independent Inspectors General.

DOJ must be a key part of this. DOJ’s IG has already said it is investigating BJ Pak’s forced resignation. Democrats should insist this is expanded to review all of Barr’s politicized firings of US Attorneys.

As part of an effort to make sure Inspectors General do the work they should have done in real time, Biden should support the end of the OPR/IG split in DOJ, which means that the decisions of lawyers at DOJ (including those pertaining to the Ukraine scandal) are only reviewed by inspectors directly reporting to the Attorney General.

Respect FOIA

Joe Biden might not want to focus on Trump. But the press will continue to do so.

And if Biden orders agencies to treat FOIA like it is supposed to be treated, rather than forcing the press to sue if they want anything particularly interest, the press will do a lot of the accountability that courts otherwise might (and might provide reason for prosecutions). The press already has FOIAs in that have been undermined by improper exemption claims. For example, Jason Leopold has an existing FOIA into Bill Barr’s interference into the Roger Stone and Mike Flynn prosecutions. American Oversight has a FOIA into why Paul Manafort was sprung from jail when more vulnerable prisoners were not. FOIA into Trump’s separation policies have been key at reuniting families.

If such FOIAs obtained more visibility than they currently do, it would provide the visibility into some of the issues that people would love criminal investigations into.

One of the biggest scandals of the Trump Administration is how he undermined normal institutions of good governance, especially Inspectors General. If those institutions are restored and empowered, it will likely do a surprising amount of the accountability work that is so badly needed.