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Triage and Impeachment: Prioritize a Legitimate Criminal Investigation into the Wider Plot over Impeachment

I want to talk about triage in the wake of the terrorist attack on Wednesday as it affects consideration of how to hold Trump accountable for his role in it.

First, some dates:

If Mike Pence were to invoke the 25th Amendment (with the approval of a bunch of Trump’s cabinet members), it could go into effect immediately for at least four days. Trump can challenge his determination, but if the same cabinet members hold with Pence, then Trump’s disqualification remains in place for 21 more days, enough to get through Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Both the House and Senate are not in session, and can’t deviate from the existing schedule without unanimous consent, meaning Mo Brooks in the House or Josh Hawley in the Senate could single-handedly prevent any business.

Because of that, impeachment in the House can’t be started until tomorrow. Right now, Pelosi is using the threat of impeachment as leverage to try to get Pence to act (or Trump to resign, though he won’t). If that doesn’t work, then the House seems prepared to move on a single article of impeachment tied to Trump’s attempts to cheat and his incitement of the insurrection. Pelosi won’t move forward on it until she’s sure it has the votes to succeed.

Even assuming a majority of the House votes to impeach Trump, that will have no impact on his authority to pardon co-conspirators, and he’ll surely attempt to pardon himself, one way or another. Because of Wednesday’s events, he will be doing that without the assistance of Pat Cipollone, which means he’s much more likely to make his plight worse.

Impeaching this week would, however, force Republicans to cast votes before it is clear how the post-insurrection politics will work out (indeed, while Trump still has the power of the Presidency). Significantly, a number of incoming members are angry that Kevin McCarthy advised them to support the insurrection. The vote may be as much an attempt to undo complicity with Wednesday’s actions as it is anything else. Done right, impeachment may exacerbate the fractures in the GOP; done wrong, it could have the opposite effect.

If the House does impeach, then the Senate will not — barring a change of heart from Hawley and everyone else who was still willing to be part of this insurrection — take up the impeachment until January 19 (the parliamentarian has already ruled on this point). That means, the trial for impeachment either happens in Joe Biden’s first week in office, or the House holds off on sending the article of impeachment over to the Senate until Chuck Schumer deems it a worthwhile time. He can also opt to have a committee consider it, calling witnesses and accruing evidence, which will provide the Senate (where there are more Republicans aiming to distance from Trump) a way to further elaborate Trump’s role in the terrorism.

Meanwhile, by losing all access to social media except Parler and with Amazon’s decision yesterday to stop hosting Parler (which will mean it’ll stay down at least a week, until January 17), Trump’s primary mouthpieces have been shut down. There’s reason to believe that the more sophisticated insurrectionists have moved onto more secure platforms like chat rooms and Signal. While that’ll pose some challenges for law enforcement trying to prevent follow-on attacks on January 17, 19, or 20, being on such less accessible platforms will limit their ability to mobilize the kinds of masses that came out on Wednesday. Trump has lost one of the most important weapons he can wield without demanding clearly criminal behavior from others. That said, the urgency of preventing those sophisticated plotters — and a good chunk of these people have military training — from engaging in more targeted strikes needs to be a priority.

But Trump is still President, with his hand on the nuclear codes, and in charge of the chain of command that goes through a bunch of Devin Nunes flunkies at DOD. Nancy Pelosi called Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley and come away with assurances that Trump won’t be able to deploy nukes.

Preventing an Unhinged President From Using the Nuclear Codes: This morning, I spoke to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike. The situation of this unhinged President could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy.

Nevertheless that still leaves Trump in charge of the vast federal bureaucracy, which has been emptied out and the filled back up with people who could pass Johnny McEntee’s loyalty oaths to Trump.

Because this is where we’re at, I have argued that there needs to be a higher priority on getting at least Biden’s operational nominees, along with Merrick Garland, confirmed over impeaching Trump — yet — in the Senate.

We have not yet heard why DOD and DHS and the FBI — on top of the Capitol Police — failed to prevent the terrorist attack on Wednesday (I’ll have more to say about this later). It will take a year to sort out all the conflicting claims. But as we attempt, via reporting, via oversight in Congress (including impeachment), and via a criminal investigation to figure that out, those same people who failed to prevent the attack remain in place. Indeed, most of these entities have offered little to no explanation for why they failed, which is a bad sign.

Because of that, I think Biden needs to prioritize getting at least Garland and Lisa Monaco confirmed as Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General at DOJ, along with a new Acting US Attorney for DC, as soon as possible. I have two specific concerns. First, while FBI has generally been good at policing white supremacists in recent months, they failed miserably here, when it mattered most. One effect of retaliating against anyone who investigated Trump for his “collusion” with Russia has been to install people who were either Trump loyalists or really skilled at avoiding any slight to Trump. Indeed, one of the most charitable possible excuses for FBI’s delayed response is that after years of badgering, otherwise reasonable people were loathe to get involved in something that Trump defined as an election issue.

I have more specific concerns about the DC US Attorney’s office. Michael Sherwin, who has been less awful as Acting US Attorney than Timothy Shea, originally said on the record all options in the investigation that will be led out of his office were on the table, including incitement by Trump. But then someone said off the record that Trump was not a focus of the investigation. I suspect that person is Ken Kohl, who as Acting First Assistant US Attorney is in charge of the investigation and has been cited in other announcements about the investigation.

Ken Kohl at least oversaw, if not participated in, the alteration of documents to help Trump get elected. I’ve been told he’s got a long history of being both corrupt and less than competent. The decisions he will oversee in upcoming weeks could have the effect of giving people the opportunity to destroy evidence that lays out a much broader conspiracy, all while rolling out showy charges against people who were so stupid they took selfies of themselves committing crimes. We want this investigation to go beyond a slew of trespassing charges to incorporate the actual plotting that made this attack possible. It’s not clear Kohl will do that.

Even assuming that people currently in DOJ are willing to collect evidence implicating Trump, short of having a confirmed Attorney General overseeing such decisions, we’re back in the same situation Andrew McCabe was in on May 10, 2017, an Acting official trying to decide what to do in the immediate aftermath of a Trump crime. Trump’s backers have exploited the fact that McCabe made the right choices albeit in urgent conditions, and they’ve done so with the willing participation of some of the people — notably, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich — who are currently in charge of this investigation.

I’m happy to entertain a range of possible courses going forward, so long as all of them involve holding Trump accountable to the utmost degree possible. I assume Nancy Pelosi, whatever else she’ll be doing, will also be counting the votes to understand precisely what is possible, given the schedule.

But I also know that I’d far rather have Trump and those he directly conspired with criminally charged than have an impeachment delay the thorough fumigation of a government riddled with people who may have had a role in this plot. And that’s not going to happen if the investigation is scoped in such a way in the days ahead to rule out his involvement.

Update: Here’s a much-cited interview with Michael Sherwin. He adopts all the right language (pointedly disavowing labels of sedition or coup, saying he’s just looking at crimes) and repeats his statement that if there’s evidence Trump is involved he’ll be investigated.

On Thursday you were quoted saying the conduct of “all actors” would be examined, which was interpreted to mean President Trump might face charges. Is that what you meant — the man who gave the speech at the start of the day could be looking at charges?

Look, I meant what I said before. In any criminal investigation, I don’t care if it’s a drug trafficking conspiracy case, a human trafficking case or the Capitol — all persons will be looked at, OK? If the evidence is there, great. If it’s not, you move on. But we follow the evidence. If the evidence leads to any actor that may have had a role in this and if that evidence meets the four corners of a federal charge or a local charge, we’re going to pursue it.

Update: This story describes how a senior McConnell aide called Bill Barr’s Chief of Staff who called David Bowdich who then deployed three quick reaction teams in response.

The senior McConnell adviser reached a former law firm colleague who had just left the Justice Department: Will Levi, who had served as Attorney General William P. Barr’s chief of staff.

They needed help — now, he told Levi.

From his home, Levi immediately called FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich, who was in the command center in the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Capitol police had lost control of the building, Levi told Bowdich.

The FBI official had been hearing radio traffic of aggressive protesters pushing through the perimeter, but Levi said it had gone even further: The mob had already crashed the gates and lives were at risk.

Capitol police had said previously they didn’t need help, but Bowdich decided he couldn’t wait for a formal invitation.

He dispatched the first of three tactical teams, including one from the Washington field office to secure the safety of U.S. senators and provide whatever aid they could. He instructed two more SWAT teams to follow, including one that raced from Baltimore.

These teams typically gather at a staging area off-site to coordinate and plan, and then rush together to the area where they are needed. Bowdich told their commander there was no time.

“Get their asses over there. Go now,” he said to the first team’s commander. “We don’t have time to huddle.”

Not explained: why Bowdich was watching protestors get through the perimeter without deploying teams on his own. Again, I’m not saying he was complicit. I’m saying he has spent the last four years by letting Trump’s claims about politicization direct the Bureau, and can see how that habit might have led to a delayed response here.

The Facts “Known to” the Mueller Investigation: Judge Sullivan Should Demand the December 22, 2016 Flynn Transcript

I wrote up four things that, if I were Judge Emmet Sullivan presiding over the Mike Flynn case, I would do:

  • Make Trump name Flynn’s crimes
  • Establish a record about whether Flynn or Sidney Powell traded electoral assistance for this pardon
  • Force DOJ to explain what went into the altered documents
  • Identify who wrote the pardon

I’ve been thinking especially about what may be unconstitutional vagueness in Trump’s pardon, which purports to pardon Flynn for any facts “known to” the Mueller investigation. How do you circumscribe facts “known to” an investigation? After all, the entire Justice Manual and a lot of US code was “known to” those who conducted the investigation. Much of Flynn’s biography became “known to” investigators. Is Flynn pardoned for anything pertaining to that? That would be prospective immunity that goes well beyond the President’s pardon power. And how can Trump pardon crimes “related” to the investigation that have not yet been committed (if, for example, Flynn were to become a lobbyist for Russia based on the warm relationship he established by lying to protect them and chose not to register as a foreign agent for them)?

And so in addition to forcing Trump to name the crimes for which he is pardoning Flynn (at least with respect to all those before Sullivan, which include his charged false statements, the selling out to Turkey related crimes that were part of the plea, and crimes committed in Sullivan’s court room and the EDVA grand jury), it seems Sullivan may have the ability to lay out what is included in that “known to” language.

As part of that, Sullivan may have the authority to demand that DOJ file all of Flynn’s 302s as well as the transcripts of Flynn’s calls with Sergey Kislyak (Sullivan might also ask DOJ to lodge the grand jury testimony implicating Flynn, because that, too, defines the scope of the pardon).

I’m certain that DOJ is trying to hide those 302s, but I also don’t think there’s anything all that surprising in there (indeed, I think we’d find that Flynn was knowingly shading testimony). But I still think it legally sustainable, not least because there’s reason to believe Flynn committed a crime with respect to a fact that I suspect was not known to Mueller, because it may have been deliberately withheld (again, I’ll explain more in January). That probably won’t send Flynn to prison, but it should be recorded.

The transcripts, however, are more interesting. Bizarrely, DOJ never submitted the transcripts in this docket. Sullivan asked for them after the Mueller Report came out, but DOJ refused based on their true contention that nothing in Flynn’s case relied on the transcripts. But the Motion to Dismiss absolutely did rely on the transcripts, because it was premised on the claim that Flynn did nothing wrong on the calls. Ken Kohl even invoked them in the September hearing before Sullivan. But in spite of the fact that a selection of those transcripts were released, they were never submitted in this docket. Sullivan may be able to demand them, if only to avoid the problem of Constitutional vagueness pertaining to the scope of Flynn’s pardon, particularly with regards to what facts were known to Mueller.

That’s where things get interesting. Because DOJ made claims before Sullivan — that Flynn did nothing wrong on his calls to Kislyak — relying on the transcripts, but it specifically withheld the transcript of a call that was included in the criminal information: the December 22, 2016 call.

As I’ve noted, when ODNI released these transcripts, they didn’t even release the summary of the December 22, 2016 call included in Flynn’s charges, much the transcript.

I believe one of the facts “known to” Mueller’s investigators, but not known to us, is that Trump was present for that call, possibly even listening in. As such, it’s certainly within the scope of things for which Trump intends to pardon Flynn. But to avoid any confusion going forward that it is included, it needs to be known to us, or at least knowable to a future DOJ.

DOJ would squawk (they’ll squawk anyway, but that’s their own damn fault for writing a pardon that suffers from vagueness).

Again, I’m not saying that this provides Sullivan a way to dismiss the charges (though I see no reason why he can’t dismiss without prejudice). It doesn’t. What it does do is make a record of the true scope of the pardon.

Four Things Judge Emmet Sullivan Should Do in the Wake of Flynn’s Pardon

As I noted, Trump attempted to be expansive with his pardon of Mike Flynn. He failed. I think the chances that Flynn does prison time are almost as high today as they were last week.

And while I think there is absolutely nothing defective in the pardon that Trump signed and while I’m certain that Judge Sullivan will honor that pardon (though DOJ is asking him to dismiss the charges with prejudice; Sullivan should dismiss them without prejudice), there are four things that Sullivan has the means of doing to raise the cost of Trump’s pardon. Those are:

  • Make Trump name Flynn’s crimes
  • Establish a record about whether Flynn or Sidney Powell traded electoral assistance for this pardon
  • Force DOJ to explain what went into the altered documents
  • Identify who wrote the pardon

Make Trump name Flynn’s crimes

While whoever wrote this pardon tried (but failed) to make it comprehensive, it only names one of Flynn’s crimes: false statements (indeed, that’s the only crime that DOJ lists for the pardon on its website).

But by moving to withdraw his plea, Flynn put his other crimes before Judge Sullivan. So Sullivan has every right to inquire whether this pardon includes all of Flynn’s crimes. He could issue an order for Trump to come before him to answer whether the pardon forgives Flynn for:

  • His lies about what he said to Sergey Kislyak during the transition
  • Serving as an undisclosed Foreign Agent for Turkey
  • Lying about serving as an undisclosed Foreign Agent for Turkey
  • Conspiring with others to hide that he was an undisclosed Foreign Agent of Turkey
  • Lying about his own guilt and the circumstances surrounding his guilty pleas
  • Lying about lying to Flynn’s Covington lawyers

The answer to all those questions is yes. Trump does mean to pardon Mike Flynn for secretly working for Turkey while getting classified briefings. Trump does mean to pardon Flynn for lying to Sullivan (and he does know that Flynn did lie to Sullivan). Sullivan has a need to know that explicitly and he should get Trump on the record.

Trump won’t show, of course.

Until he is made to, after January 20th.

Note, I’d also make Trump state, under oath, when he signed the pardon. It is dated with Wednesday’s date, but I highly doubt that DOJ had it written by then. If Trump signed it after having lunch with Mike Pence yesterday, it’s possible that Trump didn’t write it this broadly until broaching a pardon for himself with Pence.

Establish a record about whether Flynn or Sidney Powell traded electoral assistance for this pardon

Judge Sullivan also has reason to want to know if someone offered Trump something of value for this pardon. He has evidence they did — in the altered documents designed to serve as a campaign attack on Joe Biden. And the news is full of evidence that Sidney Powell may have offered further benefit, in her efforts to challenge Trump’s election loss.

Sullivan should put both Flynn and Powell under oath and require that they confirm or deny whether they have offered favors to Trump for the pardon.

They won’t show, of course.

Until they are made to, after January 20th.

None of this would invalidate the pardon, of course. But if Trump got some other benefit from Flynn’s lies that went into this pardon, especially efforts to undermine a legal election, then the Attorneys General in those states that already investigating Trump’s efforts to steal the election would have reason to want to know that, and Sullivan has the means to get them under oath to do that.

Force DOJ to explain what went into the altered documents

People at both FBI and DOJ altered documents submitted in Sullivan’s court, the FBI by adding false dates to exhibits and DOJ by redacting footers indicating that the documents were covered by the protective order. Sullivan has reason to ask how that happened and who was involved in the effort.

Even if Trump pardoned everyone involved, there would still be a means for Sullivan to punish most of those involved, because most of those involved have law licenses and can be disbarred.

Sullivan should schedule a hearing — no need to rush, he might as well schedule it for January 26, after everyone involved gets a COVID shot — to ask the following people if they had a role in altering the documents (or eliciting a corrupt interview with Bill Barnett):

  • AUSA Jocelyn Ballantine
  • AUSA Sayler Fleming
  • AUSA Ken Kohl
  • US Attorney Jeffrey Jensen
  • FBI Executive Assistant Director John Brown
  • FBI Agent Keith Kohne
  • Acting DEA Administrator Timothy Shea
  • AG Bill Barr
  • DAG Jeffrey Rosen

Again, most of these people have law licenses that Sullivan could put at issue, and he has good reason to want to hold someone accountable for altering documents in his court.

These people won’t want to show. But after January 20th, they may have no way of avoiding it.

Identify who wrote the pardon

In his confirmation hearing, Bill Barr said that pardoning someone for giving false testimony would be a crime. Trump just committed that crime. Whatever lawyer wrote up the pardon language — whether it’s Barr or White House Counsel Pat Cipollone — just conspired to commit a crime.

Judge Sullivan should identify everyone who had a role.

[Fourth item added after the original post.]

DOJ Hid Material Comments about Brandon Van Grack from Judge Sullivan in the William Barnett 302

The redactions on the 302 of William Barnett — the pro-Trump FBI Agent who recently gave an interview riddled with contradictions that Republicans have tried to use to undermine the Mike Flynn case — look like they were done by a five year old with finger paint.

It appears there were at least two and possibly three passes on redactions. There are redactions with rounded edges that appear to redact information that is actually classified. There may be more substantive redactions done of full sentences, including a passage marked to be “pending unsealing” by the court. There’s information on the investigation into Mike Flynn’s secret work for Turkey that is redacted, too, which is problematic, given that Judge Emmet Sullivan asked about that investigation into Flynn in Tuesday’s hearing. It’s clear from the unredacted bits of the 302 that Barnett had fewer problems, if any, with that investigation than he did with Flynn’s cover-up of his calls to Sergey Kislyak, so by redacting those discussions, the FBI is hiding Barnett making positive comments about part of the investigation into Flynn.

Then there’s a bunch of stuff — that includes names but also material that appears to be unflattering to General Flynn — that appears to have been redacted with block redactions after the fact, such as this redaction that seems to fade away to nowhere.

The redactions of names are a mess too, with irregular box redactions and in a few places, different typeface sizes.

That’s mostly aesthetics. But it suggests that — in spite of an FBI declassification stamp applied on September 24 — some or all of these redactions weren’t done by the people who normally do such things.

It’s the treatment of names where things delve into legally suspect area. The name of Barnett, Peter Strzok, and Andrew McCabe are not redacted. The names of other FBI and DOJ personnel generally are, though some have labels so you can follow repeated discussions of those people.

It’s in the treatment of Robert Mueller’s lawyers where things get inexcusable.

DOJ has a general rule that all Mueller AUSAs are public (as seen in the Mueller 302s released under FOIA, as well as phone records FOIAed by Judicial Watch), but all FBI personnel are not. Here, however, FBI left the name of some Mueller prosecutors unredacted, and redacted others. The unredacted names are those the GOP would like to spin as biased (including with an attack on Jeannie Rhee which actually shows Barnett being an abusive dick simply because Rhee tried to do her job):

Meanwhile there are at least two Mueller prosecutors whose names are redacted:

The FBI might be excusing this disparate treatment by making a distinction between lawyers who’ve left DOJ and those who haven’t.

Except that raises questions about whether there are unmarked references to Zainab Ahmad who, as the second prosecutor on the Flynn case, should show up in any interview of Barnett’s work with Mueller, but who has also left DOJ (and so would be unredacted if that’s the rule purportedly adopted here).

I have made several inquiries at DOJ for an explanation but gotten no response. But we know that someone at DOJ did these redactions, because Jocelyn Ballantine shared an unredacted copy of the 302 with Flynn’s lawyers, explaining that DOJ would submit the redacted copy to the docket themselves. Ken Kohl, who (multiple people have described) has a history of problematic actions, is the one who actually signed the filing uploading the 302 to the docket.

If I were Ballatine, I’d think very seriously about whether I wanted to remain silent after having witnessed how this 302 was submitted.

The result of redacting Van Grack’s name is that it hides from Judge Sullivan (and Amicus John Gleeson) many complimentary things that Barnett had to say about Van Grack:

DOJ’s star witness purportedly backing its claim that the investigation into Mike Flynn was abusive had a number of good things to say about the prosecutor that purportedly committed some of the abuse. Significantly, DOJ’s star witness, Barnett, claims that Van Grack agreed with Barnett in viewing KT McFarland’s lies in the least incriminating light.

And DOJ redacted Van Grack’s name, thereby obscuring that.

Sidney Powell made a number of allegations about Van Grack on Tuesday, including that Van Grack demanded Mike Flynn lie in the Bijan Kian case, something sharply at odds with Barnett’s claim that Van Grack interpreted McFarland’s answers in the least damning light. And Judge Sullivan asked about the significance of Van Grack’s withdrawal from the case Tuesday, something DOJ dismissed as irrelevant even while they were hiding material details about Van Grack.

So Brandon Van Grack’s conduct is central to the matter before Judge Sullivan. And DOJ is withholding favorable information about Van Grack by redacting his name in this 302, even while relying on the 302 for what DOJ claims is damning information elsewhere.

It would be clear legal misconduct to hide that information, effectively hiding evidence that debunks DOJ’s claims of abuse with a treatment of redactions that is plainly inconsistent with past DOJ practice (including on the release of a 302 discussed in Barnett’s own 302).

And yet that’s what DOJ has done.

On a Key Issue in Mike Flynn’s Case — which FBI Agent to Believe — DOJ Argued against DOJ

The epic five hour hearing in the Mike Flynn case just wrapped up.

The most notable events, one which may utterly sway Judge Sullivan’s opinion, were two details that would give Sullivan reason to say this is the exceptional case where he should not grant the motion to dismiss.

The first was Sidney Powell’s admission that she has spoken to the President about this case, and also spoken with Trump’s campaign lawyer, Jenna Ellis, about it, the latter apparently more than once. Powell tried to claim Executive Privilege for her conversation(s) with the President about the case, until Sullivan pointed out the sheer absurdity of that. Powell was never asked why she was speaking to a lawyer, Ellis, whose job it is to make sure the President doesn’t break any campaign finance laws about this case. Still, those admissions, handled with all the leaden aplomb that Powell exemplifies, will provide Sullivan ample basis (on top of Trump’s tweets and everything else) to prove that this was all politicized by the President.

The other detail that might really sway Sullivan was the judge’s mention of Aitan Goelman’s letter informing Judge Sullivan that someone — and Goelman did not speculate on who might have done this — altered the notes of his client. Sullivan said he was “floored” when he read the letter.  Later on, Powell accused Strzok of being the dirtiest FBI agent of all time. Some other things make me wonder — though this would make the logistics rather interesting — whether Powell was the one who altered the notes. In any case, Sullivan ordered that someone authenticate the filings submitted to the court.

Judge Sullivan was already bugged by the letter Sidney Powell wrote to Billy Barr asking that he do all the things he subsequently did, notably appoint a lawyer to review the entirety of the prosecution. The confirmation that Powell has been personally lobbying Trump’s (!!!) campaign lawyer for intervention seems to seal the proof that this is political.

Still, perhaps a more substantive problem with the pro-Flynn argument is that DOJ’s two representatives (Ken Kohl for the DC US Attorney’s Office) and the Solicitor General’s counsel, Hashim Mooppan) contradicted each other on a key issue.

Mooppan repeatedly claimed, “what if it were true that this was a witch hunt”? He relied, significantly, on two things. First, Bill Priestap’s notes clearly recording that FBI did the interview to figure out whether Mike Flynn would tell the truth.

Rather than focusing on what Priestap and every witness confirmed in real time and since was the purpose of the interview, Mooppan instead focused on Priestap’s notation of the debate before this, about whether they just wanted to get Flynn to lie. As John Gleeson pointed out, though, that would not make Flynn abnormal at all. That happens to defendants all the time. But in fact, Gleeson further noted, that’s not what happened; Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka actually cued Flynn with his own words to make sure he had an opportunity to fix the record, and Flynn did not do so. Moreover, all other witnesses said the same thing Priestap did: the point of the interview was to see if Flynn would tell the truth.

Plus, there’s a real problem with Mooppan’s reliance on Priestap’s notes. As the NYT reported, DOJ rushed to move to dismiss the case while Priestap’s 302 was being finalized.

Priestap, the former head of F.B.I. counterintelligence, two days before making their extraordinary request to drop the case to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan. They did not tell Judge Sullivan about Mr. Priestap’s interview. A Justice Department official said that they were in the process of writing up a report on the interview and that it would soon be filed with the court.

The department’s motion referred to notes that Mr. Priestap wrote around the bureau’s 2017 questioning of Mr. Flynn, who later pleaded guilty to lying to investigators during that interview. His lawyers said Mr. Priestap’s notes — recently uncovered during a review of the case — suggested that the F.B.I. was trying to entrap Mr. Flynn, and Attorney General William P. Barr said investigators were trying to “lay a perjury trap.”

That interpretation was wrong, Mr. Priestap told the prosecutors reviewing the case. He said that F.B.I. officials were trying to do the right thing in questioning Mr. Flynn and that he knew of no effort to set him up. Media reports about his notes misconstrued them, he said, according to the people familiar with the investigation.

The department’s decision to exclude mention of Mr. Priestap’s interview in the motion could trouble Judge Sullivan, who signaled late on Tuesday that he was skeptical of the department’s arguments.

In spite of its ability to turn Bill Barnett’s 302 around in a week, DOJ has never disclosed Priestap’s 302 debunking this claim to Judge Sullivan. These notes don’t say what Mooppan falsely claimed to Sullivan they did. And that may become more clear in days ahead.

The other thing Mooppan relied upon, repeatedly, was the claim that Pientka and Strzok didn’t believe Flynn had lied after they interviewed him (he also relied on a Jim Comey comment, made without knowledge of all the evidence that FBI subsequently gathered, that corroborated the evidence that Flynn had lied). Except that’s not what they said (and some of the texts that DOJ has released make this clear). They believed Flynn either believed what he said (though they’d get proof later he did not), or that he was just a very accomplished liar.

Meanwhile, Ken Kohl, who was named Acting Principal AUSA at around the same time as this motion to dismiss, and who seemed genuinely ignorant of key details of the case but nevertheless wanted to claim that DC USAO wasn’t acting politically (Roger Stone’s case did not come up), said a number of things that conflict with what DOJ has already said (including that any of this was Brady).

Significantly, however, he seemed really impressed with Bill Barnett’s 302, perhaps because he doesn’t know the case well enough to know how many glaring contradictions there are in the 302 (which makes me wonder whether he was a source for WaPo’s supine treatment of the interview). Kohl talked about all the claims — belied by actual primary documents, basic logic, and gravity — Barnett made that don’t hold up to scrutiny.

The question of whether Bill Barnett sent pro-Trump tweets on his FBI phone — making him the mirror image of Peter Strzok — never came up in today’s hearing.

But John Gleeson did note that Barnett had none of the doubts that Mooppan claimed (falsely) that Strzok and Pinetka had.

That means, ultimately, DOJ was arguing against DOJ.

Mooppan claimed that Strzok and Pientka’s alleged doubts that Flynn lied — refuted by documents already shared with Sullivan — proved DOJ had to dismiss the case. Kohl, meanwhile, claimed that Barnett’s 302 — which showed he had absolutely no doubt that Flynn lied to the FBI — proved DOJ couldn’t prosecute the case.

There’s not actually a controversy here: At least Strzok and Barnett agree that Flynn lied, which should be all it takes. (Indeed, Barnett could testify that Flynn did lie, if DOJ needs an aggressively pro-Trump agent to put on the stand.)

But the Solicitor General’s office relies on the agents who said that Flynn was a good liar and DC USAO sides with the agent who states clearly that Flynn lied.

John Gleeson has noted that DOJ can’t keep its story straight from week to week. In today’s hearing, they couldn’t even keep their story straight from lawyer to lawyer.