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Carlson to McCarthy to Nunes: Obstruction or Worse?

[NB: Note the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Before Axios’ scoop was published last evening and Marcy published her post this morning, I’d started a tick-tock of the events related to Tucker Carlson’s recent fauxtrage claiming the NSA was spying on him.

It sure looked like Carlson was doing more than his usual white rage whining.

28-JUN-2021 – Monday evening – Carlson claimed the National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on him.

More specifically, Carlson said,

It’s not just political protesters the government is spying on, yesterday, we heard from a whistleblower within the US government who reached out to warn us that the NSA, the National Security Agency, is monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air.

It’s doubtful Carlson was expressing outrage on behalf of protesters since he doesn’t distinguish between BLM protesters demanding an end to police brutality or MAGA/Qanon rabidly denouncing the outcome of democratic elections.

Who the “we,” “us,” or “our” is to which Carlson referred to is nebulous. The screed was unhinged because there was no evidence provided, just a reference to a shadowy whistleblower who felt compelled to tell Carlson rather than file a complaint through normal channels.

29-JUN-2021 – On Tuesday, Fox News published a partial transcript of Carlson’s program from the previous evening; the network published zero investigative reporting about the alleged spying.

29-JUN-2021 – 8:00 pm ET – The same evening, the NSA tweeted a denial:


As noted in Axios’ and others’ reporting, the NSA pointedly says Carlson “has never been an intelligence target of the Agency” which leaves the possibility Carlson’s communications could have been picked up as incidental to a foreign target if Carlson was communicating with a target.

29-JUN-2021 – 8:46 pm ET – Shortly thereafter, CNN-Business’s Oliver Darcy updated his report including the NSA’s denial while noting that none of Carlson’s Fox News cohort reported on his claim.

30-JUN-2021 – 10:51 am ET – On Wednesday morning, NYU’s Jay Rosen noted Fox’s failure to report such a serious claim.

30-JUN-2021 – 5:07 pm ET – Later that day House minority leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted about Carlson’s allegation:

How convenient – a neat turnaround in less than 48 hours.

~ ~ ~

Note in the partial transcript of Carlson’s Monday fauxtrage this bit toward the end:

Only Congress can force transparency on the intelligence agencies and they should do that immediately. Spying on opposition journalists is incompatible with democracy. If they are doing it to us, and again, they are definitely doing it to us, they are almost certainly doing it to others. This is scary and we need to stop it right away.

Emphasis mine.

Did Carlson actually demand Congress — meaning McCarthy — take action? Or did Carlson provide cover for McCarthy’s selection of Nunes?

If Fox News had investigated Carlson’s claim and found any credibility, one might believe McCarthy had adequate reason to engage Nunes. But without such investigative reporting and no documented formal whistleblower complaint, it’s purely political posturing on Carlson’s part last Monday which drove McCarthy’s action.

McCarthy’s engagement of Nunes itself is odd since McCarthy has resisted for nearly a decade doing anything to restrain the NSA’s surveillance. Why would he sic Nunes on the fruits of his own inaction?

Nunes’ role in the obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation suggests the reason why McCarthy would set Nunes loose, along with a slew of other sketchy and obstructive behavior including Nunes’ role in pressuring Ukraine for disinfo about Hunter Biden. With McCarthy’s blessing, Nunes may be continuing the obstruction both of the past investigation and now the Biden administration’s operation.

Marcy’s post earlier today lays out Nunes’ habit of sowing faux scandal; perhaps Nunes didn’t sow this one directly but indirectly through Carlson, laundered by McCarthy until the Axios’ report last evening.

But timing is everything as they say. The Carlson-McCarthy-Nunes sequence occurred roughly 10 weeks after the exit of one of Nunes’ flunkies, Michael Ellis; you’ll recall Ellis is under investigation for leaking classified info, as is fellow Nunes’ flunkie Kash Patel. Patel left his role with the Trump administration on January 20 along with another Nunes’ flunkie, Ezra Cohen-Watnick.

The Carlson-McCarthy-Nunes sequence also happened 12 weeks after yet another Nunes’ flunkie, Derek Harvey, had been sanctioned along with his attorney for filing a defamation lawsuit against CNN which the judge’s ruling said was filed in bad faith.

If we can account for these sources Nunes might have used in the past to obtain intelligence, assuming Nunes might have used Carlson to move McCarthy on his behalf, who was the “whistleblower within the US government who reached out to warn” him about his communications? This is a rather important question since the “whistleblower” leaked to Carlson about communications collection which may have been related to tracking an identified foreign agent; who is the mole?

Perhaps Nunes, a government employee, tipped Carlson himself, closing the feedback loop?

The tricky part about Carlson’s claim after Axios’ report: if Carlson had not made a good faith effort to request an interview with Putin between the period January 1, 2019 until June 28, 2021 as Carlson indicated in his FOIA to the NSA, is it possible that some or all of his content in his program on Fox has been on behalf of a foreign entity?

Has Fox News, by failing to investigate this matter and report on it as a legitimate news network should have, by failing to exercise adequate editorial oversight of its “talent” contacting foreign leaders, also been in the service of a foreign entity?

Has House minority leader McCarthy allowed himself to be manipulated by a foreign entity in responding to Carlson’s claim by engaging Nunes to investigate it, rather than asking the Department of Justice or the Office of the Inspector General to do so? What if any effort did McCarthy expend to validate Carlson’s claim before handing off the situation to Nunes? Did McCarthy make any effort at all to contact Speaker Pelosi and/or Rep. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee?

~ ~ ~

Marcy wrote, “If the FBI believes that Tucker really was pursuing a long-term relationship with Russian agents, then even Fox News might rethink giving him a platform,” based on the 30-month period of time in which Carlson had been in dialog with Russian agents, allegedly pursuing an interview with Putin.

I don’t think there is or will be any government-based effort to take the Tucker Carlson Tonight show off the air — hello, First Amendment, which Carlson clearly doesn’t understand. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the program or its network was eventually obligated to file paperwork under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Lev Parnas’ Gamble: The Three Nested Investigations

As I noted the other day, Lev Parnas has inserted himself, along with his co-defendants, in the middle of the presumed Special Master review of Rudy Giuliani and Victoria Toensing’s seized devices. He’s doing so as part of a strategy he has pursued since shortly after he was arrested to either make his prosecution unsustainable for Donald Trump (that strategy has presumably failed) or to bring a whole lot of powerful people — possibly up to and including Trump — down with him. The Special Master review will be critical to this strategy, because it will determine whether material that might otherwise be deemed privileged can be reviewed by the Southern District of New York as evidence of a cover-up of crimes that Donald Trump committed.

In this post, I will lay out how there are two — and if Lev is successful, three — sets of crimes in question, each leading to the next.

1a, Conspiracy to donate money: 18 USC 371, 52 USC 30122, 18 USC 1001, 18 USC 1519 and 2, and 18 USC 371, 52 USC 30121.

The first set of crimes pertain to efforts by Parnas, Igor Fruman, and two co-defendants, to gain access to the Republican Party with donations prohibited by campaign finance law. They were first charged — as Parnas and Fruman were about to fly to Vienna to meet with Victor Shokin — on October 9, 2019. The charges relate to allegations that they used their company, Global Energy Partners, to launder money, including money provided by a foreigner, to donate to Trump-associated and other Republican candidates.

These charges almost certainly arose out of a complaint and then a follow-up by Campaign Legal Center.

The overall motive of these crimes, as described, was basically grift: to improve their connections to facilitate a fairly dodgy business proposition. One prong of the business, explicitly funded by a Russian businessman, involved funding recreational marijuana efforts.

But along the way, one of their alleged acts was to give Pete Sessions $20,000 in a way that associated that donation with an effort to get rid of Marie Yovanovitch, possibly on behalf of Yuri Lutsenko.

[T]hese contributions were made for the purpose of gaining influence with politicians so as to advance their own personal financial interests and the political interests of Ukrainian government officials, including at least one Ukranian government official with whom they were working. For example, in or about May and June 2018, PARNAS and FRUMAN committed to raise $20,000 or more for a then-sitting U.S. Congressman [Sessions],

[snip]

At and around the same time PARNAS and FREEMAN committed to raising those funds for [Sessions], PARNAS met with [Sessions] and sought [his] assistance in causing the U.S. Government to remove or recall the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.

1b, Conspiracy to donate money: 18 USC 371, 52 USC 30122, 18 USC 1001, 18 USC 1519 and 2, and 18 USC 371, 52 USC 30121, 18 USC 1349.

The campaign finance indictment was superseded on September 17, 2020 to add a fraud charge associated with Parnas and David Correia’s Fraud Guarantee, which literally was a fraud claiming to insure people against losses from fraud. They got a bunch of investors to invest in the business based on false representations, which Parnas (and to a lesser degree, David Correia) allegedly spent on his personal expenses. The superseding indictment took out the charge related to Yovanovitch.

Shortly after this superseding indictment, Correia flipped, entering into a plea agreement.

2, Foreign influence peddling: 22 USC §§612 and 618, 18 USC §951, 18 USC §2, and 18 USC §371

As you can see already, the first indictment against Parnas and Fruman pertained to an effort — to get Yovanovitch fired — that they were undertaking with Rudy Giuliani. And the superseding indictment adds fraud associated with the Fraud Guarantee they used Rudy’s name to help sell. So Rudy was bound to get dragged into this.

According to a letter submitted by Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer, he is being investigated for a bunch of influence-peddling crimes: FARA, acting as an unregistered Foreign Agent, abetting, and conspiracy.

This investigation may have come out of the way that the whistleblower complaint that launched Trump’s first impeachment magnified an OCCRP profile of Parnas and Fruman’s influence-peddling (which incorporated the profile), and the way that impeachment magnified the influence-peddling that Rudy and the grifters were involved with. The letter that failed to redact the targets of the warrants associated with Rudy listed two of the key players in the OCCRP profile, Yuri Lutsenko and Alexander Levin (Roman Nasirov is the one other person, in addition to Rudy and Victoria Toensing, who was targeted).

Indeed, even as impeachment was rolling out, during the period where Parnas was discussing cooperating with SDNY, he was refusing to admit that some foreigner — likely Lutsenko — was behind all this.

And it seems pretty clear that Parnas and Fruman are subjects of this investigation, too. The government’s response to Parnas’ request for discovery describes that he was notified of search warrants targeting him in January of this year (shortly after Joe Biden’s inauguration).

3. Parnas’ hoped for obstruction investigation

From the start, Parnas has been alleging — credibly — that at least the timing of his arrest was an effort to protect the President and maybe even to shut him up. From early on, he used impeachment as a way to share materials obtained in discovery showing Rudy’s central role in it all. In January 2020, Parnas filed a letter he sent to Billy Barr requesting his recusal, based in part off a claim that DOJ delayed production of discovery past the time he could share it with the impeachment inquiry (in reality, the delay was partly due to the time it took to crack the password to Parnas’ phone). In December, Parnas filed a motion to dismiss his indictment, alleging selective prosecution. He focused closely on the events leading up to impeachment (and falsely suggested these events started in 2019, not 2018). Amid a list of all the times Barr corruptly intervened to protect the President, Parnas described how, just as HPSCI was asking for his testimony, he and Fruman were arrested.

Later that day, Dowd wrote to HPSCI, 6 as he had indicated he would in his e-mail: Kindly refer to my letter of October 3, 2019. This is an update. We continue to meet with Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman to gather the facts and documents related to the many subjects and persons detailed in your September 30 letter and to evaluate all of that information in light of the privileges we raised in our last letter. This effort will take some additional time. Accordingly, Messrs. Parnas and Fruman will not be available for depositions scheduled for October 10, 2019. The following day, October 9, 2019, Mr. Parnas met with Mr. Giuliani at the BLT Steakhouse in the Trump Hotel, Washington DC. Mr. Parnas was scheduled to travel later that evening to Frankfurt, Germany, and then on to Vienna, Austria, to meet with the former Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Victor Shokin, to prepare him for an appearance on FOX News’ Shawn Hannity Show to discuss Joe Biden. Although Mr. Giuliani, along with Victoria Toensing and Joseph DiGenova, had originally been scheduled to travel to Vienna with Parnas, Toensing and DiGenova had cancelled several days earlier, and Mr. Giuliani cancelled that day.

After finishing meeting with Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman took a car to Dulles International Airport, where they waited in the Lufthansa lounge for approximately two hours before beginning to board their flight. Unbeknownst to Messrs. Parnas and Fruman, they had been indicted in the SDNY earlier that day.

Parnas also described others involved in his illegal campaign finance activities who were not indicted, including America First Action PAC and Kevin McCarthy.

Among the things Parnas asked for was evidence that was already being collected in the second, influence-peddling investigation.

All internal documents, including memoranda, notes, e-mails, and text messages that, in any way, reference the reasons why individuals and entities including but not limited to, America First Super PAC, [redacted], Rudy Giuliani, President Donald J. Trump, Victoria Toensing, Joseph DiGenova, and John Solomon, were not arrested or charged with Mssrs. Parnas and Igor Fruman;

The government dismissed Parnas’ claim as lacking evidence but also said that some of the materials he was asking for would be covered by various privileges.

Because Parnas’s claim is meritless, the Court need not consider the contours of his discovery request (Parnas Mot. 32-33), but multiple of his requests seek materials that, if they exist, appear to be attorney work product, covered by the deliberative process privilege, and/or are outside of the scope of what would be reasonably necessary to try to advance his asserted claims rather than to gain a strategic advantage at trial.

Judge Oetken has not yet ruled on Parnas’ selective prosecution claim (or a bunch of other pre-trial motions from all defendants).

But as I noted, just the other day, Gordon Sondland provided more evidence of a corrupt cover-up pertaining to impeachment.

In his redaction fail letter, Parnas addressed very specific things he believed to exist to show a cover-up just before the influence peddling warrants got sent out, including emails he deleted.

The seized evidence will also likely contain a number and variety of communications between Giuliani and Toensing and Parnas that are directly discoverable under Fed. R. Crim. P. 16, evidence of any conversations between Giuliani, Toensing, and others, including Parnas, that may have been deleted, communications between Giuliani, Toensing and others about the defendants and how to address their prior relationships, the arrests, and the unfolding investigation, communications between Giuliani and Toensing and others with potential Government witnesses, including communications about the defendants, the offenses charged, and the witnesses’ potential disclosures and characterizations of alleged fraud-loss computations.

If Rudy and Toensing didn’t delete these materials, then they are now in US government custody. And Parnas is doing all he can to make sure the government looks at them.

Will the GOP Demand Ron Johnson Be Stripped of Committee Assignments for Ignoring a Defensive Briefing?

There’s been a lot of attention on this WaPo story, which had to retract a report that Rudy Giuliani had gotten a defensive briefing long after the time he helped get Marie Yovanovich fired (which is reportedly what he is being investigated for), but well before he continued to peddle Russian disinformation even after Treasury sanctions would have made it legally problematic to do so (indeed–that may be the implication of this NBC story on the decision not to give him a briefing). I mean, Rudy’s right to be pissed that WaPo claimed that he had a specific warning on top of the zillion other warnings that were in plain sight, but it’s not clear it helps him legally in the least.

There’s been less consideration of the implications of Ron Johnson’s admission that he did get a defensive briefing, but he blew it off.

The FBI last summer also gave what is known as a defensive briefing to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who ahead of the election used his perch as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to investigate Biden’s dealings with Ukraine while he was vice president and his son Hunter Biden held a lucrative seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Johnson, a staunch Trump ally, recalled receiving a vague warning from FBI briefers in August, but he said Thursday that there was no substance to their cautionary message and that he did not view the meeting as a “defensive briefing” on his oversight of the Biden family’s foreign business ventures.

“Regarding reports that I received an FBI briefing warning me that I was a target of Russian disinformation, I can confirm I received such a briefing in August of 2020,” Johnson said in a statement to The Washington Post. “I asked the briefers what specific evidence they had regarding this warning, and they could not provide me anything other than the generalized warning. Without specific information, I felt the briefing was completely useless and unnecessary (since I was fully aware of the dangers of Russian disinformation).

“Because there was no substance to the briefing, and because it followed the production and leaking of a false intelligence product by Democrat leaders, I suspected that the briefing was being given to be used at some future date for the purpose that it is now being used: to offer the biased media an opportunity to falsely accuse me of being a tool of Russia despite warnings.”

Remember that for months, Republicans have been attacking Eric Swalwell because, before he was on the House Intelligence Committee, he got a defensive briefing about a woman who, the FBI informed him, was recruiting for China. He stopped talking to the woman and cooperated with the FBI, doing precisely what you’re supposed to do after getting a defensive briefing.

Nevertheless, the GOP has repeatedly used the story to call for Swalwell to be removed from HPSCI. Kevin McCarthy, after a briefing on the matter, narrowly danced with leaking information while judging that Swalwell should not be on HPSCI. Devin Nunes (whose ties to Rudy’s legal woes may soon get rather interesting) suggested Swalwell’s focus on Russia was done at the behest of China. The two staged a vote to throw him off HPSCI that failed.

And even Ron Johnson got in the act, claiming (though the timeline makes no sense) that the Chinese got Swalwell appointed to HPSCI and claiming that China was grooming Swalwell.

Johnson launched that attack in December 2020, months after he had been warned that Russia was grooming him the same way.

Only, unlike Swalwell, Johnson blew off that warning.

According to the GOP standard, shouldn’t Johnson be stripped of his Committee positions, particularly Homeland Security and Foreign Relations?

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.

Republicans Push to Punish Eric Swalwell because He Didn’t Sell Out the Country Like They Did

I’d like to tell a story about how six different men responded when law enforcement approached them about possible compromise by foreign spies.

Carter Page knowingly shares non-public information with known Russian spies

When Carter Page learned that he had been named in an indictment of Russian spies, he called up a Russian minister at the UN to tell him, in the spirit of openness, he was the guy identified as the recruiting target in the indictment. When the FBI interviewed him about his relationships with those foreign spies, Page admitted he had called the Russian minister, but explained that his relationship with the Russian intelligence officer was positive for him. He later explained that sharing non-public information with people he knew to be foreign spies helped both the US and Russia. Page enthusiastically took a trip to Moscow to give two speeches that — witnesses observed — normally featured far more prominent speakers than Page. Page came back from that trip bragging about the “open checkbook” he had been offered to start a pro-Russian think tank. When Page was asked a year later whether he could see why people thought he was being recruited, he disagreed and — according to an FBI 302 — backed off his prior admission to the FBI that he had reached out to the Russian minister.

For three years, the GOP has claimed that Carter Page is a maligned victim of FBI overreach.

George Papadopoulos refuses to explain the back channel meeting with Putin he tried to schedule

When the FBI first interviewed George Papadopoulos about the suspicious job offers Sergei Millian offered him — an offer to pay him so long as he also worked at the White House, asked how he learned in advance that the Russians had dirt on Hillary that they planned to release to help Trump get elected, and told him they thought he was being recruited, he lied. Among other things, Papadopoulos hid his entire relationship with one Russian national, Ivan Timofeev, whom he had interacted with. After the interview, Papadopoulos called Trump’s personal lawyer and told him of the interview. As others did, Papadopoulos crafted a false statement to share with Congress. In subsequent interviews, even after he agreed to cooperate, Papadopoulos hid the existence of a phone he used to interact with Joseph Mifsud. When asked about notes planning a back channel meeting with Putin’s people in London in September that ultimately didn’t happen, Papadopoulos claimed he couldn’t read his notes to explain the plans.

The GOP not only claimed that Papadopoulos was a maligned hero, the Attorney General of the United States assigned a US Attorney, in part, to fly around the world chasing Papadopoulos’ conspiracy theories in an attempt to substantiate his denials that these were Russian assets trying to cultivate Papadopoulos.

Mike Flynn gets a defensive briefing then hides his Turkish clients

Shortly after the FBI sat down with Donald Trump and Mike Flynn to warn them, generally, about how foreign intelligence services would increase their focus on the two and those around them, Mike Flynn went back to his business partner and the go-between with his Turkish clients, and adopted a new name for the project for Turkey — Confidence rather than Truth — and a payment vehicle that would hide the true client, attempting to sever the prior discussions directly with Turkey’s ministers from the half-million dollar deal that resulted.

Trump just pardoned Flynn for his efforts to hide those ties.

Rather than cooperating with the FBI about Flynn’s suspect Russian calls, Trump fires them

When DOJ came to the White House on January 26, 2017 and told White House counsel Don McGahn that Mike Flynn — seemingly without any approval from Donald Trump himself and clearly without notifying the Vice President — had called up the Ambassador from Russia and, in a conversation where the Ambassador was addressing other issues, raised sanctions imposed to punish Russia and asked the Ambassador not to respond in kind, and then lied about that publicly, McGahn assigned lawyer John Eisenberg to figure out whether Flynn could be prosecuted. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus tried to find out what kind of surveillance Flynn had been and was under. Trump first asked the head of the FBI for loyalty, then asked him to let the investigation of Flynn go, and then fired him to end the investigation.

Trump just pardoned Mike Flynn claiming that it was wrong for the FBI to try to figure out why Flynn had secretly undermined sanctions and then lied about it.

Trump calls Paul Manafort “very brave” for hiding details about his Russian intelligence officer partner

When the government entered into a cooperation agreement with Paul Manafort in 2018, in part to learn what Manafort knew about his business partner Konstantin Kilimnik’s ties to Russian intelligence, and particularly to learn why Manafort had swapped campaign polling data and the campaign’s strategy to win swing states with a discussion of carving up Ukraine and payoffs from Ukranian and Russian oligarchs, the President’s defense attorney remained in regular contact with Manafort’s lawyer to learn about the interrogations. After prosecutors told Judge Amy Berman Jackson on November 26 that Manafort had been lying rather than cooperating — in significant part, it would become clear, to protect his Russian spy business partner — Rudy complained on the President’s behalf about “the un-American, horrible treatment of Manafort.” Not long later, Trump would call Manafort “very brave” for (among other things) lying to prosecutors to protect his Russian spy business partner.

Eric Swalwell cooperates with the FBI and cuts off the Chinese intelligence officer trying to recruit him

According to a recent Axios piece witten without context, when the FBI approach Eric Swalwell and told him a woman volunteering with his campaign was a Chinese spy, he cooperated with the FBI and cut off all contact with her.

A statement from Swalwell’s office provided to Axios said: “Rep. Swalwell, long ago, provided information about this person — whom he met more than eight years ago, and whom he hasn’t seen in nearly six years — to the FBI. To protect information that might be classified, he will not participate in your story.”

What happened: Amid a widening counterintelligence probe, federal investigators became so alarmed by Fang’s behavior and activities that around 2015 they alerted Swalwell to their concerns — giving him what is known as a defensive briefing.

Swalwell immediately cut off all ties to Fang, according to a current U.S. intelligence official, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

For this, GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others argue, Swalwell should be kicked off the House Intelligence Committee.

McCarthy, however, is demanding answers from Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of that committee, after Swalwell said they knew about the report.

“This is a national security threat,” McCarthy said. “Now we have Eric Swalwell, who’s been swindled by the Chinese, but what’s even more interesting here is why did he attack the American Director of Intelligence John Ratcliffe’s report talking about the expansion of China spying throughout … just last week. He attacked … Ratcliffe defending China.”

“This man should not be in the intel committee. He’s jeopardizing national security,” he doubled down, adding, “When did Nancy Pelosi know of this and why did she maintain him on the committee? Adam Schiff, who has spent four years as chair worried about the foreign intervention into our country, knowingly keep an individual on the committee, if he knew, as Swalwell says, that he was with a Chinese individual who was a spy, who helped him run for Congress?”

I can only assume that McCarthy thinks that Swalwell cooperated too much with the FBI and should have lied or fired people instead.

 

The Republican Closing Argument against Impeachment Is Personally Implicated in the Scandal

I’m waiting on the procedural votes to authorize the House impeachment inquiry. There were some nice speeches, with Speaker Pelosi lecturing the Republicans about American history, Republicans repeating the same quote from Alexander Hamilton over and over, Steve Scalise posing next to an image of the Kremlin [Correction: This is St. Basil’s Cathedral], and Eric Swalwell accusing the President of using taxpayer dollars to lead an “an extortion shakedown scheme.”

But perhaps the most telling aspect of the debate is that the Republican closing argument — yet another recital of that same Hamilton quote — came from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Kevin McCarthy is implicated in the scandal he doesn’t want investigated.

McCarthy received money both personally and in the guise of his Protect the House PAC from Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, the grifters at the core of the influence operation that led to Trump’s quid pro quo conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky. He also keynoted an event with the grifters. While he has said he’d donate the money to charity (though has not yet, as far as I know, shown that he did that), there is no way to unring the bell of their support. He became Majority Leader with the support of men who have since been indicted for that support.

That is the face that is leading opposition to impeachment.

Update: Here’s the roll call.

  • Impeachment curious Republicans Will Hurd and Francis Rooney both voted against the inquiry
  • Democrats Collin Peterson and Jeff Van Drew also voted against
  • Justin Amash voted for the inquiry
  • Republicans Jody Hice, John Rose, and William Timmons, and Democrat Donald McEachin did not vote

So 98.5% of the Republican caucus voted to do nothing after another branch of government usurped Congress’ power of the purse.

GOP Republicans Stage Brooks Brothers Riot 2.0 to Emasculate Their Own Power of the Purse

Twenty-some Republican Congressmen (and a few women) are staging a repeat Brooks Brother riot to stall the ongoing impeachment proceeding. I’ll post a picture if I find an open source one, but the riot is being led by Matt Gaetz and includes, among others:

  • Minority Whip Steve Scalise
  • Steve King
  • Louie Gohmert
  • Andy Biggs
  • Bradley Byrne
  • Mark Walker
  • Mo Brooks
  • Debbie Lesko
  • Alex Mooney
  • Michael Waltz

Some of the members stormed into the House SCIF with their cell phones, which is a violation of strict rules and may degrade the effectiveness of the SCIF. Reportedly, Republican Mike Conaway of Texas has started collecting the electronics of his colleagues.

The riot has delayed the testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper.

That’s significant–symbolic even. That’s because Cooper is expected to testify on DOD’s response to Trump’s illegal refusal to withhold funds duly appropriated by Congress.

House panels leading the impeachment inquiry are set to hear Wednesday from a Pentagon official responsible for policy toward Ukraine, who is expected to testify about the delay in nearly $400 million in security assistance to the country.

Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, will be the first Defense Department official to testify before investigators, who have largely heard from State Department officials so far in the investigation. Ms. Cooper arrived at the Capitol on Wednesday morning.

The hold on the aid to Ukraine is at the center of the House’s impeachment inquiry into whether President Trump conditioned the funding for Ukraine on his request to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

The White House’s hold on military aid to Ukraine this summer set off alarms at the Pentagon, according to people familiar with the matter. Ms. Cooper’s exact role in the Defense Department’s effort to push back on the hold on the money, which was ultimately released in mid-September, isn’t known.

After the White House communicated the hold to the Defense and State Departments in July, the Pentagon conducted an internal review of the legality of the hold, according to three people familiar with the matter. Pentagon officials argued that the administration couldn’t block money approved by Congress, delivering their analysis to career White House budget office officials at a July meeting, according to two of the people and another person familiar with the matter.

In short, a bunch of Republican Congressmen (and a handful of women) are staging a faux riot in order to prevent DOD from telling Congress how the White House prevented them from following the law that prohibits the White House from withholding funds without a good reason that they share with Congress.

As I’ve said, even these people’s former colleague, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, has admitted this is a crime.

I know this entire inquiry has stirred up a lot of partisan bickering. But it is stunning that Republicans in Congress, including Minority Whip Steve Scalise, are so desperate to protect Trump that they are trying to prevent Congress from asserting its power of the purse.

There could be no more symbolic self-emasculation than this faux riot. And yet, these members of Congress apparently are willing to trade away their own power like this.

Update: According to a press release released yesterday, here’s who was part of the Brooks Brothers The Farce. Those marked with asterisks are on committees conducting the inquiry, so they’re basically complaining about a process they’re a part of. Those marked with checks were around in 2017 and voted for a rule holding that such protests on the House floor (to say nothing of inside HPSCI’s SCIF) were a violation of House Rules.

  1. Matt Gaetz√
  2. Steve Scalise√
  3. Brian Babin√
  4. Andy Biggs√
  5. Mo Brooks√
  6. Ken Buck√*
  7. Bradley Byrne
  8. Buddy Carter√
  9. Ben Cline
  10. Jeff Duncan√
  11. Drew Ferguson√
  12. Russ Fulcher
  13. Louie Gohmert√
  14. Paul Gosar√*
  15. Mark Green*
  16. Vicky Hartzler√
  17. Kevin Hern
  18. Jody Hice√*
  19. Duncan Hunter√
  20. Bill Johnson√
  21. Jim Jordan√*
  22. Fred Keller*
  23. Steve King√
  24. Debbie Lesko
  25. Carol Miller*
  26. Alex Mooney√
  27. Markwayne Mullin√
  28. Ralph Norman*
  29. Mark Walker√
  30. Mark Meadows√*
  31. Greg Murphy
  32. Peter Olson√
  33. Gary Palmer√
  34. Scott Perry√*
  35. David Rouzer√
  36. Ross Spano
  37. Michael Waltz
  38. Steve Watkins
  39. Randy Weber√
  40. Ron Wright*
  41. Lee Zeldin√*

Also note that the rules Adam Schiff is using for this inquiry are similar to the rules that Mark Meadows used for the investigation of the Russian investigation that he, Gaetz,  Jordan, and Gowdy did last year.

Update: Fixed the gender references as there are a few women who participated.

Did Some Republican in Congress Leak Details of the Mueller Report to Roger Stone?

There’s a passage from a recent Roger Stone filing I’ve been puzzling over. In a motion asking for discovery on selective prosecution — an effort that started out by arguing no one else had been prosecuted for false statements to Congress before that became ridiculous — Stone claims that

Yet, he was ruled out as a conspirator with the Russian state and WikiLeaks before his transcript from HPSCI was transmitted.

This effort parallels an effort to get the whole Mueller Report and this motion asks for all the declination memos on top of that.

Prosecuting Stone because of his arbitrary classification requires discovery, including the declination memos sent to the Attorney General, so that it may be determined who the government thinks lied to Congress or the Special Counsel, but were not prosecuted.

The claim that Stone was ruled out as a co-conspirator with Russia or WikiLeaks is probably true (though not necessarily all that helpful for his case). I’m just trying to figure out how he knows that, if he does. It seems there are four possibilities:

  1. His lawyers, who are fairly careless and who have made false claims in other briefs, are just making this up
  2. He got something in discovery that makes this clear
  3. He’s basing this off Jerome Corsi’s public claims
  4. Someone who has seen an unredacted copy of the Mueller Report (which currently includes the White House and at least 7 of the 8 Republicans who had been given an opportunity to read it before yesterday) told him what those passages of the report say
  5. He learned of this decision in real time, via reporting to the White House and then some channel from the White House

As noted, his lawyers have not been above making shit up, so it’s possible this is what this claim is. But it feels too specific for that.

It’s also possible he got something in discovery to support this claim, except the prosecutors are fighting to provide precisely this kind of information to him in their fight against releasing the Mueller Report.

Such an assertion could be intuited from Jerome Corsi’s crazed rants. Corsi has said that he believes the true source of his/their knowledge that WikiLeaks would release John Podesta’s emails was the cornerstone to Mueller’s “collusion” case (though of course he was assessing conspiracy, as Stone correctly notes here.

It’s certainly possible this is reflected in the less redacted Mueller Report, which would explaining the timing of this claim, which by my reading is new in this filing. Republicans in Congress have tampered with the criminal cases against Trump’s people on at least two occasions (when Richard Burr told the White House who had been targeted, and whoever reached out to Mike Flynn to discourage his cooperation). Given DOJ’s warnings about how sensitive the report is, it would be fairly damning if one of just 5 Republicans who had seen it already ran to Stone to tell him what’s in it. (Those 5 are: Mitch McConnell, Richard Burr, Lindsey Graham, Kevin McCarthy, and Doug Collins; it’s not clear whether Devin Nunes has reviewed the report yet.)

I’m most interested whether Stone learned in real time — perhaps last fall — that Mueller had decided not to charge him in a conspiracy with WikiLeaks and Russia. That would be particularly interesting given that Paul Manafort actually told what resembles the truth about the campaign’s outreach, through Stone, to WikiLeaks.

Amy Berman Jackson currently has unredacted parts of the Mueller Report pertaining to Stone, so if this information does come from leaks about the Mueller Report, she may recognize that.

As I said, even if Mueller decided not to charge Stone in a conspiracy because, with the witness tampering charges, he may face the same kind of sentence without some of the evidentiary hurdles, it doesn’t amount to selective prosecution.

But Stone sure seems to have a specific idea of what he’s looking for, even if it only helps his (and Trump’s) political case, not his criminal one.

Update: Corrected the number of Republicans known to have reviewed the report to 5.

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

[Photo: National Security Agency, Ft. Meade, MD via Wikimedia]

Surveillance Whack-a-Mole, Section 215 to Section 702 Edition

As it happens, I and others covered the report that NSA purportedly has not restarted its use of the Section 215 CDR program in the wake of finding serious over-collection on the same day that I Con the Record released another Semiannual report on 702, the one completed in October 2018, which covers December 2016 to May 2017.

In my post on the Section 215 CDR claim, I suggested that function probably hasn’t shut down, but likely moved instead to a different authority, probably EO 12333.

The NSA almost never gives up a function they like. Instead, they make sure they don’t have any adverse court rulings telling them they’ve broken the law, and move the function some place else. Given that the government withdrew several applications last year after FISC threatened to appoint an amicus, and given that the government now has broadened 12333 sharing, they may have just moved something legally problematic somewhere else.

In Ellen Nakashima’s report on the 215 CDR shutdown, she suggested that NSA may not longer need the 215 CDR function because “terrorists” (this program was never just about terrorists) increasingly use secure apps which “don’t always create metadata.”

But these days, terrorists generally are not coordinating via phone calls or standard text messages, but communicate by using secure apps that don’t always create metadata trails, analysts said.

That is, the suggestion is that because “terrorists” are using encrypted apps like Signal and WhatsApp rather than AT&T or Verizon’s own SMS apps, getting the latter via the CDR program is not as useful.

But perhaps that explains the over-collection issue behind all this.

From the start of the USA Freedom Act debate, I have noted that the definition used in the law — session identifier — did not match the intent of most members of Congress: that is, to track telephony contacts. Telephony contacts are just an increasingly minimal subset of the session identifiers than any mobile phone user will generate. And in the age of super-cookies, providers increasingly track these other session identifiers. If providers collect it, spooks and law enforcement will try to use it, and the expanded universe of session identifiers is no exception.

One of several likely explanations for the over-collection that led the government to destroy all its records last year is that the FISA Court wrote something that distinguished between the two (basically, establishing a precedent that made fudging the issue legally problematic), leading NSA to “discover” the over-collection and quickly start deleting records before any overseer found the proof that it was no accident.

At least, that same pattern has happened numerous times before.

Anyway, back to surveillance whack-a-mole.

When this has happened in the past, the NSA didn’t actually shut down the function. It instead moved it to another authority, preferably one with less court oversight. Of particular note, when NSA shut down the PRTT dragnet in 2011, it moved some of that function to EO 12333 (NSA had resumed a practice shut down during the Stellar Wind shutdown allowing the agency to chain on Americans) and Section 702.

That’s why I want to point to something in the most recent Section 702 Semiannual Report (which, remember, reflects really dated reviews of Section 702 use. On top of being really dated, the report is, as all of these are, heavily redacted and largely boilerplate. Nevertheless, a close read of it (I do think I’m the only one who actually reads these!) can point to trends that can sometimes help identify problems on the same timeline that NSA’s Inspector General does.

And this most recent Semiannual report, from the period mid-way into implementation of the new USAF CDR function, has this passage (which — I believe — includes a typo).

This passage is not reporting a decrease, as the last clause of the paragraph claims; it is reporting an increase in the number of times Section 702 data appears in serialized (that is, finished) reports. The typo appears to be the result of retaining the claim that this is “the first and only decrease of for these ten reporting periods” from the prior report.

What is likely true of this passage, however, is that it is reporting a new trend: “expanded use of Section 702” for some function.

There are several likely candidates for the time period (early 2017). The increasing use of the 2014 exception, the ongoing shift of the old PRTT function (obtaining email metadata) are two.

But another would be to use 702 — such that it is technically feasible — to obtain what metadata exists for encrypted apps. Notably, during precisely this period, Facebook was moving to more closely integrate WhatsApp with its platform generally. And this would give it access (but not content) of chats. Since then, it has probably become easier for Verizon and AT&T to identify who is using Signal by matching the individual keys generated for each contact (just as an example, you can set Verizon to show this or not, meaning they’ve got visibility onto it one way or another). Using 702 to get encrypted app metadata would only give you one degree of separation from a foreign target. But you’d get it with far less oversight than NSA undergoes with Section 215.

Here’s the dirty secret about FISA. It is far easier for NSA to use Section 702 to get content and metadata than it is for NSA to use Section 215 to get just session identifiers.

Section 702 couldn’t replace all of what Section 215 — if it were collecting on the session identifiers associated with encrypted chat apps — gets. But what it could get might be far more voluminous than the 500 million session identifiers collected in 2017.

Update: Bobby Chesney — who seems to know more than he’s letting on — weighs in on the news here.

[Photo: National Security Agency, Ft. Meade, MD via Wikimedia]

Lawfare “Breaks” News: NSA Hasn’t Restarted the Section 215 CDR Function

Last week, Lawfare’s podcast had on Luke Murry, National Security Advisor to Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Daniel Silverberg, National Security Advisor to Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

At 5:10, in response to a question from Margaret Taylor about what kind of oversight Congress will exercise in this Congress, one of them says,

I think my mind goes to the must-pass things. Let’s use that as lowest common denominator. One which may be must-pass, may actually not be must-pass, is Section 215 of USA Freedom Act, where you have this bulk collection of, basically metadata on telephone conversations — not the actual content of the conversations but we’re talking about length of call, time of call, who’s calling — and that expires at the end of this year. But the Administration actually hasn’t been using it for the past six months because of problems with the way in which that information was collected, and possibly collecting on US citizens, in the way it was transferred from private companies to the Administration after they got FISA court approval. So, if the Administration does ask on that, that’s inherently a very sensitive subject. And we’ve seen that sensitivity be true in other areas of USA Freedom Act so I think that’s going to be a real challenge for Congress. But I’m not actually certain that the Administration will want to start that back up given where they’ve been in the last six months.

The staffer seems a bit confused by what he’s talking about.

By description — the description of this being metadata turned over by providers — this must be the Call Detail Record of USA Freedom Act, not all of Section 215. It appears to be public confirmation that the government never resumed the CDR program after it announced that it had destroyed all its records last June (though that works out to be 8 months, not just 6).

That, in turn, suggests that the problem with the records may not be the volume or the content turned over, but some problem created either by the specific language of the law or (more likely) the House Report on it or by the Carpenter decision. Carpenter came out on June 22, so technically after the NSA claims to have started deleting records on May 23. It also may be that the the NSA realized something was non-compliant with its collection just as it was submitting the 6th set of 180-day applications, and didn’t want to admit to the FISC that it had been breaking the law (which is precisely what happened in 2011 when the government deleted all its PRTT records).

Just as an example, I long worried that the government would ask providers to use location data to match phones. Under the law, so long as the government just got the phone number of a new phone that had been geolocated, it might qualify as a CDR under the law, but would absolutely be a violation of the intent of the law. Such an application — which is something that AT&T has long offered law enforcement — might explain what we’ve seen since.

One other thing, though: The NSA almost never gives up a function they like. Instead, they make sure they don’t have any adverse court rulings telling them they’ve broken the law, and move the function some place else. Given that the government withdrew several applications last year after FISC threatened to appoint an amicus, and given that the government now has broadened 12333 sharing, they may have just moved something legally problematic somewhere else.

In any case, there’s no follow-up on the podcast, which might at least clarify the obvious parts of this revelation, to say nothing of asking for the underlying detail. So it will take some work to figure out what really happened.