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How to Charge Americans in Conspiracies with Russian Spies?

As I laid out a few weeks ago, 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. 

In general, Jack Goldsmith and I have long agreed about the problems with charging nation-state spies in the United States. So I read with great interest his post laying out “Uncomfortable Questions in the Wake of Russia Indictment 2.0 and Trump’s Press Conference With Putin.” Among other larger normative points, Goldsmith asks two questions. First, does indicting 12 GRU officers in the US expose our own nation-state hackers to be criminally prosecuted in other countries?

This is not a claim about the relative moral merits of the two countries’ cyber intrusions; it is simply a claim that each side unequivocally breaks the laws of the other in its cyber-espionage activities.

How will the United States respond when Russia and China and Iran start naming and indicting U.S. officials?  Maybe the United States thinks its concealment techniques are so good that the type of detailed attribution it made against the Russians is infeasible.  (The Shadow Brokers revealed the identities of specific NSA operators, so even if the National Security Agency is great at concealment as a matter of tradecraft that is no protection against an insider threat.)  Maybe Russia and China and Iran won’t bother indicting U.S. officials unless and until the indictments actually materialize into a trial, which they likely never will.  But what is the answer in principle?  And what is the U.S. policy (if any) that is being communicated to military and civilian operators who face this threat?  What is the U.S. government response to former NSA official Jake Williams, who worked in Tailored Access Operations and who presumably spoke for many others at NSA when he said that “charging military/gov hackers is dumb and WILL eventually hurt the US”?

And, how would any focus on WikiLeaks expose journalists in the United States to risks of prosecution themselves.

There is a lot of anger against WikiLeaks and a lot of support for indicting Julian Assange and others related to WikiLeaks for their part in publishing the information stolen by the Russians.  If Mueller goes in this direction, he will need to be very careful not to indict Assange for something U.S. journalists do every day.  U.S. newspapers publish information stolen via digital means all the time.  They also openly solicit such information through SecureDrop portals.  Some will say that Assange and others at WikiLeaks can be prosecuted without threatening “real journalists” by charging a conspiracy to steal and share stolen information. I am not at all sure such an indictment wouldn’t apply to many American journalists who actively aid leakers of classified information.

I hope to come back to the second point. As a journalist who had a working relationship with someone she came to believe had a role in the attack, I have thought about and discussed the topic with most, if not all, the lawyers I consulted on my way to sitting down with the FBI.

For the moment, though, I want to focus on Goldsmith’s first point, one I’ve made in the past repeatedly. If we start indicting uniformed military intelligence officers — or even contractors, like the trolls at Internet Research Agency might be deemed — do we put the freedom of movement of people like Jake Williams at risk? Normally, I’d absolutely agree with Goldsmith and Williams.

But as someone who has already written extensively about the ConFraudUs backbone that Robert Mueller has built into his cases, I want to argue this is an exception.

As I’ve noted previously, while Rod Rosenstein emphasized that the Internet Research Agency indictment included no allegations that Americans knowingly conspired with Russians, it nevertheless did describe three Americans whose activities in response to being contacted by Russian trolls remain inconclusive.

Rod Rosenstein was quite clear: “There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity.” That said, there are three (presumed) Americans who, both the indictment and subsequent reporting make clear, are treated differently in the indictment than all the other Americans cited as innocent people duped by Russians: Campaign Official 1, Campaign Official 2, and Campaign Official 3. We know, from CNN’s coverage of Harry Miller’s role in building a cage to be used in a fake “jailed Hillary” stunt, that at least some other people described in the indictment were interviewed — in his case, for six hours! — by the FBI. But no one else is named using the convention to indicate those not indicted but perhaps more involved in the operation. Furthermore, the indictment doesn’t actually describe what action (if any) these three Trump campaign officials took after being contacted by trolls emailing under false names.

On approximately the same day, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the email address of a false U.S. persona, [email protected], to send an email to Campaign Official 1 at that donaldtrump.com email account, which read in part:

Hello [Campaign Official 1], [w]e are organizing a state-wide event in Florida on August, 20 to support Mr. Trump. Let us introduce ourselves first. “Being Patriotic” is a grassroots conservative online movement trying to unite people offline. . . . [W]e gained a huge lot of followers and decided to somehow help Mr. Trump get elected. You know, simple yelling on the Internet is not enough. There should be real action. We organized rallies in New York before. Now we’re focusing on purple states such as Florida.

The email also identified thirteen “confirmed locations” in Florida for the rallies and requested the campaign provide “assistance in each location.”

[snip]

Defendants and their co-conspirators used the false U.S. persona [email protected] account to send an email to Campaign Official 2 at that donaldtrump.com email account.

[snip]

On or about August 20, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the “Matt Skiber” Facebook account to contact Campaign Official 3.

Again, the DOJ convention of naming makes it clear these people have not been charged with anything. But we know from other Mueller indictments that those specifically named (which include the slew of Trump campaign officials named in the George Papadopoulos plea, KT McFarland and Jared Kushner in the Flynn plea, Kilimnik in the Van der Zwaan plea, and the various companies and foreign leaders that did Manafort’s bidding, including the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs in his indictment) may be the next step in the investigation.

In the GRU indictment, non US person WikiLeaks is given the equivalent treatment.

On or about June 22, 2016, Organization I sent a private message to Guccifer 2.0 to “[s]end any new material [stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.” On or about July 6, 2016, Organization 1 added, “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC [DemocraticNationalConvention] is approaching and she Will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” The Conspirators responded,“0k . . . i see.” Organization I explained,“we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary . . . so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”

But the activities of other American citizens — most notably Roger Stone and Donald Trump — are discussed obliquely, even if they’re not referred to using the standard of someone still under investigation. Here’s the Roger Stone passage.

On or aboutAugust 15,2016, the Conspirators,posing as Guccifer 2.0,wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, “thank u for writing back. . . do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?” On or about August 17, 2016, the Conspirators added, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow . . . it would be a great pleasureto me.” On or about September 9, 2016,the Conspirators, again posing as Guccifer 2.0, referred to a stolen DCCC document posted online and asked the person, “what do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign.” The person responded,“[p]retty standard.”

The Trump one, of course, pertains to the response GRU hackers appear to have made when he asked for Russia to find Hillary’s emails on July 27.

For example, on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third‑party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy‐six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign.

Finally, there is yesterday’s Mariia Butina complaint, which charges her as an unregistered Russian spy and describes Aleksandr Torshin as her boss, but which also describes the extensive and seemingly willful cooperation with Paul Erickson and another American, as well as with the RNC and NRA. Here’s one of the Americans, for example, telling Butina that her Russian bosses should take the advice he had given her about which Americans she needed to meet.

If you were to sit down with your special friends and make a list of ALL the most important contacts you could find in America for a time when the political situation between the U.S. and Russia will change, you could NOT do better than the list that I just emailed you. NO one — certainly not the “official” Russian Federation public relations representative in New York — could build a better list.

[snip]

All that you friends need to know is that meetings with the names on MY list would not be possible without the unknown names in your “business card” notebook. Keep them focused on who you are NOW able to meet, NOT the people you have ALREADY met.

Particularly as someone whose communications (including, but not limited to, that text) stand a decent chance of being quoted in an indictment in the foreseeable future, let me be very clear: none of these people have been accused of any wrong-doing.

But they do suggest a universe of people who have attracted investigative scrutiny, both by Mueller and by NSD, as willing co-conspirators with Russian spies.

Granted, there are three different kinds of Russian spies included in these three documents:

  • Uniformed military intelligence officers working from Moscow
  • Civilian employees who might be considered intelligence contractors working from St. Petersburg (though with three reconnaissance trips to the US included)
  • Butina and Torshin, both of whom probably committed visa fraud to engage as unregistered spies in the US

We have a specific crime for the latter (and, probably, the reconnaissance trips to the US by IRA employees), and if any of the US persons and entities in Butina’s indictment are deemed to have willingly joined her conspiracy, they might easily be charged as well. Eventually, I’m certain, Mueller will move to start naming Americans (besides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates) in conspiracy indictments, including ones involving Russian spies operating from Russia (like Konstantin Kilimnik). It seems necessary to include the Russians in some charging documents, because otherwise you’ll never be able to lay out the willful participation of everyone, Russian and American, in the charging documents naming the Americans.

So while I generally agree with Goldsmith and Williams, this case, where we’re clearly discussing a conspiracy between Russian spies — operating both from the US and from Russia (and other countries), wearing uniforms and civilian clothing –and Americans, it seems important to include them in charging documents somewhere.

Manafort and His Co-Conspirators Adopt the Communications Habits of David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell

Back in January, I observed with some surprise that Paul Manafort was conducting his ongoing dalliance with Oleg Deripaska’s flunkie Konstantin Kilimnik on a PRISM provider’s server.

Which is why I find it so interesting that prosecutor Greg Andres emphasized Manafort and … he didn’t say whom (at least per the two reports that covered this) were communicating using the “foldering” technique that terrorists and unfaithful CIA Directors have been known to use in the past. Here’s how Josh Gerstein described the exchange:

“This was a sustained campaign over a five-week period,” Andres declared, saying it involved “multiple” phone calls, texts and other messages.

[snip]

The two sides also squared off during the hearing about Manafort’s use of technology. Andres raised a new allegation that Manafort engaged in a practice knows as “foldering,” where two or more people trade messages through draft folders in an email account. The prosecutor provided few details but suggested it was part of “a history of deception on behalf of Mr. Manafort in this case.”

Westling didn’t address that issue, but said prosecutors were going too far in seeing cloak-and-dagger spycraft in Manafort’s use of popular messaging apps, like WhatsApp, that encrypt their contents.

Here’s how CNN’s Marshall Cohen described it.

Prosecutors said Manafort used a method called “foldering” to covertly talk to people. It’s not that complicated: He made an email account and shared the password. He wrote messages but saved them as drafts, never sending actual emails. Other guys open the draft, read it, delete.

For some time, Manafort has known Mueller had obtained a search warrant for this email in August (though I guess he didn’t learn that before being caught emailing Kilimnik in November).

And while it’s unclear, it seems likely, given the context and Andres’ reference to “other messages,” that Manafort adopted the foldering technique (stupidly, given that FBI has been able to catch people using it since David Petraeus got busted this way and CIA long before that) as a way to attempt to continue communications, and that they were used as part of Manafort and Kilimnik’s efforts to reach out to Alan Friedman. Andres seems to have suggested at the hearing that Manafort continues to get new phones.

Here’s the thing, though. While Mueller’s repeated efforts to use Manafort’s ongoing communications with Kilimnik against him have made for amusement. they also seem a good signal to Manafort about what else the government has collected, and not necessarily just with Kilimnik.

Ah well, Manafort now has time on his hands to reflect on what comms that means Mueller has obtained.

The Decline and Recent Fall of Manafort’s Hapsburg Empire

It turns out the government was telling the truth (not that I doubted it) when they told Judge Amy Berman Jackson they’ve only just put together the evidence that Paul Manafort violated bail by trying to suborn perjury from Alan Friedman and Eckart Sager, the two flacks who set up the Hapsburg Group for Manafort back in 2012. That’s made clear by comparing the materials submitted back on May 25 asking for leave to object to Manafort’s then just finalized bail proposal and the materials — particularly the declaration from FBI Agent Brock Domin — released in conjunction with Mueller’s motion to revoke or revise bail.

For example, whereas the later Domin declaration notes that Friedman and Sager (identified as Person D1 and D2) “provided the content of the text messages described below in May 2018,” Domin’s earlier declaration provides the specific dates.

Person D1 provided the text messages described below on May 12, 2018, and Person D2 provided the content of the text messages described below on May 21, 2018.

And while the earlier declaration relies on statements from Friedman,

Documents produced by Persons D1 and D2, statements made by Person D1 to the government, and documents recovered pursuant to a court-authorized search of Manafort’s iCloud account evidence that Manafort,

The later declaration refers to statements from Sager, too.

Documents produced by Persons D1 and D2, statements made by Persons D1 and D2 to the government, telephone records obtained by the government, and documents recovered pursuant to a court-authorized search of Manafort’s iCloud account evidence that Manafort,

So Sager must have been interviewed between May 25 and June 4.

A filing submitted last night, providing even more detail describing why Manafort should have his bail revoked includes this great quote from Sager, though it’s unclear when he gave it.

Manafort’s references to the Hapsburg member’s “role” and the “EP” refer to that Hapsburg member’s position as a representative of the European Parliament and the parallel actions of the European Parliament and the United States Senate regarding Tymoshenko’s imprisonment in 2012. That characterization is consistent with Person D2’s description, during a meeting with the government, of that Hapsburg member’s role as Manafort’s “spy and mouthpiece.”

And, as reflected both in the passage cited above and by comparing the two communication logs, the government did not reference toll records from Manafort in the May 25 filing but did in the June 4 one, suggesting that along with a Sager interview, they obtained the toll records after May 25.

Which raises two interesting questions for me: first, had the government interviewed Friedman and Sager before Manafort tried to suborn their perjury? If Mueller’s team hadn’t, it makes his effort all the more interesting, as if he somehow knew that. And also, did the government obtain proof of these communications (likely, via monitoring Manafort’s iCloud account) before reaching out to Friedman and Sager, whether anew or for the first time?

Interestingly, the earlier Domin declaration makes it clear Friedman took screen caps of the WhatsApp comms he had with Manafort contemporaneously, so even if he weren’t backing up his super secret obstruction of justice to Apple’s cloud, he’d have been fucked.

Person D1 has provided the government screen shots that Person D1 took contemporaneously of these messages.

That suggests it’s possible that Friedman contacted (possibly recontacted) the government to let them know this. But that doesn’t explain the two and a half month delay between the time Manafort tried to suborn perjury and the time the government actually chased this detail down.

On the Tactics of the Latest Manafort Indictment

When I went out to run errands yesterday, Paul Manafort was likely facing having his bail revoked next Friday and going to jail, from where he would fight charges that could put him in prison for the rest of his life. When I returned after an hour and a half, Paul Manafort — faced with a new superseding indictment — was probably facing having his bail revoked next Friday and going to jail, from where he will fight charges that could put him in prison for the rest of his life. That is, nothing much has changed, especially if you’ve been following along closely enough to know that Konstantin Kilimnik, who finally got added to Manafort’s indictments, has always been a key part of the election year conspiracy and the damage control since.

The key development, in my mind, is tactical. As Popehat explained in one of two great lawsplainers yesterday, the standard on revoking bail in any case is just probable cause that you’ve committed new crimes while being out on bail. By getting the grand jury to indict the underlying behavior behind the witness tampering claim, you’ve established probable cause.

And by the way, those accusations that Manafort committed a crime on bail? Mueller got a grand jury indictment, establishing probable cause. That may be all the judge requires. Manafort’s in trouble. I mean, even in the context of someone facing multiple indictments trouble.

This makes easier for Amy Berman Jackson to send Manafort to jail next Friday, effectively outsourcing the decision to a bunch of anonymous grand jurors. That is, it takes a likely action and makes it even more likely.

I’m interested in what it does to preserve evidence, though.

Manafort submitted his opposition to having his bail revoked last night, effectively claiming that Mueller has shown almost no evidence of witness tampering.

The Special Counsel creates an argument based on the thinnest of evidence; to wit, Mr. Manafort violated the Release Order’s standard admonition that a defendant not commit an offense while on release by allegedly attempting to tamper with trial witnesses. However, the scant proof of this claim is an 84-second telephone call and a few text messages between Mr. Manafort (or an associate referred to as “Person A”) and two former business associates(Doc. 315-2, Ex. N). These brief text messages followed the filing of the Superseding Indictment on February 23, which was the first time the Special Counsel raised any allegations about the mission and work of the Hapsburg Group. (Doc. 202, ¶¶30, 31.) Closer scrutiny of this “evidence” reveals that the Special Counsel’s allegations are without merit because Mr. Manafort’s limited communications cannot be fairly read, either factually or legally, to reflect an intent to corruptly influence a trial witness.

The merits aside (remember, Jeffrey Sterling spent years in prison based in significant part on metadata showing 4:11 in phone calls, without content, between him and James Risen), I find this footnote most interesting.

2 This is no small matter. It is clear from the Special Agent’s declaration that the agent spoke with the person on the other end of the call (i.e., D1). (See Doc. 315-2, ¶¶ 19, 20). Instead of identifying what was said exactly for purposes of this motion, however, the Special Counsel instead states what D1 “understood” from Mr. Manafort’s brief text messages—not the telephone call that occurred. Id. at ¶19. The Special Agent also states what D1 opines, i.e., what D1 believes Mr. Manafort knew. Id. Person D2, with whom Mr. Manafort had no telephone conversations or text messages, states that D1 told him (D2) that he “abruptly ended the call.” Id. at ¶ 20.

Manafort is complaining that Mueller didn’t reveal precisely what FBC Group’s Alan Friedman (see this post to explain who he is) told the government about the call. Had Mueller not indicted, then he would have had a real incentive to call Friedman as a witness next week to explain precisely why Manafort’s comments reeked of obstruction. Mueller has likely presented the substance of the call to the grand jury, however, and may now have less need to put Friedman on the stand next week.

But there is probably far more interesting evidence that Mueller presented to the grand jury to substantiate these two charges:

Obstruction of Justice

From in or about and between February 23, 2018, and April 2018, both dates being approximate and inclusive, within the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the defendants PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR., and KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK knowingly and intentionally attempted to corruptly persuade another person, to wit: Persons D1 and D2, with intent to influence, delay, and prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding

Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice

From in or about and between February 23, 2018, and April 2018, both dates being approximate and inclusive, within the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the defendants PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR., and KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK knowingly and intentionally conspired to corruptly persuade another person, to wit: Persons D1 and D2, with intent to influence, delay, and prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(1).

Charging both the obstruction charge and the conspiracy charge is, in some ways, insurance. It implicates Manafort in what are mostly Kilimnik’s efforts to get Friedman on the phone to coordinate stories.

But to charge conspiracy to obstruct, as opposed to just obstruction, Mueller also needs to show an agreement between Manafort and Kilimnik. Such an agreement would likely get to the core of Manafort’s intent more quickly than the calls as received by D1. That is, such an agreement would be the evidence that Manafort claims is lacking.

Which brings me to this exhibit, submitted Monday as part of the government’s motion to revoke bail, which is an XLS spreadsheet bearing the title “Open Source Timeline – March 2016 to March 2017 – Edited_lm.xlsx” uploaded to the docket.

It tracks the phone, WhatsApp, and Telegram communications between Manafort and Person D1 and D2, and the WhatsApp and Telegram chats between Kilimnik and D1 and D2 (Manafort uses WhatsApp once to place a phone call, but otherwise the WhatsApp and Telegram communications are all chats). It shows that the government has third-party sources for all of this — either D1 and D2 turning things over on their own, Manafort’s phone company (he was using AT&T quite recently) turning over his toll records, or Apple turning over the contents of Manafort’s iCloud account.

The table also shows time tracked in two scales: All of Manafort’s communications and the single chat between Kilimnik and D1 are in Coordinated Universal Time, while all of Kilimnik’s chats with D2 are in Central European Summer Time. You might get the latter via screen shots from a phone taken while in Central Europe.

Note, even though Kilimnik tells D2 that he had tried D1 “on all numbers,” the log doesn’t show any calls between Kilimnik and D1, it shows only the one WhatsApp chat between Kilimnik and D1. So the log doesn’t even show all the communications to D1 that exist. Just those that the government can provide a source that it’s willing to share publicly. I assure you, however, that the government knows when those calls were placed.

The log, as presented, also doesn’t show any communications between Manafort and Kilimnik.

Now go back to the fact that, yesterday, the government showed the grand jury not just evidence that Manafort and Kilimnik individually tried to suborn perjury from D1 and D2, but that they agreed to do so. At the very least, that would involve communications between the two of them. They’re only going to have the substance of that communication in one of two ways, though: if they did this via WhatsApp chats, those chats would be available on Manafort’s iCloud account, because he’s got really bad OpSec.

But if those communications were via a phone or WhatsApp call, then the government would have gotten that communication via some other means, means it hasn’t shown in that contact log. Keep in mind: as a foreigner with key connections, Kilimnik is a legitimate spying target under any definition of the term, even aside from the allegation he’s got active ties to Russian intelligence. And since January 2017, the NSA has been able to share raw EO 12333 intelligence with intelligence agencies, including the FBI. If that sharing works the same way Section 702 sharing works (and Kilimnik’s WhatsApp activity may or may not be collectable under 702, even before you get to EO 12333 collection), then so long as the FBI has a full investigation, it can obtain raw feeds of the targets covered by that full investigation.

No FISA notice has been filed in this case; it’s not clear whether the government would give notice of EO 12333 data (they should but they likely don’t). In either case they’d only have to if they intended to use that information in trial. The rest, they’d parallel construct by obtaining from the other parties to a communication or Manafort’s iCloud account.

Now, I suspect Mueller did not intend to file a document indicating that this communication log was originally started with a March 2016 to March 2017 scope, making it clear they’ve got a collection of parallel constructed sources for Kilimnik and Manafort communications that go back that far, right back to when Manafort joined the Trump campaign (which is slightly different than saying they got all of Manafort’s communications during the campaign).

That they’re still using the log to track the duo’s really idiotic ongoing communications is testament to the fact that since Manafort was indicted in October, the government has just been sitting back, watching everything Manafort and Kilimnik do and say to each other while getting Rick Gates to flip, collecting more information, and forcing Manafort to pledge all remaining liquidity to get bail. They’ve been watching Manafort and Kilimnik continue their efforts to try to get out of the deep shit Manafort is in, biding their time.

At the very least, revealing the communication log on Monday would have led Manafort to finally change the privacy settings on his phone, though it may well have led to a noticeable security change from Kilimnik as well, perhaps even a new phone without an FBI or NSA sensor collecting everything.

In the interim, too, other corners of the government revealed, in fairly spectacular fashion, that they can and will obtain the Signal and WhatsApp chats involving journalists of even congressional staffers like James Wolfe, meaning not just that they would do the same for alleged criminals out on bail and their co-conspirators, but that the means to do so has become readily available to the FBI for national security investigations. In short, this week the government tipped their hand about a whole slew of communications involving Manafort and Kilimnik that haven’t been disclosed in discovery yet as well as a capability that even lots of national security journalists (present company excepted) didn’t know they had.

Thus the grand jury and the new charges. It strikes me that, after disclosing the additional collection the FBI has on these two (though both have been fairly stupid in response to such disclosures in the past), the government has less incentive to let Manafort remain out on bail, because it will have a diminishing yield of information about the conspiracy. But the government also has a need to move things along without presenting everything they’ve got (including what they’ve asked Friedman about the developments post April 2 that led Kilimnik to try reaching out a second time). The new indictment provides a way to get to probable case without showing everything they’ve got, which in turns makes the chances that Manafort will finally be going to jail that much higher.

Update: On June 12, the government elaborated on the evidence showing that Manafort intended to suborn perjury, noting that the indictment should be enough by itself to revoke bail.

On June 8, 2018, a grand jury sitting in the District of Columbia returned a Superseding Indictment charging Manafort and his longtime associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, with attempted witness tampering and conspiracy to commit witness tampering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1512(b)(1) and (k). See Doc. 318 ¶¶ 48-51. Counts Six and Seven of that Superseding Indictment “‘conclusively determine[] the existence of probable cause’ to believe the defendant” committed a federal crime while on pretrial release. Kaley v. United States, 134 S. Ct. 1090, 1097 (2014) (quoting Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 117 n.19 (1975)); see also United States v. Smith, 79 F.3d 1208, 1210 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (“[T]he indictment alone would have been enough to raise the rebuttable presumption that no condition would reasonably assure the safety of the community.”). Probable cause to believe that Manafort committed a crime, in turn, triggers a rebuttable presumption “that no condition or combination of conditions will assure that [Manafort] will not pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community.” 18 U.S.C. § 3148(b). Manafort’s challenge to the strength of the government’s evidence of witness tampering is thus both misplaced and unavailing. See Kaley, 134 S. Ct. at 1098 & n.6 (explaining that “[t]he grand jury gets to say—without any review, oversight, or second-guessing—whether probable cause exists to think that a person committed a crime,” and recognizing that this “unreviewed finding . . . may play a significant role in determining a defendant’s eligibility for release before trial under the Bail Reform Act”). 1

The go on to suggest that given the indictment, they don’t even need to bring the FBI agent to testify, but will.

Although the government submits that the grand jury’s probable-cause determination obviates the need for testimony by the agent who signed the declaration in support of the government’s motion to revoke or revise, the agent will be available to testify if needed per the Court’s Order. The government submits, however, that any remaining factual matters can be addressed by proffer, as is common practice at bail hearings. See Smith, 79 F.3d at 1210; see also United States v. LaFontaine, 210 F.3d 125, 131 (2d Cir. 2000) (calling it “well established . . . that proffers are permissible both in the bail determination and bail revocation contexts”).

Again, all this seems designed to make it easy for Amy Berman Jackson to revoke his bail.

Manafort Renewed His Outreach to FBC Group after Mueller’s Early April Revelations

As I noted, last night Mueller’s team moved to revoke Paul Manafort’s bail because — they allege — he has been attempting to suborn perjury from witnesses associated with the FBC Group PR firm. In addition to a declaration laying out the evidence for that claim, Mueller’s team included a list of contacts between Manafort himself and Konstantin Kilimnik with people at FBC Group. Amy Berman Jackson has scheduled a hearing for June 15 to consider the motion.

As the declaration lays out, person D1 (likely Alan Friedman) hadn’t spoken to Manafort since last July, probably before his public raid by the FBI and around the time Friedman started cooperating with the government. He hung up when Manafort called him in February and regarded the outreach as an effort to suborn perjury.

Person D1 told the government that in or around this period, Manafort called Person D1, and that the two had not spoken since July of the previous year. Person D1 stated that after answering the call and after the caller identified himself as Manafort, Manafort stated that he wanted to give Person D1 a heads-up about Hapsburg. Person D1 immediately ended the call because he was concerned about the outreach.

[snip]

Person D1 told the government that Person D1 understood Manafort’s messages to be an effort to “suborn perjury” by influencing Person D1’s potential statements. Person D1 well knew and believed from frequent interactions with its members that the Hapsburg group in fact lobbied in the United States, and that Manafort and Person A knew that fact.

Most of the declaration focuses on a set of communications immediately in the wake of Rick Gates’ plea deal, which made it clear Mueller had expanded Manafort’s prosecution to include actions of the Hapsburg Group — a bunch of European bigwigs Manafort hired to lie about Ukraine publicly and to Congress. I noted the day of Manafort’s first call that Friedman was surely cooperating with Mueller, but apparently I’m smarter than Manafort.

What I’m interested in, however, is that on April 4, Kilimnik tried again, with WhatsApp and Telegram outreach to both D1 and the PR person on the project.

Unlike the Hapsburg specific outreach, the declaration offers no explanation for Kilimnik’s April outreach.

Approximately one month later, Person A reached out to Person D1 directly as well. On April 4, 2018, Person A sent a message to Person D1: “Hi. This is [Person A’s first initial]. My friend P is looking for ways to connect to you to pass you several messages. Can we arrange that.” Person A reached out to Person D2 the same day, and reiterated his need for help in connecting Person D1 with Manafort. Person A added in his text to Person D2: “I tried him [i.e., Person D1] on all numbers.”

This outreach is non-specific. Kilimnik just appears to have an urgent need to reach out to (presumably) Friedman, in Manafort’s name, on April 4.

The timing is particularly interesting to me. The outreach happens in the wake of the Alex Van Der Zwaan sentencing filings, which provided more detail on Skadden Arp’s involvement in the Yulia Tymoshenko whitewash, and as such may have concerned the Hapsburg players. In addition, the prosecution filing for the first time made (and repeated Rick Gates’ indirect) allegations that Kilimnik himself was and might still be a Russian intelligence officer.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel’s Office assess that Person A has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016. During his first interview with the Special Counsel’s Office, van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU.

The outreach also happened in the wake of Mueller’s filing of the Rosenstein Memo, as well as public claims that included Oleg Deripaska in the scope of the investigation.

So it’s likely that Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik regarded those early April filings as impacting in some way on FBC Group, and possibly on Alan Friedman personally.

Of course, Friedman wasn’t playing Manafort’s games by that point, and hadn’t been already for over a month (and probably over 8 or 9 months).

Whatever else Manafort learned with yesterday’s filings, he likely also confirmed that. Whatever added risk those early April filings posed to Manafort, FBC Group is probably part of the risk, not part of his efforts to dodge the risk.

Update: I made an error in this post originally, by saying that it pertains to Mercury (Company A or B in Mueller’s findings). Josh Gerstein correctly IDs the company as FBC Media, which would make D1 Alan Friedman.

On Those Five AT&T Phones Manafort Wanted To Learn About

Yesterday, Amy Berman Jackson rejected Paul Manafort’s effort to get the last of the affidavits used to get warrants against him unsealed. The challenge started as an effort to get seven warrant affidavits unsealed; along the way, Manafort got a completely unredacted copy of the affadavit behind the search of his condo (which would have been the first one reflecting the government’s knowledge of his role in the June 9 meeting), and the name of a confidential source — actually a known former employee of his — behind the warrant to search his storage facility.

Along with some other government disclosure, that left two affidavits. A warrant to search his email account.

In the Matter of the Search of Information Associated with Email Account [email protected] (D.D.C.) (17-mj-00611).

Based on the DC docket, I think this warrant would have been obtained sometime between August 14 and 18 of last year. This is the email address that Mueller’s team caught Manafort using to conduct ongoing discussions with Konstantin Kilimnik last November (though Kilimnik’s side would have been accessible via a Section 702 served on Google).

The other warrant is one to obtain information relating to five AT&T phones.

In the Matter of the Search of Information Associated with Five Telephone Numbers Controlled by AT&T (D.D.C.) (18-sc-609).

In her order, ABJ explained that the government is only withholding the names of confidential sources and stuff pertaining to investigations other than the money laundering investigations currently pending against Manafort.

The government argues that the information that is currently being withheld fell within two categories: the names of confidential sources who had provided information to the government, and information relating to ongoing investigations that does not bear upon the allegations in either of the two cases now pending against Manafort.

An earlier filing explained that the second, AT&T, affidavit was obtained on March 9 and it covers “ongoing investigations that are not the subject of either of the current prosecutions involving Manafort.”

On April 4, 2018, the government produced in redacted form, and for the first time, an affidavit supporting a search warrant that had been obtained on March 9, 2018. That affidavit likewise contains redactions—albeit more substantial ones—relating to ongoing investigations that are not the subject of either of the current prosecutions involving Manafort.

As I believe others pointed out at the time, this would put it just a few weeks after Rick Gates pled on February 23, and so might reflect information obtained with his cooperation.

In her ruling, ABJ cited the last week’s hearing, suggesting that the phones still redacted in the affidavit materials might not be Manafort’s.

THE COURT: What if — I think one of them is about phone information. What if the redacted phones are not his phone?

MR. WESTLING: I don’t have a problem with that. I think we’re talking about things that relate to this defendant in this case.

Since just before this phone data was obtained, Mueller’s team has focused closely on Roger Stone, starting with the Sam Nunberg meltdown on March 5, including a retracted claim that Trump knew of the June 9 meeting the week beforehand (there’s a phone call Don Jr placed on June 6 that several committees think may have been to Trump, something Mueller presumably knows). Ted Malloch was stopped at the border and interviewed (and had his phone seized) on March 30, and scheduled for a since aborted grand jury appearance on April 13. Stone assistants John Sullivan and Jason Kakanis were subpoenaed earlier in May. Of particularly interest, Michael Caputo was interviewed about meetings he and Stone had with Gates before and during the campaign.  Stone’s finances have been probed. Stone says he expects an indictment, but claims it would pertain to issues unrelated to colluding with Russia.

These details may, of course, be entirely unrelated. But Mueller sure has focused closely on Stone in the wake of obtaining information on those phones that don’t belong to Manafort.

Meanwhile, Manafort has started a fund to pay what must be astronomical legal bills. He may make bail this week, or Mueller’s team may move the goalposts.

Update: Jason Sullivan appeared before the grand jury today (Friday June 1), though he was originally subpoenaed to appear on May 18. That, plus the Ted Malloch detail, suggests Mueller is juggling the Stone witnesses.

The Credulous Right’s Latest Dribbling Water Pistol

Longtime GOP operative Rick Gates told Alex Van der Zwaan that Konstantin Kilimnik, the Oleg Deripaska go-between with whom Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort discussed providing private briefings on the campaign, “was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU.” The House Intelligence Report, having reviewed the evidence against Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Mike Flynn, and (to a much lesser extent) Paul Manafort complains that, “the Trump campaign was not notified that members of the campaign were potential counterintelligence concerns.” The report suggests (Trump’s hiring of Flynn after Obama warned him notwithstanding) that the “campaign was unable to address the problems with each campaign member and was ignorant about the potential national security concerns.”

Certainly, these Republicans give real credence to the possibility that Trump’s campaign (the campaign that did virtually no vetting and liked aides who would work “for free”) was infiltrated by Russian spies.

Nevertheless, the right wing noise machine (including former Federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy!!!) is pushing a new conspiracy theory: that George Papadopoulos was planted by either the Deep State or the Hillary Clinton campaign. One version of the story is being pitched by Stephan Roh. Roh is, by all appearances, Joseph Mifsud’s handler.

Then there’s the Beeb piece advancing the story of Joseph Mifsud (ignore the repetitive annoying music and John Schindler presence). It provides details on the role played by German born Swiss financier and lawyer Stephan Roh. Roh has three ties to Mifsud. In 2014, Roe started lecturing at the London Academy of Diplomacy where Misfud worked. In the same year, he bought the Roman institution Misfud helped manage. And then, in 2016, when George Papadopoulos was being targeted, Roh was on a panel with Papadopoulos’ two handlers.

That same month, Mifsud was in Moscow on a panel run by the Kremlin-backed Valdai Club with Timofeev and the third man, Dr Stephan Roh, a German multi-millionaire.

Mifsud and Roh interlock: in 2014, Roh became a visiting lecturer at the London Academy of Diplomacy. Roh bought Link Campus University, a private institution in Rome where Mifsud was part of the management and Mifsud became a consultant at Roh’s legal firm.

The Beeb piece goes on to describe how Roh bought a British nuclear consultancy too. When the British scientist behind it balked at cozying up to Russia, he was fired, but it appears to still be used as a cut-out.

Again, none of this is new: Russia just spent a lot of money to set up some fronts. The amount of money floating around and the ability to buy into a title by buying an old castle do make it easier, however.

But he’s out with a book that — in addition to describing how he was surveilled when he came to the US in the wake of the revelation of the Papadopoulos plea last year — alleges that Papadopoulos was actually planted in the Trump campaign by the FBI to elicit outreach to Russia.

Roh and his co-author Thierry Pastor, who also knows Mifsud, write in the book that, upon arriving in New York City with his family in October 2017, “one of the co-authors” was “fished from the passport control” line at John F. Kennedy airport while his family “was retained with armed police force.” (Photos posted by Roh’s wife on social media in October 2017 suggest she was visiting New York in late October.) He was then interrogated for “hours,” they write, by “a team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigating Russia-Gate.” The book alleges that he and his family were then “observed, followed, and taped, at every moment and every place in New York” by the FBI and that his family was assigned to “special rooms at the hotel” while security personnel “patrolled the corridors.”

It is unclear whether Roh was actually surveilled after being interviewed—a spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment. The book further alleges that Mifsud is not a Russian spy but is actually “deeply embedded in the network of Western Intelligence Services.” Papadopoulos, too, is a “western intelligence operative,” the authors assert, who was “placed” in the Trump campaign by the FBI. In that sense, the book is similar to one written recently by another obscure player detained and questioned by Mueller’s team earlier this year: Ted Malloch, a controversial London-based academic with ties to Trump associates Roger Stone and Nigel Farage. In his book The Plot to Destroy Trump: How the Deep State Fabricated the Russia Dossier to Subvert the President, Malloch argues that the apparent covert intelligence activity connected to the Trump campaign was not Russian, but Western.

Roh and Pastor’s prevailing thesis is that Papadopoulos’s “mission” was to bring Trump into contact with Russian officials. “That’s nuts,” Papadopoulos’s wife Mangiante told me in response to the book’s theory. “From ‘coffee boy’ to spy … George has been upgraded!” she joked, referring to the Trump campaign’s claim that Papadopoulos, a young energy consultant who joined the Trump campaign in March 2016, was so low-level that he was basically a “coffee boy.”

Again, the Republicans on HPSCI who have reviewed the intelligence sure seem miffed that Trump didn’t get an opportunity to weed out the suspected assets in his campaign. But this, from a transparent Russian operative, is still what Republicans want to argue to discredit the Mueller investigation.

Consider what would have had to have happened to pull this off.

First, the Deep State would have started this process years ago, when Papadopoulos worked for the Hudson Institute, establishing his conservative bona fides. Then, they would have inexplicably had Papadopoulos work for Ben Carson, which in any normal year would experience no success in the primary and therefore in any normal year could expect none of his aides to be picked up by the winning candidate. Then, somehow Sam Clovis (who multiple witnesses have said welcomed outreach to Russia) would be convinced to recruit Papadopoulos. The FBI would have somehow had to have known that the campaign itself would do no vetting. And even if the FBI could assume the campaign would do no vetting, it would also have to ensure that the campaign wouldn’t distance itself from Papaodpoulos after the WaPo did an embarrassing profile describing how inexperienced Papadopoulos was.

And, of course, somehow this “coffee boy” would have the finesse to convince a lot of far more experienced operatives to accept outreach from Russia.

Further, in spite of its extensive and remarkably successful effort at placing a spy on Trump’s campaign, the FBI would then have to have chosen not just not to herald the fake Russian spy it had planted in the Trump campaign contemporaneously, but to refrain from joining the Russian attribution in October 2016 altogether, effectively utterly pissing away the value of having placed a spy in the Trump campaign.

In some versions, this conspiracy theory even says Papadopoulos was planted by Hillary’s people. Hillary’s campaign was all too willing to seed their crappy dossier publicly, and spent a great deal of messaging talking about both their own targeting by Russia and Trump’s openness to capitalize off that targeting, not to mention pouncing on thinly source reports suggesting a tie between Russian and Trump. And yet somehow, the guy the Hillary Deep State people planted on Trump’s campaign not only didn’t tell their paid MI6 spy to go find the evidence about Papadopoulos being offered willingly at drunken sessions in London, but didn’t just publicize the details in the first place.

In short, to believe this conspiracy, you’d have to believe all these whack assumptions (from an FBI that the same conspiracists argue is otherwise incompetent) and ignore that Republicans who have reviewed the intelligence find credible the claim that Russia was trying to recruit assets in Trump’s campaign.

And yet that’s where even relatively mainstream Republicans are headed next.

This is, very transparently, Russian planted disinformation. And yet the same Republicans who claim there is “no collusion” are regurgitating the disinformation like automatons.

The Quid Pro Quo: a Putin Meeting and Election Assistance, in Exchange for Sanctions Relief (Part Two in a Series)

As I explained in Part One of this series, I think the Mueller questions leaked by the Trump people actually give a far better understanding of a damning structure to the Mueller investigation — one mapping out cultivation, a quid pro quo, and a cover-up — than the coverage has laid out. This post will lay out how, over the course of the election, the Russians and Trump appear to have danced towards a quid pro quo, involving a Putin meeting and election assistance in exchange for sanctions relief if Trump won (as noted, the Russians dangled real estate deals to entice Trump based on the assumption he wouldn’t win).

April 27, 2016: During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media, or other acts aimed at the campaign?

Given the structure of George Papadopoulos’ plea, it’s highly likely Mueller knows that Papadopoulos passed on news that the Russians had thousands of Hillary emails they planned to release to help Trump to people in the campaign. Papadopoulos could have passed on that news to Stephen Miller and Corey Lewandowski as early as April 27. On the same day, Papadopoulos helped draft Trump’s first foreign policy speech, which Papadopoulos reportedly told Ivan Timofeev signaled a willingness to meet.

Between the time the GRU first exfiltrated DNC emails in April and the election, Trump invoked “emails” 21 times on Twitter (usually to refer to emails from Hillary’s server). The first of those times came on June 9, less than an hour after the Trump Tower meeting. The most famous of those came on July 27, when Trump addressed Russia directly.

Earlier in the day, Trump had called on Russia to release the emails not to the FBI, but to the press.

Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

The timing may reflect awareness among some in the campaign that the call to Russia was a step too far legally. (h/t TC for the addition)

That Trump’s email comments pertain mostly to Hillary’s home-based server doesn’t actually exonerate him. Right after the DNC release (and therefore the July 27 Trump tweet), GOP rat-fucker Peter Smith started reaching out to Russian hackers in hopes of finding hacked versions of those emails. His support documents named Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sam Clovis, and Mike Flynn. If those people actually learned of the effort (there’s reason to believe Smith was just overselling the ties to the campaign), it’s possible that Trump learned about it as well.

As to social media, while it has gotten virtually no attention, the reference to three Florida-based Trump campaign officials in the Internet Research Agency indictment suggests further investigative interest in them.

[T]here are three (presumed) Americans who, both the indictment and subsequent reporting make clear, are treated differently in the indictment than all the other Americans cited as innocent people duped by Russians: Campaign Official 1, Campaign Official 2, and Campaign Official 3. We know, from CNN’s coverage of Harry Miller’s role in building a cage to be used in a fake “jailed Hillary” stunt, that at least some other people described in the indictment were interviewed — in his case, for six hours! — by the FBI. But no one else is named using the convention to indicate those not indicted but perhaps more involved in the operation. Furthermore, the indictment doesn’t actually describe what action (if any) these three Trump campaign officials took after being contacted by trolls emailing under false names.

So Mueller may be pursuing whether there was state-level coordination going on, and if so, how far up the campaign chain of command knowledge of that coordination extended.

May 31, 2016: What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding any meeting with Mr. Putin? Did you discuss it with others?

On June 16, 2015, the day Trump announced his campaign, the Agalarovs offered to serve as an intermediary between him and Putin.

Then, starting at least as early as March 31, 2016 (with Trump’s first foreign policy meeting), his aides started floating pitches for meetings with increasingly senior campaign officials that would hypothetically lead up to one between Trump and Putin.

Those include at least:

  • The George Papadopoulos thread, spanning from March 21 through August 15
  • The Carter Page thread, including his Moscow trip in July, and possibly continuing through his December Moscow trip
  • The NRA thread, focusing on the NRA meeting in Kentucky in May; NRA’s longer outreach includes Trump associates John Bolton and David Clarke

We know Trump was present and did not object when Papadopoulos pitched this in the May 31 meeting. Several of the other entrees went through Don Jr. Many of the offers got briefed at least as far as Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. We don’t know how many of the other offers he learned about. We just know that years earlier he had joked about becoming Putin’s best friend, and over the course of the campaign, Russian intermediaries made repeated, persistent efforts to work towards a meeting between Trump and Putin, with a meeting between Agalarov representatives (who, again, had offered to serve as intermediaries with Putin when Trump kicked off the campaign) and the most senior people on the campaign happening just as Trump sealed up the nomination.

May 31, 2016: What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions?

This is an open-ended question that might pose particular problems for Trump given the misleading statement claiming the June 9 meeting was about adoptions and not the Magnitsky sanctions. More interesting still are hints that Mueller sees a signaling going back and forth involving Papadopoulos; some of this may have involved signaling a willingness to provide sanctions relief.

Both Aras Agalarov and Natalia Veselnitskaya followed up after the election pushing for sanctions relief.

June 9, 2016: When did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting?

Sam Nunberg has suggested Trump probably learned of the Trump Tower meeting before it happened. While he is unreliable on that point, the original June 3, 2016 email Rob Goldstone sent to Don Jr suggests reaching out to Trump’s assistant Rhona Graff.

I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.

Democrats suspect that between two calls Don Jr had with Emin Agalarov about the meeting on June 6, 2016, he called his dad.

Trump Jr.’s phone records show two calls to and from the same Russian number on June 6, 2016.62 The first call occurred at 4:04 pm on June 6, 2916 – just 21 minutes after Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. to say that Emin Agalarov was “on stage in Moscow but should be off within 20 minutes so I am sure can call. [emphasis added]” 63 At 4:38 pm, Trump Jr emailed Goldstone, “Rob, thanks for the help.”64

This documentary evidence indicates that a call likely took place between Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov. During his interview, Trump Jr. confirmed that the Russian phone number belonged to Agalarov, though he claimed to not recall whether he actually spoke with him. Rather, despite one of the two calls reflecting a two-minute connection, Trump Jr. suggested that Agalarov may have left voice messages.65

The phone records also show a “blocked” number at 4:27 pm, between the two calls to and from Emin Agalarov. Trump Jr. claimed he did not know who was associated with the blocked number.66 While the Committee has not pursued leads to determine who called Trump Jr. at this crucial time from a blocked number, Corey Lewandowski told the Committee that Mr. Trump’s “primary residence has a blocked [phone] line.” 67

Mueller, of course, almost certainly has the phone records the Democrats weren’t able to obtain.

Finally, Steve Bannon has stated that he’s certain Don Jr “walk[ed] these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor” on the day of the meeting. There’s reason to believe Ike Kaveladze and Goldstone could have done so, including the new piece of evidence that “Kaveladze left [a meeting with Rinat Akhmetshin and Natalia Veselnitskaya] after a few minutes to take a call from Agalarov to discuss the meeting.”

The day after the meeting — and four days before Trump’s birthday — Agalarov sent Trump an expensive painting as a present.

The June 9 meeting is, as far as is public, the most important cornerstone in a presumed quid pro quo. Russians offered unnamed dirt that Don Jr seemed to know what it entailed even before speaking to Emin Agalarov personally. Having offered dirt, four Russians — including two representatives of Trump’s long-time handler Aras Agalarov — laid out a pitch to end the Magnitsky sanctions. And less than a week later, a presumed Russian agent released the first dirt stolen from Hillary Clinton.

July 7, 2016: What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?

We don’t have many details on what Mueller knows about Manafort’s requests for help on the campaign. We do know he remained in close touch with Russians via someone the FBI believed was a Russian intelligence agent, Konstantin Kilimnik, through whom he remained in communications with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska is named in some court documents in a way that suggests his relationship with Manafort may be the still hidden third prong of investigation into Manafort approved by August 2, 2017.

Starting in April, Manafort and Kilimnik (whom Rick Gates and therefore presumably Manafort knew was a former GRU officer), exchanged a series of cryptic emails, suggesting that Manafort might be able to pay off the $20 million he owed Deripaska with certain actions on the campaign. In an email sent on July 7, Manafort offered to provide briefings on the campaign to Deripaska. On or around August 2, Manafort and Kilimnik met in person at the Grand Havana Club, in Kushner’s building at 666 5th Avenue. Both deny that anything about the campaign came up. Shortly after this meeting, one of Deripaska’s jets came to Newark, and Russian opposition figure Viktor Navalny has claimed to have proof the jet went from there to a meeting between Deripaska and Russian deputy prime minister Sergei Prikhodko.

An August 2017 report describes intercepts picking up “Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort, … relay[ing] what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.”

There’s one more area of potential assistance I find of interest. Since January, we’ve been getting hints that Oleg Deripaska has some tie to the Steele dossier, possibly through a lawyer he and Steele share. I’ve raised repeated concerns that the Russians learned about the dossier and found ways to feed Steele disinformation. If they did, the disinformation would have led Democrats to be complacent about the hacks that targeted them. And whether or not the dossier is disinformation (and whether or not Deripaska had a role in that, if true), Paul Manafort coached Reince Priebus on how to attack the dossier as a way to discredit the investigation into the campaign’s ties with Russia.

With regards to this Manafort question: remember that Rick Gates flipped on February 23, and the questions date to early March. So Gates may have proffered confirmation about these details. In any case, Mueller likely has learned far more about them two months after Gates flipped.

July 10-12, 2016: What involvement did you have concerning platform changes regarding arming Ukraine?

The Majority HPSCI Russia Report explains that the RNC platform was changed by staffers at the convention based off Trump’s public statements on sanctions.

[Rick] Dearborn generated a memorandum, dated August 1, 2016, outlining a detailed sequence of events that occurred between July 10 and 12, 2016. As part of that memo, J.D. Gordon created a timeline that noted candidate Trump’s policy statements–including at a March 31, 2016, national security meeting–served as the basis for the modification of [Diana] Denman’s amendments. Gordon’s timeline made it clear that the change was initiated by campaign staffers at the convention–not by Manafort or senior officials.

J.D. Gordon has not confirmed that he was asked about this, but he surely was. I would expect Mueller to have tested the timeline Gordon laid out in summer 2016 (when the platform change was a big political issue) against the testimony and communications records of everyone else involved.

Of course, by asking the question in this fashion, Mueller doesn’t reveal what he has already confirmed about the platform changes.

August 5, 2016: What did you know about communication between Roger Stone, his associates, Julian Assange or WikiLeaks?

After multiple public statements that the Russians were behind the hack-and-leak, on August 5, 2016 (after traveling from NY to LA to his home in FL), Roger Stone wrote a column claiming to believe that Guccifer 2.0 was a hacktivist with no ties to Russia. Stone’s purportedly changed beliefs about Guccifer 2.0 coincide with an August 4 claim he made in an email to Sam Nunberg that he had met with Julian Assange the night before. Stone’s claimed belief that Guccifer 2.0 is not Russian is key to his denials of any involvement or pre-knowledge of hack-and-leak events. It also kicked off an alternative story that others, up to and including Trump, have adopted to excuse their own embrace of the stolen emails. In other words, a key prong in the plausible deniability the Russians built into the hack-and-leak campaign came from long-time Trump associate Roger Stone, after a dramatic and unexplained change in beliefs (Lee Stranahan, who used to work for Breitbart and now works for Sputnik, has claimed some credit for the change, and given how lucid the August 5 column is, someone had to have helped Stone write it).

Ten days later, after Stone had called on Twitter to let him out of Twitter jail, Guccifer 2.0 and Stone started exchanging (fairly innocuous) DMs.

There are events both before and after that which suggest Stone — probably through more interesting go-betweens than Randy Credico — sought information on what dirt Assange and Wikileaks had, and what and when planned to do with it.

Much has been made, especially in the DNC lawsuit, about Stone’s seeming prediction that “it would soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel.” Perhaps that’s true (and Stone’s explanation for the tweet is garbage), but any explanation of Stone’s supposed prediction needs to acknowledge that he more often predicted Wikileaks would release Clinton Foundation emails, not Podesta ones, that he got the timing somewhat wrong, and that he didn’t dwell on the Podesta emails at all once Wikileaks started releasing them (preferring, instead, to talk about Bill Clinton’s lady problems). Still, that may reflect Stone involvement in the Peter Smith operation, and efforts to get WikiLeaks to release purported Clinton Foundation emails passed on via hackers.

That Mueller is even asking this suggests (if the several grand jury witnesses in recent months dedicated to it don’t already) that Mueller has a pretty good idea that Stone’s communications were more extensive than his denials let on. That he thinks Stone may have shared that information with Trump is all the more interesting.

All of which is to say that the known answers to Mueller’s questions map out a quid pro quo set up during the election, in which Russians offered a Putin meeting and dirt on Hillary, with the expectation that Trump would lift the Magnitsky sanctions if he won (and would get a Trump Tower in Moscow if he lost). I suspect there are other pieces to the quid pro quo, dealing with Ukraine and Syria. But certainly the June 9 meeting set up an understanding: dirt in exchange for Magnitsky relief. The release of the Guccifer 2.0 emails may indicate the Trump camp provided some signal they had formally accepted the offer.

Update: Fixed syntax in last paragraph, h/t LT.

RESOURCES

These are some of the most useful resources in mapping these events.

Mueller questions as imagined by Jay Sekulow

CNN’s timeline of investigative events

Majority HPSCI Report

Minority HPSCI Report

Trump Twitter Archive

Jim Comey March 20, 2017 HPSCI testimony

Comey May 3, 2017 SJC testimony

Jim Comey June 8, 2017 SSCI testimony

Jim Comey written statement, June 8, 2017

Jim Comey memos

Sally Yates and James Clapper Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, May 8, 2017

NPR Timeline on Trump’s ties to Aras Agalarov

George Papadopoulos complaint

George Papadopoulos statement of the offense

Mike Flynn statement of the offense

Internet Research Agency indictment

Text of the Don Jr Trump Tower Meeting emails

Jared Kushner’s statement to Congress

Erik Prince HPSCI transcript

THE SERIES

Part One: The Mueller Questions Map Out Cultivation, a Quid Pro Quo, and a Cover-Up

Part Two: The Quid Pro Quo: a Putin Meeting and Election Assistance, in Exchange for Sanctions Relief

Part Three: The Quo: Policy and Real Estate Payoffs to Russia

Part Four: The Quest: Trump Learns of the Investigation

Part Five: Attempting a Cover-Up by Firing Comey

Part Six: Trump Exacerbates His Woes

About the Oleg Deripaska Reference in the Mueller Memo

As I promised in my general summary of the Mueller memo and my assertion that there are more memos from DAG Rosenstein authorizing expanded scope on Mueller’s investigation, I want to comment on the reference to Oleg Deripaska in the memo.

The memo, remember, ostensibly only needs to lay out how Mueller’s appointment “to investigate Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and related matters” authorizes him to prosecute a bunch of money laundering used to hide the fact that Paul Manafort was lobbying for the interests of the Party of Regions, the Russian backed effort to keep its favored oligarchs in power in Ukraine, when he was pretending to represent an independent entity.

But at the end of a long paragraph explaining how Rosenstein’s appointment order alone would justify that prosecution — because Manafort played a key role in Trump’s campaign, and because Manafort resigned after his extensive ties to Yanukovych were exposed — Mueller drops in a reference to “open source reporting” tying Manafort to Deripaska.

The Appointment Order itself readily encompasses Manafort’s charged conduct. First, his conduct falls within the scope of paragraph (b)(i) of the Appointment Order, which authorizes investigation of “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” The basis for coverage of Manafort’s crimes under that authority is readily apparent. Manafort joined the Trump campaign as convention manager in March 2016 and served as campaign chairman from May 2016 until his resignation in August 2016, after reports surfaced of his financial activities in Ukraine. He thus constituted an “individual associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” Appointment Order ¶ (b) and (b)(i). He was, in addition, an individual with long ties to a Russia-backed Ukrainian politician. See Indictment, Doc. 202, ¶¶ 1-6, 9 (noting that between 2006 and 2015, Manafort acted as an unregistered agent of Ukraine, its former President, Victor Yanukovych—who fled to Russia after popular protests—and Yanukovych’s political party). Open-source reporting also has described business arrangements between Manafort and “a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin.”8 [my emphasis]

There’s no explicit reference to Deripaska in Manafort’s indictment. The only public references to him in the Manafort prosecution I’m aware of are instead to Deripaska’s crony, Konstantin Kilimnik, laying out his efforts to spin the indictment in an op-ed in the Kyiv Post, which Mueller’s prosecutors argued was an attempt to skirt the gag rule in the case. There’s admittedly more detailed reference to Kilimnik — referred to as Person A — in the same team’s sentencing memo for Alex Van der Zwaan, including the assertion that,

[T]he lies and withholding of documents were material to the Special Counsel’s Office’s investigation. That Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016 was pertinent to the investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel’s Office assess that Person A has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016. During his first interview with the Special Counsel’s Office, van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU.2

2 Person A worked with Manafort and Gates in connection with their Ukraine lobbying work. Person A is a foreign national and was a close business colleague of Manafort and Gates. He worked in Ukraine at Manafort’s company Davis Manafort International, LLC (DMI). Up until mid-August 2016, Person A lived in Kiev and Moscow

But thus far, nothing specifically relating to Deripaska or Kilimnik has been charged, even while a different open source report describing Manafort’s offer to give private briefings to Deripaska via Kilimnik laid out a much closer tie between Deripaska and election tampering, and another open source report described FBI scrutiny of Kilimnik’s role in changing the GOP platform.

As noted, instead of referencing those more damning open source reports, Mueller instead points to the August 15, 2016 NYT article that precipitated Manafort’s resignation from the Trump campaign. The report, sourced to investigators in “Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau” laid out the secret ledgers showing that Manafort may have received $12.7 million in off-the-book payments for his consulting services that tampered with Ukraine’s electoral process.

The report goes on to lay out the general logic of the money laundering prosecution at issue — how Manafort’s money laundering prevented others from understanding how much he actually made for his services to Yanukovych and the Party of Regions.

Mr. Manafort never registered as a foreign agent with the United States Justice Department — as required of those seeking to influence American policy on behalf of foreign clients — although one of his subcontractors did.

It is unclear if Mr. Manafort’s activities necessitated registering. If they were limited to advising the Party of Regions in Ukraine, he probably would not have had to. But he also worked to burnish his client’s image in the West and helped Mr. Yanukovych’s administration draft a report defending its prosecution of his chief rival, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, in 2012.

Whatever the case, absent a registration — which requires disclosure of how much the registrant is being paid and by whom — Mr. Manafort’s compensation has remained a mystery.

From there, it turns to the Pericles Open Market fund that Manafort, Gates, and others got Deripaska to fund. The story doesn’t describe any direct tie between the secret ledgers at issue in the story and the Deripaska investments. Rather,the Deripaska lawsuit against Manafort made details of the fund available to Ukraine’s special prosecutor, who cited them as an example of how Yanukovych’s cronies laundered money.

In a recent interview, Serhiy V. Gorbatyuk, Ukraine’s special prosecutor for high-level corruption cases, pointed to an open file on his desk containing paperwork for one of the shell companies, Milltown Corporate Services Ltd., which played a central role in the state’s purchase of two oil derricks for $785 million, or about double what they were said to be worth.

“This,” he said, “was an offshore used often by Mr. Yanukovych’s entourage.”

[snip]

Mr. Deripaska agreed to commit as much as $100 million to Pericles so it could buy assets in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, including a regional cable television and communications company called Black Sea Cable. But corporate records and court filings show that it was hardly a straightforward transaction.

The Black Sea Cable assets were controlled by a rotating cast of offshore companies that led back to the Yanukovych network, including, at various times, Milltown Corporate Services and two other companies well known to law enforcement officials, Monohold A.G. and Intrahold A.G. Those two companies won inflated contracts with a state-run agricultural company, and also acquired a business center in Kiev with a helicopter pad on the roof that would ease Mr. Yanukovych’s commute from his country estate to the presidential offices.

The Deripaska reference in a memo describing why Mueller was authorized to prosecute Manafort for related (but not explicitly) money laundering would otherwise be a non-sequitur. Because it appears in an article that not only lays out the basis for the underlying charges, but does so in an article that had an impact on Manafort’s role in the campaign, it doesn’t seem so obviously tangential. Plus, it has the added benefit (unlike the open source reporting deriving from leaks from Congress or law enforcement) of being an on-the-record source from someone perfectly entitled to the talk to the press about Ukraine’s investigation into Manafort. This, then, was a legally permissible way to insert Deripaska into a filing where he otherwise might not have belonged.

Plus, that same open source report lays out that Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau can’t prosecute suspects, but instead has to rely on entities like the FBI — with which it has an evidence sharing agreement — to do so.

The bureau, whose government funding is mandated under American and European Union aid programs and which has an evidence-sharing agreement with the F.B.I., has investigatory powers but cannot indict suspects. Only if it passes its findings to prosecutors — which has not happened with Mr. Manafort — does a subject of its inquiry become part of a criminal case.

During Jim Comey’s March 20, 2017 testimony (which is cited explicitly in the Mueller memo to lay out the initial unclassified scope of the investigation), Jim Himes tried to get the then FBI Director to admit that DOJ had not responded to seven requests for MLAT assistance to secure Manafort’s cooperation in their inquiry.

HIMES: And the reason I bring all this up with you is because the story also says and it appears to have been confirmed by the Department of Justice that the current Ukraine regime, hardly a friend of the Russians. And very much targeted by the Russians has made seven requests to the United States government’s — the United States government for assistance under the MLA treaty in securing the assistance of Paul Manafort as part of this on anti-corruption case. And in fact, the story says that you were presented personally with a letter asking for that assistance.

So my question Director Comey is, is that all true? Have you been asked to provide assistance to the current Ukrainian government with respect to Paul Manafort? And how do you intend to respond to that request?

COMEY: It’s not something I can comment on. I can say generally, we have a very strong relationship and cooperation in the criminal and national security areas with our Ukrainian partners, but I can’t talk about the particular matter.

Comey, while not confirming the report, instead suggested that the FBI continued to cooperate closely with Ukraine on this issue — a strong suggestion that Ukraine ultimately had asked an entity that could take prosecutorial action to do so.

To sum up thus far: this reference to Deripaska is, to the best of my knowledge, the first explicit reference to him anywhere in the Manafort docket. It has no obvious place in a memo explaining why Mueller is authorized to prosecute Manafort for money laundering tied to the Party of Regions. But there it is, in the middle of a paragraph explaining why Manafort’s prosecution follows logically even from the original grant of authority, to say nothing of any unredacted or redacted bullet points explicitly including Manafort’s alleged and documented ties to Deripaska in the scope of Mueller’s authority. By including it in the memo, Mueller effectively includes Deripaska in the ongoing discussions of the things Judge Amy Berman Jackson will likely soon agree Mueller has the authority to prosecute.

It is, then, the most telling line in the entire memo, and the most clever. It uses the opportunity of this memo to pre-authorize where Mueller is going, without having to reveal what evidence Mueller is sitting on to go there.

Of course, where he’s going — to this oligarch and his crony’s role in Trump’s election — is very obviously tied to the case in chief, the Russian tampering in the US election.

Update: Later today Mueller’s team requested permission to file one of the exhibits from their filing — which given Judge Berman Jackson’s description has to be the Rosenstein memo — under seal. Which suggests they want him to know what else he’s being investigated for, which is probably the Deripaska stuff.

Alex Van Der Zwaan: “Gone Native”

Tomorrow, Alex Van der Zwaan, the former Skadden associate who unsuccessfully attempted to hide ongoing conversations between him, Rick Gates, Konstantin Kilimnik, and (presumably) Greg Craig that took place in September and October 2016 will be sentenced. The government is seeking prison time, his lawyers are seeking probation (in part to keep him out of our nightmarish deportation process).

In advance of the sentencing (and today’s filing explaining how all this is authorized under the Special Counsel mandate Rod Rosenstein gave to Mueller), I wanted to lay out a few more details revealed by the public documents in this case, including the prosecution and defense arguments on sentencing.

Taken together, the documents reveal a few interesting wrinkles.

First, the defense argues that Van der Zwaan didn’t hide the communications he had with Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik in fall 2016 to hide the ongoing relationship Trump’s onetime campaign manager had with someone the FBI still believed had ties to GRU, the Russian intelligence agency behind the hack-and-leak of the DNC emails. Rather, his defense lawyers claim Van der Zwaan hid those things (or rather, attempted to hide them, using means it’s shocking a lawyer would believe might work) because he didn’t want to reveal to the Skadden lawyers who represented him in his first interview with Mueller’s team that he had recorded his conversations in that time period with Greg Craig.

He knew it was improper to have recorded his conversation with the Skadden senior partner; indeed, he understood that he could be fired for having done so. He also knew that a truthful disclosure about his September 2016 calls with Gates and Person A would almost inevitably lead to questioning that could quickly get to the existence of the recordings. During the interview, Alex was keenly aware that he was not speaking only to OSC. Alex was represented by Skadden lawyers, and anything he shared with the OSC would simultaneously be heard by Skadden. In his mind, his boss was listening to every word.

The explanation is unconvincing (so is his lawyers’ claim that Van der Zwaan couldn’t read the Ukrainian document he received). After all, Craig knew (and presumably has also told Mueller’s team unless he’s at legal jeopardy himself) of some of those emails. So Van der Zwaan was bound to be asked the same kinds of questions in any case. Which he was. Which is how he came to confess to making the recordings (and keeping his own notes) in the first place.

It’s not entirely clear why he made that recording. The defense filing claims he didn’t tell anyone about them. But given another detail laid out by all this paperwork, I at least wonder whether he intended to share it with Gates or Kilimnik.

Consider the “going native” claim made about Van der Zwaan by an unnamed witness (who might be Greg Craig).

Yet, although he had been instructed not to share advance copies of the report with the public relations firm retained by the Government of Ukraine, van der Zwaan had, in the words of one witness, “gone native”—that is, he had grown too close to Manafort, Gates, and Person A.

While we knew that Van der Zwaan had shared the Skadden report with Gates and Kilimnik back in 2012, in direct violation of Skadden’s wishes, the defense filing reveals another key detail. In 2012, either while he was moonlighting while being paid by Skadden to help Manafort, Gates, and Kilimnik spin the Skadden report to make the prosecution of Tymoshenko look kosher or just after, Van der Zwaan was talking about working for Manafort and Gates.

That’s another good reason to hide all this: Van der Zwaan was ignoring Skadden Arps instructions at a time when he was considering a job with Gates and Manafort, who weren’t technically the client, but who were laundering the money to pay Skadden with.

Finally, while I don’t make as much of the tie between Van der Zwaan and his father-in-law, Alfa Bank founder German Khan, as others do, the defense filing provides more details on when Van der Zwaan joined the family. He and Eva Khan first met in “spring” 2016; elsewhere that gets described as a year before their marriage, which took place in June 2017.

Which is to say, the entirety of Van der Zwaan’s relationship with the Khan family has taken place during the Russian operation and attempt to cover up the tampering in the US election.

Just for fun: Back in 2008, American diplomats passed on complaints about Khan’s heavy-handedness in the operations of BP Russia, including the anecdote that Khan said he considers The Godfather to be his “manual for life.”

At dinner that evening, Khan had told a stunned Summers that The Godfather was his favorite movie, that he watched it every few months, and that he considered it a “manual for life.”

There’s actually no reason to believe that Van der Zwaan would have become a valuable enough resource that Khan would marry off his daughter to him, Godfather like.

But Van der Zwaan’s behavior in 2016 may make better sense considering the full context of that “going native” comment.

Update: I see from Zoe Tillman’s coverage of Van der Zwaan’s sentencing (where he was given a month in jail) that his lawyers fibbed a bit when they said his second grand jury appearance was entirely voluntary.

[Andrew] Weissmann refuted the idea that van der Zwaan voluntarily came back to tell the truth, saying he had been served with a grand jury subpoena after his first meeting in November 2017 and would have been required to return to the United States anyway.


2012: Van der Zwaan working on Tymoshenko report in facilitating role

July to early August 2012: Van der Zwaan provides unauthorized copy of Skadden report on Yulia Tymoshenko to PR firm engaged by Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice

September 2012: Van der Zwaan provides Rick Gates talking points to spin Skadden report

2012-2013: Van der Zwaan conducts discussions over Gmail about working directly for Gates and Manafort; these were among the other materials Van der Zwaan attempted to destroy in advance of his Mueller interview

2014: Eva Khan moves to London to study art (she is 11 years younger than Van der Zwaan)

Spring 2016: Van der Zwaan and Eva Khan meet

September 2016: First public allegations of spam traffic between Trump marketing account and Alfa bank

September and October 2016:

Rick Gates contacts Van der Zwaan, urges him to contact Kliminik and sends him a document in Ukrainian

September 12, 2016: Van der Zwaan emails Konstantin Kilimnik, who asks him to contact him on Telegraph or WhatsApp

Van der Zwaan reports this to (presumably) Greg Craig

Van der Zwaan reports back to Gates

[These communications continue as a series]

January 2017: Paul Manafort provides Trump a strategy to rebut the Russian investigation by discrediting the Steele dossier

January 2017: Brian Benczkowski leaves transition team and returns to Kirkland & Ellis

March to May 2017: Pending Assistant Attorney General nominee Brian Benczkowski advises Alfa Bank on lawsuit against Buzzfeed

April 2017: Jeff Sessions asks Benczkowski if he wants to be AAG for Criminal Division

May 26, 2017: After months of consultation with Alfa Bank (and German Khan by name) sue Buzzfeed over the Steele dossier

June 2017: Van der Zwaan and Khan married; she applies for permanent residency as his spouse

Prior to November 3, 2017: Van der Zwaan gives Skadden his laptop from the 2012 time frame

October 3, 2017: Alfa Bank lawsuit is moved to federal jurisdiction

November 3, 2017: Van der Zwaan participates in eight hour voluntary interview, represented by Skadden Arps lawyers; during that interview, FBI confronts him with an email he withheld from Skadden’s discovery

November 16, 2017: Van der Zwaan returns to the US

November 17, 2017: Van der Zwaan surrenders his passport to the FBI and retains new counsel (this is probably when Skadden fired him)

November 29, 2017: Kilimnik emails Manafort for review of purportedly exonerating op-ed

December 1, 2017: Van der Zwaan’s second interview with FBI

February 14, 2018: Van der Zwaan agrees to plea deal

February 20, 2018: Van der Zwaan pleads guilty

February 23, 2018: Gates pleads guilty

May 2018: Date Van der Zwaan would have made partner

August 2018: Due date of Van der Zwaan son