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The Men Disputing Cassidy Hutchinson’s Retelling of Trump’s SUV Lunge Got Warnings about Plans to Flood the Capitol

Since Cassidy Hutchinson’s startling testimony on Tuesday, credulous journalists have reported anonymous sources pushing back against one of her most dramatic stories: that when told he was not going to the Capitol on January 6, Donald Trump lunged towards the steering wheel of the SUV taking him back to the White House and then went after the clavicle of the head of his detail, Bobby Engel.

On top of being anonymous, the pushback never disputed Hutchinson’s claim: that she was told this story by Tony Ornato, the Secret Service Officer that Trump elevated into an important political position at the White House, Deputy Chief of Staff, in front of Engel, who did not dispute the story. Plus, Alyssa Farrah has described that Ornato, in the past, has disputed things she said under oath (about Trump’s stunt in Lafayette Square), without himself going under oath.

Nevertheless, that anonymous pushback has distracted from a far more alarming detail in Tuesday’s testimony that Ornato and Engel have not disputed, neither on or off the record: that they got warnings about plans to occupy buildings in DC and, implicitly, warnings about Proud Boy involvement.

That revelation came just before Hutchinson affirmed a detail I’ve been almost alone in reporting for over a year: Not just Roger Stone, but also Rudy Giuliani, had links to the Proud Boys.

Cheney: US Secret Service was looking at similar information and watching the planned demonstrations. In fact, their Intelligence Division sent several emails to White House personnel, like Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato and the head of the President’s protective detail Robert Engel, including certain materials listing events like those on the screen.

Cheney: The White House continued to receive updates about planned demonstrations, including information regarding the Proud Boys organizing and planning to attend events on January 6. Although Ms. Hutchinson has no detailed knowledge of any planning involving the Proud Boys for January 6, she did note this:

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Hutchinson: I recall hearing the word[s], “Oath Keeper,” hearing the word[s], “Proud Boys,” closer to the planning of the January 6 rally when Mr. Giuliani would be around.

The reference to Ornato and Engel is among the first in Tuesday’s hearing: while Cheney had previewed Hutchinson’s interactions with Ornato and the Secret Service in her introduction, this reference was the first substantive description of Ornato’s activities. That description, as well as Hutchinson’s explanation of how she told Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien that Ornato had had a conversation with Mark Meadows about the warnings of violence, came even before Cheney cued Hutchinson to explain what an important role the Deputy Chief of Staff played.

Some time later, the hearing revealed texts between Hutchinson and Ornato reflecting the latter’s awareness that Trump’s supporters were trying to avoid the metal detectors.

Importantly, Cheney mentioned something about this text exchange that doesn’t appear in the texts shown on the screen: a discussion between the two of them — Hutchinson and Ornato — about an “OTR,” an “off the record” movement to get Trump to the Capitol. The Committee appears to be withholding precisely what those texts say — involving Trump personally, and so colorably covered under Executive Privilege.

That may not be the only thing the Committee withheld from its presentation: note in my transcription above that Cheney doesn’t say Ornato and Engel received the warnings that were flashed on the screen. She says they received, “certain materials listing events like those on the screen.” [my emphasis] Particularly given the reports that the Committee met in a secure facility in advance of this hearing, that phrasing could allow for other records, records too sensitive to show publicly, tying the Proud Boys to plans to occupy buildings on January 6.

The story of Trump lunging in the SUV is a distraction, and Ornato, a loyal Trumpster, is likely using his pushback to distract from far more damning details of Hutchinson’s testimony:

  • Both Engel and Ornato had warnings of plans to occupy buildings
  • Hutchinson linked Rudy Giuliani in advance of the attack to both militias that attacked the Capitol
  • Ornato discussed these warnings in advance with Mark Meadows, who pushed Hutchinson away twice during the early moments of the attack
  • In spite of foreknowledge of a plan to occupy buildings and the involvement of militias, Ornato nevertheless continued to plan to take Trump to the Capitol

Secret Service loyalists, for all their anonymous pushback, are denying none of these far more damning details, details that put them — and Meadows and Trump — in far more complicit position with respect to the attack.

Cassidy Hutchinson Proves that Trump Knew the Mob He Sicced on Mike Pence Was Armed

Cassidy Hutchinson just gave absolutely historic testimony implicating Donald Trump, Mark Meadows, and other in January 6. (My live tweet is here.) The woman is incredibly poised and courageous. Her testimony might help to turn the tide against Trumpism in this country.

But her testimony is not enough, yet, to charge Trump in January 6.

Without taking anything away from her dramatic testimony, I’d like to boil down what she said that will be useful in holding Trump accountable.

She only recently committed to delivering this testimony

The Committee announced Hutchinson’s testimony just yesterday, less than 24-hours before her testimony, in spite of the fact that she had already sat for three interviews with the committee, as well as a fourth quite recently. The decision to testify was so recent that members of the Committee had to fly back from their recess to attend.

A key reason she was willing to testify more forthrightly, it seems clear, is she recently (earlier this month) replaced her lawyer from a Trump loyalist to Jody Hunt. Hunt, once Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Chief of Staff, is still a conservative Republican, but he has spent years holding up principle against Trump.

Particularly given his ties to the department, it’s likely that Hunt will happily guide Hutchinson to share this testimony with DOJ.

For those asking why DOJ didn’t have this testimony earlier, the answer is simple: It has taken a process for Hutchinson to get here.

She is a firsthand witness to important details

A number of things Hutchinson said are damning direct evidence against Trump or others. But it’s important to break that down, because while all of it would be admissible in a conspiracy, not all of it would be admissible against Trump.

  • In a conversation on January 2, Giuliani told Hutchinson Trump was going to go to the Capitol; when she asked Meadows about this, he said “things might get real bad on the Sixth.” This implicates both Rudy and Meadows in foreknowledge, though not Trump directly.
  • Hutchinson provided evidence that there was intelligence warning of violence (and that John Ratcliffe knew about it); she did not say — though it’s likely — that Meadows and Trump had the same awareness.
  • Hutchinson described that there were mentions of militia in advance in discussions implicating Rudy in advance of the insurrection. These would need to be more specific to be worthwhile evidence, but she may be able to point DOJ to where to get more specifics.
  • Hutchinson described advance knowledge of Trump supporters bringing weapons both in advance of January 6 and that day. Hutchinson specifically said that Meadows did not act on these warnings. She also made it clear that Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato had spoken to the President about the weapons, but she did not say she knew what happened in that conversation.
  • Hutchinson’s testimony on a really critical point includes some ambiguity. In conversations at the White House and then later at the rally, Trump saw the crowd on January 6 and was furious more of his supporters weren’t inside the arena. He was aware many supporters were staying outside the arena because they didn’t want to go through the magnetometers because they had weapons. He asked to ditch the magnetometers because “they weren’t there to hurt him.” This detail is most important because it reflect knowledge on Trump’s part they were armed, before he riled them up and sent them to the Capitol. But in a trial, he would excuse letting them into the rally itself by pointing to his long-standing crowd narcissism, exhibited most famously at his inauguration.
  • Some of Hutchinson’s most damning testimony involved his insistence on going to the Capitol. Some of this — the most damning, her description of how he lunged at his Secret Service detail when he refused to take Trump to the Capitol — was second-hand. It would require Ornato or Trump Secret Service Agent in Charge Bobby Engel to present that in a trial. Plus, Trump would offer less incriminating explanations for why he wanted to go to the Capitol. Hutchinson mentioned he wanted to enter the chamber, though, which should be developed more (because he would require an invitation). The Secret Service is now pushing back on this.
  • During the rally at the Ellipse, Mark Meadows twice pushed Hutchinson away when she was trying to warn him of violence at the Capitol. This squandered 20-25 minutes in which he might have responded to the initial violence, but since he did nothing for hours anyway, it made little difference. It does, however, reflect Meadows’ own disinterest in protecting the country.
  • Hutchinson’s description of efforts to keep belligerent language out of Trump’s speech reflects on Pat Cipollone’s foreknowledge of Trump’s criminal exposure, but probably would require Cipollone’s testimony to be admissible against Trump. Hutchinson described Cipollone’s legal concerns about going to the Capitol, as well, but not necessarily that he explained that to Trump.
  • Hutchinson alluded to discussions involving Mark Meadows, Rudy, and Scott Perry about what they would have done if Trump had made it to the Capitol, but she explicitly said she wasn’t sure which of those plans were shared with Trump.
  • At Trump’s request, Mark Meadows remained in the loop with Mike Flynn and Roger Stone on January 5 which may help implicate Meadows in the militia planning; Hutchinson discouraged Meadows from attending the War Room at the Willard in person, but he did call in.
  • After the attack started Hutchinson described, Meadows telling Cipollone that “he doesn’t want to do anything,” suggesting the President didn’t want to respond at all to the Capitol attack. But that would require testimony from one or both of them to clarify the meaning.
  • Perhaps the most damning part of her testimony described that Meadows and Cipollone were in the Oval with Trump discussing the hang Mike Pence chants just before Trump put up the 2:24 tweet claiming Pence hadn’t shown courage. It’s in that conversation where Trump said, “Mike deserves it.” This goes a long way to proving the deliberate effort by Trump to put Pence at more risk. But DOJ would need another witness and/or some corroboration for the timeline to place the “Mike deserves it” comment to just before Trump sent the tweet.
  • The Committee presented some of the calls from others, including Ivanka, for Trump to call off the rioters; Hutchinson’s testimony will be one part of the evidence that Trump did nothing during the attack (though Meadows’ comment that “Trump didn’t want to do anything” may be more important to show affirmative refusal, but DOJ would need to get Meadows’ testimony on that point).
  • Hutchinson also testified that both Rudy and Meadows wanted a pardon after January 6, which implicates them, but not Trump.

Hutchinson may lead to or force the testimony of others

Whether it happens with the January 6 Committee or DOJ, Hutchinson’s is the kind of testimony that might identify witnesses who would cooperate with DOJ or against whom Hutchinson’s testimony could be used to coerce cooperation.

For example, there’s a greater (Cipollone) or lesser (Kevin McCarthy) that her testimony will embarrass or otherwise convince other witnesses to cooperate with the Committee.

Her testimony identified other White House staffers who were also witnesses to Trump’s demands that the Secret Service ditch the magnetometers or that he go to the Capitol, who would make key witnesses for DOJ.

If Ornato and Trump’s Secret Service detail have been unwilling to testify, this may make it easier to obtain their testimony.

Hutchinson’s testimony tied Rudy to the militias in advance. She also established Rudy’s foreknowledge of a plan to go to the Capitol. These might be really important details implicating Rudy (plus she was witness to some of his earlier efforts to sow the Big Lie.

Her testimony tied Meadows into the plotting at the Willard (on Trump’s orders). And she otherwise depicted Meadows as taking no action because Trump didn’t want to. The case against Meadows would/will need to be far more robust, but having testified against him publicly, she’s likely to be able to offer DOJ far more.

Liz Cheney raised witness tampering in this hearing, without naming names. It’s quite possible Hutchinson has firsthand knowledge of that.

Trump sicced a mob he knew to be armed on his Vice President

To sum up, the most important pieces of testimony show that Trump knew well a significant number of the people at his rally were armed. And after siccing them on his Vice President (and trying to join them), instead of calling them off, he instead further incited violence against Pence, claiming at the moment he did so that they were right to attack Pence.

House January 6 Committee: Public Hearings – Day 6

This post and comment thread are dedicated to the House January 6 Committee hearings scheduled to begin Tuesday June 28, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

This hearing has been convened on short notice issued yesterday afternoon.

Please take all comments unrelated to the hearings to a different thread.

The hearings will stream on:

House J6 Committee’s website: https://january6th.house.gov/news/watch-live

House J6 Committee’s YouTube page: https://youtu.be/HeQNV-aQ_jU

C-SPAN’s House J6 hearing page: https://www.c-span.org/video/?521387-1/sixth-hearing-investigation-capitol-attack

C-SPAN’s YouTube page: https://youtu.be/hSNBe-Wt6Q4

Check PBS for your local affiliate’s stream: https://www.pbs.org/ (see upper right corner)

Twitter is carrying multiple live streams (NBC, PBS, Washington Post, Reuters, CSPAN, Bloomberg): https://twitter.com/i/events/1541478015770603520

Broadcast and cable network coverage TBD.

Twitter accounts live tweeting the hearing:

Marcy’s Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1541829534248566784

Brandi Buchman-DailyKos: https://twitter.com/Brandi_Buchman/status/1541826101588140034

Scott MacFarlane-CBS: https://twitter.com/MacFarlaneNews/status/1541825113938616321

Laura Rozen: https://twitter.com/lrozen/status/1541829799169122308

Chris Geidner: https://twitter.com/chrisgeidner/status/1541841253939253253

If you know of any other credible source tweeting the coverage, please share a link in comments.

The witness scheduled for today’s hearing is:

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows

Hutchinson will appear today before the committee to “present recently obtained evidence and receive witness testimony” and out of concerns for her physical safety, according to Punchbowl News’ newsletter.

Hutchinson also recently changed legal representation. Her lawyer had been Stefan Passantino who was connected to Trump; he has been replaced with Jody Hunt who in turn is connected to the Trump administration’s first attorney general, former senator Jeff Sessions. Hutchinson is reported to have become more cooperative with the committee once she changed attorneys.

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Any updates will appear at the bottom of this post; please bear with any content burps as this page may be edited as the day progresses.

Again, this post is dedicated to the House January 6 Committee  and topics addressed in testimony and evidence produced during the hearing.

All other discussion should be in threads under the appropriate post with open discussion under the most recent Trash Talk.

To new readers and commenters: welcome to emptywheel. New commenters, please use a unique name to differentiate yourself; use the same username each time you comment.

Comment policy

Community guidelines

If you are leaving a comment, please be concise; 100 words is the optimum length.

If you are sharing active links your comment may be delayed by auto-moderation.

If contributors and moderators seem slow, it’s because they’re dealing with higher than usual volume of comments including trolling.

Caution: moderators will have much lower tolerance for trolling.

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Side note:

According to Fox News’ Pergram in the Twitter thread above, Stenger had cancer.

Do note Stenger’s death has set off a lot of right-wing conspiracy trolling.

Jeffrey Clark: Physics Takes Over the Investigation Now

Last Thursday was an exciting day for those who have doubted Merrick Garland’s DOJ was really investigating top officials for matters pertaining to January 6.

Not only did multiple outlets describe Republicans involved in the fake elector scheme receiving subpoenas or even, in at least three cases, search warrants for their devices, but Jeffrey Clark’s home in Virginia was also searched on Wednesday. As part of that, according to the hysterical account Clark gave on Tucker Carlson, whatever agency did the search used an electronics sniffing dog and seized all the electronics in the house.

And that makes it a really good time to talk some more about how investigations work in the era of encrypted applications. It’s likely to be months — likely at least six months — until anything comes out of last week’s seizures.

The reason has to do with physics (and law).

We can be fairly certain that Clark — and probably some of the fake electors on whom warrants were served — used Signal or other encrypted apps. That’s because Mark Meadows and Scott Perry were conducting some of this conspiracy over Signal too, as was made clear in a slide in Thursday’s hearing.

Indeed, one reason Clark may have been raided is because he makes an easier target, for now, than Meadows or the Members of Congress who were involved. All of Clark’s communications directly with then President Trump bypassed DOJ’s contact guidelines and most can be shown to be part of a plot to overturn the election, whereas many of Meadows’ communications will be protected by Executive Privilege and Perry’s by Speech and Debate (though as I keep repeating, DOJ will be able to piggyback off the privilege review that the January 6 Committee has done).

To obtain Signal conversations that haven’t been saved to the cloud, one needs at least one of the phones that was involved in the conversation. That assumes the texts were not deleted. In the James Wolfe investigation, the FBI demonstrated some ability to recover deleted Signal texts, but in the Oath Keeper investigation, their Signal deletions forced investigators to seize a whole bunch of phones to reconstruct all parts of the communications.

By law, the government should have some of these Signal texts accessible. Under the Presidential Records Act, Mark Meadows had a legal obligation to share any such texts with the Archives. But because he replaced his phone in the months after the insurrection, at a time he knew of the criminal investigation, he may not have been able to comply. If DOJ can prove that he deleted Signal texts, he might be on the hook for obstructing the DOJ investigation.

So one thing DOJ may have been trying to do, by seizing the phones of at least four players in the fake electors plot on the same day, was to obtain phones sufficient to reconstruct any Signal threads about the plot. Those served subpoenas, both in this and an earlier round of subpoenas, will have to turn over Signal texts too, if they meet the terms of the subpoena. If DOJ were trying to reach the far higher bar of obtaining a warrant against someone protected by Speech and Debate or other privileges — like Perry — they likely would need to use such threads to meet that higher bar.

So back to the physics.

The table below shows how the investigations into a number of high profile investigative subjects have proceeded. While there are exceptions (investigations where the FBI has some excuse or urgency to conduct an interview, as with Mike Flynn and George Papadopoulos, are different), investigators often first obtain readily accessible cloud content with a gag order, then use the information from a person’s cloud content to obtain probable cause for a warrant to seize phones. Under that pattern, the phone seizure will alert a subject of an investigation to that investigation. In most cases (the first round of January 6 arrests and Roger Stone are exceptions, each for different reasons), the search of phones precedes any arrest by months if not years.

Whereas, during the Mueller investigation, the FBI could exploit phones in four months time, of late, it has been taking closer to six months to exploit cell phones, even without any kind of special review. Part of this delay is physics: if a person uses any kind of secure password, it takes the FBI time to crack that password (and still more time if someone uses additional security features, as Enrique Tarrio did). In many cases, the DOJ will have to use a filter team to exclude data that is somehow privileged; in all cases, DOJ will then do a scope review, ensuring that the investigative team only gets material responsive to the warrant. When a special review is required, such as the attorney-client privilege review for Rudy or the “journalistic” review for Project Veritas, that process can take much longer. Because DOJ will have to conduct a fairly exhaustive filter review for an attorney like Clark, it might take closer to nine months to exploit the devices seized last week.

This pattern suggests several things about the investigation into Jeffrey Clark (and the fake electors). First, DOJ likely obtained their first probable cause warrants against Clark and the fake electors months ago, probably pretty close to the time (though hopefully before) Lisa Monaco confirmed the investigation into the fake electors in January. In Clark’s case, an investigation may have come from a referral from DOJ IG. So contrary to what many outlets have reported, such as this example from James Risen at the Intercept, the searches of Clark and others are not proof that an investigation is beginning or that DOJ only recently established probable cause. Rather, they suggest DOJ has been investigating covertly for months, at least long enough to obtain probable cause that even more evidence exists on these phones.

But it’s also likely that it will take DOJ some months — until Christmas at least — to exploit Clark’s phone. This investigation will not move as quickly as you might think or hope that this point, and that’s partly dictated by the constraints of cracking a password — math and physics.

All that said, several prongs of an investigation that could implicate Trump may be much further on. As I’ll show in a follow-up (and as I’ve mentioned in the past), the investigation into Stop the Steal is undoubtedly much further on than people assume given Ali Alexander’s grand jury appearance last week. And the FBI has ways of getting content via the Archives, much as they obtained content from Trump’s transition from GSA, that bypass pattern laid out above.

What the government had to have been able to prove before it searched Clark and others last week was not just that that had probable cause against those subjects, but that the cloud content otherwise available to them showed that aspects of the crime were committed using materials only available on people’s phones, likely encrypted messaging apps.

Update: Several people have asked why there would be a privilege review for Clark’s phone, since he would have been a government attorney through January 6. I’m not certain there would be, but if a warrant covered the time since January 6 (which I think likely given what DOJ has done with warrants elsewhere), then any lawyering he has done since he left would be privileged.

Update: As noted in comments, also on Wednesday, the FBI seized John Eastman’s phone. The warrant is from DOJ IG, not DC USAO and bears a 2022 case number. DOJ IG opened an investigation into Clark in 2021, but perhaps something they saw in the Jan6 Committee hearings led to a new prong of the investigation, leading to this search? Given the squirreliness regarding what agency did the search of Eastman, I wonder if both these investigative steps were DOJ IG.

Background material

This annotated file shows the unsealed Mueller warrants, with labels for those warrants that have been identified.

This post shows how the Michael Cohen investigation started with Russian-related warrants in the Mueller investigation then moved to SDNY, including a crucial detail about preservation orders for Cohen’s Trump Organization emails served on Microsoft.

This post shows how the investigation into George Papadopoulos developed; his is the outlier here, in that overt actions took place closer to the beginning of the investigation — but in his case, DOJ used a series of informants against him to obtain information.

This post describes how Trump’s team only discovered Mueller had obtained transition devices three months after Mueller obtained them, via Mike Flynn’s statement of offense.

This post shows that the seizure of Roger Stone’s phones with his January 2019 arrest was just one step in an ongoing investigation.

This post uses the Michael Cohen example to explain how the Rudy investigation might work.

This post shows how the investigation into Project Veritas developed.

This post shows how it took almost an entire year to crack Enrique Tarrio’s password, with a filter team delaying access for another month.

This post describes how the sheer volume of Stewart Rhodes’ Signal texts delayed his arrest.

Forty Feet: Trump Sicced a Murder Weapon on Mike Pence

Harry Litman observed after yesterday’s January 6 Committee hearing that you might be able to charge Trump with the attempted murder of Mike Pence.

This was not new news yesterday though.

I reported on the DOJ and the Committee’s mutual focus on the targeting of Pence on January 5. In a piece that described that Marc Short had not yet agreed to cooperate and Pence might never cooperate, NYT reported on the same focus of DOJ filings days later. Though, as sometimes happens, NYT got the timeline wrong; Gina Bisignano swore to her focus on Pence in August (and has not reneged on that point even as she attempts to withdraw her guilty plea), and Josiah Colt described how he and two co-conspirators responded to news that Pence would not stop the vote count by breaching the Senate in July 2021, almost a year ago.

DOJ has been focused on the effect of Trump’s targeting of Pence for over a year. In fact, to substantiate the seriousness of the threat facing Pence that day, the Committee cited witness testimony that has been public since January 13, 2021, in Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola’s original arrest affidavit.

W-1 further stated that members of this group, which included “Spaz,” said that they would have killed [Vice President] Mike Pence if given the chance. According to W-1, the group said it would be returning on the “20th,” which your affiant takes to mean the Presidential Inauguration scheduled for January 20, 2021, and that they plan to kill every single “m-fer” they can.

The allegation actually doesn’t show up in the Proud Boy sedition indictment, though Proud Boy Matthew Greene’s plea allocution talked about how the militia swarmed the Capitol with the intent of adding pressure to Pence.

To be sure, yesterday’s hearing laid out the following additional pieces of proof that Trump was specifically targeting Pence:

  • Jason Miller and Greg Jacob’s description of Trump’s deliberate misrepresentation, overnight on January 5, falsely claiming Pence agreed with him about the vote count
  • Descriptions about Trump calling Pence on around 11 on January 6 and calling him a whimp and a pussy, a call that distressed Ivanka because, “It was a different tone than I’ve heard him take with the Vice President before”
  • Trump’s addition references to Mike Pence in his January 6 speech, both in the prepared script and ad-libbed along the way
  • Details from White House aides confirming that Mark Meadows had informed Trump about the violence at the Capitol and how, instead of a tweet calling for calm, Trump instead “pour[ed] gasoline on the fire” (as Former White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews described it) by calling out Pence again in a tweet at 2:24 the day of the insurrection
  • Greg Jacob’s testimony about tensions with the Secret Service about evacuating the Capitol
  • Marc Short’s description of conversations with Kevin McCarthy expressing frustration that Trump wasn’t taking the circumstances seriously
  • Reconfirmation that Trump never called Pence to check on the Vice President’s safety
  • Tracking of Jacob’s “Thanks to your bullshit we are now under siege,” to events at the Capitol

Committee member Congressperson Pete Aguilar explained that at the moment Pence was evacuated from his ceremonial office, he and the mob were just forty feet apart.

The Committee looked at the threat posed by the Proud Boys to Pence.

It doesn’t look at something far more substantive, though potentially far more complex. Immediately after Trump’s tweet, the Oath Keepers indictment describes communications between Roger Stone associate Kelly Meggs and Stewart Rhodes, followed by a conference call involving those two and operational lead Mike Simmons. The Oath Keepers converged, and then the first Stack and the second (made up of men who had been providing security to Roger Stone that morning) breached the East doors, along with Joe Biggs and the mob brought by Alex Jones.

Once inside, the first Stack broke up, with Meggs and others heading towards Speaker Pelosi’s office to hunt her down.

103. Shortly thereafter, WATKINS and other members ofStack One exited the Rotunda through the northbound hallway toward the Senate Chamber.

104. Around this time, a member of Stack One yelled “the fight’ s not over” and waved !rioters down the hallways toward the Senate Chamber.

105. At 2:45 p.m. and afterward, WATKINS and other Stack One members joined the imob in pushing against a line of law enforcement officers guarding the hallway connecting the Rotunda to the Senate Chamber, as WATKINS commanded those around her to “push, push, !push,” and to, “get in there, get in there,” while exclaiming, “they can’t hold us.” When officers responded by deploying a chemical spray, the mob-including WATKINS and other Stack One members-retreated.

106. At 2:45 p.m., MEGGS, HARRELSON, HACKETT, MOERSCHEL, and other Stack One members walked southbound out of the Rotunda and toward the House of Representatives in search of Speaker Pelosi. They did not find Speaker Pelosi.

The others attempted to get to the Senate, whence Mike Pence had, minutes earlier, been evacuated.

As I’ve noted, with the sedition indictments, DOJ also added 18 USC 372 charges, conspiracy “to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person … from discharging any duties thereof.”

DOJ may never show that Trump and the mob he sicced on his Vice President conspired to kill him, or even that Trump’s 2:24PM tweet aided and abetted the attempts to find and assassinate Pence — though the judge presiding over the Oath Keepers case has deemed the possibility Trump could be held accountable for aiding and abetting to be plausible, at least for a lower civil standard. But there’s little doubt that Trump, his lawyers, two militias, and the mob entered into a common effort to prevent Pence from doing his duty that day. And with the militias, you can draw a line between Trump, his rat-fucker, Alex Jones, and the men at the Capitol to the threat and intimidation Trump sicced on his Vice President.

Junkets In Lieu of Investigation: John Durham Charged Ivan Danchenko without Ever Interviewing George Papdopoulos about Sergei Millian

Recently, Roger Stone invited George Papadopoulos onto his show to talk about how, even though Michael Sussmann was acquitted, it’s still proof of a grand conspiracy involving Hillary Clinton.

Stone invited Papadopulos to talk about how Durham and Billy Barr chased Papadopoulos’ conspiracy theories to Italy, which both the Rat-Fucker and the Coffee Boy seemed to take as proof that those conspiracies were true, even though Barr has publicly stated there was no there there.

The biggest news from Mr. Durham’s probe is what he has ruled out. Mr. Barr was initially suspicious that agents had been spying on the Trump campaign before the official July 2016 start date of Crossfire Hurricane, and that the Central Intelligence Agency or foreign intelligence had played a role. But even prior to naming Mr. Durham special counsel, Mr. Barr had come to the conclusion that he didn’t “see any sign of improper CIA activity” or “foreign government activity before July 2016,” he says. “The CIA stayed in its lane.”

Seemingly in hopes of finding details that Durham was ignoring, Stone asked Papadopoulos whether Durham had ever spoken to the Coffee Boy. Papadopoulos babbled for some time about his House testimony, then Stone followed up to get him to state that, no, Durham had never spoken to him.

Never.

Stone: You make a very good point. The fact that the Attorney General was on the trip means that he knows the origins of the Russian collusion fraud far earlier than other people realize. George, have you specifically met with either John Durham or representatives of his office to tell them what you know?

Papadopoulos: So, that’s a good question. In 2018, I was one of five witnesses who was invited by–under oath, behind closed doors–in front of the House Oversight Committee. And the other four witnesses, besides myself, were Rod Rosenstein, Sally Yates, uh, Jim Comey, and Loretta Lynch. Now, back in 2018, and there’s a Washington Post article, I think it’s called “Papadopoulos and Rosenstein about to testify behind closed doors,” back in 2018, people were scratching their heads, why on earth is George Papadopoulos one of four, one of five witnesses who is going to testify to both John Ratcliffe and Mark Meadows. Back then, obviously, before Mark Meadows was Chief of Staff at the White House and Ratcliffe was the head of DNI, they were Congressmen. They were in charge of the House Oversight Committee. During that testimony back then, both of those individuals who later served in senior White House, uh, Administrative capacities were asking me questions about wiretaps. They were asking me if I was being monitored while I was in Europe. They were asking me whether my lawyers were ever given so-called exculpatory information about any of, about Joseph Mifsud, any of these other type of operatives, both domestic and foreign. And I basically let them know, under oath, that I’m telling you. How I met him, what my background was, why I believe there was this target on my back, why I think it followed me all the way from the beginning, all the way until the summer of 2017, where they were, the FBI was trying to set me up while I was in Israel with this other bizarre exchange that I had, that I talk about in my book. So that testimony, I believe, was used with the Durham team, to help get this entire thing started, that’s how Durham and Barr flew to both to Rome, to talk to Italian intelligence services — not the FBI — to learn about Mifsud, and I believe — that’s why NBC has also been quoted as saying that Western intelligence officials have gone on the record and stated that it’s Papadopoulos’ breadcrumbs, if you want to call it that, that have led to Durham’s real conspiracy case that he’s trying to uh–

Stone: So, but to go to my direct question, have you had any direct contact with Durham or his office, or your attorneys?

Papadopoulos: No, I haven’t. No no no, no I haven’t. But my understanding is that that testimony, 2018, was used by the Durham, that’s my understanding.

This is fairly shocking — and damning news.

Papadopoulos’ testimony was not only not under oath (though committee staffers admonished the sworn liar not to do it to them), but it was a shitshow.

I’ve cataloged all the ways it was a shitshow below. But the fact that Billy Barr and Johnny D jumped on a plane together for their junket to Rome based off such a shitshow matters for two reasons.

First, it shows that they did no vetting of the conspiracy theories the Coffee Boy repeated in the hearing — which as I show below were really just rewarmed conspiracy theories parroted by John Solomon and Chuck Ross — before hopping on a plane for their junket. Importantly, one of those conspiracy theories was spread by Joseph Mifsud attorney Stephen Roh, who himself is suspected of sketchy ties to Russia.

The other reason it matters is because Durham’s Igor Danchenko prosecution treats Danchenko, whom the FBI found credible in 2017 and afterwards, as less credible than Sergei Millian. But George Papadopoulos, whose testimony Durham considered sufficiently credible to hop on a flight to Rome for, described Millian — in the context of details about his offer to hire him so long as he also worked in the Administration — as “a very shady kind of person.”

Q I guess there’s just one follow-up, because you said some kind of consultancy work for some — someone that Sergei Millian knew in Russia. What would have been the nature of that work? Like, what topic would the work have been on?

A My current understanding — and this is what I think it is, because this is a very shady kind of person — was that it was a former minister of some sort who had money and wanted to do PR work. But then, of course, we met in Chicago, and I felt that, you know, he was — I don’t know. I just felt that when he proposed this deal to me face-to-face that he might have been wearing some sort of wire. And he was acting very bizarre. And I don’t know what that was. Maybe I’m a paranoid person. But there were certain other events regarding Sergei Millian that made — that make me believe that he might have actually been working with the FBI.

Durham shouldn’t be able to have it both ways. If Papadopoulos’ testimony was deemed sufficiently credible, without any more vetting, to justify a taxpayer-paid trip to Rome, then his judgment that Millian is a “very shady person” the likes of whom might lie about a call with Igor Danchenko, then Durham should not rely on Millian’s unsworn Twitter ramblings for four charges against Danchenko.

In short, the fact that Durham hasn’t interviewed Papadopoulos at all, either before or after the junket, is yet more proof that Durham is hesitant to test any of his conspiracy theories with actual investigative work.


Catalog of Coffee Boy Testimony Shitshowery

One key piece of proof that Papadopoulos’ testimony before the Oversight Committee was a shitshow designed to elicit conspiracy theories about Mueller’s investigation rather than useful information is that the committee didn’t ask him for any emails or other records in advance — emails that Papadopoulos had earlier withheld from SSCI, with which request he only partly complied in 2019. Papadopoulos told the committee on at least 18 occasions he had emails or other records that would allow him to answer their questions — about when he joined the campaign, his communications with Olga Polanskaya, Joseph Mifsud, and Ivan Timofeev, his communications with Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Mike Flynn, KT McFarland, and Walid Phares, his communications with Sergei Millian, his meetings with Stefan Halper, his interactions with suspect Israelis — accurately, but that he couldn’t without those records. [Note the last several of these are out of order because I just kept finding more examples.]

1. Mr. Breitenbach. Is there any paperwork that you might have indicating when you actually began on the Trump campaign?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I believe we might have, we might have those emails.

Ms. Polisi. We have emails. We don’t have any official documentation.

Mr. Papadopoulos. I mean, if the emails would suffice, I think we have emails suggesting that I would be joining the campaign on this day, or Sam Clovis was telling me you’re on board, good job, or something like that.

[snip]

2. And I remember I even — where I’m going at is I don’t think I was talking to the same person [Olga Polanskaya]. That’s what I’m trying to say.

Q When you say talking?

A I mean writing back and forth.

Q By email? By text?

A Email. Email. And I remember there was even a point I messaged this person on Skype. And I said, are you the same person that I met a couple months ago or so? You know, it was just very odd. I think I, you know, I wrote that to her on Skype. Nevertheless, I think we could provide these emails of my interactions with this individual and Joseph Mifsud. What it seems was going on was that Mifsud was using her as some sort of Russian face or person.

[snip]

3. I could get into the details about what was going on with [Ivan Timofeev] or however —

Q Sure. A So I saw him as potentially the person that could, you know, introduce not only me, but the campaign to the people in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then act as the key point man for this potential Trump-Putin submit. We exchanged emails. We could provide those emails to you.

[snip]

4. Q Did you arrange for anyone else to travel to Russia? Let’s just keep it specifically —

A Yeah.

Q — based on your contacts with Mifsud at this point.

A Yes. I reached out directly to Paul Manafort, you know, and Corey Lewandowski and the top — the heads of the campaign, and openly told them I’m trying to arrange this. I mean, they were fully aware of what I was doing. This is all in emails. I’m not sure if you have those emails. I’m happy to provide them to you. That I’m trying to set up this meeting. Are we interested or are we not interested.

[snip]

5. Mr. Meadows. Are you indicating that there are some things that were reported that are not accurate?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s a kind way to say it. Okay. Let’s go back to April. I can’t remember exact dates in April, but April, and maybe we can send emails and when could corroborate certain things. I’m in talks with an Israeli diplomat named Christian Cantor, who was introduced to me through, I guess a friend at the Israeli embassy in D.C. named Dore Shapiro, who was an economic counselor. And you have to remember I was very connected to Israel and what was going on. So that was my network.

[snip]

6. Q So how often was that, would you say? Like how often would you be sending an email? I mean, I know it’s a rough estimate, but —

A It depends on the timing. I mean, there was a point where it was very frequent, and then I took a pause, then started up again. I can’t give a number. I really can’t. But there’s a lot of emails, and those are all documented.

Q Okay. So when the transition started, you said that you became introduced to Michael Flynn and K.T. McFarland.

A Over email.

Q Over email.

[snip]

7. Q And what was that project that you were discussing with Sergei Millian?

A Well, this — I never properly understood exactly what we were talking about. I believe I was asking him for a contract. And I have to go back, and I could share notes later on, but I — just giving off my current memory, that he wanted to do some sort of PR or consultancy for a friend of his or somebody that he knew in Russia. And I believe the terms of the agreement would have been $30,000 a month and some sort of office space and in New York. But then I felt that he wasn’t who he seemed to be and that he was working on behalf of somebody else when he was proposing this to me. And — I mean, we could get into that.

[snip]

8. Q With regard to Olga, you mentioned that she discussed sanctions with you in your correspondence. Does that ring a bell?

A I believe she did over email.

Q And what was the position on sanctions that she expressed over email?

A I can’t remember exactly, but we are happy to share them with — we have those emails in case you don’t. And are more than happy to share them with you.

[snip]

9. Q Did [Timofeev] correspond with you about any geopolitical issues in email?

A We certainly exchanged some emails. I can’t remember exactly what’s in those emails, but I’m more than happy to provide them to the committee.

[snip]

10 and 11. Q I’d also like to ask you about some of the communications that you referenced earlier with Trump campaign officials. You said earlier that you provided notes on President Trump’s — then candidate Trump’s big foreign policy speech to Stephen Miller?

A Yes.

Q What was the substance of those comments?

A I can’t remember but I’m more than happy to share them, because it is all in an email form.

Q And you said that you communicated with Steve Bannon by email as well. Is that right?

A Yes.

Q Would you be —

A Email and a couple of phone calls. What was that?

Q Would you be willing to share those emails with Steve Bannon with us as well?

A I’m more than happy to share whatever emails I have with the campaign with the committee.

[snip]

12. Q You mentioned a number of emails where both of you would have been copied. Did you and Mr. Phares have any direct communication just the two of you?

A We met face to face at the TAG Summit. And then we obviously met at the March 31st meeting. And I can’t remember if we met another time in person or not. But we certainly were in correspondence for months over email.

Q Did you discuss your efforts to set up the Putin-Trump meeting with Mr. Phares?

A I’m not sure he was copied on those particular emails, but I could send whatever emails I have with him to the committee. It’s fine with me.

[snip]

13. Q Did you reach out to anyone on the Trump campaign that day?

A That particular day? Like, I think, Steve Bannon, you know, just to say we did it or something like that. I can’t — like I said, I could provide all these emails, I just don’t know. I really can’t remember exactly what I did on that specific day.

[snip]

14. A Sergei Millian reached out to me out of the blue on LinkedIn around sometime in late July 2016. I can’t remember exactly how he presented himself, but he basically stated that he’s an American of Belarusian origin who worked for Trump or his organization, and he could be helpful in understanding the U.S.-Russia relationship, and he might be a good person to get to know. So I thought this was probably one of Trump’s people and he’s reaching out to me. That’s a good sign. I have the message somewhere. I could always present it to the committee here. And then we met shortly after that in New York.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. Do you know when in July of 2016, what the date was?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think it was around July 22nd. Mr. Meadows. And do you recall the date that you actually met with him?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I’m not even 100 percent sure of exactly the day in July. I could always go back in my records and provide that.

Mr. Meadows. That would be helpful. Those dates would be helpful, but when did you meet with him, in July or in August?

[snip]

15. You explained previously that Mr. — that Professor Mifsud had a connection to and introduced you to Ivan Timofeev. Is that right? A Via email, yes.

Q And did he explain at the time what the purpose of that introduction was?

A I assume he did. I just can’t remember exactly the language, the specific language of the introduction. But I have those emails and am more than happy to share that — those interactions with the committee.

[snip]

16. A I — as I’ve stated, I never met Timofeev in my life face-to-face, so I’m just trying to go back in my memory to see if he actually copied any Russian nationals on an email. I don’t recall that. But as I stated, I’m more than happy to share all communication I have with this person.

Q Great. Thank you.

A Yes.

Q Do you recall him introducing you to any other people in the emails or when you spoke to him by phone?

A I — I don’t recall. But they — but the emails should be in our possession, and we’re more than happy to provide them.

[snip]

17. Q Real quick, just following up on Congressman Ratcliffe’s questions in terms of timing with your conversation with Mr. Halper. You had mentioned it was sometime between September 13th through the 15th. But then you said that you had left London by flight, I suppose. So you might have a record on the day that you left?

A Yes.

Q And you think you met with him the day before you left.

A Yes.

Q Is that something you could provide to us?

A I believe so, yes. It shouldn’t be too hard.

[snip]

18. Mr. Meadows. So I want to follow up on one item from the previous hour, where you had talked about Mr. Tawil. I guess you had not heard from him about the $10,000. And then all of a sudden, you get an email, I assume an email out of the blue saying he wants his $10,000 back. Is that correct?

Mr. Papadopoulos. My memory of the past year, and any interactions I had with this individual — I’m more than happy to share his emails with the committee — was that he would reach out to me indirectly through contacts of mine, and ask how was George doing, what’s his news, even though I was all over the global media at that time. And I don’t remember him ever asking for his money back, even though I had offered to give him his money back, shortly after I left him in — wherever I left him. And going back into my records, I just looked at my email, and we can provide this to you, I think 2 days after I was sentenced, I think — so, September 9th of last month, he sends me an email and he says, not only am I thinking about suing you, but I want my money, and let’s act like we never met. Something along those lines.

Without these emails, the testimony was guaranteed to be useless with respect to 2016, but it gave Papadopoulos the opportunity to engage in wild conspiracy theorizing. The Coffee Boy didn’t much remember the events of 2016, but he did remember what he read in the Daily Caller, the Hill, and the NYT in the weeks before his testimony, which is what he spent much of his testimony telling Congress about.

A You know, I don’t want to espouse conspiracy theories because, you know, it’s horrifying to really think that they might be true, but just yesterday, there was a report in the Daily Caller from [Joseph Mifsud’s] own lawyer that he was working with the FBI when he approached me. And when he was working me, I guess — I don’t know if that’s a fact, and I’m not saying it’s a fact — I’m just relaying what the Daily Caller reported yesterday, with Chuck Ross, and it stated in a categorical fashion that Stephan Roh, who is Joseph Mifsud’s, I believe his President’s counsel, or PR person, said that Mifsud was never a Russian agent.

In fact, he’s a tremendous friend of western intelligence, which makes sense considering I met him at a western spying school in Rome. And all his interactions — this is just me trying to repeat the report, these are not my words — and when he met with me, he was working as some sort of asset of the FBI. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m just reporting what my current understanding is of this individual based on reports from journalists.

[snip]

But I guess the overwhelming evidence, from what I’ve read, just in reports, nothing classified, of course, because I’m not privy to anything like that, and considering his own lawyer is saying it, Stephan Roh, that Mifsud is a western intelligence source. And, I guess, according to reports yesterday, he was working with the FBI. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m just here to, you know, maybe, you know, let you — direct you in certain directions of what I’ve read and maybe, in case you haven’t read it.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. Are you aware of any potential exculpatory evidence that would exist that you just have not seen or your counsel have not seen?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I read John Solomon’s report, like I think probably everyone in this room did from The Hill a couple days ago, about Stefan Halper, which is another person. But in regarding Downer, no, I haven’t seen anything like that.

[snip]

Q Were you — are you aware of any other transcripts or recordings or exculpatory materials as Mr. Meadows referenced?

A This is what I currently understand. I read the John Solomon report about the Stefan Halper, I guess, tapes or recordings of some nature. And so — my old lawyer or — all I — my understanding is that they had a — that they gave me, my old lawyers, a passing reference to something about — I said about treason, and I am — no, about the exculpatory.

[snip]

A My current memory makes me believe that he was stating it as a fact, and I took it as well.

Q And did you believe him at the time?

A At the time, yeah.

Q And so —

A But at the time, also, I thought he was validating rumors. So that was really my impression of him. I mean, you have to understand this is a person who sold himself as the key to Moscow but then really couldn’t deliver on any one of real substance except Putin’s fake niece and the think tank analyst, and then now he’s drooping this information on me. It was very confusing. You can understand how confusing this process was over the month.

Q Do you not believe him now, given what you’ve learned, or do you — you know, do you continue to believe that he was given information that the Russians had Hillary Clinton’s emails?

A I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Everything I’ve ever tweeted or — probably, if that’s what you’re referring to, it’s just backed by things I’ve read in the media. And it’s not my job to dig into this person, because I really don’t care about this person. And legally, I’m not even allowed to talk to him directly or indirectly. So all I can do is read reports, read what his lawyer is saying, and take it with a grain of salt and just share that information with you that his lawyer, yesterday, said that he was working with the FBI. Was he? Is his lawyer a crazy person who’s slandering his client, or was he really working with the FBI and this was some sort of operation? I don’t have the answer to that, and I’m not sitting here telling you I do have the answer to that.

[snip]

Mr. Papadopoulos. Just who I am, my background in the energy business, because everyone was curious about my background in the energy business in Israel. And that’s another thing we’ll get to about what I think why I had a FISA on me, but I don’t know. She then apparently — I don’t remember it, I’m just reading The New York Times. She starts asking me about hacking. I don’t remember her actually asking me that, I just read it in The New York Times. Nevertheless, she introduces me the next time to Stefan Halper.

Mr. Meadows. She asked you about hacking?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember it. I just — I think I read that particular —

Mr. Meadows. You’ve read that?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Yes, that’s what I — I think I read it in The New York Times.

[snip]

Mr. Meadows. You say a transcript exists. A transcript exists of that conversation?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s I guess what John Solomon reported a couple days ago.

Mr. Meadows. So are you aware of a transcript existing? I mean — Mr. Papadopoulos. I wasn’t aware of a transcript existing personally.

Mr. Meadows. So you have no personal knowledge of it?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I had no personal knowledge, no.

Mr. Meadows. But you think that he could have been recording you is what you’re suggesting?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Yes.

Having used the stories of Stephen Roh and John Solomon — key players in Russian influence operations — to float conspiracy theories about the Coffee Boy being set up, both Mark Meadows and John Ratcliffe then cued Papadopoulos to attack the Mueller investigation.

For example, Meadows suggested that the FBI had not read Papadopoulos his Miranda rights and had improperly searched his bags.

Mr. Meadows. They told you — I guess, they gave your Miranda rights?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t remember that. I don’t remember that. I’m sure there might be the video or a transcript of what was going on. You have to understand, I had just come off a trans-Atlantic flight.

In fact, when Papadopoulos told agents he was still represented by an attorney, they told him they would ask no further questions, read his rights and marked the Miranda form as waived. But even after being warned not to say anything without his lawyer present, he kept offering unsolicited comments. And in spite of Meadows’ insinuations, while in FBI custody Papadopoulos thanked the FBI agents for treating him well.

Meadows also found it deeply suspicious that the FBI would ask Papadopoulos to wear a wire to record Joseph Mifsud.

Mr. Meadows. Now, this is the same agent that said that he knew that you had said something. Is that the same person?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Same guy.

Mr. Meadows. And so, he was the one that said you had definitely — I want to make sure that we’re accurate with this. If you’ll — because the name keeps coming back. When you said you didn’t know what you had said to Mr. Downer, it’s the same agent that said, Oh, yes, you said it. Is that correct?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s how I remember it, yes.

Mr. Meadows. Okay. So go ahead.

Mr. Papadopoulos. So I told him, I’m not interested in wearing a wire.

Mr. Meadows. So on your second meeting with the FBI, they asked you to wear a wire?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Against Mifsud.

Mr. Meadows. Against Mifsud, who they believed at that time was doing what?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Well, I guess —

Mr. Meadows. Why did they want you to wear a wire for Mifsud?

The reason Meadows is so bothered that the FBI tried to investigate a suspected Russian agent is that he wanted proof that that Papadopoulos himself was taped. He was looking for something specific: transcripts.

Mr. Meadows. So as we look at this, I think getting our head around all of this is just — it’s hard to believe that it happened in the United States of America. And I think that that’s the trouble that I have with it. And I’ve seen nothing in the classified setting. I want to — for the record, I purposely have not gone into a classified setting to see things so that I can try to put this piece of the puzzle together. It is my belief that you were taped at some point or another by one of these officials, whether it be Mifsud or whether it be Downer or whether it be Halper. I don’t know which one of them did it, but I believe that certainly it is my strong belief that you were taped. Has anyone in the Department of Justice indicated to you that they may have a tape of a private conversation that you had with anyone of those three individuals?

The goal of Meadows and John Ratcliffe — probably the entire point of the hearing, which took place in the wake of a John Solomon article reporting on the topic — was to suggest that George Papadopoulos was deprived of exculpatory evidence, transcripts from his interactions with Halper, before he pled guilty and that he wouldn’t have pled guilty had he received it. Coached by Meadows and influenced by things he read at the Daily Beast, Papadopoulos says maybe the whole thing was a set-up.

Mr. Meadows. I guess if they had that, wouldn’t, before you pleaded guilty, wouldn’t that be something that they should have provided to you or let you know that there was exculpatory evidence out there?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Absolutely. And that would have changed my calculus 100 percent.

Mr. Meadows. Okay. So you, perhaps, would not have pleaded guilty if you knew that there was this tape of a private conversation with one of the three individuals that I just mentioned?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s correct. I guess, my thought process at the time —

Mr. Meadows. Because it could potentially have been a setup.

Mr. Papadopoulos. Absolutely could have been. And just going back in my memory, I guess the logic behind my guilty plea was that I thought I was really in the middle of a real Russia conspiracy, that this was all real, and that I had to plead out or face life in prison, the way they were making it seem. And after this conversation and after much information that’s come out, it’s clear that my — I was completely off on my calculus?

Here’s how former US Attorney Ratcliffe quizzes Papadopoulos about whether he was asked about his conversations with a confidential informant.

Mr. Ratcliffe. Again, to be real clear, the special counsel investigating collusion, potential collusion, or links between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government never asked you, the person around which this investigation was opened and centered, about any communications you had with an individual where you expressed that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government?

Mr. Papadopoulos. That’s what I remember, yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. The reason I’m asking these questions, Mr. Papadopoulos, is your credibility is at issue, and will be at issue, because you have pled guilty to an 18 U.S.C. 1001 charge of lying to the FBI. And so there will be those that will call into question the truthfulness of your testimony. If you’ve lied to the FBI before, how do we know that you’re telling us the truth? But if there is a transcript of a conversation that you had where you expressed that you had no knowledge about collusion, that might corroborate your testimony. It might also raise obligations, obligations to you as a defendant, to your lawyers as defense counsel, and to various judges as arbiters of material facts.

Here’s how Meadows asked the same question.

Mr. Meadows. Both. I mean, obviously if the special prosecutor is trying to get to the truth and you’re having substantial conversations with Stefan Halper and they don’t ask any questions about it, I find that curious. Do you find that curious?

Mr. Papadopoulos. Now I do.

There are a few problems with Meadows and Ratcliffe’s story. First, Papadopoulos made clear that his lawyers did get the substance of the transcript in question, where Papadopoulos likened what Roger Stone did to treason.

Mr. Meadows. About recordings or transcripts of Mr. Halper?

Mr. Papadopoulos. I never saw anything, but my lawyers, to be clear, they had made a passing remark about something that I said about treason —

Worse still, when Meadows asked Papdopoulos about his conversation with Halper, the Coffee Boy tried to claim his purported disavowal of “collusion” was made to someone he never imagined could be investigating him.

Mr. Meadows. So when you pushed back with Stefan Halpern [sic], and you said, Listen, this is, you know, I’m not going to do that and colluding with the Russians would not be something that I would do. It would be against the law — I don’t want to put words in your mouth — you had no knowledge of being under an investigation at that particular time, is that correct?

Mr. Papadopoulos. So, that’s absolutely correct, and if I had even a scintilla of proof or belief that Stefan Halper was an FBI agent, there’s no way I would have be going and talking to him — I just wouldn’t, I don’t think I would. I don’t think anybody would be running into some sort of operation against themselves.

That’s false. According to the DOJ IG Report, he told another informant he thought Halper would tell the CIA what he said.

Papadopoulos said he believed Source 2 was going to go

and tell the CIA or something if I’d have told him something else. I assume that’s why he was asking. And I told him, absolutely not …. it’s illegal, you know, to do that.. .. [my emphasis]

That is, Papadopoulos admitted to a second FBI informant that he said what he had to Halper precisely because he believed Halper might share what he said with the IC.

Which is among the reasons the FBI believed his answer was a rehearsed cover story in real time.

Now, Papadopoulos’ claim that he never imagined Halper might tell the FBI what he said when in fact he said the nearly the opposite in real time is not the only false claim he made to Congress before Billy Barr and Johnny D went on their junket chasing his conspiracy theories.

This answer, for example, is mostly word salad. But it hides that Papadopoulos continued to pursue a meeting with Russia until September 2016, months after he reached out to Paul Manafort. The word salad obscures a topic — his later effort to set up a meeting with Russian — that Papaodpoulos refused to explain to Mueller.

And to the best of my understanding, that’s when, you know, I really stopped engaging about this Trump-Putin potential meeting.

[snip]

Q Were there other interactions with Mifsud about, I think I read about possibly setting up a trip to Russia about campaign officials? Is there other things you worked on with him aside from the Putin summit? A Yeah, I think what we were trying to do is bring — I was trying to bring the campaign, I think Sam Clovis and Walid Phares and I, we were talking about potentially going to Europe and meeting officials together. And I was trying to see who Mifsud potentially knew in the U.K., or in other parts of Europe that could facilitate that meeting. Of course, we never did it. I think Sam Clovis ended up telling me I can’t make it, I’m too busy, but if you and Walid want to go to this, whatever you’re trying to put together, go ahead. That’s what I remember.

Q And did that trip ever happen?

A I never traveled with Walid Phares, no.

Q Did you arrange for anyone else?

A What was that?

Q Did you arrange for anyone else to travel to Russia? Let’s just keep it specifically —

A Yeah.

Q — based on your contacts with Mifsud at this point.

A Yes. I reached out directly to Paul Manafort, you know, and Corey Lewandowski and the top — the heads of the campaign, and openly told them I’m trying to arrange this. I mean, they were fully aware of what I was doing. This is all in emails. I’m not sure if you have those emails. I’m happy to provide them to you. That I’m trying to set up this meeting. Are we interested or are we not interested. So Corey Lewandowski was informed, Paul Manafort was informed, Sam Clovis was informed about what I was doing and what my progress, I guess, if you want to call it that, was.

“It is a lot of risk,” the notes that Papadopoulos refused to explain appear to have said about a September meeting with Russia, originally scheduled for the same dates as he met Halper.

And when Democratic staffers tried to get back to the gist of the issue — away from the transcripts capturing coached answers Papadopoulos told because he thought the answer might get back to the CIA and to the charged conduct — Papadopoulos’ lawyer refused to let him answer.

Q Is it your position here today that you did not lie to the FBI during your first interview?

Ms. Polisi. I’m just going to advise my client not to answer that.

In several such interactions, the Democratic staffers identified material discrepancies between what Papadopoulos said to a Committee of Congress and what he had sworn to in his guilty plea.

So Mr. Papadopoulos, why did you lie to the FBI and claim that your interactions with Professor Misfud occurred before you became a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign?

Ms. Polisi. I’m going to object to this line of questioning.

Ms. Shen. What’s the objection based upon?

Ms. Polisi. We are here on a voluntary basis. We have answered all of your questions thus far. It is my advice to him that he not talk specifically about the offense conduct.

[snip]

Q Can you please turn to page 4. Mr. Papadopoulos, I believe earlier in this round, we were asking about your interviews with the FBI, and I believe that you said that you had brought up to the FBI the — the professor and your conversation with him. Is that correct?

A That is what I remember.

Q So if you could take a look at footnote 2 on this page, page 4, in the second paragraph, it reads, “To the contrary, the defendant identified the professor only after being prompted by a series of specific questions about when the defendant first learned about Russia’s disclosure of information related to the campaign, and whether defendant had ever, quote, ‘received any information or anything like that from a Russian government official’ unquote. In response, while denying he received any information from a Russian Government official that further identified the professor by name, while also falsely claiming he interacted with the professor ‘before I was with Trump though.'” Mr. Papadopoulos, what you just said earlier today during this interview doesn’t seem to jive with the information in this footnote. Can you explain the discrepancy?

Ms. Polisi. I’m still going to object to this line of questioning. I disagree with your characterization of his previous testimony. What’s written is written, you read it into the record.

Ms. Shen. Well, he just agreed with my characterization.

Ms. Polisi. No, he did not. He did not. He did not agree with your characterization.

Ms. Shen. I asked him if what we talked about earlier was correct — on the record.

Ms. Polisi. That is correct.

Ms. Shen. And then I read the paragraph from his sentencing memorandum, and you are not allowing him to respond to that.

Ms. Polisi. Correct, I’m not allowing him to respond to that.

I guess it makes sense that Durham would not interview Papadopoulos after this performance. It’s not actually clear whether he could tell the truth, and if he did, the truth — that the Coffee Boy was still pursuing a risky back channel to Russia even after the investigation into him was opened — would utterly destroy the objective of the Durham investigation.

So in the same way that Durham never subpoenaed Jim Baker before basing an entire indictment on his testimony, Durham never spoke to Papadopoulos, who would testify that in the same weeks when — Durham claims — Danchenko believed he had a sketchy call with Millian, Papadopoulos started having similar calls with the “very shady person” that Durham has made the centerpiece of his case against Danchenko.

January 6 Committee Details The Big Fraud Monetizing The Big Lie

The second hearing from the January 6 Committee was just as well choreographed as the first one, with an even greater reliance on Republican voices to make the case against Trump, including:

  • Bill Barr
  • Bill Stepien
  • Al Schmidt
  • Alex Cannon
  • Ivanka
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • Sidney Powell
  • Chris Stirewalt
  • Jason Miller
  • Ben Ginsberg

Here’s my live tweet of the hearing.

The presentation started by describing how Trump was told on election night that the news looked bad. The presentation ended by showing how those attacking the Capitol cited Trump’s lies to justify their actions.

Perhaps the most effective part of the hearing, however, was a video shown near the end that talked about how Trump monetized the Big Lie. He raised $250M telling lies about voter fraud.

Some of that money went to Mark Meadows’ “charity,” the Conservative Partnership Institute and even more went to Paul Manafort’s company, Event Strategies.

This is the kind of activity, fundraising making false claim, that got Steve Bannon charged with wire fraud and it’s the kind of scheme behind the investigation into Sidney Powell.

The January 6 Militia Witnesses Are Cooperating with DOJ, Probably Not the January 6 Committee

Liz Cheney made a comment in Thursday’s public hearing that has attracted some attention. As part of her explanation that the January 6 investigation is ongoing, she said,

As we present these initial findings, keep two points in mind. First, our investigation is still ongoing. So what we make public here will not be the complete set of information we will ultimately disclose. And second, the Department of Justice is currently working with cooperating witnesses and has disclosed to date only some of the information it has identified from encrypted communications and other sources.

Some have wondered whether this reflects some kind of insight into where the DOJ investigation is headed.

I doubt that Cheney’s comment reflects any greater insight into where DOJ is headed than I’ve gotten from tracking DOJ’s investigation closely, though as I’ll explain below, the Committee undoubtedly has non-public insight into how the militias coordinated with those close to Trump. (One possible — and important — exception to this assumption might be Joshua James, the Oath Keeper who is known to have testified in an NYPD inquiry targeting Roger Stone associate Sal Greco.)

While the Committee showed clips of depositions it had with Stewart Rhodes (pleading the Fifth in response to a question about arming members), Enrique Tarrio (expressing regret he didn’t monetize the Stand Back and Stand By comment), and Jeremy Bertino (who is Person-1 in the sedition indictment charging the Proud Boy leaders and who told the Committee that membership tripled in response to Trump’s comment), the more substantive claims about the militias on Thursday always cited the indictments against them, not evidence independently gathered by the Committee.

For example, Cheney described how Trump’s December 19, 2020 tweet, “initiated a chain of events. The tweet led to the planning for what occurred on January 6, including by the Proud Boys, who ultimately led the invasion of the Capitol and the violence on that day.” In his questioning of documentarian Nick Quested, Bennie Thompson likewise cited the indictment against the Proud Boys for claims about the lead-up to the attack.

To be sure, Thompson laid out details of the attack that are not generally known, but which are public: the Proud Boys skipped Trump’s speech and kicked off their attack to coincide with the Joint Session, not Trump’s speech; the Proud Boys first attacked at the site where the mob soon to be led by Alex Jones would arrive. I’ve laid out some of these dynamics in this post, and the Sedition Hunters have developed two detailed timelines that show how this worked, one describing the phases of the attack, and another capturing key communications of those implicated in it.

I’ve likewise noted what Cheney has: The Proud Boys — and virtually everyone else who organized in advance — responded to Trump’s tweet as if it was an order. I’ve also described — in a post called, “Back Was Stood, And By Was Stood: The Passive Voice Behind the Top Down Structure of the Charles Donohoe Statement of Offense” — how in cooperating witness Charles Donohoe’s Statement of Offense, DOJ for the first time used the passive voice to describe how the riot was announced.

[T]he foundation of that hierarchy that is so remarkable.

On December 19, 2020, plans were announced for a protest event in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, which protest would coincide with Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.

On or before December 20, 2020, Tarrio approached Donohoe and solicited his interest in joining the leadership of a new chapter of the Proud Boys, called the Ministry of Self Defense (“MOSD”). Donohoe understood from Tarrio that the new chapter would be focused on the planning and execution of national rallies and would consist of hand-selected “rally” boys. Donohoe felt privileged to be included and agreed to participate.

Close to every other filing in the January 6 case that mentions the announcement of these plans actually cites what was taken as the formal announcement: Trump’s tweet, in response to which hundreds if not thousands of rioters began to make plans to come to DC.

Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud ‘more than sufficient’ to swing victory to Trump https://t.co/D8KrMHnFdK . A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!

The import of that December 19 tweet was clear even in real time; the NYT and WaPo recently returned to the central role it plays in a great number of January 6 cases.

But this statement of offense instead presents what was viewed as an order from Trump in the passive voice: “Plans were announced.” Trump announced those plans, as every other charging document makes clear.

And the next day, in response to that announcement, Tarrio started building that top-down hierarchical structure that would go on to intentionally assault the Capitol and cops.

There are many things this statement of offense does with that masterful use of the passive voice. It implicates, without mentioning, people like Peter Navarro and Ali Alexander, the former because he was mentioned in the tweet and the latter because he was organizing it. The statement of offense makes clear that Tarrio told Donohoe and other Ministry of Self Defense leaders about what their plan was, but doesn’t reveal what he has shared, particularly what he shared about direct planning with people close to Trump. Indeed, the language of the statement of offense leaves open the possibility that Tarrio was moving on this even before the public launch of the riot by Trump.

But most importantly, without naming him, this structure puts Trump at the head of that hierarchy that bears top-down responsibility for the intentional violence and damage in the service of obstructing the vote certification.

The implication from the Statement of Offense is that Donohoe learned certain things starting on December 20 that he has shared with prosecutors. One reason I’m pretty sure that prosecutors haven’t shared it with the Committee, yet, is because Donohoe’s cooperation does not show up in the discovery index provided to the defendants themselves on May 12, over a month after Donohoe flipped, which prosecutors filed publicly last week. Similarly, prosecutors have not yet explicitly told defense attorneys the person who shared a plan with Tarrio talking about occupying the Capitol, though they have the returns for Tarrio’s phone that should help defense attorneys learn that person’s identity.

(I do wonder whether a challenge to a very recent call records subpoena from the Committee by Russian-American Kristina Malimon, discovered by Kyle Cheney, not to mention the high profile former Trump impeachment lawyers representing her, means the Committee thinks they’ve figured out the person’s identity, though.)

The schedule of upcoming January 6 hearings explains one reason why Cheney referenced the ongoing investigation when citing DOJ’s cooperating witnesses:

  • June 13: The Big Lie
  • June 15: Decapitate DOJ
  • June 16: Pressuring Pence
  • June 21: Pressuring the States
  • Hearing 6: Trump Assembles a Mob and Sics it on Congress
  • Hearing 7: Trump Does Nothing as Capitol Is Attacked

The dates for the last two hearings, hearings that will include details about how the Proud Boys paused their attack to await reinforcements brought by Alex Jones, opened a second front in seeming coordination with the Oath Keepers and Jones, and considered a second assault until learning the National Guard had finally been deployed, are not known yet. Whenever they are, though, they’ll come after June 21, and therefore after the June 17 discovery deadline in the Proud Boy Leaders case. DOJ has said they won’t supersede the Leaders indictment beyond what it currently is (meaning no more co-conspirators will be added to it). But the fates of Persons-1 (Bertino), -2, and -3 are up in the air right now, as well as a number of charged Proud Boys (like Ron Loehrke), who played key roles in the tactical success of the attack but who have not yet been indicted. Similarly, the fates of those known to coordinate most closely with the militias — Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and Ali Alexander — remain uncertain.

Who knows? Their fates may be less uncertain between now and the last Committee hearing!

To be clear: as Chairman Thompson told Jake Tapper this week, the Committee does know of some of the coordination. I’ve heard of a communication implicating Stone that I believe the Committee has. Alex Jones complained about how many communications the Committee — specifically those of Cindy Chafian and Caroline Wren — had obtained, and one or both of them also communicated with Tarrio. A key focus of the testimony of Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence — and surely, Katrina Pierson, whom Stone and his associates have tried to blame for the attack — described their panic after Trump told his mob to walk to the Capitol. That testimony must explain why Pierson fought so hard to keep Wren’s chosen speakers, including Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, Brandon Straka, and others, off the stage. This fight also shows up in Mark Meadows’ texts. And Ali Alexander testified for eight hours; we’ll see how successfully the Committee debunked his already-debunked cover story, but Alexander lost his shit during the hearing on Thursday. The role of the Stop the Steal effort in delivering bodies to the right places at the Capitol is the most important known coordination from the day of the attack.

Rudy Giuliani also had communications with Proud Boy associate James Sullivan, Mike Flynn had some ties to militias (especially the First Amendment Praetorians), and Sidney Powell was paying for the defense of a number of militia members.

The Committee knows a great deal about how Trump’s mob got directed to the Capitol. But I suspect they’re still waiting to learn all the details that cooperating witnesses have provided.


Known cooperating witnesses

Oath Keepers

Jon Schaffer: The substance of Schaffer’s cooperation against the Oath Keepers is still not clear (and could well extend beyond them).

Graydon Young: Young interacted with Roger Stone in the weeks leading up to the attack, may know details of the alliance struck between Proud Boys and Florida Oath Keepers, and was part of the First Stack to bust into the Capitol; he also implicated his sister.

Mark Grods: Grods was the first Oath Keeper who was present at the Willard the day of the attack to flip, and likely provided details of the QRF and implicated Joshua James.

Caleb Berry: Berry would provide more details of Oath Keeper activities, potentially implicating Stone, in Florida, and also was witness to the attempt to hunt down Nancy Pelosi.

Jason Dolan: Dolan would explain why he and Kenneth Harrelson were waiting at the top of the East Stairs when the First Stack, Joe Biggs and his co-travelers, and Alex Jones and Ali Alexander converged there before the door was opened from the inside.

Joshua James: James called in reports from someone who is almost certainly Stone the day of the attack, participated in key discussions with Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, and Mike Simpson during the attack, and was closely involved in Rhodes’ continued efforts after January 6.

Brian Ulrich: Ulrich would provide details of planning specific to Georgia Oath Keepers and the advance planning in December.

Todd Wilson:  Wilson would explain the mobilization of the North Carolina Oath Keepers; he also witnessed a call Rhodes made to someone close to Trump after the riot.

Proud Boys

Matthew Greene: Greene will explain details of the communications involved the day of the attack and the specific goal to pressure Mike Pence.

Charles Donohoe: Donohoe will provide prosecutors an inside understanding of how the leadership of the Proud Boys worked, including with whom Tarrio may have been working starting in December and details about Tarrio’s arrest, which led Donohoe to try to fill in.

Louis Colon: A Kansas City Proud Boy who received perhaps the most favorable deal will undoubtedly implicate his co-conspirators and describe how the cell structure of the Proud Boys worked on January 6; he may also provide important debunking of someone who had been an FBI informant the day of the attac.

Others

Gina Bisignano: Bisignano cooperated against her fellow SoCal anti-maskers, but in the light of Carl Nichols’ rejection of DOJ’s application of obstruction, is attempting to withdraw her guilty plea. A hearing on her attempt to withdraw her plea will be held on June 22. She has not withdrawn her stated intent, one directly influenced by Trump’s speech, to pressure Mike Pence.

Josiah Colt: Colt cooperated against his co-conspirators, Ronnie Sandlin and Nate DeGrave, describing how they armed themselves and helped open both the East Door and the Senate Gallery.

Klete Keller: The substance of Keller’s cooperation is not known.

Jacob Fracker: Fracker testified against fellow VA cop Thomas Robertson.

Robert Lyon: Lyon testified against his co-defendant, Dustin Thompson.

Misdemeanor cooperators

Virtually all plea deals require the defendant to share their social media and sit for an interview with the FBI. A handful of defendants are known to have convinced prosecutors to drop or hold off felony charges by providing limited cooperation (including sharing encrypted communications) in advance. They are believed to include:

Jeff Finley: Finley was a co-traveler of Proud Boy Zach Rehl on January 6.

Brandon Straka: Straka who was among those excluded from speaking on January 6,  was on Ali Alexander’s Stop the Steal listserv, and spent time with Mike Flynn before heading to the Capitol.

Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet: Baked Alaska could share communications involving white nationalists like Nick Fuentes. But Gionet fucked up his plea colloquy, so prosecutors can charge him with a felony incorporating his cooperation if he doesn’t plead by July 10 (not like I’m counting days but that’s less than a month away).

Jacob Hiles: Hiles cooperated against Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley and his buddy James Horning.

Father and son Proud Boy pair Jeffrey and Jeremy Grace likely also avoided felony exposure by cooperating (though Jeffrey’s plea just got pushed back two weeks); they spent much of January 6 with Ron Loehrke.

Sedition Is the Foundation on Which the Trump Associate Investigation Builds

As I laid out in this post, I’m impatient with those who claim the government has taken a new direction in the January 6 investigation with subpoenas to people like — most audibly — Ali Alexander. Alexander got a number of journalists who know better to repeat his claim that he was “cooperating” with the investigation rather than merely “complying” with a subpoena. Few of those journalists pointed out real holes in his cover story — including his silence about Roger Stone and Alex Jones, his disavowal of communications with militias before he arrived at the Capitol, his use of cover organizations to get his permits, and his seeming message to co-conspirators that if he once had evidence, it is no longer in his possession.

In his statement, Alexander sought to separate himself from the substance of the investigation, saying he did not coordinate with the Proud Boys and suggesting his contact with the Oath Keepers was limited to accepting an offer for them to act as ushers at an event that never took place: his own permitted event near the Capitol, which didn’t occur because of the mob attack on the Capitol. The Oath Keepers are the subject of conspiracy charges for their roles in breaching the Capitol that day.

“I did not finance the Ellipse equipment. I did not ever talk with the White House about security groups. Any militia working security at the Ellipse belonged to “Women for America First,” not us,” Alexander said. “I did not coordinate any movements with the Proud Boys or even see them that day. I did take Oath Keepers offer to act as ushers for the Area 8 event but all of that was lost in the chaos. I wasn’t in communication with any of the aforementioned groups while I was near the Capitol working to get people away from the building. Lastly, I’m not willing to presume anyone’s guilt.”

“I did nothing wrong and I am not in possession of evidence that anyone else had plans to commit unlawful acts,” Alexander said. “I denounce anyone who planned to subvert my permitted event and the other permitted events of that day on Capitol grounds to stage any counterproductive activities.”

This is classic Roger Stone-schooled disinformation and should be treated as such.

Reporters have, undoubtedly based on really good sourcing, emphasized the existence of a new grand jury focusing on Trump’s associates, and from that, argued it’s a new direction — though as I’ve documented, DOJ has availed themselves of at least six grand juries thus far in this investigation.

But how could an investigation of Alexander’s actions be new if DOJ successfully debunked much of his current cover story — that he was “working to get people away from the building” — last November? Alexander co-traveler Owen Shroyer attempted to offer the same false claim in an attempt to throw out charges — filed in August — against him, but Judge Tim Kelly rejected that attempt on January 20. How could this be a totally new direction if prosecutors would have obtained Alexander’s Stop the Steal listserv as a result of Brandon Straka’s “cooperation” in early 2021? How could it be a new direction if DOJ has gotten guilty pleas from those who went first to the Capitol, then to the East front, and finally breached the building in response to lies about Alexander’s rally permits told by Alex Jones? DOJ has, demonstrably, been laying the groundwork for a subpoena to Alexander for over year.

And it’s not just Alexander. Steps DOJ took over the past year were undoubtedly necessary preconditions to going after Trump’s close associates. Those include:

These are efforts that started in January 2021. Some of the most important — the way DOJ seized Rudy’s comms and got a privilege review without revealing a January 6 warrant — started on Lisa Monaco’s first day in office.

But there’s a more important thing that DOJ probably believed they needed before going after Trump and his close associates: compelling proof that Trump wielded the mob in his effort to obstruct the vote count, obtaining the proof in the yellow boxes, below. That was one of the things I was trying to lay out in this post.

While there are specific things Trump and his associates did that were illegal — the call to Brad Raffensperger, the fake elector certificates, the illegal demand of Mike Pence — many of the rest are only illegal (at least under the framework DOJ is using) if they are tied to Trump’s successful effort to target the mob at American democracy. You first have to prove that Trump fired the murder weapon, and once you’ve established that proof, you can investigate who helped Trump buy the weapon, who helped him aim it, who loaded the gun for him, who was standing behind him with four more weapons to fire if his own shot failed to work.

And this is why I’m interested in the apparent two month process it appears to have taken DOJ to shift its main focus from the work of the January 8, 2021 grand jury, whose work culminated in the January 12, 2022 seditious conspiracy indictment against Stewart Rhodes, and the February 14, 2022 grand jury, the foundational overt act of which was the March 7 conspiracy charge against Enrique Tarrio.

The first grand jury proved that the vast majority of the rioters, whether trespassers or assault defendants, got there via one of three methods:

  • Responding to Trump and Alex Jones’ lies about Trump accompanying the marchers and giving a second speech
  • Acting directly on Trump’s “orders,” especially his December 19 tweet, often bypassing the Ellipse rally altogether
  • Coordinating with one of the militias, especially the Proud Boys

Judge Amit Mehta also seems to believe that the grand jury developed proof that many of those who assaulted cops were aided and abetted by Donald Trump. The first grand jury also proved that of those who — having been led to believe false claims about vote fraud based on over three months of propaganda — had the intent of obstructing the vote count, a great number had the specific goal of pressuring or punishing Mike Pence. While the intent of pressuring Pence came, for some rioters, from militia hierarchies, for most others, it came directly from Trump.

This is my hypothesis about the seeming shift from using the January 8 grand jury as the primary investigative grand jury to launching a new one on February 14. The January 8 grand jury has largely completed its investigation into what caused the riot, how it was orchestrated, who participated; the remaining prosecutions that don’t require and affect the larger picture will be and have been charged via the November 10 grand jury. But by indicting Tarrio and showing, with Charles Donohoe’s cooperation, that everything the Proud Boys did emanated from Tarrio’s orders and, by association, from whatever understanding Tarrio had about the purpose of the riot from his communications with people close to Trump, DOJ and the Valentine’s Day grand jury will move onto the next level of the conspiracy to obstruct the vote count. Again, that’s just a hypothesis — we’ll see whether that’s an accurate read in the weeks ahead. But it’s not a new direction at all. It is the direction that the investigation has demonstrably been headed for over a year.

Update: In a statement pretending the stories about his cooperation were leaked by DOJ, Alexander insists he is not cooperating, but complying.

After consultation with counsel, we provided a statement that established that I was not a target of this grand jury; I haven’t been accused of any criminal wrongdoing; and that I was complying, as required by law, with their probe.

[snip]

Useful idiots on the right, clinging to a New York Times headline that sensationalizes my compliance with a subpoena, will empower the Deep State which planted these stories to give their political investigation more legs to hurt our election integrity movement and Trump’s 2024 prospects. [my emphasis]

The rest of the statement should convince anyone that this is a replay of the same bullshit we saw from Stone and Jerome Corsi in the Mueller investigation.

On Ginni Thomas’ Obstruction Exposure and Clarence’s Former Clerk, Carl Nichols

In a motions hearing for January 6 assault defendant Garret Miller on November 22, former Clarence Thomas clerk Carl Nichols asked the appellate prosecutor for the January 6 investigation, James Pearce, whether someone asking Mike Pence to invalidate the vote count could be charged with the obstruction statute, 18 USC 1512(c)(2), that Miller was challenging. Pearce replied that the person in question would have to know that such a request of the Vice President was improper.

At a hearing on Monday for defendant Garret Miller of Richardson, Texas, Nichols made the first move toward a Trump analogy by asking a prosecutor whether the obstruction statute could have been violated by someone who simply “called Vice President Pence to seek to have him adjudge the certification in a particular way.” The judge also asked the prosecutor to assume the person trying to persuade Pence had the “appropriate mens rea,” or guilty mind, to be responsible for a crime.

Nichols made no specific mention of Trump, who appointed him to the bench, but the then-president was publicly and privately pressuring Pence in the days before the fateful Jan. 6 tally to decline to certify Joe Biden’s victory. Trump also enlisted other allies, including attorney John Eastman, to lean on Pence.

An attorney with the Justice Department Criminal Division, James Pearce, initially seemed to dismiss the idea that merely lobbying Pence to refuse to recognize the electoral result would amount to the crime of obstructing or attempting to obstruct an official proceeding.

“I don’t see how that gets you that,” Pearce told the judge.

However, Pearce quickly added that it might well be a crime if the person reaching out to Pence knew the vice president had an obligation under the Constitution to recognize the result.

“If that person does that knowing it is not an available argument [and is] asking the vice president to do something the individual knows is wrongful … one of the definitions of ‘corruptly’ is trying to get someone to violate a legal duty,” Pearce said.

At the time (as Josh Gerstein wrote up in his piece), we knew that former Clarence Thomas clerk John Eastman had pressured Pence to throw out legal votes.

But we’ve since learned far more details about Eastman’s actions, including his admissions to Pence’s counsel, Greg Jacob, that there was no way SCOTUS would uphold the claim. In fact, those admissions were cited in Judge David Carter’s opinion finding that Eastman himself likely obstructed the vote count by pressuring Pence to reject the valid votes, because he knew that not even Clarence Thomas would buy this argument.

Ultimately, Dr. Eastman conceded that his argument was contrary to consistent historical practice,37 would likely be unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court,38 and violated the Electoral Count Act on four separate grounds.39

[snip]

Dr. Eastman himself repeatedly recognized that his plan had no legal support. In his discussion with the Vice President’s counsel, Dr. Eastman “acknowledged” the “100 percent consistent historical practice since the time of the Founding” that the Vice President did not have the authority to act as the memo proposed.254 More importantly, Dr. Eastman admitted more than once that “his proposal violate[d] several provisions of statutory law,”255 including explicitly characterizing the plan as “one more relatively minor violation” of the Electoral Count Act.256 In addition, on January 5, Dr. Eastman conceded that the Supreme Court would unanimously reject his plan for the Vice President to reject electoral votes.257 Later that day, Dr. Eastman admitted that his “more palatable” idea to have the Vice President delay, rather than reject counting electors, rested on “the same basic legal theory” that he knew would not survive judicial scrutiny.258

We’ve also learned more details about Ginni Thomas’ role in pressuring Mark Meadows to champion an attempt to steal the election, including — after a gap in the texts produced to the January 6 Committee — attacking Pence.

The committee received one additional message sent by Thomas to Meadows, on Jan. 10, four days after the “Stop the Steal” rally Thomas said she attended and the deadly attack on the Capitol.

In that message, Thomas expresses support for Meadows and Trump — and directed anger at Vice President Mike Pence, who had refused Trump’s wishes to block the congressional certification of Biden’s electoral college victory.

“We are living through what feels like the end of America,” Thomas wrote to Meadows. “Most of us are disgusted with the VP and are in listening mode to see where to fight with our teams. Those who attacked the Capitol are not representative of our great teams of patriots for DJT!!”

“Amazing times,” she added. “The end of Liberty.”

Ginni Thomas famously remains close with a network of Clarence’s former clerks, so much so she apologized to a listserv of former Justice Thomas clerks for her antics after the insurrection.

Any former Thomas clerk on that listserv would likely understand how exposed in efforts to overturn the vote certification Ginni was.

As I said, little of that was known, publicly, when former Justice Thomas clerk Carl Nichols asked whether someone who pressured Pence could be exposed for obstruction. We didn’t even, yet, know all these details when Judge Nichols ruled in Miller’s case on March 7, alone thus far of all the DC District judges, against DOJ’s application of that obstruction statute. While we had just learned some of the details about Jacobs’ interactions with former Thomas clerk John Eastman, we did not yet know how centrally involved Ginni was — frankly, we still don’t know, especially since the texts Mark Meadows turned over to the January 6 Committee have a gap during the days when Eastman was most aggressively pressuring Pence.

DOJ may know but if it does it’s not telling.

But now we know more of those details and now we know that Judge Carter found that Eastman and Trump likely did obstruct the vote certification. All those details, combined with Nichols’ treatment of the Miller decision as one that might affect others, up to and including Ginni Thomas and John Eastman and Trump, sure makes it look a lot more suspect that a former Clarence Thomas clerk would write such an outlier decision.

Which brings us to the tactics of this DOJ motion to reconsider filed yesterday in the Miller case. It makes two legal arguments and one logical one.

As I laid out here, Nichols ruled that the vote certification was an official proceeding, but that the statute in question only applied to obstruction achieved via the destruction of documents. He also held that there was sufficient uncertainty about what the statute means that the rule of lenity — basically the legal equivalent of “tie goes to the runner” — would apply.

DOJ challenged Nichols’ claim that there was enough uncertainty for the rule of lenity to apply. After all, the shade-filled motion suggested, thirteen of Nichols’ colleagues have found little such uncertainty.

First, the Court erred by applying the rule of lenity. Rejecting an interpretation of Section 1512(c)(2)’s scope that every other member of this Court to have considered the issue and every reported case to have considered the issue (to the government’s knowledge) has adopted, the Court found “serious ambiguity” in the statute. Mem. Op. at 28. The rule of lenity applies “‘only if, after seizing everything from which aid can be derived,’” the statute contains “a ‘grievous ambiguity or uncertainty,’” and the Court “‘can make no more than a guess as to what Congress intended.’” Ocasio v. United States, 578 U.S. 282, 295 n.8 (2016) (quoting Muscarello v. United States, 524 U.S. 125, 138-39 (1998)) (emphasis added); see also Mem. Op. at 9 (citing “‘grievous’ ambiguity” standard). Interpreting Section 1512(c)(2) consistently with its plain language to reach any conduct that “obstructs, influences, or impedes” a qualifying proceeding does not give rise to “serious” or “grievous” ambiguity.

[snip]

First, the Court erred by applying the rule of lenity to Section 1512(c)(2) because, as many other judges have concluded after examining the statute’s text, structure, and history, there is no genuine—let alone “grievous” or “serious”—ambiguity.

[snip]

Confirming the absence of ambiguity—serious, grievous, or otherwise—is that despite Section 1512(c)(2)’s nearly 20-year existence, no other judge has found ambiguity in Section 1512(c)(2), including eight judges on this Court considering the same law and materially identical facts. See supra at 5-6.

[snip]

Before this Court’s decision to the contrary, every reported case to have considered the scope of Section 1512(c)(2), see Gov’t Supp. Br., ECF 74, at 7-9, 1 and every judge on this Court to have considered the issue in cases arising out of the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, see supra at 5-6, concluded that Section 1512(c)(2) “prohibits obstruction by means other than document destruction.” Sandlin, 2021 WL 5865006, at *5. [my emphasis; note, not all of the 13 challenges to 1512(c)(2) that were rejected made a rule of lenity argument, which is why AUSA Pearce cited eight judges]

Among the other things that this argument will force Nichols to do if he wants to sustain his decision, on top of doubling down on being the extreme outlier on this decision, is to engage with all his colleagues’ opinions rather than (as he did in his original opinion) just with Judge Randolph Moss’.

The government then argued that by deciding that 1512(c)(2) applied to the vote certification but only regarding tampering with documents, Nichols was not actually ruling against DOJ, because he can only dismiss the charge at this stage if the defendant, Miller, doesn’t know what he is charged with, not if the evidence wouldn’t support such a charge.

Although Miller has styled his challenge to Section 1512(c)(2)’s scope as an attack on the indictment’s validity, the scope of the conduct covered under Section 1512(c)(2) is distinct from whether Count Three adequately states a violation of Section 1512(c)(2).6 Here, Count Three of the indictment puts Miller on notice as to the charges against which he must defend himself, while also encompassing both the broader theory that a defendant violates Section 1512(c)(2) through any corrupt conduct that “obstructs, impedes, or influences” an official proceeding and the narrower theory that a defendant must “have taken some action with respect to a document,” Mem. Op. at 28, in order to violate Section 1512(c)(2). The Court’s conclusion that only the narrower theory is a viable basis for conviction should not result in dismissal of Count Three in full; instead, the Court would properly enforce that limitation by permitting conviction on that basis alone.

The government argues that that means, given Nichols’ ruling, the government must be given the opportunity to prove that Miller’s actions were an attempt to spoil the actual vote certifications that had to be rushed out of the Chambers as mobsters descended.

Even assuming the Court’s interpretation of Section 1512(c)(2) were correct, and that the government therefore must prove “Miller took some action with respect to a document, record, or other object in order to corruptly obstruct, impede[,] or influence Congress’s certification of the electoral vote,” Mem. Op. at 29, the Court cannot determine whether Miller’s conduct meets that test until after a trial, at which the government is not limited to the specific allegations in the indictment. 7 And at trial, the government could prove that the Certification proceeding “operates through a deliberate and legally prescribed assessment of ballots, lists, certificates, and, potentially, written objections.” ECF 74, at 41. For example, evidence would show Congress had before it boxes carried into the House chamber at the beginning of the Joint Session that contained “certificates of votes from the electors of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.” Reffitt, supra, Trial Tr. at 1064 (Mar. 4, 2022) (testimony of the general counsel to the Secretary of the United States Senate) (attached as Exhibit B).

Those are the two legal arguments the government has invited Nichols to reconsider.

But along the way of making those arguments, DOJ pointed out the absurd result dictated by Nichols’ opinion: That Guy Reffitt’s physical threats against members of Congress or the threat Miller is accused of making against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would not be obstruction, because neither man touched any documents.

Any such distinction between these forms of obstruction produces the absurd result that a defendant who attempts to destroy a document being used or considered by a tribunal violates Section 1512(c) but a defendant who threatens to use force against the officers conducting that proceeding escapes criminal liability under the statute.

[snip]

Finally, an interpretation of Section 1512(c)(2) that imposes criminal liability only when an individual takes direct action “with respect to a document, record, or other object” to obstruct a qualifying proceeding leads to absurd results. See United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc., 513 U.S. 64, 69 (1994) (rejecting interpretation of a criminal statute that would “produce results that were not merely odd, but positively absurd”). That interpretation would appear, for example, not to encompass an individual who seeks to “obstruct[], influence[], or impede[]” a congressional proceeding by explicitly stating that he intends to stop the legislators from performing their constitutional and statutory duties to certify Electoral College vote results by “drag[ging] lawmakers out of the Capitol by their heels with their heads hitting every step,” United States v. Reffitt, 21-cr-32 (DLF), Trial Tr. 1502, carrying a gun onto Capitol grounds, id. at 1499, and then leading a “mob and encourag[ing] it to charge toward federal officers, pushing them aside to break into the Capitol,” id. at 1501-02, unless he also picked up a “document or record” related to the proceeding during that violent assault. The statutory text does not require such a counterintuitive result.

The mention of Reffitt is surely included not just to embarrass Nichols by demonstrating the absurdity of his result. It is tactical.

Right now, there are two obstruction cases that might be the first to be appealed to the DC Circuit. This decision, or Guy Reffitt’s conviction, including on the obstruction count.

By asking Nichols to reconsider, DOJ may have bought time such that Reffitt will appeal before they would appeal Nichols’ decision. But by including language about Reffitt’s threats to lawmakers, DOJ has ensured not just the Reffitt facts and outcome will be available if and when they do appeal, but so would (if they are forced to appeal this decision) a Nichols decision upholding the absurd result that Reffitt didn’t obstruct the vote certification. Including the language puts him on the hook for it if he wants to force DOJ to appeal his decision.

I said in my post on Nichols’ opinion that DOJ probably considered themselves lucky that Nichols had argued for such an absurd result.

They may count themselves lucky that this particular opinion is not a particularly strong argument against their application. Nichols basically argues that intimidating Congress by assaulting the building is not obstruction of what he concedes is an official proceeding.

By including Reffitt in their motion for reconsideration, DOJ has made it part of the official record if and when they do appeal Nichols’ decision.

This would be a dick-wagging filing even absent the likelihood that Nichols has some awareness of Ginni Thomas’ antics and possibly even Eastman’s. It holds Nichols to account for blowing off virtually all the opinions of his colleagues, including fellow Trump appointees Dabney Friedrich and Tim Kelly, forcing him to defend his stance as the outlier it is.

But that is all the more true given that there’s now so much public evidence that Nichols’ deviant decision might have some tie to his personal relationship with the Thomases and even the non-public evidence of Ginni’s own role.

Plus, by making any appeal of this opinion — up to the Supreme Court, possibly — pivot on how and why Nichols came up with such an outlier opinion, it would make Justice Thomas’ participation in the decision far more problematic.


Carl Nichols, March 7, 2022, Miller

David Carter, March 28, 2022, Eastman

Opinions upholding obstruction application:

  1. Dabney Friedrich, December 10, 2021, Sandlin
  2. Amit Mehta, December 20, 2021, Caldwell
  3. James Boasberg, December 21, 2021, Mostofsky
  4. Tim Kelly, December 28, 2021, Nordean
  5. Randolph Moss, December 28, 2021, Montgomery
  6. Beryl Howell, January 21, 2022, DeCarlo
  7. John Bates, February 1, 2022, McHugh
  8. Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, February 9, 2022, Grider
  9. Richard Leon (by minute order), February 24, 2022, Costianes
  10. Christopher Cooper, February 25, 2022, Robertson
  11. Rudolph Contreras, announced March 8, released March 14, Andries
  12. Paul Friedman, March 19, Puma