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“An Entire Universe of Malfeasance, Corruption, and Depravity:” Joel Greenberg Promotes the Value of His Snitching

Joel Greenberg — the Roger Stone and Matt Gaetz associate who pled guilty in May 2021 to trafficking a minor, identity theft, wire fraud, stalking, and conspiracy — will be sentenced on December 1.

(h/t to Sandi Bachom for the screen cap of Gaetz’s tweet)

In accordance with a schedule set in July, when Greenberg last extended his sentencing date to expand the time he could cooperate with the government, DOJ submitted its 5K letter (in which it tells the judge how much credit Greenberg should get for his cooperation) on November 10. The government submitted its sentencing memorandum yesterday.

Greenberg’s sentencing memorandum was initially due yesterday as well, but his attorney, Fritz Scheller, got an extension until next Monday, in part so he could submit this response to the 5K letter.

Judge Gregory Presnell set a pre-sentencing hearing for November 30 to hear arguments about the proper guidelines to apply.

The government sentencing memorandum — which repeatedly seems to express amazement at how Greenberg kept criming even as he realized the government was hot on his trail — is worth reading on its own. Here are some highlights:

Greenberg had only just gotten started in his efforts to defraud the Tax Collector’s Office to fund his personal cryptocurrency purchases.

[snip]

In January 2019, Greenberg told one of his family members that he was in “big trouble” and asked for $200,000. Id. at ¶ 102. Rather than repay the Tax Collector’s Office what he had obtained through his fraud, however, Greenberg used those funds to purchase more cryptocurrency for himself.

[snip]

The one thing that Greenberg did not do, however, was stop his fraud. Greenberg continued to defraud the Tax Collector’s Office to obtain funds to purchase cryptocurrency for himself. His only reaction to the federal investigation was to alter his scheme.

[snip]

As part of this scheme, Greenberg continued to sell the cryptocurrency machines that he had purchased with Tax Collector’s Office funds. In addition, Greenberg used some of the machines to mine cryptocurrency for himself. As part of those efforts, Greenberg used Tax Collector’s Office funds to build a server room in his personal office, and he operated some of the machines at the Lake Mary branch. Id. at ¶ 134. Because of how those machines were daisy chained together at the Lake Mary branch, they started a fire that damaged the machines and the branch office.

[snip]

After he was released on pretrial supervision, Greenberg continued with his scheme, executing an SBA loan agreement for $133,000 only a day after he was ordered by a United States Magistrate Judge not to commit any new offenses.

It all feels like a Coen Brothers movie. Sex with minors, ecstasy, rat-fucking, and flaming cryptocurrency servers.

With regards to Greenberg’s cooperation, one of his crimes — stalking — deserves particular attention. When someone filed to run against him as tax collector, Greenberg manufactured a claim that his opponent was sleeping with a student.

In the midst of defrauding the Tax Collector’s Office, Greenberg added stalking to his repertoire of criminal activity. See id. at ¶¶ 138-147. On October 4, 2019, an individual who was a teacher at a school, filed to run for the elected office of Seminole County Tax Collector in 2020, against Greenberg. Id. at ¶ 138. In retaliation, Greenberg caused nine letters to be sent to the teacher’s school. The letters falsely represented that they were being sent by an anonymous “very concerned student” who had information that the teacher had engaged in sexual misconduct with a particular student. Id. at ¶ 139. The following month, in November 2019, Greenberg set up a Facebook account that falsely claimed to belong to a “very concerned teacher” at the school. Using that account, Greenberg made similar false allegations to the ones previously made in his letters. Id. at ¶¶ 143-145. Further, he created an imposter Twitter account, using the name and photograph of his political opponent, without the teacher’s knowledge or consent. Greenberg then published, using that account, a series of racially motivated posts that he falsely represented were being made by the teacher, and representing that the teacher was a racist. Id. at ¶ 142.

This is classic Republican projection and rat-fuckery. But it is also a really damaging confession for anyone who might want to turn snitch in the future.

I’m sure Greenberg knows all sorts of things about what his sleazeball buddies have done and shared some of it with prosecutors. But the fact that Greenberg manufactured false allegations against someone would make him really easy to discredit as a witness about anything for which there wasn’t a whole bunch of independent documentation. Prosecutors use fraudsters as cooperating witnesses all the time, but to do so they need a bunch of corroboration, because otherwise jurors aren’t going to believe the claims of someone who confessed to manufacturing false claims for personal gain in the past.

With that said, I wanted to look closer at the sentencing dispute. Greenberg thinks his cooperation has been more valuable than the government has given him credit for. Partly, that’s because he thinks he should get a 4-level reduction for each of what he says are seven prosecutions he has been a part of (or will be as downstream conspiracy prosecutions progress or would have been had the defendant not died), rather than the 10-level reduction the government says he should get for all his cooperation. Partly, he thinks the mandatory 2-year minimum for the identity theft he pled to, which would be consecutive to his other sentence, should be set aside given his cooperation.

But as Greenberg’s and all other plea agreements make clear, he doesn’t get to decide.

[T]he defendant understands that the determination as to whether “substantial assistance” has been provided or what type of motion related thereto will be filed, if any, rests solely with the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, and the defendant agrees that defendant cannot and will not challenge that determination, whether by appeal, collateral attack, or otherwise.

It’s solely up to the government to decide. And here’s what the government thinks of Greenberg’s cooperation:

In summary, the defendant has provided truthful and timely information to the United States which, in part, resulted in the charging of: two individuals involved in a conspiracy to provide bribes and kickbacks to the defendant,2 one individual involved in a conspiracy to submit false claims to the SBA and to bribe an SBA employee,3 and one individual involved in a conspiracy to defraud the Tax Collector’s Office.4 In addition, the defendant has provided substantial assistance on other matters discussed in the sealed Supplemental Memorandum Regarding Defendant’s Cooperation.

The United States has acknowledged the value added as a result of the defendant’s cooperation, and to reflect the significance of his assistance, the United States has moved for a 10-level reduction in his offense level. This is however, where his mitigation and reasons for any type of reduction in offense level should end. Considering all of the above referenced information including (1) the nature and circumstances of the instant offenses, (2) the defendant’s history and characteristics, and (3) the need for the sentence imposed to provide just punishment, adequate deterrence, respect for the law, and protection of the public, the United States respectfully submits that no downward variance is warranted.

It’s the “substantial assistance on other matters discussed in the sealed Supplemental Memorandum Regarding Defendant’s Cooperation” we’re all particularly interested in, what, in Greenberg’s response, he calls “an entire universe of malfeasance, corruption, and depravity.”

I’m sure it is.

I’m sure it is.

This is the stuff, including the Gaetz sex trafficking allegations, that has shown up in the press.

Most recently, it showed up — with an on the record quote from Scheller boosting the import of Greenberg’s cooperation — in a NYT story on multiple January 6 prosecutors’ investigation of the ties between January 6 and the 2018 Stop the Steal effort.

In recent months, prosecutors overseeing the seditious conspiracy case of five members of the Proud Boys have expanded their investigation to examine the role that Jacob Engels — a Florida Proud Boy who accompanied Mr. Stone to Washington for Jan. 6 — played in the 2018 protests, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The prosecutors want to know whether Mr. Engels received any payments or drew up any plans for the Florida demonstration, and whether he has ties to other people connected to the Proud Boys’ activities in the run-up to the storming of the Capitol.

Different prosecutors connected to the Jan. 6 investigation have also been asking questions about efforts by Mr. Stone — a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump — to stave off a recount in the 2018 Senate race in Florida, according to other people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Gaetz, Republican of Florida, participated in the 2018 demonstration, but the extent and nature of his involvement remain unclear.

Fritz Scheller, a lawyer for Joel Greenberg, a local Florida tax collector who is cooperating with the government in an investigation into Mr. Gaetz, declined in response to questions to discuss the specifics of what his client told the authorities about the 2018 incident. Still, Mr. Scheller said, “A significant aspect of Mr. Greenberg’s cooperation has been his assistance in matters involving efforts to subvert the democratic process.” [my emphasis]

What is going on overtly in this sentencing dispute, with Greenberg arguing for the value of his cooperation, likely parallels what has generated a lot of press coverage (particularly about any sex trafficking case against Gaetz) in recent years. We likely got stories about “an entire universe of malfeasance, corruption, and depravity,” including the expectation that Gaetz would be indicted, because those close to Greenberg were trying to raise the value of his cooperation in the public sphere and pressure prosecutors for an indictment of Gaetz, which would have increased the credit he’d get for cooperating, another 4-level sentencing reduction, Greenberg says it would have gotten him.

None of that’s to say that Greenberg’s cooperation hasn’t been corroborated (on some points) or valuable: The government explicitly says he was “truthful” and uses the phrase, “substantial assistance,” that prosecutors use to describe real meat, often meat that they expect will lead to indictments.

It’s just that at this moment, the first time the government has been able to say publicly how valuable they think Greenberg’s cooperation is in the face of all the sex, ecstasy, rat-fucking, and flaming cryptocurrency servers that Greenberg pled guilty to, they say all that truthful and substantial assistance doesn’t outweigh the fraud as much as Greenberg would like it to.

None of that says Gaetz is in the clear, though the report that federal prosecutors won’t charge him for the sex trafficking because, “a conviction is unlikely in part because of credibility questions with the two central witnesses,” accords with what we see in the sentencing memo. Greenberg would have particular credibility problems on that count because Greenberg manufactured a claim of sex crimes in the past.

That said, I find it interesting that Gaetz decided, at the last minute, not to attend Trump’s rally in Florida last night, purportedly because of rain that wasn’t affecting travel in the least. And in Scheller’s motion for an extension, he described five hours of work with federal and state prosecutors (which may or may not relate to Greenberg), but also resolving an unexpected issue that might impact Greenberg’s sentence.

Because of the recent tropical storm (Nicole) and associated federal and state court closures on November 9 and November 10, as well as the federal holiday on November 11, 2022, the undersigned has had multiple case matters continued to this week. Indeed, today the undersigned has already spent five hours in both state court and in an extensive proffer with the Government.

[snip]

Additionally, the undersigned is currently in the process of resolving an unexpected issue (both today and tomorrow) that could impact Mr. Greenberg’s sentence.

So there may be recent developments of interest, developments that had to wait until courthouses could be opened after rain that was affecting travel.

I hope we’ll get a slew of new titillating new stories about Joel Greenberg’s universe of malfeasance, corruption, and depravity when that sealed cooperation memo is unsealed (or, better yet, if it leads to indictments). But for now, the advent of this sentencing dispute is a helpful reminder that the motives that drive reporting often require overselling the value of the testimony of an admitted fraudster.

Constructive Action: Make It Rain [UPDATE-1]

[NB: check the byline, thanks. Updates will appear at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

For more than a year news media have indulged in conventional wisdom about a mid-term election, insisting that the president’s party will lose seats in Congress.

Never mind 2018’s blue wave, though — a tsunami during which Democrats took control of the House by 40 seats.

News media have interspersed this with their easy go-to, the time-worn “Dems in Disarray” bullshit, refusing to frame the lack of traction on Biden agenda legislation as continuing obstruction by the GOP which retains a stranglehold on half the Senate.

Never mind the deliberate and overt GOP obstruction throughout Obama’s two terms in office, or the votes of GOP’s congressional caucus to obstruct the certification of 2020 election after a GOP president whipped up an insurrection under news media’s gaze.

Don’t readily accept news media’s positioning on Congress going into the mid-term elections, the same media which lost its way during Trump-Bannon flood-the-zone-with-shit era.

We can make our own flood. We can make it rain.

~ ~ ~

That nasty Floridian GOP hairpiece with a mouth, Matt Gaetz (FL-1), decided to puff up his ego and stir up shit by bullying a Latinx teen from Texas, Olivia Julianna.

He implied only unattractive women are concerned about reproductive rights.

He had absolutely no fucking idea what kind of wasp nest he stuck his puny dick in.


She went after him as he continued his bullying.


She didn’t back down.


Olivia began fundraising for reproductive health care.


She even thanked the Florida Man.


State and national media interviewed her, and fundraising snowballed.

Until this evening’s benchmark:

This 19-year-old GenZ for Change activist didn’t take crap from obnoxious Matt Gaetz lying down. She tore after him using her heightened media profile to raise money for a cause she believes in.

Olivia Julianna made it rain. You can help her make it rain, too. Piss all over Gaetz’s parade.

~ ~ ~

Speaking of piss, the GOP Senate caucus decided to urinate on veterans and their health care needs:


They didn’t just block the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT Act), they celebrated it.


Satirist-entertainer Jon Stewart was infuriated.


Stewart’s rage might make it rain.

But I know you can make it rain by supporting VoteVets’ endorsed candidates.

~ ~ ~

Pennsylvania is a good news/bad news story.

The good news: a new poll shows PA Senate Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman kicking carpetbagging Republican candidate Mehmet Oz in the ass.

The bad news: three Pennsylvania counties — Berks, Fayette and Lancaster — are still screwing with primary election results, setting a negative tone ahead of the mid-term elections. A court hearing began Thursday, documented in this Twitter thread:


All three counties are strong/solid GOP. The congressional districts they’re in — PA-09, PA-11, PA-14 — have been tweaked slightly during redistricting since the state lost a House seat.

One of these districts, though, has NO Democratic candidate running:

PA-09
Dan Meuser (Incumbent) (GOP)
Amanda Waldman (Dem) — grossly underfunded

PA-11
Lloyd Smucker (Incumbent) (GOP)
Robert Hollister (Dem) — also grossly underfunded

PA-14
Guy Reschenthaler (Incumbent) (GOP)
No candidates filed for the Democratic Party primary

It not only makes zero sense why Berks, Fayette and Lancaster counties are refusing to certify their primary elections, but no sense why the Democratic Party hasn’t provided more funding to the Democrats in PA-09 and PA-11, and why there’s no Democratic candidate in PA-14

Furthermore, it makes no goddamned sense why the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is throwing money at a MAGA GOP candidate in Michigan’s MI-03 Grand Rapids area district, while there’s inadequate funding and no candidate in three of Pennsylvania’s House races while Fetterman may help all down ticket races in what looks to be a mounting wave election.

Somebody make it rain for Amanda Waldman and Robert Hollister in PA-09 and PA-11. Force the GOP incumbents to work for their seats since they’re not doing much else for Pennsylvanians.

Make it rain in PA-14 by recruiting a Democrat for write-in, if that’s still a possibility.

~ ~ ~

I smell petrichor, do you?

Consider this an open thread.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 12:30 P.M. ET — 29-JUL-2022 —

Olivia Julianna published a statement with an ask:

It’s not enough to fund reproductive health care while reproductive rights remain at risk and stripped away in some states.

Make it rain for the reproductive rights champions.

Democratic Governors’ Association Protect Reproductive Rights Fund at ActBlue

WI: Re-elect Gov. Tony Evers
MI: Re-elect Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and AG Dana Nessel
IL: Re-elect Gov. JB Pritzker

PA: Elect Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman and Austin Davis as Lt. Gov.
GA: Elect Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock
TX: Elect Beto O’Rourke and Mike Collier and Rochelle Garza
OH: Elect Tim Ryan
NC: Elect Cheri Beasley

A White Board of the Sedition-Curious

Contrary to what a lot of people imagine, I don’t keep visual representations — like some cork board with a bunch of strings attached — of the investigations I follow, not even the sprawling January 6 investigation. Instead, I just try to capture important developments here, where I can refer back to them. There are several such relationships unpacked in recent weeks.

Roger Stone and Stewart Rhodes bug out at the same time after insurrection

For example, a bunch of people have asked me what I make of the WaPo report based on video taken by some Danish journalists who were filming a documentary of Roger Stone on January 6.

As you read it, keep in mind that the Get Me Roger Stone video team was following Roger Stone during key periods of 2016, including at the RNC.

Mueller at least attempted — as Stone feared Mueller would in real time — to mine the video for clues about Stone’s activities. For example, in one of the same email chains where Stone told Randy Credico to “do a [Frank] Panta[n]gel[i],” he and Credico were panicking about what Get Me Roger Stone writer Morgan Pehme was saying about 2016.

So even assuming Roger Stone wasn’t engaged in his everyday type of performance when being filmed for these film-makers, he would be acutely aware of the legal hazards of having a documentary team following around while crimes were being committed.

That’s why the report is most interesting for the times when Stone made sure to ditch the camera team: at precisely the time of a key Proud Boy planning meeting, during a meeting that Joshua James may have reported in on, and as the riot unfolded at the Capitol.

For example, the videographers did not track Stone when he left the hotel at 9PM on January 5 with Sal Greco.

At about 8:50 p.m. on Jan. 5, after the Danish filmmakers had left him, Stone exited the Willard again with his bodyguard, off-duty New York City police officer Sal Greco, a live-stream video shows. Their destination was unclear, though Stone had said he had a 9 p.m. appointment to have his hair dyed.

Just minutes after that — just before 9:17 PM — Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean were meeting with as-yet unidentified people putting together their plan for the riot.

Then there was a meeting with Bernie Kerik at 10AM at the Willard; hotel staff prevented videographers from watching that meeting.

The filmmakers told The Post that Stone appeared to change his plans after an encounter in the Willard lobby around 10 a.m. with Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner working in Giuliani’s command center at the hotel. The filmmakers began recording their conversation but were forced to leave by hotel staff. It is unclear what was said.

There’s good evidence that Joshua James checked in with Michael Simmons before and after that meeting.

Finally, Stone blew off the videographers from just before the Proud Boys kicked off a riot until almost the moment both Stone-related militias stood down.

At about 12:40 p.m., some ofStone’s guests left his suite. Stone’s team and the filmmakers agreed to separate for lunch and then reconvene two hours later. Stone planned to speak at a smaller rally near the Capitol later that afternoon.

But as the filmmakers ate in their hotel room, they saw news footage of a riot escalating at the Capitol. Around 2:30 p.m., Guldbrandsen headed out to capture the scene while Frederik Marbell, the director of photography, rushed to Stone’s room.

“Kristin Davis opened the door and said that Roger was taking a nap, so I couldn’t film,” Marbelltold The Post.

Outside the room, Marbell attempted to reach Stone by text message starting at 3:03 p.m. The messages went unanswered for 24 minutes, when Stone responded and offered to go to Marbell’s room.

By about 4 p.m., with the Capitol in chaos, Stone had still not arrived at Marbell’s room. Marbell returned to Stone’s room and began knocking. About five minutes later, room service arrived and Marbell snuck inside, he said.

“Roger was not taking a nap. He was on the phone with someone,” Marbell said.

Stone condemned the riot to the filmmakers at 4:18 p.m., saying: “I think it’s really bad for the movement. It hurts, it doesn’t help. I’m not sure what they thought they were going to achieve.

These are like Stone’s July 2016 meeting with Nigel Farage at the RNC: The stuff he knew well to and did hide from the camera. That’s where the sweet spot of Stone’s interactions are.

All that said, the report shows that key Stone actions the camera team captured exactly map the known central events of the planning for the insurrection.

For example, Stone put together a Friends of Stone Signal list, including Enrique Tarrio, once it became clear Trump had lost. That fed Flynn’s efforts.

He told them to monitor a group chat on the app Signal titled “F.O.S.” — friends of Stone. Tarrio of the Proud Boys was among the group’s members, a later shot of Stone’s phone showed.

[snip]

On Nov. 5, Stone drew up a Stop the Steal action plan that was visible on Alejandro’s laptop in footage captured by the filmmakers. As protesters were mobilized, the plan said, state lawmakers would be lobbied to reject official results. That tactic later proved central to Trump’s efforts.

Also that day, Stone had a 15-minute call with Flynn, the video shows. He told Flynn they could “document an overwhelming and compelling fraud” in each battleground state and urged him to spread the word on social media. That day, Flynn, Trump’s campaign and his sons Donald Jr. and Eric began using #StopTheSteal on Twitter.

Just after this mobilization, both Tarrio and Biggs started calling for civil war.

Later that month, Stone was coordinating with Mike Flynn and Ali Alexander.

Stone moved quickly after Trump’s defeat to help mobilize the protest movement that drew thousands to the nation’s capital on Jan. 6, 2021, The Post found. He privately strategized with former national security adviser Michael Flynn and rally organizer Ali Alexander, who visited Stone’s home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in late November 2020 for a dinner where Stone served pasta and martinis.

In the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving (when Flynn would be pardoned and Sidney Powell would, like Stone, start grifting off claims of a stolen election), Flynn and Powell were at Lin Wood’s properties in South Carolina, plotting away.

I was most struck, however, by the unsurprising news that in addition to Tarrio, Stone also used Signal messages with Stewart Rhodes.

Stone used an encrypted messaging app later in January to communicate with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who is also charged with seditious conspiracy, and Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, the footage shows.

When I saw the description in James’ statement of offense of the way Rhodes bugged out of town immediately after the riot, I suspected that someone had instructed Rhodes that they were going to be hunted.

At Rhodes’s instruction, James, Vallejo, and others met Rhodes that evening at a restaurant in Vienna, Virginia. Rhodes discussed saving “the Republic” by stopping the transfer of presidential power and began to make plans to oppose the Inauguration on January 20, 2021, including by having people open-carry firearms at state capitols around the country.

While at the restaurant, Rhodes and James came to believe that law enforcement was searching for Rhodes and others after their attack on the Capitol. The group immediately returned to their hotel, collected their belongings, and met at a nearby gas station. There, James saw what he estimated to be thousands of dollars’ worth of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment in Rhodes’s vehicle. Rhodes divvied up various firearms and other gear among James and others who occupied a total of three cars. Rhodes left his mobile phone with one person and departed with another person in that person’s car so that law enforcement could not locate and arrest him. The three cars departed in separate directions.

James returned to Alabama with some of Rhodes’s gear, including firearms and other tactical equipment.

According to the videographers, Stone bugged out at about the same time and in the same frantic manner as Rhodes did.

As a mob ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s longest-serving political adviser, hurried to pack a suitcase inside his elegant suite on the fifth floor of the Willard hotel. He wrapped his tailored suits in trash bags, reversed his black face mask so its “Free Roger Stone” logo was hidden, then slipped out of town for a hastily arranged private flight from Dulles International Airport.

“I really want to get out of here,” Stone told an aide, as they were filmed at the hotel by a Danish camera crew for a documentary on the veteran Republican operative. Stone said he feared prosecution by the incoming attorney general, Merrick Garland. “He is not a friend,” Stone said.

I would, at this point, be shocked if Rhodes and Stone hadn’t communally decided they needed to bolt. The remaining question I have, though, is whether someone in government — like Mark Meadows — alerted Stone or someone close to him that the FBI had switched immediately into investigative mode.

Sidney Powell springs for the sedition gaslight defense

In the same way that the Danish videographers confirm that Roger Stone and Mike Flynn were conspiring early in the post-election process, a recent BuzzFeed report reveals that Sidney Powell is now using her hard-won grift to pay for the defense of some Oath Keepers.

Since October, the organization, Defending the Republic, has been making monthly payments to the defense attorney for Kelly Meggs, a member of the militant group the Oath Keepers who is charged with seditious conspiracy for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. In an interview, the attorney, Jonathon Moseley, said he was aware of “at least three or four other defendants who have that arrangement” as well. The Oath Keepers’ general counsel, Kellye SoRelle, said that one of those others is the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes. Offered the chance to deny that, his lawyers said they don’t discuss funding.

The revelation, which has not been previously reported, sheds new light on the activities of Powell’s organization, which was incorporated in December 2020 “to defend the constitutional rights of all Americans.” By last August, the group had raised nearly $15 million, according to its audited financial statements, and since then has raked in untold cash in donations and sales of merchandise, including T-shirts, drink coasters, and highball glasses adorned with the organization’s logo. Yet despite mounting legal scrutiny from federal and state investigators, Defending the Republic has disclosed almost nothing about where that money has been going.

[snip]

Powell’s involvement in the Oath Keepers case helps explain how some of the defendants, most of whom are far from wealthy, have been able to work with private attorneys who charge hundreds of dollars an hour rather than court-appointed lawyers. But it also raises questions as to who is dictating their defense strategy. In recent months, defense attorneys have raised many of the same far-flung conspiracies about COVID-19, antifa, and the deep state that appeared in lawsuits against the federal government filed by Powell herself.

As Ken Bensinger notes and I have traced, Jonathon Moseley has chosen to use court filings to engage in conspiracy theorizing rather than a more typical defense.

But on top of the futility of such an approach to actually obtain an optimal outcome, it serves to undermine rule of law more generally. Moseley’s approach is not all that different from the one that Powell herself used with Mike Flynn in attempting to blow up his prosecution by inventing false claims about the government. There was no evidence to support it, but it fed the frothers.

Tellingly, Powell’s efforts did nothing but make Flynn’s outcome worse. Thus, the defense plan, such as it existed, served to undermine rule of law and then make it all go away with a Presidential pardon. I’ve long assumed that that was the hope for Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson (who has adopted a similarly conspiratorial defense approach): that they could stall through 2025 in hopes a Republican would pardon them for their alleged sedition.

On March 4, Judge Amit Mehta appointed Andrew Wise of Miller Chevalier as conflict counsel to inquire into conflicts between Moseley’s representation of Meggs and (at least in the civil suit) Stewart Rhodes). That’s likely to bring a review of compensation arrangements, which may lead to inquiries about what Powell is paying Moseley to do.

Interestingly, BuzzFeed suggests that Juli Haller, who represents Meggs’ wife Connie, but also Ryan Samsel, may be on this dole. There was a time when Samsel looked like he might have considered flipping but that time is long gone.

Roger Stone’s pardon grift

And now, having covered Roger Stone’s Stop the Steal grift and Sidney Powell’s Defending the Republic grift, we come to Stone’s pardon-selling.

The Daily Beast adds to the earlier WaPo report (the first item here) that addressed all the pardons Roger Stone pitched Trump to make in the days between when he bolted from DC quickly and the day any such power expired. It notes that in mid-January 2021, Stone was playing all sides of the Florida scandal that engulfs Matt Gaetz.

It’s already known that Stone lobbied for pardons for both Gaetz and Greenberg in the waning days of the Trump administration. But it wasn’t known that Stone also advocated for a pardon for this third man connected to Gaetz and Greenberg: Stephen Alford, a serial fraudster from the Florida panhandle.

That development was first revealed by The Washington Post in a draft memo published earlier this month. But the Post report didn’t mention Alford—his name only appears in a document the Post obtained and uploaded online—and the link hasn’t been explored.

Two months after Stone advocated for Alford’s absolution, that allegiance dissolved when Alford became Gaetz’s scapegoat for the investigation. (Stone also eventually blasted Alford as part of the “deep state.”)

Just weeks before, however, Stone was in Alford’s corner, lobbying for a pardon.

Much of this is just scammy Florida politics. I’m interested in two details of this.

First, one of the ties TDB did find between Alford — the guy who attempted to extort Gaetz’s dad — and Stone goes through Oleg Deripaska.

According to a person with direct knowledge of the events, however, Alford had one powerful friend: A Republican lobbyist close to Stone.

Weeks after Alford’s pardon request was declined, that lobbyist shared some more information: Matt Gaetz was in trouble. And the lobbyist, this person said, had the details, including images of Gaetz with young women at a sex party.

While it’s unclear how the lobbyist—an associate of Oleg Deripaska—came into this information, Stone had by that time known about the Gaetz allegations for months; Greenberg had told Stone all about their involvement with a 17-year-old, both over text messages and in a confession he drafted at Stone’s request, as part of the pardon process.

It didn’t take long for Alford to cobble together a plan—and it was a doozy: He would secure Gaetz a presidential pardon in exchange for $25 million, which Alford would supposedly use to repatriate an FBI agent taken hostage in Iran who has long been considered dead.

TDB then describes how this plan, involving a lobbyist with ties to Deripaska, was behind the campaign against the NYT story on Gaetz’ legal woes.

When The New York Times broke the investigation in late March last year, Gaetz used Alford’s ploy as ammo. He fired off a tweetstorm, claiming the Times report was a “planted leak” designed to torpedo an investigation into “criminal extortion” plot “to smear my name.”

The central figure in Gaetz’s narrative, however, wasn’t Alford; it was Alford’s lawyer, whose role was limited to holding the money in an escrow account while Alford negotiated the release.

That lawyer had one special characteristic: Three decades ago, he served as a DOJ prosecutor. And that fact equipped the narrative with a “deep state” hook—a Roger Stone special.

Gaetz doubled down that night on Tucker Carlson’s late-night Fox News talk show, explaining the convoluted “leaking” and “smearing” plot to a befuddled Carlson, who remarked that it was “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”

The next day, Stone piped up to defend Gaetz, using the same language.

And I’m interested in that because Glenn Greenwald was another key player in this anti-NYT campaign, including as recently as December.

Click through for the details on Gaetz paying Stone until he stopped paying Stone.

Update: One more note about Stone’s plan for pardons. Unsurprisingly he pushed for pardons for Assange and Stone, and unsurprisingly he did so in the same terms that Greenwald did — as the best way to get back at the Deep State.

Hell yes ,I would pardon Julian Assange and Edward Snowden- they are persecuted because they exposed the same people who attempted the Russia Collusion Hoax, the Ukraine hoax the last phony impeachment and are now pushing you’re their new phony impeachment.

The plan is a telling document of how Stone exploited Trump’s narcissism and grievances to get things done. The UK Supreme Court just rejected Assange’s bid to appeal, so the initial extradition request will go to Priti Patel for approval (though he still has several avenues of appeal).

Four Data Points on the January 6 Insurrection

The NYT and WaPo both have stories beginning to explain the failures to protect the Capitol (ProPublica had a really good one days ago). The core issue, thus far, concerns DOD’s delays before sending in the National Guard — something that they happened to incorporate into a timeline not long after the attack, before the Capitol Police or City of DC had put their own together (the timeline has some gaps).

I can think of two charitable explanations for the lapses. First, in the wake of criticism over the deployment of military resources and tear gas against peaceful protestors to protect Donald Trump in June, those who had been criticized were reluctant to repeat such a display of force to protect Congress (and Mike Pence). In addition, in both DOJ and FBI under the Trump Administration, job security and career advancement depended on reinforcing the President’s false claims that his political supporters had been unfairly spied on, which undoubtedly created a predictable reluctance to treat those political supporters as the urgent national security threat they are and have always been.

Those are just the most charitable explanations I can think of, though. Both are barely distinguishable from a deliberate attempt to punish the President’s opponents — including Muriel Bowser and Nancy Pelosi — for their past criticism of Trump’s militarization of the police and an overt politicization of law enforcement. Or, even worse, a plan to exploit these past events to create the opportunity for a coup to succeed.

We won’t know which of these possible explanations it is (likely, there are a range of explanations), and won’t know for many months.

That said, I want to look at a few data points that may provide useful background.

Trump plans to pardon those in the bunker

First, as I noted here, according to Bloomberg, Trump has talked about pardoning the four men who’ve been in the bunker with Trump plotting recent events, along with Rudy Giuliani, who is also likely to be pardoned.

Preemptive pardons are under discussion for top White House officials who have not been charged with crimes, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, senior adviser Stephen Miller, personnel chief John McEntee, and social media director Dan Scavino.

I like to think I’ve got a pretty good sense of potential legal exposure Trump’s flunkies have, yet I know of nothing (aside, perhaps, from McEntee’s gambling problems) that these men have clear criminal liability in. And yet Trump seems to believe these men — including the guy with close ties to far right Congressmen, the white nationalist, the guy who remade several agencies to ensure that only loyalists remained in key positions, and the guy who tweets out Trump’s barely-coded dogwhistles — need a pardon.

That may suggest that they engaged in sufficient affirmative plotting even before Wednesday’s events.

Mind you, if these men had a role in coordinating all this, a pardon might backfire, as it would free them up to testify about any role Trump had in planning what happened on Wednesday.

Trump rewards Devin Nunes for helping him to avoid accountability

Several key questions going forward will focus on whether incompetence or worse led top officials at DOD to limit the mandate for the National Guard on January 6 and, as both DC and the Capitol Police desperately called for reinforcements, stalled before sending them.

A key player in that question is Kash Patel, who served as a gatekeeper at HPSCI to ensure that Republicans got a distorted view of the Russian intelligence implicating Trump, then moved to the White House to ensure that Trump got his Ukraine intelligence via Patel rather than people who knew anything about the topic, and then got moved to DOD to oversee a takeover of the Pentagon by people fiercely loyal to Trump.

And a key player in coordinating Kash’s activities was his original boss, Devin Nunes. On Monday, Trump gave Nunes the Medal of Freedom, basically the equivalent of a pardon to someone who likely believes his actions have all been protected by speech and debate. The entire citation for the award is an expression of the steps by which Trump, with Nunes’ help, undermined legitimate investigations into himself. In particular, Trump cited how Nunes’ efforts had hollowed out the FBI of people who might investigate anyone loyal to Trump.

Devin Nunes’ courageous actions helped thwart a plot to take down a sitting United States president. Devin’s efforts led to the firing, demotion, or resignation of over a dozen FBI and DOJ employees. He also forced the disclosure of documents that proved that a corrupt senior FBI official pursued a vindictive persecution of General Michael Flynn — even after rank and file FBI agents found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Congressman Nunes pursued the Russia Hoax at great personal risk and never stopped standing up for the truth. He had the fortitude to take on the media, the FBI, the Intelligence Community, the Democrat Party, foreign spies, and the full power of the Deep State. Devin paid a price for his courage. The media smeared him and liberal activists opened a frivolous and unjustified ethics investigation, dragging his name through the mud for eight long months. Two dozen members of his family received threatening phone calls – including his 98 year old grandmother.

Whatever else this debasement of the nation’s highest award for civilians might have done, it signaled to Nunes’ team — including but not limited to Patel — Trump’s appreciation for their work, and rewarded the guy he credits with politicizing the FBI.

That politicization is, as I noted above, one of the more charitable explanations for the FBI’s lack of preparation on Wednesday.

Interestingly, Nunes is not one of the members of Congress who challenged Biden’s votes after law enforcement restored order.

Corrected: Nunes did object to both AZ and PA.

Trump takes steps to designate Antifa as a Foreign Terrorist Organization

The day before the insurrection, Trump signed an Executive Order excluding immigrants if they have any tie to Antifa. Effectively, it put Antifa on the same kind of exclusionary footing as Communists or ISIS terrorists. Had Trump signed the EO before he was on his way out the door, it would have initiated a process likely to end with Antifa listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, giving the Intelligence Community additional intelligence tools to track members of the organization, even in the United States (the kind of tools, not coincidentally, that some experts say the FBI needs against white supremacist terrorists).

The EO will have next to no effect. Joe Biden will rescind it among the other trash he needs to clean up in the early days of his Administration.

But I find it curious that Trump effectively named a domestic movement a terrorist organization just days before multiple Trump associates attempted to blame Antifa for the riot at the Capitol.

That effort actually started before the order was signed. Back in December, Enrique Tarrio suggested that the Proud Boys (a group Trump had called to “Stand by” in September) might wear all black — a costume for Antifa — as they protested.

“The ProudBoys will turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th but this time with a twist…,” Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the group’s president, wrote in a late-December post on Parler, a social media platform that has become popular with right-wing activists and conservatives. “We will not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow. We will be incognito and we will spread across downtown DC in smaller teams. And who knows….we might dress in all BLACK for the occasion.”

The day after the riot, Matt Gaetz relied on a since-deleted Washington Times post to claim that the riot was a false flag launched by Antifa.

In a speech during the process of certifying President-elect Joe Biden, Gaetz claimed there was “some pretty compelling evidence from a facial recognition company” that some Capitol rioters were actually “members of the violent terrorist group antifa.” (Antifa is not a single defined group, does not have an official membership, and has not been designated a terrorist organization, although President Donald Trump has described it as one.)

Gaetz attributed this claim to a short Washington Times article published yesterday. That article, in turn, cited a “retired military officer.” The officer asserted that a company called XRVision “used its software to do facial recognition of protesters and matched two Philadelphia antifa members to two men inside the Senate.” The Times said it had been given a copy of the photo match, but it didn’t publish the picture.

There is no evidence to support the Times’ article, however. An XRVision spokesperson linked The Verge to a blog post by CTO Yaacov Apelbaum, denying its claims and calling the story “outright false, misleading, and defamatory.” (Speech delivered during congressional debate, such as Gaetz’s, is protected from defamation claims.) The Times article was apparently deleted a few hours after Apelbaum’s post.

Rudy Giuliani also attempted to blame Antifa.

And Captain Emily Rainey, who resigned today as DOD investigates the PsyOp officer for her role in the insurgency, also blamed Antifa for the violence.

Her group — as well as most at Wednesday’s rally — were “peace-loving, law-abiding people who were doing nothing but demonstrating our First Amendment rights,” she said.

She even shared a video on Facebook insisting that the rioters were all Antifa, saying, “I don’t know any violent Patriots. I don’t know any Patriots who would smash the windows of a National jewel like the [Capitol].”

It is entirely predictable that Trump loyalists would blame Antifa for anything bad they do — Bill Barr did so as the formal policy of DOJ going back at least a year. But Trump seems to have prepared the ground for such predictable scapegoating by taking steps to declare Antifa a terrorist “organization” hours before a riot led by his supporters would storm the Capitol.

The White House makes DHS Secretary Chad Wolf’s appointment especially illegal

I’m most intrigued by a flip-flop that had the effect of making DHS Acting Secretary’s appointment even more illegal than it has already been at times in the last two years.

On January 3, the White House submitted Chad Wolf’s nomination, along with those of 29 other people, to be DHS Secretary. Then, on January 6, it withdrew the nomination.

Wolf himself was out of the country in Bahrain when the riot happened. But he did tweet out — before DOD mobilized the Guard — that DHS officials were supporting the counter-insurgency. And he issued both a tweet and then — the next day — a more formal statement condemning the violence.

It’s not entirely clear what happened between his renomination and the withdrawal, but Steve Vladeck (who tracks this stuff more closely than anyone), had a lot to say about the juggling, not least that the withdrawal of his resubmitted nomination made it very clear that Wolf is not now legally serving.

This could have had — and could have, going forward — a chilling effect on any orders Wolf issues to deploy law enforcement.

Thus far, we haven’t seen much about what DHS did and did not do in advance of the riot — though its maligned intelligence unit did not issue a bulletin warning of the danger.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and an intelligence unit inside the Department of Homeland Security didn’t issue a threat assessment of the Jan. 6 pro-Trump protests that devolved into violence inside the Capitol, people briefed on the matter said.

In the weeks leading up to the protests, extremists posted about their plans to “storm” the Capitol on social media.

The joint department bulletin is a routine report before notable events that the agencies usually send to federal, state and local law-enforcement and homeland security advisers. The reports help plan for events that could pose significant risks.

At the DHS unit, called Intelligence and Analysis, management didn’t view the demonstrations as posing a significant threat, some of the people said.

Last year, Ken Cuccinelli forced whistleblower Brian Murphy to change language in a threat analysis to downplay white supremacist violence and instead blame Antifa and related groups.

In May 2020, Mr. Glawe retired, and Mr. Murphy assumed the role of Acting Under Secretary. In May 2020 and June 2020, Mr. Murphy had several meetings with Mr. Cuccinelli regarding the status of the HTA. Mr. Cuccinelli stated that Mr. Murphy needed to specifically modify the section on White Supremacy in a manner that made the threat appear less severe, as well as include information on the prominence of violent “left-wing” groups. Mr. Murphy declined to make the requested modifications, and informed Mr. Cuccinelli that it would constitute censorship of analysis and the improper administration of an intelligence program.

Wolf had been complicit in that past politicization. But something happened this week to lead the Trump White House to ensure that his orders can be legally challenged.

Update: Jake Gibson just reported that Wolf is stepping down.

These are just data points. We’ll learn far more about Trump’s involvement as the FBI obtains warrants for the communications who have ties to both groups like the Proud Boys and Trump associates like Roger Stone and Steve Bannon. But these are a few data points worth keeping an eye on.

On Ronna McDaniel’s (Still Undisclosed) Test Results

Update, 3/18: The Detroit Free Press just reported that McDaniel’s test (finally) came back negative. That’s both a relief — given who she interacted with before being tested — and a real testament to how long it still takes for (even powerful) people ot to get a test result.

On Friday night, RNC Chair Ronna [Romney] McDaniel got a test for COVID-19, the first high profile Republican tested based on the inadequate testing guidelines rolled out by the CDC rather than concerns arising just from exposure. That is, she had exposure and flu-like symptoms and tested negative for alternative explanations before she took the test.

I can find no follow-up report on the status of her test — though both Saturday and Sunday’s Michigan test reports included the description of a positive test for someone who could be her.

Oakland County, adult female with history of contact with someone with a confirmed case.

[snip]

Oakland County, adult female with contact with a person with COVID-19.

Meanwhile, on Saturday NYT updated a story — first published Friday afternoon — on how Kimberly Guilfoyle’s birthday party a week ago exposed a number of high profile people to the illness. The update quoted aides bitching that McDaniel revealed that she had “publicly acknowledged her illness.”

The president has sought for weeks to play down the severity of the outbreak and been especially sensitive about giving the impression that he himself was at risk. Indeed, several advisers to Mr. Trump on Saturday privately expressed irritation at Ms. McDaniel for publicly acknowledging her illness.

This is not confirmation McDaniel tested positive. Rather, it’s silence and expressed “irritation” about McDaniel’s honesty where other prominent Republicans like Matt Gaetz and Mark Meadows — to say nothing of the President himself — have disclosed both taking the test and their negative results without similar irritation.

As such, it’s an indication that the White House no longer wants to talk about the multiple exposures people within the White House and top ranks of the government or the Republican Party have had, and probably would not tell us if someone who had been exposed tested positive.

Negative or positive, McDaniel is entitled to her privacy, and I wish her the best with whatever was causing her symptoms. But President Trump has a duty to convey the seriousness of this disease and explain how easily one can come in contact with a person who, at the time, appears healthy, but who nevertheless might be contagious.

He hasn’t done that. As of yesterday’s press conference, however, he exhibited a new sobriety about this disease.

In the days ahead, the number of positive cases in a number of states are going to spike, in part reflecting second generation infections, in part because for the first time testing is becoming more widely available. For its part, Michigan announced a new case reporting, covering what will sure to cover those spiking numbers today, that eliminates the kind of individualized information that would allow someone to track a known potential case.

Which suggests that at the moment where we’ll finally begin to track asymptomatic transmission, the public will have less information with which to do so.

That probably explains why governments across the country just got more serious about stopping transmission without such critical data.

A Diverse America Votes to Uphold the Constitution; A Largely Male White America Votes to Abrogate It

The House Judiciary Committee just voted to send two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the full House.

The entire vote took just minutes. But it said so much about the state of America today.

It will forever be portrayed as a party line vote, with 23 Democrats in favor, and 17 Republicans against. But it was also a tribute to the degree to which polarization in America today pivots on issues of diversity.

The Democrats who voted in favor included 11 women, and 13 Latinx and people of color (Ted Lieu missed the vote recovering from a heart procedure). Three (plus Lieu) are immigrants. One is gay. These Democrats voted to uphold the Constitution a bunch of white men, several of them owners of African-American slaves, wrote hundreds of years ago.

The Republicans who voted against were all white. Just two were women.  These Republicans voted to permit a racist white male President to cheat to get reelected in violation of the rule of law.

This is about a clash between the rising America and the past. And it’s unclear who will win this battle for America. But the stakes are clear.

 

[Photo: Emily Morter via Unsplash]

Laura Cooper’s Forgotten Deposition

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

Performance art by a couple dozen GOP House members garnered a lot of media attention last week. Their noisy assault on a House sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) during a deposition obstructed a House investigation and compromised the security of the SCIF in an attempt to cast doubt upon the House impeachment inquiry process.

Sophomore (sophomorish-?) GOP representative Matt Gaetz stood out as both a leader of the flash mob; this was his second attempt to crash a meeting though this latest one didn’t do as much for his image.

The stunt and the GOP’s whiny little pizza party and follow-up presser drew a lot of media attention with reactions running the gamut. It was pure hypocrisy for the GOP mob to claim the deposition was an attempt to prevent the public from seeing what was going on, since the committee in attendance included both Democrats and Republicans and operated to rules written and implemented by a Republican majority in 2015

But lost in all the hullaballoo was the deposition itself. This may be exactly what the House GOP intended with their performance – not just to derail the deposition, but to prevent the public from actually knowing anything about Laura Cooper’s testimony.

Projection, as always – when the GOP’s crashers said it was about a meeting Democrats were trying to keep secret, it was about secrets the GOP wants kept.

Which should make us wonder what it was that Laura Cooper had to say that was so worrying to both Trump and the GOP that they staged this intervention.

They didn’t intervene in diplomat Bill Taylor’s deposition, after all. We knew it was going to be rough for Trump because we’d already seen some of Taylor’s texts from his side, casting Gordon Sondland and the administration in a bad light.

But the last time Gaetz pulled this stunt, trying to barge into an investigative session closed to all but House Intelligence Committee members, the subject being interviewed was Fiona Hill.

Hill was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs on the National Security Council; she announced on/around June 18 this year that she planned to leave her role at the end of August. She received a subpoena to appear on/around October 10 and appeared last Monday October 14 in a closed-door session for ten hours before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.

The House parliamentarian ruled Gaetz was not eligible to attend this session; he’s not a member of these three committees. There were other Republican members of these committees in attendance though we don’t know exactly who or how many because the roll call has not been publicized.

The attempt to crash looked like interference at the time. Perhaps Gaetz intended worse, but the deposition went on.

This past week’s deposition of Laura Cooper was much shorter than Hill’s, at only three hours’ duration. It’s not clear whether Cooper’s testimony was not as broad as Hill’s given Hill’s background and role in the administration. It’s possible Cooper’s deposition was interrupted by the GOP flash mob.

This looks not only like an attempt to interfere with the conduct of the House inquiry and obstruct testimony, but witness intimidation and tampering.

Two patterns may be emerging though with only these two depositions be-bothered by GOP stunts it’s not enough data to cinch this.

First, both of these witnesses were women. GOP reps didn’t try to interfere with depositions or hearings of male witnesses like U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Bill Taylor.

Did they pick these two witnesses to intimidate because they were women?

A third woman witness had been harassed but long before she became a witness for the House inquiry; former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch had been through a character assassination by right-wing horde leading up to her recall from her post in Ukraine this past May, before the key Trump-Zelensky phone call on July 25.

Second, both Hill and Cooper were not anticipated as witnesses when the whistleblower complaint became public knowledge. Diplomats and White House personnel who were involved directly in the call were expected as likely witnesses. What was it that emerged during the earliest testimony which compelled the House committees to call Hill and Cooper?

Did Hill’s departure from her role as special adviser trigger questions?

What exactly did Office of Management and Budget tell the Defense Department and when which would have made Cooper a needed witness?

What was it about Cooper’s anticipated testimony which required such a big dog-and-pony show to suck up media attention to propel the GOP’s misdirection while cutting into time alloted for Cooper’s deposition?

Cooper in particular received a letter from the DOD informing Cooper and her counsel that she as Executive Branch personnel couldn’t “participate in [the impeachment] inquiry under these circumstances” according to an administration-wide direction. There were attachments to bolster claims made in the letter with regard to the House Committees’ refusal to allow White House counsel to attend the depositions and the legitimacy of the inquiry. The letter emerged after Reuters reported on October 17 that Cooper wouldn’t testify and before her deposition.

The letter, which looks a bit odd, wasn’t from the Acting Secretary of Defense or the Office of General Counsel for DOD. Instead it was printed on letterhead from the Deputy Secretary of Defense and signed by David L. Norquist, the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Why note this?

1) Because the letter wasn’t dated. It has a date stamp on it – 22 OCT 2019 – but not a date typed on the letter at the time it was printed. The stamp appears to be a Received By date but it may also be the date the letter was sent; it’s not clear who or what government entity may have stamped it, whether the Pentagon, Cooper’s attorney, or the House committee which received it though it’s likely not the committee. Note also that October 22 is the date Taylor testified before the House.

2) Because the signature on the letter is almost illegible; “David L.” is legible but the last name isn’t, save for the letter T at the end. There is no name, title, department beneath the signature. Compare this letter to the first attachment, a letter from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, signed by Robert R. Hood. You’ll see there is a name, title, department beneath his signature.

3) Because there’s no subject line, though not all government-issued letters may have them, and

4) There’s no list of attachments, except in the body of the letter, and they’re referred to as Tab A, B, etc. instead of by document title or by a URL if published and available to the public.

Why are these points important? Because someone seeking this particular communication by FOIA wouldn’t be able to find it by date or by Norquist’s name, title, or department, or by the attachments.

If someone was looking for a letter from DOD’s general counsel telling Cooper not to respond to the House committees’ subpoena, they wouldn’t find it. Ditto if they were looking for a letter from the Acting Defense Secretary. Nor would they find it by date written.

Note also, though it’s probably just a coincidence: David L. Norquist is Grover Norquist’s younger brother. Can’t pick your family.

But you can choose whether to include a date, name, title, department on a letter.

~ ~ ~

The New York Times reported last evening that the National Security Council’s authority on Ukraine, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, will testify today before the House impeachment investigation that he objected not once but twice to the context of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Colonel Vindman said in his statement. “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”

Vindman was present during the phone call and remains an active member of White House staff. It’s not just Vindman’s role, though, which shakes up Trump’s supporters. His credentials will be difficult to push back against — Harvard-educated Purple Heart recipient, and a still-active member of the military, who immigrated to the U.S. as a toddler when his parents fled the former Soviet Union. The right-wing horde is already scrambling to discredit Vindman, going so far as to accuse him of being a double agent and a “hostile witness” in a “kangaroo court.”

In his written statement to the House, Vindman said objected to Sondland’s statements during a post-call debriefing session; he was the third person to do so apart from the as-yet unnamed whistleblower.

Fiona Hill, President Donald Trump’s former top Russia adviser, raised concerns about Rudy Giuliani’s role in US foreign policy toward Ukraine, telling lawmakers on Monday that she saw “wrongdoing” in the American foreign policy and tried to report it to officials including the National Security Council’s attorney, according to multiple sources.

“She saw wrongdoing related to the Ukraine policy and reported it,” one source said. …(CNN, 14-OCT-2019)

With Vindman and both Hill and Bolton sharing their objections with NSC’s top legal adviser, John A. Eisenberg has heard from the most senior and most authoritative persons on U.S. policy on Ukraine. Eisenberg’s role was already in question.

It was Eisenberg to whom several alarmed White House officials turned when Trump urged Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. It was Eisenberg who then helped order the record of that call into a system used for ultra-secret classified information. And it was Eisenberg who, several reports said, consulted with political appointees at the Justice Department on how to handle a whistleblower’s complaint about the Ukraine call. (Politico, 26-OCT-2019)

Has Eisenberg also coached others on handling of correspondence related to the quid pro quo investigation, like Norquist’s letter to Cooper? Note that Norquist isn’t an attorney.

We know now that Vindman’s testimony corroborates both Hill’s and Taylor’s, and that Gordon Sondland is exposed to at least one charge of making a false statement.

It’s this corroboration with Vindman’s testimony that Matt Gaetz tried to obstruct with his first attempt at barging into Fiona Hill’s deposition.

Was it also corroboration with Vindman’s testimony that Gaetz and his flock of GOP co-conspirators tried to obstruct with their barging into the House SCIF during Laura Cooper’s testimony last week?

Among the Republicans participating in the protest was Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican. Gaetz and Scalise both suggested they might return at some point to protest further, though they did not do so Wednesday.
The storm-the-room stunt came two days after Trump said that he thought Republicans “have to get tougher and fight.” Many of the Republicans engaged in the protest were at a White House on Tuesday meeting with Trump, and a person familiar with the matter told CNN that Trump had advance knowledge of the plans to enter the space. (CNN, 23-OCT-2019emphasis mine)

Or is there something worse yet ahead which syncs with Cooper’s testimony, something serious enough to warrant Trump conspiring with Gaetz and House GOP members to deter comparison?

Is this why Former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman refused to comply with a House subpoena, filing suit instead with the D.C. district court to determine if he is required to testify? Is this suit a stunt of a more subtle nature, intended to head off the next obstructive parade of House GOP members before John Bolton is subpoenaed?

Alex Mooney’s Hilarious Self-Own

Jim here.

Yesterday, I watched with fascination as Matt Gaetz whipped his stormtroopers into a frenzy and stormed the ramparts of the SCIF facility where Laura Cooper was scheduled to be deposed. This tweet by Scott Thuman especially caught my eye, with the video he provided:


What really stood out to me was that one of Gaetz’s stormtroopers had his cellphone out and appeared to have his camera active as he approached the door. Based on Thuman’s “entered the secure hearing room” and the way Thuman pointed his camera down as he panned to the door, I initially had the impression that this doorway the Congressmen were going through was the entry to the SCIF itself, and so I tweeted this:

I had no idea that this would become my most viral tweet ever. At the time of this writing, the tweet has just under 95,000 impressions.

I did not yet know who this was with the phone. It has since become clear that it was Representative Alex Mooney of West Virginia. He even put up a tweet with an audio recording from inside the SCIF that he claimed came from a “secure phone”.

Needless to say, I had lots of pushback and I got to see the amazing array of bots and MAGAts that swarm whenever their world view is threatened. One theme that kept coming up, though, was that this was not the SCIF itself. It turns out that is somewhat true. After 6 pm, Mooney put up this tweet, which clearly has the video he was recording as Thuman captured him going through the door:


Okay, this confirmed what I was beginning to suspect, that the doorway in Thuman’s video is not the entrance to the actual SCIF. When a person at the entrance to the SCIF announces that cameras are not allowed, his first response is “What camera?”. But upon being informed again, Mooney shrugs and turns off the phone, presumably to surrender it .Note that multiple media reports make it clear though, that not all of Gaetz’s stormtroopers surrendered their devices, causing quite a serious security breach.

But Thuman’s reluctance to capture video from inside the door (we see only a red carpet and a few feet) and his failure to follow Gaetz’s stormtroopers made me wonder if the doorway was still in some way restricted. In fact, given the extreme security measures taken for a SCIF, it seemed reasonable to wonder if there was signage restricting electronics even beyond this point, so that detailed information of the building layout leading to the SCIF entrance would not be disseminated.

So I began searching Google images for pictures of Gaetz’s stormtroopers going through the door. I hit paydirt in what turns out to be an entire New York Times article on the event. This is the banner on the front of a video the Times did:

This is clearly a photo taken as stormtrooper Mooney goes through the door with cell phone blazing. Ah, but look at the sign on the other half of the double door: “Restricted Area No public or media access. Cameras and recording devices prohibited without proper authorization.”

Oh my, so when stormtrooper Mooney barged through the first door, he failed to read the sign informing him that he was not to be filming his own heroic action.

As if the Times photo alone is not enough to disgrace Mooney, he had to pile on. Here is a tweet an exhausted stormtrooper Mooney put up just after 7:30, after his siege of the SCIF had ended (never mind that the deposition itself actually took place anyhow, but with a five hour delay):


Mooney actually came back out the door and had a staffer film him while explaining that “this is not the SCIF” and, once they entered, “nobody was using a cell phone”. The problem is that he’s using as a backdrop for this explanation the sign showing that electronics were not to be used even going through this outer door, and his entry through that door, with his cell phone going, has been documented by Scott Thuman, Alex Mooney, the New York Times and hopefully, law enforcement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Konstantin Kilimnik Shared Stolen Data Laundered Through Bannon’s Propaganda with State Department

John Solomon is feeding the frothy right with faux scandals based off dubious propaganda again.

What John Solomon’s document really shows

“Konstantin Kilimnik Shared Stolen Data Laundered Through Bannon’s Propaganda with State Department.”

That’s what the title of an article based off a document propagandist John Solomon turned into the latest frothy right shiny object. After all, the fragment of the email exchange between Kilimnik and a guy at State named Eric Schultz that Solomon includes ends with Kilimnik attributing the narrative that Trump is dangerously close to Russia to Hillary solely because Ken Vogel, who wrote an article critical of Manafort, once shared an article critical of Hillary with her team before publishing it. He cites a Breitbart story that, the same day the DNC emails stolen by Russia were released, focused on Vogel.

First, it is definitely HRC and her HQ who launched this shitstorm trying to use construction of Putin=very bad, Putin=Manafort, Manafort=Trump, therefore Trump=Putin=very bad.” If you Google Ken Vogel who wrote the original BS piece — it turns out he is the same journalist who created a controversy a month or so ago by clearing his stories with the DNC prior to submission. http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2016/07/22/ken-vogel-politico-dnc-emails/ .

Just twenty days before Kilimnik wrote this, he had snuck into a cigar bar to meet Paul Manafort and discuss how Manafort planned to win Michigan in the same meeting where they discussed carving up Ukraine. At the time, Manafort’s childhood buddy Roger Stone was wandering around claiming he had advance knowledge of what WikiLeaks had, claims he interspersed with Steve Bannon propaganda. In fact, just the day before Kilimnik wrote this, Stone correctly predicted that WikiLeaks would ultimately drop John Podesta’s emails, which for Stone meant that Trump would have opposition material to counter the attacks on Manafort at the time.

The Mueller Report shows that four days earlier, Kilimnik had told Schultz what Trump’s internal polling data looked like, which is one of the ways the government proved that Manafort lied when he claimed he had only been sharing public data with Kilimnik.

[redacted] with multiple emails that Kilimnik sent to U.S. associates and press contacts between late July and mid-August of 2016. Those emails referenced “internal polling,” described the status of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s role in it, and assessed Trump’s prospects for victory. 895

895 8/18/16 Email, Kilimnik to Dirkse; 8/18/16 Email, Kilimnik to Schultz; 8/18/ 16 Email, Kilimnik to Marson; 7/27/16 Email, Kilimnik to Ash; 8/18/16 Email, Kilimnik to Ash; 8/ 18/ 16 Email, Kilimnik to Jackson; 8/18/16 Email, Kilimnik to Mendoza-Wilson; 8/19/16 Email, Kilimnik to Patten. [my emphasis]

So at a time when Kilimnik had recently been trading Ukraine for Michigan, he wrote someone at the State Department and offered him up Steven Bannon’s remarkably quick attack on Hillary based off emails stolen by GRU to help Trump (remember, Bannon ran Breitbart at the time).

The latest GOP spin about Kilimnik is that he did not have ties to GRU (even though his Oleg Deripaska contact was sanctioned last year with all the other GRU people behind the 2016 attack), because he was actually a State Department informant. So what Solomon is showing — again, using GOP standards for scandal — is that someone he claims was a State Department informant was stovepiping information from the stolen documents, via Bannon, to State, perhaps in an effort to ratchet up attention on Hillary.

But that’s not the story Solomon tells (nor does Solomon give us the entire document to see what else Kilimnik was stovepiping into State as an alleged informant).

Solomon’s propaganda laundry sources and methods

Before I describe what Solomon’s latest fiction does claim, let’s talk about his sources and methods, which are fairly well-established at this point. Solomon has consistently been used in the effort to undermine the investigation into Trump this way:

  1. Executive or Congressional sources dump documents to Solomon
  2. Solomon writes a logically ridiculous story based off documents, without releasing the entirety of the documents so he can be fact-checked
  3. Congressional sources use Solomon’s story to make claims unsubstantiated by the actual evidence he got leaked but about which they can nevertheless submit bogus legal complaints
  4. The frothy right goes nuts over the latest pseudo scandal

This particular pseudo-scandal is based off the cherry-picked document showing Kilimnik doing what the frothy right accuses Christopher Steele of doing and a misreading of two warrant applications. In addition to the cherry-picked fragment from the Kilimnik email to Schultz, Solomon relies on the following documents:

In recent iterations, Solomon’s modus operandi has also been to make claims about what Mueller didn’t use. To that end, this story relies on the assertion that Mueller’s office got the Kilimnik email, sourced to three “sources familiar with the documents.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and the FBI were given copies of Kilimnik’s warning, according to three sources familiar with the documents.

Those three sources sound awfully similar to the three sources Solomon based his earlier story claiming Kilimnik was a State informant on.

Three sources with direct knowledge of the inner workings of Mueller’s office confirmed to me that the special prosecutor’s team had all of the FBI interviews with State officials, as well as Kilimnik’s intelligence reports to the U.S. Embassy, well before they portrayed him as a Russian sympathizer tied to Moscow intelligence or charged Kilimnik with participating with Manafort in a scheme to obstruct the Russia investigation.

Manafort obtained all these documents in discovery, so it would be unsurprising if that discovery found its way to Solomon.

So this fits the John Solomon propaganda laundry pattern:

  1. Sources that may have access to Manafort’s discovery dump documents to Solomon
  2. Solomon writes a logically ridiculous story, in this case hiding part of a document that might show more of how Kilimnik himself was laundering documents stolen by Russia and magnified by Steve Bannon into the State Department
  3. According to an update to Solomon’s story, Mark Meadows, “is asking the Justice Department inspector general to investigate the FBI and prosecutors’ handling of the Manafort warrants, including any media leaks and evidence that the government knew the black ledger was potentially unreliable or suspect evidence”
  4. The frothy right goes nuts (and Don Jr. goes even more nuts) (Update: Matt Gaetz just entered this into the record)

Solomon’s illogical misreading

Now that we’ve established that this is yet another instance of Trump supporters using Solomon as a tool to launder illogical propaganda to fire up the frothy right, let’s look at how he misreads the evidence.

Solomon argues that the “Black Ledger” allegedly showing that Paul Manafort received illicit payments from his Ukrainian paymasters was the excuse the FBI used to “resurrect” the criminal case against him, and that they used it after having been “warned repeatedly” that it was fake.

In search warrant affidavits, the FBI portrayed the ledger as one reason it resurrected a criminal case against Manafort that was dropped in 2014 and needed search warrants in 2017 for bank records to prove he worked for the Russian-backed Party of Regions in Ukraine.

There’s just one problem: The FBI’s public reliance on the ledger came months after the feds were warned repeatedly that the document couldn’t be trusted and likely was a fake, according to documents and more than a dozen interviews with knowledgeable sources.

[snip]

For example, agents mentioned the ledger in an affidavit supporting a July 2017 search warrant for Manafort’s house, citing it as one of the reasons the FBI resurrected the criminal case against Manafort.

“On August 19, 2016, after public reports regarding connections between Manafort, Ukraine and Russia — including an alleged ‘black ledger’ of off-the-book payments from the Party of Regions to Manafort — Manafort left his post as chairman of the Trump Campaign,” the July 25, 2017, FBI agent’s affidavit stated.

So there are two steps to his argument:

  1. The ledger served as an important reason behind the “resurrection” of the investigation into Manafort
  2. FBI Agents knew the ledger was fake but used it anyway

In addition, Solomon recycles a claim the very Manafort-friendly TS Ellis found unpersuasive about an FBI/Andrew Weissmann role in the AP story cited in the warrant application.

The FBI did not claim that the ledger served as an important reason behind the “resurrection” of the investigation into Manafort

Logically, all the documents Solomon have been leaked only matter if it is true that the ledger was a key reason why the investigation into Manafort remained ongoing in 2017.

But neither of the warrants show that.

The July warrant is to search Manafort’s condo in conjunction with FBAR, FARA, bank fraud, money laundering, and foreign national donations (this is the first known warrant tied to the June 9 meeting). The reference to the Black Ledger stories comes in a paragraph specifically introduced as “by way of background.” It’s background — critical background for why Manafort still didn’t want to properly register under FARA — but not submitted as proof at all.

6. By way of background concerning Manafort, based on publicly available information, in March of 2016, Manafort officially joined Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. (the ‘Trunp) Campaign”), the presidential campaign of then candidate Trump, in order to, among other things, help.manage the delegate process for the Republican National Convention. In May of 2016, Manafort became chairman of the Trump Campaign. In June of 2016, Manafort reportedly became de facto manager for the Trun^ Campaign with the departure of prior campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. On August 19, 2016, after public reports regarding connections between Manafort, Ukraine, and Russia – including an alleged “black ledger” of off-the-book payments from the Party of Regions to Manafort – Manafort left his post as chairman of the Trump Campaign.

The very next paragraph includes a transition marking the beginning of the guts of the proof of probable cause:

Portions of the information set forth below

In other words, the ledger reference only serves to explain why Manafort got fired, which is important background for why he was hiding his sleazy influence peddling. It is not part of the probable cause proof at all.

In any case, the reference is actually to both the NYT and AP’s stories, the latter of which only reported on the extent of Manafort’s undisclosed lobbying and didn’t reference the ledger at all. (Note, Vogel was not involved in any of this, which makes Kilimnik’s claim that all the ties of Trump to Putin came from him tough to understand.)

Notably, Solomon doesn’t mention the May 2017 affidavit to search Manafort’s storage unit, which, because it comes earlier, is a better read of how the government came to focus on Manafort (in significant part because it was not part of Mueller’s investigation), and which was incorporated by reference in the paragraph following the one mentioning Manafort’s resignation and attached to the July affidavit. That affidavit describes the ledger as something the FBI was actively investigating.

20. In addition, law enforcement agents are investigating whether or not all income received by Manafort and Gates was properly reported as required under U.S. law. In the summer of 2016, investigators from Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau obtained a handwritten ledger said to belong to the Party of Regions (“ledger”). The ledger contains hundreds of pages of entries purporting to show payments made to numerous Ukrainians and other officials

21. The ledger contained entries indicating that Manafort had been paid $ 12.7 million by the Party of Regions in 22 separate payments that occurred between 2007 and 2012. U.S. law enforcement is investigating whether any of these sums we paid to Manafort or (jates or others for their benefit.

So when Theresa Buchanan approved the July warrant, she was reminded that she had already approved the May warrant describing the ledger as still under investigation.

The October warrant was to seize the bank accounts Manafort got from the Federal Savings Bank in Chicago — these are the loans that Manafort got by trading a Trump campaign position to Steve Calk. The passage in question appears in a section titled, “Evidence of DMI’s work on behalf of the Party of Regions in the United States in 2005,” following a discussion of how under the Bush Administration, Manafort secretly shared details from NSC discussions about Ukraine with Rinat Akhmetov to show that “Our strategy in the United States is working.”

As released, it’s not actually clear how the FBI Agent is using the April AP story, which confirms Manafort received a payment  in 2007 that may be associated with the 2005 and 2006 lobbying described in the section. The probable cause assertion remains redacted, which might mean it involved sensitive intelligence. The only thing unredacted, however, is that there are payments in the ledger that match known payments Manafort got in 2007 and 2009, which is a way to introduce Manafort’s claim, in 2017, that he got paid according to his clients’ wishes.

That quote comes from this non-denial denial that the ledger could be true based off the fact that Manafort never got paid in cash.

In a statement to the AP on Tuesday, Manafort did not deny that his firm received the money but said “any wire transactions received by my company are legitimate payments for political consulting work that was provided. I invoiced my clients and they paid via wire transfer, which I received through a U.S. bank.”

Manafort noted that he agreed to be paid according to his “clients’ preferred financial institutions and instructions.”

On Wednesday, Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni provided an additional statement to the AP, saying that Manafort received all of his payments via wire transfers conducted through the international banking system.

“Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine was totally open and appropriate, and wire transfers for international work are perfectly legal,” Maloni said.

He noted that Manafort had never been paid in cash. Instead, he said Manafort’s exclusive use of wire transfers for payment undermines the descriptions of the ledger last year given by Ukrainian anti-corruption authorities and a lawmaker that the ledger detailed cash payments.

Manafort has pled guilty to the two key details included in this passage in the affidavit: that he was lobbying for the Party of Regions as early as 2006, and that he was trying to hide that relationship (see ¶¶4, 6, and 7 for those admissions). So the assertion in question — that Manafort was lobbying for Akhmetov in 2006 and got paid for it in 2007 — was not faulty. Moreover, the AP story in question specifically said that it hard confirmed those two payments, which would seem to raise questions about 2016 claims that the ledger was totally unreliable.

So to sum up:

  • The May 2017 warrant Solomon doesn’t mention but which was incorporated by reference and attachment into the July one describes the FBI still investigating the ledger
  • The July 2017 warrant doesn’t rely on either the ledger or the story about it as proof; rather, the story about it (but not the ledger) is described as background that explains why Manafort continued to lie about his ties to Ukraine
  • What the FBI used the ledger for in October 2017 not only had been corroborated after the 2016 evidence claiming the ledger was totally bunk, but Manafort has since pled guilty to the substance it addresses

The key claim behind Solomon’s breathless propaganda is bullshit.

FBI Agents knew the ledger was fake but used it anyway

How the FBI actually used the ledger each of those three times is important to Solomon’s claim that the FBI “knew” the ledger was fake but used it anyway. Solomon claims that “documents and more than a dozen interviews with knowledgeable sources” prove that “the feds were warned repeatedly that the document couldn’t be trusted and likely was a fake.” But he only provides two pieces of evidence. First, he cites Nazar Kholodnytsky’s claims about the ledger (but not records of how those he spoke with responded).

Ukraine’s top anticorruption prosecutor, Nazar Kholodnytsky, told me he warned the U.S. State Department’s law enforcement liaison and multiple FBI agents in late summer 2016 that Ukrainian authorities who recovered the ledger believed it likely was a fraud.

“It was not to be considered a document of Manafort. It was not authenticated. And at that time it should not be used in any way to bring accusations against anybody,” Kholodnytsky said, recalling what he told FBI agents.

Kholodnytsky has been at the center of Trump-related and his own scandals in recent months, so I’m interested in when Solomon interviewed him (and whether Rudy Giuliani was involved). But assuming his representation of what he told the FBI is true and was confirmed (which, if true, Manafort would have gotten in discovery, but which Solomon doesn’t mention), it doesn’t change that the ledger was not used to bring accusations against anyone — though was still being investigated in 2017.

Nor does Solomon’s reliance on Kilimnik’s claims help. Kilimnik, after all, said, “I am pretty sure Paul is not vulnerable on either black cash or Fara stuff.” Not only was Kilimnik wrong about both Manafort and his other American partner Sam Patten’s vulnerability on FARA, but he took a number of actions over the course of the investigation into Manafort — working with Alex van der Zwaan to suppress evidence of FARA violations back in 2012 and reaching out to other consultants to hide their US lobbying for Manafort — that led to criminal charges for himself and others specifically on FARA. That is, Kilimnik made these claims during a period when he was involved in several crimes to try to save Manafort from FARA crimes, so there’s no reason to treat what he says as reliable.

Further, the same email makes claims about Ukraine — notably, that “nobody will do anything for Ukraine other than Ukrainians” — that are in striking contrast to the actions he had taken 3 weeks earlier to get both the US and Russia to impose a solution on Ukraine, with Manafort’s help.

And ultimately, Kilimnik makes the same non-denial denial that Manafort was still making the following year.

I know for a fact that he did not know about the black cash existence — he never focused on such things, and could not have possibly taken large amounts of cash across three borders. It was always a different arrangement — payments were in wire transfers to his companies, which is not a violation (sort of SuperPAC scheme) and then he took his personal fee and fully paid his taxes etc.

Denying that Manafort knew of any cash payments is meaningless, since he also tried to keep plausible deniability about his Cayman shell companies. But it’s also now proven (in part by Manafort’s guilty pleas) that the shell companies he used weren’t a SuperPAC, his transfer of funds for payment weren’t all legal, and he didn’t pay his taxes.

In short, the smoking gun document Solomon has the right wing all frothy over actually shows that Kilimnik was at best ignorant and more likely willfully lying.

Solomon makes claims that even TS Ellis found unpersuasive

But as is his wont, Solomon doesn’t stop there. He tries to resuscitate a claim Manafort tried as part of his EDVA trial that Manafort friendly judge TS Ellis already ruled was bogus, suggesting that FBI and DOJ illegally leaked to the AP reporters behind one of these stories.

There are two glaring problems with that assertion.

First, the agent failed to disclose that both FBI officials and Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who later became Mueller’s deputy, met with those AP reporters one day before the story was published and assisted their reporting.

An FBI record of the April 11, 2017, meeting declared that the AP reporters “were advised that they appeared to have a good understanding of Manafort’s business dealings” in Ukraine.

So, essentially, the FBI cited a leak that the government had facilitated and then used it to support the black ledger evidence, even though it had been clearly warned about the document.

In April 2018, Manafort’s team tried to argue that prosecutors had been illegally leaking about him, based in part on the April 2017 AP story. The government noted that nothing in the stories reflected grand jury information, the accusation lodged by Manafort. On June 29, Judge Ellis held a motions hearing including testimony from one of the FBI agents involved in the meeting with the AP, Jeffrey Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer covered both the AP meeting and the search of the storage facility, meaning Judge TS Ellis heard his testimony on both these issues at once. Pfeiffer described that he and others at the AP meeting actually no commented most questions, but did get investigative information regarding the storage unit from the AP.

Q. Now, you testified earlier that you searched the storage unit. How did you come to understand that Mr. Manafort used a storage unit?

A. I don’t recall exactly. It was either through my investigative efforts or through a meeting that occurred with reporters of the Associated Press.

[snip]

Q. And how did the Government representatives respond?

A. Generally, no comment as far as questions involving any sort of investigation.

Q. And based on the meeting, did it appear as though the reporters had conducted a substantial investigation with respect to Mr. Manafort?

A. They had.

Q. During that meeting, did one of the reporters mention a storage unit in Alexandria, Virginia, associated with Mr. Manafort?

A. He did.

Under cross-examination, Pfeiffer reiterated that the government mostly gave no comment to the AP, and he didn’t remember a comment that said the AP had a good understanding of Manafort’s business.

Q. So in reviewing some of the Jencks material that I was just provided, I wanted to ask you about a specific section, which is at the end of one of the memos that was written with respect to that meeting, and I want your comment on it. It says, “at the conclusion of the meeting, the AP reporters asked if we would be willing to tell them if they were off base or on the wrong track, and they were advised that they appear to have a good understanding of Manafort’s business dealings.” Now, you would agree that’s not “no comment,” correct?

A. Correct.

Q. Okay. And when it says, “they were advised,” who on the Government’s side was advising these AP reporters with respect to the nature of Mr. Manafort’s business dealings?

A. I don’t recall that being said, so I don’t — I wouldn’t be able to tell you who said it.

Solomon provides just one of the two Electronic Communications associated with that meeting. The one by Pfeiffer has a different focus than the one by Karen Greenaway that Solomon links, with much less focus on the ledger and much more on Manafort’s financial crimes. It describes the FBI giving no comment over and over. But both ECs make it clear that the AP came in with the ledger story. But the one Solomon does link shows the AP reporters raising two issues that show up in the warrant application: how Manafort first got introduced to Rinat Ahmetov and that Manafort shared a classified NSC document with Akhmetov.

The redaction shows that the FBI had some comment on the Brit who had introduced Akhmetov to Manafort, but didn’t tell the AP that. Nothing in these documents show that the FBI provided substantive information to the AP — they show the opposite, that AP provided information to the FBI and the FBI repeatedly offered no comment. They also definitively show that the AP came into the meeting with information about the ledger.

At the end of the hearing with Pfeiffer, TS Ellis took the leak issue under advisement, meaning he didn’t find Manafort’s case all that persuasive. A week later, Manafort tried to interest Ellis again, to no avail. In short, a very Manafort friendly judge has looked at both these questions and found them insufficiently persuasive to rule on. Solomon doesn’t mention that fact to his readers.

There’s abundant evidence to refute Solomon’s frothy claims. More importantly, there’s evidence that his smoking gun evidence, the email from Kilimnik to Schwartz, actually shows that Kilimnik was actively lying about both Ukraine and Manafort in the period when Republicans claim he was an honest informant to the State Department.

But it’s not John Solomon’s job to tell what the evidence actually shows.

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