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Did Kash Patel Already Confess to Illegally Disseminating Carter Page FISA Information?

I’m pretty proud of how closely my two posts (first, second) predicted what the likely and known contents of the Trump affidavit would be. I pretty accurately described the structure, the contents, and many of the known details of what we’ve seen of the application so far.

That’s especially true of the statutory section. I not only predicted that — “Particularly given the novel legal issues implicating a search of the former President” — there would be a substantial statutory background section, but that, “If there’s a version of this statutory language, it may be among the things DOJ would acquiesce to releasing.”

Which they did.

And, to a significant extent, I predicted what would be in that statutory section. Here is that section of my post, with the paragraphs of the Trump affidavit where that language appears in bold and linked.

Everything I expected to be in there, was in there. The details I didn’t anticipate, though, are pretty noteworthy.

That’s particularly true of the section describing special designations. These designations all stem from what the FBI found in the 15 boxes Trump returned in January.

From May 16-18, 2022, FBI agents conducted a preliminary review of the FIFTEEN BOXES provided to NARA and identified documents with classification markings in fourteen of the FIFTEEN BOXES. A preliminary triage of the documents with classification markings revealed the following approximate numbers: 184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET. Further, the FBI agents observed markings reflecting the following compartments/dissemination controls: HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN, and SI. Based on my training and experience, I know that documents classified at these levels typically contain NDI. Several of the documents also contained what appears to be FPOTUS ‘s handwritten notes.

If the FBI found a document of a particular type in May, it included that designation in this statutory section.

The Atomic Energy Act was not included, which means (as some knowledgable people predicted in advance), if Trump had nuke documents, they’re not about our nukes, they’re about someone else’s. Trump’s affidavit also includes a description of HCS and SI, Human and Signals Intelligence, designations which have appropriately sobered the response of at least some Republicans, because they mean Trump could get someone killed.

The mention of ORCON — Originator Controlled material — would mostly matter if the FBI found that one of NSA documents that Mike Ellis was sharing with unauthorized people and places during the period Trump was packing up were among the things in the boxes. Those documents were both described as relating to (a or some), “controlled, compartmented NSA program,” in the Inspector General Report on Ellis and the designation ORCON would matter more if documents were retained after the Originator made a sustained effort to get them back, as NSA did in this case.

It’s the mention of FISA, though, that I should have anticipated, and which could present heightened legal problems for Trump — and Kash Patel, and others.

14. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or “FISA,” is a dissemination control designed to protect intelligence information derived from the collection of information authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or “FISC.”

That’s because both Kash and John Solomon have been attempting to create an alibi for information that may include the final Carter Page application. And, as that preliminary review determined, there was at least one FISA document in the boxes returned in January.

On top of any violations of the Espionage Act, if Trump took a copy of that with him after he was fired, it might constitute unlawful dissemination under FISA.

Between them, Kash and Solomon — whom Trump made his representatives to NARA on June 19 — have described that materials relating to the Russian investigation were among those NARA found in the returned boxes and that they might include a Carter Page FISA warrant (which I assume must mean the application).

There’s the May 5 column in which Kash claimed that everything that had been returned in the 15 boxes had been declassified.

“Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves,” Patel told Breitbart News in a phone interview.

“The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified,” Patel said. “I was there with President Trump when he said ‘We are declassifying this information.’”

In that column, Kash exhibited knowledge that the materials included documents from “Russiagate” [sic] and Impeachment 1.0.

“It’s information that Trump felt spoke to matters regarding everything from Russiagate to the Ukraine impeachment fiasco to major national security matters of great public importance — anything the president felt the American people had a right to know is in there and more.”

That’s the column cited in the Trump affidavit — though there’s at least one sentence of that paragraph that remains redacted.

I am aware of an article published in Breitbart on May 5, 2022, available at https://www.breitbart.com/politicsi2022i05/05/documents-mar-a-lago-marked-classified-wereah-eadv-declassifi.ed-kash-patel-savs/, which states that Kash Patel, who is described as a former top FPOTUS administration official, characterized as ”misleading” reports in other news organizations that NARA had found classified materials among records that FPOTUS provided to NARA from Mar-a-Lago. Patel alleged that such reports were misleading because FPOTUS had declassified the materials at issue. [redacted]

Kash has issued a statement complaining, even though he had no complaint when information about Michael Isikoff was unsealed in the Carter Page FISA application for a similar published statement.

More interesting still, on July 20, John Solomon (who did a podcast on January 14, 2021 bragging of detailed knowledge of what Russian investigation materials would be released in the coming days) described having newly obtained a January 20, 2021 Mark Meadows memo to DOJ instructing them to declassify documents from the Russian investigation.

Even though the Meadows memo cites from Trump’s own January 19, 2021 order stating that the declassification, “does not extend to materials that must be protected from disclosure pursuant to orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” Solomon described that the declassified information did include both transcripts of “intercepts made by the FBI of Trump aides,” (which may have included the intercepts of Mike Flynn obtained by targeting Sergey Kislyak which, because the intercepts took place in the US, may have been conducted under FISA) and “a declassified copy of the final FISA warrant approved by an intelligence court.”

The declassified documents included transcripts of intercepts made by the FBI of Trump aides, a declassified copy of the final FISA warrant approved by an intelligence court, and the tasking orders and debriefings of the two main confidential human sources, Christopher Steele and Stefan Halper, the bureau used to investigate whether Trump had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election.

In the end, multiple investigations found there was no such collusion and that the FBI violated rules and misled the FISA court in an effort to keep the probe going.

The documents that Trump declassified never saw the light of day, even though they were lawfully declassified by Trump and the DOJ was instructed by the president though Meadows to expeditiously release them after redacting private information as necessary. [my emphasis]

Curiously, the PDF of the Mark Meadows memo Solomon linked (my link) — which includes a staple mark and other oddities for an original document preserved by NARA — shows a September 27, 2021 creation date, with a modification date just days after Trump designated Solomon as his representative at NARA. (h/t @z3dster for the observation)

Back to Solomon’s implication that the documents in question — documents that Kash had suggested were among those boxed and sent back to NARA — included the final Carter Page warrant.

If the former President’s stash included an unredacted copy of the final FISA application targeting Carter Page, it could mean additional trouble for him and anyone else involved.

Even a Kislyak intercept would, because it would impact Mike Flynn’s privacy.

Similarly, even if, after three years of effort led largely by Kash Patel, an Inspector General hadn’t deemed the Carter Page FISA applications problematic, Trump took the Carter Page warrant application home after he left office, it would be an egregious violation of FISA’s minimization procedures, which strictly limit how such material can be disseminated. A disgruntled former government’s employee’s desire to spread propaganda about his tenure is not among the approved dissemination purposes.

But Carter Page, almost uniquely of any American surveilled under FISA, has special protections against such things happening.

That’s because in the wake of the IG Report on Carter Page, and in the wake of Bill Barr’s DOJ withdrawing its claim of probable cause for the last two Page warrants, James Boasberg required the government to ensure that materials for which there might not have been probable cause were no longer disseminated. In issuing that order, Boasberg cited 50 USC 1809(a)(2), the part of FISA that makes it a crime, punishable by a five year sentence, to disseminate improperly collected material from a targeted person. As a result, in June 2020, Boasberg issued an order sequestering the material collected from the Carter Page FISA except for five designated purposes.

Indulging the former President’s tantrum is not one of those five purposes.

And Trump and Kash, especially, have reason to know about this sequester. That’s because in October 2020 — at a time when Kash was still babysitting John Ratcliffe at DNI — DOJ violated the sequester by sharing information on Page with the Jeffrey Jensen and John Durham inquiries. As far as we know, that violation of the sequester order didn’t result in surveillance records on Carter Page being stored in a poorly secured storage closet in a resort hotel, but it still involved a hearing before the FISC and a public scolding.

If there’s an unredacted copy of the Page application, it would mean sections like this and this would be unsealed. There’s even a description of the emails that Page sent to the campaign bragging about his access to top Russian officials that, because of how it came to be in the application, would be subject to Boasberg’s sequestration order. There might even be contacts that Page had with Steve Bannon, whose privacy would also be implicated. Disseminating any of that stuff in unredacted form is, by itself, a crime, one the FISC has warned Trump and Kash’s bosses about repeatedly.

In his January 2021 podcast, Solomon claimed that the material Trump wanted to release would prove he was spied on. To show that from materials relating to Carter Page would require sharing information specifically covered by the sequestration order. Shipping that from the White House to Mar-a-Lago would be a crime. Sharing it from there would definitely be a crime. And any authorization would have to involve the FISA Court. No President — not Trump and not Biden — can lawfully ignore that order.

Since at least May, both Kash and Solomon seem frantic to help Trump develop a cover story. And their frantic efforts seem to explicitly include materials pertaining to Carter Page.

And that’s why the confirmation that Trump had FISA materials in his stolen boxes could present additional headaches for the former President and his flunkies.

The Word “Pardon” Doesn’t Appear in the Barr Memo

As I noted in this post, there’s something missing in this passage — indeed, in the entirety of — the Barr Memo declining prosecution of former President Trump.

We likewise do not believe that the President’s public statements exhorting witnesses like Flynn, Manafort, Stone, or Cohen, not to “flip” should be viewed as obstruction of justice. The Report makes clear that the President equated a witness’s decision to “flip” with being induced by prosecutors to manufacture false evidence against others. We cannot say that the evidence would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the President’s statements, most of which were made publicly, were intended to induce any of those witnesses to conceal truthful evidence or to provide false evidence. Once again, this conclusion is buttressed by the absence of any clear evidence that these witnesses had information that would prove the President had committed a crime. The President’s public statements could be viewed as efforts to defend himself from public criticism related to the Special Counsel’s investigation or to discourage the witnesses from making what the President believed might be false statements in exchange for a lesser sentence. Those statements do not warrant a prosecution for obstruction of justice.

The word “pardon.”

That’s important for two reasons. First, Barr said repeatedly, under oath, as part of his confirmation hearing, that trading false testimony for a pardon would be obstruction. Here’s what he said, for example, in response to a question from Lindsey Graham.

Lindsey: So if there was some reason to believe that the President tried to coach somebody not to testify or testify falsely, that could be obstruction of justice?

Barr: Yes, under that, under an obstruction statute, yes.

Here’s what he said to Patrick Leahy.

Leahy: Do you believe a president could lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise to not incriminate him?

Barr: No, that would be a crime.

And pardons are a critical part of the discussion in the Mueller Report to substantiate obstruction. The word pardon appears 67 times. Indeed, contrary to the discussion in the Barr Memo that claimed most of Trump’s witness-tampering happened in public, several of the discussions of pardons described in the Mueller Report involved non-public communication.

A voicemail that John Dowd left for Rob Kelner in November 2017 was presented as background to Trump’s public discussion of a pardon for Mike Flynn.

I understand your situation, but let me see if I can’t state it in starker terms. . . . [I]t wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve gone on to make a deal with . . . the government. . . . [I]f . . . there’s information that implicates the President, then we’ve got a national security issue, . . . so, you know, . . . we need some kind of heads up. Um, just for the sake of protecting all our interests if we can. . . . [R]emember what we’ve always said about the President and his feelings toward Flynn and, that still remains . . . .835

[snip]

On December 1, 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements pursuant to a cooperation agreement.841 The next day, the President told the press that he was not concerned about what Flynn might tell the Special Counsel.842 In response to a question about whether the President still stood behind Flynn, the President responded, “We’ll see what happens.”843 Over the next several days, the President made public statements expressing sympathy for Flynn and indicating he had not been treated fairly.844 On December 15, 2017, the President responded to a press inquiry about whether he was considering a pardon for Flynn by saying, “I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We’ll see what happens. Let’s see. I can say this: When you look at what’s gone on with the FBI and with the Justice Department, people are very, very angry.”845

Paul Manafort told Rick Gates that Trump was “going to take care of us,” which Gates took to suggest a pardon.

In January 2018, Manafort told Gates that he had talked to the President’s personal counsel and they were “going to take care of us.”848 Manafort told Gates it was stupid to plead, saying that he had been in touch with the President’s personal counsel and repeating that they should “sit tight” and “we’ll be taken care of.”849 Gates asked Manafort outright if anyone mentioned pardons and Manafort said no one used that word.850

And the private comments Robert Costello made to Michael Cohen — again in the context of Trump’s public comments about Cohen not flipping — led him to believe Trump would, at least, pay his defense fees.

In an email that day to Cohen, Costello wrote that he had spoken with Giuliani.1026 Costello told Cohen the conversation was “Very Very Positive[.] You are ‘loved’. . . they are in our corner. . . . Sleep well tonight[], you have friends in high places.”1027

By issuing his prosecution declination while Trump’s attempted witness tampering was still in progress, Barr ensured that the corrupt trade-off would and could  be completed, at least with Flynn, Stone, and Manafort.

And in doing so, he ensured that ongoing investigations wouldn’t find precisely the evidence he was sure didn’t exist.

Brandon Straka’s Cell

I first published this post on the revelations about Brandon Straka’s misdemeanor plea on August 5 at 2:10PM ET.

I posted it about 29 hours after Judge Dabney Friedrich ordered the Probation Office to provide a report by September 30 about Straka’s compliance with probation; during a status hearing a day earlier, Friedrich admonished Straka about saying things publicly that conflicted with what he had said to the FBI in interviews and said to her at his plea colloquy.

I posted it about 28 hours after FBI Director Christopher Wray responded to one of the only questions raised in an SJC oversight hearing about January 6 that, “And then, of course, I have to be a little bit careful about what I say here but we are continuing to develop some of the more complicated parts of the investigation in terms of conspiracy charges and that sort of thing.”

I posted it minutes before a CPAC panel (sponsored, in part, by a Viktor Orbán-tied NGO) featuring Andy Biggs, Straka, and Kash Patel warning that  “Soros prosecutors” were instituting a “Democrat Gulag.”

Straka spent most of the rest of that day, Friday — the day after the judge overseeing his probation ordered more scrutiny into the sincerity of claims he made under oath and to the FBI — in a cage, performing the role of a jailed January 6 defendant counting the days until his release, crying.

Some spectators wept. Some threw money into the cage. Others came up close to mutter words of comfort and support to the emotionally distraught man inside, who was alternating sitting on a bare cot with his head in his hands, and writing sad slogans on a blackboard like “Where is Everyone?” Among those in the audience was Zuny Duarte, mother of Enrique Tarrio, the jailed ex-chairman of the Proud Boys facing seditious conspiracy charges for his role in the Capitol. One man, wearing a T-shirt saying “Correctional Officers for Trump 2020” pointed at his chest, making sure the “jailed” activist saw, and said “”I know how it works, man.”

During Thursday’s performance in the J6 cage, the man in the prison had been an actor. But on Friday, the man was none other than Brandon Straka, a self-proclaimed former liberal who founded #WalkAway, a social media campaign encouraging Democrats to ditch their party for the GOP. Straka was a vocal Stop the Steal proponent and activist, and landed in hot water with the feds when he filmed himself from the steps of the Capitol building on Jan. 6.

All of which makes me really glad that, in that post, I reiterated all the concerns I’ve raised in the past about Straka’s treatment, including that the deal given to Straka would backfire.

Plus, it’s not entirely clear whether such pleas will backfire down the road, given that prosecutors have little ongoing means to ensure cooperation, as they would with felony cooperators hoping to benefit from 5K letters supporting leniency at sentencing.

[snip]

At the time, it looked like a shitty deal by the government, and multiple researchers I know grumbled that the government simply didn’t know what a central role Straka had when they interviewed him just weeks after the riot.

Even in December, there was good reason to question whether DOJ had made a decent deal when it traded information about Stop the Steal organizers in exchange for a misdemeanor plea, rather than building their case, including Straka in a conspiracy to obstruct the vote certification, and then flipping him.

Now, with Straka openly mocking the entire DOJ investigation, there should be real questions at DOJ whether Straka is replaying the Mike Flynn or Jerome Corsi play, reneging on purported cooperation to sabotage the investigation into Trump and his associates.

As a reminder, in Corsi’s case, in an initial interview with Mueller’s prosecutors, they caught him making claims that conflicted with communications records DOJ already obtained. Then, they got him to admit to a grand jury that Stone had asked him to establish a cover story for his “Podesta time in a barrel” tweet in real time, just days after Stone tweeted it. But then — at a time when, Corsi claimed, he was in communication with Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow, Corsi went on his podcast and amid a dramatic meltdown not dissimilar from the drama we’ve seen from Straka, revealed that prosecutors were trying to force him into a cooperation plea deal with the government. After that point, his interviews with Mueller were a conflicting mishmash that, whatever else they were, made his prior testimony largely useless in any prosecution. It’s likely that an investigation against him was among those referred by Mueller. But he’s also such a batshit crazy person, it’d be hard to hold him accountable for deliberately blowing up interviews with the government.

In Mike Flynn’s case, his competent Covington lawyers negotiated a ridiculously lenient plea deal (in my opinion, one of Mueller’s three greatest mistakes), one that would have gotten the retired General no jail time. During the period he was supposed to be cooperating, he remained in touch with SJC staffer Barbara Ledeen and her husband Michael and Nunes aide Derek Harvey, all of whom kept him apprised of Sara Carter-backed propaganda efforts and Republican Congressional efforts to discredit the investigation. In 2018, Flynn even sent Matt Gaetz a text pushing for more pressure on Mueller. Then, once Bill Barr was confirmed, Flynn fired his competent lawyers and replaced them with Sidney Powell, who with Barr’s collusion, invented a slew of reasons that undermined the investigation against Flynn (in the process, protecting Trump from any Flynn-related obstruction charges). The outcome for Flynn was probably worse. But in the process, Flynn convinced a lot of people who only too late came to understand that both he and Sidney Powell are completely unhinged when they claim that the investigation against him was not a sweetheart deal, but instead a gross abuse of prosecutorial authority.

In both cases, Trump associates or movement operatives identified a cooperating witness and instead turned them into a chaos agent undermining an ongoing investigation. Here, Straka is appearing on a panel with suspected participants in the coup attempt, Andy Biggs and Kash Patel, and cozying up with someone who called for “Marshall Law,” all at a time when DOJ seems to be working on charges arising out of his so-called cooperation.

Given Straka’s recent trajectory, two details of his case from after the time his limited cooperation was made public are noteworthy. First, while Stuart Dornan, a former FBI Agent located (like Straka) in Nebraska remains on Straka’s team, in January, Straka added Bilal Essayli to his legal team, who appears to have taken the lead since, with it striking a far more confrontational tone.

Additionally, Straka’s team specifically — and successfully — objected to the Probation Office’s recommendation that Straka’s social media be monitored.

Brandon also objects to the recommendation by the Probation Officer that he be subjected to a discretionary condition of Probation that monitors his electronic communications service accounts, including email accounts, social media accounts, and cloud storage accounts. Brandon also objects to his financial activity being monitored by the Probation Office. These discretionary conditions of Probation are not sufficiently relevant to the offense committed. In United States v. Taylor, 796 F.3d 788 (7th Cir. 2015), the Seventh Circuit reversed a restriction on the defendant’s computer ownership and internet access in a bank larceny case, stating that the restriction was not reasonably related to his prior conviction for incest. In Brandon’s case, emailing, using social media, and using cloud storage has nothing to do with his offense.

Thus, while Dabney Friedrich ordered the Probation Office to conduct a review of what Straka has been up to while he has been engaging in deceitful performance art attacking the case, when she sentenced Straka, she specifically declined to include review of Straka’s social media. Straka has spent the last six months making a mockery of what he said to Friedrich back in January, most often on social media.

Mike Flynn, especially, has become a movement hero for tanking his own case to create havoc for any case against Trump. And Straka seems intent on pursuing just that kind of notoriety.

And it’s not clear what tools DOJ has retained to prevent that from happening.

Pat Cipollone Predicted the Obstruction and ConFraudUS Prosecutions

This morning, for the second time in two weeks, Liz Cheney called out former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, by name, to cooperate with the January 6 Committee.

Yesterday’s testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson revealed one reason why his testimony would be so important. He predicted — on January 3 or 4th — that Trump might be prosecuted under the very same crimes DOJ has been charging for well over a year: conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of the vote certification.

Cheney: We understand, Ms. Hutchinson, that you also spoke to Mr. Cipollone on the morning of the Sixth, as you were about to go to the rally on the Ellipse. And Mr. Cipollone said something to you like, “make sure the movement to the Capitol does not happen.” Is that correct?

Hutchinson: That’s correct. I saw Mr. Cipollone right before I walked out onto West Exec that morning and Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of, “Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”

Cheney: And do you remember which crimes Mr. Cipollone was concerned with?

Hutchinson: In the days leading up to the sixth, we had conversations about obstructing justice of defrauding the electoral count.

Cheney: Let’s hear about some of those concerns that you mentioned earlier in one of your interviews with us.

{video clip}

Hutchinson: … having a private conversation with Pat on the after noon of third or fourth, um, that Pat was concerned it would look like we were obstructing justice, or obstructing the electoral college count. I apologize for probably not being very firm with my legal terms here.

Or rather, Cipollone didn’t predict Trump would be charged with ConFraudUS and obstruction. He predicted “we” would, presumably including himself and even Hutchinson.

Here I’ve thought I was ahead of the curve by predicting — last August — that if Trump were prosecuted, it would be for those crimes. It turns out that Trump’s White House Counsel was way ahead of me, predicting the same even before the insurrection!

Cipollone’s recognition of this legal exposure is important for a number of reasons. First, it validates DOJ’s approach — and does so in advance of the DC Circuit’s consideration of DOJ’s appeal of Carl Nichols’ outlier opinion rejecting such an application.

Those are also the crimes named in the warrant served on Jeffrey Clark last week.

But Cipollone’s awareness of this exposure also may explain why Cipollone has been reluctant to testify (though it’s possible he has testified with DOJ and simply doesn’t want that to be public). Hutchinson laid out a number of things that Cipollone did on January 6 that made it clear he was not willingly going along with Trump’s actions, most notably his efforts to get Trump to call off his mob before Trump re-ignited them with his 2:24 text attacking Mike Pence again. If there was a conspiracy to obstruct the vote certification, he took overt acts to leave that conspiracy before and during the conspiracy on January 6.

By that point, however, it may have been too late for Cipollone to avoid all exposure to Trump’s corrupt actions. That’s because Cipollone would have been involved in the pardons of those — Cheney focused on Roger Stone and Mike Flynn last night, but Bernie Kerik and Paul Manafort also got pardons — who would go on to play key roles in Trump’s insurrection. (I assume Cipollone was not involved in the Bannon pardon that came after the attack, and I noted in real time that Cipollone likely prevented a bunch of other pardons that would have made obstruction more likely.) That is, Cipollone might have exposure for obstruction for actions already taken by January 3 or 4 when he explained this legal exposure to Hutchinson.

Even Bill Barr said that rewarding false testimony with a pardon would be obstruction. And Roger Stone, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort all delivered on that quid pro quo.

For all Liz Cheney’s specific exhortations, Cipollone may know better than to testify to Congress. Because without testifying to DOJ, first, that may cause him more legal trouble than his current (presumed) silence.

Update: As a number of people in comments noted, the Committee has formally subpoenaed Cipollone.

Bill Barr’s Attempt to Corrupt EDNY May Have Saved the Republic

Almost all of the witnesses the January 6 Committee has relied on are deeply conflicted people. The same Trump attorney, Justin Clark, who allegedly coached Steve Bannon to withhold information from the Committee about communications with Rudy Giuliani and Mike Flynn appeared on video claiming to have qualms about using fake electors in states where the campaign did not have an active legal challenge. Ivanka claimed to believe Bill Barr’s claims that voter fraud couldn’t change the election, but the Committee just obtained video of her saying otherwise. And Bill Barr himself has gotten credit for fighting Trump’s false claims of voter fraud even though he spent months laying the groundwork for those claims by attacking mail-in ballots.

But yesterday’s hearing was something else.

After Liz Cheney invited watchers to imagine what it would be like to have a DOJ that required loyalty oaths from lawyers who work there — a policy that Alberto Gonzales had started to implement in the Bush-Cheney Administration — Adam Kinzinger led former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue through a narrative about the Republican Party and the Department of Justice they might like to belong to.

The whole thing was a flashback. In May 2007, I was tipped off to cover Jim Comey’s dramatic retelling of the first DOJ effort to push back on Presidential — and Vice Presidential, from Liz Cheney’s father — pressure by threatening to quit. Only years later, I learned how little the 2004 Hospital Hero stand-off really achieved. So I’m skeptical of yesterday’s tales of heroism from the likes of Jeff Rosen and Steve Engel.

But that’s also because their record conflicts with some of the things they said.

For example, check out what Engel — someone who played an absolutely central role in Bill Barr’s corruption of the Mueller investigation, and who wrote memos that killed the hush payment investigation into Trump and attempted to kill the whistleblower complaint about Volodymyr Zelenskyy — had to say about politicization of investigations.

Kinzinger: Mr. Engel, from your perspective, why is it important to have a [White House contact] policy like Mr. Rosen just discussed?

Engel: Well, it’s critical that the Department of Justice conducts its criminal investigations free from either the reality or any appearance of political interference. And so, people can get in trouble if people at the White House are speaking with people at the Department and that’s why, the purpose of these policies, is to keep these communications as infrequent and at the highest levels as possible just to make sure that people who are less careful about it, who don’t really understand these implications, such as Mr. Clark, don’t run afoul of those contact policies.

Or consider how Special Counsels were described, as Kinzinger got the witnesses to discuss how wildly inappropriate it would have been to appoint Sidney Powell to investigate vote fraud. Here’s how Engel explained the limited times there’d be a basis to appoint one:

Kinzinger: So during your time at the Department, was there ever any basis to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate President Trump’s election fraud claims?

Engel: Well, Attorney General Barr and [inaudible] Jeffrey Rosen did appoint a Special Counsel. You would appoint a Special Counsel when the Department — when there’s a basis for an investigation, and the Department, essentially, has a conflict of interest.

Engel is presumably referring to John Durham with that initial comment. But Durham fails both of those tests: there was never a basis for an investigation, and for most of the time Durham has been Special Counsel, he’s been investigating people outside the Department that present absolutely no conflict for the Department. [Note: it’s not clear I transcribed this properly. The point remains: Rosen and Barr appointed a Special Counsel that violated this standard.]

In other words, so much of what Engel and Rosen were describing were abuses they themselves were all too happy to engage in, up until the post-election period.

Which is why I’m so interested in the role of Richard Donoghue, who moved from EDNY to Main Justice in July 2020, to be replaced by trusted Bill Barr flunkie Seth DuCharme. It happened at a time when prosecutors were prepared to indict Tom Barrack, charges that didn’t end up getting filed until a year later, after Merrick Garland and Lisa Monaco had been confirmed. The 2020 move by Barr looked just like other efforts — with Jessie Liu in DC and Geoffrey Berman in SDNY — to kill investigations by replacing the US Attorney.

That is, by all appearances, Donoghue was only the one involved in all these events in 2020 and 2021 because Barr was politicizing prosecutions, precisely what Engel claimed that DOJ, during his tenure, attempted to avoid.

That’s interesting for several reasons. First, in the context of explaining the January 3 stand-off in the White House, Donoghue described why environmental lawyer Jeffrey Clark was unqualified to be Attorney General.

Donoghue: Mr. President, you’re talking about putting a man in that seat who has never tried a criminal case. Who has never conducted a criminal investigation.

Well, neither had regulatory lawyer Jeffrey Rosen (or, for that matter, Billy Barr). That is, in explaining why Clark should not be Attorney General,  Donoghue expressed what many lawyers have likewise said about Barr, most notably during Barr’s efforts to undermine the Mike Flynn prosecution (the tail end of which Donoghue would have been part of, though DuCharme was likely a far more central player in that).

In the collective description of the showdown at the White House on January 3, it sounds like before that point, Donoghue was the first one who succeeded in beginning to talk Trump out of replacing Rosen, because it was not in Trump’s, or the country’s, interest.

Mr. President, you have a great deal to lose. And I began to explain to him what he had to lose. And what the country had to lose, and what the Department had to lose. And this was not in anyone’s best interest. That conversation went on for some time.

Donoghue also seems to have been the one to explain the impact of resignations in response to a Clark appointment.

Mr. President within 24, 48, 72 hours, you could have hundreds and hundreds of resignations of the leadership of your entire Justice Department because of your actions. What’s that going to say about you?

To be clear: Rosen would have pushed back in any case. As he described,

On the one hand, I wasn’t going to accept being fired by my subordinate, so I wanted to talk to the President directly. With regard to the reason for that, I wanted to try to convince the President not to go down the wrong path that Mr. Clark seemed to be advocating. And it wasn’t about me. There was only 17 days left in the Administration at that point. I would have been perfectly content to have either of the gentlemen on my left or right to replace me if anybody wanted to do that. But I did not want for the Department of Justice to be put in a posture where it would be doing things that were not consistent with the truth, were not consistent with its own appropriate role, or were not consistent with the Constitution.

But Rosen had already presided over capitulations to Trump in the past, including events relating to the first impeachment and setting up a system whereby Rudy Giuliani could introduce Russian-brokered disinformation targeting Joe Biden into DOJ, without exposing Rudy himself to Russian Agent charges. Repeatedly in yesterday’s hearing, I kept asking whether the outcome would have been the same if Donoghue hadn’t been there.

Plus, by all appearances, Donoghue was the one providing critical leadership in the period, including going to the Capitol to ensure it was secured.

Kinzinger: Mr. Donoghue, we know from Mr. Rosen that you helped to reconvene the Joint Session, is that correct?

Donoghue: Yes sir.

Kinzinger: We see here in a video that we’re going to play now you arriving with your security detail, to help secure the Capitol. Mr. Donoghue, thirty minutes after you arrived at the Capitol, did you lead a briefing for the Vice President?

Donoghue: I’m not sure exactly what the time frame was, but I did participate in a call and participate in a briefing with the Vice President as well as the Congressional leadership that night. Yes.

Kinzinger: Where’d you conduct that call at?

Donoghue: I was in an office, I’m not entirely sure where it was. My detail found it, because of the acoustics in the Rotunda were such that it wasn’t really conductive to having a call so they found an office, we went to that office, and I believe I participated in two phone calls, one at 1800 and one at 1900 that night, from that office.

Kinzinger: What time did you actually end up leaving the Capitol?

Donoghue: I waited until the Senate was back in session which I believe they were gaveled in a few minutes after 8PM. And once they were back in session and we were confident that the entire facility was secured and cleared — that there were no individuals hiding in closets, or under desks, that there were no IEDs or other suspicious devices left behind — I left minutes later. I was probably gone by 8:30.

Kinzinger: And Mr. Donoghue, did you ever hear from President Trump that day?

Donoghue: No. Like the AAG, the acting AG, I spoke to Pat Cipollone and Mark Meadows and the Vice President and the Congressional leadership but I never spoke to the President that day.

So it seems possible, certainly, that one of the few things that held DOJ together in this period is Donoghue, seemingly installed there as part of yet another Bill Barr plot to corrupt DOJ.

Congresswoman Cheney, who in her opening statement talked about how outrageous it was for Trump to demand that DOJ make an announcement about an investigation into voter fraud (but who voted against the first impeachment for extorting Volodymyr Zelenskyy for exactly such an announcement), ended the hearing by inviting those who had put their trust into Donald Trump to understand that he had abused that trust.

Rudy Giuliani Launched a Lynch Mob over a Ginger Mint

I find it harder to describe the details of yesterday’s January 6 Committee hearing, covering pressure Trump put on states to alter the vote, than the earlier hearings. That’s because the testimony about Trump’s bullying of those who upheld democracy — particularly election worker Shaye Moss and Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers — elicited so much emotion. This is what Trump has turned great swaths of the Republican Party into: bullies attacking those who defend democracy.

Trump’s bullies attacking anyone defending democracy

Bowers described how a mob, including an armed man wearing a 3%er militia patch, came to his house as his daughter fought a terminal illness.

Moss described how a mob descended on her granny’s house, hunting for her and her mother, Ruby Freeman. At least one member of the mob targeting those two Black women who chose to work elections betrayed self-awareness off their regressive stance: Moss testified that one of the threats targeted at her said, “Be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.”

And Adam Schiff got Moss to explain a detail that formed the core of a video Rudy Giuliani used to summon his mob. Rudy had claimed that when Ms. Freeman passed Shaye something, it was a thumb drive to replace votes.

It was actually a ginger mint.

Schiff: In one of the videos we just watched, Mr. Giuliani accused you and your mother of passing some sort of USB drive to each other. What was your mom actually handing you on that video?

Moss: A ginger mint.

Moss testified that none of the people who had been working with her full time on elections in Fulton County, Georgia are still doing that work. They’ve all been bullied out of working to uphold democracy.

Tying the state violence to the January 6 violence

Early in the hearing, Schiff tied these threats of violence to Stop the Steal, the organization behind the purported speakers that formed the excuse to bring mobs to the January 6 attack. He explained, “As we will show, the President’s supporters heard the former President’s claims of fraud and the false allegations he made against state and local officials as a call to action.” Shortly thereafter, investigative counsel Josh Roselman showed a video from Ali Alexander predicting at a protest in November 2020, “we’ll light the whole shit on fire.”

Much later in the hearing, Schiff tied the takeover of state capitals to the January 6 riot with a picture of Jacob Chansley invading Capitols in both AZ and DC.

Chansley already pled guilty to attempting to obstruct the vote certification, and one of the overt acts he took was to leave Mike Pence this threatening note on the dais.

So one thing the hearing yesterday did was to tie the threats of violence in the states to the expressions of violence on January 6.

Showing obstruction of the vote certification, including documents

A second video described the fake electors scheme, developing several pieces of evidence that may help DOJ tie all this together in conspiracy charges.

The video included testimony from Ronna McDaniel acknowledging the RNC’s involvement. (Remember that McDaniel joined in the effort to censure Liz Cheney when she learned the committee had subpoenaed Kathy Berden, the lead Michigander on that fake certificate; Berden has close ties to McDaniel.)

Essentially he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states. I think more just helping them reach out and assemble them. But the — my understanding is the campaign did take the lead and we just were … helping them in that role.

The video also cited Trump’s own campaign lawyers (including Justin Clark, who represented Trump in conjunction with Steve Bannon’s refusal to testify) describing that they didn’t believe the fake electors scheme was prudent if the campaign no longer had legal challenges in a given state.

In a videotaped deposition, former campaign staffer Robert Sinners described himself and other workers as, “useful idiots or rubes at that point.” When ask how he felt upon learning that Clark and Matt Morgan and other lawyers had concerns about the fake electors, Sinners explained, “I’m angry because I think in a sense, no one really cared if … if people were potentially putting themselves in jeopardy.” He went on, “I absolutely would not have” continued to participate, “had I known that the three main lawyers for the campaign that I’ve spoken to in the past and leading up were not on board.”

And electors in individual states claimed to have been duped into participating, too. Wisconsin Republican Party Chair Andrew Hitt described that, “I was told that these would only count if a court ruled in our favor.” So using them as an excuse to make challenges on January 6, “would have been using our electors, well, it would have been using our electors in ways that we weren’t told about and we wouldn’t have supported.”

In the wake of yesterday’s hearing, one of MI’s fake electors, Michele Lundgren, texted reporters to claim that they had not been permitted to read the first page of the form they signed, which made the false claims.

As the video showed the fake certificates next to the real ones, Investigative Counsel Casey Lucier explained that,

At the request of the Trump campaign, the electors from these battleground states signed documents falsely asserting that they were the duly elected electors from their state, and submitted them to the National Archives and to Vice President Pence in his capacity as President of the Senate.

[snip]

But these ballots had no legal effect. In an email produced to the Select Committee, Dr. Eastman told a Trump campaign representative [Boris Epshteyn] that it did not matter that the electors had not been approved by a state authority. Quote, the fact that we have multiple slates of electors demonstrates the uncertainty of either. That should be enough. He urged that Pence act boldly and be challenged.

Documents produced to the Select Committee show that the Trump campaign took steps to ensure that the physical copies of the fake electors’ electoral votes from two states were delivered to Washington for January 6. Text messages exchanged between Republican Party officials in Wisconsin show that on January 4, the Trump campaign asked for someone to fly their fake electors documents to Washington.

A staffer for Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson texted a staffer for Vice President Pence just minutes before the beginning of the Joint Session. This staffer stated that Senator Johnson wished to hand deliver to the Vice President the fake electors votes from Michigan and Wisconsin. The Vice President’s aide unambiguously instructed them not to deliver the fake votes to the Vice President.

Lucier made it clear, though, that these fake electors were delivered to both Congress (Johnson) and the Executive Branch (the Archives).

This video lays out critical steps in a conspiracy to obstruct the vote certification, one that — because it involves a corrupt act with respect to fraudulent documents — would even meet Judge Carl Nichols’ standard for obstruction under 18 USC 1512(c)(2).

The Court therefore concludes that § 1512(c)(2) must be interpreted as limited by subsection (c)(1), and thus requires that the defendant have taken some action with respect to a document, record, or other object in order to corruptly obstruct, impede or influence an official proceeding.

Understand, many of these people are awful and complicit (and bmaz will surely be by shortly to talk about what an asshole Rusty Bowers is). But with respect to the fake electors scheme, the Committee has teed up a parade of witnesses who recognize their own criminal exposure, and who are, as a result, already rushing to blame Trump for all of it. We know DOJ has been subpoenaing them for evidence about the lawyers involved — not just Rudy and Eastman, but also Justin Clark.

DOJ has also been asking about Boris Epshteyn. He showed up as the recipient of an email from Eastman explaining that it didn’t matter that the electors had no legal legitimacy.

As Kyle Cheney noted, the Committee released that email last month, albeit with Epshteyn’s name redacted.

The Republican Party has not just an incentive, but a existential need at this point, to blame Trump’s people for all of this, and it may do wonders not just for obtaining cooperative and cooperating witnesses, but also to change how Republicans view the January 6 investigation.

Exposing Pat Cipollone’s exceptional unwillingness to testify

Liz Cheney continued to use the hearings to shame those who aren’t cooperating with the Committee. In her opening statement, she played the video of Gabriel Sterling warning of violence, where he said, “All of you who have not said a damn word [about the threats and false claims] are complicit in this.”

Then after Schiff talked about the threat to democracy in his closing statement …

We have been blessed beyond measure to live in the world’s greatest democracy. That is a legacy to be proud of and to cherish. But it is not one to be taken for granted. That we have lived in a democracy for more than 200 years does not mean we shall do so tomorrow. We must reject violence. We must embrace our Constitution with the reverence it deserves, take our oath of office and duties as citizens seriously, informed by the knowledge of right and wrong and armed with no more than the power of our ideas and the truth, carry on this venerable experiment in self-governance.

Cheney focused on the important part played by witnesses who did what they needed to guard the Constitution, twice invoking God.

We’ve been reminded that we’re a nation of laws and we’ve been reminded by you and by Speaker Bowers and Secretary of State Raffensperger, Mr. Sterling, that our institutions don’t defend themselves. Individuals do that. And we’ve [been] reminded that it takes public servants. It takes people who have made a commitment to our system to defend our system. We have also been reminded what it means to take an oath, under God, to the Constitution. What it means to defend the Constitution. And we were reminded by Speaker Bowers that our Constitution is indeed a divinely inspired document.

That set up a marked contrast with the list of scofflaws who’ve obstructed the Committee.

To date more than 30 witnesses called before this Committee have not done what you’ve done but have invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Roger Stone took the Fifth. General Michael Flynn took the Fifth. John Eastman took the Fifth. Others like Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro simply refused to comply with lawful subpoenas. And they have been indicted. Mark Meadows has hidden behind President Trump’s claims of Executive Privilege and immunity from subpoena. We’re engaged now in litigation with Mr. Meadows.

Having set up that contrast, Congresswoman Cheney then spent the entire rest of her closing statement shaming Pat Cipollone for refusing thus far to testify.

The American people in our hearings have heard from Bill Barr, Jeff Rosen, Richard Donoghue, and many others who stood up and did what is right. And they will hear more of that testimony soon.

But the American people have not yet heard from Mr. Trump’s former White House counsel, Pat Cipollone. Our Committee is certain that Donald Trump does not want Mr. Cipollone to testify here. Indeed, our evidence shows that Mr. Cipollone and his office tried to do what was right. They tried to stop a number of President Trump’s plans for January 6.

Today and in our coming hearings, you will hear testimony from other Trump White House staff explaining what Mr. Cipollone said and did, including on January 6.

But we think the American people deserve to hear from Mr. Cipollone personally. He should appear before this Committee. And we are working to secure his testimony.

In the wake of this, someone “close to Cipollone” ran to Maggie Haberman and sold her a bullshit story, which she dutifully parroted uncritically.

Cheney had just laid out that the “institutional concerns” had been waived by other lawyers (and were, legally, in the case of Bill Clinton). And any privilege issue went out the window when Sean Hannity learned of the White House Counsel complaints. Plus, White House Counsel lawyer Eric Herschmann has testified at length, including about matters — such as the call Trump made to Vice President Pence shortly before the riot — involving Trump personally.

Given Cheney’s invocation of those who pled the Fifth, I wonder she suspects that Cipollone’s reluctance has less to do with his claimed excuses, and more to do with a concern that he has personal exposure.

He may! After all, he presided over Trump’s use of pardons to pay off several key players in the insurrection, including three of the people Cheney invoked to set up this contrast: Flynn, Stone, and Bannon (though I suspect Cipollone had checked out before the last of them). And these pardons — and the role of pardons in the planning for January 6 more broadly — may expose those involved, potentially including Cipollone, in the conspiracy.

Whether or not Cheney shames Cipollone into testifying, including with her appeal to religion, he may not have the same luxury of refusing when DOJ comes calling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Known cooperating witnesses

Oath Keepers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proud Boys

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

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

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

Others

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

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

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

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

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

Misdemeanor cooperators

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thirty Months after Disputing Michael Horowitz, Durham’s Team Suggests They’ve Never Looked at the Evidence

In Michael Sussmann’s filing explaining that he couldn’t include highly exculpatory notes — written by Tashina GausharMary McCord, and Scott Schools — from a March 6, 2017 meeting in his motion in limine because John Durham had provided them to him too late to include, Sussmann claimed that the files were not among those for which Durham had gotten permission to provide late.

The Special Counsel neglects to mention that these handwritten notes were buried in nearly 22,000 pages of discovery that the Special Counsel produced approximately two weeks before motions in limine were due. Specifically, the Special Counsel produced the March 2017 Notes as part of a March 18, 2022 production. The Special Counsel included the March 2017 Notes in a sub-folder generically labeled “FBI declassified” and similarly labeled them only as “FBI/DOJ Declassified Documents” in his cover letter. See Letter from J. Durham to M. Bosworth and S. Berkowitz (Mar. 18, 2022). And although the Special Counsel indicated on a phone call of March 18, 2022 that some of the 22,000 pages were documents that made references to “client,” he did not specifically identify the March 2017 Notes or otherwise call to attention to this powerful exculpatory material in the way that Brady and its progeny requires.

[snip]

[T]he Special Counsel has also failed to explain why this powerful Brady material was produced years into their investigation, six months after Mr. Sussmann was indicted, and only weeks before trial.3

Sussmann was wrong.

When Durham got an extension to his discovery deadlines, he got special permission to turn over (among other things) materials from DOJ IG at a later date.

DOJ Office of Inspector General Materials. On October 7, 2021, at the initiative of the Special Counsel’s Office, the prosecution team met with the DOJ Inspector General and other OIG personnel to discuss discoverable materials that may be in the OIG’s possession. The Special Counsel’s office subsequently submitted a formal written discovery request to the OIG on October 13, 2021, which requested, among other things, all documents, records, and information in the OIG’s possession regarding the defendant and/or the Russian Bank-1 allegations.

[I]n January 2022, the OIG informed the Special Counsel’s Office for the first time that it would be extremely burdensome, if not impossible, for the OIG to apply the search terms contained in the prosecution team’s October 13, 2021 discovery request to certain of the OIG’s holdings – namely, emails and other documents collected as part of the OIG’s investigation. The OIG therefore requested that the Special Counsel’s Office assist in searching these materials. The Government is attempting to resolve this technical issue as quickly as possible and will keep the defense (and the Court as appropriate) updated regarding its status.

In the pre-trial hearing on Monday, Andrew DeFilippis explained that the files came from DOJ IG (and therefore were subject to that later discovery deadline).

We located those statements in the notes in February or early March, when we received a huge production from the DOJ Inspector General’s office. As soon as we noticed that in the notes, we put them on very rapid declassification at the FBI and turned them over to the defense about a week later.

DeFilippis offered an unconvincing excuse for burying belatedly provided Brady material two layers deep in file folders without specific notice. He described the decision to flag the materials as an internal Government decision, which is an odd description unless Michael Horowitz’s office — or those involved in declassifying the records — forced the decision:

We then, speaking internally as the Government, decided it would be important to flag those notes for the defense. And so the day that we produced them, we got on a call. We wanted to be in a position to flag it in a way that we didn’t just put it in the end of a paragraph of a discovery letter. We flagged for the defense that we were going to be producing notes and that that included notes in which the word “client” appeared. And we told them that we thought that would be relevant to them.

[snip]

Let me just say that there was absolutely no effort by the Government to delay here or to hide these in a large production. That is precisely why we got on a phone call and flagged it for the defense.

It’s almost like DeFilippis was hoping this would get no notice.

I can understand why. I’ve described how astounding it was that Durham did not go looking for evidence from DOJ IG until — by Durham’s own telling — October 7, more than two weeks after indicting Sussmann (and likely not long enough before indicting Igor Danchenko to learn key details that undermine at least one charge against him).

But this late provision of exculpatory evidence means one of two things:

  • Durham has always had the files, but did such a poor job of looking for it in discovery he didn’t find it in his own files even as he started hunting Michael Sussmann
  • Durham never had these files

The latter is the more likely possibility, which, as a threshold matter, would mean Durham never reviewed key files that DOJ IG had used in high level witness interviews before disputing Michael Horowitz’ conclusion that the investigation was predicated appropriately. Durham is, literally, only reviewing key files three years into his investigation.

Along the way, he’s learning that conspiracy theories he has been chasing for months and years are false.

The revelation that Durham is discovering exculpatory information in DOJ IG’s files is as important to the efforts to blow up the Mike Flynn prosecution two years ago as it is to the Sussmann prosecution. That’s because the Jeffrey Jensen review of the Flynn prosecution and the Durham investigation were believed to be closely aligned. Indeed, I have shown that the handwritten notes from the FBI that Durham will rely on at trial show the same markers of unreliability that documents that were altered in the Flynn case had.

As I explained in this post, Jensen’s documents started with the Bates stamp used throughout the Flynn prosecution.

But after a period of time, they used a Bates stamp with a different typeface, albeit continuing the same series, suggesting someone else was doing the document sharing.

But if they’re drawing on the same source documents, Durham should at least know notes of that meeting exists. Jeffrey Jensen received and relied on at least one set of notes — Jim Crowell’s notes — from the March 6, 2017 meeting. Those notes, along with Tashina Gauhar’s notes of an earlier briefing and all those that got altered, also have the fat typeface.

The Tashina Gauhar notes turned over to Sussmann (and the others turned over) not only are based off a scan of her original notes and have no post-it notes on them, but they bear both Durham’s Bates stamp (SCO-074095), but also one that likely comes from DOJ IG (SCO-FBIPROD_021529).

All of which seems to suggest there was the same cherry-picking that went into the Durham investigation and the Jensen “review.” Neither reviewed — neither could have!! — what really happened. They reviewed selected records and then (in the Jensen review) altered those records to make false claims that the former President used in a debate attack.

I’ll come back to the issue of what appears in the notes Sussmann released that conflicts with the Flynn releases.

But I’m also interested that Durham is stalling on providing other notes from the meeting.

2 The defense has requested that the Special Counsel search for any additional records that may shed further light on the meeting and certain of those requests remain outstanding. To date, the Special Counsel has represented that the only additional notes from attendees at the meeting that he has identified do not reference whether or not Mr. Sussmann was acting on behalf of a client. The absence in those notes of any reference to whether Mr. Sussmann was acting on behalf of a client also raises questions regarding materiality of the charged conduct: if the on behalf of information were truly material to the FBI’s investigation, presumably all note takers would have written it down. [my emphasis]

Durham can’t be withholding notes because they don’t mention Sussmann having a client. That’s because Scott Schools’ notes mention that the Alfa Bank tip came from an attorney, but don’t mention that he was there on behalf of a client (Schools’ notes may have been included because they are the only ones of the three provided that attributed this discussion to Andy McCabe).

There are at least two other sets of notes from this meeting that are known or presumed to exist:

And there were at least three other people present at the meeting known to take notes:

  • Bill Priestap
  • Andy McCabe
  • Dana Boente

Importantly, in Durham’s objection to admitting these notes as evidence, he makes it clear that James Baker (inexcusably as a lawyer) did not take notes of this or any other meeting, but he does not say whether Priestap (or Trisha Anderson) took notes.

Moreover, the DOJ personnel who took the notes that the defendant may seek to offer were not present for the defendant’s 2016 meeting with the FBI General Counsel. And while the FBI General Counsel was present for the March 6, 2017 meeting, the Government has not located any notes that he took there.

If Priestap took notes, one copy should be in Durham’s possession, in the notebook of Priestap’s notes already on Durham’s exhibit list.

DOJ has been trying to prevent anyone from looking at Andy McCabe’s notes for some time.

But one thing that turning over the DOJ IG retained notes for the others will show is whether alterations in the Strzok, Priestap, and McCabe notes were made.

It’ll also make it easy to test why Jensen’s review redacted a date and added one — albeit the correct one — in the Jim Crowell notes.

 

That is, I wonder if Durhams’ reluctance to turn over those materials stems not from any facts about his own investigation, but from an awareness of the cherry-picking — and possibly worse — that having turned over the past one reveals.

Three posts on the altered documents from the Mike Flynn case

The Jeffrey Jensen “Investigation:” Post-It Notes and Other Irregularities (September 26, 2020)

Shorter DOJ: We Made Shit Up … Please Free Mike Flynn (October 27, 2020)

John Durham Has Unaltered Copies of the Documents that Got Altered in the Flynn Docket (December 3, 2020)

Todd Wilson: The Seditious Conspiracy Grows Branches

Yesterday, Oath Keeper Todd Wilson pled guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction. He’s from North Carolina, and while the Sedition Hunters who have followed the Oath Keepers closely had been tracking him and had noticed Ed Vallejo did not redact Wilson’s name on a transcript submitted in Vallejo’s detention fight, Wilson’s information was rolled out just the morning before he pled. He went from being charged to pleading to sedition in a matter of hours.

(In other news, Judge Amit Mehta released Vallejo to home confinement yesterday.)

What we see in statement of offense — and, I suspect, what we’ll see going forward — is DOJ making little-noticed parts of a much broader network visible. As with Georgia Oath Keeper Brian Ulrich’s statement of offense, for example, Wilson’s provides hints of damning discussions that happened at the state level.

In November 24, 2020, in the “NC OK County Leaders” Signal chat, a group member advised, “we all need to be very careful about what we post here . . . While Signal is end-to-end encrypted, it’s always safest to operate under the assumption that someone is monitoring our conversations electronically.”

For sixteen months, the non-specialist focus on the Oath Keepers has been tracking The Stack and those directly associated with it (though Oath Keeper researchers always had a broader focus). But we’re going to increasingly see pieces of this conspiracy that were visible, but not seen, because the spectacle of The Stack attracted most of the attention. Some of those little-seen aspects of the larger network may prove far more important.

One testament to that is that Wilson showed up, but was not noticed, in photos already submitted to the docket in Oath Keeper cases.

Wilson’s presence in the Rotunda is actually one of the tactically most important parts of his statement of offense. Wilson entered the Capitol from the west side and then helped open the East doors from inside.

Even before he entered the building, though, Wilson was one of four people with Stewart Rhodes watching the building as it was first assaulted and he was with Rhodes as the Oath Keeper leader first entered restricted grounds.

Just before 1:30 p.m., in response to a claim by an Oath Keeper affiliate on the “Leadership Intel Chat” that Antifa had breached the Capitol, Rhodes replied: “Nope. I’m right here. These are Patriots.” Minutes later, Rhodes posted to the group that he was standing at the comer of the Capitol building with four people to include Wilson. Rhodes then posted to the “DC OP: Jan 6 21 Signal group chat: Pence is doing nothing* As I predicted.” Rhodes added, “All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough.”

[snip]

Shortly after 2:00 p.m., Wilson, Rhodes, and others bypassed barricades and Capitol Police officers, and unlawfully entered the restricted grounds of the Capitol. While advancing, Wilson heard Rhodes proclaim that they were in the midst of a “civil war.” Through plumes of smoke, Wilson could see mobs of people climbing up scaffolding and descending on the Capitol. Rhodes soon directed his followers to meet him at the Capitol. [my emphasis]

From there, Wilson (who escaped notice in part because he wasn’t kitted out like the others and who was a member of the Oath Keepers Intelligence Signal chat) entered the building with the goal of gathering intelligence.

At 2:34 p.m., Wilson entered through the Upper West Terrace Doors of the Capitol—the first of the co-conspirators to breach the building. Wilson was armed with a pocketknife and wore a neck gaiter and beanie hat to mask his appearance. Wilson entered the Capitol with the goal of disturbing the Congressional proceeding and gathering intelligence. [my emphasis]

Four minutes later, Wilson was helping push open the East doors, thereby helping The Stack and others open a second front of the attack.

By 2:38 p.m., Wilson had marched through the Rotunda to the east side of the Capitol where he joined in the center of a mob of people trying to push open the Rotunda Doors from inside of the building. Two Capitol police officers stood in front of the closed doors attempting to keep the mob at bay.

[snip]

At approximately 2:39 p.m., the Rotunda doors were forced open, and a mob of people forcibly entered the Capitol through the doors. The entering mob included fourteen Oath Keepers co-conspirators—many of whom were wearing paramilitary clothing and patches with the Oath Keepers name, logo, and insignia—who had moved up and through the crowd on the east side of the Capitol in a military-style “stack” formation (“Stack One”), Wilson took cell phone video of them entering. The Rotunda Doors and surrounding facade suffered thousands of dollars worth of damage during the attack on the Capitol.

Wilson traveled with the others for a bit and may have accompanied the group that went to hunt down Nancy Pelosi.

Wilson walked through the Capitol for the next fifteen minutes, at times interacting with Dolan, Harrelson, and other co-conspirators who were heading southbound toward the House of Representatives.

The Oath Keepers got to insurrection later than the Proud Boys that day. But Wilson’s path makes the Oath Keepers more central players in the pincer effect seemingly coordinated with the Proud Boys and Alex Jones than previously known.

That’s the tactically important part of his statement of offense.

The part that has attracted the attention, however, is that not long after 5PM, Wilson witnessed Rhodes make a call on speaker phone to someone who could directly access Trump.

At the Phoenix Hotel, Rhodes gathered Wilson and other co-conspirators inside of a private suite. Rhodes then called an individual over speaker phone. Wilson heard, Rhodes repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power. This individual denied Rhodes’s request to speak directly with President Trump. After the call ended, Rhodes stated to the group, “I just want to fight.”

The Phoenix Park Hotel parking garage, remember, is where Enrique Tarrio met with Rhodes on January 5, more details of which were released Monday in a detention memo for the Proud Boys leader.

Tarrio claims that his surreptitious meeting with Elmer Stuart Rhodes III and others in an underground parking garage was “secondary to why he was there.” Defendant’s Motion at *5 Tarrio’s claim is plainly disproven by video of the event, but even if it were accurate, it misses the point.

First, Tarrio intentionally traveled to the Hall of States Parking Garage near the Phoenix Hotel where he met with others who were planning to remain in Washington, D.C. Tarrio’s decision to do so—even while at risk of violating the D.C. Superior Court stay-away order— demonstrates that even after his arrest, Tarrio remained engaged in planning for January 6. This point is further underscored by Tarrio’s efforts to rejoin encrypted communications and coordinate with Nordean and Biggs about the plans for January 6. Second Superseding Indictment (ECF 305) at ¶¶ 63-67 (Biggs: “I gave Enrique a plan. The one I told the guys and he said he had one.”).

Second, video from the documentary crew shows Tarrio making the conscious decision to travel to an underground downtown parking garage to meet with others rather than departing Washington, D.C., as he had been ordered to do. Specifically, filmmakers captured Tarrio preparing to enter the Phoenix Hotel. The next clip captured Tarrio standing outside the hotel near a truck. When asked what happened, Tarrio told the filmmaker, “We went in [the Phoenix Hotel] and somebody advised us that they’re going to call the cops.” Tarrio was then advised by a female companion, “I think we should leave.” The next clip showed Tarrio in a truck stopped outside the Phoenix Hotel, with Tarrio talking to two people standing on the sidewalk. Tarrio then directed the driver of the truck to travel around the corner from the hotel and enter the Hall of States parking garage—where he offered to pay for the entry. While driving down the ramp into the garage, Tarrio was filmed on a phone call advising the other communicant that he could not come back near the front of the hotel because “they’re already looking out the window.” Tarrio then provided directions to the underground garage. The same two people with whom Tarrio communicated in front of the Phoenix Hotel appeared less than five minutes later in the underground parking garage, along with a handful of others.

Going forward, I suspect it would be ill-advised to assume the word “co-conspirator” assumes the conspiracy in question is entirely self-contained in one militia.

That’s worth keeping in mind when trying to guess whom Rhodes called. The most obvious candidate would be Roger Stone, and I promise you, before this is done, we’ll learn that Stone or his flunkies were involved in similar conversations.

But by the time of this call, per this WaPo piece, Stone was already fleeing. (h/t William Ockham)

Stone had said he expected to attend a meeting with administration officials on pardons that had been pushed back to 6 p.m. because Trump had “ruined the schedule for the day.” But following the riot, Stone and Davis left D.C. for the private flight.

Before Stone leftthe Willard for Dulles around 5 p.m., he paused for a photo in front of a hotel TV showing coverage of the riot.

And Wilson’s statement of offense gives the kind of nod to Mike Flynn that earlier Oath Keeper filings had restricted to Stone.

In December 14, 2020, after reading an article posted by a group member in the “Leadership Intel Chat” titled, “General Flynn warns of unelected ‘tyrants,’ says ‘time for God-fearing Americans to fight,'” Wilson replied, “It is time to fight!” [link added]

And Wilson has ties to people who have ties to Flynn.

So who knows? It could be Stone, it could be Flynn, it could be someone else — like Rudy or Mark Meadows — who genuinely did have direct access to the President.

The point being, we’re very close to a point, if not already there, where this networked conspiracy is going to coalesce such that it’s no longer about discrete militia groups, but it’s about people sitting in hotel rooms blocks away from the direct assault on the Capitol.

Update: Corrected the date of the garage meeting.

Update: The correct name of the hotel is the Phoenix Park.

John Durham Is Hiding Evidence of Altered Notes

On Monday, both John Durham and Michael Sussmann submitted their motions in limine, which are filings to argue about what can be admitted at trial. They address a range of issues that I’ll cover in several posts:

Sussmann:

Durham wants to:

  • Admit witnesses’ contemporaneous notes of conversations with the FBI General Counsel
  • Admit emails referenced in the Indictment and other, similar emails (see this post)
  • Admit certain acts and statements (including the defendant’s February 2017 meeting with a government agency, his December 2017 Congressional testimony, and his former employer’s October 2018 statements to the media) as direct evidence or, alternatively, pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b)
  • Exclude evidence and preclude argument concerning allegations of political bias on the part of the Special Counsel (addressed in this post)
  • Admit an October 31, 2016 tweet by the Clinton Campaign

I will link my discussions in serial fashion.


In John Durham’s bid to introduce notes from Bill Priestap and Trisha Anderson, he presented a color scan of Anderson’s notes [red annotation added]:

But he presented a black and white scan of Priestap’s notes [red annotation added]:

That’s important for two reasons. First, because blue sticky tabs were implicated in altered documents submitted in the Mike Flynn case. There was a blue sticky tab on another page of Priestap notes submitted in Flynn’s case.

There were what appear to be blue and red stickies visible on the original version of some Peter Strzok notes submitted in that case.

When the government ultimately confessed to adding dates (affirmatively misleading, in at least one case) to both that set of Strzok notes

And some Andrew McCabe notes

… The government claimed that the date added to some Andrew McCabe notes was added via a blue sticky — what sounds like the same sticky we saw in the Priestap notes.

In response to the Court and counsel’s questions, the government has learned that, during the review of the Strzok notes, FBI agents assigned to the EDMO review placed a single yellow sticky note on each page of the Strzok notes with estimated dates (the notes themselves are undated). Those two sticky notes were inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters, before they were forwarded to our office for production. The government has also confirmed with Mr. Goelman and can represent that the content of the notes was not otherwise altered.

Similarly, the government has learned that, at some point during the review of the McCabe notes, someone placed a blue “flag” with clear adhesive to the McCabe notes with an estimated date (the notes themselves are also undated). Again, the flag was inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters, before they were forwarded to our office for production. Again, the content of the notes was not otherwise altered. [my emphasis]

If that’s right, then whoever altered the McCabe notes altered them with the same kind of blue sticky note that appears on the Priestap notes that Durham wants to submit at trial.

Whether that date was added via blue sticky note has never been publicly tested. Rather than submitting unaltered versions of McCabe’s notes in the Flynn docket, DOJ — metadata suggests that Jocelyn Ballantine did this — simply digitally removed the date and a footer, effectively submitting a realtered exhibit in place of an altered one. So one cannot rule out that that date was written right onto the notes themselves. McCabe was being specifically prevented by DOJ from reviewing his original notes in the period, not even to prepare for Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, so he hasn’t been able to test that either.

That, by itself, suggests some of the alterations that were an issue in the Flynn docket were altered before they were shared with Jeffrey Jensen.

But that’s all the more interesting given a detail that Michael Sussmann included in his bid to exclude these notes. In Priestap’s grand jury testimony in this case, he testified he didn’t know why he wrote the “no specific client” comment on a slant, or why those notes were, “perhaps darker or thicker than some of the other notes.”

The Indictment characterizes the Priestap Notes as a contemporaneous record of Mr. Priestap’s conversation with Mr. Baker. See id. But beyond offering that they “looked like his writing and organizational style,” Mem. of Special Counsel’s June 2, 2021 Interview of E.W. Priestap, SCO-3500U-018701, at -01, Mr. Priestap said he “[doesn’t] remember why [he] wrote them down and who gave [him] the information,” E.W. Priestap’s June 3, 2021 Grand Jury Test., SCO-3500U-018746, at -98. Not only that, but Mr. Priestap “[does] not recall actually writing these notes,” id. at SCO-3500U-018815, nor can he confirm that the notes actually reflect any conversation he had with Mr. Baker, as opposed to a conversation he had with someone else, id. Indeed, Mr. Priestap “advised he did not remember Baker conveying to him the information about Sussmann,” Mem. of Special Counsel’s June 2, 2021 Interview of E.W. Priestap at SCO-3500U 018702, and was “not certain whether th[e] conversation reflected in the notes . . . was with Mr. Baker or maybe with someone else,” E.W. Priestap’s June 3, 2021 Grand Jury Test. at SCO3500U-018815. Mr. Priestap also has “[n]o idea” why the phrase “said not doing this for any client”—written diagonally to the side of the main body of the notes—was written at all, and could offer no explanation for why those words were “perhaps darker or thicker than some of the other notes.” Id. at SCO-3500U-018816.

The date in the January 24, 2017 Priestap notes is even more irregular — at cross-direction from his other notes on the page, and with uneven ink — and I have always wondered whether that date was added too.

And lo and behold, the Anderson notes also appear to have a sticky note right by the date (as annotated), albeit apparently a red one, though some of the tags on the Strzok notes were of a similar color. She also found aspects of her notes surprising.

Ms. Anderson’s notes (the “Anderson Notes”) include, on top, “Deputies Mtg. 9/19/16,” and then, after a redaction and under a second heading reading “9/19[/]16,” go on to state: “Sussman[n] Mtg w/ Baker” and “No specific client but group of cyber academics talked w/ him abt research,” followed by the phrase, “article this Friday – NYT/WaPo/WSJ.” Anderson Notes at SCO-3500U-000018. The relevant sentence fragment contains no subject revealing who had “[n]o specific client,” nor any other context for that phrase. Ms. Anderson, who was first asked about these notes by the Special Counsel over five years after they were written, has no meaningful memory of the notes or their context: she has only a “vague recollection” of discussing this topic with Mr. Baker and cannot “recall specifics.” Mem. of Special Counsel’s Jan. 5, 2022 Interview of T. Anderson, SCO-3500U-000087, at -88, -96. When shown the notes, Ms. Anderson stated that she had been “surprised” to learn about the “no specific client” phrase, and she “d[id] not now recall hearing from Baker his use” of that phrase; she could only assume that she got that phrase from Mr. Baker “because her notes reflect[ed] it.” Id. at -88.

Durham has only provided a partial scan of theses notes, hiding that the date, 9/19/16, appears earlier on the page, describing a different kind of meeting. That’s consistent with what the added date and the redaction on the McCabe notes did: It served to suggest that McCabe briefed the Flynn case to SSCI the day after Jim Comey was fired. Here, the September 19 date that appears next to the sticky is necessary for Durham’s case to claim that Anderson took these notes the same day of the meeting and not some time after that.

But why would Anderson date her notes twice?

According to a discovery filing in this case, Sussmann has reviewed redacted versions of the originals of the Priestap notes, which were still in the notebook Priestap took them in.

On October 13, 2021, the defense requested, among other things, to inspect the original notes that a former FBI Assistant Director of Counterintelligence took reflecting the defendant’s alleged false statement. The original notes were contained in a hard-bound notebook located at FBI Headquarters and contained extremely sensitive and highly classified information on a variety of topics and unrelated investigative matters. The Government immediately agreed to make the original notebook available to the defense in redacted form, and the defense conducted its review of the notebook on October 20, 2021.

But to test why all these notes have post-it notes on them and why the dates are so unreliable (and affirmatively misleading, in the case of the alteration in the January 5, 2017 Strzok notes), Sussmann would need to review all the notes together, probably with the assistance of the original authors.

It’s still not clear who altered the notes submitted in the Flynn docket, the extent of those alterations, or why the government is submitting exhibits with investigative stickies on them as evidence at trial. DOJ’s filing in the Flynn case blamed the misleading date on the Strzok notes on an FBI agent associated with the Jeffrey Jensen investigation (which would suggest that alteration post-dated Durham’s access to it), but it did not say who altered the McCabe notes.

But by showing that the blue sticky notes existed in Durham’s copy of the exhibits, Durham makes it clear some of the alterations exhibited in the Flynn docket happened before he shared the documents with Jensen’s investigation, if that’s how the notes got shared around.

The misleading date added to the Strzok notes ultimately was part of a packaged Trump attack on Joe Biden at the first debate, one that Sidney Powell, who has since been sanctioned for making fraudulent claims in an attempt to keep Trump in office, appears to have had a part in.

President Donald J. Trump: (01:02:22)
We’ve caught them all. We’ve got it all on tape. We’ve caught them all. And by the way, you gave the idea for the Logan Act against General Flynn. You better take a look at that, because we caught you in a sense, and President Obama was sitting in the office.

Given that even Chuck Grassley recognized the alteration added to the Strzok notes was incorrect, it’s hard to believe that was an innocent mistake.

And yet, 18 months later, DOJ is still trying to submit notes with all these investigative sticky notes as exhibits, without explaining why or how they appeared there.

And Durham’s choice to present the Priestap notes — with what appear to be the same blue sticky as appeared on his earlier notes, as well was the the blue sticky described to have been used to alter the McCabe notes — in black-and-white suggests he may know that’s a problem.