Posts

John Durham Says Election-Hack Victims Should Wait Until After the Election to Report Tips

Even as Russia assaults a peaceful democracy (which invasion, in a separate filing, Durham calls, “recent world events in Ukraine”), John Durham suggests that a political campaign victimized by Russia should expect to wait until after the election before the FBI opens an investigation into a cybersecurity anomaly potentially implicating her opponent.

Durham even asserts that such a cybersecurity anomaly is not a cybersecurity matter, but instead a political one.

Almost six years after Trump’s request, “Russia are you listening,” was met with a renewed Russian attack on Hillary Clinton, John Durham continues to treat Hillary’s attempts to run a campaign while being attacked as a greater threat than that nation-state attack by Russia.

Durham’s latest contortions come in a response to Micheal Sussmann’s motion to dismiss the indictment.

Sussmann argued that the alleged lie he told (motions to dismiss must accept the alleged facts as true), could not have affected the single decision facing the FBI when he shared information about a DNS anomaly: whether to open an investigation or not.

Following the Supreme Court’s clear instruction in Gaudin, in order to assess the materiality of the false statement that Mr. Sussmann is alleged to have made, this Court must ask what statement he is alleged to have made to the FBI; what decision the FBI was trying to make; and whether the false statement could have influenced that decision. Here, even accepting all the allegations in the Indictment as true—and the evidence would prove otherwise—the only decision the FBI was trying to make was the decision whether or not to commence an investigation into the allegations of suspicious internet data involving the Trump Organization and Russian Bank-1. Ample precedent—and the Special Counsel’s own allegations in this case—make clear that Mr. Sussmann’s purported false statement did not influence, and was not capable of influencing, that decision.

Predictably and reasonably, Durham’s response cited the precedent that leaves it up to juries to determine whether something is material or not.

In any event, the defendant’s arguments on the materiality of his statement are also premature. The Supreme Court in Gaudin held that materiality is an essential element of Section 1001 that must be resolved by a jury.

As I noted back in October, “Prosecutors will argue that materiality is a matter for the jury to decide.”

Prosecutors also noted what I did: a long list of precedents about materiality that Sussmann cited in his motion are all post-trial challenges to materiality, not pretrial motions to dismiss.

The defendant cites to multiple cases where the Supreme Court and Circuit Courts have held that the false statements and misrepresentations at issue were immaterial as a matter of law. See Def. Mot. at 7-10. But critically, all of those cases involved post-conviction appeals or motions to vacate the conviction after the Government presented its case at trial. Accordingly, none of these cases support the defendant’s requested relief here – that is, that the court dismiss the Indictment before trial because it fails to sufficiently allege that the defendant’s false statement is material. What the cases do show is that courts have routinely declined to usurp the jury’s role in making the determination on whether a false statement is material.

For those two reasons, Sussmann’s motion to dismiss is unlikely to succeed, and should instead be viewed as an opening bid to frame his defense and establish issues for appeal.

Those two arguments are all Durham really needed to respond to Sussmann’s motion to dismiss. Instead of leaving it with responsible lawyering, however, Durham instead launches into an illogical attempt to criminalize tip reporting.

Take his attempt to dismiss Rodney Joffe’s real cybersecurity expertise. In the three months since he charged Sussmann, Durham belatedly (at Sussmann’s request) discovered how closely Joffe had worked with the FBI on other investigations. As Sussmann scoffed in an earlier filing, “The notion that the FBI would have been more skeptical of the information had it known of Tech Executive-1’s involvement is, in a word, preposterous.” Now that Durham has discovered the close ties between Joffe and the FBI, he claimed that that history of reliability was itself something the FBI needed to know.

Namely, as the defendant’s motion reveals (Def. Mot. at 18-19, fn. 8), Tech Executive-1 had a history of providing assistance to the FBI on cyber security matters, but decided in this instance to provide politically-charged allegations anonymously through the defendant and a law firm that was then-counsel to the Clinton Campaign. Given Tech Executive-1’s history of assistance to law enforcement, it would be material for the FBI to learn of the defendant’s lawyer-client relationship with Tech Executive-1 so that they could evaluate Tech Executive-1’s motivations. As an initial step, the FBI might have sought to interview Tech Executive-1. And that, in turn, might have revealed further information about Tech Executive-1’s coordination with individuals tied to the Clinton Campaign, his access to vast amounts of sensitive and/or proprietary internet data, and his tasking of cyber researchers working on a pending federal cybersecurity contract.

Durham’s claim that “learning” how much data Joffe had access to (which is something the FBI undoubtedly knew — it is surely the reason why FBI partnered with him, because the volume of data Neustar had made their observations more useful) would make them more skeptical of the DNS tip is nonsensical. In fact, elsewhere (in tracking all the YotaPhone requests in the US over a three year period), Durham treated it as presumptively reliable.

Plus, Durham made no mention here of one of a number of the other things he belatedly learned: that the September 2016 tip Sussmann shared with FBI General Counsel James Baker was not the only one Joffe had shared via Sussmann anonymously. He shared a tip anonymously during this same time period with DOJ IG. Durham has no way of knowing, either, whether those two were the only ones, but his revised theory of materiality depends on an anonymous tip like this one being unique.

Similarly, Durham struggled to explain (including by citing an inapt precedent) why the FBI would need to be told that Sussmann represented Hillary when, in notes of Baker’s retelling of the meeting, Bill Priestap wrote that Sussmann represented the DNC and Clinton Foundation.

As he did with Joffe, Durham tried to flip Sussmann’s expertise, arguing that the former prosecutor’s recognized qualification as a cybersecurity expert, something that would help him assess whether DNS data were anomalous or not, is precisely why the Perkins Coie lawyer needed to disclose he was working for Hillary.

In an effort to downplay the materiality of this false statement, the defendant asserts that the FBI General Counsel was aware that the defendant represented the DNC. See Def. Mot at 18. But the Government expects that evidence at trial will establish that the FBI General Counsel was aware that the defendant represented the DNC on cybersecurity matters arising from the Russian government’s hack of its emails, not that he provided political advice or was participating in the Clinton Campaign’s opposition research efforts. Indeed, the defendant held himself out to the public as an experienced national security and cybersecurity lawyer, not an election lawyer or political consultant. Accordingly, when the defendant disclaimed any client relationships at his meeting with the FBI General Counsel, this served to lull the General Counsel into the mistaken, yet highly material belief that the defendant lacked political motivations for his work.

There are many crazy assumptions built into this statement: that, had Sussmann identified Hillary as his client, it would have required him to reveal her motives as political rather than security-related to the FBI, breaching privilege; that reporting an anomaly potentially involving Trump after Trump had begged Russia to further hack Hillary would not be a sound decision from a cybersecurity standpoint; that researching the context of an anomaly, such as Alfa Bank’s ties to Putin, is not part of cybersecurity. Effectively, Durham has unilaterally decided that pursuing this anomaly was a political act, with no basis in law or fact.

Which is how Durham espoused the claim that the FBI, facing an unprecedented attack by Russia on American elections in 2016, might have delayed investigation of a part of it that might have implicated one of the contestants.

The defendant’s false statement to the FBI General Counsel was plainly material because it misled the General Counsel about, among other things, the critical fact that the defendant was disseminating highly explosive allegations about a then-Presidential candidate on behalf of two specific clients, one of which was the opposing Presidential campaign. The defendant’s efforts to mislead the FBI in this manner during the height of a Presidential election season plainly could have influenced the FBI’s decision-making in any number of ways. The defendant’s core argument to the contrary rests on the flawed premise that the FBI’s only relevant decision was binary in nature, i.e., whether or not to initiate an investigation. But defendant’s assertion in this regard conveniently ignores the factual and practical realities of how the FBI initiates and conducts investigations. For example, the Government expects that evidence at trial will prove that the FBI could have taken any number of steps prior to opening what it terms a “full investigation,” including, but not limited to, conducting an “assessment,” opening a “preliminary investigation,” delaying a decision until after the election, or declining to investigate the matter altogether.

[snip]

Moreover, the Department of Justice and the FBI maintain stringent guidelines on dealing with matters that bear on U.S. elections. Given the temporal proximity to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the FBI also might have taken any number of different steps in initiating, delaying, or declining the initiation of this matter had it known at the time that the defendant was providing information on behalf of the Clinton Campaign and a technology executive at a private company.

[snip]

And the evidence will show that it would have been all the more material here because the defendant was providing this information on behalf of the Clinton Campaign less than two months prior to a hotly contested U.S. presidential election. [my emphasis]

The first paragraph here is really telling, given Durham’s public complaint that the Crossfire Hurricane team should have opened the investigation as a preliminary investigation, not a full investigation (the investigation into Mike Flynn, specifically, wasn’t opened as a full investigation, but none of the techniques used would have otherwise been unavailable, not least because there was already a full investigation opened on Carter Page). This is an argument Durham may reprise in his report: That it was unreasonable for Hillary Clinton to ask the FBI to inquire into Trump’s campaign after he publicly asked a foreign country for help (even ignoring the tip from Australia).

Durham seems to think Hillary should have had no assistance from law enforcement when her opponent publicly asked Russia to hack her some more if people close to her found more reason to be concerned. He even mocked Sussmann as too powerful to choose to use anonymity.

[W]hile the defendant’s motion seeks to equate the defendant with a “jilted ex-wife [who] would think twice about reporting her ex-husband’s extensive gun-smuggling operation,” this comparison is absurd. Def. Mot. at 24

Far from finding himself in the vulnerable position of an ordinary person whose speech is likely to be chilled, the defendant – a sophisticated and well-connected lawyer – chose to bring politically-charged allegations to the FBI’s chief legal officer at the height of an election season.”

This also betrays pure insanity. The anomaly involving Trump could always have reflected disloyal insiders compromising the candidate, as could the YotaPhones potentially in use in Trump headquarters. In fact, Page did compromise Trump when he went to Russia in December 2016 and tell Russians there that he was representing Trump on matters pertaining to Ukraine, just as Mike Flynn did by selling his access to Trump to Turkey, just as Tom Barrack is accused of doing with the Emirates. The reason why Sussmann was providing this information less than two months before an election is because cybersecurity researchers had gone looking because there was an ongoing multi-faceted cybersecurity attack, one that continued right through the election, one that could have victimized Trump as well as Hillary.

Which brings me to the one point Sussmann made that Durham completely ignored. In his response, Durham’s response uses the word “purported” to describe the DNS allegations from Sussmann five times:

  1. The defendant provided the FBI General Counsel with purported data and “white papers” that allegedly demonstrated a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and a Russia-based bank
  2. the purported data and white papers
  3. the purported DNS traffic that Tech Executive-1 and others had assembled
  4. the defendant provided data which he claimed reflected purportedly suspicious DNS lookups by these entities of internet protocol (“IP”) addresses affiliated with a Russian mobile phone provider (“Russian Phone Provider-1”)
  5. examine the origins of the purported data

What Durham did not do is ever address this point from Sussmann:

Indeed, the defense is aware of no case in which an individual has provided a tip to the government and has been charged with making any false statement other than providing a false tip. But that is exactly what has happened here.

In the fall of 2016, Michael Sussmann, a prominent national security lawyer, voluntarily met with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) to pass along information that raised national security concerns. He met with the FBI, in other words, to provide a tip. There is no allegation in the Indictment that the tip he provided was false. And there is no allegation that he believed that the tip he provided was false. Rather, Mr. Sussmann has been charged with making a false statement about an entirely ancillary matter—about who his client may have been when he met with the FBI—which is a fact that even the Special Counsel’s own Indictment fails to allege had any effect on the FBI’s decision to open an investigation.

[snip]

Again, nowhere in the Indictment is there an allegation that the information Mr. Sussmann provided was false. Nowhere is there an allegation that Mr. Sussmann knew—or should have known—that the information was false. And nowhere is there an allegation that the FBI would not have opened an investigation absent Mr. Sussmann’s purported false statement.

I could fund an entire Special Counsel investigation if I had $5 for every time in this prosecution Durham has used the word “purported.” For almost six months, his entire prosecution has been premised on this anomaly not being “real,” meaning unexplained traffic that might represent something serious.

And yet he has not charged that (though he seems to have bullied April Lorenzen, perhaps because he needs her to be something other than she was). Instead, he just keeps doing the work for which actual evidence is normally required by repeating the word “purported” over and over.

This motion to dismiss will likely fail, because juries get to decide what is material. But contrary to Durham’s claims, unless and until he can prove that Sussmann, Jofffe, and Lorenzen didn’t believe this was a real anomaly worth investigating given all the other attacks that, Sussmann especially, knew were ongoing, then he really will be prosecuting someone for reporting a valid national security concern.

“Fill the Silence:” On Obstruction, Listen to DOJ and Merrick Garland

Happy Valentines Day, the day on which TV lawyers proclaim that DOJ has let the statutes of limitation on Trump crimes expire, in this case, Trump’s request of Jim Comey that he let the Mike Flynn investigation go.

As I noted in a relevant post last week, Randall Eliason wrote a column last week demanding that the “Biden Justice Department [] issue a report on the Mueller report.”

Today, Ben Wittes and Quinta Juercic wrote a worthwhile piece positing five different possibilities for how Garland dealt with the Mueller Report. Those five are:

  1. “Garland considers the matter closed as a result of Barr’s having closed it.”
  2. DOJ “review[ed] Barr’s judgment but agrees with him on any of a number of legal positions that would make a prosecution of the former president nearly impossible.”
  3. DOJ “quietly reopened the matter, at least for paper review—that is, not for investigation but to review the conclusions based on the collected evidence—and agreed with Barr’s judgments on the facts.”
  4. DOJ “quietly began reviewing Barr’s judgment and is letting certain statutes of limitations lapse because it considers the later fact patterns more plausible criminal cases than the earlier ones.”
  5. “The Garland-run Justice Department never even considered the question of whether to, well, consider the question.”

It’s a worthwhile piece because it gets inside the brain of a DOJ institutionalist and attempts to game out how they might think.

But their discussion is absolutely silent about several pieces of public evidence showing Garland’s DOJ taking action, even while demanding that Garland, himself, “fill the silence.”

That is, they make the mistake of claiming DOJ has been entirely silent. It has not been. They simply haven’t listened to what DOJ has already said.

“The matter” was not closed as of November 2020

Jurecic and Wittes treat “this matter” as a self-evident whole, without defining what they mean by it. I assume when they use the term, “this matter,” they’re referring to Trump’s obstructive actions described in the second Volume of the Mueller Report.

Such shorthand is why, in my own post, I pointed out that most people engaging in this discussion (and I include Jurecic and Wittes in this group), account for the fact not all of Trump’s criminal exposure was in the second Volume. Materials unsealed in September 2020, for example, confirm that DOJ continued to investigate Trump for a big infusion of cash from an Egyptian bank in September 2016 until that summer (CNN’s reporting on it confirmed that timing).

A footnote unsealed (and therefore buried and still all-but unreported) the day before the 2020 election revealed that the investigation into whether Roger Stone conspired with Russia continued after Mueller shut down. Redactions that (in an earlier release) were identified as relating to the Stone matter treated that matter as an ongoing investigation in November 2020.

Similarly, in October 2020, DOJ treated the investigation into a pardon dangle for Julian Assange as an ongoing investigation. In fact, one of the issues that Lawfare treats as exclusively a matter of obstruction –Trump’s direction to Corey Lewandowski to order Jeff Sessions to shut down the entire Russian investigation — likely relates closely to the pardon dangle to Assange, because it came days after Stone told Assange he was intervening with the highest level of government to alleviate Assange’s woes.

We don’t know how many of the ten referrals still redacted in November 2020 remain ongoing; when DOJ released information to Jason Leopold last week, they just chose to release the four pages covered by a DC Circuit order and not a full reissued report. But we do know that “the matter” of the Mueller investigation was not closed as recently as November 2020.

DOJ IG was investigating follow-on obstruction

Both before Trump was ousted by voters and since, reports confirmed that DOJ’s Inspector General was investigating things that should be treated as follow-on obstruction, most explicitly Billy Barr’s efforts to undercut the Roger Stone prosecution but also Barr’s preferential treatment of Paul Manafort as compared to Michael Cohen (the latter will be part of Michael Horowitz’s review of BOP COVID response). Given DOJ IG’s past work, it’s not clear that this will be very critical of Barr’s own role.

One way or another, though, we have weeks-old confirmation that some of it remains under review. Depending on what DOJ IG finds, it’s possible (though unlikely) that might provide predicate to reopen past decisions.

But such a review also means that, because DOJ IG reviews add years to any investigative process, there will be a significant delay before we hear about such matters.

Merrick Garland has told you what he thinks about the OLC memo on prosecuting a President (and, to a lesser extent, OLC memos generally)

Two of Lawfare’s possibilities, especially the second, rely on a deference to OLC, including the declination memo that Amy Berman Jackson partially unsealed (and about which further unsealing the DC Circuit is currently considering).

We know that Garland’s DOJ will defer to most previous OLC memos, in part because his DOJ did so in fighting further unsealing of this memo. But we know even more about what Garland thinks of the memo prohibiting charging a president from an exchange on the topic Garland had with Eric Swalwell in October.

Garland: Well, Office of Legal Counsel memoranda, particularly when they’ve been reviewed and affirmed by Attorneys General and Assistant Attorneys General of both parties, it’s extremely rare to reverse them, and we have the same kind of respect for our precedents as the courts do. I think it’s also would not normally be under consideration unless there was an actual issue arising and I’m not aware of that issue arising now. So I don’t want to make a commitment on this question.

Swalwell: I don’t want to talk about any specific case but, just, in general, should a former President’s suspected crimes, once they’re out of office, be investigated by the Department of Justice?

Garland: Again, without, I don’t want to make any discussion about any particular former President or anything else. The memorandum that you’re talking about is limited to acts while the person was in office, and that’s all I can say.

Swalwell: And should that decision be made only after an investigation takes place before deciding beforehand a general principle of we’re not going to investigate a former President at all? Would you agree that if there are facts, those should be looked at?

Garland: Again, you’re pushing me very close to a line that I do not intend to cross. We always look at the facts and we always look at the law in any matter before making a determination.

In the exchange, Garland makes quite clear that, “it’s extremely rare to reverse” OLC memos because, “we have the same kind of respect for our precedents as the courts do.” Garland also explained that memo and any others (including Barr’s declination memo), “would not normally be under consideration unless there was an actual issue arising and I’m not aware of that issue arising now.”

One reason the memo is not at issue right now is because, “The memorandum that you’re talking about is limited to acts while the person was in office.” But as has often been ignored (though I pointed it out last month), the most recent known version of an OLC memo prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president is significantly premised on the constitutionality of a President being prosecuted after he leaves office even if he was acquitted by the Senate for the same conduct in an impeachment trial.

Randolph Moss, serving as Assistant Attorney General for OLC in 2000, famously wrote the following:

Our view remains that a sitting President is constitutionally immune from indictment and criminal prosecution.

Less famously, however, the first 11 pages of that more famous memo rely on this earlier OLC memo from Moss:

We conclude that the Constitution permits a former President to be criminally prosecuted for the same offenses for which he was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate while in office.

By stating that those odious OLC memos remain valid — that is, by deferring to OLC precedent — Garland was in the same breath saying that a former President can be indicted, including for things he was acquitted of in the Senate.

Obviously, Mueller’s findings never made it to the Senate. But Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine did and Trump’s attempted coup did.

There are four relevant investigations that tell you how Garland’s DOJ has approached this

In their piece and podcast, Jurecic and Wittes speak as if what Garland would do is entirely hypothetical, as if we don’t know what DOJ would consider palatable regarding earlier criminal exposure.

Except we do know, a bit, because four of the eight investigations into Trump flunkies that have been publicly confirmed provide some insight. For example:

  • Tom Barrack: Barrack confirmed in a recent filing what prior reporting had laid out: this investigation arose out of the Mueller investigation. “As early as December 2017, Mr. Barrack voluntarily produced documents and met with prosecutors in the Special Counsel’s Office investigation, which was led by Robert Mueller and included prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York.” It’s possible it was the first of those ten referrals that remained sealed in November 2020. If it was, it is an indication DOJ would pursue a prosecution arising out of the Mueller investigation that was substantially complete before Trump left, though even in that case it took four months after Garland was sworn in.
  • Erik Prince: It’s not clear whether the investigation into Erik Prince that Billy Barr shut down in 2019-2020 arose out of the Mueller investigation (though it is clear that any Mueller investigation into Prince had been closed by September 2020). I first alluded to a renewed investigation into Prince in this post, and NYT has since publicly confirmed it. I’m no more certain about the scope of the renewed investigation than the NYT, but I do know it is in a different District and it does overlap with the prior investigation, at least somewhat. That doesn’t tell you what DOJ would require to reopen a closed Mueller investigation, but it does show that Lisa Monaco would permit a prior, closed investigation to be reopened, perhaps with a new hook or newly acquired evidence.
  • Rudy Giuliani: The confirmed investigation into Rudy pertains to his Ukraine influence-peddling with a scope from May 2018 through November 2019. As such, except insofar as those actions were a continuation of efforts Paul Manafort had started in 2016, they say nothing about how Garland would treat a continuing Mueller investigation. But we do know one utterly critical fact and another key detail: First, the warrants to seize Rudy’s phones were approved on Monaco’s first day in office. That’s a pretty compelling piece of proof that Garland’s DOJ is not going to shy away from Trump’s closest flunkies. Significantly, SDNY successfully fought to get a privilege waiver spanning from January 1, 2018 (so before Rudy started Trump obstruct the Mueller investigation) through the date of seizure, April 28, 2021 (so through the attempted coup). This tells you that Garland’s DOJ could investigate Rudy for any of his suspected criminal actions, and no one would know about it.
  • Robert Costello: Costello is the lawyer through whom, the Mueller Report describes, Rudy was dangling a pardon for Michael Cohen for back in April 2018 (so within the scope of the privilege review). Currently, he is both Rudy’s lawyer overseeing that privilege review and Steve Bannon’s lawyer. After getting Bannon out of his Build the Wall fraud indictment with a pardon (sound familiar?), Costello helped Bannon walk into a contempt indictment based off non-cooperation with the January 6 investigation. All that background establishes that Costello is just tangential to the Mueller Report (though where he appears, he appears as part of the efforts to obstruct the investigation). But the details of DOJ’s seizure of Costello’s toll records after he made some contradictory claims in FBI interviews on the Bannon contempt case are worth examining closely. That’s because DOJ’s interest in the toll records cannot pertain solely to the January 6 subpoena to Bannon; the scope of the seizure not only predates the subpoena, but predates the establishment of the committee entirely (and happens to cover the entirety of the privilege review Costello oversaw). It’s tough to know what to make of this, but it is indication, like the approval of warrants targeting Rudy, that Garland’s DOJ will take fairly aggressive action pursuing obstruction and other crimes.

Trump is likely on the hook for other obstructive actions

The Lawfare piece claims that, aside from the pardons of Manafort, Stone, and Flynn, there’s no new evidence pertaining to Mueller-related obstruction (and other crimes).

And it’s not like new evidence has emerged since Mueller issued his reports—save the 2020 pardons of Manafort, Stone and Flynn.

But that’s not true. On top of whatever evidence DC USAO obtained on Stone after Mueller shut down (one of which was Andrew Miller’s long-awaited testimony), the government appears to have obtained more evidence on the other example of direct conspiracy with Russia. In the years since Mueller finished, the government has apparently developed new certainty about two details Mueller expressed uncertainty about: Konstantin Kilimnik is a “known Russian Intelligence Services agent,” and he, “provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy” in 2016. That suggests DOJ obtained new evidence (and may be why FBI put a $250,000 reward out for Kilimnik’s arrest in summer 2020). Whatever new details are behind this increased certainty, it could change DOJ’s understanding of Manafort’s actions as well. Add in the fact that Treasury accuses Kilimnik of continuing such information operations into the 2020 election — when Rudy was the pivot point — and Trump’s three big scandals may be converging.

But there may well be other obstructive acts, pertaining to the Mueller crimes, as well. Amid all the discussion of Trump’s destruction or removal of classified Presidential Records when he left the White House, for example, there has been little consideration about whether any of those documents pertain to Mueller or the other two investigations Trump obstructed. The January 6 Commission has already confirmed, for example, that some of the Trump documents they obtained were ripped up, and since the investigation into January 6 started immediately, it is highly likely the attempted document destruction happened while the investigation was pending. CNN’s most recent update on Trump’s stand-off with the Archives (in which someone who sounds like Impeachment One Defense Attorney Pat Philbin refused to turn over a document NARA knew to come looking for) is consistent with obstruction, possibly tied to the original Perfect Transcript.

None of this is proof of discrete new evidence on obstruction. Rather, it looks more like the never-ending wave of obstruction all runs together, with the pardons for Stone and Flynn (either, like Stone, known to be under investigation or closely tied to someone, Sidney Powell, known to be)  linking the obstruction of Mueller with the implementation of the coup attempt.

I can’t explain what, precisely, Garland’s DOJ is doing with the Mueller Report (besides prosecuting Trump’s top donor as a foreign agent on a referral from it). But it is simply false that DOJ has been silent about it.

Where DOJ has been speaking, however, is in active dockets and not in a three year old report.

On Unrealistic Expectations for Mueller Report Obstruction Charges

Among those whinging that Merrick Garland hasn’t imprisoned Donald Trump yet, there is an apparent belief that the Mueller Report left obstruction charges all wrapped up in a bow, as if the next Administration could come in, break open the Report, and roll out fully-formed charges.

Even among those with a more realistic understanding of the Mueller Report, people continue to call for some public resolution of the obstruction charges, as Randall Eliason did here and Quinta Jurecic did here. Jurecic even updated her awesome heat map of the obstruction charges, with the date the statute of limitations (if an individual act of obstruction were charged outside a continuing conspiracy) would expire for each.

None of that is realistic, for a whole range of reasons.

The obstruction-in-a-box belief is based on a misunderstanding of the Mueller Report

First, the belief that Merrick Garland could have come into office 11 months ago and rolled out obstruction charges misunderstands the Mueller Report. Many if not most people believe the report includes the entirety of what Mueller found, describes declination decisions on every crime considered, and also includes a volume entirely dedicated to Trump’s criminal obstruction, a charging decision for which Mueller could not reach on account of the OLC memo prohibiting it. None of that is true.

As I laid out in my Rat-Fucker Rashomon series, the Mueller Report is only a description of charging decisions that the team made. My comparison of the stories told in the Report with those told in the Stone warrant affidavits, Stone’s trial, and the SSCI Report show that Mueller left out a great deal of damning details about Stone, including that he seemed to have advance notice of what the Guccifer 2.0 persona was doing and that Stone was scripting pro-Russian tweets for Trump in the same period when Trump asked Russia, “if you’re listening — I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

And, as DOJ disclosed hours before the 2020 election, Mueller didn’t make a final decision about whether Stone could be charged in a hack-and-leak conspiracy. Instead, he referred that question to DC USAO for further investigation. In fact the declinations in the Mueller Report avoid addressing any declination decision for Stone on conspiring with Russia. The declination in the report addresses contacts with WikiLeaks (but not Guccifer 2.0) and addresses campaign finance crimes. The section declining to charge any Trumpsters with conspiracy declines to charge the events described in Volume I Section II (the Troll operation) and Volume I Section IV (contacts with Russians), in which there is no Stone discussion. Everything Stone related — even his contacts with Henry Greenberg, which is effectively another outreach from a Russian — appears in Section III, not Section IV. The conspiracy declinations section doesn’t mention Volume I Section III (the hack-and-leak operation) at all and (as noted) in the section that specifically addresses hack-and-leak decisions, a footnote states that, “Some of the factual uncertainties [about Stone] are the subject of ongoing investigations that have been referred by this Office to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office.” This ongoing investigation would have been especially sensitive in March 2019, because prosecutors knew that Stone kept a notebook recording all his conversations with Trump during the campaign, many of which (they did have proof) pertained to advance notice of upcoming releases. That is, the ongoing investigation into Stone was also an ongoing investigation into Trump, which is consistent with what Mueller told Trump’s lawyers in summer 2018.

That’s not the only investigation into Trump that remained ongoing at the time Mueller closed up shop. The investigation into a suspected infusion of millions from an Egyptian bank during September 2016 continued (per CNN’s reporting) until July 2020, which is why reference to it is redacted in the June 2020 Mueller Report but not the September 2020 one. I noted both these ongoing investigations in real time.

The Mueller Report also doesn’t address the pardon discussions with Julian Assange, even though that was included among Mueller’s questions to Trump.

So contrary to popular belief, Volume II does not address the totality of Trump’s criminal exposure.

That ought to change how people understand the obstruction discussion in Volume II. For all the show of whether or not Mueller could make a charging decision about Trump, the discussion provably did not include the totality of crimes Mueller considered with Trump.

All the more so given the kinds of obstructive acts described in Volume II. The biggest tip-off that this volume was about something other than criminal obstruction charges, in my opinion, is the discussion of Trump’s lies about the June 9 meeting in Trump Tower. As Jurecic’s heat map, her extended analysis, and my own analysis at the time show, the case that this was obstruction was weak. “Mueller spent over eight pages laying out whether Trump’s role in crafting a deceitful statement about the June 9 meeting was obstruction of justice when, according to the report’s analysis of obstruction of justice, it was not even a close call.” At the time, I suggested Mueller included it because it explained what Trump was trying to cover up with his other obstructive actions during the same months. But I think the centrality of Vladimir Putin involvement in Trump’s deceitful statement — which gets no mention in the Report, even though the Report elsewhere cites the NYT interview where that was first revealed — suggests something else about this incident. Because of how our Constitution gives primacy in foreign affairs to the President, DOJ would have a very hard time charging the President for conversations he had with a foreign leader (Trump’s Ukraine extortion was slightly different because Trump refused to inform Congress of his decision to blow off their appropriation instructions). But Congress would (in a normal time, should) have no difficulty holding the President accountable for colluding with a foreign leader to invent a lie to wield during a criminal investigation. Trump’s June 9 meeting lie is impeachable; it is not prosecutable.

Similarly, several of the other obstructive acts — asking Comey to confirm there was no investigation into him, firing Comey, and threatening to fire Mueller — would likewise be far easier for Congress to punish than for DOJ to, because of how expansively we define the President’s authority.

That is, these ten obstructive acts are best understood, in my opinion, as charges for Congress to impeach, not for DOJ to prosecute. The obstruction section — packaged up separately from discussion of the other criminal investigations into Trump — was an impeachment referral, not a criminal referral. I think Mueller may have had a naive belief that Congress would be permitted to consider those charges for impeachment, such an effort would succeed, and that would leave DOJ free to continue the other more serious criminal investigation into Trump.

It didn’t happen.

But that doesn’t change that a number of these obstructive acts are more appropriate for Congress to punish than for DOJ to.

Bill Barr did irreparable damage to half of these obstruction charges

Bill Barr, of course, had other things in mind.

Those wailing that Garland is doing nothing in the face of imminently expiring obstruction statutes of limitation appear to have completely forgotten all the things Billy Barr did to make sure those obstruction charges could not be prosecuted as they existed when Mueller released his report.

That effort started with Barr’s declination of the obstruction charges.

Last year, Amy Berman Jackson forced DOJ to release part of the memo Barr’s flunkies wrote up the weekend they received the Mueller Report. The unsealed portions show that Rod Rosenstein, Ed O’Callaghan, and Steven Engel signed off on the conclusion that,

For the reasons stated below, we conclude that the evidence described in Volume II of the Report is not, in our judgment, sufficient to support a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt that the President violated the obstruction-of-justice statutes. In addition, we believe that certain of the conduct examined by the Special Counsel could not, as a matter of law, support an obstruction charge under the circumstances. Accordingly, were there no constitutional barrier, we would recommend, under the Principles of Federal Prosecution, that you decline to commence such a prosecution.

This was unbelievably corrupt. There are a slew of reasons — from Barr’s audition memo to the way these officials include no review of the specific allegations to the fact that some of these crimes were crimes in progress — why this decision is inadequate. But none of those reasons can make the memo go away. So unless DOJ were to formally disavow this decision after laying out the reasons why the process was corrupt (preferably via analysis done by a quasi-independent reviewer like the Inspector General), any prosecution of the obstruction crimes laid out in the Mueller Report would be virtually impossible, because the very first thing Trump would do would be to cite the memo and call these three men as witnesses that the case should be dismissed.

But Barr’s sabotage of these charges didn’t end there. At his presser releasing the heavily-redacted report, Barr excused Trump’s obstruction because (Barr claimed) Trump was very frustrated he didn’t get away with cheating with Russia unimpeded, thereby deeming his motives to be pure.

In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context.  President Trump faced an unprecedented situation.  As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates.  At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability.  Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.  And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.  Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims.  And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.

These claims were, all of them, factually false, as I laid out at the time. But because he was the Attorney General when he made them, they carry a great deal of weight, legally, in establishing that Trump had no corrupt motive for obstructing the investigation into his ties to Russia.

And after that point, Barr made considerable effort to manufacture facts to support his bullshit claims. Most obviously, he sicced one after another after another investigator on the Russian investigation to try to substantiate his own bullshit claims. In the case of Barr’s efforts to undermine the Mike Flynn prosecution — which investigation lies behind four of the obstruction charges laid out in the Mueller Report — the Jeffrey Jensen team literally altered documents to misrepresent the case against Flynn. Similarly, a Barr-picked prosecutor installed to replace everyone who was fired or quit in the DC US Attorney’s Office, Ken Kohl, stood before Judge Sullivan and claimed (falsely) that everyone involved with the Flynn prosecution had no credibility.

If we move forward in this case, we would be put in a position of presenting the testimony of Andy McCabe, a person who our office charged and did not prosecute for the same offense that he’s being — that we would be proceeding to trial against with respect to Mr. Flynn.

So all of our evidence, all of our witnesses in this case as to what Mr. Flynn did or didn’t do have been — have had specific findings by the Office of Inspector General. Lying under oath, misleading the Court, acting with political motivation. Never in my career, Your Honor, have I had a case with witnesses, all of whom have had specific credibility findings and then been pressed to go forward with the prosecution. We’re never expected to do so.

Again, so long as this testimony remains credible, you can’t pursue obstruction charges remotely pertaining to Flynn, meaning four of the obstruction charges are off the table.

Barr also chipped away at the other charges underlying the obstruction charges, intervening to make it less likely that Roger Stone or Paul Manafort would flip on Trump and help DOJ substantiate that, yes, Trump really did cheat with Russia to get elected. Barr also got OLC to undercut the analysis behind charging Michael Cohen for the hush payments (which may have made it impossible for SDNY to charge Trump with the same charges).

Meanwhile, John Durham toils away, trying to build conspiracy charges to substantiate the rest of Barr’s conspiracy theories. Along the way, Durham seems to be tainting other evidence that would be central to any obstruction charges against Trump. For example, in the most recent BuzzFeed FOIA release, all parts of Jim Comey’s memos substantiating Trump’s obstruction that mentioned the Steele dossier were protected under a b7(A) exemption, which is almost certainly due to Durham’s pursuit of a theory that Trump’s actions with Comey were merely a response to the Steele dossier, not an attempt to hide his Flynn’s very damning conversations with the Russian Ambassador during the transition. That is, Durham is as we speak making evidence unavailable in his efforts to invent facts to back Barr’s claims about Trump’s pure intent in obstructing the Mueller investigation.

As noted, all of these efforts are fairly self-obviously corrupt, and most don’t withstand close scrutiny (as the altered documents did not when I pointed them out). But before DOJ could pursue the obstruction charges as they existed in the Mueller Report, they would first have to disavow all of this.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz was reportedly investigating at least some of this starting in 2020. And I trust his investigators would be able to see through much of what Barr did. But even assuming Horowitz was investigating the full scope of all of them, because of the pace of DOJ IG investigations, the basis to disavow Barr’s efforts would not and will not come in time to charge those obstruction counts before the statutes of limitation expires.

The continuing obstruction statutes have barely started

In addition to obstructing the punishment of Paul Manafort and Roger Stone and undermining the theory behind the Michael Cohen hush payment charges, Bill Barr also worked relentlessly to undermine the prosecution of Rudy Giuliani.

There were undoubtedly a lot of reasons Barr needed to do that. If he didn’t, he might have to treat Trump’s extortion of Ukraine (which was the follow-up to Manafort’s Ukraine ties in 2016). Rudy was central to Trump’s own obstruction of the Mueller investigation. And if Rudy were shown to be an Agent of Russian-backed Ukrainians, it would raise significant questions about Trump’s larger defense (questions for which there is substantiation in Mueller’s 302s).

I understand there was a sense, in the middle of Barr’s efforts, that prosecutors believed they could just wait those efforts out.

And then, literally on Lisa Monaco’s first day on the job, DOJ obtained warrants to seize 16 devices from Rudy. During all the months that people have been wailing for Garland to act, Barbara Jones has been wading through Rudy’s phones to separate out anything privileged (and, importantly, to push back on efforts to protect crime-fraud excepted communications). Almost the first thing Lisa Monaco did was approve an effort to go after the key witness to the worst of Trump’s corruption.

There are many reasons I keep coming back to that seizure to demonstrate that Garland’s DOJ (in reality, Monaco would be the one making authorizations day-to-day) will not back off aggressive investigations of Trump. Even if DOJ only had warrants for the Ukraine investigation, it would still get to larger issues of obstruction, because of how it relates to impeachment. But even if it were true those were the only warrants when DOJ raided Rudy, there’s abundant reason to believe that’s no longer true. If DOJ got warrants covering the earlier obstruction or Rudy’s role in the attempted coup, no one outside that process would know about it.

Then, in recent days, DOJ made another audacious seizure of a lawyer’s communications, a seizure that only makes sense in the context of a larger obstruction investigation, this time of the January 6 investigation, yet more evidence that DOJ it not shying away from investigating Trump’s crimes.

Indeed, DOJ currently has investigations into all the nodes of the pardon dangles, too: Sidney Powell’s work for Trump on a thing of value (the Big Lie) while waiting for a Mike Flynn pardon; Roger Stone’s coordination with militias before and after he got his own pardon; promises to the Build the Wall crowd — promises kept only for Bannon — tied to efforts to help steal the election; and Rudy’s role at the center of all this.

There would be no reason to charge the pardon dangles from 2019 (the balance of the obstruction charges that Barr didn’t hopelessly sabotage) when DOJ has more evidence about pardon bribes from 2020, including the devices of the guy at the center of those efforts, and the direct tie to the January 6 coup attempt to tie it to. Indeed, attempting to charge the earlier dangles without implicating everything Trump got out of the pardons in his attempted coup would likely negatively impact an investigation into the more recent actions.

Even assuming Mueller packaged obstruction charges for DOJ to indict, rather than Congress to impeach, the deliberate sabotage Barr did in the interim makes most of those charges impossible. The exceptions — the pardon dangles — all have additional overt acts to include that sets aside Barr’s past declination.

DOJ cannot charge the Mueller obstruction charges. But they also cannot explain why not, partly because of the institutional necessity to move beyond Barr’s damage, but partly because doing so would damage the possibility of charging the continuation of that very same obstruction.

One obstruction crime is actually a conspiracy crime

I forgot one more detail that’s really important: One of the listed acts of obstruction, Trump’s efforts to have Jeff Sessions shut down the investigation, appears to be a Stone-related conspiracy crime. As I noted, that effort started nine days after Roger Stone told Julian Assange, “I am doing everything possible to address the issues at the highest level of Government.”

Especially given that it is among the weaker obstruction crimes, this is one that would be better pursued as a conspiracy crime (though it would be tangled up in the Assange extradition).

Update: As Jackson noted on Twitter, DC Circuit should soon weigh in on ABJ’s efforts to liberate more of Barr’s declination memo.

When Lawyers’ Lawyers Need Lawyers: The Import of Robert Costello’s Toll Records — for Bannon, for Rudy, and for Donald Trump

As I explained in this piece, the lawyer who represents both Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon — and who has been at the center of Trump’s pardon-dangling for almost three years — had two meetings with the Bannon prosecution team, where he made a number of claims that could not all be true. The first meeting Robert Costello had with DOJ was on November 3, with a follow-up on November 8, 2021.

Just two of the sets of mutually contradictory claims Costello made in his first interview are:

COSTELLO had not had communication with attorneys for TRUMP prior to that date. [October 18, 2021, when Trump filed a lawsuit challenging Executive Privilege waivers for the January 6 Committee]

And,

COSTELLO first had contact with [Attorney for Donald Trump Justin] CLARK on approximately October 4 or October 5, 2021.

Or:

COSTELLO did not discuss disposing of any documents requested in the Select Committee subpoena with any attorneys who represented former President TRUMP.

And,

Even though MICHAEL FLYNN was not an attorney, he was present during attorney-client-protected discussions. Those particular attorneys represented former President TRUMP and CLARK informed COSTELLO not to respond to item 17.

I would imagine there’s no better way to get the FBI to start investigating you for false statements then by making a bunch of mutually contradictory claims in one interview.

There were certainly other claims Costello made which he should have known to be false. For example, given that his other client, Rudy Giuliani, put out a statement asserting that Sidney Powell did not work for Trump, Costello likely knows that Powell’s presence at a meeting, along with non-lawyer Mike Flynn, would not implicate Trump’s privilege, even if a meeting between Costello client Bannon and Costello client Rudy could itself be considered privileged, which is a fantastic stretch in any case. But that’s a claim, he told the FBI, that he advised Bannon to make in refusing to respond to the January 6 subpoena by invoking Executive Privilege.

Nevertheless, the FBI did not have to obtain the content of Costello’s communications to test whether he lied at that meeting on November 3, given that so many of his fact claims could be tested simply by obtaining his call and email records to see whether he was speaking with Trump lawyers (and those for Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, and Kash Patel) and if so, when, about which Costello made affirmative denials in his meeting with DOJ. If he was discussing with other lawyers how to deal with the Select Committee investigation at a time he claimed he was not, the FBI would have deemed that a suspected lie worthy of more investigation.

And that’s what the FBI did, making eight requests for records (four for phone records, four for Internet records, apparently covering his work and personal emails and phones) resulting in 790 pages, total.

Given the abundant detail included in the Motion to Compel (undoubtedly included to provide hypothetical co-conspirators some idea of the extent of the record seizure, including that no content was obtained), Bannon’s claims seem to be predictably overblown. There appear to be three grand jury subpoenas and just one 2703(d) order (to an Internet provider, likely someone like Google). That is, some of the eight requests appear to be an effort to figure out which phones and email were of interest, in advance of obtaining toll record themselves. Indeed, Bannon makes much out of the fact that DOJ obtained payment method associated with Costello’s phone, available with a basic subscriber request. And unless Costello is a remarkably stingy user of SMS texting, the request for those toll records appears to be narrowly tailored either by time or interlocutor; there are just two pages of SMS text toll records.

Here’s a summary of what the government appears to have obtained:

Bates stamp range: US 001093-001883

US 001093: Grand jury subpoena

US 001145-001768: 623-page return from Internet provider showing IP activity, status (read or unread, inbox, etc.) and other details concerning emails and other activity offered by the carrier obtained with a Section 2703(d) Order on November 11, 2021 [US 001733] that includes a case number [US 001732-001735] and returned on December 7, 2021.  Returns include:

  • US 001151-001249: 98 pages showing IP activity for the email account sought from March 5, 2021 through November 12, 2021, as well as a report on what other services from the provider Costello uses
  • US 001733, 001735, 001740, and 001742: Several references to a 2703(d) order or equivalent
  • US 001765: Grand jury subpoena

US 001769-001789: Costello’s 302s

US 001834: Case number

US 001842: Case number

US 001863: Subscriber record showing payment method for Costello’s cell phone

US 001866: Costello’s data usage

US 001872; Grand jury subpoena

US 001874-001875:  SMS (text messaging) information, including the numbers to which texts were sent and from which they were received

The government doesn’t appear to be treating these records as evidence in their contempt case against Bannon. As the  Bannon filing notes, the government only turned them over on January 4, after stating (before they had obtained the bulk of these records) that the evidence in their case-in-chief against Bannon only consisted of 200 documents.

It is curious that Government counsel delayed producing these documents until January 4, 2022. On November 18, 2021, the parties appeared before this Court. At that proceeding, Government counsel insisted that the Government was ready for trial, that this is a simple and straightforward case, and that it was ready immediately to provide Mr. Bannon with the discovery in the case, which it described as “less than 200 documents,” with “most of” it purportedly comprised of “materials the defendant already has ….” [11/18/2021 Hearing Tr. at 3].

Costello first joined Bannon’s criminal defense team over two weeks after Bannon was indicted, and after DOJ pointed out that Costello’s representation would pose a problem for any Advice of Counsel defense. Given that DOJ obtained toll records from Costello’s firm, it’s possible they tipped him off and he joined the Bannon team to create this problem after that.

Bannon’s filing also notes that the government hasn’t provided the subpoenas obtaining this material, as they would have if the subpoenas targeted him, personally.

Nowhere in the Government’s production was a copy of a court order authorizing the Government’s actions, nor was there a copy of any subpoena for the records, nor was there even any application for a court order or for authorization from the Department of Justice for subpoenas intended to obtain defense counsel’s personal and professional telephone and email records.

That makes sense: Bannon can’t be held responsible for the things his (and Rudy’s) lawyer says while sitting with the FBI. Costello is the one who made mutually contradictory claims, not Bannon.

But, at least as Bannon tells it, the team that seized these records appears to have taken little care to protect Costello’s other clients.

Furthermore, there was nothing in the production that indicated any effort to limit the access of the prosecutors assigned to this case to defense counsel’s personal and professional records, nor was there any indication of any filter in place to distinguish between attorney-client privileged or work-product privileged information that could be garnered from the records the Government obtained and non-privileged materials, nor was there any indication of any filter intended to protect confidential and privileged related to other clients of Mr. Costello and his law firm or intended to keep the prosecutors handling this case from access to any such privileged material.

Indeed, after wailing a bit about DOJ’s oblique response when asked about this seizure, the Bannon filing returned to Costello’s other clients and “witnesses” consulted in those representations.

Beyond all of the above, the Government’s response ignores the damage its actions risked causing for other clients of Mr. Costello and his law firm, for telephone calls and emails to and from other clients and witnesses consulted in relation to their cases would now be exposed by the Government’s efforts to obtain records for all of the attorney’s emails and telephone records.

And in fact, in a letter responding to Bannon’s questions about these records, DOJ made no representations about work product related to Costello’s other clients, even while emphasizing what the prosecution team (which is different from DOJ as a whole) has in its possession.

Aside from the information that Mr. Costello voluntarily disclosed on behalf of Mr. Bannon during the investigation of this matter, the Government has not taken any steps to obtain any attorney work product relating to any attorney’s representation of Mr. Bannon or to obtain any confidential communications between Mr. Bannon, Mr. Costello, and Mr. Katz, or between Mr. Bannon and any other attorneys.

We have provided all discoverable material in the prosecution team’s possession, custody, or control relating to Mr. Costello’s and Mr. Katz’s involvement in the conduct charged in the Indictment. The Government understands its discovery obligations under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16; the Jencks Act; and Brady, Giglio, and their progeny, and will continue to comply with them should additional discoverable material come into the prosecution team’s possession, custody, or control.

That’s significant because of the temporal scope of the email metadata obtained: from March 5 through November 12, 2021, basically the last event for which Costello was representing Bannon in the Build the Wall criminal prosecution and his indictment on these new charges (though, again, Costello didn’t join his defense team for over two weeks). These records don’t include any period when Costello was criminally representing Bannon.

But they do cover a far broader period than would be necessary to understand what communications Costello had with lawyers for Donald Trump after Bannon was subpoenaed by the January 6 committee on September 23. Indeed, they cover a broader period than the entire January 6 Committee, which was created by House Resolution 503 on June 30, 2021.

Presumably, DOJ saw something in the initial records they were seeking — or in records obtained by others, or in another unseen ongoing investigation — to scope the Internet request for the entirety of the period between Costello’s past and current criminal representation of Bannon. Or they were already interested in Costello (for whom there was a possible referral in the Mueller investigation), and his interview with the FBI extended that interest.

That suggests this really isn’t about Bannon.

But the seized records do include the entirety of the period when Costello was helping Rudy review the contents of 16 devices seized by SDNY. Of note, Trump could have, but chose not to participate in that Special Master process. Because he moved to intervene, Dmitry Firtash is permitted to review the records seized from Victoria Toensing to protect his own interests, but Trump’s lawyers should not be getting notice of what was seized from Rudy.

Indeed, the conversations of interest regarding the Bannon representation happen to have taken place during a period during which Costello had gotten an extension to review the contents of the first seven devices seized from Rudy.

On September 28, 2021, I directed that Mr. Giuliani complete his review of the data contained on seven of these devices by October 6, 2021, which was later extended to October 12, 2021. These seven devices contain 2,226 items in total dated on or after January 1, 2018. Mr. Giuliani designated 3 items as privileged, and I am reserving decision on those 3 items. The remaining 2,223 items have been released to the Government.

Costello told the FBI he had no conversations with any Trump lawyers for this period. Even if he had conversations with other Trump lawyers during this review problem, it would conflict with what he told the FBI in his Bannon-related meeting.

It’s certainly possible that the only warrants at issue in the Special Master review are the Ukraine-related ones overtly used to seize Rudy’s devices, and that the SDNY team is completely excluded from accessing these records; if that’s the case, it would suggest there’s no investigation into Rudy out of DC, particularly not one in which JP Cooney or Molly Gaston are participating, both senior prosecutors at DC USAO.

Or there’s something far more interesting going on.

Update: I realized after I posted this that Costello’s 302s were included in the 790 pages Bannon complained about, meaning he claimed things were call records when instead they were the obvious justification for the call records. I’ve added and bolded those pages above.

The John Durham Investigation Turns 1,000 Days Old Today

By my math, today marks the 1,000th day after Bill Barr first appointed John Durham to undermine the Russian investigation on May 13, 2019. Today marks a major new milestone in Durham’s effort to substantiate the conspiracy theories Barr sent him off chasing years ago.

The Durham investigation has now lasted 326 days longer than the Mueller investigation, not quite half again as long. But I’m sure Durham will last the 11 days required to hit that milestone, too.

At this stage in the aftermath of the Mueller investigation, Billy Barr had started his campaign to undo all punishment arising from it. January 2020 was the month when Barr took the first steps to protect Flynn from the new crimes he had committed in his effort to blow up his past prosecution by appointing Jeffrey Jensen to review the Flynn prosecution — an effort that would end with DOJ admitting that they had altered some notes.

Durham, by contrast, has had a productive last month. Four months after indicting Michael Sussmann, he learned that Sussmann had provided at least one other anonymous tip on behalf of Rodney Joffe, in addition to the one Durham has labeled a crime. Durham also discovered two phones used by James Baker, which he had never before bothered to look for in DOJ IG custody, precisely where he had been told one of them was years earlier.

At the rate Durham is discovering basic things he should have learned years before indicting Sussmann (and, probably, Igor Danchenko), he might be prepared to make a responsible prosecutorial decision about whether to charge these cases in another two years or so.

Update: Typo in table fixed.

Trump’s Coup Attempts: A Tale of Five Pardon Dangles

In an analysis piece earlier this week, the NYT reported as newsworthy that,

Over the weekend, Mr. Trump also dangled, for the first time, that he could issue pardons to anyone facing charges for participating in the Jan. 6 attack if he is elected president again — the latest example of a yearslong flirtation with political violence.

Politico followed that with a report that Trump at least considered blanket pardons for those who might be implicated in January 6.

“Is it everybody that had a Trump sign or everybody who walked into the Capitol” who could be pardoned? Trump asked, according to that adviser. “He said, ‘Some people think I should pardon them.’ He thought if he could do it, these people would never have to testify or be deposed.”

Offering preemptive pardons is not a new idea for Trump. According to Michael Cohen, Trump also entertained bulk pardons with the Russian investigation before Jay Sekulow figured out that it would make it easier for people to testify against him.

Q What is – you had a conversation with Jay Sekulow about something called a pre-pardon?

A Yes.

Q How many conversations did you have with him about pre-pardoning

A One or two.

Q And what did he say to you?

A The problem with a pre-pardon is that you have to answer every question because technically you have immunity, so you can’t assert any Fifth Amendment privilege.

Q Let’s back up for a second, because that presupposes that you’ve already discussed the idea of you getting a pardon. Did Jay Sekulow tell you that the President was considering giving you a pardon?

A That’s not the way that he stated it, but we had a conversation, one at least – I believe it may have been two – and I am not 100 percent certain of the exact date that that occurred, but the concept of a pre-pardon was discussed, yes.

Q Okay. So if you said that’s not exactly how he said it, what do you remember him saying about the idea of you getting a pardon?

A Well, it wasn’t just me. It was globally, in order to, I guess, shut down, you know, this investigation. And I had said to him, you know, what .. well, you know, there’s always the possibility of a pre-pardon. And –

Q Let’s take your time, because it’s important for us to understand not just the gist of the conversation but who said what exactly. All right? So you mentioned something called a global pardon. Did he use that term?

A No.

Q Okay. What do you mean by a global pardon?

A Okay. That in order to shut this whole thing down, that this is how they were potentially going to do it, and everybody would just get a pardon. And said, well, it wouldn’t be a pardon, it would be a pre-pardon, because nobody’s been charged yet. So it ultimately just became, that’s not really something that could be accomplished, because then they’d have the right, again, to ask you questions, everyone on the team.

Q So when you say everyone, who do you mean?

A I guess whoever it is that you started to request to come in, testify, subpoenaed.

And in Trump’s last days in office, he considered pre-emptive pardons, but — in part because of Pat Cipollone’s opposition — he did not do so.

It is the case that Trump has now dangled pardons at a time he doesn’t have the power to grant them. Even that is not new, though, given that Roger Stone was brokering a Julian Assange pardon no later than November 15, 2016 and probably starting even before the election, in October 2016.

This latest dangle is more newsworthy, though — and for reporters who don’t want to enable Trump’s authoritarian power, ought to be reported as — an attempt to reclaim power he already lost after reneging on promises of pardons made while he still had the power to grant them.

It is not news that Trump used pardon dangles as one tool to attempt a coup on January 6. At least five people directly involved in the coup attempt benefitted from pardons, some awarded at key times in the planning process, with Steve Bannon’s issued at the last possible moment.

It is not news that Trump is making pardon dangles publicly to try to bend the will and buy the silence of others. This latest pardon dangle comes in the wake of five events, all of which pose a direct threat to Trump:

  • December 15: The Select Committee contempt referral for Mark Meadows that puts him at risk of Presidential Records Act and obstruction prosecution
  • January 12: The indictment on sedition charges of the Oath Keepers whose testimony could most directly damage Trump
  • January 19: SCOTUS’ refusal to reverse the DC Circuit order allowing the Archives to share Trump records
  • January 19: The delivery to prosecutors, on January 19, of a large number of texts and messages from Rudy Giuliani’s phones
  • January 20: The Select Committee request for Ivanka’s testimony, which strongly suggested she has violated the Presidential Records Act
  • January 21: The report from Sidney Powell’s attorney that she is “cooperating” in her own prosecution and the Select Committee

What’s newsworthy is that Trump is trying this tack after reneging on promises to three of the people involved (during the last days of his Administration, there were reports that Meadows, Rudy, and Ivanka all might receive pardons) that Trump made in the course of planning for the coup.

So I’d like to tell the story of five pardons — three granted, and two withheld — in the context of Trump’s attempted coup on January 6.

Michael Cohen pardon dangle

This first pardon necessary to understand what Trump is up to is one that didn’t happen: The pardon dangle to try to silence Michael Cohen. As the Mueller Report described. in the wake of a raid on Cohen, Robert Costello started reaching out as an envoy for Rudy Giuliani, offering pardons.

On or about April 17, 2018, Cohen began speaking with an attorney, Robert Costello, who had a close relationship with Rudolph Giuliani, one of the President’s personal lawyers. 1022 Costello told Cohen that he had a “back channel of communication” to Giuliani, and that Giuliani had said the “channel” was “crucial” and “must be maintained.” 1023 On April 20, 2018, the New York Times published an article about the President’s relationship with and treatment of Cohen. 1024 The President responded with a series of tweets predicting that Cohen would not ” flip” :

The New York Times and a third rate reporter . . . are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip. ‘ They use nonexistent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media! 1025

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

According to Cohen, Rudy Giuliani and Robert Costello were at the heart of Trump’s efforts to buy silence.

But Cohen couldn’t be silent about his own plight, and so facing prosecution from that and after a privilege review of his files discovered the recording Cohen made of Trump’s hush payments, he started cooperating with Mueller, helping them to understand what Trump was trying to hide about his ties with the Kremlin during the election.

Cohen paid for that decision, too. He did more time, for example, than Roger Stone, who (like Cohen) had kept blackmail material on Trump. As such, Cohen served as a useful example to Trump: if you cooperated against Trump, Trump would ensure that you suffered a worse outcome than those who had sustained the lies to protect him.

Roger Stone commutation

Roger Stone kept a notebook recording every conversation he had with Donald Trump during the 2016 election. After the election, according to an unreliable October 2018 interview that Steve Bannon had with Mueller’s team, Stone got a meeting to which he brought what appears to be that notebook. Trump asked Bannon to attend, it seems, to ensure that Stone would be kicked out after a short time.

While BANNON was at Breitbart in 2013-2015, BANNON had a strong relationship with [redacted]. BANNON heard from [redacted] STONE was still talking to Trump and was an advisor. STONE subsequently made those statements to BANNON as well. BANNON was suspect and upset. BANNON believed you had to eep TRUMP “on program.” While BANNON was on the Trump Campaign he never heard any mention of STONE from TRUMP or anyone else on the campaign. After the win, STONE tried a full court press in order to get a meeting with TRUMP. [redacted] eventually set up a meeting with TRUMP and STONE in early December 2016 on the 26th floor of Trump Tower. TRUMP didn’t want to take the meeting with STONE. TRUMP told BANNON to be in the meeting and that after 5 minutes, if the meeting hadn’t concluded, to throw STONE out. STONE came in with a book he wrote and possibly had a folder and notes. [full sentence redacted] TRUMP didn’t say much to STONE beyond “Thanks, thanks a lot.”. To BANNON, this reinforced STONE [redacted] After five to six minutes, the meeting was over and STONE was out. STONE was [redacted] due to the fact that during the meeting TRUMP just stared.

That was Bannon’s second-to-last interview with Mueller’s team. A week after his last interview, at which Bannon also appeared before the grand jury, the FBI raided Stone’s homes. One of the things they explicitly looked for was that notebook.

53. On May 8, 2018, a law enforcement interview of [redacted] was conducted. [redacted] was an employee of Stone’s from approximately June 2016 through approximately December 2016 and resided in Stone’s previous New York apartment for a period of time. [redacted] provided information technology support for Stone, but was not f0rmally trained to do so. [redacted] was aware that Stone communicated with Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, and afterward, both in person and by telephone. [redated] provided information about a meeting at Trump Tower between Trump and Stone during the time [redacted] worked for him, to which Sterne carried a “file booklet” with him. Stone told [redacted] the file booklet was important and that no one should touch it. [redacted] also said Stone maintained the file booklet in his closet.

54. On December 3, 2018, law enforcement conducted an interview of an individual (“Person 1 “) who previously had a professional relationship with a reporter who provided Person 1 with information about Stone. The reporter relayed to Person 1 that in or around January and February 2016, Stone and Trump were in constant communication and that Stone kept contemporaneous notes of the conversations. Stone’s purpose in keeping notes was to later provide a “post mortem of what went wrong.”

In November 2019, Stone was convicted for lying about the nature and Trump’s awareness of his back-channel to the Russian operation. Billy Barr went to extraordinary lengths to attempt to minimize the punishment Stone would suffer for covering that up. He went so far as claiming threats against a federal judge by Roger Stone and the Proud Boys, threats which foreshadowed January 6, were a mere technicality.

But in July 2020, the moment when Stone would have to report to prison approached. Stone made several public appearances telling a story that was impossible as told, the gist of which was that prosecutors had promised Stone they would fight for leniency if he would testify about the content of a subset of the conversations he had with Trump during the election. That had the desired effect: Trump commuted Stone’s sentence before he reported for prison, protecting Stone in a way he had not done for Paul Manafort.

Billy Barr minimized the damage this should have done to Trump’s electoral chances. The Attorney General sat on a footnote of the Mueller Report that revealed when all this occurred, Roger Stone was still under investigation for the hack-and-leak with Russia. Barr released that literally on the eve of the 2020 election, and to this day no major outlet has reported that Stone was still under investigation for conspiring with Russia after the Mueller Report was released.

Mike Flynn pardon

As I laid out in this post, Mike Flynn got next to nothing out of his his two year attempt to renege on his plea agreement with Robert Mueller.

  • Replaced competent lawyers with incompetent TV grifters
  • Released evidence he lied to his lawyers doing the FARA filing
  • Consented to waive privilege so DOJ could find more proof he lied
  • Debunked a slew of conspiracy theories
  • Got really damning transcripts released
  • Served 708 days of supervised release
  • Joined a gang
  • Got one of his gang members prosecuted for death threats against Judge Sullivan
  • Got a ruling — and, later, a clear statement from DOJ — that no abuse occurred
  • Exposed his son to further prosecution
  • Exposed DOJ to further scrutiny
  • Proved Judge Sullivan’s point about selling the country out

After 18 months of making repeatedly debunked claims that he had been victimized by DOJ, however, he did get the most expansive pardon Trump gave, one pardoning not just his underlying crimes, but also the crimes he committed during the process of performing that victimization.

Given everything that has happened since, it’s worth considering Flynn’s performance as a victim as part of Trump’s reelection campaign.

That became most evident on September 29, 2020. Earlier in the day, in a status hearing, Sidney Powell confessed that weeks earlier, she had spoken to Trump about the case, and asked him not to pardon Flynn.

More curious still, she admitted she had spoken with Trump’s campaign attorney, Jenna Ellis.

THE COURT: Let me ask you this before you get to your other objections since we’re talking about — since I raised the issue about communications and correspondence with the Department of Justice. Have you had discussions with the President about this case?

MS. POWELL: I have not, Your Honor, while the case was pending pre-motion to dismiss or otherwise other than an update as to what happened in it.

THE COURT: I’m sorry. I’m not sure I understand your answer. The question is whether you’ve had any discussions at all with the President of the United States about Mr. Flynn and about this case. Yes or no.

MS. POWELL: I’m sorry, Your Honor. I can’t discuss that.

THE COURT: What’s the reason why you can’t discuss that?

MS. POWELL: I would think any conversations that I had with the President would be protected by executive privilege.

THE COURT: Well, you don’t work for the government.

MS. POWELL: I don’t think the executive privilege is limited to people who work for the government.

THE COURT: So you’re purporting to invoke executive privilege not to answer the Court’s question about whether you discussed Mr. Flynn’s case with the President of the United States. Is that correct?

MS. POWELL: Yes. Other than the fact that after the government moved to dismiss or at some point in the last month or so, I provided the White House an update on the overall status of the litigation.

THE COURT: How did you provide that update? Was it in writing?

MS. POWELL: No, sir.

THE COURT: How did you provide that update? Who did you speak with?

MS. POWELL: I provided it in person to counsel for the President.

THE COURT: I mean the White House counsel or a deputy or who did you speak to?

MS. POWELL: Your Honor, I spoke with Jenna [Ellis] and I spoke with the President himself to provide a brief update of the status of the litigation within the last couple of weeks.

THE COURT: And did you make any request of the President?

MS. POWELL: No, sir. Other than he not issue a pardon.

THE COURT: All right. Prior to that discussion with the President — how many discussions with the President have you had about this case?

MS. POWELL: That’s the only one I recall.

THE COURT: So you’re not ruling out other — well, certainly, you would recall a discussion with the President of the United States, wouldn’t you?

MS. POWELL: Well, I’ve had a number of discussions with the President of the United States. I think the New York Times reported I’ve had five. So it seems like they probably have a number better than I know.

THE COURT: Are the New York Times’ representations erroneous?

MS. POWELL: I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve actually spoken with the President, Your Honor.

THE COURT: All right. About this case. But there’s been more than one though.

MS. POWELL: No, sir. I can tell you I spoke with one time to the President about this case to inform him of the general status of the litigation.

THE COURT: And was that within the last two weeks?

MS. POWELL: Time has a way of getting by for me, but it’s certainly well after the government moved to dismiss and probably if I recall correctly after the writ of mandamus was entered.

THE COURT: All right. Did you ever ask the President of the United States to request his Attorney General to appoint more attorneys in this case?

MS. POWELL: Oh, heavens, no.

THE COURT: All right. So very succinctly just so I have a clear understanding, what precisely — during the first time you spoke with the President of the United States, what precisely did you ask him to do in connection with this case? What did you ask him to do in connection with this case?

MS. POWELL: I never discussed this case with the President until recently when I asked him not to issue a pardon and gave him the general update of the status of the litigation. [my emphasis]

On the same day Powell admitted to speaking, some weeks earlier, to Trump’s campaign attorney Jenna Ellis, Trump delivered a pre-arranged attack against Joe Biden in the first debate.

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.

This false claim was based off misrepresentations based on altered Peter Strzok notes released as part of Bill Barr’s efforts to reverse the prosecution of Flynn. There were other altered documents released for wider dissemination in this period, as well, including additional Strzok and Page texts that newly violated the Privacy Act, though after DOJ had to confess that they had altered those documents, any further focus on the altered documents were dropped.

And then, Trump pardoned his Agent of Turkey along with the Thanksgiving bird.

At the moment Trump would have informed Sidney Powell of that news, she was at Lin Wood’s plantation plotting ways to steal the election Trump had lost. If Flynn was not already with Powell plotting away at the moment he learned of his pardon, he would join her within 24 hours.

Within weeks, the recently-pardoned retired General and foreign agent that had been plotting away with Sidney Powell and Patrick Byrne, someone who had been seduced by an admitted Russian agent, was calling for military intervention. Flynn’s calls for insurrection were reported in real time, but the news was buried and the fact that Trump had just pardoned the man calling for a coup did not make the coverage.

Roger Stone pardon

During the first half of December, Roger Stone was palling around with the accused terrorists who would help physically obstruct the vote certification on January 6.

Days later, one of the Oath Keepers that Stone palled around with, Kelly Meggs, bragged of arranging an alliance with other accused terrorists that Stone also palled around with, the Proud Boys that Trump had told to “Stand Back and Stand By” in that same debate on September 29 where Trump had used a campaign attack packaged up by Sidney Powell.

On December 23, Trump pardoned Stone for the crimes of which he was convicted (but not those that were still under investigation).

On Christmas, Meggs specifically tied protection, almost certainly of Stone, and coordination with a Proud Boy, almost certainly Enrique Tarrio, in the same text.

On December 26, Stone associate Kelly Meggs called this an insurrection (albeit in response to Trump’s order) explicitly.

On December 27, Stone went to Mar-a-Lago to thank Trump for the pardon directly and to discuss how he would “ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president.”

Roger Stone, who received a Christmas week pardon from President Donald Trump, delivered a personal thank you to the president on Sunday at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.

Stone wrote that he counseled the president on how he could “ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president.”

[snip]

Stone said via text that he deleted the words and images after he was notified the golf club has “a policy of prohibiting photos of club members or guests out of respect for their privacy.” He said he didn’t have any additional comment.

A photo posted and then removed from Roger Stone's Parler social media page shows President Donald Trump, left, Kimberly Guilfoyle, an unidentified man and Roger Stone at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach on Sunday.
A photo posted and then removed from Roger Stone’s Parler social media page shows President Donald Trump, left, Kimberly Guilfoyle, an unidentified man and Roger Stone at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach on Sunday.

One picture showed four people talking: Trump; Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign and Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend; Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of the website and cable channel Newsmax, which is based in Boca Raton; and Stone.

“I thanked President Trump in person tonight for pardoning me,” he wrote. “I also told the president exactly how he can appoint a special counsel with full subpoena power to ensure that those who are attempting to steal the 2020 election through voter fraud are charged and convicted and to ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president #StopTheSteal #rogerstonedidnothingwrong.”

The next day, Stone deleted the pictures of his face-to-face meeting with Trump.

On January 5 and 6, Stone continued to interact closely with the Oath Keepers (and some Proud Boys). The morning of the insurrection, one of the Oath Keepers since charged with sedition, Joshua James, checked in with the operational leader for the Oath Keepers that day every time that someone — almost certainly Stone — moved.

Two days after the insurrection, Kristin Davis tweeted out a picture of Stone signing his pardon paperwork. (h/t gal_suburban)

Stone never hid it: His pardon was directly tied to his efforts to keep Trump in power. Given that Stone’s pardon was not as expansive as Flynn’s, he remains at some legal exposure for prosecution for his later efforts (including his June 2017 efforts to shut down the investigation into Julian Assange), so he had a real incentive to do anything he could to keep Trump in power.

Steve Bannon

Three days after Trump lost the election, Steve Bannon — in planning for an illegal second Trump term — threatened to assassinate Chris Wray and Anthony Fauci. The same day, his very competent lawyer, Bill Burck (the guy who got him through a bunch of serial lies in the Mueller investigation), fired him as a client, even as he was facing fraud charges for cheating Trump’s rubes.

It wasn’t until December 11, well into the plotting for a coup, that Robert Costello — the very same lawyer who dangled a pardon to Michael Cohen over two years earlier — noticed his appearance. Costello’s representation of Bannon also meant that the same lawyer represented both Rudy and Bannon, two of the masterminds in the Willard War Room.

December 11, when Costello formally filed as Bannon’s lawyer, is around the same time, according to Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, that Paul Gosar’s Chief of Staff tied a pardon for their own involvement in Bannon’s fraud to their efforts to overturn the election results.

In December 2020, as the tour rolled around the country, Stockton and Lawrence say they got a call from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and his chief of staff, Thomas Van Flein. According to Stockton, Van Flein claimed he and the congressman had just met with Trump, who was considering giving them a “blanket pardon” to address the “We Build the Wall” investigation.

“We were just in the Oval Office speaking about pardons and your names came up,” Van Flein allegedly said. Van Flein did not respond to a request for comment.

Gosar suggested the bus tour was helping Stockton and Lawrence build support for a pardon from the caucus and Trump. “Keep up the good work,” Gosar said, according to Stockton. “Everybody’s seen what you’re doing.”

So it was probably assumed that, so long as Bannon kept helping Trump try to steal the election, he would would get a pardon. That was true even though Roger Stone made it clear after his trial that Bannon had testified in the grand jury against him.

But on the last day, among the very last pardons Trump granted, Trump pardoned Bannon not just for the crimes he had already been charged with, but any others that might arise from the Build the Wall project federally.

Rudy Giuliani left dangling

Almost three years after Rudy started helping Trump out of his legal troubles, in part by shamelessly dangling pardons to (at least) Cohen and Paul Manafort, Rudy got nothing. He got no pardon even though he was represented by Robert Costello, who had started the pardon dangles with him. He got no pardon even after working relentlessly — and exposing himself to further criminal exposure — trying to help Trump steal an election. Rudy got nothing, even though it was known that Barr had failed in his efforts to kill the Ukraine influence peddling investigation into Rudy.

While there had been abundant discussion of pardoning people who weren’t yet charged in early 2021, after Trump’s coup attempt, that plan was scotched.

It might not have happened in any case, given the conclusion Jay Sekulow had come to years earlier, the preemptive pardons make witnesses more likely to testify against Trump.

But because of the insurrection, Pat Cipollone got a lot more involved in pardons. And the insurrection made it virtually impossible to pardon the mastermind of the insurrection, Rudy Giuliani, even while making it all the more important to find a way to keep Rudy silent.

Ten days after (we now know) SDNY first obtained a warrant targeting Rudy Giuliani in the investigation used to justify seizing all his phones, Rudy boasted that he had “very, very good insurance.” Rudy certainly believed Trump would protect him.

But he didn’t.

That’s the angle through which Trump’s latest attempt to dangle pardons should be viewed. Rudy may be the most important person Trump needs to silence. But Trump had a chance to pardon Rudy when he had the authority, and he failed to do so.

Update: Added the SCOTUS decision to the list of things that must have Trump worried. h/t Brian Pillion

Key pardons of January 6 participants

February 18. 2020: Bernie Kerik

November 25, 2020: Mike Flynn

December 22, 2020: George Papadopoulos

December 23, 2020: Roger Stone and Paul Manafort

January 19, 2021: Steve Bannon

“I do share information[,] Rudy. You never read your emails, you never read your texts,” Sidney Powell purportedly said, while plotting a coup

In Patrick Byrne’s February 1, 2021 telling of a series of December 18, 2020 meetings that was just retold by the NYT, Sidney Powell — who is currently under grand jury investigation — told Rudy Giuliani — who is currently under grand jury investigation– that she hadn’t been leaving him out of the loop. On the contrary, Powell explained as she tried to convince Rudy and with him the former President to adopt the plan she and Mike Flynn concocted to seize the voting machines, Powell had sent Rudy this information via email and text.

Finally, Trump stopped and scanned the three of us, and asked simply. “So what are you saying?” Thinking of the difference between the highly organized and disciplined approach I had experienced with Flynn and Sidney, versus the college sophomore bull-session approach of the Campaign and Rudy-World, I spoke up again: “Mr. President, I think you should appoint Sidney Powell your Special Counsel on these election matters and make General Flynn your Field Marshall over the whole effort. I know Rudy’s your lawyer and friend, and he can have a great role in this. Rudy should be personally advising you, and we don’t want to do anything to embarrass him. But it needs to be Sidney taking point legally on this. And if you really want to win, make General Flynn here the Field Marshall. If you do I put your chances at around 50-75%. You should see how he well he has this planned, it would run like clockwork…”

The President shook me off, saying, “No no, it’s got to be Rudy.”

[snip]

The three male [White House Counsel] lawyers edged closer to the front, and then as though as some hidden signal, they all started being bitches.

First was some comment about it not being right to use the National Guard. “The optics are terrible, Mr. President,” said one. “It would have to be the DHS.” I liked the National Guard idea because we needed to reestablish trust of the American people in the electoral process, and the US institution with the most trust is the one where people dress in military uniforms. Yet the National Guard is local, they are all around us, our colleagues at work, our “Citizen Soldiers”. But perhaps in a sign of flexibility, Flynn and Sidney allowed as how one could use the DHS instead of the National Guard.

[snip]

I took another shot at it with the President. “Again Sir, I know that Rudy is a friend of yours, he’s wonderful. He’s America’s Mayor. I love Rudy, I don’t want to embarrass him. But you should see how what Mike and Sidney have got going. It is so organized, so well-planned-” Again he cut me off, saying, “No no, it’s got to be Rudy…” On the inside I slumped.

[snip]

Eventually President Trump said that we would all meet in 30 minutes in the living quarters, in the “Yellow Oval” (I believe the room is called). In the meantime, Rudy was coming in and we had to find a way to make things work between Rudy and Sidney. As we parted he said, “You know, in 200 years there probably has not been a meeting in this room like what just happened…”. As he was leaving he brushed past me, stopped, and speaking low and quiet, said something quite kind and meaningful, showing me that he knew a lot more about me than I had guessed.

A few minutes later Sidney, Mike, Alyssa, and I were in the Cabinet Room. waiting for Rudy. It was dark, and we had to find a couple lamps to turn on. Mike and I were intent on making sure the meeting went well between Sidney and Rudy, so everyone could work happily together.

After 10 minutes Rudy came in, tying his tie, and said in not too gruff a manner, but with perhaps the gruffness of a man disturbed from his evening meal, “You know Sidney, if we are going to work together you have to share information.” I did not take his tone as being too aggressive, but one of trying to turn over a new leaf in a relationship, perhaps.

Sidney immediately told him, “I do share information Rudy. You never read your emails, you never read your texts.”

“That’s not true Sidney! I just need you to stop keeping me in the dark-“

“”Rudy I don’t keepo [sic] you in the dark! You-”

“Sidney you have to stop keeping everything to yourself! I cannot work with you if you don’t share with me!”

Within moments the conversation had spiraled out of control. After a minute of squabbling I tried to interject something helpful. “Mr. Mayor, it is true that since I arrived, everything we ever brought Sidney, she always said, ‘Get this to Rudy right away.’ It’s true. Absolutely everything we turned up, she told us to share with you. She never asked us to keep you in the dark about anything.” [my emphasis]

As NYT tells this story, a bunch of subpoenas pertaining to Powell and seizure and privilege review of 16 Rudy devices later, Rudy “vehemently opposed” the idea of having the military seize the voting machines, acceded to asking DHS to do so, but — after all the other witnesses had left the room, according to the story — warned Trump that the plan would get him impeached.

Six weeks after Election Day, with his hold on power slipping, President Donald J. Trump directed his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to make a remarkable call. Mr. Trump wanted him to ask the Department of Homeland Security if it could legally take control of voting machines in key swing states, three people familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Giuliani did so, calling the department’s acting deputy secretary, who said he lacked the authority to audit or impound the machines.

Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Giuliani to make that inquiry after rejecting a separate effort by his outside advisers to have the Pentagon take control of the machines. And the outreach to the Department of Homeland Security came not long after Mr. Trump, in an Oval Office meeting with Attorney General William P. Barr, raised the possibility of whether the Justice Department could seize the machines, a previously undisclosed suggestion that Mr. Barr immediately shot down.

[snip]

Mr. Giuliani was vehemently opposed to the idea of the military taking part in the seizure of machines, according to two people familiar with the matter. The conflict between him and his legal team, and Mr. Flynn, Ms. Powell and Mr. Byrne came to a dramatic head on Dec. 18, 2020, during a meeting with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office.

At the meeting, Mr. Flynn and Ms. Powell presented Mr. Trump with a copy of the draft executive order authorizing the military to oversee the seizure of machines. After reading it, Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Giuliani to the Oval Office, according to one person familiar with the matter. When Mr. Giuliani read the draft order, he told Mr. Trump that the military could be used only if there was clear-cut evidence of foreign interference in the election.

Ms. Powell, who had spent the past month filing lawsuits claiming that China and other countries had hacked into voting machines, said she had such evidence, the person said. But Mr. Giuliani was adamant that the military should not be mobilized, the person said, and Mr. Trump ultimately heeded his advice.

Shortly after the Oval Office meeting, Mr. Waldron amended the draft executive order, suggesting that if the Defense Department could not oversee the seizure of machines then the Department of Homeland Security could, the person said.

Around that time, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Giuliani to call Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, to ask about the viability of the proposal, according to two people familiar with the matter. Mr. Cuccinelli said that homeland security officials could not take part in the plan.

[snip]

Even Mr. Giuliani, who had spent weeks peddling some of the most outrageous claims about election fraud, felt that the idea of bringing in the military was beyond the pale.

After Mr. Flynn and Ms. Powell left the Oval Office, according to a person familiar with the matter, Mr. Giuliani predicted that the plans they were proposing were going to get Mr. Trump impeached. [my emphasis]

The CNN version of this story (which, like Maggie Haberman, first started reporting this story out in December 2020, even before January 6, and long before the overt seizures of materials from two of the lawyers involved) chose not to grant Robert Costello anonymity for a quote about Rudy being “vehemently” opposed to the plan to use the military to seize the voting machines.

Reached earlier this month, Cuccinelli said his discussion with Giuliani “never developed to the point of talking about an executive order including such action that I recall.”

When asked about the executive order involving the military, Giuliani’s attorney, Robert Costello, said his client also shut that idea down when he became aware of it.

“As soon as he heard about this idea, he was vehemently against it, as was White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and then-President Trump,” Costello said.

But Giuliani and his team did continue to pursue other avenues for overturning the election based on the same conspiracies about election fraud cited in the draft executive order to justify the seizure of voting machines.

Trump also continued to entertain some of the same core elements of those executive orders, including the idea of installing a special counsel to investigate election fraud.

Nearly two weeks after White House aides pushed back on the suggestion of naming Powell to such a role, Trump raised the idea again during another Oval Office meeting, but this time floated Cuccinelli as a possible candidate, according to testimony provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee by former senior Justice Department officials who were present.

Meanwhile, Flynn remained adamant that election equipment was going to be seized and personally reached out to at least one senior defense official in mid-December attempting to enlist their help with his cause, according to a source familiar with the outreach. [my emphasis]

There’s really not all that much new in the story as laid out here, except that a bunch of people who know their communications are in the FBI’s hands (and, in the case of Costello, who has spent the last nine months reviewing the content of those communications, including those Byrne describes Powell claiming to have sent Rudy) providing updated versions of the least-damning story they can tell here.

Just one more key part of the story that has changed.

As CNN described it in the 2020 version of the story (but NYT did not), Mark Meadows was also involved.

White House aides who participated in the meeting, including White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and counsel Pat Cipollone, also pushed back intensely on the suggestion of naming Powell as a special counsel to investigate voter fraud allegations Trump’s own administration has dismissed (or, as seems more feasible, hiring her in the administration for some kind of investigatory role).

Meadows shows up in yesterday’s NYT story only as not being the one who let Powell and Flynn and Byrne in the White House.

When Mr. Flynn, Ms. Powell and Mr. Byrne arrived at the White House to discuss their plan to use the military to seize voting machines, they were not let into the Oval Office by a typical gatekeeper, like Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff. Rather, they were escorted in by Garrett Ziegler, a young aide to another Trump adviser, Peter Navarro, according to Mr. Ziegler’s account.

“I waved in General Flynn and Sidney Powell on the Friday night of the 18th — for which Mark Meadows’s office revoked my guest privileges,” Mr. Ziegler said on a podcast, adding that he had done so because he was “frustrated with the current counsel” Mr. Trump was getting.

That guy — the former Chief of Staff who also was getting and sending a bunch of texts on his phone — that guy has also spent some time recently reviewing his communications. Not only did he review — and withhold — a bunch of communications before sharing some with the Select Committee, but once the Select Committee figured out that Meadows had violated the Presidential Records Act by failing to turn over those communications he conducted on his personal — but his emails! — devices, Meadows has been spending time trying to find such communications so he can share them with the National Archives to uncommit some crimes.

NARA, of course, has been ordered by a court to share such communications, even the ones that Trump might otherwise have invoked Executive Privilege over, with the Committee.

We’re going to get a lot of revised least-damning versions of these stories as more and more people review the communications that will be handed over to investigative bodies.

It’s worth comparing, then, the versions we’re getting now with those people were telling when they thought none of the emails and texts Sidney Powell sent would come out.

Update: Harpie is right. The Jonathan Swan version of this exchange, published exactly a year ago, is worth reading as well.

The First Mike Flynn-Inspired Insurrectionist Sentenced to 44 Months in Prison

In his (successful) letter to John Bates asking for leniency, QAnoner Nicholas Languerand attributed his involvement in the dangerous cult to prominent people, most notably Mike Flynn.

During this time, I was introduced to what has been dubbed “QAnon.” I cannot deny my involvement with this group or the profound impact it has had on my life. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation related to the beliefs and motives of this group within the public discourse. In regards to my case, I believe the most important aspect of this controversial topic is the fact that those individuals were consistently encouraged by highly respected members of society such as President Trump, Lt General Michael Flynn, General Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell, and Lt General Thomas McInerny.

[snip]

There is absolutely no doubt, and I have every intention of showing to the court, that these individuals promoted and in effect facilitated and took responsibility for what I call the Q information network. The evidence of this is substantial to say the least. I think it is only fair that the court and Americans at home understand that this phenomenon went on for 4 years and culminated in the “Stop the Steal” movement between November 2020 and Janaury 6th 2021. It is also important to understand that it was lead [sic] by retired senior military intelligence officers who attained one of the highest possible statuses within the U.S. military.

Languerand pled guilty to assaulting cops, throwing a large orange bollard and some sticks at the officers in the Tunnel on January 6, then stealing a riot shield.

Languerand invoked that Lieutenant General again today at his sentencing. Bates, showing the same deference to other white January 6 defendants he has in the past, gave him a below guidelines sentence, 44 months.

Whatever excuses he made for himself, the key one is that Languerand believes Flynn and others mobilized his best motivations and turned it to violent effect on January 6.

Languerand will not the be the last January 6 defendant who attributes his radicalization to Mike Flynn. But he is the most serious defendant thus far who will spend three years of his life paying for the actions he says Flynn inspired him to take.

The Disappearing Willard Hotel and the Accused Seditionists’ Other Interlocutors

Just as sedition bears down on Roger Stone, the government has put a curtain over what they know about his role in it. The government has moved on from Stone, it seems, to other interesting Oath Keeper interlocutors.

Way back in May, I noted how judicious DOJ was being with statements from Stewart Rhodes — referred to officially as Person One back in his halcyon pre-sedition charge days — in the charging documents for Oath Keepers. Within a few days that month, DOJ added to its insurrection narrative a December 14, 2020 Rhodes post calling for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act via James Breheny’s charging documents. The iteration of the Oath Keeper conspiracy released at the same time (the fourth) introduced Rhodes’ November 9 GoToMeeting discussion of the Insurrection Act that continues to appear in the indictments.

For eight months, in other words, DOJ has been engaged in a slow-reveal of its case against Rhodes.

Now, in the sedition indictment bearing Rhodes’ name, we get a whole lot more of what Rhodes was saying:

  • Calls for civil war as soon as a it became clear Biden should win
  • Rhodes’ adoption of a Serbian (!!!) model for his civil war
  • An oblique comment — dated to “around this time” of the Inauguration — about Rhodes messaging others to organize local militias to oppose Biden’s Administration

Most of the new comments aren’t as scintillating as the catalog describing the personal arsenal Rhodes was purchasing, though, and a few of the new Rhodes comments included were public before.

There are three comments about Rhodes’ communications, though, that I find intriguing because they seem to hint at other interlocutors with the accused seditionists that we may not know about yet.

The first doesn’t even involve Rhodes directly. Rather, it relays Roberto Minuta describing to someone else that 1) Minuta had spoken directly with Rhodes the night of December 18 and 2) Minuta was sharing with someone apparently outside the Oath Keepers how Rhodes felt.

28. Also on December 19, 2020, MINUTA messaged another individual, “Oath Keepers president is pretty disheartened. He feels like it’s go time, the time for peaceful protest is over in his eyes. I was talking to him last night.”

This wasn’t in the prior indictment and I don’t recall it appearing in any other filings in the case (Minuta was not detained, so there’s less about him in the public record). Unless this was originally on the Facebook account Minuta allegedly deleted, there doesn’t seem to be any reason DOJ wouldn’t have obtained this message when they exploited Minuta’s phone. If they’ve had it for months, then the simplest explanation for its inclusion is that this indictment is all about Rhodes, and the comment captures Rhodes’ commitment to violence. In addition, this comment exhibits a closeness between Minuta and Rhodes (which we’ve seen in earlier charging documents) that may be useful from an evidentiary standpoint.

But I suspect it serves an additional purpose. Minuta wrote it not long after the December MAGA March in DC. While there, he had been hanging out with Proud Boys, including Dominic Pezzola (who like Minuta is from upstate New York). It comes after Mike Flynn’s call for insurrection. After Trump tweeted out a promise for Wild Protests on December 19, a ton of aspiring insurrectionists, both organized and not, started making plans to come to DC. In short, this was a key time in the lead-up to the operation, and Minuta was surprisingly well-connected (for a tattoo artist!!!) within the movement. So I suspect his interlocutor here is of some interest (and it’s even possible the government obtained the text from that interlocutor, not Minuta).

An exchange that Kelly Meggs had with Rhodes on Christmas 2020 is similar.

34. On December 25, 2020, MEGGS messaged the OKFL Hangout Chat, in reference to the Joint Session, “We need to make those senators very uncomfortable with all of us being a few hundred feet away.” RHODES then wrote, “I think Congress will screw him [President Trump] over. The only chance we/he has is if we scare the shit out of them and convince them it will be torches and pitchforks time is they don’t do the right thing. But I don’t think they will listen.”

As we recently saw in Proud Boy Matthew Greene’s statement of offense, using proximity to pressure members of Congress (and Pence), became well formulated enough that even a low-level Proud Boy would understand it by the day of the insurrection. Here, both Meggs (who is the Florida-based Oath Keeper who boasted of forging an alliance with the Proud Boys) and Rhodes enunciate this goal, but do so twelve days before the actual attack. As with the Minuta comment, my guess is that the his exchange reflects communication with (at a minimum) the Proud Boys about this shared goal of — in Rhodes’ formulation — terrorizing Congress. It certainly makes it clear that the intent of mobbing the Capitol was formulated well in advance of the event.

There’s one more example. For some reason, DOJ provides the exact time (without time zone) that Rhodes wrote, “There is no standard political or legal way out of this” on December 31, 2020.

40. RHODES and his co-conspirators used the Leadership Intel Chat and other Signal group chats to plan for January 6, 2021. On December 31, 2020, at approximately 10:08 p.m., RHODES wrote to the Leadership Intel Chat, “There is no standard political or legal way out of this.”

For the purposes of the indictment, this shows mens rea that the Yale Law grad leading this insurrection recognized what they were going to do next was not legal. But it also seems to reflect a response (thus the timing) to something — one I haven’t been able to guess yet. The comment comes before Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert’s lawsuit against Mike Pence, the last of a long series of ridiculous “legal” efforts, failed spectacularly. But it comes at around the same time that even Sean Hannity was beginning to give up.

For example, on December 31, 2020, you texted Mr. Meadows the following:

“We can’t lose the entire WH counsels office. I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told. After the 6 th. [sic] He should announce will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity. Go to Fl and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen.”

I’m not saying that Rhodes was in contact with Hannity: But something seems to have happened just before 10:08 PM (in whatever time zone) that elicited this response which is not dissimilar from where Hannity’s brain was at the time. And if it was non-public (as Hannity’s panic was), then it suggests Rhodes may have been responding to a well-connected interlocutor.

So it’s not so much that the sedition indictment quotes Rhodes as saying really interesting things. Rather, it seems to suggest he and others were saying things to some interesting interlocutors.

Even as the government is hinting at other interesting interlocutors of the accused seditionists, as I noted above, DOJ has entirely hidden the prior back-and-forth between the Oath Keepers and the Willard Hotel. This back-and-forth involving people who were guarding Roger Stone at the Willard that morning first started to show in the Third Superseding Indictment. Once Jonathan Walden — the guy now charged by himself — got added, the indictments included this exchange:

At 9:36 a.m., WALDEN texted JAMES, “Willard hotel?” At 9:51 a.m., WALDEN placed a phone call to JAMES, which is recorded as missed. At 9:52 a.m., WALDEN texted JAMES, “I’m here, awaiting instruction.” At 10:37 a.m., JAMES placed a phone call to WALDEN, which lasted 2 seconds.

Then last month, Kenneth Harrelson released Mike Simmons’ [Person Ten] 302s (purportedly in a desperate bid to adopt his lies, but possibly also to let others know what FBI had been investigation in May).

They revealed that Joshua James, who was in charge of the security detail at the Willard, called in several times to Simmons and seems to have cited Stone’s gripe about being treated poorly to Simmons.

This is what I was referring to in this post about the effect of disappearing Mark Grods, the one overt cooperator who was at the Willard that morning, from all last week’s indictments. Several decisions made in the structure of these most recent indictments — spinning Walden off by himself, disappearing Grods, focusing on the activities of two stacks in the sedition indictment (and thereby starting the narrative at a later point in time), remaining coy about the present status of Simmons, and eliminating James and Minuta in the Crowl indictment — had the effect of eliminating the coordination with the Willard from the sedition indictment altogether.

Poof! Where’s Roger?

Trust me. I don’t think DOJ has decided that the Oath Keepers’ presence at the Willard was unimportant. On the contrary. I think they’ve just decided to move onto making other people sweat about their communications with now-charged seditionists appearing in the indictment, while hiding how much more they’ve learned about the Willard in recent weeks.

Clue: It Was Sidney Powell with the Grifting, in Advance of the Pardon, on Lin Wood’s Plantation

In a post on the significance of the news that the DC US Attorney Office is investigating Sidney Powell’s grift, I noted that she started fundraising to perpetuate false claims about a stolen election — on November 23, 2020 — before she received a thing of value from Trump — a pardon for Mike Flynn — and before she had set up the legal vehicle to do that grifting.

I’m interested in it for a different reason: the way in which Trump named Powell as part of his team, then cut her off, and then pardoned her client and co-grifter, Mike Flynn. Only after that did she formally register the grift.

I wonder whether some smart lawyer grew concerned that Sidney Powell was claiming to represent the President even while she was representing someone asking for a pardon.

On November 15, Trump explicitly named Powell as part of his team. On November 20, Powell appeared at Rudy the Dripper’s press conference. On November 22, Rudy and Jenna Ellis made a show of cutting ties with her.

Sidney Powell is practice law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.

According to Maggie Haberman, either he didn’t like her appearance and/or advisors convinced Trump to separate himself from her nutjobbery. Three days later, November 25, Trump pardoned Powell’s client. The next day, after days of promising to Bring the Kraken, Powell finally started releasing her epically batshit suits. Trump has promoted them.

Powell

Indeed, it even appears some Administration lawyers are still associated with Powell’s efforts.

I’m not sure I understand whether there would be a conflict between Powell representing Trump (for free, inevitably, as all lawyers do), making desperate efforts to overturn the election at the same time she was trying to ensure her client did no prison time. If that’s a conflict, it may still exist anyway given Powell’s admission to Judge Sullivan that she had repeatedly discussed Flynn with Trump’s campaign lawyer, Jenna Ellis. The fact that DOJ packaged up altered documents to support a Trump attack on Biden may make those ties more important anyway (or lead to more details about them becoming public).

But if Powell’s involvement made Pat Cipollone and/or Bill Barr — who presumably share the challenging task of helping Trump write pardons that don’t backfire — squeamish, it might explain the timing.

In other words, one of the things that may be of interest to this grand jury is why Sidney Powell started raising money before she had the legal vehicle to do so.

But that would also focus some attention on the fact that Sidney Powell started raising money to help sowing Trump’s conspiracy theories before Trump had pardoned her client (after she told Trump, in the summer, not to do so, yet, something she made clear in a hearing on September 29).

Sidney Powell started raising funds to support her efforts to undermine the election by November 23. On November 25, Trump gave her a thing of value — a pardon for her client. Only 5 days later did Powell make such fundraising legal.

This CNBC report adds a new wrinkle to this timeline: during this same period, Powell and Flynn and Patrick Byrne were at Lin Wood’s two plantations in South Carolina. They appear to have worked in Wood’s residence, Tomotley Plantation, and stayed in Cotton Hall, which he had just purchased.

Lin Wood, a conservative trial lawyer who led a failed legal challenge against the election results in Georgia, said in a lengthy interview that shortly after the 2020 contest last November, he hosted at his massive South Carolina properties fellow right-wing attorney Sidney Powell, former Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn, former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, and Doug Logan, the CEO of cybersecurity firm Cyber Ninjas.

Jim Penrose, who says on his LinkedIn profile that he used to work for the National Security Agency, and Seth Keshel, who promotes himself on his Twitter page as a former Army captain and who has spread falsities about the election, according to the Associated Press, also made appearances at Wood’s properties, the attorney said.

[snip]

“They set up in my living room and one of the sunrooms. They looked like election central. They had computers, whiteboards. They were working,” Wood said about Powell and her team’s prior work at his residence. Southern Living magazine describes the living room at Tomotley: “Custom built-ins and a working fireplace bring warmth to the spacious living room.”

[snip]

But many of Powell’s fellow election conspiracy theorists took up residence for days at Wood’s nearby property called Cotton Hall, the veteran attorney explained. It too is considered a historic plantation in South Carolina, and it encompasses over 700 acres. The South Carolina plantations history website says its primary crop in the 19th century was rice.

[snip]

Flynn, for instance, arrived at Tomotley with Byrne days after Powell arrived, Wood said. Though Byrne stayed at Cotton Hall for only a day, Flynn took up residence through Thanksgiving.

“Flynn was here on Thanksgiving because he carved the turkey when we ate over at Cotton Hall,” Wood said during the interview.

It’s unclear why Wood shared all these details. While this report cites the Daily Beast reporting that includes the news on the grand jury investigation, it presents that story instead in the context of the “feud” between Wood, Flynn, Byrne, and Powell. If they haven’t been already, those people would all be subpoenaed in the investigation, and so this might instead be an attempt to coordinate stories or convey what questions are being asked.

But what’s interesting about the timeline is that it seems to suggest that Trump or someone close to him would have called into the plotting on the plantation.

When you pardon someone, you call them or their representative to let them know. And while it’s not certain that Flynn had arrived at the plantation yet when he got the pardon on November 25, the day before he cut the turkey at Wood’s plantation on November 26, Powell had already been there some days before Flynn showed up, meaning — at least per this reporting — she was definitely at Lin Wood’s plantation plotting propaganda to help Trump stay in office on the day of the pardon.

This also adds the delicious detail that a guy who advertised that he had been honey-potted by a woman accused of spying for Russia may have been with Flynn when he received notice he was being rewarded for refusing to admit to Mueller’s team that Trump was involved in efforts to undercut sanctions on Russia in December 2016.

This all would read like a cheap spy novel if there weren’t an accused spy and a guy who admitted he had been secretly working for another frenemy state as well.

But even aside from Byrne’s presence, it sure adds interesting details to the circumstances of Flynn’s pardon that may be of interest to criminal investigators.