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What the Watergate Road Map Might Say about a Mueller Road Map

In an interview last week, Rudy Giuliani explained that Trump had finished the open book test Mueller had given the President, but that they were withholding the answers until after tomorrow’s election, after which they’ll re-enter negotiations about whether Trump will actually answer questions on the Russian investigation in person or at all.

“I expect a day after the election we will be in serious discussions with them again, and I have a feeling they want to get it wrapped up one way or another.”

Meanwhile, one of the first of the post-election Administration shake-up stories focuses, unsurprisingly, on the likelihood that Trump will try to replace Jeff Sessions and/or Rod Rosenstein (though doesn’t headline the entire story “Trump set to try to end Mueller investigation,” as it should).

Some embattled officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are expected to be fired or actively pushed out by Trump after months of bitter recriminations.

[snip]

Among those most vulnerable to being dismissed are Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who is overseeing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation after Sessions recused himself. Trump has routinely berated Sessions, whom he faults for the Russia investigation, but he and Rosenstein have forged an improved rapport in recent months.

As I note in my TNR piece on the subject, there are several paths that Trump might take to attempt to kill the Mueller investigation, some of which might take more time and elicit more backlash. If Trump could convince Sessions to resign, for example, he could bring in Steven Bradbury or Alex Azar to replace him right away, meaning Rosenstein would no longer be Acting Attorney General overseeing Mueller, and they could do whatever they wanted with it (and remember, Bradbury already showed himself willing to engage in legally suspect cover-ups in hopes of career advancement with torture). Whereas firing Rosenstein would put someone else — Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who already obtained an ethics waiver for matters pertaining to Trump Campaign legal firm Jones Day, though it is unclear whether that extends to the Mueller investigation — in charge of overseeing Mueller immediately.

This may well be why Rudy is sitting on Trump’s open book test: because they’ve gamed out several possible paths depending on what kind of majority, if any, Republicans retain in the Senate (aside from trying to defeat African American gubernatorial candidates in swing states, Trump has focused his campaigning on retaining the Senate; FiveThirtyEight says the two most likely outcomes are that Republicans retain the same number of seats or lose just one, net). But they could well gain a few seats. If they have the numbers to rush through a Sessions replacement quickly, they’ll fire him, but if not, perhaps Trump will appease Mueller for a few weeks by turning in the answers to his questions.

That’s the background to what I focused on in my TNR piece last week: the Mueller report that Rudy has been talking about incessantly, in an utterly successful attempt to get most journalists covering this to ignore the evidence in front of them that Mueller would prefer to speak in indictments, might, instead, be the failsafe, the means by which Mueller would convey the fruits of his investigation to the House Judiciary Committee if Trump carries out a Wednesday morning massacre. And it was with that in mind that I analyzed how the Watergate Road Map served to do just that in this post.

In this post, I’d like to push that comparison further, to see what — if Mueller and his Watergate prosecutor James Quarles team member are using the Watergate precedent as a model — that might say about Mueller’s investigation. I’ll also lay out what a Mueller Road Map, if one awaits a Wednesday Morning Massacre in a safe somewhere, might include.

The Watergate prosecutors moved from compiling evidence to issuing the Road Map in just over six months

As early as August 1973, George Frampton had sent Archibald Cox a “summary of evidence” against the President. Along with laying out the gaps prosecutors had in their evidence about about what Nixon knew (remember, investigators had only learned of the White House taping system in July), it noted that any consideration of how his actions conflicted with his claims must examine his public comments closely.

That report paid particular attention to how Nixon’s White House Counsel had created a report that created a transparently false cover story. It described how Nixon continued to express full confidence in HR Haldeman and John Ehrlichman well after he knew they had been involved in the cover-up. It examined what Nixon must have thought the risks an investigation posed.

The Archives’ Road Map materials show that in the same 10 day period from January 22 to February 1, 1974 when the Special Prosecutor’s office was negotiating with the President’s lawyers about obtaining either his in-person testimony or at least answers to interrogatories, they were also working on a draft indictment of the President, charging four counts associated with his involvement in and knowledge of the bribe to Howard Hunt in March 1973. A month later, on March 1, 1974 (and so just 37 days after the time when Leon Jaworski and Nixon’s lawyers were still discussing an open book test for that more competent president), the grand jury issued the Road Map, a request to transmit grand jury evidence implicating the President to the House Judiciary Committee so it could be used in an impeachment.

Toto we’re not in 1974 anymore … and neither is the President

Let me clear about what follows: there’s still a reasonable chance Republicans retain the House, and it’s most likely that Republicans will retain the Senate. We’re not in a position where — unless Mueller reveals truly heinous crimes — Trump is at any imminent risk of being impeached. We can revisit all this on Wednesday after tomorrow’s elections and after Trump starts doing whatever he plans to do in response, but we are in a very different place than we were in 1974.

So I am not predicting that the Mueller investigation will end up the way the Watergate one did. Trump has far less concern for his country than Nixon did — an observation John Dean just made.

And Republicans have, almost but not quite universally, shown little appetite for holding Trump to account.

So I’m not commenting on what will happen. Rather, I’m asking how advanced the Mueller investigation might be — and what it may have been doing for the last 18 months — if it followed the model of the Watergate investigation.

One more caveat: I don’t intend to argue the evidence in this thread — though I think my series on what the Sekulow questions say stands up really well even six months later. For the rest of this post, I will assume that Mueller has obtained sufficient evidence to charge a conspiracy between Trump’s closest aides and representatives of the Russian government. Even if he doesn’t have that evidence, though, he may still package up a Road Map in case he is fired.

Jaworski had a draft indictment around the same time he considered giving Nixon an open book test

Even as the Watergate team was compiling questions they might pose to the President if Jaworski chose to pursue that route, they were drafting an indictment.

If the Mueller investigation has followed a similar path, that means that by the time Mueller gave Trump his open book test in October, he may have already drafted up an indictment covering Trump’s actions. That’s pretty reasonable to imagine given Paul Manafort’s plea deal in mid-September and Trump’s past statements about how his former campaign manager could implicate him personally, though inconsistent with Rudy’s claims (if we can trust him) that Manafort has not provided evidence against Trump.

Still, if the Jaworski Road Map is a guide, then Mueller’s team may have already laid out what a Trump indictment would look like if you could indict a sitting President. That said, given the complaints that DOJ had drafted a declination with Hillary before her interview, I would assume they would keep his name off it, as the Watergate team did in editing the Nixon indictment.

Then, a month after drawing up a draft indictment, Jaworski’s grand jury had a Road Map all packaged up ready to be sent to HJC.

Another crucial lesson of this comparison: Jaworksi did not wait for, and did not need, testimony from the President to put together a Road Map for HJC. While I’m sure he’ll continue pursuing getting Trump on the record, there’s no reason to believe Mueller needs that to provide evidence that Trump was part of this conspiracy to HJC.

Given that I think a Mueller report primarily serves as a failsafe at this point, I would expect that he would have some version of that ready to go before Wednesday. And that’s consistent with the reports — enthusiastically stoked by the President’s lawyers — that Mueller is ready to issue his findings.

If a Mueller report is meant to serve as a Road Map for an HJC led by Jerrold Nadler starting in January, then it is necessarily all ready to go (and hopefully copied and safely stored in multiple different locations), even if it might be added to in coming months.

The Road Map Section I included evidence to substantiate the the conspiracy

As I laid out here, the Watergate Road Map included four sections: 

I. Material bearing on a $75,000 payment to E. Howard Hunt and related events

II. Material bearing on the President’s “investigation”

III. Material bearing on events up to and including March 17, 1973

IV. The President’s public statements and material before the grand jury related thereto

The first section maps very closely to the overt acts laid out in the February 1 draft indictment, incorporating two acts into one and leaving off or possibly redacting one, but otherwise providing the grand jury evidence — plus some interim steps in the conspiracy — that Jaworski would have used to prove all the overt acts charged in the conspiracy charge from that draft indictment.

If Mueller intended to charge a quid pro quo conspiracy — that Trump accepted a Russian offer to drop dirt, possibly emails explicitly, in response for sanctions relief (and cooperation on Syria and other things) — then we could imagine the kinds of overt acts he might use to prove that:

  • Foreknowledge of an offer of dirt and possibly even emails (Rick Gates and Omarosa might provide that)
  • Trump involvement in the decision to accept that offer (Paul Manafort had a meeting with Trump on June 7, 2016 that might be relevant, as would the immediate aftermath of the June 9 meeting)
  • Trump signaling that his continued willingness to deliver on the conspiracy (as early as the George Papadopoulos plea, Mueller laid out some evidence of this, plus there is Trump’s request for Russia to find Hillary emails, which Mueller has already shown was immediately followed by intensified Russian hacking attempts)
  • Evidence Russia tailored releases in response to Trump campaign requests (Roger Stone may play a key role in this, but Mueller appears to know that Manafort even more explicitly asked Russia for help)
  • Evidence Trump moved to pay off his side of the deal, both by immediately moving to cooperate on Syria and by assuring Russia that the Trump Administration would reverse Obama’s sanctions

Remember, to be charged, a conspiracy does not have to have succeeded (that is, it doesn’t help Trump that he hasn’t yet succeeded in paying off his debt to Russia; it is enough that he agreed to do so and then took overt acts to further the conspiracy).

In other words, if Mueller has a Road Map sitting in his safe, and if I’m right that this is the conspiracy he would charge, there might be a section that included the overt acts that would appear in a draft indictment of Trump (and might appear in an indictment of Trump’s aides and spawn and the Russian representatives they conspired with), along with citations to the grand jury evidence Mueller has collected to substantiate those overt acts.

Note, this may explain whom Mueller chooses to put before the grand jury and not: that it’s based off what evidence Mueller believes he would need to pass on in sworn form to be of use for HJC, to (among other things) help HJC avoid the protracted fights over subpoenas they’ll face if Democrats do win a majority.

The Road Map Section II described how the White House Counsel tried to invent a cover story

After substantiating what would have been the indictment against Nixon, the Watergate Road Map showed how Nixon had John Dean and others manufacture a false exonerating story. The Road Map cited things like:

  • Nixon’s public claims to have total confidence in John Dean
  • Nixon’s efforts to falsely claim to the Attorney General, Richard Kleindienst, that former AG John Mitchell might be the most culpable person among Nixon’s close aides
  • Nixon’s instructions to his top domestic political advisor, John Ehrlichman, to get involved in John Dean’s attempts to create an exculpatory story
  • Press Secretary Ron Ziegler’s public lies that no one knew about the crime
  • Nixon’s efforts to learn about what prosecutors had obtained from his close aides
  • Nixon’s private comments to his White House Counsel to try to explain away an incriminating comment
  • Nixon’s ongoing conversations with his White House Counsel about what he should say publicly to avoid admitting to the crime
  • Nixon’s multiple conversations with top DOJ official Henry Petersen, including his request that Peterson not investigate some crimes implicating the Plumbers
  • Nixon’s orders to his Chief of Staff, HR Haldeman, to research the evidence implicating himself in a crime

This is an area where there are multiple almost exact parallels with the investigation into Trump, particularly in Don McGahn’s assistance to the President to provide bogus explanations for both the Mike Flynn and Jim Comey firings — the former of which involved Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, the latter of which involved Trump’s top domestic political advisor Stephen Miller. There are also obvious parallels between the Petersen comments and the Comey ones. Finally, Trump has made great efforts to learn via Devin Nunes and other House allies what DOJ has investigated, including specifically regarding the Flynn firing.

One key point about all this: the parallels here are almost uncanny. But so is the larger structural point. These details did not make the draft Nixon indictment. There were just additional proof of his cover-up and abuse of power. The scope of what HJC might investigate regarding presidential abuse is actually broader than what might be charged in an indictment.

The equivalent details in the Mueller investigation — particularly the Comey firing — have gotten the bulk of the press coverage (and at one point formed a plurality of the questions Jay Sekulow imagined Mueller might ask). But the obstruction was never what the case in chief is, the obstruction started when Trump found firing Flynn to be preferable to explaining why he instructed Flynn, on December 29, to tell the Russians not to worry about Obama’s sanctions. In the case of the Russia investigation, there has yet to be an adequate public explanation for Flynn’s firing, and the Trump team’s efforts to do so continue to hint at the real exposure the President faces on conspiracy charges.

In other words, I suspect that details about the Comey firing and Don McGahn’s invented explanations for it that made a Mueller Road Map might, as details of the John Dean’s Watergate investigation did in Jaworski’s Road Map, as much to be supporting details to the core evidence proving a conspiracy.

The Road Map Section III provided evidence that Nixon knew about the election conspiracy, and not just the cover-up

The third section included some of the most inflammatory stuff in Jaworski’s Road Map, showing that Nixon knew about the campaign dirty tricks and describing what happened during the 18 minute gap. Here’s where I suspect Jaworski’s Road Map may differ from Mueller’s: while much of this section provides circumstantial evidence to show that the President knew about the election crimes ahead of time, my guess is (particularly given Manafort’s plea) that Mueller has more than circumstantial evidence implicating Trump. In a case against Trump, the election conspiracy — not the cover-up, as it was for Nixon — is the conspiracy-in-chief that might implicate the President.

The Road Map Section III described Nixon’s discussions about using clemency to silence co-conspirators

One other area covered by this section, however, does have a direct parallel: in Nixon’s discussions about whether he could provide clemency to the Watergate defendants. With both Flynn and Manafort cooperating, Mueller must have direct descriptions of Trump’s pardon offers. What remains to be seen is if Mueller can substantiate (as he seems to be trying to do) Trump willingness to entertain any of the several efforts to win Julian Assange a pardon. There’s no precedent to treat offering a pardon as a crime unto itself, but it is precisely the kind of abuse of power the founders believed merited impeachment. Again, it’s another thing that might be in a Mueller Road Map that wouldn’t necessarily make an indictment.

The Road Map Section IV showed how Nixon’s public comments conflicted with his actions

We have had endless discussions about Trump’s comments about the Russian investigation on Twitter, and even by March, at least 8 of the questions Sekulow imagined Mueller wanted to ask pertained to Trump’s public statements.

  • What was the purpose of your April 11, 2017, statement to Maria Bartiromo?
  • What did you mean when you told Russian diplomats on May 10, 2017, that firing Mr. Comey had taken the pressure off?
  • What did you mean in your interview with Lester Holt about Mr. Comey and Russia?
  • What was the purpose of your May 12, 2017, tweet?
  • What was the purpose of the September and October 2017 statements, including tweets, regarding an investigation of Mr. Comey?
  • What is the reason for your continued criticism of Mr. Comey and his former deputy, Andrew G. McCabe?
  • What was the purpose of your July 2017 criticism of Mr. Sessions?
  • What involvement did you have in the communication strategy, including the release of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails?

The Watergate Road Map documents a number of public Nixon comments that, like Trump’s, are not themselves criminal, but are evidence the President was lying about his crimes and cover-up. The Watergate Road Map describes Nixon claiming that:

  • He did not know until his own investigation about efforts to pay off Watergate defendants
  • He did not know about offers of clemency
  • He did not know in March 1973 there was anything to cover up
  • His position has been to get the facts out about the crime, not cover them up
  • He ordered people to cooperate with the FBI
  • He had always pressed to get the full truth out
  • He had ordered legitimate investigations into what happened
  • He had met with Kleindienst and Peterson to review what he had learned in his investigation
  • He had not turned over evidence of a crime he knew of to prosecutors because he assumed Dean already had
  • He had learned more about the crimes between March and April 1973

Admittedly, Trump pretended to want real investigations — an internal investigation of what Flynn had told the FBI, and an external investigation into the election conspiracy — for a much briefer period than Nixon did (his comments to Maria Bartiromo, which I covered here, and Lester Holt, which I covered here, are key exceptions).

Still, there are a slew of conflicting comments Trump has made, some obviously to provide a cover story or incriminate key witnesses, that Mueller showed some interest in before turning in earnest to finalizing the conspiracy case in chief. A very central one involves the false claims that Flynn had said nothing about sanctions and that he was fired for lying to Mike Pence about that; probably at least 7 people knew those comments were false when Sean Spicer made them.  Then there are the at least 52 times he has claimed “No Collusion” or the 135 times he has complained about a “Witch Hunt” on Twitter.

Trump’s lawyers have complained that his public comments have no role in a criminal investigation (though the likelihood he spoke to Putin about how to respond as the June 9 meeting story broke surely does). But Mueller may be asking them for the same reason they were relevant to the Watergate investigation. They are evidence of abuse of power.

The Road Map included the case in chief, not all the potential crimes

Finally, there is one more important detail about the Road Map that I suspect would be matched in any Mueller Road Map: Not all the crimes the Special Prosecutor investigated made the Road Map. The Watergate team had a number of different task forces (as I suspect Mueller also does). And of those, just Watergate (and to a very limited degree, the cover-up of the Plumbers investigation) got included in the Road Map.

Here, we’ve already seen at least one crime get referred by Mueller, Trump’s campaign payoffs. I’ve long suggested that the Inauguration pay-to-play might also get referred (indeed, that may be the still-active part of the grand jury investigation that explains why SDNY refuses to release the warrants targeting Michael Cohen). Mueller might similarly refer any Saudi, Israeli, and Emirate campaign assistance to a US Attorney’s office for investigation. And while it’s virtually certain Mueller investigated the larger network of energy and other resource deals that seem to be part of what happened at the Seychelles meetings, any continuing investigation may have been referred (indeed, may have actually derived from) SDNY.

In other words, while a Mueller Road Map might include things beyond what would be necessary for a criminal indictment, it also may not include a good number of things we know Mueller to have examined, at least in passing.

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

Why Did Rebekah Mercer and Steve Bannon Start Preparing an Accusation that Hillary Had Corrupt Ties with Russia Starting on March 14, 2016?

Amid a lot of noise regarding the eight month investigation into Roger Stone (including that his assistant Jason Sullivan has been asked for the complete recordings of some conference calls he gave in 2016 and that he has passed two polygraphs that may not be asking the right questions), the WaPo has a detail of real interest. Mueller brought Steve Bannon back in for questioning Friday.

On Friday, Mueller’s team questioned Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former chief campaign strategist, about alleged claims Stone made privately about WikiLeaks before the group released emails allegedly hacked by Russian operatives, according to people familiar with the session.

I say that’s particularly interesting because of Bannon’s role in a series of events that come as close as anything to hint that Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi not only had advance knowledge that Wikileaks would release John Podesta’s emails, but may have known and planned for what those emails included.

Stone and Corsi seemed to expect that there would be Podesta emails relating to Joule

As I noted in these two posts, Stone’s evolving public stories explaining his knowledge of the stolen documents seem to attempt to do three things:

  • Provide non-incriminating explanations for any foreknowledge of WikiLeaks — first pointing to Randy Credico and now to James Rosen
  • Offer explanations for discussions about Podesta that he may presume Mueller has that took place around August 14
  • Shift the focus away from Joule and the remarkable prescience with which the right wing anticipated that WikiLeaks would be able to advance an attack first rolled out on August 1

Basically, over the course of August, several key events happened: Stone first started publicly claiming foreknowledge of what WikiLeaks would drop, tried to launch a counterattack against public reporting on Paul Manafort’s sleazy ties to Russian and Russian-backed Ukrainian oligarchs, and then warned that it would soon be John Podesta’s time on the barrel. Those events came amidst two separate oppo research efforts: An early one initiated by Bannon and (Clinton Cash author) Peter Schweizer that accused Hillary of corrupt ties to Russia, largely through John Podesta’s role a company called Joule Unlimited. And then a later one (starting at 39), written by Corsi, trying to impugn Hillary because her campaign manager’s brother was so corrupt he had worked with Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and at Manafort’s instructions not properly declared the work. Stone seems to have wanted to conflate those two efforts, in part to suggest his August 21 tweet (and an August 15 one that may end up being just as interesting) referred to both brothers, not just John, and therefore not the earlier oppo effort.

What’s interesting, however, is that while Corsi claims Stone was quite interested in the Bannon/Schweizer effort and that his own report arose out of it, Stone was virtually silent about it up until the Podesta emails started dropping in October. In fact, the day before the Podesta emails dropped, Corsi renewed the focus on Joule, which in turn teed up a Stone report and then a Corsi one integrating but not linking emails released by WikiLeaks, followed four days later by a Corsi report actually showing how those WikiLeaks emails supported claims he and especially Stone had already made. While it is true that Stone doesn’t integrate evidence from the WikiLeaks emails until they were released, the analysis of those emails (Corsi’s) took place days after his first report on them.

One possible scenario to explain all that (and this is all speculative) is that Roger Stone, back when he was trying to find a way to respond to stories about Manafort, asked someone with access to the files Russia either already had or planned to share with WikiLeaks, and learned there were files in the dump pertaining to the attack already launched, focused on Joule. That is, Stone may have figured out that those emails were coming in August, and therefore held his focus on Joule until they were eventually released. In this scenario, then, when Stone predicted it would soon be Podesta’s time on the barrel, he may have been anticipating that the upcoming WikiLeaks dump would substantiate an attack his cronies had already made.

We know, for example, that in September 2016 he asked Randy Credico for help learning what Clinton emails on Libya — which Stone appears to have known or believed were in Assange’s hands but that had yet to be released — said. So it is consistent to assume that Stone tried to learn and plan for what was coming at other times. And his October 13 Joule attack is, as far as I’m aware, the one for which there is the most public evidence that he did plan the later attack.

That Joule attack was part of a report that remarkably anticipated the need to accuse Hillary of Russian ties

But all that raises another question I’ve been pondering: Why did Bannon and Schweizer already have an attack claiming Hillary had corrupt ties to Russia, ready to release on August 1? The timing was key: the report came out just over a week after the WikiLeaks DNC dump made the question of Russia’s tampering to defeat Hillary really pressing, and just days after Trump asked Russia to go find more Hillary emails. It also came as Manafort would have had the first rumors that stories of his own Russian ties would break.

The question is all the more important given that this was not a last minute report.

Indeed, according to the footnotes, the report was started in March 2016, even before John Podesta was hacked. The Obama White House fact sheet on that Administration’s attempted reset with Russia was accessed March 14, days before Podesta was hacked, and again on March 18, the day before Podesta was spearphished.

“U.S.-Russia Relations: “Reset” Fact Sheet.” The White House. June 24, 2010. Accessed March 14, 2016. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/us-russia-relations-reset-fact-sheet.

[snip]

“U.S.-Russia Relations: ‘Reset’ Fact Sheet.” The White House. June 24, 2010. Accessed March 18, 2016. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/us-russia-relations-reset-factsheet.

Some of the Hillary emails released by the State Department were accessed on March 28.

“Search Hillary Clinton’s Emails.” WSJ. March 1, 2016. Accessed March 28, 2016. http://graphics.wsj.com/hillary-clinton-email-documents/.

Reports on Viktor Vekselberg Silicon Valley’s initiative were accessed in March, too.

24 “Skolkovo Innovation Center.” Skolkovo Innovation Center. Accessed March 24, 2016. http://in.rbth.com/skolkovo.

25 “Cisco Commits $1 Billion for Multi-year Investment in Skolkovo.” ThinkRUSSIA. June 27, 2010. Accessed March 24, 2016. http://www.thinkrussia.com/business-economy/cisco-commits1-billion-multi-year-investment-skolkovo.

WikiLeaks Cablegate files on the Vekselberg effort going back to 2009 were accessed on April 27 (the day after George Papadopoulos learned the Russians had emails on Hillary they wanted to dump in an effort to help Trump).

“Russia Moving Into High Gear on Nanotechnology; Actively Seeking Cooperation with U.S.,” U.S. State Department Cable. February 11, 2009. Wikileaks. Accessed April 27, 2016. https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09MOSCOW333_a.html.

Some of the Podesta Joule work was done in April.

Podesta, John. “Public Financial Disclosure Report.” Accessed April 20, 2016. https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1227013/john-podesta-whitehouse-financial-disclosure-form.pdf. ”

Joule Unlimited, Inc.” Portfolio Companies. Accessed April 06, 2016

There were also a string of emails that would have come from officially released State emails (but which don’t include access dates; remember that most of those emails came in response to a Jason Leopold FOIA but WikiLeaks hosted them to great fanfare).

88 Mills, Cheryl D. “My List.” E-mail. July 27, 2009.

89 Podesta, John. “Calling.” E-mail. June 2, 2009.

90 Talbott, Strobe. “RE: Speech for Tomorrow’s Meeting.” E-mail. July 9, 2009.

91 Abedin, Huma. “Podesta.” E-mail. August 21, 2009.

92 Podesta, John. “[redacted].” E-mail. July 25, 2009;

One of the last access dates was May 10, 2016.

Nowak, David. “Key Skolkovo Partners Microsoft, Siemens, Reiterate Commitment to Project.” Skolkovo Foundation. November 13, 2014. Accessed May 10, 2016.

Unless I missed something, there are just three finishing touches added after that date, in mid-July.

“Fact Sheet-U.S.-Russia Business Summit.” Department of Commerce. June 25, 2010. Accessed July 18, 2016. http://2010-2014.commerce.gov/news/fact-sheets/2010/06/24/fact-sheet-us-russiabusiness-summit.html.

[snip]

“State in €70m Aids Partnership in Africa.” The Irish Times. October 25, 2006. Accessed July 15, 2016. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/state-in-70m-aids-partnership-in-africa-1.798426. “Press Release: President Clinton to Visit Pediatric AIDS Clinic in Mozambique, Beginning Trip to Africa to Focus on AIDS Care.” Clinton Foundation. June 17, 2005. Accessed July 15, 2016. https://www.clintonfoundation.org/main/news-and-media/press-releases-and-statements/pressrelease-president-clinton-to-visit-pediatric-aids-clinic-in-mozambique-beg.html.

All of this suggests that, by May 10, 2016, the report was just sitting there at Rebekah Mercer funded Government Accountability Institute, waiting for the right opportunity to accuse Hillary of ties to Russia; virtually the entire report was done before Democrats confirmed they had been hacked by Russia, and all the research was done before WikiLeaks dumped the DNC emails.

Ms. Mercer and a person close to her had a brief conversation regarding Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails in June 2016, a month after Mr. Cruz had dropped out of the race, the person said. The person said they discussed whether it would make sense to try to access and release those emails, but ultimately decided that looking for them would create “major legal liabilities” and would be a “terrible idea.”

Rebekah Mercer kept trying to work with WikiLeaks on optimizing emails

That Rebekah Mercer was funding this attack (one that started long before the Mercers started backing Trump) is all the more interesting given several different efforts she or her employee made to reach out to WikiLeaks. There’s Alexander Nix’s offer to help WikiLeaks organize emails we weren’t supposed to know about yet in June 2016.

Mr. Nix responded that he had reached out to Mr. Assange two months earlier—in June 2016, before Cambridge Analytica had started working for the Trump campaign—to ask him to share Clinton-related emails so the company could aid in disseminating them, the person familiar with the email exchange said. He said Mr. Assange had turned him down. That outreach and subsequent rejection was confirmed by Mr. Assange earlier this week on Twitter.

Also in June, Ms. Mercer had a discussion about accessing Hillary’s deleted emails.

Ms. Mercer and a person close to her had a brief conversation regarding Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails in June 2016, a month after Mr. Cruz had dropped out of the race, the person said. The person said they discussed whether it would make sense to try to access and release those emails, but ultimately decided that looking for them would create “major legal liabilities” and would be a “terrible idea.”

Then, again in August, Mercer asked Nix — or the GAI, the same outlet that did the Hillary Russia attack — about helping WikiLeaks with emails.

On Aug. 26, 2016, roughly a month after Mr. Trump formally became the Republican nominee, Ms. Mercer passed along to Mr. Nix an email she had received from a person she met at an event supporting Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), whose presidential campaign she had initially supported during the GOP primaries, the person familiar with the exchange said. The email’s author suggested to Ms. Mercer that the Trump campaign or an allied super PAC ought to better index the WikiLeaks emails to make them more searchable, the person said.

Ms. Mercer forwarded the email to Mr. Nix, whose firm had started working for the Trump campaign in July 2016 after previously working for the Cruz campaign, according to the person. In the email, Ms. Mercer asked Mr. Nix whether the suggested organization of the emails was something Cambridge Analytica or the Government Accountability Institute—a conservative nonprofit that focuses on investigative research—could do, the person said. Ms. Mercer has sat on the board of the institute, which has received funding from her family.

Clearly, Mercer was thinking a lot about how to optimize the emails Russia had stolen.

Steve Bannon would know, at a minimum, about how he and Schweizer anticipated the need to project Russian corruption onto Hillary and her campaign manager way back in March 2016. But he also might know whether, in the wake of the GAI report, Stone or someone else got a preview of coming attractions, other emails they might later use to return to the Joule attack.

Judicial Watch’s Eighteen Month Soros Conspiracy Theory

Over the weekend, Judicial Watch’s head of investigations Chris Farrell went on Lou Dobbs and referred to the group of migrants Trump has dubbed a “caravan” as a,

highly organized, very sophisticated organization — I have that from the highest levels of the Guatemalan government — they’re investigating those groups criminally, and I strongly urge President Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do the same here, a lot of these folks also have affiliates who are getting money from the Soros-occupied State Department, and that is a very grave concern.

When people noted that Farrell had been spewing the same kind of Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy that Robert Bowers had embraced before shooting up the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and that such conspiracy theorizing had led Cesar Sayoc to send a bomb to Soros, Fox took down the segment (but not before showing it twice) and claimed it would no longer welcome Farrell.

Today, Radio Televisión Martí also pulled a Judicial Watch sourced segment attacking Soros in Cuba that Mother Jones pointed to in the wake of last week’s assassination attempt.

Radio Televisión Martí, a network overseen by the U.S. government that broadcasts to Cuba, pulled a video segment it produced months ago that relied on material from the conservative group Judicial Watch and referred to Democratic donor George Soros as a “multimillionaire Jew,” Mother Jones reported last week.

“George Soros has his eye on Latin America. But Judicial Watch, an American investigative legal group, also has its eye on Soros and what it sees as his lethal influence to destroy democracies,” the narrator of the segment says in the video, according to an English translation published by Mother Jones. “It describes him as a millionaire investor and stock market speculator who exploits capitalism and Wall Street to finance anti-system movements that fill his pockets.”

The video also refers to Soros as “the multimillionaire Jew of Hungarian origin whose fortune is estimated at $8 billion” and “a non-believing Jew of flexible morals,” according to Mother Jones.

While the assassination attempt has generated focus on Judicial Watch’s actions, what has not been explained, is how Judicial Watch came to include Soros on its beat, which otherwise for the last several years has remained focused on the themes of the 2016 election (and for basically the history of the organization has been focused unrelentingly on Hillary Clinton). They’re still looking for Hillary emails, and other than a break to push the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, currently spend most of their time trying to discredit the Mueller investigation. They’re even still trying to use Tony Podesta’s involvement in Paul Manafort’s corruption to suggest John Podesta had a role in such things.

The organization is awful, but they’re not primarily awful in an unreconstructed racist sense.

There are some thematic sympathies, to be sure. JW has supported Trump’s Muslim ban. They’ve done some lawsuits on where refugees were resettled under the Obama Administration. JW sued for information on unaccompanied minors in custody under the Obama Administration, claiming they had ties to gangs and other crimes. Even before Farrell’s “caravan” comments, he and JW President Tom Fitton were calling to militarize the border.

Just as notably, the premise behind Farrell’s coverage of this issue and presence on Lou Dobbs’ show over the weekend (though he has been a very regular guest on Dobbs’ show) — that he recently took a fact-finding trip to investigate the “caravan” — is also a departure from Judicial Watch’s normal investigative approach, which involves endless FOIAs rather than reporting trips.

JW is pitching its coverage of the “caravan” as part of its “corruption chronicles” which are normally focused on the US government, perhaps based on its claim that there is financial support for migrants in Central America.

Here’s one of the reports from his trip — which seems more like an effort to air right wing governments’ propaganda about migrants than any evidence of corruption.

The migrant caravan marching northbound through Central America is an “elaborately planned” movement that’s benefiting human smugglers and bringing disturbing numbers of violent gang members and other criminal elements through Guatemala, according to government sources in the capital city. “MS-13 gang members have been detained and coyotes (human smugglers) are joining the march with clients who pay to get smuggled into the United States,” a Guatemalan official told Judicial Watch. People from Asian countries waiting to get smuggled into the U.S. through Central America are also integrating with poor Hondurans in the caravan, a high-level Guatemalan government source confirmed. Among them are nationals of Bangladesh, a south Asian Islamic country that’s well known as a recruiting ground for terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). “There are lots of dirty businesses associated with this,” Guatemalan authorities told Judicial Watch. “There’s lots of human trafficking.”

Sandwiched between Honduras and Mexico, Guatemala has been overrun with the onslaught of migrants that began their journey last week in the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. At last count around 7,000 have participated in the trek, a great deal of them rowdy, angry men ages 17 to 40. President Jimmy Morales has ordered the military and police to detain all of the migrants and facilitate their safe return back to Honduras, though thousands have already reached the Mexican border. In a morning interview with Judicial Watch at the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense, Secretary of Defense General Luis Miguel Ralda Moreno said more than 2,000 Hondurans have been sent back home on buses. “We’re doing everything possible to stop the caravan while still respecting human rights,” General Moreno said.

During an afternoon interview at the National Palace, President Morales said that Guatemala has absorbed the huge cost of mobilizing police and military to return thousands of people to Honduras. He would like the United States to help him find the organizers of the caravan so they can face legal consequences. “Mass immigration like this endangers lives,” Morales said. “This is unprecedented. We are in the process of investigating who is behind the caravan.” Morales assures that Guatemala is doing everything possible to curb illegal immigration and asked for cooperation from the United States.

But as it turns out, and as the Radio Televisión Martí piece makes clear,  JW’s attacks on Soros go back further, at least 18 months.

The effort publicly started in February 2017, as tensions between the right wing government and the opposition in Macedonia started heating up. At that point, JW accused Soros of engaging in a “clandestine” effort to overthrow the government, one based on a Viktor Orbán accusation (remember that Orbán is about to shut down Soros’ Central European University, an effort launched around the same time as this JW effort).

Here’s how the clandestine operation functions, according to high-level sources in Macedonia and the U.S. that have provided Judicial Watch with records as part of an ongoing investigation. The Open Society Foundation has established and funded dozens of leftwing, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Macedonia to overthrow the conservative government. One Macedonian government official interviewed by Judicial Watch in Washington D.C. recently, calls it the “Soros infantry.” The groups organize youth movements, create influential media outlets and organize violent protests to undermine the institutions and policies implemented by the government. One of the Soros’ groups funded the translation and publication of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” into Macedonian. The book is a tactical manual of subversion, provides direct advice for radical street protests and proclaims Lucifer to be the first radical. Thanks to Obama’s ambassador, who has not been replaced by President Trump, Uncle Sam keeps the money flowing so the groups can continue operating and recruiting, sources in Macedonia and the U.S. confirm.

With a population of about 2 million, Macedonia has one of the more conservative governments in Europe. This includes the lowest flat tax in Europe, close ties with Israel and pro-life policies. The country recently built a border fence to crackdown on an illegal immigration crisis that overwhelmed law enforcement agencies. Between 10,000 and 12,000 illegal aliens were crossing the Greek-Macedonian border daily at the peak of the European migration crisis, a Macedonian official told Judicial Watch, and the impact was devastating. This is likely of big interest to Soros, a renowned open borders advocate who pushes international governance, diminished U.S. global power and an increase in Muslim immigration. Soros spent tens of millions of dollars to support Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Just this month Hungary’s prime minister lashed out against Soros for funding groups to secretly influence the country’s politics. “Large-bodied predators are swimming here in the waters,” said Viktor Orban in his annual state of the nation speech. “This is the trans-border empire of George Soros, with tons of money and international heavy artillery.”

JW started suing for State documents on Soros’ involvement in Macedonia in April 2017. In May of that year, Mike Lee and five other GOP Senators started probing why State fosters democracy. This year, JW has sued for information on State-funded Soros programs in Romania, Colombia and Albania. The Radio Televisión Martí piece makes it clear they’re focusing on Cuba, too.

Perhaps most interesting, however, is a May 21 piece Farrell did on Lou Dobbs, (this came in the wake of the Concord Management filing complaining about the same, but I’m still working on pulling up the full episode to see if that’s what it was a reference to) in which he claimed that President Obama pursued a policy of regime change overseas, at times funded by Soros, which Dobbs suggested may have prompted Putin’s own tampering.

That is, not only are JW and Dobbs complaining that Soros is undermining right wing governments, but at least once, they made the argument that Soros’ open society work justified Putin’s own tampering in 2016.

Update: This InfoWars piece pointing to JW’s Albanian documents to sustain a claim that JW has proven the caravan is funded by Soros relies on both JW’s FOIAed documents and documents leaked by dcleaks in 2016. While I’m definitely not suggesting a link, by using both JW FOIAed documents and GRU stolen ones, InfoWars ties Putin’s 2016 effort to JW’s current ones.

Update: This post says the conspiracy theory linking Soros to the caravan dates to March.

The claims of a direct link between intentional SºRºS funding and the Latin/Central America ⊂⟑r⟑v⟑n appeared on March 30th. Of course, this was a different caravan. But it is the origin of the larger theme and keywords. It was amplified in April and May by TheBl⟑ze, WND, along with the usual actors, rage blogs, and sketchy K.⟑.G. cyborg accounts. And by MSN headlines, fact checks, and aggressive left-wing “retort” sites.

Let’s begin from the start. To be clear, I don’t mean all the SºRºS-funding rumors, but specifically the damaging Latin America-related ⊂⟑r⟑v⟑n-funding, midterm election impacting one.

Update: The employees behind the Radio Televisión Martí ads have been suspended and may get fired.

The federal government’s state-funded broadcasting arm is placing a number of employees on administrative leave and opening an investigation into how it ended up airing a story this year attacking liberal financier George Soros as a malignant “multimillionaire Jew.”

The story aired in May on Radio Televisión Martí, a Spanish-language broadcaster housed in the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in Miami. OCB is a division of the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency that oversees government-funded news organizations around the world.

[snip]

“Those deemed responsible for this production will be immediately placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into their apparent misconduct,” Lansing added. “Disciplinary action appropriate under federal law may then be proposed, including the potential removal of those responsible, depending on the outcome of that investigation.”

 

Mueller Had Learned by February 22 that Roger Stone Was Pushing an Assange Pardon in January

Mother Jones has a story describing Roger Stone claiming to Randy Credico in January that President Trump was about to pardon Julian Assange.

In early January, Roger Stone, the longtime Republican operative and adviser to Donald Trump, sent a text message to an associate stating that he was actively seeking a presidential pardon for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange—and felt optimistic about his chances. “I am working with others to get JA a blanket pardon,” Stone wrote, in a January 6 exchange of text messages obtained by Mother Jones. “It’s very real and very possible. Don’t fuck it up.” Thirty-five minutes later Stone added: “Something very big about to go down.”

As the story notes, this is the third known effort by Assange supporters (the other two being an early 2017 effort by lobbyist Adam Waldman and an August 2017 effort by Dana Rohrabacher) to get him a pardon, and would have come in the immediate wake of a Christmas Eve 2017 plan to sneak him out of the Ecuadorian Embassy to get him to Ecuador or Russia.

As interesting as I find the story that Stone was working for an Assange pardon is how quickly Mueller found out about it. Sam Nunberg says he was asked if he knew anything about it.

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide who once worked closely with Stone, told Mother Jones that prosecutors asked him during a February interview if Stone “ever discussed pardons and Assange.” Nunberg said he had not heard Stone discuss such an effort, and prosecutors did not raise the subject during his subsequent testimony before a grand jury.

His interview was on February 22.

That would say that Mueller’s team had learned about the effort less than two months later (and before the March 9 warrant for multiple cell phones I’ve long speculated might have included one of Stone’s).

Obviously, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies have to be tracking all of Assange’s accessible communications closely. So Mueller’s knowledge of the pardon effort may have come from Assange himself. If it came from Stone’s side, though, it would suggest he learned about it pretty quickly.

In any case, in the interim, Mueller would presumably have obtained a lot more information on this effort, including whatever durable communications Stone had with people close to Trump on the effort. Which means a question about pre-emptively pardoning Assange likely got added to the Mueller questions to Trump about his efforts to pre-emptively pardon Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort.

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

Who Is Paying Kevin Downing’s Bills to Serve as Trump’s Mole?

I want to return to the report from Monday describing Rudy Giuliani claiming that Kevin Downing continues to keep him abreast of what Paul Manafort has told prosecutors, and that Manafort has not yet said anything incriminating about Trump.

Rudy Giuliani, who represents Trump in the Russia probe, told Reuters that he had spoken with Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, as recently as last week. Manafort pleaded guilty on Sept. 14 to violating foreign lobbying laws and trying to obstruct justice. He was convicted at trial in another case in August.

Giuliani said the conversations were occurring under a so-called joint defense agreement, which allows lawyers who represent different clients to exchange information without violating attorney-client privilege.

[snip]

Manafort is talking to Special Counsel Robert Mueller “about a lot of things, none of which are incriminating with regard to the president,” Giuliani said in one of several conversations with Reuters this month.

Giuliani said he was told by Downing that Manafort had met with Mueller’s team roughly a half dozen times.

[snip]

Giuliani said Downing had not shared specific facts with him regarding Manafort’s discussions with prosecutors.

“He’s just telling me the conclusion that he’s not in a conflicted position with us,” said Giuliani, who has been very public in his defense of Trump, appearing regularly on TV disputing aspects of the investigation and calling it a political witch hunt just as the president has.

The report is sourced entirely to Rudy. (Given that it shows up in a story relying on Rudy as a source, the claim that Mueller is working on a report probably comes from Rudy too). Downing declined to comment.

It also differs in one key respect from a CNN report from last Wednesday, which describes Manafort and his lawyers meeting with Mueller’s team at least nine times, three more than Rudy claims to know about.

At least nine times since he pleaded guilty on September 14, a black Ford SUV has brought Manafort to Mueller’s office in southwest DC around 10 am. Manafort’s lawyers arrive around the same time, waiting in the lobby for the car to arrive. There they remain inside the offices, typically for six hours.

It’s not entirely clear yet what Manafort has shared with prosecutors, and if his interviews check facts that haven’t yet come to light outside of the prosecutors’ own notes. Among the questions, investigators have asked Manafort about his dealings with Russians, according to one source familiar with the matter.

Mind you, these two reports aren’t necessarily incompatible. It could be that Rudy spoke with Downing on October 14 (so, the beginning of last week), and Manafort paid three more visits to Mueller’s team on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of last week. Or it could be that, as on all other matters, Rudy’s command of actual details is not great.

Still, both reports make it clear Manafort has spent a lot of quality time with Mueller’s team of late, and Rudy claims to know that none of that quality time has incriminated the president.

Before we consider why that might be, consider that Manafort’s plea was built to allow this. Manafort’s plea lacks this clause that appears in Rick Gates’ cooperation agreement, forbidding Gates to share any information learned while cooperating with others.

Mueller surely could have included that clause in Manafort’s plea, but did not.

And while both plea deals include a paragraph waiving the right to have counsel present for cooperation sessions, that waiver can be rescinded on written notice to Mueller’s office.

SCO’s spokesperson Peter Carr declined to provide any information on the circumstances surrounding Manafort’s cooperation.

One way or another, though, Manafort’s plea does permit his lawyers to sit in on meetings, and without that gag, they can pass on what they learn to Trump’s lawyers so long as the ethical obligations surrounding a Joint Defense Agreement permit it.

I can even think of a good reason Mueller might not mind that Trump is getting updates about Manafort’s testimony. It’s a good way to stave off whatever rash action Trump will take if and when Mueller starts to focus more explicitly on him. That’s particularly important as Mueller’s team waits for Trump to turn in his open book test and provide whatever kind of follow-up Special Counsel might require. Trump thinks he has full visibility into the risk Mueller poses to him, and so will be less likely to panic about it.

Perhaps (as indicated by the CNN report) Mueller is using this period to glean all that Manafort knows about the Russian side of the conspiracy. Once Manafort has shared stuff that exposes him to the risk of retaliation from a bunch of Russian oligarchs, then Mueller can start walking him through what he knows about a different kind of vindictive oligarch.

Thus far, then, I can at least come to grips with the report of a continued JDA, even if it violates everything people think they know about JDAs.

What I don’t understand, however, is who is paying for Kevin Downing’s legal bills?

Using CNN’s report (based off their really valuable stake-out), Manafort has lawyers, plural, at these sessions and they had already had — through last Wednesday — around 54 hours of meetings with Mueller’s team. Assuming just two attorneys present and a very conservative $500 hourly fee, Manafort’s attorneys would have billed $54,000 just for in-person time; the real amount might be twice that.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson has already approved the order permitting DOJ to move towards seizing some $46 million in money and property tied to Manafort’s ill-gotten gains (they had to wait until October 20 to start moving on Manafort’s Trump Tower apartment), so the process of stripping these assets before any Trump pardon could forestall that process is already in the works. One explanation for Manafort accepting a plea deal was to save the cost of a trial, but his lawyers have already spent over a week’s worth of time sitting in on his cooperation sessions. Paul Manafort has been going slowly but spectacularly bankrupt since March 2016 (though he remarkably still employs a spokesperson), and forfeiture only speeds that process.

So who just paid upwards of $50K to make sure Rudy G would continue to get reassuring reports that Manafort has yet to flip on the President?

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

The Universe of Hacked and Leaked Emails from 2016: Podesta Emails

When Mueller’s team released George Papadopoulos’ plea deal last year, I noted that the initial denials that Papadopoulos had advance warning of the emails the Russians were preparing to hack and leak did not account for the entire universe of emails known to have been stolen. A year and several Mueller indictments later, we still don’t have a complete understanding of what emails were being dealt when. Because that lack of understanding hinders understanding what Mueller might be doing with Roger Stone, I wanted to lay out what we know about four sets of emails. This series will include posts on the following:

  • DNC emails
  • Podesta emails
  • DCCC emails
  • Emails Hillary deleted from her server

The series won’t, however, account for two more sets of emails, anything APT 29 stole when hacking the White House and State Department starting in 2015, or anything released via the several FOIAs of the Hillary emails turned over to the State Department from her home server. It also won’t deal with the following:

  • Emails from two Hillary staffers who had their emails released via dcleaks
  • The emails of other people released by dcleaks, which includes Colin Powell, some local Republican parties (including some 2015 emails Peter Smith sent to the IL Republican party), and others with interests in Ukraine
  • A copy of the Democrats’ analytics program copied on AWS
  • The NGP/VAN file, which was not directly released by Guccifer 2.0, but is central to one of the skeptics’ theories about an alternative source other than Russia

Meuller remains coy about how the Podesta emails were released by WikiLeaks

My post on the DNC emails noted some timing curiosities about when and how the DNC emails got shared with WikiLeaks.

The curiosities about the Podesta emails, however, are far more important for questions about Roger Stone’s knowledge of the process.

As a number of people have observed, while Mueller’s GRU indictment provides extensive details describing how Podesta was hacked and showing that the infrastructure to hack him was used for other parts of the operation, the indictment is far more coy about how the Podesta emails got to WikiLeaks.

In or around 2016, LUKASHEV sent spearphishing emails to members of the Clinton Campaign and affiliated individuals, including the chairman of the Clinton Campaign.

[snip]

For example, on or about March 19, 2016, LUKASHEV and his co-conspirators created and sent a spearphishing email to the chairman of the Clinton Campaign. LUKASHEV used the account “john356gh” at an online service that abbreviated lengthy website addresses (referred to as a “URL-shortening service”). LUKASHEV used the account to mask a link contained in the spearphishing email, which directed the recipient to a GRU-created website. LUKASHEV altered the appearance of the sender email address in order to make it look like the email was a security notification from Google (a technique known as “spoofing”), instructing the user to change his password by clicking the embedded link. Those instructions were followed. On or about March 21, 2016, LUKASHEV, YERMAKOV, and their co-conspirators stole the contents of the chairman’s email account, which consisted of over 50,000 emails.

[snip]

The funds used to pay for the dcleaks.com domain originated from an account at an online cryptocurrency service that the Conspirators also used to fund the lease of a virtual private server registered with the operational email account [email protected] The dirbinsaabol email account was also used to register the john356gh URL-shortening account used by LUKASHEV to spearphish the Clinton Campaign chairman and other campaign-related individuals.

[snip]

On or about October 7, 2016, Organization 1 released the first set of emails from the chairman of the Clinton Campaign that had been stolen by LUKASHEV and his co-conspirators. Between on or about October 7, 2016 and November 7, 2016, Organization 1 released approximately thirty-three tranches of documents that had been stolen from the chairman of the Clinton Campaign. In total, over 50,000 stolen documents were released.

Mueller’s silence, thus far, about how the Podesta emails got shared with WikiLeaks is intriguing for several reasons, even aside from the fact that (as noted in the last post) the first documents Guccifer 2.0 shared were billed as DNC emails but (as far as have been identified) are actually Podesta ones. Perhaps Mueller doesn’t know how those emails were passed on. Perhaps the sources and methods by which the FBI learned about how they were shared are too sensitive to put in an indictment. Perhaps Mueller has reserved that story for a later indictment.

The August to September timing on receipt of the emails

The publicly known timing is no more clear.

The Roger Stone tweet on which suspicions of advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ releases rest — warning “Trust me, it will soon [sic] the Podesta’s time in the barrel” — is dated August 21, 2016.

That date is significant, because it’s not at all clear WikiLeaks had the Podesta emails by that point (and if so, may have just obtained them).

Raffi Khatchadourian cites a WikiLeaks staffer saying they received the emails in “late summer” but also points to an August 24 Fox News interview where Assange described processing “a variety of documents, from different types of institutions that are associated with the election campaign,” which doesn’t necessarily narrow down those emails to Podesta’s.

A pattern that was set in June appeared to recur: just before DCLeaks became active with election publications, WikiLeaks began to prepare another tranche of e-mails, this time culled from John Podesta’s Gmail account. “We are working around the clock,” Assange told Fox News in late August. “We have received quite a lot of material.” It is unclear how long Assange had been in possession of the e-mails, but a staffer assigned to the project suggested that he had received them in the late summer: “As soon as we got them, we started working on them, and then we started publishing them. From when we received them to when we published them, it was a real crunch. My only wish is that we had the equivalent from the Republicans.”

As we’ll see later in this series, there was more certainty that by August 24 WikiLeaks had other hacked emails than that they had Podesta’s.

Khatchadourian also notes that the raw files are all dated September 19 and describes Assange “weaponizing” the release of the data a week or two before the files were released starting on October 7.

All of the raw e-mail files that WikiLeaks published from Podesta’s account are dated September 19th, which appears to indicate the day that they were copied or modified for some purpose. Assange told me that in mid-September, a week or two before he began publishing the e-mails, he devised a way to weaponize the information. If his releases followed a predictable pattern, he reasoned, Clinton’s campaign would be able to prepare. So he worked out an algorithm, which he called the Stochastic Terminator, to help staff members select e-mails for each day’s release. He told me that the algorithm was built on a random-number generator, modified by mathematical weights that reflected the pattern of the news cycle in a typical week. By introducing randomness into the process, he hoped to make it impossible for the Clinton war room “to adjust to the problem, to spin, to create antidote news beforehand.”

That timing lines up in interesting ways with the date when retired British diplomat Craig Murray claims he got a handoff of something (he’s never explained precisely what it was, though it sounded like it could be an encryption key) relating to the Podesta emails when he was in DC to attend the Sam Adams Award ceremony on September 25.

All of which suggests significant events relating to the transfer to WikiLeaks and preparation of the Podesta emails happened after the Stone tweet.

Still later, according to a recent WSJ report, Peter Smith indicated that he knew Podesta emails were coming ahead of time (the reporting is not clear whether this was before or after the fact).

The person familiar with Mr. Smith recalled him repeatedly implying that he knew ahead of time about leaks of Mr. Podesta’s emails.

That claim is all the more interesting when you tie it to the email shared with Smith via foldering on October 11, seemingly reflecting happiness about emails already released, which would seem to point to the Podesta emails that started to drop four days earlier.

“[A]n email in the ‘Robert Tyler’ [foldering] account [showing] Mr. Smith obtained $100,000 from at least four financiers as well as a $50,000 contribution from Mr. Smith himself.” The email was dated October 11, 2016 and has the subject line, “Wire Instructions—Clinton Email Reconnaissance Initiative.” It came from someone calling himself “ROB,” describing the funding as supporting “the Washington Scholarship Fund for the Russian students.” The email also notes, “The students are very pleased with the email releases they have seen, and are thrilled with their educational advancement opportunities.”

The email apparently linking the contemporaneous release of the Podesta emails to a future hoped for release of deleted Hillary ones is significant for several reasons. First, it shows that other geriatric rat-fuckers, in addition to Stone, linked the two. The reflection of pleasure with emails on October 11 is significant given that that was the day WikiLeaks released two Podesta emails Smith associate Jerome Corsi and Stone would use to advance an attack on Podesta pertaining to his ties with Joule Unlimited, an attack that the right wing had been pushing since August (and working on since March). The WSJ notes that both Corsi and Charles Ortel (to the latter of whom Stone now ties some of his WikiLeaks claims) were tied to both Smith and Stone, though Stone claims to have been unaware of the Smith effort.

Stone’s three different explanations for his tweet and the import of Joule emails

In this post, I looked in detail at how epically shitty Stone’s current excuse for his August 21 Podesta tweet is. Over time, Stone has basically offered at least three excuses for it.

First he adopted an explanation offered in March 2017 by Jerome Corsi. In that explanation, Corsi basically conflated two efforts: an attack on John Podesta based on his service on the board of Joule Unlimited from 2010 to 2014, and an effort to respond to mid-August reports on Paul Manafort’s corrupt ties to Russia by focusing instead on Tony Podesta.

The Joule attack research was started (per web access dates recorded in this report) two days before Podesta was spearphished, on March 17, and first rolled out publicly in a Steve Bannon-affiliated Government Accountability Insitute report on August 1.  Corsi and Stone resuscitated the attack starting on October 6 (the day before the Podesta emails started coming out), seemingly correctly anticipating the WikiLeaks email releases that Stone and Corsi would use to advance the attack.

The Corsi explanation that Stone once adopted conflated that attack with a report that Corsi did for Stone (starting at PDF 39), which largely projected onto Tony Podesta the corrupt ties to Ukraine and Russia that Paul Manafort had; the report only tangentially focused on John. The date on the Corsi report is August 31, ten days after Stone’s tweet, but Corsi claims he and Stone started it on August 14.

Stone offered a slightly different explanation when he testified under oath to the House Intelligence Committee. There, he generalized the attack on “the Podesta brothers” and attributed his tweet to “early August” discussions about the August 31 Corsi report. In his prepared statement, he made no mention of Joule.

In the wake of Corsi’s interview on September 6 and grand jury appearance on September 21 (in conjunction with which he reportedly shared a bunch of documents that would substantiate when he and Stone were talking about Joule and when about Tony Podesta), Stone changed his tune again, now only admitting publicly for the first time that Charles Ortel forwarded him an email showing James Rosen promising “a massive dump of HRC emails relating to the CF in September,” but also attributing any August 14 interest to something besides Corsi, a Breitbart post that may be this one.

Stone, however, says that the tweet was based on “an August 14th article in Breitbart News by Peter Schweitzer that reported that Tony Podesta was working for the same Ukrainian Political Party that Paul Manafort was being excoriated for,” and that “the Podesta brothers extensive business dealings with the Oligarchs around Putin pertaining to gas, banking and uranium had been detailed in the Panama Papers in April of 2016.”

Stone’s explanations seem to attempt to do three things:

  • Provide non-incriminating explanations for any foreknowledge of WikiLeaks — first pointing to Randy Credico and now to James Rosen
  • Offer explanations for discussions about Podesta that he may presume Mueller has that took place around August 14
  • Shift the focus away from Joule and the remarkable prescience with which the right wing anticipated that WikiLeaks would be able to advance an attack first rolled out on August 1

With that in mind, I find the timeline of Stone’s tweets mentioning either Podesta instructive. It shows Stone never mentioned either brother until August 15 — the day after the first of the stories on Manafort’s Ukraine corruption and after that August 14 date he seems so worried about. That tweet, “@JohnPodesta makes @PaulManafort look like St. Thomas Aquinas Where is the @NewYorkTimes?” may prove as interesting as the August 21 one.

Stone mentioned John Podesta again in that August 21 tweet.

Then he remained silent on Twitter about Clinton’s campaign chairman until the day after the Podesta emails started coming out, whereupon Stone started claiming that Podesta had been money laundering for Russia.

Stone’s first tweet as the Podesta emails dropped pointed back to an earlier Corsi post reporting that the Podesta Group was also under investigation. That same day, he pointed to the Corsi post that seemed to anticipate the Joule attack would be returning. Yet, in an interview done after the release on October 11 of the Podesta emails that both he and Corsi would later rely on to extend the Joule attack, Stone made no mention of those emails or the Joule attack. By the next day, however, Stone was relying on (but not linking) those emails.

In other words, at least as measured by his Twitter feed, Stone was uninterested in the Joule attack when it came out in August. He didn’t mention it at all in his two Podesta tweets that month (nor does he in his currently operative explanation). But he did become interested in the story in advance of the release of emails by WikiLeaks pertaining to the attack.

This is probably a good time to recall that many of the Stone associates Mueller has interviewed did research for Stone, and others had access to his social media accounts. Note that even this selection of his tweets show the use of multiple clients — Twitter Web Client, Tweetdeck, and Twitter for iPhone — that may reflect different people posting from his account.

Stone’s claims about WikiLeaks — and his outreach to Guccifer 2.0 — took place as Manafort started to panic about his own Russian ties

Given some of Stone’s explanations (and his apparent concern with offering some explanation for discussions about Podesta on August 14), I also find it notable the way this timeline overlaps with Manafort’s increasingly desperate efforts to stave off bankruptcy even while working for Trump for “free.” Part of those efforts, of course, involved criminal efforts to hide his ties to Russia in the wake of reporting on those ties in mid-August.

It’s unclear when Manafort knew for sure his ties with Russia would blow up. In the wake of the first WikiLeaks dump on July 27, he got asked about his and Trump’s ties to Russia, a question he struggled with before responding by pointing to Hillary’s deleted emails. In spite of the risk of his own Russian ties, Manafort met on August 2 with Konstantin Kilimnik, talking (among other things) about unpaid bills and the presidential election. Sometime in early August, in advance of the first NYT story substantiating his Russian ties, he was reportedly blackmailed over the secret ledgers of his work with Ukrainian oligarchs.

Remarkably, just as attention to Trump and Manafort’s ties to Russia started becoming an issue, Republicans had that GAI report insinuating a tie between Hillary and Russia all ready to go on August 1. That insinuation went through John Podesta and his ties to Joule. Before laying out that relationship, however, the GAI report suggested there must be more dirt on the topic in the emails Hillary deleted.

More recently, in January, 2015, Podesta became the campaign chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the 2016 presidential bid.85

During Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, he was in regular contact with her and played an important role in shaping U.S. policy. For one thing, he sat on the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board, appointed by Hillary. (The board was established in December 2011.)86

The full extent of Podesta’s email communication cannot ultimately be known because Hillary Clinton deleted approximately half of her emails after she left the State Department.

So along with everything else the report did, it built expectations that Hillary’s deleted emails would reveal secret dirt about Russia she was suppressing to win the campaign.

By the time the report came out, we know that Stone was already interested in what WikiLeaks might have, as Charles Ortel BCCed him on an email suggesting that WikiLeaks had Clinton Foundation emails to dump in September in late July.

Then, precisely as the Russian attack on Podesta was rolling out, Stone flip-flopped on his claimed belief about who hacked Hillary Clinton. Between August 1 and August 5, on the same days he was claiming to have dined with Julian Assange when he was instead in Southern California meeting his dark money associates, he started claiming that Guccifer 2.0 was just a hacktivist, not Russians. That stated belief has always been central to his claims not to have conspired with Russia.

In significant part because he flip-flopped publicly, he and Guccifer 2.0 started communicating, first about Stone’s claim that Guccifer 2.0 had nothing to do with Russia, then about Guccifer 2.0 being shut down on Twitter:

August 12: Guccifer 2.0:   thanks that u believe in the real

August 13: Stone: @WL @G2 Outrageous! Clintonistas now nned to censor their critics to rig the upcoming election.

Stone: @DailyCaller Censorship ! Gruciffer2 is a HERO.

August 14: Guccifer 2.0 Here I am! They’ll have to try much harder to block me!

Stone: First #Milo, now Guccifer 2.0 – why are those exposing the truth banned? @RealAlexJones @infowars #FreeMilo

Stone: @poppalinos @RealAlexJones @infowars @GUCCIFER_2 Thank You, SweetJesus. I’ve prayed for it.

That’s when Stone moved their conversations to DM.

That conversation, including Guccifer 2.0’s question whether Stone found “anything interesting in the docs I posted?” (which, in public context at least, would refer to some DCCC documents Guccifer had posted on WordPress on August 12) took place even as Stone was continuing to speak about knowing what was in the next WikiLeaks dump and as he responded badly to his childhood friend becoming the target of NYT’s attention on August 14.

As noted, Stone seems to be struggling to answer why he was discussing John Podesta on August 14.

To be sure, Stone was talking to Corsi on August 14 or 15. On August 15, Corsi published an interview with Stone, in which he claimed to have been badly hacked and described what he expected would come next from WikiLeaks.

But nothing in the interview mentions Podesta.

Stone’s descriptions of what WikiLeaks might dump next in that interview could reflect the BCCed James Rosen email reporting that WikiLeaks would dump Clinton Foundation documents in September, but the information he laid out went far beyond that email (and promised an October surprise, not a September dump).

“In the next series of emails Assange plans to release, I have reason to believe the Clinton Foundation scandals will surface to keep Bill and Hillary from returning to the White House,” he said.

[snip]

In a speech Southwest Broward Republican Organization in Florida, published Aug. 9 by David Brock’s left-wing website Media Matters, Stone said he had “communicated with Assange.”

“I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation, but there is no telling what the October surprise may be,” he said.

Stone told WND that Assange “plans to drop at various strategic points in the presidential campaigns Hillary Clinton emails involving the Clinton Foundation that have yet to surface publically.”

“Assange claims the emails contain enough damaging information to put Hillary Clinton in jail for selling State Department ‘official acts’ in exchange for contributions to the Clinton Foundation and as a reward for Clinton Foundation donors becoming clients of Teneo, the consulting firm established by Bill Clinton’s White House ‘body man’ Doug Band,” he said.

That same day, August 15, is the first time Stone ever mentioned Podesta on Twitter.

Stone claims (and claimed, in sworn testimony) that his focus on John Podesta was a response to the allegations against Manafort. That makes the confluence of all these events all the more interesting.

Corsi’s lawyer claims he avoided criminal liability

As noted above, Jerome Corsi has explained what he knows of all this in a September 21 grand jury appearance, a grand jury appearance that Mueller seems to have been working towards since having Ted Malloch questioned way back in March.

In advance of that testimony, Corsi’s attorney David Grey seemed to suggest that Corsi declined to participate in certain activities involving Stone that might have exposed him to criminal liability.

Gray said he was confident that Corsi has done nothing wrong. “Jerry Corsi made decisions that he would not take actions that would give him criminal liability,” he added, declining to elaborate.

Asked if Corsi had opportunities to take such actions, Gray said, “I wouldn’t say he was offered those opportunities. I would say he had communications with Roger Stone. We’ll supply those communications and be cooperative. My client didn’t act further that would give rise to any criminal liability.”

But Mueller is apparently now chasing down Corsi’s associates.

FBI agents have recently been seeking to interview Corsi’s associates, according to the person.

One other key player in the Podesta hand-off conflated the Podesta brothers

The close ties between how Stone focused on both Podesta brothers in response to the public allegations against Manafort is interesting for another reason.

Former Ambassador Craig Murray, the only one not denying some role in the handoff of the Podesta emails (again, he has said he didn’t get the emails themselves, which he believed were already with WikiLeaks, but something associated with them).

Murray told Scott Horton that his source had obtained whatever he received from a figure in American national security with legal access to the information.

[H]e says “The material was already, I think, safely with WikiLeaks before I got there in September,” though other outlets have suggested (with maps included!) that’s when the hand-off happened. In that account, Murray admits he did not meet with the person with legal access; he instead met with an intermediary.

But the explanation of his source’s legal access and motivation not only doesn’t make sense, but seems to parrot what Stone was saying at the time.

I also want you to consider that John Podesta was a paid lobbyist for the Saudi government — that’s open and declared, it’s not secret or a leak in a sense. John Podesta was paid a very substantial sum every month by the Saudi government to lobby for their interests in Washington. And if the American security services were not watching the communications of the Saudi government paid lobbyist then the American intelligence services would not be doing their job. Of course it’s also true that the Saudis’ man, the Saudis’ lobbyist in Washington, his communications are going to be of interest to a great many other intelligence services as well.

As Stone did, this conflates John and Tony. It wrongly suggests that US national security officials would be collecting all of Tony Podesta’s emails, or that collecting on Tony would obtain all of John’s emails. All the more interesting, this conflation would have come in a period when Manafort’s lifelong buddy, Stone, was trying to distract attention from Manafort’s own corruption — which included telling Tony not to disclose the influence-peddling he had done for Manafort in the legally required manner — by projecting Manafort’s corruption onto Tony.

One more point about Murray. Murray has ties (including through the Sam Adams Association the awards ceremony for which he was in DC attending) to NSA whistleblowers Bill Binney (Murray received the award in 2005 and Binney received it in 2015) and Kirk Wiebe. This claim that US law enforcement would collect everything (including Hillary’s deleted emails) is the kind of line that Binney was pushing at the time, including to Andrew Napolitano, who was CCed on the email Stone received about WikiLeaks’ plans in July. Napolitano is one of the people who has championed that Binney line about the hack.

In other words, it’s not just that Murray was telling a similar story as Stone, even though they’re politically very different people. It’s that he was not that distant from the network of Republicans talking about what WikiLeaks might have had.

Update: Emma Best just wrote up something she’s been tracking for some time: there are four different numbers on how many Podesta mails there are.

WikiLeaks’ own data gives us five different totals for the number of Podesta emails:

  1. 50,866
  2. 57,153
  3. 58,660
  4. 59,258
  5. 59,188

The two most authoritative answers to the question come from WikiLeaks and the Special Counsel’s office, and both indicate that the total exceeded 50,000. While WikiLeaks’ stated there were “well over 50,000” emails, the Special Counsel’s indictment simply said that “over 50,000 stolen documents were released.” Since “documents” can be construed to include both the emails and their various attachments, the SC’s total is even more vague and less definitive than WikiLeaks’.

Ultimately, he best answer to the question of how many Podesta emails there are appears to be 59,188.

This raises the possibility that Stone or Corsi saw copies that WikiLeaks didn’t publish. Mueller’s distinction between how many emails were stolen and how many released suggests FBI may know what WikiLeaks chose not to public, if in fact they did.

Timeline

July 18-21: Stone meets Nigel Farage while at RNC

July 25: Stone gets BCCed on an email from Charles Ortel that shows James Rosen reporting “a massive dump of HRC emails relating to the CF in September;” Stone now claims this explains his reference to a journalist go-between

July 27: Paul Manafort struggles while denying ties to Russia, instead pointing to Hillary’s home server

July 31: GAI report on From Russia with Money claiming Viktor Vekselberg’s Skolkovo reflects untoward ties; it hints that a greater John Podesta role would be revealed in her deleted emails and claims he did  not properly disclose role on Joule board when joining Obama Administration

August 1: Steve Bannon and Peter Schweitzer publish a Breitbart version of the GAI report

August 1: Stone NYC > LA

August 2: Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik meet in the Grand Havana Room in Jared’s 666 Park Avenue and “talked about bills unpaid by our clients, about [the] overall situation in Ukraine . . . and about the current news,” including the presidential campaign

August 2, 2016: Stone dines with dark money funder, John Powers Middleton in West Hollywood

August 3 and 4: Manafort obtains the bio of Steve Calk, from whom he was getting a $16 million mortgage in tacit exchange for a role in the Trump administration

August 3: Stone claims to Sam Nunberg to have dined with Assange

August 3-4: Stone takes a red-eye from LAX to Miami

August 4: Stone flip-flops on whether the Russians or a 400 pound hacker are behind the DNC hack and also tells Sam Nunberg he dined with Julian Assange; first tweet in the fall StopTheSteal campaign

August 5: Trump names Calk to his advisory committee

August 5: Stone column in Breitbart claiming Guccifer 2.0 is individual hacker

August 7: Stone starts complaining about a “rigged” election, claims that Nigel Farage had told him Brexit had been similarly rigged

August 8: Stone tells Broward Republicans he has communicated with Assange, expects next tranche to pertain to Clinton Foundation

August 10: Manafort tells his tax preparer that he would get $2.4 million in earned income collectable from work in Ukraine in November

August 10: Stone asserts that Hillary’s deleted emails will be coming out

Early August: Manafort gets blackmail threat pertaining to secret ledgers

August 12: Guccifer 2.0 publicly tweets Stone

August 13: Stone claims to have been hacked

August 14: NYT publishes story on secret ledgers

August 14: Stone DMs Guccifer 2.0

August 14: Corsi claims to have started research on response to NYT story

August 14: Breitbart piece suggesting NYT was ignoring Hillary’s own ties to Russia; this may be Stone’s latest explanation for interest in Podesta on that date

August 15: Manafort and Gates lie to the AP about their undisclosed lobbying, locking in claims they would make under oath later that fall

August 15: In first tweet mentioning John Podesta, Stone claims John Podesta “makes Paul Manafort look like St. Thomas Aquinas”

August 15: Corsi reports Stone’s prediction that WikiLeaks will release deleted Hillary emails (also reports on claimed hack)

August 17: AP publishes story on Manafort’s unreported Ukraine lobbying, describing Podesta Group’s role at length

August 17: Trump adds Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conaway to campaign leadership team (Manafort’s daughter claims he hired them)

August 19: Manafort resigns from campaign

August 21: Stone tweets it will soon be Podesta’s time on the barrel

August 26: Rebekka Mercer asks Alexander Nix whether Cambridge Analytica or GAI could better organize the leaked Hillary emails

September 12: Following further reporting in the Kyiv Post, Konstantin Kilimnik contacts Alex Van der Zwaan in attempt to hide money laundering to Skadden Arps

September 28: Corsi post (later linked on Twitter by Stone) noting that Podesta Group also under investigation

October 6: Corsi repeats the Joule/GAI claims

October 11: Release of Podesta email allegedly backing Joule story (December 31, 2013 resignation letter, January 7, 2014 severance letters)

October 11: Foldering email among Peter Smith operatives that may included coded satisfaction with emails released thus far

October 12: Roger Stone interview with the Daily Caller responding to Podesta’s allegations he knew of release in advance, which makes no mention of Joule attack

October 13: In response to accusations he knew of Podesta emails in advance, Stone repeats Joule story falsely claiming this WikiLeaks email, released October 11, substantiates it; Corsi also posts a story on Joule, like Stone not linking to the underlying WikiLeaks emails

October 17: Corsi post that actually links the WikiLeaks releases relied on in his and Stone’s October 13 posts

October 30: Additional Joule letter (including actual transfer signatures) released

October 31: Additional Joule letter released

November 1: Additional Joule letter released

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

Detour: Roger Stone’s Epically Shitty Explanation for His Podesta Tweet

I need to take another detour from my series on the universe of the known hacked and leaked emails from 2016.

While working on the Podesta email post, my treatment of how epically shitty Stone’s explanation for his August 21, 2016 tweet boasting that “it would soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel” grew so big it has become its own post.

For reasons I laid out in this post, the public record is not all that convincing that Stone did have foreknowledge of the Podesta dump. Both in August, when he started talking about foreknowledge of a Hillary release, and in October, when he promised it on a specific day (that turned out to be wrong), he predicted WikiLeaks would dump Hillary’s deleted emails, not Podesta’s emails.

But Stone’s explanation for the tweet is epically shitty and increasingly makes me think he not only knew that Podesta’s emails would be released, but may have seen some of them in advance.

Effectively, Stone claimed to the House Intelligence Committee that his Podesta comment referred to a report Jerome Corsi did for him between August 14, and 31 ,2016 (which doesn’t identifiably show up in Stone’s political expenditures in this period).

My Tweet of August 21, 2016, in which I said, “Trust me, it will soon be the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary” Must be examined in context. I posted this at a time that my boyhood friend and colleague, Paul Manafort, had just resigned from the Trump campaign over allegations regarding his business activities in Ukraine. I thought it manifestly unfair that John Podesta not be held to the same standard. Note, that my Tweet of August 21, 2016, makes no mention, whatsoever, of Mr. Podesta’s email, but does accurately predict that the Podesta brothers’ business activities in Russia with the oligarchs around Putin, their uranium deal, their bank deal, and their Gazprom deal, would come under public scrutiny. Podesta’s activities were later reported by media outlets as diverse as the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. My extensive knowledge of the Podesta brothers’ business dealings in Russia was based on The Panama Papers, which were released in early 2016, which revealed that the Podesta brothers had extensive business dealings in Russia. The Tweet is also based on a comprehensive, early August opposition research briefing provided to me by investigative journalist, Dr. Jerome Corsi, which I then asked him to memorialize in a memo that he sent me on August 31st , all of which was culled from public records. There was no need to have John Podesta’s email to learn that he and his presidential candidate were in bed with the clique around Putin.

The claim is, particularly knowing what we know about efforts Paul Manafort was making to hide his own corruption by asking Tony Podesta to avoid legally mandated reporting, … interesting. Particularly given the way this timeline overlaps with some other events, notably Manafort’s increasingly desperate efforts to stave off bankruptcy even while working for Trump for “free.” There are also some oddities about how the timing evolved from those August “research” documents and later October publications. I’ll hit both those timing issues in my Podesta email post.

For now, consider what Corsi claimed back in March 2017, the first attempt to explain Stone’s tweet. In his version, Stone’s tweet was about four different reports.

Corsi first said that he started researching the Podestas and Russia in response to reading a July 31, 2016 Government Accountability Institute report, one not mentioned in Stone’s explanation.

On July 31, 2016, the New York Post reported that Peter Schweizer’s Washington-based Government Accountability Institute had published a report entitled, “From Russia with Money: Hillary Clinton, the Russian Reset, and Cronyism.”

That report detailed cash payments from Russia to the Clintons via the Clinton Foundation which included a Putin-connected Russian government fund that transferred $35 million to a small company that included Podesta and several senior Russian officials on its executive board.

“Russian government officials and American corporations participated in the technology transfer project overseen by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that funneled tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation,” the report noted in the executive summary.

“John Podesta failed to reveal, as required by law on his federal financial disclosures, his membership on the board of this offshore company,” the executive summary continued. “Podesta also headed up a think tank which wrote favorably about the Russian reset while apparently receiving millions from Kremlin-linked Russian oligarchs via an offshore LLC.”

Reading Schweizer’s report, I began conducting extensive research into Secretary Clinton’s “reset” policy with Russia, Podesta’s membership on the board of Joule Global Holdings, N.V. – a shell company in the Netherlands that Russians close to Putin used to launder money – as well as Podesta’s ties to a foundation run by one of the investors in Joule Energy, Hans-Jorg Wyss, a major contributor to the Clinton Foundation.

Having claimed this report got him interested in substantiating a tie between Hillary and Russia, Corsi then shifts, saying that the August 14 NYT story on Manafort’s secret ledgers did (which I would call “mid-August,” not early August). He claimed his goal in response to the NYT reporting — it’s not clear whether this started on August 1 or August 14 — was just to publicize the already-written GAI report.

On Aug. 14, 2016, the New York Times reported that a secret ledger in Ukraine listed cash payments for Paul Manafort, a consultant to the Ukraine’s former President Viktor F. Yanukovych.

When this article was published, I suggested to Roger Stone that the attack over Manafort’s ties to Russia needed to be countered.

My plan was to publicize the Government Accountability Institute’s report, “From Russia With Money,” that documented how Putin paid substantial sums of money to both Hillary Clinton and John Podesta.

Putin must have wanted Hillary to win in 2016, if only because Russian under-the-table cash payments to the Clintons and to Podesta would have made blackmailing her as president easy.

On Aug. 14, 2016, I began researching for Roger Stone a memo that I entitled “Podesta.”

So Corsi suggests the report he did for Stone was based on the GAI one.

Except Corsi’s report (starting at PDF 39, copies of the report are at this point just reproductions without metadata to track when they were written, but Corsi claims to have handed over ways for Mueller to track such things when he interviewed with Mueller’s team and then appeared before the grand jury in September) doesn’t deal with the GAI report at all. Instead, it is a direct response to the NYT Manafort report, claiming that the NYT reporting (the stuff that has since been confirmed by all of Manafort’s guilty pleas) was not substantiated. It then makes a key logical move, admitting that his report is an attempt to undermine the claim that Russia’s close ties to Manafort had some relation to the hack-and-leak.

From there, the Democratic Party narrative continues to suggest Manafort’s close relationship to the Kremlin allowed him to position the Trump campaign to receive a dump of hacked emails that embarrassed the Clinton campaign by exposing the efforts Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as chairman of the DNC, took to rig the primaries for Hillary, to the distinct disadvantage of challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The entire Democratic Party narrative is thrown into disarray if it turns out the Podesta brothers, via the Podesta Group, have tighter and more easily documentable financial ties to Russia, involving far greater numbers than have ever been suggested to tie Manafort to Russia via Ukraine.

This is a key distinction. While the report definitely responds to the burgeoning scandal about Manafort’s ties to Russian oligarchs, Corsi admits that this report is about undercutting the claim that Russia would have reason to target Hillary in a hack-and-leak effort. So yeah, it’s about Stone’s “boyhood friend and colleague” (who at the time was setting off on a crime spree to hide his Russian ties), but it’s also about his longtime buddy Donald Trump, too.

From there the Corsi report focuses on the Podesta Group, on Uranium One, on Clinton’s ties to Fethulla Gulen (whom Mike Flynn was moving towards on kidnapping at the time), as if any of that suggests closer ties to Russia than Manafort has. Virtually the only claim about John Podesta (as opposed to Tony) is that he had ties to Hillary’s Foundation.

The idea behind Corsi’s story, I suppose, is that if Corsi started writing this report on August 14, then when Stone tweeted on August 21, it would reflect a draft of the report that bears the final date of August 31. There’s no public record to support that chronology, though.

From there, Corsi notes that he and Podesta returned to the subject of the GAI report — Podesta’s ties with Joule — in October.

On October 6, 2016, I published in WND.com the first of a series of articles detailing Putin’s financial ties to Clinton and Podesta, based largely on the research contained in the Government Accountability Institute’s report, “From Russia With Money.”

On Oct. 13, 2016, Stone published on his website an article entitled, “Russian Mafia money laundering, the Clinton Foundation and John Podesta.”

So thus far, Corsi argues that the progression goes from an August 1 GAI Report, to … something … to his research starting on August 14 about entirely unrelated allegations about the Podestas, back to both he and Stone writing on Joule in October.

In his description of the October pieces, Corsi claims — citing selectively — that Stone’s Joule piece relied on his and (he seems to claim, but this is nonsense) his private research report.

A comparison of the two articles will show the extent to which Stone incorporated my research into his analysis.

Probably, Corsi is talking about that series he is referring to, which include these posts:

September 28: Media Neglect Clinton-Linked Firm’s Role in Russia Scandal (pointing out the Podesta Group was also under investigation)

October 6: Russia? Look Who’s Really in Bed with Moscow (Reiterates findings of GAI report)

October 13: Hillary Campaign Chief Linked to Money-Laundering in Russia (cites but does not link to WikiLeaks releases)

October 17: How Hillary’s Campaign Chief Hid Money from Russia (actually inking to the WikiLeaks emails and claiming the Leonidio to which Podesta transferred Joule shares was one one in Utah

Though he cites Stone’s denials of advance knowledge that WikiLeaks would dump the Podesta emails, Corsi doesn’t cite this passage in Stone’s October 13 piece.

Wikileaks emails tie John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, into the money-laundering network with the confirmation Podesta had exercised 75,000 shares out of 100,000 previously undisclosed stock options he was secretly issued by Joule Unlimited, a U.S. corporation that ties back to Vekselberg connected Joule Global Stichting in the Netherlands – a shady entity identified in the Panama Papers as an offshore money-laundering client of the notorious Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

As a clear indication of guilty conscience, the Wikileaks Podesta file further documents that Podesta made a serious effort to keep the transaction from coming to light as evidenced by his decision to transfer 75,000 common shares of Joule Unlimited to Leonidio LLC, another shady shell corporation – this one listed in Salt Lake City at the home apartment of the gentlemen who registered the company.

Stone mentions — but does not link to — some of the WikiLeaks files he’s discussing. It is true that two Podesta emails released two days earlier on October 11 (December 31, 2013 resignation letter, January 7, 2014 severance letters) relate to the stuff Stone mentions and have some of the same numbers. They certainly don’t substantiate Stone’s claim about mob ties and shell corporations. Plus, three of the Joule documents that might actually pertain to Stone’s claims weren’t released until October 30October 31, and November 1. Significantly, the research that Corsi claims Stone relied on didn’t show up until Corsi’s October 17 post, four days after Stone’s.

That at least suggests that Stone may have had those WikiLeaks emails earlier — and it may suggest he had “WikiLeaks documents” that never got published, which he ironically would have referenced in a piece purporting to prove he didn’t have advance knowledge of the release. It also raises real questions about why Corsi resuscitated the Joule attack on October 6, as if knowing both that Podesta emails would come out and that they would include some attached documents allegedly substantiating and advancing the GAI report from the summer.

Stone also claims further research reflects an unsubstantiated further tie with (Trump inauguration donor) Viktor Vekselberg, one he didn’t repeat when he revived the post to implicate Michael Cohen last May.

Further research has documented that Viktor Vekselberg arranged for two transfers of unknown amounts to a private Clinton Foundation account in the Bank of America, with the funds passing though a pass-through account at Deutsche Bank and Trust Company Americas in New York City – with the first transfer made on Feb. 10, 2015, and the second on March 15, 2016.

Vekselberg is known to have donated to the Clinton Foundation, though it’s not clear where Stone gets the banking details.

I’m not actually sure what to make of Stone’s post. I have yet to chase down where all these claims come from (if not from Stone’s ripe imagination).

But even aside from these three unsubstantiated claims, I know this.

Corsi originally claimed that all four reports — the August 1 GAI report, his own August 14-31 private report to Stone, his own revival of the GAI report the day before the Podesta emails started coming out on October 7 (and, arguably, the entire series), and then Stone’s own piece after some WikiLeaks documents came out that sort of related to his arguments but not entirely — were part of the same effort.

That’s not right. His own report for Stone  is the outlier.

While it’s unsurprising that Manafort’s “boyhood friend” might solicit a report both to protect that boyhood friend and his longtime political mentee, Donald Trump, that report was part of a separate effort than the GAI research — which Stone would ultimately claim without proof WikiLeaks releases supported. It’s unclear which of the three things is most damning: the Stone report which claimed to use WikiLeaks research to elaborate on the GAI research, the report attempting to disprove true facts about Manafort’s ties to Russia, or the tweet.

But they don’t explain each other. And inserted into the timeline — as I’ll do — they become even more problematic.

Update: I took out a paragraph on Corsi’s timing, which was erroneous.

Update: Via the Daily Caller, Stone has now offered another explanation: that he learned of all this from a James Rosen email to Andrew Napolitano on which he was BCCed.

Stone also told The Post he had a “second source” regarding his claims about WikiLeaks the Clinton Foundation. Emails provided to The Daily Caller show the “second source” referenced is an email Stone was Bcc’d on from July 25, 2016. Stone was Bcc’d on the email by Clinton Foundation expert Charles Ortel, who was conducting a conversation with then-Fox News journalist James Rosen and Judge Andrew Napolitano.

July 2016 Email

The email included a previous exchange between Ortel and Rosen in which the Fox News journalist wrote “am told Wikileaks will be doing a massive dump of HRC emails relating to the CF in September” to Ortel. There is no evidence to suggest Rosen was aware of Stone’s visibility on the email chain.

James Rosen Email

Ortel confirmed the authenticity of the email exchanges to TheDC while Rosen declined to comment.

Stone explained to TheDC the information he learned from the email was part of the basis for his August 2016 claim of impending information from WikiLeaks about the Clinton Foundation.

This doesn’t actually explain squat. But it does put Stone in contact with people who might be explain the rest of what went down. The DC piece also provides another Stone excuse for why he was interested in Podesta’s plight on August 14, which he claims was a Schweitzer piece at Breitbart, but which might instead be this one. In any case, Stone seems to have a real urgency to have something that explains an August 14 interest in Podesta.

Update: One other point about the language in Corsi’s report making it clear it was a response to the Russian allegations. He still seems to treat the possibility that Russia did the hack seriously. That’s an interesting detail given that the guy he was purportedly doing the report for was publicly on the record blaming a 400 pound hacker in mom’s basement.

PSA: Don’t Misunderstand the Function of a Mueller Report

About a million people have asked me to weigh in on this story, which relies on unnamed defense attorneys (!! — remember that its author, Darren Samuelson, was among those citing Rudy Giuliani’s FUD in the wake of the Paul Manafort plea) and named former prosecutors, warning that people may be disappointed by the Mueller “report.”

President Donald Trump’s critics have spent the past 17 months anticipating what some expect will be among the most thrilling events of their lives: special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report on Russian 2016 election interference.

They may be in for a disappointment.

That’s the word POLITICO got from defense lawyers working on the Russia probe and more than 15 former government officials with investigation experience spanning Watergate to the 2016 election case. The public, they say, shouldn’t expect a comprehensive and presidency-wrecking account of Kremlin meddling and alleged obstruction of justice by Trump — not to mention an explanation of the myriad subplots that have bedeviled lawmakers, journalists and amateur Mueller sleuths.

Perhaps most unsatisfying: Mueller’s findings may never even see the light of day.

The article then goes on to cite a range of impressive experts, though it quotes zero of the defense attorneys, not even anonymously, except in linking back to Rudy warning that the White House would try to block the public release of any report by invoking executive privilege.

Without having first laid out what Samuelson imagines people expect from the report or even what he himself thinks, the piece’s quotes lay out the assumptions of his sources. “He won’t be a good witness,” says Paul Rosenzweig, suggesting he imagines Congress will invite Mueller to testify about his report to understand more about it. Mary McCord, who knows a bit about the investigation having overseen parts of it when she was still acting NSD head, said “It will probably be detailed because this material is detailed, but I don’t know that it will all be made public,” which seems to suggest it will collect dust at DOJ. Paul McNulty, who worked with Mueller in the Bush Administration, acknowledges that Mueller, “knows there are a lot of questions he needs to address for the sake of trying to satisfy a wide variety of interests and expectations.” All those quotes may be true and still irrelevant to what might happen with the Mueller report.

Later in his piece, Samuelson does lay out his assumptions (this time citing none of his impressive sources). Samuelson posits, for example, that, “it will be up to DOJ leaders to make the politically turbo-charged decision of whether to make Mueller’s report public.” He claims Democrats hope to win a majority and with it “subpoena power to pry as much information as possible from the special counsel’s office.” In those comments, Samuelson betrays his own assumptions, assumptions which may not be correct.

Start with this. Even though Samuelson has covered this investigation closely, he somehow missed the speaking indictments covering Russian actions, to say nothing of the 38 pages of exhibits on how Paul Mananfort runs a campaign accompanying the plea deal of Trump’s former campaign manager. It appears he has missed the signs that Mueller — if he has an opportunity — will not be using his mandated report to do his talking.

He’ll use indictments.

Which is probably something you don’t learn listening to defense attorneys who won’t go on the record. But you might learn if you consider what Patrick Fitzgerald has to say. Like McNulty, Fitz also worked closely with Mueller, not just during the four years he served as special counsel investigating the CIA leak case, but during the almost 11 years when Fitz was US Attorney in Chicago and Mueller was FBI Director. Also, while he’s not a defense attorney in the Mueller case, he is representing a key witness, Jim Comey, in it and had a partner, Greg Craig, investigated by it. Fitz basically says that the Scooter Libby trial revealed “a fair amount about what we did.”

Patrick Fitzgerald, the independent counsel in the Plame investigation, was under no obligation to write a report because of the specific guidelines behind his appointment. Testifying before Congress as his probe was ending, Fitzgerald defended the approach by noting that grand jury witnesses expect secrecy when they testify. He also noted that a 2007 public trial involving I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney convicted for perjury, had revealed much of the investigation’s details.

“I think people learned a fair amount about what we did,” Fitzgerald said. “They didn’t learn everything. But if you’re talking about a public report, that was not provided for, and I actually believe and I’ve said it before, I think that’s appropriate.”

Fitz is right. He revealed a lot in that trial, having fought hard to be able to get much of it cleared by the spooks to be publicly released. He revealed enough that, had the Democratically-controlled Congress seen fit in 2007, they could have conducted investigations into the impropriety of things constitutional officer Dick Cheney did in pushing the release of Valerie Plame’s identity. In a key hearing, Joe Wilson actually pulled any punches directed at Cheney. It is my belief, having been present at some key events in this period, that had a witness instead laid out all the evidence implicating Cheney, Congress may well have taken the evidence Fitz released in the trial and used it to conduct further investigation.

No one will have to make that case about Trump to Democrats in the wake of a Mueller investigation, I imagine.

I’ve got a piece coming out next week that lays out what role I think the vaunted Mueller report really plays, because I think it does play a role, a role that Samuelson doesn’t even consider.

But for now, I’ll point to Fitz comments as a way to say that, even drawing as he does on a great number of experts about how such investigations have worked in the past, Samuelson is not drawing the correct lessons. The first of which is that Mueller would prefer to lay out his “report” in trial exhibits.

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

The First Amendment Wall-Splat that Anticipates Any Defense of a Trump Conspiracy or WikiLeaks Charge

Last week, lawyers from Jones Day representing the Trump campaign submitted a response to a lawsuit by two Democratic donors and a DNC employee (the case is referred to as Cockrum after donor Roy Cockrum) that presents an interesting, but imperfect, preview of any defense of a Trump conspiracy and/or a WikiLeaks charge in the election hack-and-leak.

Effectively, the Democrats attempt to hold the Trump campaign responsible for having their private information (social security numbers in the case of the donors and more personal conversations in the case of DNC employee Scott Comer) posted in the emails released by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016. They do so by arguing that the Trump campaign conspired with agents of Russia, agreeing to provide policy considerations in exchange for the assistance presented by the email release, which therefore makes them parties to the injury associated with the hack-and-leak.

The campaign isn’t responsible for information released as part of their conspiracy because the First Amendment protects it

In response, the Trump campaign (represented by Jones Day, and therefore by more competent lawyers than some of the clowns representing the president in the Mueller investigation) only secondarily deny the campaign entered into a conspiracy with the Russians as governed by the laws invoked by plaintiffs (you should not take this emphasis as admission of guilt in a conspiracy, but rather the most efficacious way of defeating the lawsuit). As a primary defense, they point to First Amendment precedent to argue two things: First, the campaign can’t be held responsible for the theft of information because they only sought the dissemination of already stolen documents — they had nothing to do with the theft of the documents, the campaign argues.

In Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001), the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects a speaker’s right to disclose stolen information if (1) the speaker was “not involved” in the acquisition and (2) the disclosure deals with “a matter of public concern.” Id. at 529, 535. There, union leaders spoke on the phone about using violence against school-board members to influence salary negotiations. Id. at 518–19. An unknown person secretly intercepted the call and shared the illegal recording with a local radio host, who played it on his show. Id. at 519. The Court ruled that the First Amendment protected the radio broadcast, because the host “played no part in the illegal interception” and “the subject matter of the conversation was a matter of public concern.” Id. at 525. The Court reasoned that “state action to punish the publication of truthful information seldom can satisfy constitutional standards.” Id. at 527. The state has an interest in deterring theft of information, but it must pursue that goal by imposing “an appropriate punishment” on “the interceptor”—not by punishing a speaker who was “not involved in the initial illegality.” Id. at 529. The state also has an interest in protecting “privacy of communication,” but “privacy concerns give way when balanced against the interest in publishing matters of public importance.” Id. at 533–34. In short, “a stranger’s illegal conduct does not suffice to remove the First Amendment shield from speech about a matter of public concern.” Id. at 535.

“An opposite rule”—under which a speaker may be punished for truthful disclosures on account of a “defect in the chain of title”—“would be fraught with danger.” Boehner v. McDermott, 484 F.3d 573, 586 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (opinion of Sentelle, J., joined by a majority of the en banc court). “U.S. newspapers publish information stolen via digital means all the time.” Jack L. Goldsmith, Uncomfortable Questions in the Wake of Russia Indictment 2.0 (July 16, 2018).1 Indeed, they “openly solicit such information.” Id. Punishing “conspiracy to publish stolen information” “would certainly narrow protections for ‘mainstream’ journalists.” Id.

The Campaign satisfies the first part of Bartnicki’s test: It “played no part in the illegal interception.” Bartnicki, 532 U.S. at 525. That is clear from Plaintiffs’ factual theory: “Defendants entered into an agreement with other parties, including agents of Russia and WikiLeaks, to have information stolen from the DNC publicly disseminated in a strategic way.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 16) (emphasis added). The complaint reinforces that theory on every page: “the publication of hacked information pursuant to the conspiracy” (id. ¶ 20); “conspiracy … to disseminate information” (id. ¶ 78); “extracting concessions … in exchange for the dissemination of the information” (id. ¶ 149); “an agreement to disseminate the hacked DNC emails”) (id. at 42); “motive to coordinate regarding such dissemination” (id. ¶ 153); “an agreement regarding the publication” (id. ¶ 154); “agreed … to publicly disclose” (id. ¶ 296) (all emphases added).

In a key move, the response points to the chronology (they incorrectly say) the plaintiffs lay out to show that the Campaign didn’t enter into a conspiracy with the Russians until after the theft had already taken place.

That is no surprise. Given Rule 11, Plaintiffs could not have alleged the Campaign’s involvement in the initial hack. According to Plaintiffs’ own account, Russian intelligence hacked the DNC’s networks “in July 2015,” and gained access to email accounts “by March 2016.” (Id. ¶ 86.) But the Campaign supposedly became motivated to work with Russia only in “the spring and summer of 2016” (id. at 25), and supposedly entered into the agreement in “secret meetings” in “April,” “May,” “June,” and “July” 2016 (id. ¶¶ 89–104). In other words, Plaintiffs themselves say that the alleged conspiracy was formed after the hack and after the acquisition of the emails—so that the Campaign could not have participated in the initial theft.

From there, the Campaign shifts to the second part of the First Amendment argument: what they encouraged the Russians (and WikiLeaks) to publish was a matter of public concern.

The Campaign also satisfies the second part of Bartnicki’s test: the disclosure deals with “a matter of public concern.” Bartnicki, 532 U.S. at 525. Whether speech deals with issues of public concern is “a matter of law.” Snyder v. Phelps, 580 F.3d 206, 220 (4th Cir. 2009). “Speech deals with matters of public concern when it can be fairly considered as relating to any matter of political, social, or other concern to the community, or when it is a subject of legitimate news interest.” Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U.S. 443, 453 (2011) (citations and quotation marks omitted). A court applying this test must examine the “content, form, and context” of the speech. Id.

Courts judge the public character of a disclosure in the aggregate, not line by line. Regardless of whether the particular sentence complained about is itself of public concern, the disclosure is constitutionally protected if the disclosure as a whole deals with a matter of public concern. For example, in Bartnicki, leaders of a teachers’ union spoke on the phone about “blow[ing] off [school-board members’] front porches” to influence salary negotiations. 532 U.S. at 519. Even though the threat to “blow off” porches was not itself speech about public issues, the First Amendment protected the disclosure because the host made it while “engaged in debate about” teacher pay—“a matter of public concern.” Id. at 535. The “public concern” test thus turns on the broader context of the disclosure, not the nature of the specific fact disclosed.

To substantiate their “public concern” defense, the response points to (and includes as exhibits) a handful emails out of the tens of thousands dumped in just the DNC release and some bad press coverage, and argues that because WikiLeaks has a policy of not redacting emails, the information that damaged the plaintiffs just came out along with this public concern information.

These emails revealed important information about the Clinton Campaign and Democratic Party. For example:

  • The emails revealed DNC officials’ hostility toward Senator Sanders. DNC figures discussed portraying Senator Sanders as an atheist, because “my Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.” (Ex. 1.) They suggested pushing a media narrative that Senator Sanders “never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess.” (Ex. 2.) They opposed his push for additional debates. (Ex. 3.) They complained that he “has no understanding” of the Democratic Party. (Ex. 4.)
  • According to The New York Times, “thousands of emails” between donors and fundraisers revealed “in rarely seen detail the elaborate, ingratiating and often bluntly transactional exchanges necessary to harvest hundreds of millions of dollars from the party’s wealthy donor class.” These emails “capture[d] a world where seating charts are arranged with dollar totals in mind, where a White House celebration of gay pride is a thinly disguised occasion for rewarding wealthy donors and where physical proximity to the president is the most precious of currencies.” (Ex. 5.)
  • The emails revealed the coziness of the relationship between the DNC and the media. For example, they showed that reporters would ask DNC to pre-approve articles before publication. (Ex. 6.) They also showed DNC staffers talking about giving a CNN reporter “questions to ask us.” (Ex. 7.)
  • The emails revealed the DNC’s attitudes toward Hispanic voters. One memo discussed ways to “acquire the Hispanic consumer,” claiming that “Hispanics are the most brand loyal consumers in the World” and that “Hispanics are the most responsive to ‘story telling.’” (Ex. 8.) Another email pitched “a new video we’d like to use to mop up some more taco bowl engagement.” (Ex. 9.)

WikiLeaks, however, did not redact the emails, so the publication also included details that Plaintiffs describe as private.

In this scenario, even assuming the Trump campaign did enter a conspiracy with the Russians, the plaintiffs in this lawsuit were just collateral damage to disclosures protected by the First Amendment.

The conspiracy to hurt individual Democratic donors defense

As noted, the defense against the claim that the campaign entered into a conspiracy with the Russians is only a secondary part of the defense here. Perhaps that’s because this part of the defense is far weaker than the First Amendment part.

As part of it, the response notes that the plaintiffs would have had to enter into a conspiracy with the goal and the state of mind laid out by the two laws primarily cited by plaintiffs, to intimidate voters and to intentionally inflict harm on plaintiffs. Once again, this part of the argument treats the plaintiffs as collateral damage to the goals of embarrassing the DNC effectuated by the publication of materials by WikiLeaks, which has a policy of not redacting anything in its releases.

Plaintiffs do not plausibly allege these states of mind. For one thing, Plaintiffs allege that the object of the purported conspiracy was to promote the Trump Campaign and to embarrass the DNC and the Clinton Campaign. (Am. Compl. ¶ 190.) They do not allege facts showing that the Campaign even knew of Mr. Comer, Mr. Cockrum, or Mr. Schoenberg, much less that Campaign officials met with Russian agents for the purpose of disclosing these individuals’ social security numbers, gossip, and stomach-flu symptoms.

For another thing, Plaintiffs fail to address (let alone refute) the “obvious alternative explanation” for the disclosure of their emails (Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 682): WikiLeaks’ “accuracy policy,” under which WikiLeaks does not redact or “tamper with” the documents it discloses. (Ex. 10.) The upshot is that Plaintiffs do not plausibly allege that the Campaign acted with the purpose of intimidating Plaintiffs; do not plausibly allege that the Campaign acted with the specific intent to disclose Plaintiffs’ allegedly private emails; and do not plausibly allege that the Campaign acted with knowledge that the WikiLeaks email collection included Plaintiffs’ allegedly private emails.

It’s the other part of the conspiracy defense where the response is dangerously weak, given the possibility that Mueller will roll out another indictment providing more detail on negotiations between the campaign and Russia (which plaintiffs could then add in an amended complaint). Here, the campaign argues only that the plaintiffs haven’t shown proof of a conspiracy because they have not yet pointed to evidence that the campaign sought the DNC emails specifically, including the details that allegedly damaged the plaintiffs.

[T]he Amended Complaint fails to plausibly allege that the Campaign conspired with or aided and abetted the publishers of the DNC emails. Plaintiffs allege a series of meetings between the Campaign and Russian agents in 2016. (Id. ¶ 15.) But Plaintiffs do not allege that any of the meetings in any way concerned the DNC emails, much less the information about Plaintiffs contained in those emails. The allegation that people met to discuss something does not raise a plausible inference that they met to discuss collaborative efforts to release specific emails hacked from the DNC to influence an election, much less to intimidate or embarrass Plaintiffs. Cf. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 567 n.12 (regular meetings do not suggest conspiracy).

This argument may be sufficient for this civil suit, but for a number of reasons, such an argument would be totally insufficient in a criminal case. For starters, there likely is evidence, not least obtained from Paul Manafort’s cooperation, that the campaign had some idea of what they might get in exchange for entering into a quid pro quo with the Russians. As it is, Jones Day is utterly silent about Don Jr’s, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer” email, which reflects some expectation, already by June 3, 2016, of what the campaign would get for entering into a conspiracy, even though plaintiffs quote it in their complaint.

But also, the conspiracy charged in a criminal indictment would allege a different goal — in part, the embarrassment of the DNC and support of the Trump campaign that the campaign response stops far short of denying. So while with respect to the suit brought by these plaintiffs, the argument that the defendants did not have the mindset of trying to intimidate voters or damage the plaintiffs, if and when Mueller charges a conspiracy, it will argue a different mind set, to defraud the US’ election integrity, in part to obtain a thing of value from the Russians. And that mindset is going to be much easier to prove.

This response does next to nothing to deny that mindset.

Instead, much later in the response (as part of an argument that plaintiffs can’t claim a conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws because the FEC preempts it), the campaign does address what might be one defense in a criminal indictment charging that the Trump team conspired with Russia with the goal of obtaining illegal campaign donations in the form of dirt on Hillary. The response argues that such released emails do not constitute a thing of value, but are instead protected political speech.

Plaintiffs in all events fail to establish a conspiracy to violate any federal campaign-finance law. Plaintiffs assert that federal law prohibits foreign nationals from making “a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value” in connection with an election, 52 U.S.C. § 30121(a), and that “Defendant’s co-conspirators … contributed a ‘thing of value’ … in the form of the dissemination of hacked private emails” (Am. Compl. ¶ 215). This assertion is incorrect. For one, there is a fundamental difference between contributing a thing of value and engaging in pure political speech. Pure political speech constitutes “direct political expression”; in contrast, “while contributions may result in political expression if spent by a candidate or association to present views to the voters, the transformation of contributions into political debate involves speech by someone other than the contributor.” Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 21–22 (1976). The disclosure of information about a political party is pure political speech, not a political contribution. The disclosure itself directly expresses political messages; unlike money, it does not need to be transformed into a political message by somebody else.

For another, treating a disclosure of information as a “contribution” would violate the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to receive political speech from foreigners. Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301, 306 (1965). Yet under Plaintiffs’ theory, it would be illegal to solicit political information from a foreign national, because the provision of such information would amount to a “contribution.” For example, “if the Clinton campaign heard that Mar-a-Lago was employing illegal immigrants in Florida and staffers went down to interview the workers, that would be a crime.” Eugene Volokh, Can it be a crime to do opposition research by asking foreigners for information? (July 27, 2017).2 “Or say that Bernie Sanders’s campaign heard rumors of some misconduct by Clinton on her trips abroad—it wouldn’t be allowed to ask any foreigners about that.” Id. The First Amendment does not tolerate such results.

This claim, if it were substantiated, would have repercussions across Mueller’s work, extending to the Internet Research Agency indictment (indeed, Concord Consulting is trying to make similar arguments, though not as brazenly suggesting that foreigners have a First Amendment right to weigh in on our elections).

Yet, as I’ve noted, Mueller has already collected evidence of how much a similar campaign to the one the Russians conducted would cost a campaign, in the form of the spooked up Psy-Group campaign offered by Israelis and Gulf supporters: $3.31 million. That is, Mueller has the evidence to show that the Russians did not just release the information, but engaged in an entire social media campaign to maximize the value of the information they released, and that information goes beyond simple publication to the stuff that political consultants charge real money for.

The other problems with this defense

There is far more to the campaign’s defense (notably, extensive arguments about whether state or federal law applies to particularly parts of the complaint, and if it’s state law, whether it’s Maryland, New Jersey, and Tennessee as plaintiffs argue, or Virginia and New York as defendants do) than what I’ve laid out, and this suit would be a challenge in any case. But there are other problems with the defense.

In a piece on this response, Floyd Abrams argues that there are key differences between the primary First Amendment precedent on which the defense relies and this case. For example, the Bartnicki case focused on material the entirety of which was in the public interest, whereas the bulk of what the Russians gave WikiLeaks is not.

[T]he entirety of the wiretapped recording in Bartnicki was of undoubted public interest while some portions of the purloined DNC documents had a special claim to being of no sustainable public interest while inflicting substantial potential privacy harm—including social security numbers sent to the DNC which WikiLeaks, as it has repeatedly chosen to do, decided to make public.

Jones Day may well realize this is a weak part of their argument, as they return to WikiLeaks’ failure to redact information that had no public interest in a number of ways. At one point, they argue that if WikiLeaks redacted information some information of public interest might get withheld as part of the process.

To establish public-disclosure liability, a plaintiff must show that the facts at issue are not “of legitimate concern to the public”—in other words, that the facts are not “of the kind customarily regarded as ‘news.’” Second Restatement § 652D & comment g. Like the First Amendment test, the tort-law test requires courts to analyze speech “on an aggregate basis.” Alvarado v. KOB-TV, LLC, 493 F.3d 1210, 1221 (10th Cir. 2007). A publisher does not have to “parse out concededly public interest information” “from allegedly private facts.” Id. That is because redactions would undermine the “credibility” of a disclosure, causing the public to doubt its accuracy. Ross v. Midwest Commc’ns, Inc., 870 F.2d 271, 275 (5th Cir. 1989). Further, requiring publishers to redact—“to sort through an inventory of facts, to deliberate, and to catalogue”—“could cause critical information of legitimate public interest to be withheld until it becomes untimely and worthless to an informed public.” Star-Telegram, Inc. v. Doe, 915 S.W.2d 471, 475 (Tex. 1995).

At another point, they argue (this is one of their most ridiculous arguments) that WikiLeaks is just an intermediary that the Russians used to post injurious messages.

Under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230), a state may impose liability on “the original culpable party who posts [tortious] messages,” but not on “companies that serve as intermediaries for other parties’ potentially injurious messages.” Zeran v. America Online, 129 F.3d 327, 330–31 (4th Cir. 1997). As a result, a website that provides a forum where “third parties can post information” is not liable for the third party’s posted information. Klayman v. Zuckerberg, 753 F.3d 1354, 1358 (D.C. Cir. 2014). Since WikiLeaks provided a forum for a third party (the unnamed “Russian actors”) to publish content developed by that third party (the hacked emails), it cannot be held liable for the publication.

And the insistence that WikiLeaks is known not to redact information may hurt the Trump campaign if it gets that far.

Abrams also points to how entering into a conspiracy might change the legal liability of the Trump campaign.

[T]he Bartnicki defendants were at all times entirely independent of the person who surreptitiously made the wiretapped recording available to it while the Trump campaign is accused in Cockrum of conspiring with its alleged Russian source after the information had been hacked to make the information public.

Even for the purpose of this lawsuit, the claim that the Trump campaign entered into a conspiracy only after the information had been hacked may not be sustainable. After all, George Papadopoulos learned the Russians were going to release emails, of some sort (even if he believed they were Hillary server emails rather than DNC ones), well before the Russians were ejected from the DNC servers a month later. The Russians first contacted the Trump campaign about this conspiracy on April 26, 2016, after they had stolen the Podesta emails in March; but the DNC emails that are the subject of this lawsuit weren’t exfiltrated, at least according to the GRU indictment, until a month later.

Between on or about May 25, 2016 and June 1, 2016, the Conspirators hacked the DNC Microsoft Exchange Server and stole thousands of emails from the work accounts of DNC employees.

So Papadopoulos’ responsiveness might be enough to sustain a claim that the Trump campaign was engaged in this conspiracy before the emails in question were stolen. Indeed, this paragraph from the response (cited above) falsely claims that the plaintiffs suggested the theft ended in March.

Plaintiffs could not have alleged the Campaign’s involvement in the initial hack. According to Plaintiffs’ own account, Russian intelligence hacked the DNC’s networks “in July 2015,” and gained access to email accounts “by March 2016.” (Id. ¶ 86.) But the Campaign supposedly became motivated to work with Russia only in “the spring and summer of 2016” (id. at 25), and supposedly entered into the agreement in “secret meetings” in “April,” “May,” “June,” and “July” 2016 (id. ¶¶ 89–104). In other words, Plaintiffs themselves say that the alleged conspiracy was formed after the hack and after the acquisition of the emails—so that the Campaign could not have participated in the initial theft.

Here’s what the complaint really says:

In order to defeat Secretary Clinton and help elect Mr. Trump, hackers working on behalf of the Russian government broke into computer networks of U.S. political actors involved in the 2016 election, including the DNC and the Clinton Campaign. Elements of Russian intelligence gained unauthorized access to DNC networks in July 2015 and maintained that access until at least June 2016. By March 2016, the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) gained unauthorized access to DNC networks, DCCC networks, and the personal email accounts of Democratic Party officials and political figures.

By May 2016, the GRU had copied large volumes of data from DNC networks, including email accounts of DNC staffers. Much of the GRU’s activity within the DNC networks took place between March and June 2016, at the very same time its agents were intensifying their outreach to and securing meetings with agents of the Trump Campaign.

[snip]

According to the indictment, “in and around April 2016, the Conspirators began to plan the release of materials stolen from the Clinton Campaign, DCCC, and DNC.” And “in or around June 2016,” when the Trump Campaign was taking meetings with Russian agents to “get information on an opponent,” the indicted Russians and their coconspirators began to “stage[] and release[]” the stolen emails.

All that said, if the plaintiffs are relying on the June 9 meeting to establish the conspiracy, or even Don Jr’s June 3 email enthusiastically responding to Rob Goldstone’s offer, the campaign can argue in this suit that the actual theft of the emails in question — the DNC emails revealing the donors social security numbers and Comer’s embarrassing comments — were, according to the public record, already stolen by the time the campaign entered into the conspiracy.

But that’s not going to work if Mueller charges a criminal conspiracy. That’s true, in part, because the criminal conspiracy would include the social media part of the Russian assistance, which continued well after the June 9 meeting (the plaintiffs here couldn’t argue the social media exploitation hurt them because the emails including the information damaging to them wasn’t promoted by Russian social media actors). It would also include the DCCC releases, which led to the provision of opposition research to Republican operatives.

Indeed, even the hacking continued after the June 9 meeting. As the plaintiffs pointed out, on July 27, Russian hackers even seemed to respond directly to Trump’s request for assistance.

191. On July 27, 2016, during the Democratic National Convention, Mr. Trump held a press conference in Florida. During his remarks, Mr. Trump called on Russia to continue its cyberattacks, stating, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Secretary Clinton] emails that are missing.” Although the Trump Campaign—and later, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer—claimed that Mr. Trump was “joking,” when Mr. Trump was asked at the time to clarify his remark and whether he was serious, Mr. Trump stated: “If Russia or China or any other country has those emails, I mean, to be honest with you, I’d love to see them.”

192. According to the July 13, 2018 indictment of twelve Russian nationals filed by the Special Counsel, agents of the Russian government attempted that same day—July 27, 2016— “to spearfish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.” In other words, on the day that Mr. Trump publicly said that he hoped Russia would be able to find missing emails related to Secretary Clinton, Russian intelligence for the first time attempted to hack email accounts on Secretary Clinton’s own server.

That particular hack was not successful, but a hack of the Democrats’ AWS hosted analytics program in September was; see ¶34. As I understand it, the targeting of Hillary’s campaign went on in a series of waves, and those waves might be shown to correlate to Trump’s requests for assistance.

So, absent proof that someone in the campaign encouraged Papadopoulos after having learned about the emails in April, the plaintiffs in this suit will struggle to show that Russian hacking of the emails that injured them took place after Trump’s campaign entered into the conspiracy. But Mueller won’t have that problem. And all that’s before the Peter Smith operation, which asked for assistance from Guccifer 2.0 and reached out to presumed Russian hackers to obtain information from Hillary’s home server. Plus, that’s all separate from the social media campaign which continued to benefit the Trump campaign up to the election.

The ironies of a First Amendment defense

There’s a detail about this response, however, that (relying as it does on a strong First Amendment defense) deserves more attention. The response claims that the entire purpose of this suit suit is to obtain discovery on the President on a number of topics — notably his tax returns and business relationships — that Democrats have been unable to fully pursue elsewhere.

The object of this lawsuit is to launch a private investigation into the President of the United States. The Amended Complaint already foreshadows discovery into the President’s “tax returns” (Am. Compl. ¶ 238), his “business relationships” (id.), his conversations with “Director Comey” (id. ¶ 251), and on and on.

Much later, in the conspiracy section, in an argument that seems designed for Brett Kavanaugh’s review, the response argues that plaintiffs need a more plausible claim to be able to get discovery from the President.

Rule 8 requires a complaint to state a “plausible” claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint satisfies this standard if its “factual content” raises a “reasonable inference” that the defendant engaged in the misconduct alleged. Id. at 678. This requirement protects defendants against “costly and protracted discovery” on a “largely groundless claim.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007). This protection is essential here, where Plaintiffs’ explicit goal is to burden the President with discovery. The President’s “unique position in the constitutional scheme” requires him to “devote his undivided time and attention to his public duties.” Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 697–98 (1997). Courts must thus ensure that plaintiffs do not use “civil discovery” on “meritless claims” to interfere with his responsibilities. Cheney v. U.S. District Court, 542 U.S. 367, 386 (2004).

It’s only after making the claim that this suit is all about obtaining public interest information such as the President’s tax returns that the campaign makes an argument justifying the release of all this information in the name of public interest.

According to the logic Jones Day lays out here, the Democrats’ mistake was in not finding foreign hackers to steal and then publish Trump’s tax returns.

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

Trump’s Open Book Test Still Poses a Big Perjury Risk

In spite of a great deal of encouragement to do so on Twitter, I can’t muster a victory lap from the news that the Mueller team has agreed that Trump’s first round of open book test will focus only on conspiracy with Russia.

President Donald Trump’s legal team is preparing answers to written questions provided by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The move represents a major development after months of negotiations and signals that the Mueller investigation could be entering a final phase with regard to the President.

The questions are focused on matters related to the investigation of possible collusion between Trump associates and Russians seeking to meddle in the 2016 election, the sources said. Trump’s lawyers are preparing written responses, in part relying on documents previously provided to the special counsel, the sources said.

[snip]

Negotiations for Trump’s testimony lasted for the better part of a year. The two sides nearly reached a deal in January for Trump to be questioned at the presidential retreat in rural Maryland, Camp David, only for talks to break down at the last minute. What followed was a series of letters and meetings — some hostile — in which Trump’s lawyers raised objections and sought to limit any potential testimony.

For months, Mueller told Trump’s lawyers that he needed to hear from the President to determine his intent on key events in the obstruction inquiry.

While I find it significant that this report came first from Evan Perez and (?!?!) Dana Bash, not Maggie and Mike (suggesting it may come from different sources than the people who fed the NYT the line that Mueller was primarily interested in obstruction), this report seems to suggest that after letting Trump stall for almost a year, Mueller has decided to finally get him on the record on the key crimes.

While CNN has not said anything about timing — that is, how long Trump’s lawyers will stall over an open book test that they claim they’ve already written many of the answers to — this agreement may have as much to do with preparation for the post-election period in which Mueller can roll out any indictments he has been working on and Trump can start firing people. That is, before he makes any big moves in the case in chief, he has to get Trump on the record in some form or other. Better to get him on the record in sworn written statements than launch a subpoena fight that will last past that post-election period.

So I don’t think this says much about the relative legal exposure Mueller thinks Trump has for obstruction versus conspiracy (though, again, if you’ve got the conspiracy charges, the obstruction charges will be minor by comparison). It says that Mueller has decided it’s time to get Trump committed to one story, under penalty of perjury.

That said, consider two details about obstruction.

First, Mueller has gotten both of the men Trump reportedly dangled pardons to, Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort, to enter cooperation agreements. That means he’s got both men — possibly along with the non-felon lawyers who passed on the offer — describing that they were offered pardons if they protected the President. That, to my mind, is the most slam dunk instance of obstruction even considered. So by obtaining Manafort’s cooperation, Mueller may have already obtained the most compelling evidence of obstruction possible.

Also, it’s not at all clear that Trump can avoid perjury exposure even on an open book test. We’ve already seen that some of the written responses the Trump team has provided Mueller — such as the two versions of their explanation for the Flynn firing — obscure key details (including Trump’s own role in ordering Flynn to tell Russia not to worry about sanctions). Plus, Trump’s lawyers have recently come to realize they not only don’t know as much as they thought they did about what other “friendly” witnesses had to say (Bill Burck seems to have reconfirmed last week that his clients — which include, at a minimum, Don McGahn, Steve Bannon, and Reince Priebus — don’t have Joint Defense Agreements with Trump), but that they don’t actually know everything they need to know from Trump. Trump is unmanageable as a client, so it’s likely he continues to lie to his own lawyers.

Most importantly, on all of the key conspiracy questions Mueller posed to Trump last March (the first two were also in his first set of questions in January), Mueller has at least one and sometimes several cooperating witnesses.

  • What did you know about phone calls that Mr. Flynn made with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, in late December 2016? [Flynn]
  • When did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting? [Manafort]
  • During a 2013 trip to Russia, what communication and relationships did you have with the Agalarovs and Russian government officials? [Cohen, Goldstone, Kaveladze]
  • What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign? [Cohen, Sater]
  • What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding any meeting with Mr. Putin? Did you discuss it with others? [Manafort, Gates, Cohen]
  • What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions? [Manafort, Flynn]
  • What involvement did you have concerning platform changes regarding arming Ukraine? [Manafort, Gates]
  • During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign? [Stone’s associates, Gates, Manafort]
  • What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign? [Manafort]
  • What did you know about communication between Roger Stone, his associates, Julian Assange or WikiLeaks? [Stone’s associates, Manafort]
  • What did you know during the transition about an attempt to establish back-channel communication to Russia, and Jared Kushner’s efforts? [Flynn]
  • What do you know about a 2017 meeting in Seychelles involving Erik Prince? [Flynn]
  • What do you know about a Ukrainian peace proposal provided to Mr. Cohen in 2017? [Cohen]

The one area where that’s not true is with Roger Stone (though Rick Gates, at least, seems to have been in the loop on some of that), but then Mueller has spent the last 10 months collecting every imaginable piece of evidence pertaining to Stone.

Between Trump’s lawyers’ incomplete grasp of what their client did and the witnesses and other evidence regarding these activities, Mueller has a much better idea of what happened than Trump’s lawyers do. Which means they may not be able to help their client avoid lying.

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