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Billy Barr Releases 302 that Proves View of Pro Mike Flynn Agent Held Sway in Mueller Report Conclusions

Before I do a deep dive of the 302 that Billy Barr had released in yet another attempt to blow up the Mike Flynn prosecution, let me review the conclusion of the Mueller Report was with regards to whether President Trump even knew about Mike Flynn’s calls with Sergey Kislyak, much less ordered them.

Some evidence suggests that the President knew about the existence and content of Flynn’s calls when they occurred, but the evidence is inconclusive and could not be relied upon to establish the President’s knowledge.

[snip]

Our investigation accordingly did not produce evidence that established that the President knew about Flynn’s discussions of sanctions before the Department of Justice notified the White House of those discussions in late January 2017.

The conclusion is central to the finding that there was no proof of a quid pro quo. If Trump had ordered Flynn to undermine sanctions — as a sentencing memo approved by Main DOJ explained — it would have been proof of coordination.

The defendant’s false statements to the FBI were significant. When it interviewed the defendant, the FBI did not know the totality of what had occurred between the defendant and the Russians. Any effort to undermine the recently imposed sanctions, which were enacted to punish the Russian government for interfering in the 2016 election, could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia. Accordingly, determining the extent of the defendant’s actions, why the defendant took such actions, and at whose direction he took those actions, were critical to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.

That means the conclusion adopted by the Mueller Report is precisely the one that the FBI Agent who investigated Flynn, William Barnett, held, as described repeatedly in the interview done by Jeffrey Jensen in an attempt to undermine the Mueller prosecution.

With respect to FLYNN’s [redacted] with the Russian Ambassador in December 2016, BARNETT did not believe FLYNN was being directed by TRUMP.

The Mueller Report reached that conclusion in spite of the fact that — as Barnett describes it — in his second interview, Flynn said that Trump was aware of the calls between him and the Russian Ambassador.

During one interview of FLYNN, possibly the second interview, one of the interviewers asked a series of questions including one which FLYNN’s answer seemed to indicate TRUMP was aware of [redacted] between FLYNN and the Russian Ambassador. BARNETT believed FLYNN’s answer was an effort to tell the interviewers what they wanted to hear. BARNETT had to ask the clarifying question of FLYNN who then said clearly that TRUMP was not aware of [redacted]

Barnett then goes on a paragraph long rant claiming there was no evidence that Trump was aware.

BARNETT said numerous attempts were made to obtain evidence that TRUMP directed FLYNN concerning [redacted] with no such evidence being obtained. BARNETT said it was just an assumption, just “astro projection,” and the “ground just kept being retreaded.”

The claim that there was no evidence that Trump directed Flynn to undermine sanctions is false. I say that because Flynn himself told Kislyak that Trump was aware of his conversations with Kislyak on December 31, 2016, when Kislyak called up to let Flynn know that Putin had changed his mind on retaliation based on his call.

FLYNN: and, you know, we are not going to agree on everything, you know that, but, but I think that we have a lot of things in common. A lot. And we have to figure out how, how to achieve those things, you know and, and be smart about it and, uh, uh, keep the temperature down globally, as well as not just, you know, here, here in the United States and also over in, in Russia.

KISLYAK: yeah.

FLYNN: But globally l want to keep the temperature down and we can do this ifwe are smart about it.

KISLYAK: You’re absolutely right.

FLYNN: I haven’t gotten, I haven’t gotten a, uh, confirmation on the, on the, uh, secure VTC yet, but the, but the boss is aware and so please convey that. [my emphasis]

Flynn literally told the Russian Ambassador that Trump was aware of the discussions, but Barnett claims there was no evidence.

Now is probably a good time to note that, months ago, I learned that  Barnett sent pro-Trump texts on his FBI phone, the mirror image of Peter Strzok sending anti-Trump texts.

So Billy Barr has released a 302 completed just a week ago, without yet releasing the Bill Priestap 302 debunking some of the earlier claims released by Billy Barr in an attempt to justify blowing up the Flynn prosecution, much less the 302s that show that Flynn appeared to lie in his first interview with Mueller’s investigators (as well as 302s showing that KT McFarland coordinated the same story).

And the 302 is an ever-loving shit show. Besides the key evidence — that his claim that investigators didn’t listen to him even though the conclusion of the Mueller Report is the one that he says only he had — Barnett disproves his claims over and over in this interview.

Barnett’s testimony substantially shows five things:

  • He thought there was no merit to any suspicions that Flynn might have ties to Russia
  • He nevertheless provided abundant testimony that some of the claims about the investigation (specifically that Peter Strzok and probably Brandon Van Grack had it in for Flynn) are false
  • Barnett buries key evidence: he mentions neither that Flynn was publicly lying about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak (which every other witness said was driving the investigation), and he did not mention that once FBI obtained call records, they showed that Flynn had lied to hide that he had consulted with Mar-a-Lago before he called Sergey Kislyak
  • Jensen didn’t ask some of the most basic questions, such as whether Barnett thought he had to investigate further after finding the Kislyak call or who the multiple people Barnett claimed joked about wiping their phone were
  • Barnett believes that Mueller’s lawyers (particularly Jeannie Rhee and Andrew Weissmann) were biased and pushing for a conclusion that the Mueller Report shows they didn’t conclude, but he didn’t work primarily with either one of them and his proffered evidence against Rhee actually shows the opposite

According to the org charts included in the Carter Page IG Report (PDF 116), it appears that Barnett would have been on a combined Crossfire Hurricane team from July 31 to December 2016; the report says he was working on the Manafort case.

Then, he took over the Flynn case. He would have reported up through someone else who also oversaw the George Papadopoulos investigation, but he would not be part of that investigation.

Even after a subsequent reorganization, that would have remained true until the Mueller investigation, when — by his own description — Barnett remained on the Flynn team.

Early in his 302, Barnett described that he thought the investigation was “supposition on supposition,” which he initially attributed to not knowing details of the case. Much later in the interview, he said he, “believed there were grounds to investigate the other three subjects in Crossfire Hurricane; however, he thought FLYNN was the ‘outlier.'” which conflicts with his earlier claim.

By his own repeated description, Barnett did not open the Flynn case and did not understand why it had been opened (he doesn’t explain that this was an UNSUB investigation, which undermines much of what he says). Moreover, his complaints about the flimsy basis for the Flynn investigation conflict with what Barnett said in the draft closing memo for the investigation, which explained that the investigation was opened,

on an articulable factual basis that CROSSFIRE RAZOR (CR) may wittingly or unwittingly be involved in activity on behalf of the Russian Federation which may constitute a federal crime or threat to the national security.

[snip]

The goal of the investigation was to determine whether the captioned subject, associated with the Trump campaign, was directed and controlled by and/or coordinated activities with the Russian Federation in a manner which is a threat to the national security and/or possibly a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, 18 U.S.C. section 951 et seq, or other related statutes.

A key detail here is that Barnett himself said part of this was an attempt to figure out whether Flynn may have unwittingly been targeted by Russia, which makes his focus on crime in the Jensen interview totally contradictory.

Barnett did explain that NSLs were written up in December but pulled back (these were also released last night, though not with the detail that they were withdrawn). He claimed not to know why the NSLs were withdrawn.

A National Security Letter (NSL) had been prepared to obtain “toll records” for a phone belonging to FLYNN. The request was “pulled back” prior to the records being obtained. Peter Strzok (STRZOK) was the individual who ordered the NSL be pulled back. BARNETT was not told why the NSL was pulled back.

In the draft closing that Barnett himself wrote, he explained that because Flynn was not at that point named as a possible agent of a foreign power, that limited the investigative techniques they might use.

The writer notes that since CROSSFIRE RAZOR was not specifically named as an agent of a foreign power by the original CROSSFIRE HURRICANE predicated reporting, the absence of any derogatory information or lead information from these logical source reduced the number of investigative avenues and techniques to pursue.

That’s also another reason (not noted by Barnett in this interview) why he didn’t get a 215 order.

BARNETT chose not to obtain records through FISA Business Records because he advised this process is comparatively onerous.

Note that Strzok’s order to withdraw the NSL is yet more proof that Strzok was not out to get Flynn.

Barnett also confirmed something else that Strzok has long said — that they chose not to use any overt methods during the election (unlike the Hillary investigation).

BARNETT was told to keep low-key, looking at publicly available information.

Again, this adds to the evidence that no one was out to get Trump.

Barnett also explains how Stefan Halper shared information about Flynn, and he — a pro-Trump agent skeptical of the investigation — decided to chase down the Svetlana Lokhova allegation.

The source reported that during an event [redacted] 2014 FLYNN unexpectedly left the event [redacted] The source alleged FLYNN was not accompanied by anyone other [redacted] BARNETT believed the information concerning [redacted] potentially significant and something that could be investigated. However, Intelligence Analysts did not locate information to corroborate this reporting concerning redacted] FLYNN, including inquiries with other foreign intelligence agencies. BARNETT found the idea FLYNN could leave an event, either by himself or [redacted] without the matter being noted was not plausible. With nothing to corroborate the story, BARNETT thought he information was not accurate.

Later on, Barnett seems to make an effort to spin his inclusion of the Lokhova information in the closing memo as an attempt to help Flynn, describing,

BARNETT wanted to include information obtained during the investigation, including non-derogatory information. BARNETT wanted to include [redacted] specifically [redacted] FLYNN. The [redacted] and FLYNN were only in the same country, [redacted], the same time on one occasion and at that time they were visiting different cities.

That is, something in the closing memo that has been spun as an attack on Flynn he here spins as an attempt to include non-derogatory information, to help Flynn.

I find it curious that the main reason Barnett dismissed this allegation is because he found it implausible that a 30-year intelligence officer would know how to leave a meeting unnoticed. But let it be noted that for over a year, Sidney Powell has suggested that chasing down this tip was malicious targeting of Flynn, and it turns out a pro-Trump agent is the one who chased it down.

In many places, Barnett’s narrative is a muddle. For example, early in his interview, he said that he worked closely with Analyst 1 and Analyst 2. Analyst 2 worked on the Manafort investigation. Barnett had to get the Flynn files from Analyst 1, suggesting Analyst 1 had a key role in that investigation. But then later in the interview, after explaining that Analyst 1, “believed the investigation was an exercise in futility,” Barnett then said that Analyst 3 “was the lead analyst on RAZOR.” Barnett described that Analyst 3 was “‘a believer’ due to his conviction FLYNN was involved in illegal activity,” but also described that Analyst 3 was the one who didn’t want to interview Flynn. But then Barnett explains several other people who did not want to interview Flynn, in part because the pretense Barnett wanted to use (that it was part of a security clearance) was transparently false.

Barnett then explains that he did not change his opinion about whether Flynn was compromised based on reading the transcript (it’s unclear whether he read just one or all of them) of Flynn’s call with Kislyak. He explained that he “did not see a potential LOGAN ACT violation as a major issue concerning the RAZOR investigation.”

There are several points about this request. First, Jeffrey Jensen is taking a line agent’s opinion about a crime as pertinent here, after Billy Barr went on a rant the other day about how line agents and prosecutors don’t decide these things (showing the hypocrisy of this entire exercise). Barnett’s account undermines the disinformation spread before that the Logan Act claim came from Joe Biden, disinformation which Jensen himself wrongly fed.  Significantly, Barnett does not appear to have been asked whether he thought the transcripts meant he had to investigate further. 

Barnett says “in hindsight” he believes he was cut out of the interview of Flynn, based solely on the norm that normally “a line agent/case agent would do the interview with a senior FBI official present in cases concerning high ranking political officials.” He doesn’t consider the possibility that Joe Pientka did it because he had been in the counterintelligence briefing with Flynn the previous summer, which is what the DOJ IG Report said.

He then says “There was another reorganization of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation after the 1/24/17 interview of Flynn. This conflicts, somewhat, with both the org charts Michael Horowitz did, but also texts already released showing the reorg started in the first days of January (though the texts are consistent with the initial plan for Barnett and Andy McCabe to interview Flynn and I don’t necessarily trust the DOJ IG Report over Barnett), but that was before a lot else happened.

Only after describing a post-interview reorganization does Barnett raise something that all the public record says happened earlier, that, “The FBI was reacting to articles being reported in the news, most notably an article written by Ignatius concerning [redacted] involving FLYNN to a Russian Ambassador.” But even here, Barnett does not talk (nor does he appear to have been asked) about Flynn lying to the press about the intercepts. In other words, Jensen’s investigators simply didn’t address what every single witness says was the most important factor at play in the decision to interview Flynn, his public lies about the calls with Kislyak.

In one place, Barnett claims that “base-line NSLs” were filed “after the article by Ignatius,” which would put it in mid-January, before the interview. Later, he says that “In February 2017, NSLs were being drafted with [SA3] instructing BARNETT what needed to be done,” putting it after Flynn obviously lied in his interview. At best, that suggests Barnett is eliding the timeline in ways that (again) don’t deal with the risk of Flynn’s public lies about the Kislyak call.

Barnett then claims that McCabe was running this (in spite of the involvement of SA3 and his earlier report — and Horowitz’s org chart, not to mention other evidence documents already released — showing the continued involvement of Strzok). Barnett also backed getting NSLs in early 2017, and even insisted, again, that they should have been obtained earlier. Jensen appears to be making a big deal out of the fact that Kevin Clinesmith approved the NSLs against Flynn in 2017.

BARNETT said he sent an e-mail to CLINESMITH on 02/01/2017 asking CLINESMITH about whether the predication information was acceptable, as it was the same information provided on the original NSL request in 2016. CLINESMITH told BARNETT the information was acceptable and could be used for additional NSLs.

There’s a lot that’s suspect about this line of questioning, not least that the predicate for the investigation as a whole was different than the one for Flynn. But I’m sure we’ll hear more about it.

A Strzok annotation of a NYT article that Lindsey Graham released makes it clear that by February 14, 2017, the FBI still hadn’t obtained the returns from most of the NSLs.

Barnett seems to suggest that as new information came in “in BARNETT’s opinion, no evidence of criminal activity and no information that would start a new investigative direction.” If he’s referring to call records (which is what the NSLs would have obtained) that is, frankly, shocking, as the call records would have shown that Flynn also lied about being in touch with Mar-a-Lago before calling Kislyak. It’s what Flynn was trying to hide with his lies! And yet Barnett says that was not suspect.

Then Barnett moved onto the Mueller team. He starts his discussion with another self-contradictory paragraph.

BARNETT was told to give a brief on FLYNN to a group including SCO attorney Jean Rhee (RHEE), [four other people], and possibly [a fifth] BARNETT said he briefly went over the RAZOR investigation, including the assessment that there was no evidence of a crime, and then started to discuss [redacted — probably Manafort] which BARNETT thought was the more significant investigation. RHEE stopped BARNETT’s briefing [redacted] and asked questions concerning the RAZOR investigation. RHEE wanted to “drill down” on the fees FLYNN was paid for a speech FLYNN gave in Russia. BARNETT explained logical reasons for the amount of the fee, but RHEE seemed to dismiss BARNETT’s assessment. BARNETT thought RHEE was obsessed with FLYNN and Russia and she had an agenda. RHEE told BARNETT she was looking forward to working together. BARNETT told RHEE they would not be working together.

First, by his own description, Barnett was asked to brief on Flynn, not on Manafort (or anyone else); he was still working Flynn and not (if Horowitz’s org chart is to be trusted) involved anymore with Manafort at all. So if he deviated from that, he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to do in the briefing, which might explain why people in the briefing asked him to return to the matter at hand, Flynn. Furthermore, in much of what comes later, Barnett claims the prosecutors overrode the agents (in spite of the fact that, as shown, the final conclusion of the report sided with Barnett). But Barnett here shows that from his very first meeting with Mueller prosecutors, he was the one being bossy, not the prosecutors.

Barnett’s continued complaints about Rhee (and Weissmann) are nutty given that, as a Flynn agent, he wouldn’t have been working with them.

Barnett claims that,

In March or April 2017, Crossfire Hurricane went through another reorganization. All of the investigations were put together.

The timing coincides with, but the structure does not match, what appears in the Carter Page IG Report (though, again, I don’t necessarily assume DOJ IG got it right).

Then Barnett makes a claim that conflicts with a great deal of public facts:

On 05/09/2017, COMEY was fired which seemed to trigger a significant amount of activity regarding Crossfire Hurricane. Carter Page was interviewed three times and PAPADOPOULOS was also interviewed. Both investigations seemed to be nearing an end with nothing left to pursue. the MANAFORT case was moved from an investigative squad to a counter intelligence squad [redacted] The Crossfire Hurricane investigations seemed to be winding down.

The appointment of the SCO changed “everything.”

At least according to the Horowitz org chart, these weren’t his investigations. A list of interviews shows that FBI had not interviewed the witnesses to Carter Page’s trip before June 2017 (though it is true that the investigation into him was winding down). The details of the Papadopoulos investigation would have shown that it was after at least the first (and given the Strzok note about NSLs) after probably several more interviews before the FBI discovered that Papadopoulos tried to hide extensive contacts with Russians by deactivating his Facebook account. Mueller didn’t even obtain Papadopoulos’ Linked In account until July 7, 2017, and that was just the second warrant obtained by Mueller’s prosecutors, almost three months after he was appointed; that warrant would have disclosed Papadopoulos’ ties to Sergei Millian and further contacts with the Russians. Some of the earliest activity in the investigation pertain to Michael Cohen (in an investigation predicated off of SARs), with the Roger Stone investigation barely beginning in August, neither of which are included in Barnett’s comments. And Barnett makes no mention of the June 9 meeting, discovered only as a result of Congress’ investigations, which drove some of the early investigative steps.

Which is to say, the evidence seems to have changed everything. And yet he says it was Mueller.

And yes, Jim Comey’s firing is part of that. But as to that, Barnett has this ridiculous thing to say:

As another example [of a “get Trump” attitude] BARNETT said the firing of FBI Director COMEY was interpreted as obstruction when it could just as easily have been done because TRUMP did not like COMEY and wanted him replaced.

Well, sure, in the absence of the evidence that might be true. But not when you had Comey’s memos that described how, first of all, Trump had committed to keeping Comey on (meaning he didn’t not like Comey!) but afterwards had tried to intervene in an ongoing investigation. It’s possible Barnett did not know that in real time — it wasn’t his investigation — but it’s not a credible opinion given what is in the memos.

Barnett also claims, as part of his “proof” that people wanted to get Trump that,

Concerning FLYNN, some individuals in the SCO assumed FLYNN was lying to cover up collusion between the TRUMP campaign and Russia. BARNETT believed Flynn lied in the interview to save his job, as that was the most plausible explanation and there was no evidence to contradict it.

Yes. There is evidence. The evidence is that Flynn’s lies hid his consultations with Mar-a-Lago, about which he also lied.

In a passage similarly suggesting that KT McFarland told the same lies that Flynn did because she wanted to get the Singapore job, Barnett seems to refer to (and DOJ seems to have redacted) a reference to Brandon Van Grack (who is the only Mueller prosecutor whose name would span two lines).

If that is, indeed, a reference to Van Grack, then it means DOJ is hiding evidence that Van Grack (along with Strzok) was not biased against Flynn.

Note, too, that Barnett doesn’t reveal that McFarland only unforgot her conversations with Flynn after Flynn pled guilty, which has a significant bearing on how credible that un-forgetting was. Nor does he note that Mueller didn’t charge McFarland with lying. The Mueller Report almost certainly has a declination description for why they didn’t charge McFarland, which (if true), would make a second thing where Barnett’s minority opinion had been determinative for the actual report, in spite of his claim that the prosecutors were running everything.

Finally, the 302 notes that Barnett was asked about whether he “wiped” his own phone.

BARNETT had a cellular telephone issued by the SCO which he did not “wipe.” BARNETT did hear other agents “comically” talk about wiping cellular telephones, but was not aware of anyone “wiping” their issued cellular telephones. BARNETT said one agent had a telephone previously issued to STRZOK.

If this were even a half serious investigation, Barnett would have been asked to back that claim with names. He was not.

What Billy Barr and Jeffrey Jensen have done is show that the only witness they’ve found to corroborate their claims can’t keep his story straight from one paragraph to another, and claims to be ignorant of several central pieces of evidence against Flynn.

That’s all they have.


Given that this post takes such a harsh view on Barnett, reminder I went to the FBI in 2017 regarding someone with no ties to Trump but who sent me a text about (and denigrating) Flynn.

The Closed Mueller Investigations: Erik Prince Skates on the Seychelles

Fresh off an ex parte hearing, DOJ released a spreadsheet of original Mueller redactions they’re now willing to withdraw (on top of the ones they withdrew after the Roger Stone trial).

There’s a bunch of Internet Research Agency redactions the government has withdrawn I won’t lay out.

More interesting are the select few the government withdrew pertaining to Trump flunkies.

There are three search warrants withdrawn:

  • A warrant for Rob Goldstone’s Facebook account (see footnote 298)
  • A warrant for George Papadopoulos’ Linked In account (see footnote 458)
  • A warrant for Erik Prince’s location data (see footnote 1047)

The only surprising disclosure is the last one. This suggests that any investigation into Prince’s lies about the Seychelles is good and dead.

Then there are the redactions of ongoing and referred investigations DOJ no longer considers secret. Those include:

  • The investigation of Podesta Group, Mercury/Clark & Weinstock, which SDNY closed
  • The references to FTI Consulting in the Greg Craig entry on D-4
  • An investigation into foreign campaign contributions, item 11 on ongoing investigations, which would have been closed by the DC US Attorney, and probably was the Mystery Appellant case.
  • A reference to Left Hand Ventures:
    • Left Hand Enterprises – During the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel’s Office uncovered evidence of potential wire fraud and FECA violations pertaining to Trump Campaign vendor Left Hand Enterprises That evidence was referred to the Public Integrity Section within DOJ’s Criminal Division and the FBI’s Washington Field Office
  • A reference to Rebuilding America Now:
    • Rebuilding America Now – During the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel’s Office uncovered evidence of potential FECA violations and potential kickback schemes pertaining to the Rebuilding America Now PAC That evidence was referred to the Public Integrity Section within DOJ’s Criminal Division and the FBI’s Washington Field Office

Both of the last two involve suspect Paul Manafort graft, including the kickback system by which he was suspected of getting paid.

This seems to suggest the investigation into some of Paul Manafort’s epic graft is also dead.

That means the bulk of the redacted ongoing investigations remain ongoing (or otherwise sensitive — and they could be counterintelligence investigations). They include around 10 referrals — including anything pertaining to Roger Stone (including Jerome Corsi) and the presumed George Nader child porn referral already prosecuted.

Update: Corrected an error to note the closure of item 11, the suspected bribe involving the Mystery Appellant. h/t d

In at Least One Interview, Paul Manafort Was Not Asked How Stone Planned to Save Trump’s Ass

At first, Paul Manafort claimed not to remember any August 2016 conversations with Roger Stone about impending WikiLeaks releases. He further speculated that all the interesting conversations about WikiLeaks releases must have happened in September, after he was off the campaign. And then, even in the same interview, he admitted that was wrong.

That’s in no way the most interesting disclosure in a September 27, 2018 Mueller interview with Trump’s campaign manager in the most recent BuzzFeed FOIA response. But given a detail revealed in the Roger Stone trial — not to mention the abundant evidence that Manafort was shading his testimony within the 302 itself — Manafort’s efforts to disclaim any knowledge of what Roger Stone was up to in August 2016 suggests an affirmative attempt to cover up his knowledge of and possibly involvement in Stone’s activities that month.

The partial view offered by a single 302

The 302 was released in the most recent BuzzFeed FOIA release, one that makes fewer redactions than prior ones. The 302 is almost entirely unredacted and focuses closely on Roger Stone. This interview was neither the first interview at which Manafort was asked about Stone, nor is it the only interview released that pertains to Stone. His identifiable interviews pertaining to Stone are:

But in the earlier released 302s, the Stone-related content was redacted either due to Stone’s trial, or because an investigation into Stone remained ongoing on March 2, 2020, with the 6th release, but appears to have ended after Barr intervened in Stone’s case. For example, the released version of the September 13 302 redacts Manafort’s description of a pre-June 12 conversation with Stone where he told Manafort that, “a source close to WikiLeaks had the emails from Clinton’s server;” I’ve collected what appears unredacted from that interview in the SSCI Report here.

In other words, this is the one 302, so far, that shows us what DOJ actually asked Manafort about during the period he pretended to be cooperating in fall 2018 but was in fact lying. We can’t assume this interview is the entirety of what DOJ asked Manafort for several reasons. First, what we can see here is iterative. What starts as one brief mention on September 12, expands on September 13 (one of the only interviews where Manafort is believed to tell the truth), appears unredacted in this September 27 interview. But we might expect the October 1 (and any other interviews where he was asked about Stone) to include more information.

In addition, there is abundant evidence that DOJ is preferentially releasing files where a witness (including but not limited to Steve Bannon, Sam Clovis, and KT McFarland) lied to protect Trump, while keeping later more truthful (and damning) testimony redacted.

More importantly, the only Manafort references to Stone in the Mueller Report are cited to his grand jury testimony (probably on November 2, 2018, but that is redacted):

  • Manafort said Stone told him he was in contact with someone in contact with WikiLeaks. (fn 198)
  • Manafort told Trump Stone had predicted the release, in response to which Trump told him to stay in touch with Stone. (fn 204)
  • Manafort relayed the message to Stone, likely on July 25, 2016. (fn 205)
  • Manafort told Stone he wanted to be kept apprised of developments with WikiLeaks and told Gates to stay in touch with Stone as well. (fn 206)

I suspect Manafort was asked about things in his grand jury appearance that he wasn’t asked about in 302s (which is what happened on other topics Manafort was lying about). That said, just one detail — the date on which Manafort probably relayed Trump’s request that Stone seek out more information on WikiLeaks — appears in the Mueller Report, but not here (though as I’ll show in a follow-up post, the government clearly withheld a great deal of what they knew from the Mueller Report).

Manafort claims Stone didn’t include his life-long friend in his cover-up

Let’s start with the end of the interview. It captures Paul Manafort’s claims not to have coordinated stories with Stone, even while Manafort himself was coordinating stories with everyone else and Stone was coordinating stories too.

Close to the end of the interview, interviewers got Manafort to confirm that he knew, at the time Stone claimed on October 11, 2016 that he had no advance knowledge of the Podesta email release, Stone’s claim was “inconsistent with what he told” Manafort earlier in 2016.

Investigators then proceeded to ask Manafort questions to figure out whether (he would admit whether) Stone had included him in the rat-fucker’s very elaborate cover-up. He did not.

First, they got a general denial.

Manafort and Stone did not have a conversation in which Stone said Manafort should not tell anyone about the timing of the Podesta emails. They did not talk about Stone running away from what Stone told Manafort.

At a time when Manafort was lying wildly about everything else (in significant part to protect Trump), Stone’s lifelong friend claimed that Stone had made less effort to coordinate a cover story with Manafort than he had with Randy Credico, with whom Stone had a far more troubled relationship.

Then investigators asked Manafort (who at this point had been in jail almost four months and whom prosecutors knew had been conducting covert communications from jail) whether he and Stone had spoken about the investigation in the past six months. We know from this affidavit that by May, Stone was frantically calling Andrew Miller and siccing a private investigator on Credico and another witness in an attempt to cover his actions up. But while Manafort admitted that he and Stone had spoken about the investigation, he claimed they had had no conversations about covering up Stone’s advance knowledge of the Podesta dump.

Stone said the Special Counsel’s Office was accusing him of effectively controlling the timing of the leaked Podesta emails. Manafort thought it was some time in May or June that Stone told him the Special Counsel’s office thought he had a role in the Podesta emails. Stone did not expressly remind or tell Manafort what he (Stone) knew about the emails. They did not discuss the fact that Stone did actually have advance knowledge of the Podesta emails.

Again, we’re to believe that at a time Stone was spinning wild cover stories with Jerome Corsi, whom Stone had only known two years, at a time Stone was hiring private investigators to intimidate witnesses to sustain his cover story, Stone wasn’t at the same time including his life-long friend Paul Manafort in his cover-up.

Then, immediately after having claimed he and Stone had no conversation about the Podesta emails, Manafort then described what sounds like an attempt on Stone’s part to minimize what he had done.

Stone said to Manafort that he was not the decision maker or the controller of the information. Stone said he may have had advance knowledge, but he was not the decision maker. Stone was making clear to Manafort that he did not control the emails or make decisions about them. Stone said he received information about the Podesta emails but was a conduit, not someone in a position to get them released.

After providing what was a really damning admission (one that might have some truth to it!), Manafort then disclaimed any useful information by professing to be confused about all of this (something he said about learning in advance about the July 22 dump).

Manafort was confused as to the various people and hacks. Manafort asked Stone to go through the narrative of Assange, Guccifer, the DNC hack, and Seth Rich so that Manafort could understand it.

Stone knew Manafort knew that Stone’s public statements were false, but Stone “confused” Manafort.

Seth Rich was, fundamentally, a cover story that Stone helped perpetuate among right wing propagandists to disclaim his early knowledge that Russia was responsible for the email hacks. Manafort’s claim of confusion might reflect that investigators indicated they knew he was lying. But it effectively is an admission that Stone tried to get Manafort to repeat the cover story Stone had adopted, in parallel with WikiLeaks.

Then Manafort made two more claims that were probably false:

Stone did not advise Manafort to punch back or discredit the Special Counsel’s Office. Stone did not raise any desire to respond to the Special Counsel’s Office investigation by planting media stories.

Manafort was not aware of any attempts on Stone’s part to contact Manafort after Manafort was incarcerated.

Again, we’re to believe that Stone was working with everyone else he knew to push back on Mueller, but did not with Manafort (even while Manafort was having the same kinds of communications with Sean Hannity and others).

Most of the rest of the interview consists of Manafort trying to suggest that Stone had worked with Bannon on the Podesta emails (a claim he made earlier, as I’ll return to), effectively pawning off any coordination Stone did with the campaign to a time after Manafort left it.

Stone did not tell Manafort whether he passed the Podesta email information to anyone else on the campaign or associates with the campaign. Manafort speculated Stone may have passed information to Bannon, since Stone and Bannon had a relationship.

[snip]

Manafort thought Stone gave messaging ideas to Bannon, but did not think Stone was a source of information for Bannon.

Not only does this comment pawn any guilt onto Bannon, but it protects Trump from involvement he had in July and August.

Manafort’s evolving denials of any involvement in Stone’s activities

So that’s how the interview ends, with a Manafort effort to pawn off any guilt onto Bannon even while protecting Trump and others close to him, even after admitting that he and Stone had some conversation where Stone talked him through Assange, Guccifer, DNC, and Seth Rich.

Much earlier in the interview, Manafort confirmed some damning things that other witnesses had only hinted at. Here’s a summary of most of them (I’ll show how Manafort disproved his own claims about the Podesta emails next). Below I’ll show how for each damning admission, Manafort disclaimed substantive three-way coordination between him, Stone, and Trump, some of which he had already admitted to in his September 13 interview.

  1. Late May to early June: He had a conversation with Stone before Julian Assange said on June 12, 2016 WikiLeaks was publishing Hillary’s emails. In late May or early June, Stone said someone had good information that WikiLeaks had access to the emails on Clinton’s servers, which Manafort took to be a self-serving comment.
  2. After June 12: After Assange’s June 12 presser, Trump could and did start incorporating Hillary’s emails into his speeches, based on the premise that “if WikiLeaks had them, it was possible a foreign adversary did too.” Manafort said that Stone did not know what the emails were at that time.
  3. Between June 12 and the release of the DNC emails — a black hole: “Manafort wasn’t really interested until something was released” … “Manafort used Caputo to keep track of Stone, but by around June 15, 2016, Caputo left the campaign” … “Stone ‘went dark’ on WikiLeaks in late June.”
  4. Before July 21: Manafort and Stone had breakfast at the RNC where Stone clearly told Manafort stuff that anticipated the DNC email release, but about which Manafort made lame excuses.
  5. After the July 22 dump: Manafort gives credit to Stone for the release, and Trump tells Manafort that Stone should “stay on top of [the WikiLeaks dump].”
  6. August: While Manafort admits he raised the emails at a Monday Meeting, he claims all the interesting conversations about the emails must have happened after he left.

For each of these fairly damning revelations, Manafort offered logically inconsistent claims that he was out of the loop of any communications Stone had with Trump, as follows.

1 Manafort claims he didn’t tell Trump but would have known if Stone did

Manafort said Stone brought this up because of something Trump had said, but Manafort didn’t share the information with Trump and asked Stone not to tell Trump himself because he wanted to avoid a “fire drill” to go chase the emails down. Manafort considered the possibility Stone told Trump in spite of Manafort’s request he not do so, but claimed he would have known had Stone had done so.

Manafort asked Stone not to convey it to Trump, and Stone agreed. Manafort thought Stone would keep his word, but he was not convinced he would. Manafort did not have any indication whether or not Stone told Trump regardless of Manafort’s request. Manafort did not have a contemporaneous memory that Stone had told Trump about the emails, because he did not recall a conversation with Trump about it back then, which he would have expected if Trump knew.

In his September 13 interview, Manafort had already admitted that he believed Stone would have told Trump anyway because he ”wanted the credit for knowing in advance.”

2 Manafort admits he did talk to Trump after June 12 and suggests indirectly that he served as go-between the two

Even though Manafort had claimed not to have (and not wanted to have) discussed Stone’s predictions prior to Assange’s June 12 presser, Manafort did admit to discussing the emails after Assange’s presser. Manafort explained the difference between before and after Assange’s presser (and the reason why he was willing to discuss it with Trump) this way:

Manafort said there was no real fire drill after June 12, 2016 because the information was already out there. The fire drill would have been if Stone had been the only one saying it and Trump wanted more.

But Manafort then says some things about the conversations with Trump. The easiest way to make them cohere chronologically is if Trump did ask Manafort to find out more. I’ve rearranged Manafort’s claims, numbering the order in which he presented them.

  • Manafort thought he spoke to Trump and said Stone had it right, and that Trump was happy and looked forward to what WikiLeaks had. Trump asked Manafort if Stone knew what was in the emails. [2]
  • Manafort and Stone spoke after the June 12, 2016 article and Manafort said he [Manafort] was looking forward to what came out and also asked Stone whether he knew what Assange had. [1]
  • Manafort believed Stone told him he was working to find out what the emails included. [4]
  • Manafort told [Trump] no [Stone didn’t know what was in the emails] [3]

This may be a minor point, but Manafort’s description is inconsistent with there not being a conversation with Trump before June 12. That’s true because of the way he told Trump “Stone had it right,” reflecting prior knowledge, but also the way he reorders what happened to claim that he didn’t do what he said he had been afraid of having to do before June 12, run a fire drill.

This is the first time of two times that Manafort, in response to a question about whether he talked to someone whose name was redacted about WikiLeaks, he responded that that was “Miller’s” job (both Stephen and Jason were involved in WikiLeaks response and it’s unclear if an earlier redaction makes it clear which one he was talking about). That may be an effort to cover up Jared Kushner’s involvement (at trial, the government introduced evidence that Stone reached out to Kushner, and in the plea breach discussions the government accused Manafort of protecting someone who is almost certainly Kushner).

3 Manafort claims he wasn’t interested, Stone didn’t say anything, and doesn’t address discussions with Trump

Since Manafort claims not to have spoken to Stone about emails in the period when Guccifer 2.0 was releasing material but WikiLeaks was not, he doesn’t address whether he told Trump at all.

Stone “went dark” on WikiLeaks in late June. Manafort initially thought Stone’s advance knowledge was more of a guess.

As the SSCI Report makes clear, however, Manafort had at least six phone conversations that month, including these four:

  • June 4
  • June 12
  • June 20
  • June 23

4 Manafort tells a bullshit story about a breakfast he had that Morgan Pehme caught on tape

Early on in the interview, Manafort disclaimed June interest in emails by saying, “Manafort did not get really interested until something was released, which happened between the two conventions.” In the same paragraph, he is recorded as saying, “at that point [before something was released], Manafort could not rely on Assange.” The comment doesn’t make sense in any case, given that Guccifer 2.0 was releasing emails (which Manafort disclaims by saying they didn’t speak about emails). But in trying to discuss a breakfast captured on video, he virtually concedes Stone gave him detailed information before the DNC dump.

Manafort described a breakfast meeting he and Stone had that (he admits in the interview) had been partly caught on tape by the team making Get Me Roger Stone.

Manafort discussed a breakfast he had with Stone during the RNC, which was visible briefly in the “Get Me Roger Stone” documentary. They discussed convention speeches at that breakfast. Stone also complained about Ted Cruz. They discussed the DNC, because Manafort planned to go and give some speeches during it. WikiLeaks would have come up in that breakfast in reference to what they would be doing and how the campaign would use it. Manafort did not recall whether Stone said he knew when the WikiLeaks information was going to come out. They discussed Clinton’s server, WikiLeaks, and the DNC hack. They focused more on the DNC hack because it had current political value at the time. Manafort summarized the breakfast as a discussion about the DNC hack, when WikiLeaks planned to release the material, Manafort trying to understand the attack lines that would be used during the DNC and in the month of August, and the thematic strategy for the campaign.

Stone “went dark” on WikiLeaks in late June. Manafort initially thought Stone’s advance knowledge was more of a guess. It was not until the information about Debbie Wasserman-Schultz came out that Manafort realized the real value of the information. Stone did not tell Manafort the Wasserman-Schultz information was coming out in advance, but he was pleased when it did. That was the first time Manafort thought Stone’s connection to WikiLeaks was real.

According to emails released at trial, during the spring of 2018 (and well before) Randy Credico and Stone kept coming back to whether or not Morgan Pehme, one of the directors of Get Me Roger Stone, had “folded” or was lying. The film team had outtakes that showed more of what transpired at events they had filmed. So even Credico and Stone seemed worried about what having a film team travel around filming Trump’s rat-fucker might have seen while he was trying to steal the election.

Manafort (who, remember, would go on to disclaim having talked about cover stories with Stone) seems to have been aware of the risk, too.

This explanation from Manafort about this breakfast reveals one reason why. In the same breath as saying that Stone had gone dark in the period between Julian Assange’s June 12 interview and the actual release of the emails, Manafort got caught on film talking about it as an active thing. I have suggested that Stone met someone at the RNC who told him the emails were about to drop at a meeting that Andrew Miller would have scheduled. So it’s possible that this meeting happened in the wake of the one where Stone learned the drop was imminent. Manafort provides explanations that aren’t plausible given his other testimony, and comes close to admitting that the conversation reflected foreknowledge of the July 22 dump, which (as Manafort had already noted) came after the RNC ended.

5 Manafort disclaims any participation in the discussions between Stone and Trump

Manafort’s apparent message about what happened immediately after the DNC dump — which showed up in Stone’s trial as Trump ordering Manafort and Gates to get Stone to find out more — is that both he and Trump compartmentalized any discussions that happened about what came next.

The timeline he describes looks like this (though again, Manafort jumbled it a bit in the telling):

  • Before the weekend (and so either when the emails dropped or before): Manafort told Stone he was impressed and would be using it “the upcoming weekend in Philadelphia” and asked for more information, in response to which Stone did not specify.
  • After the July 22 dump: Manafort talked to Trump first (he would have had to have already spoken with Stone, though).
  • At the end of July 22: a possible different conversation with Trump and Reince Priebus.
  • Later in the weekend, probably July 23: Manafort “raised with” Trump that Stone had predicted it and Trump responded “that Stone should stay on top of it.”
  • July 24: Priebus and Manafort had talking points on the dump.

Then, as part of two paragraphs describing Manafort having a conversation that included the same things as the conversation he had before the weekend with Stone but is portrayed as after July 24, Manafort claims all of this was compartmentalized.

Manafort did not tell Stone specifically that Trump had asked that he stay on top of it. He would have just told him to stay on top of it. Manafort did not way to get into a cycle with Stone where Stone used him as an errand boy to get to Trump.

Manafort did not have any indication Trump heard from Stone directly, but he thought he would have. Trump would not have told Manafort if he was talking to Stone. Trump compartmentalized; it was just the way he was.

Manafort told Stone it was good stuff and to keep him posted, and Stone offered no indication he knew any more specifics.

Effectively, Manafort suggests both that Trump kept things with Stone compartmentalized — it was just the way he was! — which may conflict with his first explanation, that he’d be told of any discussions (in his September 13 testimony, he said he assumed they did speak before the DNC dump). In any case, Manafort also claims to be compartmentalizing himself, withholding from Stone the fact that Trump ordered Manafort to reach out.

I’ll come back to this.

6 Manafort admits certain things happened in August but claims he had no role

The government had two very specific questions for Manafort about August. First, did he speak to Stone about his August 8 speech in which he said there’d be more from WikiLeaks releases (remember, there were a whole series of such claims, but the government apparently only asked about the August 8 one). Manafort claimed he did not.

Manafort and Stone did not discuss Stone’s August 8, 2016 in which he said more was coming from WikiLeaks. Manafort recalled from the press coverage that Stone was confident more was coming in the fall. Stone never told Manafort he was dealing with Assange directly. Manafort assumed Stone had a contact of some sort. Stone’s August 8, 2016 comment was not out of character for Stone.

In other words, Manafort admits knowing about Stone’s comment (either this specific one or generally), but sourced it to the press, not Stone (or Trump). And though he admits that such boasts were normal for Stone, he seems to concede he nevertheless noticed them — in the press.

Investigators also asked Manafort, twice, about how the WikiLeaks releases came up at the Monday Morning meetings involving the family (they obviously had a specific one that occurred in the wake of the DNC release in mind). Over the course of an extended discussion, Manafort does admit it came up but suggests — in spite of the fact that Trump was “fixated on the topic” — that the discussion of Stone’s advance knowledge amounted to little more than, “that sounds like Roger.”

[After a claim that Manafort would later disprove that he had no conversations with Stone about WikiLeaks] Manafort was not certain when the next Monday morning meeting was, but it was either July 31 or August 7, but thought it was probably August 7, 2016. Manafort was sure WikiLeaks was raised and the discussion was about how useful the information was and when they could expect the next dump. Manafort thought it was probably a topic of many conversations. Trump was fixated on it.

[3 paragraphs in which Manafort concedes that someone at RNC was in the loop and claims that any substantive discussions happened after he left and then claims, probably for a second time, that “Miller” (which could be either Jason or Stephen) was in charge of those issues, so Kushner wouldn’t have been)]

The Monday morning family meeting has a two-fold agenda. One they discussed relevant “gossip” for the campaign. [Manafort tells anecdote about Michael Cohen catching Lewandowski leaking.] The meeting also covered scheduling. Manafort would lay out Trump’s travel schedule and they discussed how to integrate the family into events. Manafort said that when WikiLeaks was in the news, it would have been covered in the gossip section of the meeting. He remembered a discussion in which people said the Wasserman-Schultz stuff was helpful because it allowed Trump to say Clinton rigged the election against Bernie Sanders.

Manafort was sure he mentioned in a Monday meeting that Stone predicted the WikiLeaks dump. The reaction was something along the lines of “that sounds like Roger” and wondering about what else was coming. Stone had been putting it out there, but Manafort did not know if the family knew Stone had predicted it in advance.

Family meetings were attended by Manafort, Gates, Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, Hope Hicks, and sometimes Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

So Manafort admits being aware that Stone was wandering around claiming to know more was coming and that more was coming came up at a family meeting. These events happened on July 31, at the latest, per his testimony. But then he goes on to claim that he doesn’t remember any conversations in August with Stone about it.

Manafort did not recall any specific conversations in August 2016 with Stone about WikiLeaks.

As he did later in the interview, Manafort (who admitted ongoing ties with the campaign in his September 13 interview) suggested the good stuff happened after he left.

Manafort thought the campaign would have started to more aggressively look for more information from WikiLeaks in late August, and by that time, he was gone.

Poof! On September 27, 2018, at a time when Trump’s former campaign manager was pretending to cooperate, probably in an effort to learn what prosecutors knew and buy a pardon, Paul Manafort claimed that he did not have any memorable conversation with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks in the entire month of August.

Manafort disproves his own claims about August

Manafort then goes on to admit to at least one and probably two conversations that he remembered specifically that pertained to WikiLeaks.

Manafort was sure he had at least two conversations with Stone prior to the October 7, 2016 leak of John Podesta’s emails.

In the one conversation between Stone and Manafort, Stone told Manafort “you got fucked.” Stone’s comment related to the fact that Manafort had been fired. The conversation was either the day Manafort left the campaign or the day after.

In the other conversation, Stone told Manafort that there would be a WikiLeaks drop of emails with Podesta, and that Podesta would be “in the barrel” and Manafort would be vindicated. Manafort had a clear memory of the moment because of the language Stone used. Stone also said Manafort would be pleased with what came out. It was Manafort’s understanding that WikiLeaks had Podesta’s emails and they were going to show that [redacted] Manafort would be vindicated because he had to leave the campaign for being too pro-Russian, and this would show that Podesta also had links to Russia and would have to leave.

Manafort’s best recollection was the “barrel” conversation was before he got on the boat the week of August 28, 2016.

The first of these conversations, of course, may not have to do with Podesta. Except that — coming as it did the day on or the day after he left — it means it’s the around same day, August 15, 2016 that Stone tweeted about Hillary’s campaign manager for the first time ever.

@JohnPodesta makes @PaulManafort look like St. Thomas Aquinas Where is the @NewYorkTimes?

When Manafort got forced out of the campaign, Stone responded publicly in terms of John Podesta, whose emails he already knew WikiLeaks would be dropping.

The second conversation, which in this interview Manafort remembers clearly took place before he got on a yacht the week of August 28 (in the September 13 interview he placed it later), Stone said the same thing he said in his famous Tweet. It’ll soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel. Manafort claims to remember that “time in the barrel” language, but not Stone’s tweet. Manafort’s testimony seems to refute Stone’s cover stories about the tweet (here, Stone specifically describes it in term of just John Podesta). More importantly, Manafort’s testimony included details, a specific description of what Stone knew the Podesta emails to be released more than two months later would include, that would allow us to determine whether — as abundant evident suggests — Stone got advanced notice if not copies of materials relating to Joule Holdings in August 2016.

Except DOJ redacted that detail, which might reveal after 4 years, whether John Podesta’s suspicions that Roger Stone got his emails in advance were correct.

DOJ did so, based on the b6, b7C exemptions, to protect John Podesta’s privacy.

Investigators don’t ask how Stone proposed “to save Trump’s ass”

So Manafort, at first, obscured at least one really damning conversation in August, when Stone told him stuff that Stone would later spend years trying to cover up.

But there is almost certainly another.

Admittedly, Manafort was asked about calls in August, not calls after the DNC drop. So this email boasting of “good shit happening” would not be included.

Nor would the 68 minute phone call they had the next morning, the longest call they had that year.

Records reflect one-minute calls (suggesting no connection) between Stone and Manafort on July 28 and 29.1545 On July 29, Stone messaged Manafort about finding a time for the two of them to communicate, writing that there was “good shit happening.”1546 The back-a~d-forth between Stone and Manafort ultimately culminated in a 68-minute call on July 30, the longest call between the two of which the Committee is aware.1547

But Manafort did respond to an email offering “an idea to save Trump’s ass” by calling Stone. And that was in August.

Stone spoke by phone with Gates that night, and then called Manafort the next morning, but appeared unable to connect. 1559 Shortly after placing that call, Stone emailed Manafort with the subject line “I have an idea” and with the message text “to save Trump’s ass.”1560 Later that morning, Manafort called Stone back, and Stone tried to reach Gates again that afternoon. 1561

At trial, the prosecution included both exchanges among its examples of times Roger Stone contacted people from the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks.

Stone’s lawyers got FBI Agent Michelle Taylor to admit she had no idea what happened after even the first email.

Q. Tab 8, Exhibit 24, this is from Roger Stone to Paul Manafort, correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And the date of that?

A. This is an email dated July 29th, 2016.

Q. Do you know when the Republican National Convention occurred in 2016?

A. I do. I may have the dates a little off, but it was before this, July 19th to 21st maybe.

Q. All right, and do you know what, if anything, happened as a result of this email?

A. Do I know what happened as a result of this email?

Q. Yes.

A. No.

In closing, Jonathan Kravis asserted that the context proved this was about WikiLeaks.

On August 3rd, 2016, Stone writes to Manafort: “I have an idea to save Trump’s ass. Call me please.” What is Stone’s idea to save Trump’s ass? It’s to use the information about WikiLeaks releases that he just got from Jerome Corsi. How do know that’s what he had in mind; because that’s exactly what he did. As you just saw, just days after Stone sends this email to Paul Manafort, “I have an idea to save Trump’s ass,” he goes out on TV, on conference calls and starts plotting this information that he’s getting from Corsi: WikiLeaks has more stuff coming out, it’s really bad for Hillary Clinton.

Certainly, the government seems to have confidence that both those calls did pertain to WikiLeaks.

But they didn’t ask that question in a process they had reason to believe would be reported back to Donald Trump.

Paul Manafort’s answers in this interview appear to be a cover story, admitting some damning stuff, all while claiming there weren’t communications — particularly in August — we know there were. Which says Stone and Manafort (and, with the closure of these investigations, Bill Barr) are covering up something even more damning that the specific details of upcoming email dirt on John Podesta they’re withholding to protect John Podesta.

Paul Manafort’s Claims about WikiLeaks in His September 13, 2018 Interview

Paul Manafort’s September 13, 2018 interview is the only one where he is believed to tell the truth about a number of topics. It was the last one before Mueller gave him a plea deal that staved off an election season trial, leading to a period of cooperation during which Manafort substantively backed off much of what he admitted on September 13. Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, then told Rudy Giuliani what Manafort got asked.

The publicly released version includes substantive redactions regarding Roger Stone, WikiLeaks, and Jared Kushner (as well as Konstantin Kilimnik and the kickback system via which Manafort got paid). But the Senate Intelligence Committee appears to have obtained an unredacted version. So I wanted to summarize what the SSCI Report shows about WikiLeaks and Kushner. Where I can identify it, I will italicize the information that was not redacted in the BuzzFeed release. Everything else was hidden as part of an ongoing investigation in January 2, 2020 but was no longer considered sensitive when SSCI released its report (this may reflect ongoing investigative work that Bill Barr killed).


fn 539: Manafort told the FBI that, after his resignation, but before the election, he and Trump had spoken “a few times. ”

fn 540: While Manafort claimed to have not recalled the substance of these interactions, he did recall giving Trump advice on Trump’s performance in the second debate and giving Trump ideas for the third debate.

fn 542: Manafort also told the SCO that from the time he left the Campaign until the election, he met with Kushner “once or twice” and spoke to Kushner on the phone “five or six times.”

fn 543: Manafort said that both sides reached out to one another.

fn 544: According to Manafort, Donald Trump and others in his family were aware that Manafort and Kushner were in contact, and Kushner “thought it would be good” for Manafort to call Trump.

fn 547: On November 5, 2016, Manafort sent a document entitled “Securing the Victory” to at least Trump, Kushner, and Reince Priebus.[snip] While Manafort recalled in his interview with the SCO that he sent the memorandum to Trump’s executive assistant, the Trump Organization did not produce any such document as part of the Committee’s request. Because of other known deficiencies in the Trump Organization’s document responses, the Committee does not draw the conclusion that no document was sent. Not all senior individuals in the Trump Campaign engaged in substantive interactions with Manafort after his departure. For instance, while Steve Bannon was the recipient of short messages of encouragement from Manafort and responded in kind, Bannon made clear internally that he thought further interactions with Manafort would negatively impact the Campaign. In response to Priebus forwarding Manafort’s November 5, 2016 memorandum to him, Bannon responded, “We need to avoid manafort like he has a disease. Dems will say that the Russians are helping us win.” Email, Bannon to Priebus, November 5, 2016 (SKB_SSCl0000964)

fn 549: Manafort told the SCO that that he had “no information” that Russia hacked voting machines.

fn 550 Manafort also sent the memorandum to Sean Hannity, although he said he did not expect Hannity to talk to Trump about it.

fn 1444: Manafort also recalled hearing from Stone sometime in June 2016 that “a source close to WikiLeaks confirmed that WikiLeaks had the emails from Clinton’s server.”

fn 1445: Like Gates, Manafort recalled Stone telling him that the emails would be released “soon,” but Stone “did not know when.”

fn 1446: Manafort, who was not convinced that the documents were coming out, directed Gates to check in with Stone “from time to time” to see if his WikiLeaks · information remained “real and viable.”

fn 1475: Because Manafort was initially dubious that Stone had accurate information about WikiLeaks, he instructed Stone “not to tell Trump until they could. confirm it.” Manafort said that he wanted to keep Trump focused on speeches and meeting members of Congress, not distracted “by the titillation of a WikiLeaks release.”

fn 1476: In addition, Manafort believed Stone would have told Trump anyway because he ”wanted the credit for knowing in advance.”

fn 1494: Witness testimony indicates that Stone may have raised WikiLeaks again to Trump in late July, shortly before the DNC release occurred. Although Manafort did not know whether Stone and Trump spoke about WikiLeaks that week, he assumed they did.

fn 1507: On the afternoon of July 22, Manafort and Trump discussed how they could use the DNC emails relating to Debbie Wasserman Schultz

fn 1508: Although Manafort was confused by Stone’s prediction, which was that WikiLeaks had emails from “Clinton’s server,” whereas the document released that day came from the DNC, he. still used the “fact of the hack and the substance of the emails” to attack Clinton and deflect attention from Trump’s comments towards Senator Ted Cruz and Cruz’s wife. [snip] For example, Manafort sought to “draw [a] comparison to [the] fact that the Dems attack Russia for hacking them but want us to believe that the server in HC[‘s] home was safe from hacking” and that Clinton had “put national security at risk.” Email, Manafort to Spicer, Miller, Parscale, Reed, Gates, Fabrizio, and Kushner, July 24, 2016

fn 1513: Similarly, despite Manafort’s initial skepticism, after the email release on July 22, Manafort “thought that Stone had been right.”

fn 1518: Senior Campaign officials believed that the [Russia are you listening] statement was unscripted. 

fn 1523: In response [to Manafort’s reminder that Stone claimed to have access to WikiLeaks, sourced to GJ in Mueller Report], Trump directed Manafort to stay in touch with Stone to see if there were more emails coming out.

fn 1524: Manafort then spoke with Stone during the week of the Democratic National Convention. Stone was in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, which occurred directly prior to the Democratic National Convention.

fn 1525: At the time, Stone said he did not know what else would come out or when, but he agreed to follow up, although he did not say when he would do so.

fn 1617: At the end of September, Stone privately conveyed information about a future WikiLeaks release to Trump and Manafort. Manafort, who had left the Campaign in August, recalled speaking with Stone around the first presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, which took place on September 26, 2016. 

fn 1618: Stone told Manafort that “John Podesta was going to be in the barrel” and that “there were going to be leaks of John Podesta’s emails.”

fn 1678: Manafort recalled Trump acknowledging to him that “Stone had information on the release in advance” of it becoming public.

fn 1679: Manafort spoke with Stone by phone and told Stone that Stone had been right. Stone’s cell phone records show a 17-minute call with Manafort on October 12, although they may have been in touch through other means following the Podesta release.

HHS Propgandist Michael Caputo Is the Rat-Fucker’s Protégé

It was inevitable when Trump installed a press flack in April with the intention of riding herd on Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that the flack, Michael Caputo, would invent a false reality about Trump’s efforts to fight COVID.

Last week, Politico described how Caputo has done just that.

Caputo and his team have attempted to add caveats to the CDC’s findings, including an effort to retroactively change agency reports that they said wrongly inflated the risks of Covid-19 and should have made clear that Americans sickened by the virus may have been infected because of their own behavior, according to the individuals familiar with the situation and emails reviewed by POLITICO.

Caputo’s team also has tried to halt the release of some CDC reports, including delaying a report that addressed how doctors were prescribing hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug favored by Trump as a coronavirus treatment despite scant evidence. The report, which was held for about a month after Caputo’s team raised questions about its authors’ political leanings, was finally published last week. It said that “the potential benefits of these drugs do not outweigh their risks.”

In one clash, an aide to Caputo berated CDC scientists for attempting to use the reports to “hurt the President” in an Aug. 8 email sent to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other officials that was widely circulated inside the department and obtained by POLITICO.

That has led to a closer focus on Caputo, including this NYT piece describing a fevered Caputo calling for armed insurgency if Trump doesn’t win.

“I don’t like being alone in Washington,” he said, describing “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.” He then ran through a series of conspiracy theories, culminating in a prediction that Mr. Trump will win re-election but his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., will refuse to concede.

“And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing.” He added: “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.”

Bizarrely — particularly given Caputo’s ranting about insurgency and his claims to be stressed by his implication in the Mueller Report — few of the stories on him (WaPo is one exception) have even mentioned his relationship to Roger Stone.

Caputo did not just set Stone up for a meeting with a Russian offering dirt in May 2016. He’s Stone’s protégé. Multiple Mueller 302s describe that Stone got Caputo a job with the campaign. Manafort testified that he used Caputo to keep track of what Stone was up to — a damning description given that Manafort offered more details about Stone’s foreknowledge of the Podesta emails than other known witnesses. Caputo’s own 302–which was released in February– was heavily redacted because of ongoing investigations. One thing it revealed, however, is that Caputo ran a “Project Rasputin” for Trump in 2016 that remains unexplained.

Caputo repeatedly complained that, after Stone was indicted, a gag prohibited him from speaking with witnesses, including him. In December he wrote Judge Amy Berman Jackson a plaintive letter asking for permission to spend Christmas with Stone.

Mr. Stone and I have been close friends since 1986. We work together, we dine together, our families share holidays together.

[snip]

[I]t’s Chrismas, Judge, and our family wants to spend time with his.

[snip]

[W]ith the holiday season imminent, I am writing to ask to see Roger and his family again soon. During this season, I hope you see fit to give our families this gift.

He also wrote a letter in support of leniency.

As the years went on, Roger and I became close friends. I learned important lessons from him: to listen more than talk, to keep driving forward during hard times, to keep my friends and family close. He loved friendly but hard-hitting banter, and I learned to give as well as I got. He was the big brother I never had, and I feel fortunate.

[snip]

People think they know Roger Stone: he plays hardball; he’s Machiavellian. But he is at his center a caring man.

Since Stone’s commutation, however, Caputo and Stone should be free to talk. It’s likely not a coincidence. then, that Caputo is making the same calls for insurgency after Trump loses that the rat-fucker is.

Catherine Herridge Attempts to Relaunch Bullshit Conspiracies Answered by Peter Strzok’s Book

I hope to write a post arguing that Peter Strzok’s book came out at least six months too late.

But for the moment, I want to float the possibility that Nora Dannehy — John Durham’s top aide — quit last Friday at least in part because she read parts of Strzok’s book and realized there were really compelling answers to questions that have been floating unasked — and so unanswered — for years.

High-gaslighter Catherine Herridge raises questions already answered about Crossfire Hurricane opening

Yesterday, the Trump Administration’s favorite mouthpiece for Russian investigation conspiracies, Catherine Herridge, got out her high-gaslighter to relaunch complaints about facts that have been public (and explained) for years.

Citing an unnamed “former senior FBI Agent” and repeating the acronym “DIOG” over and over to give her high-gaslighting the patina of news value, she pointed to the fact that Strzok both opened and signed off on the Electronic Communication opening Crossfire Hurricane, then suggested — falsely — that because Loretta Lynch was not briefed no one at DOJ was. It’s pure gaslighting, but useful because it offers a good read on which aspects of Russian investigation conspiracies those feeding the conspiracies feel need to be shored up.

Note, even considering just the ECs opening investigations, Herridge commits the same lapses that former senior FBI Agent Kevin Brock made in this piece. I previously showed how the EC for Mike Flynn addresses the claimed problems. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that Herridge’s anonymous former senior FBI Agent is making the same errors I already corrected when former senior FBI Agent Kevin Brock made them in May.

All that said, I take from Herridge’s rant that her sources want to refocus attention on how Crossfire Hurricane was opened.

Peter Strzok never got asked (publicly) about how the investigation got opened

As it happens, that’s a question that Strzok had not publicly addressed in any of his prior testimony.

Strzok was not interviewed by HPSCI.

Strzok was interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee on November 17, 2017. But they don’t appear to have asked Strzok about the investigation itself or much beyond the Steele dossier; all six references to his transcript describe how the FBI vetted the Steele dossier.

Deputy Assistant Director Pete Strzok, at that point the lead for FBI’ s Crossfire Hurricane investigation, told the Committee that his team became aware of the Steele information in September 2016. He said, “We were so compartmented in what we were doing, [the Steele reporting] kind of bounced around a little bit,” also, in part, because [redacted] and Steele did not normally report on counterintelligence matters. 5952 Strzok said that the information was “certainly very much in line with things we were looking at” and “added to the body of knowledge of what we were doing.”5953

Peter Strzok explained that generally the procedure for a “human validation review” is for FBI’ s Directorate of Intelligence to analyze an asset’s entire case file, looking at the reporting history, the circumstances of recruitment, their motivation, and their compensation history.6005 Strzok recalled that the result was “good to continue; that there were not significant concerns, certainly nothing that would indicate that he was compromised or feeding us disinformation or he was a bad asset.”6006 However, Strzok also said that after learning that reporters and Congress had Steele’s information:

[FBI] started looking into why he was assembling [the dossier], who his clients were, what the basis of their interest was, and how they might have used it, and who would know, it was apparent to us that this was not a piece of information simply provided to the FBI in the classic sense of a kind of a confidential source reporting relationship, but that it was all over the place. 6007

[snip]

Strzok said that, starting in September 2016, “there were people, agents and analysts, whose job specifically it was to figure this out and to do that with a sense of urgency.”6021

Strzok was also interviewed in both a closed hearing and an open hearing in the joint House Judiciary and House Oversight investigations into whatever Mark Meadows wanted investigated. The closed hearing addressed how the investigation got opened, but an FBI minder was there to limit how he answered those questions, citing the Mueller investigation. And even there, the questions largely focused on whether Strzok’s political bias drove the opening of the investigation.

Mr. Swalwell. Let me put it this way, Mr. Strzok: Is it fair to say that, aside from the opinions that you expressed to Ms. Page about Mr. Trump, there was a whole mountain of evidence independent of anything you had done that related to actions that were concerning about what the Russians and the Trump campaign were doing?

Ms. Besse. So, Congressman, that may go into sort of the — that will — for Mr. Strzok to answer that question, that goes into the special counsel’s investigation, so I don’t think he can answer that question.

Even more of the questions focused on the decision to reopen the Clinton investigation days before the election.

To the extent that the open hearing, which was a predictable circus, addressed the opening of Crossfire Hurricane at all (again, there was more focus on Clinton), it involved Republicans trying to invent feverish meaning in Strzok’s texts, not worthwhile oversight questions about the bureaucratic details surrounding the opening.

The DOJ IG Report backs the Full Investigation predication but doesn’t explain individual predication

The DOJ IG Report on Carter Page does address how the investigation got opened. It includes a long narrative about the unanimity about the necessity of investigating the Australian tip (though in this section, it does not cite Strzok).

From July 28 to July 31, officials at FBI Headquarters discussed the FFG information and whether it warranted opening a counterintelligence investigation. The Assistant Director (AD) for CD, E.W. “Bill” Priestap, was a central figure in these discussions. According to Priestap, he discussed the matter with then Section Chief of CD’s Counterespionage Section Peter Strzok, as well as the Section Chief of CD’s Counterintelligence Analysis Section I (Intel Section Chief); and with representatives of the FBI’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC), including Deputy General Counsel Trisha Anderson and a unit chief (OGC Unit Chief) in OGC’s National Security and Cyber Law Branch (NSCLB). Priestap told us that he also discussed the matter with either then Deputy Director (DD) Andrew McCabe or then Executive Assistant Director (EAD) Michael Steinbach, but did not recall discussing the matter with then Director James Comey told the OIG that he did not recall being briefed on the FFG information until after the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was opened, and that he was not involved in the decision to open the case. McCabe said that although he did not specifically recall meeting with Comey immediately after the FFG information was received, it was “the kind of thing that would have been brought to Director Comey’s attention immediately.” McCabe’s contemporaneous notes reflect that the FFG information, Carter Page, and Manafort, were discussed on July 29, after a regularly scheduled morning meeting of senior FBI leadership with the Director. Although McCabe told us he did not have an independent recollection of this discussion, he told us that, based upon his notes, this discussion likely included the Director. McCabe’s notes reflect only the topic of the discussion and not the substance of what was discussed. McCabe told us that he recalled discussing the FFG information with Priestap, Strzok, then Special Counsel to the Deputy Director Lisa Page, and Comey, sometime before Crossfire Hurricane was opened, and he agreed with opening a counterintelligence investigation based on the FFG information. He told us the decision to open the case was unanimous.

McCabe said the FBI viewed the FFG information in the context of Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections in the years and months prior, as well as the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the DNC hack by a Russian Intelligence Service (RIS). He also said that when the FBI received the FFG information it was a “tipping point” in terms of opening a counterintelligence investigation regarding Russia’s attempts to influence and interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections because not only was there information that Russia was targeting U.S. political institutions, but now the FBI had received an allegation from a trusted partner that there had been some sort of contact between the Russians and the Trump campaign. McCabe said that he did not recall any discussion about whether the FFG information constituted sufficient predication for opening a Full Investigation, as opposed to a Preliminary Investigation, but said that his belief at the time, based on his experience, was that the FFG information was adequate predication. 167

According to Priestap, he authorized opening the Crossfire Hurricane counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016, based upon these discussions. He told us that the FFG information was provided by a trusted source-the FFG–and he therefore felt it “wise to open an investigation to look into” whether someone associated with the Trump campaign may have accepted the reported offer from the Russians. Priestap also told us that the combination of the FFG information and the FBI’s ongoing cyber intrusion investigation of the DNC hacks created a counterintelligence concern that the FBI was “obligated” to investigate. Priestap said that he did not recall any disagreement about the decision to open Crossfire Hurricane, and told us that he was not pressured to open the case.

It includes a discussion explaining why FBI decided against defensive briefings — a key complaint from Republicans. Here’s the explanation Bill Priestap gave.

While the Counterintelligence Division does regularly provide defensive briefings to U.S. government officials or possible soon to be officials, in my experience, we do this when there is no indication, whatsoever, that the person to whom we would brief could be working with the relevant foreign adversary. In other words, we provide defensive briefings when we obtain information indicating a foreign adversary is trying or will try to influence a specific U.S. person, and when there is no indication that the specific U.S. person could be working with the adversary. In regard to the information the [FFG] provided us, we had no indication as to which person in the Trump campaign allegedly received the offer from the Russians. There was no specific U.S. person identified. We also had no indication, whatsoever, that the person affiliated with the Trump campaign had rejected the alleged offer from the Russians. In fact, the information we received indicated that Papadopoulos told the [FFG] he felt confident Mr. Trump would win the election, and Papadopoulos commented that the Clintons had a lot of baggage and that the Trump team had plenty of material to use in its campaign. While Papadopoulos didn’t say where the Trump team had received the “material,” one could reasonably infer that some of the material might have come from the Russians. Had we provided a defensive briefing to someone on the Trump campaign, we would have alerted the campaign to what we were looking into, and, if someone on the campaign was engaged with the Russians, he/she would very likely change his/her tactics and/or otherwise seek to cover-up his/her activities, thereby preventing us from finding the truth. On the other hand, if no one on the Trump campaign was working with the Russians, an investigation could prove that. Because the possibility existed that someone on the Trump campaign could have taken the Russians up on their offer, I thought it wise to open an investigation to look into the situation.

It even explained how, by its read, the investigation met the terms of the DIOG for a Full Investigation.

Under Section 11.B.3 of the AG Guidelines and Section 7 of the DIOG, the FBI may open a Full Investigation if there is an “articulable factual basis” that reasonably indicates one of the following circumstances exists:

  • An activity constituting a federal crime or a threat to the national security has or may have occurred, is or may be occurring, or will or may occur and the investigation may obtain information relating to the activity or the involvement or role of an individual, group, or organization in such activity;
  • An individual, group, organization, entity, information, property, or activity is or may be a target of attack, victimization, acquisition, infiltration, or recruitment in connection with criminal activity in violation of federal law or a threat to the national security and the investigation may obtain information that would help to protect against such activity or threat; or
  • The investigation may obtain foreign intelligence that is responsive to a requirement that the FBI collect positive foreign intelligence-i.e., information relating to the capabilities, intentions, or activities of foreign governments or elements thereof, foreign organizations or foreign persons, or international terrorists.

The DIOG provides examples of information that is sufficient to initiate a Full Investigation, including corroborated information from an intelligence agency stating that an individual is a member of a terrorist group, or a threat to a specific individual or group made on a blog combined with additional information connecting the blogger to a known terrorist group. 45 A Full Investigation may be opened if there is an “articulable factual basis” of possible criminal or national threat activity. When opening a Full Investigation, an FBI employee must certify that an authorized purpose and adequate predication exist; that the investigation is not based solely on the exercise of First Amendment rights or certain characteristics of the subject, such as race, religion, national origin, or ethnicity; and that the investigation is an appropriate use of personnel and financial resources. The factual predication must be documented in an electronic communication (EC) or other form, and the case initiation must be approved by the relevant FBI personnel, which, in most instances, can be a Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) in a field office or at Headquarters. As described in more detail below, if an investigation is designated as a Sensitive Investigative Matter, that designation must appear in the caption or heading of the opening EC, and special approval requirements apply.

Importantly, per Michael Horowitz’s own description of the dispute, this is the topic about which John Durham disagreed. Durham reportedly believed it should have been opened as a Preliminary Investigation — but that would not have changed the investigative techniques available (and there was already a Full Investigation into Carter Page and Paul Manafort).

After first making the same error that Durham did in the Kevin Clinesmith, eleven days after publishing the report, DOJ IG corrected it to note the full implication of Crossfire Hurricane being opened as a counterintelligence investigation, implicating both FARA and 18 USC 951 Foreign Agent charges.

Crossfire Hurricane was opened by CD and was assigned a case number used by the FBI for possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), 22 U.S.C. § 611, et seq., and 18 U.S.C. § 951 (Agents of Foreign Governments). 170 As described in Chapter Two, the AG Guidelines recognize that activities subject to investigation as “threats to the national security” may also involve violations or potential violations of federal criminal laws, or may serve important purposes outside the ambit of normal criminal investigation and prosecution by informing national security decisions. Given such potential overlap in subject matter, neither the AG Guidelines nor the DIOG require the FBI to differently label its activities as criminal investigations, national security investigations, or foreign intelligence collections. Rather, the AG Guidelines state that, where an authorized purpose exists, all of the FBI’s legal authorities are available for deployment in all cases to which they apply.

And it provided this short description of why Strzok opened the investigation.

After Priestap authorized the opening of Crossfire Hurricane, Strzok, with input from the OGC Unit Chief, drafted and approved the opening EC. 175 Strzok told us that the case agent normally drafts the opening EC for an investigation, but that Strzok did so for Crossfire Hurricane because a case agent was not yet assigned and there was an immediate need to travel to the European city to interview the FFG officials who had met with Papadopoulos.

Finally, the IG Report provides a description of how the FBI came to open investigations against Trump’s four flunkies, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and — after a few days — Mike Flynn (though in the process, repeats but did not correct the error of calling this a FARA case).

Strzok, the Intel Section Chief, the Supervisory Intelligence Analyst (Supervisory Intel Analyst), and Case Agent 2 told the OIG that, based on this information, the initial investigative objective of Crossfire Hurricane was to determine which individuals associated with the Trump campaign may have been in a position to have received the alleged offer of assistance from Russia.

After conducting preliminary open source and FBI database inquiries, intelligence analysts on the Crossfire Hurricane team identified three individuals–Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn–associated with the Trump campaign with either ties to Russia or a history of travel to Russia. On August 10, 2016, the team opened separate counterintelligence FARA cases on Carter Page, Manafort, and Papadopoulos, under code names assigned by the FBI. On August 16, 2016, a counterintelligence FARA case was opened on Flynn under a code name assigned by the FBI. The opening ECs for all four investigations were drafted by either of the two Special Agents assigned to serve as the Case Agents for the investigation (Case Agent 1 or Case Agent 2) and were approved by Strzok, as required by the DIOG. 178 Each case was designated a SIM because the individual subjects were believed to be “prominent in a domestic political campaign. “179

Obviously, the extended account of how the umbrella investigation and individual targeted ones got opened accounts for Strzok’s testimony, but usually relies on someone else where available. That may be because Horowitz walked into this report with a key goal of assessing whether Strzok took any step arising from political bias, and while he concluded that Strzok could not have taken any act based on bias, he ultimately did not conclude one way or another whether he believed Strzok let his hatred for Trump bias his decisions.

But at first, the account made errors about what FBI was really investigating. And even in the longer discussions about how FBI came to predicate the four individual investigations (which follow the cited passage), it doesn’t really explain how FBI decided to go from the umbrella investigation to individualized targets.

Strzok, UNSUB, and his packed bags

So Strzok’s book, as delayed as I think the publication of it is, is in substantial part the first time he gets to explain these early activities.

In a long discussion about how the case got opened, Strzok talks about the difficulties of a counterintelligence investigation, particularly one where you don’t know whom your subject is, as was the case here.

Another reason for secrecy in the FBI’s counterintelligence work is the fundamentally clandestine nature of what it is investigating. Like my work on the illegals in Boston, counterintelligence work frequently has nothing to do with criminal behavior. An espionage investigation, as the Bureau defines it, involves an alleged violation of law. But pure counterintelligence work is often removed from proving that a crime took place and identifying the perpetrator. It’s gaining an understanding of what a foreign intelligence service is doing, who it targets, the methods it uses, and what the national security implications are.

Making those cases even more complicated, agents often don’t even know the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. They have a term for that: an unknown subject, or UNSUB, which they use when an activity is known but the specific person conducting that activity is not — for instance, when they are aware that Russia is working to undermine our electoral system in concert with a presidential campaign but don’t know exactly who at that campaign Russia might be coordinating with or how many people might be involved.

To understand the challenges of an UNSUB case, consider the following three hypothetical scenarios. In one, a Russian source tells his American handler that, while out drinking at an SVR reunion, he learned that a colleague had just been promoted after a breakthrough recruitment of an American intelligence officer in Bangkok. We don’t know the identity of the recruited American — he or she is an UNSUB. A second scenario: a man and a woman out for a morning run in Washington see a figure toss a package over the fence of the Russian embassy and speed off in a four-door maroon sedan. An UNSUB.

Or consider this third scenario: a young foreign policy adviser to an American presidential campaign boasts to one of our allies that the Russians have offered to help his candidate by releasing damaging information about that candidate’s chief political rival. Who actually received the offer of assistance from the Russians? An UNSUB.

The typical approach to investigating UNSUB cases is to open a case into the broad allegation, an umbrella investigation that encompasses everything the FBI knows. The key to UNSUB investigations is to first build a reliable matrix of every element known about the allegation and then identify the universe of individuals who could fit that matrix. That may sound cut-and-dried, but make no mistake: while the methodology is straightforward, it’s rarely easy to identify the UNSUB.

[snip]

The FFG information about Papadopoulos presented us with a text- book UNSUB case. Who received the alleged offer of assistance from the Russians? Was it Papadopoulos? Perhaps, but not necessarily. We didn’t know about his contacts with Mifsud at the time — all we knew was that he had told the allied government that the Russians had dirt on Clinton and Obama and that they wanted to release it in a way that would help Trump.

So how did we determine who else needed to go into our matrix? And what did we know about the various sources of the information? Papadopoulos had allegedly stated it, but it was relayed by a third party. What did we know about both of them: their motivations, for instance, or the quality of their memories? What were the other ways we could determine whether the allegation was true?

And if it was true, how did we get to the bottom of it?

Having laid out the challenge that lay behind the four predications, Strzok then described the circumstances of the trip (with a big gaping hole in the discussion of meeting with the Australians).

He describes how he went home over the weekend, not knowing whether they would leave immediately or after the weekend. That’s why, he explained, he wrote the EC himself, specifically to have one in place before they flew to London.

I quickly briefed him on the facts and asked him to get a bag ready to go to Europe to do some interviews.

When are we leaving? he asked me.

No idea, I told him. Probably not until Monday, but I want to be ready to go tomorrow.

How long are we going for? he asked.

I don’t know, I admitted. A few days at most. I wasn’t sure if we would get to yes with our counterparts, but our sitting there in Europe would make it harder for them to say no.

I had work to do before we could depart. When I left the office on Friday, I grabbed my assigned take-home laptop, configured to operate at a classified level on our secure network.

[snip]

Sitting in my home office, I opened the work laptop and powered it up. The laptops were balky and wildly overpriced, requiring an arcane multi-step process to connect. They constantly dropped their secure connections. Throughout the D.C. suburbs, FBI agents flew into rages when the laptops quit cold while they were trying to work at home. Chinese or Russian intelligence would have been hard-pressed to develop a more infuriating product. Nevertheless, they let you work away from the office.

After logging in, I pulled up a browser and launched Sentinel, our electronic case file system. Selecting the macro for opening an investigation, I filled in the various fields until I reached the blank box for the case name.

They didn’t leave over the weekend, but they did leave on Monday. When they came back, having heard Alexander Downer’s side of the story (probably along with his aide, with whom Papadopoulos met and drank more with on multiple occasions, but that’s not in the book), it seemed a more credible tip.

And in the interim, analysts had found four possible candidates to be the UNSUB.

I was surprised by the amount of information the analysts had already found. Usually, because initial briefings take place at the very beginning of an investigation, they are short on facts and long on conjecture about all the various avenues we might pursue for information. In this case there were already a lot of facts, and several individuals—not just one—had already cropped up in other cases, in other intelligence collection, in other surveillance activity.
Although I was just hours back from Europe, what I saw was deeply dis- concerting. Though we were in the earliest stages of the investigation, our first examination of intelligence had revealed a wide breadth and volume of connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. It was as if we had gone to search for a few rocks only to find ourselves in a field of boulders.

Within a week the team had highlighted several people who stood out as potentially matching the UNSUB who had received the Russian offer of assistance. As we developed information, each person went into the UNSUB matrix, with tick marks next to the matching descriptors.

All this description is surely not going to satisfy Republicans. Nor was it under oath or to law enforcement officers, as Strzok’s other testimony was.

But it’s a compelling description.

It also adds perspective onto the treatment of Mike Flynn. Until they learned about Papadopoulos’ ties with Joseph Mifsud, they still had no clues about who got the tip. Mike Flynn had been eliminated for lack of evidence — but then he picked up a phone and provided the FBI a whole lot of evidence that he could be the guy.

And unless you believe that receiving a credible tip from a close ally that someone is tampering in an election still three months away doesn’t merit urgency, then the other steps all make sense.

I have no idea if that’s why Catherine Herridge got sent to whip out her high-gaslight again. I have no idea whether Nora Dannehy read these excerpts, and in the process realized both the significance of the error in treating this as a FARA investigation, but also how that changes predication into individual subjects.

But there have long been answers to some of the most basic questions that Republicans have returned to over and over again. It’s just that few of the interim investigations ever asked to get those answers. And the one that did — the DOJ IG Report — never even understood the crimes investigated until after the report got published.

It’s Not the Four Year Old Counterintelligence Investigation intro Trump We Need to Be Most Worried About — It’s the Ones Bill Barr May Have Killed

The other day, Mike Schmidt advertised a book by claiming that FBI never did any kind of counterintelligence investigation of Trump in parallel with the Mueller investigation. On Twitter, Andrew Weissmann debunked a key part (though not all) of that claim.

The aftermath has led to ongoing debates about what really happened. My guess is that Schmidt’s sources did not have visibility on the full scope of the Mueller investigation, and he didn’t read the Mueller Report, which would have helped him realize that. And while credible reports say Mueller didn’t investigate Trump’s historical financial ties to Russia (while I’ve read neither book yet, the excerpts of Jeff Toobin’s book adhere more closely to the public record than Schmidt’s), the public record also suggests Mueller obtained Trump-related records that most people don’t realize he obtained.

I reiterate that it is far more troubling that a co-equal branch of government — the one with impeachment power — chose not to pursue the same questions about Trump’s financial vulnerabilities to Russia. If you want to express outrage that no one has investigated whether Trump is beholden to Russia, focus some of it on Richard Burr, who suggested Trump’s financial vulnerability to Russia was irrelevant to a report specifically focused on counterintelligence threats.

Still, there’s something still more urgent, one that is getting lost in the debate about what happened three or four years ago.

There were, as of at least April, at least one and probably several investigations implicating counterintelligence tied to Trump, through his top associates. But they tie to the same cases that Billy Barr has undermined in systematic and unprecedented fashion in recent months. It is a far more pressing question whether Barr has undermined counterintelligence investigations implicating Trump’s ties to Russia by ensuring those who lied to protect him during the Mueller investigation face no consequences than what Rod Rosenstein did forty months ago.

Consider Mike Flynn. The most newsworthy thing Robert Mueller said — under oath — over the course of two congressional hearings is that “many elements of the FBI” were looking into the counterintelligence risks created by Mike Flynn’s lies about his communications with Russia.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Since it was outside the purview of your investigation your report did not address how Flynn’s false statements could pose a national security risk because the Russians knew the falsity of those statements, right?

MUELLER: I cannot get in to that, mainly because there are many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Currently?

MUELLER: Currently.

As part of Mueller’s analysis about whether Trump fired Jim Comey to stop the investigation into Flynn, he weighed whether the Flynn investigation implicated Trump personally. But he found — largely because Flynn and KT McFarland, after first telling similar lies to investigators, later professed no memory that Trump was in the loop regarding Flynn’s efforts to undercut sanctions with Sergey Kislyak, and Steve Bannon repeated a White House script saying he wasn’t — that the evidence was inconclusive.

As part of our investigation, we examined whether the President had a personal stake in the outcome of an investigation into Flynn-for example, whether the President was aware of Flynn’s communications with Kislyak close in time to when they occurred, such that the President knew that Flynn had lied to senior White House officials and that those lies had been passed on to the public. Some evidence suggests that the President knew about the existence and content of Flynn’s calls when they occurred, but the evidence is inconclusive and could not be relied upon to establish the President’s knowledge.

[snip]

But McFarland did not recall providing the President-Elect with Flynn’s read-out of his calls with Kislyak, and Flynn does not have a specific recollection of telling the President-Elect directly about the calls. Bannon also said he did not recall hearing about the calls from Flynn. And in February 2017, the President asked Flynn what was discussed on the calls and whether he had lied to the Vice President, suggesting that he did not already know. Our investigation accordingly did not produce evidence that established that the President knew about Flynn’s discussions of sanctions before the Department of Justice notified the White House of those discussions in late January 2017.

We’ve since seen transcripts that show Mike Flynn telling Sergey Kislyak in real time that Trump was aware of the communications between the two (and John Ratcliffe is withholding at least one transcript of a call between the men).

FLYNN: and, you know, we are not going to agree on everything, you know that, but, but I think that we have a lot of things in common. A lot. And we have to figure out how, how to achieve those things, you know and, and be smart about it and, uh, uh, keep the temperature down globally, as well as not just, you know, here, here in the United States and also over in, in Russia.

KISLYAK: yeah.

FLYNN: But globally l want to keep the temperature down and we can do this ifwe are smart about it.

KISLYAK: You’re absolutely right.

FLYNN: I haven’t gotten, I haven’t gotten a, uh, confirmation on the, on the, uh, secure VTC yet, but the, but the boss is aware and so please convey that. [my emphasis]

Certainly, Russia would have reason to believe that Flynn’s efforts to undermine sanctions were directed by Trump.

In January, a sentencing memo that was delayed so it could be approved by the entire chain of command at DOJ, explained why all this was significant.

Any effort to undermine the recently imposed sanctions, which were enacted to punish the Russian government for interfering in the 2016 election, could have been evidence of links or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia. Accordingly, determining the extent of the defendant’s actions, why the defendant took such actions, and at whose direction he took those actions, were critical to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.

[snip]

It was material to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation to know the full extent of the defendant’s communications with the Russian Ambassador, and why he lied to the FBI about those communications.

Flynn’s forgetfulness about whether Trump ordered him to undermine sanctions went to the core question of whether Trump worked with Russia in their efforts to throw him the election.

And that sentencing memo was the moment when Billy Barr threw two different lawyers — one a lifetime associate of his — into the project of creating a false excuse to undermine the prosecution of Flynn. More recently, Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall told the DC Circuit that Barr had secret reasons for overturning the prosecution.

The Attorney General of course sees this in a context of non-public information from other investigations.

[snip]

I just want to make clear that it may be possible that the Attorney General had before him information that he was not able to share with the court and so what we put in front of the court were the reasons that we could, but it may not be the whole picture available to the Executive Branch.

[snip]

It’s just we gave three reasons; one of them was that the interests of justice were not longer served, in the Attorney General’s judgment, by the prosecution. The Attorney General made that decision, or that judgment, on the basis of lots of information, some of it is public and fleshed out in the motion, some of it is not.

This secret reason is why, Wall suggested, it would cause irreparable harm for DOJ to have to show up before Judge Emmet Sullivan and explain why DOJ blew up the prosecution.

Then there’s Roger Stone. Stone very loudly claimed (improbably) that he could have avoided prison had he not lied to protect Donald Trump. And Trump rewarded him for it, commuting his sentence to ensure he didn’t spend a day in prison.

But at least as of April, an investigation into whether Stone was part of a conspiracy with Russia and/or was a Russian agent — implicating 18 USC 951, not just FARA — was ongoing. Among the things Stone was involved in that Trump refused to answer Mueller questions about was a pardon for Julian Assange, one Stone started pursuing at least as early as November 15. While no sentencing memo has explained this (as it did with Mike Flynn), whether Trump and Stone used promises of a pardon to get Assange to optimize the WikiLeaks releases goes to the core question of whether there was a quid pro quo as part of 2016.

Finally, there’s Paul Manafort, whose close associates, the SSCI Report makes clear, were part of GRU and appear to have had a role in the hack-and-leak. After securing a cooperation deal, Manafort changed his story, and then shared details of what Mueller’s team knew with the President.

Yet, even with Manafort’s ties to the effort to steal our election, the Attorney General used COVID relief to ensure that Manafort would escape prison.

While it’s not clear whether John Ratcliffe, Barr, or the IC made the decision, the redaction process of the SSCI report denied voters the ability to know how closely tied Trump’s campaign manager is with the people who helped steal the election. What we do know is the effort Manafort started continues in Trump’s efforts to extort Ukraine and spew Russian disinformation.

For all three of the Trump associates where we know Barr intervened (there’s good reason to suspect he intervened in an Erik Prince prosecution, too), those people implicate Trump directly in counterintelligence investigations that were, fairly recently, ongoing.

Whether or not there was a counterintelligence investigation implicating Trump on May 20, 2017, after Rod Rosenstein scoped the Mueller investigation, we know counterintelligence investigations have implicated him since. What we don’t know is whether, in an effort to help Trump get reelected, his fixer Billy Barr squelched those, too.

Update: In an appearance for his book, Schmidt said he considered writing it (in 2020) about just the first 26 days of his presidency. It’s a telling comment given that his description of what happened with counterintelligence doesn’t accord with what the Mueller Report itself said happened around 500 days into Trump’s presidency.

Billy Barr Released Someone with a History of Conspiring from Prison to Home Confinement

One thing the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Russia does is confirm there’s a continuity between the efforts to carve up Ukraine pitched to Paul Manafort on August 2, 2016 — at a meeting where he also discussed how he would win Michigan — and the propaganda efforts implicating Ukraine that got the President impeached.

The report has a forty page section describing “Manafort’s Activities After the Election.”

The narrative starts with Kilimnik attempting to leverage his ties to Manafort (in part exploiting Sam Patten). It then describes some of the events described in the Mueller Report: the December 8, 2016 foldered email, a heavily redacted description of his meeting in Madrid with Georgiy Oganov, Konstantin Kilimnik’s trip to the inauguration where he had a meeting with Manafort he kept secret from Patten, a second meeting in Madrid — this time with Kilimnik — where they discussed how to undermine the narrative about Russia.

Then it takes a seeming deviation, spending sixteen pages describing Russia’s efforts — significantly led by Kilimnik — to undermine investigations into Russian interference. Much of this is unredacted. But a section describing Kilimnik’s follow-up contact with US Government officials and including descriptions of John Solomon’s propaganda is heavily redacted.

Then the narrative returns to Manafort and Kilimnik’s joint efforts to carve up Ukraine for Russia. The SSCI Report introduces an eight page section — which is almost entirely redacted save two mentions of Andrii Telizhenko’s role in the effort — by describing Kilimnik’s parallel efforts to blame Ukraine for the 2016 interference and to bring back Yanukovych.

Kilimnik, however, continued efforts to reestablish Yanukovych as part of a peace settlement. Kilimnik worked with associates inside Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere to affect U.S. perceptions of the conflict in Ukraine. These plans blended Kilimnik’s efforts to bring about Yanukovych’s return-including his exoneration related to the violence in the Maydan in February 2014—with the aforementioned themes promoting the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections .

The inclusion of Telizhenko and Solomon in this discussion — right in the middle of a long discussion of Manafort’s ties to Kilimnik — definitively tie the events leading up to impeachment and Ron Johnson’s current efforts to spew Russian disinformation to Manafort’s efforts with Kilimnik.

This is part of a section that Ron Wyden complained, in his separate views on the report, was overly classified.

(U) Unfortunately, significant aspects of this story remain hidden from the American public. Information related to Manafort’s interactions with Kilimnik, particularly in April 2016, are the subject of extensive redactions. Evidence connecting Kilimnik to the GRU’s hack-and- . . leak operations are likewise redacted, as are indications of Manafort’s own connections to those operations. There are redactions to important new information with regard to Manafort’s meeting in Madrid with a representative of Oleg Deripaska. The report also includes extensive information on Deripaska, a proxy for Russian intelligence and an associate of Manafort. Unfortunately, much of that information is redacted as well.

(U) The report is of urgent concern to the American people, in part due to its relevance to the 2020 election and Russia’s ongoing influence activities. The public version of the report details how Kilimnik disseminated propaganda claiming Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, beginning even before that election and continuing into late 2019. [redacted sentence] And the report includes information on the role of other Russian government proxies and personas in spreading false narratives about Ukrainian interference in the U.S. election. This propaganda, pushed by a Russian intelligence officer and other Russian proxies, was the basis on which Donald Trump sought to extort the current government of Ukraine into providing assistance to his reelection efforts and was at the center of Trump’s impeachment and Senate trial. That is one of the reasons why the extensive redactions in this section of the report are so deeply problematic. Only when the American people are informed about the role of an adversary in concocting and disseminating disinformation can they make democratic choices free of foreign interference.

(U) As the Committee stressed .in Volume 3 of its investigation, the public must be informed as soon as possible about ongoing foreign influence campaigns. The American people are not served by aggressive redactions to a narrative describing the continuity of Russian interference before and after the 2016 election. The American people also deserve better than a double standard in which information related to Russian interference in U.S. elections remains heavily redacted while information that might cast doubton investigations into that interference is released wholesale.

After a short description of Manafort’s discussions of the investigations with Rick Gates, the Report begins an entirely new, thirty-some page section detailing Manafort’s ties — through Deripaska — to Russian intelligence, specifically GRU. That’s another section that Wyden complained was overly redacted.

I’m not aware of any place where the Report describes a document, seemingly titled with the date, August 27, 2018 (but with a last modification date of May 15, 2018), describing “Info.”

The document was revealed as part of Manafort’s breach determination Judge Amy Berman Jackson has been mulling how much of this to unseal for over a month.

In any case, Paula Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik appear to have been planning something for August 27, 2018.

Which is interesting, given something disclosed in the last two Mueller FOIA releases. On August 21, 2018, Marshals at the Alexandria jail informed the Sheriff that a laptop provided to Paul Manafort for legal review had had its administrative password changed. That same day, per the Sheriff’s office, someone brought Manafort two USB drives. One — marked “Blank” — had a bunch of hidden files in its trash folder.

The day a jury found Manafort guilty of his VA crimes, someone helped sneak files to Manafort. That also happens to be just a week before whatever event Manafort had been planning back in May was scheduled.

And for some reason, even though they learned he was still conspiring from jail, Mueller’s team went ahead and signed a cooperation agreement with the guy.

And yet, after multiple instances where Manafort’s jailers discovered he was communicating covertly from prison, Bill Barr’s DOJ used COVID as an excuse to release him from a prison with no COVID cases, and put him in home confinement. It’s not just that Billy Barr has made sure that Manafort won’t face his full punishment for money laundering and cheating on his taxes. It’s that Barr has made it easier for a guy with abundant ties to Russian intelligence to continue communicating with Russian intelligence.

There’s one other detail in the SSCI Report that makes all of this much more interesting: Just before Manafort snuck off to meet with Kilimnik on August 2, 2016 to share his campaign strategy and discuss carving up Ukraine to Russia’s liking, Manafort had a meeting at Trump Tower with Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump.

Running Thread of emptywheel’s Running Threads on the SSCI Report

I’ve been doing running Twitter threads on each chapter of the SSCI Russia Report. It has gotten too unwieldy for Twitter, so I’ll collect all those threads here:

Here are the posts I’ve written so far:

A Newfound Obsession with Paul Manafort’s iCloud Account

There was an interesting filing last week in the case of Stephen Calk, the banker charged with giving Paul Manafort a loan in exchange for a position in the Trump Administration. It is probably totally innocent, but it reveals certain things about referrals from the Mueller investigation. And given my past obsession with Manafort’s OpSec (or, more commonly, lack thereof) dealing with Apple products, I’m intrigued that the contents of one imaging of Manafort’s iCloud account remained outside normal evidentiary filing systems.

Calk’s lawyers have long pushed prosecutors in SDNY for more expansive discovery relating to Manafort and his son-in-law. In a filing in April, they described that the investigations of Manafort and Calk proceeded in close parallel, and so there might be Mueller files that were pertinent to Calk.

Beginning in or about March 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Special Counsel’s Office (“SCO”), commenced a joint investigation that ultimately led to the indictment of Mr. Calk in this case. The SCO, which was investigating former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, and Southern District (including the prosecutors on this case) worked closely together, conducted joint proffer sessions with employees of Mr. Calk’s bank (The Federal Savings Bank (“TFSB”)), and from early on shared evidence and information. Indeed, the investigation of Mr. Calk was totally intertwined with the SCO’s investigation of Manafort; the two investigations even shared the same FBI case agent. Manafort was charged in February 2018 with defrauding TFSB (among other banks) by providing the bank with false information about his finances in connection with the two loans at the heart of the case against Mr. Calk (loans that, in this case, the government now claims were obtained through bribery rather than deception). At Manafort’s trial in August 2018, two TFSB employees testified for the government pursuant to immunity orders regarding those loans. Those same witnesses, as well as potentially others from the Manafort trial, are expected to testify at Mr. Calk’s trial. There will also be substantial overlap of documentary evidence.

From the outset of this case, the government was thus well aware that it would need to review the files of the Special Counsel’s Office for relevant Rule 16 materials.

[snip]

On July 29, 2019, the defense sent a discovery letter to the government seeking discovery pursuant to Rule 16 and Brady/Giglio, and specifically reminding the government of its obligation to review the files of the SCO for responsive material. Prior to the August 26 deadline, the government made six productions to the defense totaling approximately 90,000 documents (approximately 1,265,000 pages). 1 Yet, according to the government’s index accompanying the discovery, none of the six sets appears to have included materials from the files of the Special Counsel’s Office.

On August 26, 2019, the government sought permission of the Court to extend the discovery deadline to October 15, 2019. (ECF No. 28). The government explained that it had “completed its production of discoverable materials from [its own] investigative files,” but that it had “been obtaining materials from the files of investigations conducted by the Central District of California and the Special Counsel’s Office . . . , and ha[d] begun reviewing and producing such materials.” (Id.). The government noted that, while it believed “its production of core Rule 16 discovery material [was] substantially complete, . . . there [was] a significant volume of additional material from the files of the Special Counsel’s Office—some of which [was] not yet in [the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York’s] possession—that the Government intend[ed] to review for production to the defense” and therefore required an “extension of the discovery deadline by several weeks.”

In response to that filing the government described what sounded like a kind of graymail on the part of Calk’s lawyers, discovery requests that had nothing to do with the case against Calk, but which might elicit sensitive files about the Mueller investigation, including details of anything the government ever considered charging Manafort with.

For example, notwithstanding the fact that Manafort is not a named defendant in this case and is not a likely trial witness for the Government, the defense has asked broadly for the entire contents of all email accounts used by Manafort (without any restrictions based on, for example, time period or who Manafort used these accounts to correspond with), Ex. B at 5; all documents and communications “concerning any entities controlled directly or indirectly by, or associated with, Mr. Manafort or Mr. Yohai or their family members,” Ex. B at 4 (which would appear on its face to call broadly for every record concerning any of Manafort’s lobbying or consulting businesses throughout his entire career and concerning every activity he conducted as part of any such business during his career—as well as the same for, among others, Manafort’s adult children); and all documents concerning any offense by Manafort “investigated or considered” by the Government (which would would seem to encompass virtually any document in the SCO’s file if not narrowed, as Calk’s counsel never agreed to do), Ex. A. at 2, even though that material was not gathered by this Office as part of this investigation and virtually none of that material has anything to do with (or was ever known to or sought by) Calk or the Federal Savings Bank. [my emphasis]

The government’s filing actually makes it clear that the two investigations proceeded with totally separate sets of evidence, with the Mueller evidence inaccessible to the Calk team.

Last Friday, the government informed the court that they were still finding Mueller-related files and providing them to Calk.

Last week, in the process for searching for additional material requested by the defendant, the Government discovered that it had inadvertently failed to previously identify and produce a limited universe of additional materials from SCO’s Manafort files. Although a very limited number of these materials may be of some relevance to this case, the vast majority of these materials appear upon the Government’s limited initial inspection to be either duplicative of prior productions or of minimal relevance. Nonetheless, the Government is producing these materials immediately out of an abundance of caution and undertaking efforts to minimize delay and disruption to the defense by (i) identifying the documents within the new production that are most likely to be relevant; and (ii) undertaking a substantial technical effort, at the Government’s expense, to de-duplicate the new materials against prior productions so as to help defense counsel quickly identify any documents that are truly new. As also described below, in light of our discovery of this new material, the Government is also undertaking a broader re-review of the Manafort Materials to ensure that nothing else in the Manafort Materials has been overlooked. As also detailed herein, we expect that process to be completed well in advance of the current December 2020 trial date.

The files include documents from Calk’s bank that the bank did not turn over in response to subpoenas from SDNY (but did turn over to Mueller’s team).

Specifically, in its review of this subset of the material thus far, the Government has identified fewer than 100 documents that appear to be potentially relevant and non-duplicative, including certain files that were apparently produced by The Federal Savings Bank (“TFSB”) to the USAO CDCA and the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (“MLARS”) as part of their investigations3 but not to the Government in this case. 4

3 MLARS had been conducting an investigation of Manafort prior to the formation of SCO.

4 Certain of these files, which would have already been available to the defendant due to his control and majority ownership of TFSB, appear responsive to the Government’s subpoenas to TFSB, and it is not clear why they were not produced to the Government as part of this investigation.

The more interesting detail is that some of the Manafort files — including recordings of his jail conversations and the contents of his iCloud account — were not uploaded to the FBI system.

The discovery of the 30,000 uncategorized Manafort-related files described above also led the Government to further review SCO’s discovery productions to Manafort to ensure that no additional materials had been inadvertently overlooked. The Government had previously understood, based on extensive communications with members of the SCO team and its own review of the SCO’s file storage system, that, with several immaterial exceptions, the SCO discovery productions to Manafort were drawn from the sources that the Government had independently searched, including the FBI’s files as described above. However, after further reviewing the SCO’s discovery transmittal letters and copies of certain of the SCO’s productions, the Government has realized that certain discovery that had been produced to Manafort was apparently not contained within the sources the Government had searched in this case.7 Included within this set of additional material is certain material that appears to be potentially relevant (in particular, a small set of TFSB documents that, again, would already be available to the defendant but that were not produced to the Government in this case) and a much more substantial universe of material that appears unlikely to be relevant (such as Manafort’s recorded jail calls, and documents associated with depositions, including of Manafort, in a 2015 civil lawsuit). Again, as with the 30,000 documents described above, the Government will be producing virtually all of these materials to the defense consistent with the broad approach it has taken to the Manafort Materials to date. We currently expect to transmit these materials to the defense within the next week.8

7 The Government is very grateful to the former SCO personnel for their extensive assistance in the Government’s efforts to locate and produce the Manafort Materials in this case, and while noting these communications to put the Government’s efforts to date in context, the Government certainly does not intend to suggest fault or blame for what may well have been the Government’s misunderstanding or mistake.

8 The volume of these materials is under 20 gigabytes, consisting of 53 recorded jail calls, one iCloud account extraction that the Government believes contains negligible information related to Calk, three video depositions, and several thousand pages of documents. The Government believes they are likely largely non-duplicative of its previous productions, but will attempt to deduplicate these documents as described herein and inform the defense of the results of this process. [my emphasis]

We know from his plea breach proceedings that Manafort continued to be investigated long after he was jailed, and we know from filings about his conduct in jail that he attempted to communicate in ways that evaded monitoring systems.

Yet some of that information, it appears, remained (and remains) segregated from generally accessible filing systems at DOJ.

That has implications for any FOIA responses — but it also has implications for any effort by Billy Barr to assess what the universe of evidence against Manafort is. For over a year after the end of the Mueller investigation, this material has been somewhere else, inaccessible to normal searches on DOJ systems.