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Michael Sussmann Attempts to Bill [of Particulars] Durham for His Sloppy Indictment Language

“Without prejudice to any other pretrial motions”

Michael Sussmann’s lawyers reserve their right to challenge the Durham indictment of Sussmann via other pretrial motions in their motion for a Bill of Particulars six different times. The motion does so three different times when noting that Durham used squishy language to paraphrase Sussmann’s alleged lie and couldn’t seem to decide whether he affirmatively lied or lied by omission.

Mr. Sussmann is entitled to understand which particular crime he must defend himself against. Without prejudice to any other pretrial motions Mr. Sussmann may bring on the matter, Mr. Sussmann is also entitled to additional particulars regarding the alleged omissions in the Indictment, including regarding the legal duty, if any, that required him to disclose the allegedly omitted information the Indictment suggests he should have disclosed.

[snip]

The Special Counsel should be required to clarify which crime he believes Mr. Sussmann committed and, to the extent the Special Counsel is proceeding on an omissions theory, he should be required to provide additional particulars (without prejudice to any motions Mr. Sussmann may make later).

[snip]

To the extent that the Special Counsel believes the Indictment is alleging a material omission under Section 1001(a)(1), and without prejudicing any other motions Mr. Sussmann may make on this issue, the Special Counsel should be required to clarify: (1) what specific information Mr. Sussmann failed to disclose; (2) to whom he failed to disclose it; (3) what legal duty required Mr. Sussmann to make the required disclosure; and (4) why the omission was material. See United States v. Safavian, 528 F.3d 957, 964 (D.C. Cir. 2008). [my emphasis]

It does so twice when asking that Durham address problems with his claims that Sussmann’s alleged lie was material.

The Indictment does make several allegations regarding materiality, and yet these allegations are vague, imprecise, and inconsistent. Suggesting the FBI might have asked more questions, taken other steps, or allocated resources differently, without specifying how or why it would have done so, leaves Mr. Sussmann having to guess about the meaning of the allegations that the Special Counsel has leveled against him. Accordingly, without prejudice to any pretrial motions Mr. Sussmann may make regarding materiality, Mr. Sussmann requests that the Court order the Special Counsel to provide more detail about why the purported false statement was material.

[snip]

Accordingly, without prejudice to any pretrial motions Mr. Sussmann may make regarding materiality, Mr. Sussmann requests that the Special Counsel be ordered to provide more detail about why the purported false statement was material. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 7(c)(1). [my emphasis]

And the motion does so again when pointing out that Durham hasn’t included specifics about another alleged lie, to just two of an unidentified number of people who attended a meeting at CIA, which Sussmann elsewhere describes as improper inclusion of 404(b) material in an indictment.

Without prejudicing any other motions Mr. Sussmann may make on this issue, the Special Counsel should first be required to clarify the false statement alleged to have been made to the two anonymous Agency-2 employees, and any other individuals present at the meeting, in February 2017. [my emphasis]

A list of things John Durham didn’t provide in his Michael Sussmann indictment

It’s only after making it clear that this is just his opening move before filing a motion to dismiss and other legal challenges to the indictment…

The Indictment is seriously vulnerable to challenge as a matter of law, and Mr. Sussmann will make relevant pretrial motions at the appropriate time. For now, Mr. Sussmann moves for a bill of particulars.

…that Sussmann lays out a list of things he claims he can’t figure out from Durham’s sloppy indictment:

For the foregoing reasons, this Motion for a Bill of Particulars should be granted, and the Court should order the Special Counsel to promptly:

A. Provide particulars regarding the specific false statement the Special Counsel alleges Mr. Sussmann made to Mr. Baker, namely:

1. The exact words of Mr. Sussmann’s alleged false statement;

2. The specific context in which the statement was made so that the meaning of the words is clear;

3. What part of the statement is allegedly false, i.e., whether the statement was false because Mr. Sussmann allegedly stated he was not “acting on behalf of any client in conveying particular allegations concerning a Presidential Candidate” as alleged in Paragraph 46, or if he falsely stated that he was not doing any “work” on behalf of a client more generally, as alleged in Paragraphs 4, 27(a), 28;

4. What is meant by “his work,” as referenced in Paragraph 4;

5. What is meant by “acting [or acted] on behalf of any client” as alleged in Paragraphs 27(a) and 30; and

6. What “this” refers to in the Assistant Director’s notes referenced in Paragraph 28.

B. Provide particulars regarding the statutory violation charged and, if applicable any alleged omissions, namely:

1. Which crime the Special Counsel believes Mr. Sussmann has committed; and

2. To the extent the Special Counsel alleges that Mr. Sussmann made a material omission in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(1), as suggested by Paragraph 30 of the Indictment –

a. the specific information Mr. Sussmann allegedly failed to disclose;

b. to whom he allegedly failed to make that disclosure;

c. what legal duty required Mr. Sussmann to disclose such information; and

d. why the allegedly omitted information was material.

C. Provide particulars regarding how the alleged false statement to Mr. Baker was material, specifically:

1. The “other reasons” Mr. Sussmann’s false statement was material, as alleged in Paragraphs 5 and 32;

2. What “his work” refers to as referenced in Paragraph 5, what about such work was unknown to the FBI, and how the “political nature of his work” was material to the FBI’s investigation;

3. How Mr. Sussmann’s alleged false statement was material to the FBI’s ability to “assess and uncover the origins of the relevant data and technical analysis,” as alleged in Paragraph 5, when Mr. Sussmann disclosed the origins of the data and technical analysis;

4. How Mr. Sussmann’s role as a paid advocate was materially “relevant” to the FBI’s investigation, as alleged in Paragraph 32, given that the information itself raised serious national security concerns and the FBI otherwise enables civilians to provide anonymous tips; and

5. What potential questions, additional steps, resource allocations, or more complete information the FBI would have gathered absent Mr. Sussmann’s false statement, as alleged in Paragraph 32.

D. Provide particulars regarding the alleged false statement Mr. Sussmann made to all Agency-2 employees and representatives, as alleged in Paragraphs 39 and 42, namely:

1. The exact words of Mr. Sussmann’s alleged false statement;

2. The specific context in which the statement was made so that the meaning of the words is clear;

3. What portion of the statement is allegedly false;

4. The identities of all individuals to whom the statement was made, including:

a. both Employee-1 and Employee-2 as referenced in Paragraph 42; and

b. anyone else present who also heard the false statement.

E. Provide particulars regarding the identities of the “representatives and agents of the Clinton Campaign” referenced in Paragraph 6.

Motions for a Bill of Particular rarely work

Make no mistake, most demands for a Bill of Particulars like this fail. The prosecution will argue that everything Sussmann needs is in the indictment and, if Judge Christopher Cooper agrees, Sussmann will just submit his motion to dismiss and other challenges like he’s clearly planning to do anyway.

That’s almost certainly what will happen for several of these requests, such as the names of Clinton Campaign personnel Durham accuses Sussmann of coordinating with on the Alfa Bank materials. But Sussmann likely doesn’t really need these names because he likely knows that Durham has nothing to substantiate this claim. If he did, Durham would have described such evidence in his speaking indictment. Sussmann may well know there are no names — of campaign personnel with whom he personally coordinated in advance of the James Baker meeting, at least — to give, because he didn’t coordinate with anyone from the campaign (Durham probably wants to substantiate this claim by charging Marc Elias in a conspiracy with Sussmann, but that all depends on being able to prove that anyone was lying about all this).

Similarly, Sussmann seems to know — and Durham may not — that there were more than just two people at a February 9, 2017 meeting at which Sussmann tried to bring new concerns to the attention of the government. This request seems to suggest there was at least one and possibly other witnesses who were at this meeting that Durham should know of who didn’t corroborate a claim that Sussmann lied, witnesses Durham didn’t mention in his indictment.

Likewise, Sussmann is unlikely to get very far asking for more details about Durham’s materiality claim, in particular, Durham’s repeated allegation that what he presented were just some, “among other reasons,” why Sussmann’s alleged lie was material. Prosecutors will argue that materiality is a matter for the jury to decide. But if Sussmann can force Durham to admit he has a theory of prosecution he hasn’t included in his indictment — that Durham believes that, rather than raising a real anomaly to the FBI’s attention because it was a real anomaly, lawyers who were paid by Hillary were trying to start a witch hunt against Donald Trump (never mind that the actual investigation that would prove at least three Trump officials, and probably Trump himself, got advance warning of a Russian attack on Hillary started three weeks before the meeting at which Sussmann is alleged to have lied) — then it will make it far easier for Sussmann to attack the indictment down the road.

What a false statement charge is supposed to look like

But Sussmann may succeed on his key complaint, that Durham has built a 27-page indictment around a false claim allegation without any means to clearly lay out what was the specific lie Sussmann told.

To understand what Sussmann means when he says,

It is simply not enough for the Indictment to make allegations generally about the substance of the purported false statement. Rather, the law requires that the Special Counsel identify the specific false statement made, i.e., the precise words that were allegedly used.

We can look at the false statements that Trump’s associates made to cover up the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. For example, for each of six charged lies in the Roger Stone indictment, Mueller’s prosecutors quoted the precise questions he was asked as well as his response, then laid out specific evidence that each lie was a lie.

22. During his HPSCI testimony, STONE was asked, “So you have no emails to anyone concerning the allegations of hacked documents . . . or any discussions you have had with third parties about [the head of Organization 1]? You have no emails, no texts, no documents whatsoever, any kind of that nature?” STONE falsely and misleadingly answered, “That is correct. Not to my knowledge.”

23. In truth and in fact, STONE had sent and received numerous emails and text messages during the 2016 campaign in which he discussed Organization 1, its head, and its possession of hacked emails. At the time of his false testimony, STONE was still in possession of many of these emails and text messages, including:

a. The email from STONE to Person 1 on or about July 25, 2016 that read in part, “Get to [the head of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.”;

b. The email from STONE to Person 1 on or about July 31, 2016 that said an associate of Person 1 “should see [the head of Organization 1].”;

c. The email from Person 1 to STONE on or about August 2, 2016 that stated in part, “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.”;

d. Dozens of text messages and emails, beginning on or about August 19, 2016 and continuing through the election, between STONE and Person 2 in which they discussed Organization 1 and the head of Organization 1;

e. The email from STONE on or about October 3, 2016 to the supporter involved with the Trump Campaign, which read in part, “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming.”; and

f. The emails on or about October 4, 2016 between STONE and the high-ranking member of the Trump Campaign, including STONE’s statement that Organization 1 would release “a load every week going forward.”

For some of Stone’s charged lies, prosecutors even had communications with Jerome Corsi or Randy Credico or one of his lawyers showing Stone planned in advance to lie.

In George Papadopoulos’ statement of offense, for each of several lies outlined, prosecutors laid out specifically what he told the FBI and then laid out how Papadopoulos’ own communications records and his later testimony proved those statements to be false.

c. Defendant PAPADOPOULOS claimed he met a certain female Russian national before he joined the Campaign and that their communications consisted of emails such as, ‘”Hi , how are you?”‘ In truth and in fact, however, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met the female Russian national on or about March 24, 2016, after he had become an adviser to the Campaign; he believed that she had connections to Russian government officials; and he sought to use her Russian connections over a period of months in an effort to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials.

The most recent Mueller backup liberated by Jason Leopold reveals that, in addition to Papaodpoulos’ communications and later testimony that prove this particular claim to be an intentional lie, Papadopoulos also emailed the FBI on January 27 after consulting his records, laying out his claim that he met Olga before he joined the Trump campaign and never met her after that.

As promised, wanted to send you the name of the individual that Joseph Mifsud introduced me to over lunch in February or early March (while I was working with the London Center of International Law Practice and did not even know at that time whether or not I would even have moved back to the U.S. or especially worked on another presidential campaign).

He introduced her as his student, but was looking to impress her by meeting with me fresh off my Ben Carson gig. That is all I know. Never met her again.

I could go on for each of the false statements charged against Trump’s flunkies (and also show how, when Andrew Weissmann fell short of this kind of evidence, Amy Berman Jackson ruled against prosecutors on two of five claimed lies alleged in Paul Manafort’s plea breach determination).

Even Mike Flynn’s statement of offense, substantiating a charge that Trump loyalists have spent years wailing about, laid out clearly the two charged lies.

During the interview, FLYNN falsely stated that he did not ask Russia’s Ambassador to the United States (“Russian Ambassador”) to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia. FLYNN also falsely stated that he did not remember a follow-up conversation in which the Russian Ambassador stated that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of FL YNN’s request.

[snip]

During the January 24 voluntary interview, FLYNN made additional false statements about calls he made to Russia and several other countries regarding a resolution submitted by Egypt to the United Nations Security Council on December 21, 2016. Specifically FLYNN falsely stated that he only asked the countries’ positions on the vote, and that he did not request that any of the countries take any particular action on the resolution. FLYNN also falsely stated that the Russian Ambassador never described to him Russia’s response to FL YNN’s request regarding the resolution.

Not only did prosecutors describe what a transcript of these calls said, but they also had testimony from both Flynn himself and KT McFarland substantiating that these were lies. They even had a text that Flynn sent McFarland, before any of these intercepts had leaked, that Flynn later admitted he had deliberately written to cover up the content of his calls with Sergey Kislyak.

Then, after Sidney Powell spent six months trying to claim that one of Flynn’s lies wasn’t clearly laid out in his original 302, Judge Emmet Sullivan meticulously pointed out that the notes of both FBI interviewers matched every iteration of Flynn’s 302.

Having carefully reviewed the interviewing FBI agents’ notes, the draft interview reports, the final version of the FD302, and the statements contained therein, the Court agrees with the government that those documents are “consistent and clear that [Mr. Flynn] made multiple false statements to the [FBI] agents about his communications with the Russian Ambassador on January 24, 2017.” Gov’t’s Surreply, ECF No. 132 at 4-5. The Court rejects Mr. Flynn’s request for additional information regarding the drafting process for the FD-302s and a search for the “original 302,” see Def.’s Sur-Surreply, ECF No. 135 at 8- 10, because the interviewing FBI agents’ notes, the draft interview reports, the final version of the FD-302, and Mr. Flynn’s own admissions of his false statements make clear that Mr. Flynn made those false statements.

These are what false statements charges are supposed to look like. They’re backed by contemporaneous admissible evidence and laid out in specific detail in charging documents.

Trump and his supporters have wailed for years about these charges. Except prosecutors had evidence to substantiate them, the kind of evidence Durham makes no claim to have.

What few witnesses Durham has may not all agree on Sussmann’s alleged lies

Sussmann is more likely to succeed with his request to have his alleged false statement laid out in quote form and in context — and even if he doesn’t, he may back Durham into a corner he doesn’t want to be in — because Sussmann has presented several central questions about what the allegation really is. Is it that Sussmann didn’t offer up that he was working with (Sussmann claims) Rodney Joffe or  (Durham also alleges) Hillary on the Alfa Bank issues? Is it that Sussmann falsely claimed not to be billing the meeting with James Baker (evidence of which Durham has not presented)? Or does Durham have any shred of evidence that Baker affirmatively asked Sussmann, “are you sharing this on behalf of a client,” or even less supported in the indictment, “are you sharing this on behalf of Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton”? Similarly, Durham doesn’t explain whether when he claims that Sussmann lied about “this,” or “his work,” he means about the meetings that were actually billed to Hillary’s campaign internally at Perkins Coie (even if Hillary paid no money specifically tied to those meetings), or that the meeting with Baker was billed to one or another client (no evidence of which Durham presents). Those details will all be necessary for Durham to prove his case and for Sussmann to rebut it. And Sussmann needs to know whether he should focus his time on the absence of billing records substantiating that he met with Baker and then billed it to Hillary (something implicated by the meaning of “this” and “his work”), or whether he needs to focus on showing whether Priestap distinguished these allegations from the other claims about a Russian information operation undeniably targeting Hillary (something implicating whether this is supposed to be a crime of commission or omission).

It’s quite possible that Durham has presented these allegations using such squishy language because what little evidence he has doesn’t actually agree on the claimed lies. That is, it may be that Baker believes Sussmann simply didn’t bother explaining which client he was working for, but Bill Priestap, the next in line in a game of telephone, differently understood from Baker’s report that Sussmann affirmatively failed to provide Baker information that (Priestap’s own notes prove) the FBI already had anyway, that he was working with Hillary Clinton.

If, having had these weaknesses laid out by Sussmann’s attorneys, Durham can show that all his evidence actually substantiates the same false claim, he could get a superseding indictment making that clear. But once he does that, it may tie his hands at trial.

But it’s distinctly possible that Durham can’t prove that what little evidence he has backs the same interpretation of Sussmann’s alleged lie. That is, there may be a reason — on top of the fact that he has no contemporaneous transcript from a witness — that he avoided being more specific in his indictment, and that’s because it was the only way he could cobble together enough evidence to get a grand jury to indict.

So while much of the rest of this motion of a Bill of Particulars may serve only to call attention to gaping holes in the rest of the indictment, the request for specifics about what, specifically, Sussmann is alleged to have said when he lied may succeed. And even if it doesn’t, it may force Durham to commit to an interpretation that not all of his thin evidence would ultimately support.

John Durham Is the Jim Jordan of Ken Starrs

Last Thursday, John Durham indicted Michael Sussmann, the Perkins Coie lawyer who advised the DNC, DCCC, and Clinton Campaign about cybersecurity in 2016 as they struggled to deal with a hostile nation-state attack aiming — in part — to help elect their opponent. The indictment accuses Sussmann of lying to FBI General Counsel James Baker at a September 19, 2016 meeting at which Sussmann shared information about the curious DNS traffic between a server used by a Trump marketing contractor and Alfa Bank.

emptywheel’s long history of debunking the Alfa Bank story

Before I unpack the indictment, let me remind readers that when this story first publicly broke, I explained why the Spectrum Health (aka my boob hospital at the time) aspect of the allegations made no sense, criticized Hillary’s team (including Jake Sullivan) for jumping on the story, and echoed Rob Graham’s criticism of the researchers who accessed DNS data to conduct this research.

In addition to his technical debunking, Robert Graham made an equally important point: researchers shouldn’t be accessing this data for ad-lib investigations into presidential candidates, and it’s not even clear who would have access to it all except the NSA.

The big story isn’t the conspiracy theory about Trump, but that these malware researchers exploited their privileged access for some purpose other than malware research.

[snip]

In short, of all the sources of “DNS malware information” I’ve heard about, none of it would deliver the information these researchers claim to have (well, except the NSA with their transatlantic undersea taps, of course).

[snip]

[B]efore Tea Leaves started pushing this story to the press, the FBI had been investigating it for two months.

Which, to my mind, raises even more questions about the anonymous researchers’ identities, because (small world and all) the FBI likely knows them, in which case they may have known that the FBI wasn’t jumping on the story by the time they started pitching it.

Or the FBI doesn’t know them, which raises still more questions about the provenance of these files.

Ah well, if President Hillary starts a war with Russia based off Iraq-War style dodgy documents, at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing my boob clinic is right there on the front lines.

In March 2017, I observed that the weird Alfa Bank entry in the Steele dossier suggested a feedback loop between the Alfa Bank server story and the dossier project. Then days after that, I noted all the ways that the packaging of this story made it more suspect.

In 2018, I complained about the way Dexter Filkins had strained to sustain the story, while noting that people ought to look more closely at why Alfa Bank might be the focus here; the Mueller Report since confirmed that within weeks after the story broke publicly, Vladimir Putin pushed Oligarchs from Alfa Bank to fight harder against western sanctions, something that the alleged source for the Alfa Bank entry in the dossier seemed to parrot.

In short, I not only have consistently criticized this story, but done so in ways that anticipate the most justifiable parts of the indictment. It’s only the last bit — how the Alfa narrative echoes Putin’s interests — that this indictment doesn’t incorporate.

I guess with five more years Durham might get there…

So in unpacking this indictment, I’m in no way defending the Alfa Bank – Trump Tower story. It was a sketchy allegation, the packaging of it was suspect, and those who conducted the research arguably violated ethical guidelines.

I got to where Durham got in this indictment years and years ago. But that doesn’t make it a crime.

John Durham’s “narrative”

Moreover, that doesn’t mean Durham should tell as strained a “narrative” as those who packaged up this story. Central to Durham’s indictment is an assumption that if a victim of a crime who believed at the time that the crime had a — since confirmed — political goal reports suspicious, potentially related details, the victim must be motivated exclusively out of self-interest, not good citizenship or a concern about national security. That is, this entire indictment assumes that when Russia attacks a Presidential candidate, that is not itself a national security concern, but instead nothing more than a political dispute.

Effectively, John Durham has made it a crime for someone victimized by a Russian influence operation to try to chase down Russian influence operations.

Tech Executive-1 and Clinton both had retained Perkins Coie long before this, with Sussmann getting involved specifically for cybersecurity help in the wake of the Russian hack

The indictment, perhaps deliberately, obscures the timeline and facts leading up to the charged lie. But here’s the story it tells. First, all of Durham’s subjects established contracts with each other, even though all of those contracts (including Fusion GPS’) had scopes far larger than oppo research on Trump’s relationship with Russia.

  • In February 2015, Tech Executive-1 (whom I’ll call TE-1 for brevity) retained Sussmann to deal with a US government agency [Durham does not say whether this matter was resolved or continued in this period in 2016, which is central to the question of what kind of client of Sussmann’s TE-1 was].
  • In April 2015, the Clinton Campaign retained Perkins Coie and made Marc Elias the Campaign’s General Counsel.
  • In April 2016, the victim of a Russian government election-related attack, the DNC, retained Sussmann to help it deal with aftermath, which included meeting with the FBI. As the indictment describes this was not just legal support but cybersecurity.
  • [After a Republican retained them first and on a date that Durham doesn’t reveal,] Perkins Coie retained Fusion GPS to conduct oppo research on Trump pertaining to Russia [and other topics, though Durham doesn’t mention those other topics].

Durham only mentions in passing, later, that the researchers involved here similarly knew each other through relationships that focused on cybersecurity and predated these events.

Via means and on specific dates that Durham doesn’t always provide, Tea Leaves, TE-1, Sussmann, and two Researchers got the DNS data showing an anomaly

There are two sets of research here: that done in a university setting and that done at companies associated with TE-1, though TE-1 is the pivot to both. As depicted, Durham suggests the former are more legally exposed than the latter.

  • By some time in late July 2016 [the exact date Durham doesn’t provide], a guy who always operated under the pseudonym Tea Leaves but whom Durham heavy-handedly calls “Originator-1” instead had assembled “purported DNS data” reflecting apparent DNS lookups between Alfa Bank and “mail1.trump-email.com” that spanned from May 4 through July 29.
  • Tea Leaves was a business associate of TE-1 and via means Durham doesn’t describe, the data Tea Leaves gathered was shared with TE-1.
  • “In or about July 2016” [at a time that, because of the laws of physics, must post-date the late July date when Tea Leaves collected this data and the date when he shared them with TE-1], TE-1 alerted Sussmann to the data.
  • On July 31, Sussmann billed the Clinton Campaign for 24 minutes with the billing description, “communications with Marc Elias regarding server issue.”
  • At some point [Durham doesn’t provide even a month, but by context it was at least as early as July 2016 and could have been far, far earlier], TE-1’s company provided a university with data for a government contract ultimately not contracted until November 2016, including the DNS data from an Executive Branch office of the US government that Tech Exec-1’s company had gotten as a sub-contractor to the US government. [This date of this is critical because it would be the trigger for a Conspiracy to Defraud charge, if Durham goes there.]
  • In or about August 2016 [Durham doesn’t provide a date], a federal government was finalizing but had not yet signed a cybersecurity research contract with [presumably] that same university to receive and analyze large quantities of public and non-public data “to identify the perpetrators of malicious cyber-attacks and protect U.S. national security.” Tea Leaves was the founder of a company that the university was considering [Durham doesn’t provide the date of consideration, but generally these things precede finalization] for a subcontract with the government contract.

TE-1 directs employees of companies under his control to research this issue

Though Durham’s indictment is somewhat vague, at least one piece of research from companies associated with TE-1 was shared with the FBI; it appears that other threads of research were not shared.

  • In or about early August 2016 [the dates of which Durham doesn’t provide], TE-1 directed personnel at two companies in which he had an ownership interest to search for what the indictment calls, “any Internet data reflecting potential connections or communications between Trump or his associates and Russia,” which Durham describes to be “derogatory information on Trump.” In connection with this tasking, TE-1 later stated [on a date Durham doesn’t describe] he was working with someone who had close ties to the Democratic Party.
  • At some point, an individual tasked with this work described being “uncomfortable regarding this tasking,” [Durham doesn’t describe when he learned this or whether there is any contemporaneous proof].
  • At some point [Durham doesn’t describe the date], TE-1 provided one of his companies with personal (but publicly available) data from six Trump associates and one purported US-based lobbyist for Alfa Bank and directed these individuals should be the focus of that company’s data queries and analysis [Durham doesn’t say whether these six associates overlapped with the people Fusion had been tasked to research, nor does he allege they got included in the eventual reports to the FBI; both details are needed to assess his case].
  • On August 12, 2016, Sussmann, Elias, and TE-1 met in Elias’ office; Sussmann billed his time to the Clinton Campaign describing, “confidential meetings with Elias, others.”
  • On August 15, employees at one of the companies queried their holdings against a set of addresses that referred to Trump and/or Alfa Bank.
  • During the same time period [Durham doesn’t specify when], employees at Internet Company-3 drafted a written paper that included technical observations that Sussmann would later convey to the FBI.

Around the time this started, Sussmann met Fusion and a bunch of meetings happened that were billed to Hillary

  • On July 29, Sussmann and Marc Elias met with Fusion GPS [Durham doesn’t affirmatively claim this data pertained to the server issue], and Sussmann billed his time to the Hillary Campaign under “General Political Advice,” a different description than all the other Fusion meetings that Durham more credibly claims relate to the Alfa Bank allegation.
  • Around “the same [August] time period” [Durham doesn’t provide the date], Sussmann, Elias, and Fusion personnel began exchanging emails with the subject line, “Connecting you all by email;” [Durham doesn’t say who initiated the email, but it suggests that before this period, Sussmann and Fusion did not have direct contact].
  • On August 17, 2016, Sussmann, Elias, and TE-1 conducted an additional conference call, for which Sussmann billed his time to the Clinton campaign, noting “telephone conference with” TE-1 and Elias.
  • On August 19, 2016, Sussman and Elias had another in-person meeting that Sussmann described as a meeting with TE-1, which was billed as a “confidential meeting with Elias, others.”

Researchers 1 and 2 and Tea Leaves worked with TE-1 on a “storyline” and “narrative” with varying degrees of skepticism expressed

This is the stuff Durham–with some justification–will and has used to taint all this as a political project.

  • On July 29, Researcher-2 emailed Researcher-1 the data compiled by Tea Leaves [Durham provides no evidence that TE-1 was involved in this exchange].
  • On August 19, Researcher-1 queried Internet data maintained by TE-1’s company [it is not clear but this suggests it was not the data turned over to the University] for the aforementioned mail1.trump-email.com domain. Researcher-1 then emailed TE-1 with the list of domains that had communicated with it, saying the list, “does not make much sense with the storyline you have.”
  • On August 20, Tea Leaves emailed Tech Exec-1, Researcher-1, and Researcher 2, stating that, “even if we found what [TE-1] asks us to find in DNS, we don’t see the money flow, and we don’t see the content of some message saying, ‘send money here’.” Tea Leaves then explained that one could fill out sales forms and cause them, “to appear to communicate with each other in DNS.” Tea Leaves then noted that “it’s just not the case that you can rest assured that Hillary’s opposition research and whatever professional gov and investigative journalists are also digging come up with the same things.”
  • On August 20, TE-1 clarified that the task was “indeed broad,” and that,
    • Being able to provide evidence of *anything* that shows an attempt to behave badly in relation to this [Durham doesn’t describe what the antecedent of “this” is], the VIPs would be happy. They’re looking for a true story that could be used as the basis for closer examination.
  • Still on August 20, seemingly distinguishing between that task and the Alfa Bank allegations, TE-1 said, “the prior hypothesis was all that they needed: mailserver dedicated or related to trump … and with traffic almost exclusively with Alfa was sufficient to do the job. … Trump has claimed he and his company have had NO dealings with .ru other than the failed Casino, and the Miss universe pageant. He claims absolutely NO interaction with any financial institutions. So any potential like that would be jackpot.” [Ellipses original]
  • On August 21, TE-1 emailed the recipients [but not, apparently, Sussmann], urging them to do further research on Trump which would “given the base of a very useful narrative.” He added that he didn’t believe the trump-email.com domain was a secret communications channel but a “red herring,” because the host was “a legitimate valid company,” stating they could “ignore it, together with others that seem to be part of the marketing world.”
  • On August 22, Researcher-1 raised doubts about whether, using only the tools they were currently using, they could prove their hypothesis. Among the concerns raised is that they couldn’t prove that “this is not spoofed [] traffic.” [brackets original; bolded in the original]
  • Later in or about August 2016 [on dates Durham doesn’t provide], TE-1 exchanged emails with personnel from Fusion.

Sussmann drafts a white paper and (via unstated means) TE-1 gets Researchers 1 and 2 and Tea Leaves to review it

  • Between September 5 and September 14, Sussmann drafted a white paper, generally billing his time to the Clinton Campaign, but on September 14, billing time to both Clinton and TE-1.
  • On September 14, TE-1 [not Sussmann] sent the white paper he had drafted to Researcher 1, Researcher 2, and Tea Leaves to ask them if a review of less than an hour would show this to be plausible. Though some of them noted how limited the standard of “plausibility” was, they agreed it was plausible, and Researcher 2 said [Durham does not quote the specific language here] “the paper should be shared with government officials.”

Sussmann shares this and other information with James Baker and–Durham claims–affirmatively lies about whether he is representing someone

  • Both before the September 19 meeting and after it (notably in a September 12 meeting involving the NYTimes, in which Marc Elias also participated), Sussmann spoke to the press about what Durham credibly suggests was the Alfa Bank white paper. Sussmann billed this to Clinton.
  • On September 19, Sussmann met with Baker and provided him with three white papers and a thumb drive with data. Durham doesn’t actually make clear where all three of these came from.
  • On September 19, Sussmann met with James Baker. Durham claims that “he stated falsely that he was not acting on behalf of any client” [which Durham cannot quote because there’s no contemporaneous record], that he had been approached by multiple cyber experts [Durham doesn’t say whether the three he named were Researcher 1, Researcher 2, and Tea Leaves or other people, as seems to be the case], three white papers [which I may return to because this is another problematic spot in his story], and some of the data, which Durham calls “purported.”
  • Immediately after the September 19 meeting, Baker met with Bill Priestap whose notes read:
    • Michael Sussman[n] — Atty: Perkins Coie — said not doing this for any client
      • Represents DNC, Clinton Foundation, etc. []
      • Been approached by Prominent Cyber People (Academic or Corp. POCs), People like: [three names redacted]
  • Durham substantiates a claim that Sussmann billed the meeting itself to Hillary to a description, “work and communications regarding confidential project,” that does not, at least as he quotes it, mention a meeting with the FBI General Counsel at all.

Some of this — the reference to crafting a narrative and a storyline — is damning and validates my discomfort with the political nature of this project five years ago. Other parts of this emphasize the researchers’ insistence on truth from at least parts of this effort. Still others (such as the recognition that this could be spoofed data) will almost certainly end up being presented as exculpatory if this ever goes to trial, but Durham seems to think is inculpatory.

In one place, Durham describes “aforementioned views,” plural, that the Alfa Bank data was a “red herring,” something only attributed to TE-1 in the indictment, seemingly presenting TE-1’s stated view on August 21 to everyone involved, including Sussmann, who does not appear to have been on that email chain. He claims Sussmann, Researcher 1 and 2, TE-1, and Tea Leaves drafted the white paper(s) shared with the FBI, but all he substantiates is a less than one hour review by everyone but Sussmann. He leaves out a great deal of detail about what Jean Camp and someone using the moniker Tea Leaves did and said, publicly, after the FBI meeting, which may totally undercut Durham’s “narrative.”

But other parts, even of the story that Durham tells, are problematic for his narrative. First, there is not (yet) the least hint that Tea Leaves — whom he calls “The Originator” — fabricated this data (or even packaged it up misleadingly, though I think there is evidence he did). Nor is there the least hint that TE-1 asked Tea Leaves to come up with the data. That part of the story is fundamentally important and Durham simply ignores it with that legally unnecessary — particularly given that Durham clearly labels this person as Tea Leaves — moniker “Originator,” giving the anomalous forensic data a kind of virgin birth. And while two of the four tech experts described herein (there appear to be at least three others not described) expressed some doubt about the meaning of it, none of them seems to have doubted that there was an anomaly in the Trump marketing server and Alfa Bank.

Based on this story, though, Durham insinuates Sussmann fed information that he, Sussmann, knew to be bullshit to the FBI on behalf of both Hillary and TE-1, and in so doing affirmatively hid that the bullshit “storyline” was designed to help Hillary which (he claims) would have led the FBI to treat it differently.

In spite of a lot of thus far extraneous details, that’s the only crime he has alleged.

The existing case is remarkably weak

As a number of people have noted, as charged this is a remarkably weak case. Ben Wittes dedicates a section of his post on this indictment to those weaknesses. They are, succinctly:

  • The evidence regarding the core allegation in the indictment pits Sussmann’s word against James Baker’s; there are no other witnesses.
  • After the meeting with Baker, Sussmann repeatedly admitted under oath he was representing a client, a detail which could be exculpatory or inculpatory.
  • Baker testified to Congress he did believe Sussmann was representing a client (meaning Baker will be used to discredit Baker, the one witness to Sussmann’s alleged lie).
  • Even in Bill Priestap’s nearly-contemporaneous notes which are the only documentation of Sussmann’s comments, he describes Sussmann as Hillary’s lawyer (including for the Clinton Foundation, which may be incorrect), so FBI knew full well that Sussmann represented Hillary.
  • Priestap’s notes may be inadmissible hearsay at trial.

The NYT article predicting these charges also claim Durham is conflating Sussmann’s tracking of his hourly work with the actual money charged to the Hillary campaign.

Moreover, internal billing records Mr. Durham is said to have obtained from Perkins Coie are said to show that when Mr. Sussmann logged certain hours as working on the Alfa Bank matter — though not the meeting with Mr. Baker — he billed the time to Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

[snip]

They are also said to have argued that the billing records are misleading because Mr. Sussmann was not charging his client for work on the Alfa Bank matter, but needed to show internally that he was working on something. He was discussing the matter with Mr. Elias and the campaign paid a flat monthly retainer to the firm, so Mr. Sussmann’s hours did not result in any additional charges, they said.

There are a number of other ways that Sussmann’s presumably well-funded defense will combat these charges. But as to the allegation buried amid all these details, Durham’s evidence is weak.

Durham’s materiality broadcasts his bid for a ConFraudUS conspiracy

But that’s not what this is about.

Durham is not just alleging that Sussmann was hiding that he was working for Hillary. He is also claiming that Sussmann was at the same time representing TE-1 at that meeting. In the indictment, I think that’s based on a single data point — that Sussmann billed TE-1’s company for “communications regarding confidential project” on September 14. I’m not sure whether that makes the false statements case still weaker or stronger.

But it’s a key part of where Durham obviously wants to go.

Not only are many of the details Durham included in the indictment irrelevant to the false statements charge, but if they were crimes by themselves, they would have been tolled under any five year statute of limitations already. There are only two conceivable purposes for including them in this indictment. First, to give the Alfa Bank Oligarchs more cause to sue more people, effectively a US prosecutor assisting Russians in cynical lawfare. Durham’s investigation incorporates stuff the Oligarchs have already liberated, so is itself derivative of Russian lawfare. Effectively, that means that a prosecutor working for Bill Barr’s DOJ pursued a prosecution that was complementary to an intelligence-related effort by foreigners who pay Kirkland & Ellis a lot of money. Sussmann will have real cause to question whether Brian Benczkowski (who recused from matters involving this aspect of Alfa Bank) or any other Kirkland & Ellis lawyer had a role in this strand of the investigation.

Then there’s the most obvious way to extend the statute of limitations on the events that happened in July and August 2016: to include them in a conspiracy that continued after those dates (and indeed, Durham refers to Elias, Researcher 1 and 2, and Tea Leaves in the way DOJ often uses to refer to charged or uncharged co-conspirators).

Given the extended statement Durham includes to explain why Sussmann’s alleged lie is material under the charged statute, that’s undoubtedly where Durham wants to head with his investigation.

SUSSMANN’s lie was material because, among other reasons, SUSSMANN’s false statement misled the FBI General Counsel and other FBI personnel concerning the political nature of his work and deprived the FBI of information that might have permitted it more fully to assess and uncover the origins of the relevant data and technical analysis, including the identities and motivations of SUSSMANN’s clients.

Had the FBI uncovered the origins of the relevant data and analysis and as alleged below, it might have learned, among other things that (i) in compiling and analyzing the Russian Bank-1 allegations, Tech Executive-1 had exploited his access to non-public data at multiple Internet companies to conduct opposition research concerning Trump; (ii) in furtherance of these efforts, Tech Executive-1 had enlisted, and was continuing to enlist, the assistance of researchers at a U.S.-based university who were receiving and analyzing Internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract; and (iii) SUSSMAN, Tech Executive-1, and Law Firm-1 had coordinated, and were continuing to coordinate, with representatives and agents of the Clinton Campaign with regard to the data and written materials that Sussmann gave to the FBI and the media.

Don’t get me wrong. This will clearly pass the incredibly low standard for materiality under existing precedent. Though Sussmann will surely make much of citing the invented standard Billy Barr used to try to dismiss the Mike Flynn prosecution, which first requires the investigation in question to be legitimate.

The Government is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue. Moreover, we not believe that the Government can prove either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt.

[snip]

In any event, there was no question at the FBI as to the content of the calls; the FBI had in its possession word-for-word transcripts of the actual communications between Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kislyak. See Ex. 5 at 3; Ex. 13. at 3. With no dispute as to what was in fact said, there was no factual basis for the predication of a new counterintelligence investigation. Nor was there a justification or need to interview Mr. Flynn as to his own personal recollections of what had been said. Whatever gaps in his memory Mr. Flynn might or might not reveal upon an interview regurgitating the content of those calls would not have implicated legitimate counterintelligence interests or somehow exposed Mr. Flynn as beholden to Russia.

If DOJ had no interest in figuring out whether Trump was undermining sanctions to pay off a quid pro quo, they sure as hell have no interest in launching a 3-year investigation to figure out the tie between these allegations and Hillary that was obvious to Priestap in real time, particularly given how quickly the FBI dismissed the allegations in 2017 and given that the allegations are not publicly known to have had a tie to their larger Russian investigation.

Still, while Durham will have no trouble proving Sussmann’s claimed lie meets the standards of materiality, Durham’s claims for it are ridiculous.

It’s a load of horseshit that FBI would have treated this tip any differently — which amounted to investigating it, alerting the press there was nothing to it, then dismissing it pretty quickly, as far as is public — if they knew that Sussmann was formally being paid at that meeting by Hillary, if he in fact was. Priestap knew Sussmann was representing Hillary and said as much in the best evidence Durham has! In fact, FBI’s warning to the NYT about this story in October could be presented as evidence that FBI already incorporated an assumption this came from Hillary.

Likewise, it’s a load of horseshit that FBI couldn’t know that the Bureau needed to ID the researchers behind the project. If I was able to figure that was important out before the 2016 election, and I did, then the experts at the FBI surely figured that out.

But what Durham’s materiality statement emphasizes — what Durham claims Sussmann intended to hide with his claimed lie — is that, “researchers at a U.S.-based university … were receiving and analyzing Internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract.” That’s the significance of ¶¶23a through e of the indictment, which describe how TE-1 provided data that included some from an Executive Branch office of the U.S. government, which his company had obtained “as a sub-contractor in a sensitive relationship between the U.S. government and another company,” to the university at which Researcher 1 and 2 were working, and both with his university researcher allies and employees of his own company, he tasked people to research Donald Trump. Durham is suggesting that subset of data taints the whole pool that TE-1 shared, making it a Federal interest.

It’s not just that Durham is working on a theory that Sussmann deliberately dealt garbage to the FBI (which GOP sources also did on the Clinton Foundation) while trying to hide that fact. It’s that data originally sourced from the government was used in doing that research.

It’s actually the kind of argument that DOJ prosecutors typically succeed with. Except it’s all premised on proving that Sussman was trying to hide all this in his meeting with Baker. Even if the evidence surrounding the meeting weren’t so flimsy, this is another degree of motive that Durham is straining mightily to make.

Durham needs Sussmann to have lied, because a deliberate attempt to obscure the rest is necessary for his “storyline.” His evidence that Sussmann lied — much less, deliberately — is shoddy. But if he can’t get that, then his hopes for a larger “narrative” collapse.

The parts of the story Durham doesn’t tell

That becomes more clear when you consider some details that Durham doesn’t include in his indictment.

Two details that were public to everyone involved make it clear why Durham’s silence about the exact dates in July when this operation started is so corrupt.

On July 22, WikiLeaks published emails that were at the time believed and since have been confirmed by the FBI to have been hacked by Russia. Durham hides the dates in July when many of these events transpired, but everything he includes suggests this activity post-dated the time when WikiLeaks published stolen emails and the entire security community in the US, surely including every researcher mentioned in this story, coalesced on the belief that Russia was the culprit. Durham refers to Russia’s attack on Hillary (and therefore on the US) inaccurately as, “the hacking of its email servers by the Russian government” and “a hack” (the hack went well beyond just email and continued through the period of Sussmann’s meeting with Baker). But, amazingly, Durham’s “narrative” doesn’t account for the fact that Hillary was targeted not just with an attack but with an information operation. And the timeline he presents here affirmatively hides that these events took place after the entire security community understood that there was an information operation aspect to the attack.

Then, on July 27, Trump gave a press conference in Florida where he said numerous things that make all the actions of Sussmann and others justifiable on national security grounds. First, Trump raised doubts about the Russian attribution of the DNC hack that, by that point in July, was the consensus among national security experts, undoubtedly including every tech expert mentioned in this indictment.

I watched this guy Mook and he talked about we think it was Russia that hacked. Now, first of all was what was said on those that’s so bad but he said I watched it. I think he was live. But he said we think it was Russia that hacked.

And then he said — and this is in person sitting and watching television as I’ve been doing — and then he said could be Trump, yeah, yeah. Trump, Trump, oh yeah, Trump. He reminded me of John Lovitz for “Saturday Night Live” in the liar (ph) where he’d go yes, yes, I went to Harvard, Harvard, yes, yes. This is the guy, you have to see it. Yes, it could be Trump, yes, yes. So it is so farfetched. It’s so ridiculous. Honestly I wish I had that power. I’d love to have that power but Russia has no respect for our country.

And that’s why — if it is Russia, nobody even knows this, it’s probably China, or it could be somebody sitting in his bed. But it shows how weak we are, it shows how disrespected we are. Total — assuming it’s Russia or China or one of the major countries and competitors, it’s a total sign of disrespect for our country. Putin and the leaders throughout the world have no respect for our country anymore and they certainly have no respect for our leader. So I know nothing about it.

Trump then offered his bullshit explanation for why he wouldn’t release his tax returns, framing it in terms of whether he had business ties to Russia.

TRUMP: Because it’s under order. And I’ll release them when the audits completed. Nobody would release when it’s under — I’ve had audits for 15 or 16 years. Every year I have a routine audit. I’m under audit, when the audits complete I’ll release them. But zero, I mean I will tell you right now, zero, I have nothing to do with Russia, yes?

Trump then said the nation-state hack of his opponent wasn’t the important thing, the content of the emails that were released was, thereby encouraging the press to participate in the information operation aspect of this attack.

He already did something today where he said don’t blame them, essentially, for your incompetence. Let me tell you, it’s not even about Russia or China or whoever it is that’s doing the hacking. It was about the things that were said in those e-mails. They were terrible things, talking about Jewish, talking about race, talking about atheist, trying to pin labels on people — what was said was a disgrace, and it was Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and believe me, as sure as you’re sitting there, Hillary Clinton knew about it. She knew everything.

Trump then asked Russia to further hack his opponent.

Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

Trump then doubled down on the comment he made about his taxes, assuring the press that he had “zero” business ties with Russia.

TRUMP: No, I have nothing to do with Russia, John (ph). How many times do I have say that? Are you a smart man? I have nothing to with Russia, I have nothing to do with Russia.

And even — for anything. What do I have to do with Russia? You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida.

Palm Beach is a very expensive place. There was a man who went bankrupt and I bought the house for $40 million and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million including brokerage commissions. So I sold it. So I bought it for 40, I told it for 100 to a Russian. That was a number of years ago. I guess probably I sell condos to Russians, OK?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Of course I can. I told you, other than normal stuff — I buy a house if I sold it to a Russian. I have nothing to do with Russia. I said that Putin has much better leadership qualities than Obama, but who doesn’t know that?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Of course not. I own the Trump organization. Zero, zero. Go ahead.

Trump then reiterated his claim that no one could attribute the DNC hack to Russia.

TRUMP: No, but they seem to be, if it’s Russians. I have no idea. It’s probably not Russia. Nobody knows if it’s Russia. You know the sad thing is? That with the technology and the genius we have in this country, not in government unfortunately, but with the genius we have in government, we don’t even know who took the Democratic National Committee e-mails. We don’t even know who it is.

I heard this morning, one report said they don’t think it’s Russia, they think it might be China. Another report said it might be just a hacker, some guy with a 200 I.Q. that can’t get up in the morning, OK? Nobody knows. Honestly they have no idea if it’s Russia. Might be Russia. But if it’s any foreign country, it shows how little respect they have for the United States. Yes, ma’am.

Finally, Trump also stated that he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia.

QUESTION: I would like to know if you became president, would you recognize (inaudible) Crimea as Russian territory? And also if the U.S. would lift sanctions that are (inaudible)?

TRUMP: We’ll be looking at that. Yeah, we’ll be looking.

Each of these comments, individually, would have raised eyebrows. The same comments, made by an American citizen, would equally have raised alarms among those committed to cybersecurity.

But for a presidential candidate to encourage the hostile nation-state information operation targeting his opponent, then ask the hostile nation-state to further target her, in conjunction with the repeated denials of any business ties to Russia raised real, legitimate questions about whether Trump was putting his own interests above the national security of the country.

You might excuse Durham for excluding this from his indictment because after all he was busy indicting a ham sandwich based on hearsay evidence he might be able to exclude these facts at trial. Except that an August 20 comment from TE-1 that Durham quotes in his indictment may be a direct reference to (and at the least incorporates knowledge of) this press conference.

Trump has claimed he and his company have had NO dealings with .ru other than the failed Casino, and the Miss universe pageant. He claims absolutely NO interaction with any financial institutions. So any potential like that would be jackpot.

That is, Durham included what appears to be a reference to the July 27 press conference. It appears (though Durham obscures this point) that all the actions laid out in this indictment post-date the press conference. Virtually everyone in the US committed to ensuring America’s national security was alarmed by Trump’s comments in this press conference. Yet Durham doesn’t acknowledge that all these actions took place in the wake of public comments that made it reasonable for those committed to cybersecurity to treat Donald Trump as a national security threat, irrespective of partisan affiliation.

Durham will work hard to exclude detail of Trump’s press conference from trial. But I assume that if any of the named subjects of this investigation were to take the stand at trial, they would point out that it was objectively reasonable after July 27 to have national security concerns based on Trump’s encouragement of Russia’s attack on Hillary Clinton and his defensive denials of any business ties. Any of the named subjects of the indictment would be able to make a strong case that there was reason to want to, as a matter of national security, test Trump’s claim to have no financial ties to Russia. Indeed, the bipartisan SSCI Report concluded that Trump posed multiple counterintelligence concerns, and therefore has concluded that Durham’s portrayal of politics as the only potential motive here to be false.

Central to Durham’s theory of prosecution is that there was no sound national security basis to respond to anomalous forensic data suggesting a possible financial tie between Trump and Russia. Except that, after that July 27 speech — and all of these events appear to post-date it — that theory is unsustainable.

The parts of the story Durham doesn’t tell

And not only was it objectively reasonable to test whether Trump’s claims to have “zero” business ties to Russia were false, but those suspecting that Trump was hiding such ties were, in fact, correct.

According to Michael Cohen, when Trump walked off the stage from that July 27 press conference, Cohen asked Trump why he had claimed that he had zero business ties with Russia when he had in fact been pursuing an impossibly lucrative deal to brand a Trump Tower in Moscow. And we now know that within hours of Trump’s request, GRU hackers made a renewed assault on Hillary’s own servers. By the time security researchers pursued anomalous data suggesting covert communications with a Russian bank, Cohen had already participated in discussions about working with two sanctioned Russian banks to fund the Trump Tower deal, had agreed to work with a former GRU officer to broker it, had spoken to an aide of Dmitry Peskov, and had been told that Putin was personally involved in making the deal happen. Just on the Trump Tower basis alone, Trump had publicly lied in such a way that posed a counterintelligence risk to America.

But that was not the only thing that Trump had done by the date when a bunch of security researchers responded to anomalous forensic data to test whether Trump was hiding further ties to Russia’s attack on Hillary Clinton.

In March, Trump hired Paul Manafort, a financially desperate political operative with close ties to a Russian intelligence officer, Konstantin Kilimnik, who (SSCI provided three redacted examples of) may have been involved in the hack-and-leak operation. In April, Manafort started leveraging his relationship with Trump to try to make money. In May, Manafort started regularly sending Kilimnik the campaign’s internal polling data. All that happened before researchers started testing Trump’s claims to have had no tie to Russia. On July 28, Kilimnik emailed Manafort to set up a meeting to talk about the future of Ukraine. Just days after the researchers started the inquiry, on August 2, Manafort met with Kilimnik to discuss carving up Ukraine in the same meeting where he described his strategy to win the election.

In April, an academic with close ties to Russia, Joseph Mifsud, told an unqualified braggart whom Trump had added to his team to pretend he had a foreign policy plan, George Papadopoulos, that Russia had thousands of Hillary’s emails that they intended to release to help Trump.

In May, according to Rick Gates’ testimony, Roger Stone started claiming he had advance knowledge of what would become the WikiLeaks releases. On or about June 15, per Gates, Stone told him that “he had contact with Guccifer 2.” According to a warrant affidavit targeting Stone, he searched Google on “Guccifer” before the Guccifer website went up that day. On June 23, Manafort called Stone and then the two old friends met for 30 minutes in the Trump cafeteria. On June 30, Stone spoke to Trump. According to multiple sources (including Michael Cohen), Stone knew of the DNC drop before it happened.

In June, Don Jr accepted a meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya at which he believed he would get dirt on Hillary Clinton. At the meeting, Veselnitskaya asked Don Jr to end sanctions on Russia, and the candidate’s son said his dad would reconsider it if he won.

In short, the researchers who, in the wake of Trump’s damning comments, were testing whether Trump had lied about having ties to Russia, not only had objectively reasonable reasons to do that research. But their suspicions were proven correct, over and over again.

Durham describes the outcome of the FBI investigation into the allegations this way:

The FBI’s investigation of these allegations nevertheless concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations of a secret communications channel with Russian Bank-1. In particular, and among other things, the FBI’s investigation revealed that the email server at issue was not owned or operated by the Trump Organization but, rather, had been administered by a mass marketing email company that sent advertisements for Trump hotels and hundreds of other clients.

Nothing here suggests the FBI disproved that this was an anomaly.

And there’s one more detail that Durham didn’t include in the Sussmann indictment: on July 26, Australia first shared their report about what George Papadopoulos told Alexander Downer in May. The next day, July 27, the FBI Legat in the UK got the tip. On July 31 — before the substantive research into the Alfa Bank allegation began — the FBI opened an UNSUB investigation into who got advance warning about the Russian operation and shared it with George Papadopoulos. In other words, by hiding the dates when Tea Leaves first discovered the anomalous data, Durham is hiding not just the damning things that publicly happened before the Alfa Bank operation got started, but probably details about the tip that turned into the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

In the wake of the Sussmann indictment, the usual Russian denialists have claimed that this proves that what they call “Russiagate” was all a fraud.

Such claims defy the rules of physics, suggesting that events that happened after the FBI opened an investigation to learn how and why the Trump campaign (via three channels, as it turns out) learned of the Russian attack in advance were in fact the cause of it.

It is likely that Durham will be able to exclude all these details from a Michael Sussmann trial, at least if it remains just a false statements case. He will be able to convince Judge Christopher Cooper, who is presiding over the case, that this information — that the researchers not only had reason to believe Trump presented a cybersecurity risk to the country, but that the researchers turned out to be right, and that FBI had itself determined there was reason to carry out the same kinds of investigations that the researchers did, possibly before any one of them took a single step — is irrelevant to the case against Sussmann. But if Durham charges ConFraudUS based on a claim that it was illegitimate to look into why Donald Trump was inviting Russia to hack his opponent, it will become centrally important that, before these researchers started conducting their investigation, the FBI had likewise decided such an investigation had merit.

The Alfa Bank story was sleazy and unethical. But it was still, nevertheless, an instance where someone representing the victim of a nation-state attack attempted to chase down information that may have pertained to that nation-state attack.

John Durham will go down in history as the guy who decided that torturing detainees, even in excess of legal guidance, was not a crime, but a victim sharing concerns about nation-state hacking is.

Update: It’s likely that Richard Burt was one of the people investigated as part of this effort. Per the Mueller Report, he was the person Petr Aven asked to establish a tie with Trump’s transition in 2016.

After the December 2016 all-hands meeting, A ven tried to establish a connection to the Trump team. A ven instructed Richard Burt to make contact with the incoming Trump Administration. Burt was on the board of directors for LetterOne (L 1 ), another company headed by Aven, and had done work for Alfa-Bank. 1169 Burt had previously served as U.S. ambassador to Germany and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, and one of his primary roles with Alfa-Bank and Ll was to facilitate introductions to business contacts in the United States and other Western countries. 1170

While at a L1 board meeting held in Luxembourg in late December 2016, Aven pulled Burt aside and told him that he had spoken to someone high in the Russian government who expressed interest in establishing a communications channel between the Kremlin and the Trump Transition Team. 1171 Aven asked for Burt’s help in contacting members of the Transition Team. 1172 Although Burt had been responsible for helping Aven build connections in the past, Burt viewed Aven’s request as unusual and outside the normal realm of his dealings with Aven. 1173

Burt, who is a member of the board of CNI (discussed at Volume I, Section IV.A.4, supra), 1174 decided to approach CNI president Dimitri Simes for help facilitating A ven’ s request, recalling that Simes had some relationship with Kushner. 1175 At the time, Simes was lobbying the Trump Transition Team, on Burt’s behalf, to appoint Burt U.S. ambassador to Russia.1176

Burt contacted Simes by telephone and asked if he could arrange a meeting with Kushner to discuss setting up a high-level communications channel between Putin and the incoming Administration. 1177 Simes told the Office that he declined and stated to Burt that setting up such a channel was not a good idea in light of the media attention surrounding Russian influence in the U.S. presidential election. 1178 According to Simes, he understood that Burt was seeking a secret channel, and Simes did not want CNI to be seen as an intermediary between the Russian government and the incoming Administration. 1179 Based on what Simes had read in the media, he stated that he already had concerns that Trump’s business connections could be exploited by Russia, and Simes said that he did not want CNI to have any involvement or apparent involvement in facilitating any connection. 118

Update: Corrected scope of Benczkowski’s recusal. His should cover the server issue (and Alfa Bank issues for the first two years he was CRM).

Update: Brian Krebs wrote a post laying out all the people who still believe there’s something going on technically. I don’t think that’s inconsistent, at all, with this one. As noted, everyone who looked at this believes it’s an anomaly. What I keep pointing to is the aftermath of that anomaly got Alfa Bank to act in a certain way that is consistent with Putin’s interests. Krebs notes that it has also led to a lot of scrutiny of security researchers in the US, not unlike the way the aftermath of the Steele dossier discredited most top Russian experts in the US government.

Update: This transcript of Preet Bharara and Joyce Vance discussing the many weaknesses of the Durham indictment largely replicates what I’ve laid out here but is worth a review.

How Rick Gates Used Maggie Haberman and Ken Vogel

Last week, DOJ released a reprocessed set of most of Rick Gates’ 302s in Jason Leopold’s FOIA for Mueller materials. I used that as an opportunity to pull together all of his 302s to capture the content and pull out the materials withheld under b7A exemptions (b7A exemptions reflect ongoing investigations — though many of these are clearly just counterintelligence investigations into Ukraine’s attempts to influence US politics). I did the same thing for Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, and Sam Patten’s files.

Reading all the 302s like this shows this, at times, Gates went wobbly on Mueller’s team. And it provides yet more evidence that a NYT article — bylined by two reporters that came up in Gates’ interviews, Maggie Haberman and Ken Vogel — was a (wildly successful) attempt to misrepresent how damning were Gates’ admissions about Paul Manafort’s efforts to provide ongoing campaign updates to Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik.

Nevertheless, the NYT has never issued a correction.

It’s not news that Gates went wobbly on his cooperation. Andrew Weissmann described the beginning process of this in his book, Where the Law Ends. But the 302s suggest it was not a one-time event.

As Weissmann told it in his book published before all the 302s came out, in one of his first proffers, Gates told prosecutors that he himself was skimming money from Manafort.

Gates said he understood and, from there, we began in earnest, alternating between Gates admitting his guilt for the crimes he and Manafort had committed and our teasing out information he had about others. This can be an awkward dance, but Gates seemed to be forthcoming. For example, after walking us through how, precisely, he’d helped Manafort launder money from his offshore accounts, Gates explained that he’d also personally stolen money from Ukraine by inflating the invoices he submitted for their political consulting work then pocketing that excess cash. Gates had never told Manafort about this skimming, he said, or reported that extra income on his taxes. We hadn’t known about this—it was new information, and encouraging, since it signaled that Gates understood that he could not hide or minimize his own criminality anymore.

That may have happened in his first interview, on January 29, 2018, when he described diverting income from his DMP work to an account in London.

Having gotten Gates to admit cheating Manafort, Weissmann then turned to what he called a “Jackpot” moment, when Gates described two things: that, at the August 2 meeting in the Havana Room, Manafort had told Kilimnik how he planned to win the campaign (a question Weissmann’s team was obsessed with understanding), and also that Manafort had ordered Gates to send Konstantin Kilimnik polling data throughout the campaign (of which Mueller’s team did not have prior knowledge).

“I learned of that meeting on the same day that it happened,” Gates explained. “Paul asked if I could join him and ‘KK,’ ” as Gates called Kilimnik. “The meeting was supposed to be over dinner, but I got there late.”

I did not look over at Omer, but I knew he was thinking what I was, that it was good that Gates was being forthright so far and confirming what we knew.

“Do you know how long they had already been there?” I asked.

“I don’t, but I think I was fairly late getting there. They were well into the meal.”

“What do you recall being discussed?” Omer asked. “A few things,” Gates explained. One subject was money—certain oligarchs in Ukraine still owed Manafort a considerable amount. Another was a legal dispute between Manafort and the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. We asked Gates if there was any new or unusual information raised about these issues, but he said no—those problems had been percolating for a while. This was not, it seemed, enough of a reason for Kilimnik to come to New York from Moscow.

“What else do you recall being discussed?” Omer asked.

“There was discussion about the campaign,” Gates said. “Paul told KK about his strategy to go after white working-class Democrats in general, and he discussed four battleground states and polling.”

“Did he name any states?” I asked.

“Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota,” Gates said.

“Did he specifically mention those states, and did he describe them as battleground states, or is that your description?” I asked.

“No,” Gates said. “Paul described them that way. And, yes, I remember those four states coming up.”

“And he described polling?” Omer asked.

“Yes, but I had been sending our internal polling data to KK all along,” Gates explained. “So this was a follow-up on that, as opposed to something out of the blue.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “but why were you sending polling data to Kilimnik?”

“Paul told me to send him the data, periodically. So I did. I’d send it using WhatsApp or some other encrypted platform. I assume it was to help Paul financially. I just did what Paul told me to do.”

“KK didn’t have any position on the campaign, right?” I asked.

The 302 from that same first interview shows Gates raised Manafort’s election year meetings with Kilimnik, though he got some details wrong, as I’ll return to. Gates addressed the Havana Bar meeting in his second interview, too, though he continued to tell an implausible story.

In his third interview, Gates attempted to lie about whether he had deleted documents; after a long discussion (still redacted because of an ongoing investigation), Gates admitted “maybe” he had deleted documents after learning of Mueller’s investigation.

In the fourth interview (at which Gates referenced false claims floated in the press to suggest the Mueller investigation had dodgy beginnings), Gates attempted to hide that he had lied to Mercury Public Affairs and Podesta Group about who their Ukrainian client really was, only to admit that “overtime” he realized what he had told them was not truthful; ultimately he admitted that “we got cute” by registering (and getting Podesta Group to register) under the Lobbying Disclosure Act and not FARA. At least as recorded in the 302, that’s the interview where Gates first lied about a meeting Manafort had with Dana Rohrabacher. At the same interview, Gates’ lawyer, Tom Green (who is a friend of Mueller’s), made a statement attributing Gates’ failures to keep certain lobbying documents to DMP archiving policy; in his statement of offense, Manafort admitted he still had those documents when he submitted his lobbying filings.

Weissmann’s book describes catching Gates in the lie about Rohrabacher.

Not long after I reentered the room, our interview with Gates turned to the FARA charges. Gates explained, in a convoluted fashion, that he and Manafort had believed there was no need to register under FARA since they were not personally doing any of the lobbying themselves. Manafort understood now that the law required him to file, Gates said, but he hadn’t understood that at the time.

Nothing about this argument was credible. Manafort was not only a longtime lobbyist but an attorney himself; he had extensive experience navigating the FARA rules and had gotten entangled with the FARA Unit before. (In the eighties, Manafort had a presidential appointment in the Reagan administration, which normally would have prohibited him from also working as a lobbyist, but he’d requested a waiver from that facet of the FARA rules. Interestingly, when his request was denied by a responsible White House attorney, Manafort resigned from his public office in order to continue the more profitable private lobbying work.) We had even uncovered an email from Gates to Manafort that clearly set out the FARA regulations. It was inconceivable that they’d misunderstood the law. Even the factual premise of their purported misunderstanding was untrue: Manafort had personally acted as a lobbyist. We had emails showing that Gates had arranged a meeting for Manafort with the pro-Russia California congressman Dana Rohrabacher in March 2013, shortly after Rohrabacher became chair of the subcommittee that oversaw Ukraine issues.

It was clear that Gates was not being straight with us—not uncommon, initially, with people who try to cooperate; they tell the truth with various degrees of success at first. When we confronted Gates with the emails about the Rohrabacher meeting, Gates simply doubled down, floating an even more absurd claim. He acknowledged that, yes, Manafort and Rohrabacher had met in Washington in 2013, but Gates claimed that he remembered Manafort telling him at the time that the subject of Ukraine had never come up—and therefore, there’d been no reason for Manafort to register under FARA for this activity: It wasn’t actually lobbying.

This wasn’t true, either, and we had evidence to prove it. Gates and Manafort had prepared a memo after the Rohrabacher meeting for President Yanukovych of Ukraine, summarizing the discussion. That memo was one of the many damning documents we’d discovered from Manafort’s condo search. We showed it to Gates: Was everything written here a lie? we asked. He had no response.

Gates’s story was crumbling before our eyes. It was infuriating because it was so counterproductive for everyone, and, on a personal level, displayed a certain contempt for us, and a low opinion of our ability to discern the truth. The good faith we needed, on both sides, was evaporating.

I asked Tom Green, Gates’s counsel, to speak in private, and then decided with him that we should break for the day. I asked Tom to get to the bottom of whatever was happening. All along, Gates had seemed to have trouble when it came to discussing Manafort and his crimes. He was clearly straining to shed his allegiance to his old boss. Still, Gates was discussing his own crimes, and it wasn’t clear why he’d chosen to start lying, so stubbornly, now, about this particular point; the FARA charges weren’t even among the most serious ones we brought.

If there was some explanation, Tom would need to figure it out quickly. The lies we’d just been told were deflating for us, given how hopeful we’d been about Gates’s usefulness as a witness.

Right now, we told Tom, there was no way we could sign Gates up.

Ultimately, Gates would plead guilty to this lie about Rohrabacher as a separate false statement.

The next day, according to Weissmann’s book, Green had seemingly gotten Gates back on track.

Tom came back to our office the next day. “Look,” he said, “my client messed up.”

Gates was scared, he explained. This entire process was wrenching for him. Gates felt pulled between his desire to cooperate and his allegiance to Manafort, and his client had just momentarily broken down. He’d fed us the various cover stories yesterday to avoid implicating Paul on the FARA charges.

In his book, Weissmann doesn’t reflect on the other lies that Gates must have told before his team caught Gates in a lie they could prove was one. But Gates’ earlier testimony does conflict with what he would say later.

And even having recommitted to cooperating, it seems Gates was still shading the truth in those February sessions, at least until he actually pled guilty.

The released 302s show that on February 2, Gates admitted that they should have registered under FARA for the meeting with Rohrabacher. In the same interview, there are five pages discussing a redacted subject that remain exempted under a b7A (ongoing investigation) exemption. Even in that interview, even after admitting he was still on the DMP payroll in the months while everyone was trying to place Manafort on the Trump campaign, Gates offered implausible answers about why Manafort would ask him to provide updates to Oleg Deripaska in the guise of confirming a lawsuit that had been dismissed had been dismissed. Additionally, Gates explained away a briefing for Trump about Manafort’s ties to Ukraine as Manafort’s effort to have Gates prepared to answer press questions about the topic.

Importantly, given later admissions about Gates’ efforts to work the press, when asked about the emails with Kilimnik discussing campaign briefings that had been reported in the press the previous year, Gates claimed he hadn’t spoken to Manafort about those reports. Then, having claimed he and Manafort hadn’t concocted a cover story about them, he claimed that they were references to Deripaska’s lawsuit.

Gates was shown an email thread between Kilimnik and Manafort dated July 7, 2016 through July 29, 2016.

Gates stated he saw some of these email[s] in the news. Gates did not talk to Manafort about the emails when they were leaked to the press. In July 2016, the topic of conversation with Manafort was the Deripaska lawsuit.

But then shortly after, in the very same interview, Gates described talking to Manafort about the emails.

When this email came out in the news, Manafort told Gates, Brad Parscale and [redacted] that the article was “B.S.”

That is, Gates claimed not to have spoken to Manafort about the news, but then described doing just that, and based on that inconsistent claim, asserted that the emails about providing campaign briefings to Deripaska pertained to the lawsuit with the Russian oligarch.

In this interview where Gates was clearly trying to shade the truth, he nevertheless still admitted sending “confidential polling data derived from internal polls” to Kilimnik.

On February 7, Gates had his first interview with another Mueller team, the Russian team led by Jeannie Rhee. The interview largely focused on the role of Dmitri Simes had in Trump’s first foreign policy speech, and touched briefly on the various views people had about sanctions on Russia.

Even though the Mueller team would eventually obtain evidence that Roger Stone tried to influence this process through Gates, Gates never mentioned how he personally released news of the speech through Maggie Haberman as a way to inform Stone about it, effectively using Maggie as a vehicle to communicate with someone, Stone, whom Manafort treated as part of his team while hiding those direct ties.

On April 22, 2016, Maggie Haberman broke the news that Donald Trump would give a foreign policy speech. As she reported, the speech was scheduled to be held at the National Press Club and would be hosted by the Center for National Interest, a group that once had ties to the Richard Nixon Library.

Donald J. Trump will deliver his first foreign policy address at the National Press Club in Washington next week, his campaign said, at an event hosted by an organization founded by President Richard M. Nixon.

The speech, planned for lunchtime on Wednesday, will be Mr. Trump’s first major policy address since a national security speech last fall.

The speech will be hosted by the Center for the National Interest, formerly known as the Nixon Center, and the magazine it publishes, The National Interest, according to a news release provided by the Trump campaign.

The group, which left the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in 2011 to become a nonprofit, says on its website that it was founded by the former president to be a voice to promote “strategic realism in U.S. foreign policy.” Its associates include Henry A. Kissinger, the secretary of state under Nixon, as well as Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama and a senior adviser to Mr. Trump. Roger Stone, a sometime adviser of Mr. Trump, is a former Nixon aide.

That night, according to texts released during his trial, Roger Stone wrote Rick Gates, furious that he had not been consulted about the details of the speech first — though Gates explained that he leaked it to Haberman so Stone would find out. “I cannot learn about a foreign policy speech from the media,” Trump’s rat-fucker said. “This is personally embarrassing. I’m out,” said the advisor who had supposedly quit the campaign almost a year earlier.

Among the things Stone bitched about learning from a leak to Maggie Haberman made partly for his benefit was about the venue. “No detail on venue and no input on content.”

In that same interview where Gates did not disclose Stone’s demand that he get a say on Trump’s foreign policy speeches, he nevertheless reiterated his admission that, “Gates sent Kilimnik both publicly available information and internal information from Fabrizio’s polls.” Gates also provided a description of Cambridge Analytica in the poll mix, though his descriptions of the campaign’s reliance on CA would remain inconsistent through the entirety of his cooperation with Mueller’s team.

Over the next two meetings, things seemed to get closer to finalizing the plea. In an interview on February 9, Gates further elaborated on why he had lied about the meeting with Rohrabacher. Prosecutors also got him on the record on an instance where he gave family members advance information about the acquisition of ID Watchdog, a company he had a stake in, by Equifax. Then in the following interview, Mueller’s team went through one after another crime he may have committed — insider trading (with IDW), bank fraud, bribery, “lack of candor under oath,” including during his 2014 FBI interview and the Skadden Report, campaign fraud, obstruction of justice, all of which would need to be on the record before he pled guilty.

After doing that, prosecutors got Gates on the record about key Mueller-related topics about which they wanted his cooperation, including Stone and Thomas Barrack. In their review of Gates’ description of the August 2 meeting, he confirmed that Deripaska was discussed (though claimed he only knew polling data was shared with the Ukrainian paymasters), and provided a really sketchy explanation of what this was all about:

Gates was asked why Kilimnik referred to Manafort’s “clever plan to defeat” Hillary Clinton in an email. Gates believed this referred to Manafort’s strategy to attack Clinton’s credibility. Gates was asked what was “clever” about this. Gates agreed that it was not clever and he did not know why Kilimnik characterized it as clever.

Gates did not trust Kilimnik. Gates did not know why Manafort was sharing internal polling data with Kilimnik. Gates said Kilimnik could have given the information to anyone.

That’s when the plea deal should have been finalized. But as Weissmann described in his book, it wasn’t.

Gates’ prior attorney (who was also representing someone else against whom Gates would testify), in the guise of demanding past payment, caused a sealed conference to be held before Amy Berman Jackson which alerted the press that he might be cooperating, which in turn generated a great deal of pressure on Gates not to flip (including the involvement of Sean Hannity). From Weissmann again:

But before we received the final versions back, with signatures, the process was disrupted yet again. Gates’s second defense counsel, Walter Mack, called our office unexpectedly and asked what the heck was going on: Was it true that his client was cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation?

It’s hard to convey the strangeness of Walter’s phone call: not only that he didn’t seem to know that Gates was seeking to cooperate, but that he was calling us for answers, instead of asking his own client, or his co-counsel Tom Green. We told Walter that he should direct those questions to Gates or Tom. It was not our place to be an intermediary between defendants and their various attorneys, or to mediate whatever spat Walter had just brought to our doorstep.

I’m still not sure what was going on behind the scenes. Later, Walter would claim a lack of payment from Gates—maybe that had something to do with it. But it was also hard to ignore that Walter happened to be simultaneously representing a man named Steven Brown in a separate case in New York. Brown had enlisted Gates in a fraudulent scheme and therefore could be harmed by information Gates might share if he cooperated.

Regardless, whatever dispute was playing out might have remained irrelevant to our case—except that Walter’s subsequent discussions with Tom apparently unraveled to the point that Walter filed a motion asking to be relieved as Gates’s counsel; this required all of us to appear briefly in court. The short proceeding had very little to do with our office and was under seal at the time, but our mere appearance at the courthouse roused interest from the reporters staking out the building. At the proceeding, the court told Tom to brief Walter on the cooperation progress. Shortly thereafter, someone leaked a story about Gates and his intention to cooperate to the Los Angeles Times.

This media attention was unsettling for Gates—as whoever leaked the story presumably knew it would be. It is hard enough to betray your former mentor, and walk away from your former life, by talking to government investigators. It is more daunting once you’ve seen your decision to cooperate spelled out in a national headline and are forced to discuss it with every friend and family member who calls to ask you if it’s true. Such press also sends out an alarm to those who’d seek to pull Gates back in line and away from the government.

As we feared, once the story ran, Gates got cold feet. Tom and I spoke nearly every day for the next two weeks. He explained that he was still working to convince his client to cooperate, and I expressed bafflement. I’d never seen anything like this before. Gates had passed the point of no return; because he’d already signed the proffer agreement and admitted his criminal liability to all of the charged crimes (and then some), he would be going to trial with effectively no defense if he backed out now. Tom assured me that Gates understood this—but he also said that Gates had lots of people loyal to the White House whispering in his ear.

So prosecutors drew up a second indictment against Manafort and Gates in Virginia. That, plus some advice from Charlie Black, may have been enough to get him back on board.

This time it seemed real. “He’s coming to my office to sign the papers right now,” Tom said.

I was relieved, but still skeptical. I told Tom I’d need to see him and Gates in our office again, to hear Gates explain what the hell had just happened. I also alerted him that we were, at that moment, pushing forward with our indictment in Virginia and, because the courthouse there didn’t allow phones or electronic devices, there was no way for me to call the prosecutors and stop it. Still, I assured Tom, this wouldn’t affect our deal: If Gates proved trustworthy, we’d move to dismiss this second set of charges in Virginia without prejudice and proceed in Washington as planned.

Gates came back into our office the next day. I leveled with him: “I’ve never had this experience before, and I need to understand what happened,” I said. “Why did you balk at the last minute? What’s going on?”

He seemed more vulnerable this time. He explained the intense pressure that Manafort and others were putting on him not to cooperate, how Manafort had told him that money could be raised to defray their legal expenses, and that the White House had their backs—code, Gates knew, to keep quiet and hold out for a pardon.

But, Gates went on, he’d also spoken to Charlie Black. Black had been in business with Manafort years ago, at the firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, then gone on to become a dean of Republican Party strategists and enjoyed a sterling reputation. (In a masterstroke, it turned out, at a moment when Tom was almost out of ideas, he had recruited Black to reach out to Gates and offer advice.) Black told Gates that, were he in a similar predicament, he would cooperate. Gates wasn’t an old man like Black and Manafort, Black explained; he needed to think about himself and his young family. And moreover, Black insisted, Gates would be foolish to count on a pardon. Trump was too self-absorbed to be dependable.

“I took this all in,” Gates said, “and I decided to follow Black’s advice.” Black’s encouragement seemed to have finally empowered Gates to turn on his old boss. “I know there’s a possibility that Paul will get a pardon in the end, and I’ll have to watch him walk free. But I decided I just have to deal with what I’ve done, and own what I have done.” He’d broken the law, he said. He needed to deal with the consequences now and do right by his family.

The first interviews after Gates pled guilty focused on this process, eliciting descriptions of all the people Gates had spoken to in prior days, including the Black conversation, three conversations where Manfort tried to find money to pay Gates’ legal bills, and others. A pardon came up but no one told him he would be pardoned. Someone also tried to help Gates find what would have been his fourth defense team. Gates explained that he had been told the Nunes Memo and the IG Report on the Hillary investigation would change the climate for his defense.

But after that, things started to move forward. Investigators got a list of all the encrypted comms Gates had used and those he knew Manafort had used. Then they began to turn back to all the Manafort graft Gates would help prosecutors untangle.

On March 1 — the first time prosecutors would return to two key Russia-related issues after Gates pled guilty, the August 2 meeting and Roger Stone — Gates revealed that he had lied to Ken Vogel in 2016 (who was then with Politico) about the Havana Club meeting. Gates started by (improbably) claiming he had never before read the June 19, 2017 WaPo story in which Konstantin Kilimnik provided a cover story for the August 2 meeting. That led him to admit lying to Vogel because he believed they’d get away without disclosing the meeting.

Gates stated that he hadn’t previously read the 6/19/2017 Washington Post article, which contained a statement from Konstantin Kilimnik regarding a meeting held in New York on 8/2/2016. Gates stated that following the 8/2/2016 meeting (which was held at New York’s Havana Club), Gates spoke to Paul Manafort regarding a subsequent Politico story about it. The author of the Politico article, Kenneth Vogel, had emailed a list of questions to Manafort. Manafort forwarded these questions to Gates, who answered “no” to all the questions. Gates admitted that he lied to Vogel with these responses. He had been assured no one would find out about this meeting. Gates stated that Jared Kushner became angry following the Politico article, unsure as to why Manafort would have such a meeting.

Then Gates admitted that Manafort did ask him whether anyone called him about the meeting — something still redacted for ongoing investigation. Effectively, Gates admitted that he understood that Manafort expected him to lie about the meeting.

Remember, during precisely this period in 2016, Oleg Deripaska was playing a double game, making Manafort more vulnerable even while getting him to share campaign campaign information. Perhaps not unrelatedly, much of the next month of Rick Gates interviews in 2018 focused on the Pericles lawsuit that Deripaska used as leverage against Manafort to put him in that more vulnerable position.

A March 21 interview covering things like Roger Stone and Cambridge Analytica remains significantly redacted (including one b7A redaction covering the latter topic added since this 302 was last released).

Something sort of interesting happened in April 2018. On two consecutive days, Gates told a slightly different story about Roger Stone. On April 10, Rhee and Aaron Zelinsky joined Manafort prosecutors Weissmann and Andres. At the beginning of the interview, Gates warned that someone was not happy he was cooperating. In the April 10 interview, Gates provided details about Stone’s ongoing relationship with Manafort that don’t appear, in unredacted form, elsewhere, as well as details of calls and meetings from June (these communications were a focus at Stone’s trial). Gates revealed that the day before Stone’s “Podesta time in the barrel” comment on August 21, 2016, Manafort told Gates Stone had told him the emails would come out (this is consistent with at least one of Manafort’s interviews). One subtext of this interview is that the means by which Lewandowski got fired in June was related to Stone’s bid to get Hillary’s emails.

In the April 10 interview, Gates described a June 15, 2016 phone call he had with Manafort and Stone where Stone said “he had been in contact with Guccifer 2.” The FBI spent much of 2018 trying to track down forensic proof that this had indeed happen.

In the same interview, Gates asserted that Manafort,

always intended to use Stone as an outside source of information. Manafort relied on Stone to do operative work and dig up opposition material. Manafort had conveyed to Gates that Stone was in the hunt for Clinton’s emails prior to the Crowdstrike report dated 06/14/2016 announcement. Stone told Gates and Manafort something major was going to happen and that a leak of information was coming.

All told this may be Gates’ most revelatory interview about Stone.

But an April 11 interview, which covers the same issues (and at which Rhee was not present), seems to back off the claim that Manafort was pushing Stone to go get the emails. “[N]o one told Stone to go get” the emails Assange had. In a separate interview that same day (without the Stone team), Weissmann and Andres asked Gates about contacts he had had, though that seems to refer to contacts during 2017. On April 17, an interview seemed to focus on something Manafort had done.

Prosecutors kept asking about his contacts during the investigation (as they did with Mike Flynn during the same period). On May 3, Gates described with whom he had contact since his last interview (on April 19). That included two conversations with Maggie Haberman. Later in May, Gates was interviewed about his and Manafort’s response to an July 2016 AP report on Manfort’s Ukraine graft. In July, Gates revealed that, prior to pleading guilty, Manafort had warned Gates against his attorney Tom Green. In different July interview, Gates also described being in contact with people about a NYT report on him.

Gates’ plea deal required he get prior approval before he revealed any information derived from his cooperation to a third party. But he appears to have remained in touch with the NYT anyway.

In August, investigators grilled Gates about a topic that they hadn’t known about but which he had admitted on the stand while testifying in Paul Manafort’s trial: That he may have submitted a false expense report to the Inauguration Committee, replicating a theft that he had earlier used against Manafort. That discussion remains redacted under b7A redactions. It was not addressed in the government sentencing memo for Gates. It’s one potential crime Gates admitted only after entering into the plea agreement.

During fall interviews, Gates addressed additional investigative interest (such as the spin-off prosecutions arising from Manafort’s graft). He provided an interview on Stone on October 25 (the day before Steve Bannon would be interviewed and one of his last interviews before the election) that generally accorded with past testimony. And he did a few interviews pertaining to Kilimnik (parallel to the time when Manafort was being questioned about the same topic), including one where he reiterated that,

GATES understood that the polling data he was sending to KILIMNIK would be given to LYOVOCHKIN and DERIPASKA. GATES believed MANAFORT would have sent the polling data to LYOVOCHKIN as part of his efforts to get money out of Ukraine. GATES believed MANAFORT would have sent the polling data to DERIPASKA [redacted]. GATES opined that MANAFORT believed that Trump’s strength in the polls would be advantageous to him.

GATES provided KILIMNIK a mix of public polls and the campaign’s Fabrizio polling data based on what MANAFORT thought looked good. The Fabrizio polls were more reliable because they used cell phone polling data.

GATES provided certainly weekly data automatically to KILIMNIK. MANAFORT and GATES would send additional polling data on an ad hoc basis. On multiple occasions, GATES and MANAFORT would receive a poll and MANAFORT would tell GATES to send it to KILIMNIK based on the poll’s content.

That is, while there were conflicting details, after the time Gates started cooperating, his story about sharing polls repeatedly (though not always) acknowledged that Deripaska was receiving the polls. He consistently said the polls included non-public data (though his excuses for doing so varied from interview to interview and never offered a plausible explanation). And while he shifted the timeline earlier during the first interviews where he was telling other lies, after that point Gates never disputed that Manafort provided a more detailed explanation of his campaign strategy to Kilimnik, and he admitted his data sharing continued at least through the time Manafort left the campaign on August 19.

Gates’ description of what happened after that had some variances, as did his description of what polls were included in the sharing — but they always included Fabrizio’s polls, which, based on past work, they were the ones with which Kilimnik would be most familiar.

On November 7, the day Jeff Sessions would be fired, making way for Billy Barr to be nominated and confirmed, Gates did two interviews without his attorney, Tom Green, present.

There was, among the released interviews (there are about 60 that have been released, plus some other identified 302s that haven’t been), just one more in 2018.

Then, in advance of a February 15, 2019 interview, Gates’ attorney reached out to correct a claim that prosecutors had made as part of Manafort’s breach hearing. The important correction was that “GATES did not recall bringing [a document he had printed out earlier that day for a planning meeting] to the [Havana Bar] meeting. Gates affirmed, however, that,

At the 08/02/2016 meeting with GATES, MANAFORT, and KILIMNIK there was a much more detailed discussion of internal polling data compared to the data GATES sent to KILIMNIK via WHATSAPP. At the dinner meeting, GATES, MANAFORT, and KILIMNIK discussed internal polling from FABRIZIO which included battleground states.

[snip]

GATES recalled MANAFORT discussed internal polling from other sources including CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA. The information provided in this meeting by MANAFORT to KILIMNIK was based on internal information and polls; it was a synthesis that included internal polling data.

In addition to the major correction regarding the document he printed out, however, Gates altered his testimony from many (though not all) of his previous interviews in one key way. At an interview the day after Billy Barr was confirmed as Attorney General and as Mueller’s team were already drafting their report, Gates reported that,

DERIPASKA was also in the mix. GATES recalled, however, that the letter to DERIPASKA was related to MANAFORT’s and DERIPASKA’s legal dispute. GATES does not specifically know if MANAFORT sent internal polling data to DERIPASKA.

That is, in his first interview after Barr became Attorney General, Gates backed off a claim that (at least per the 302s) he had made as recently as late October, that he knew he was sending Deripaska the polling data.

Then, on February 22, Gates had a last interview, by phone (there must have been one or several in advance of the Stone and Greg Craig trials). For a third time, his attorney — Robert Mueller’s friend Tom Green — was not present.

The topic of the interview, like so many before, was whom Gates had had contact with about the investigation. But of course, this time, key details of the investigation, especially about sharing polling data with Kilimnik, had been revealed by one of those redaction failures that sometimes happen at opportune times. Gates described someone “alert[ing] GATES to the allegation discussed above,” but claimed “their communication had no substance.” Before and after that, though, redacted answers that Gates offered seemed to deny speaking to anyone about the allegations, whether the inquiry pertained to comparing notes about answers with others involved — as Gates had denied then disproved happened in summer 2017 — or lying to the media to minimize damage — as Gates had admitted lying to Ken Vogel about the very same allegation.

And in spite of the fact that Weissmann warned Gates at least once not to say anything about his communications with Green, Gates ended the interview by addressing a claim his attorney seems to have made. “GATES stated that his counsel GREEN had been mistaken in indicating to the Special Counsel’s Office that GATES,” with a long paragraph describing what Green had told prosecutors but that Gates, with Green absent, was denying.

It turns out, though, that the demonstrably false story that NYT told resembled the ones Gates told in interviews where he was also lying about Rohrabacher, a year earlier. The NYT claimed that Gates had only transferred the data during the spring, not in August. It claimed “most of the data was public.” And it claimed Gates had only shared the data with two Ukrainian oligarchs, and not Oleg Deripaska.

Both Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Mr. Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, according to a person knowledgeable about the situation. Most of the data was public, but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign, according to the person.

Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, the person said. The oligarchs had financed Russian-aligned Ukrainian political parties that had hired Mr. Manafort as a political consultant.

In his first interview, Gates claimed that the two Kilimnik meetings happened in spring, March and May. He further claimed the last time he spoke to Kilimnik was in May 2016, not that August meeting nor later attempts to craft a cover story for the Skadden Arps intervention. He offered another reason entirely for the meeting than sharing campaign data: Yanukovych wanted Manafort to run his next campaign.

In his second interview, Gates was told clearly the meeting at the Havana Bar happened in August, but then, when he began to admit to sharing campaign information, suggested Manafort had shared “Manafort’s plan for the primaries.” When reminded again that the meeting happened in August, long after Trump sealed up the nomination, Gates still persisted by claiming “they must have talked about the delegate issue and Manafort’s plan to get Trump enough delegates to win the nomination.” This interview appears to be the first time Gates offered the explanations he settled on for sharing campaign strategy — to get the Ukrainians to pay their bills and to get Deripaska to drop his law suit. But when investigators asked the obvious question — why Manafort wanted to share campaign information from someone he thought was Russian intelligence Gates claimed none of this was secret.

Gates was asked why Manafort would provide strategy information on the Trump Campaign to someone he thought was Russian Intelligence. Gates stated that the information on the battleground states and strategy was not secret.

This comment appears between passages redacted for ongoing investigation, so it’s not really clear whether the “he” here means Gates (who later would admit he suspected Kilimnik was a spy) And yet, he and Manafort spent a good deal of time obfuscating about doing just that.

Back in January 2018, before he started getting caught in deliberate lies, Gates was telling stories that shifted the time and the substance regarding why he and Manafort shared campaign data with Konstantin Kilimnik. And then, just as the Mueller team started preparing to write their conclusions, the NYT published a story that adopted the same time shift and subject obfuscations.

And in between, Rick Gates shared details repeatedly about how he used Maggie Haberman and Ken Vogel.

The Still Active Konstantin Kilimnik Investigation

The government just released reprocessed versions of the Sam Patten 302s that it released in January 2020 as part of BuzzFeed’s FOIA for the Mueller interviews, with just one new disclosure (evidence that Steve Bannon knew of the DNC email release in advance). As a reminder, Sam Patten was the business partner of Konstantin Kilimnik who pled guilty in 2018 for FARA violations.

That DOJ released 40 pages in almost exactly the same form as it previously released them is not unique to Patten. DOJ likewise released George Papadopoulos, KT McFarland, and Erik Prince’s 302s with almost no new disclosures. Effectively, DOJ used its monthly release to BuzzFeed as an obnoxious way of conveying that, except for details showing that even Jerome Corsi was a cover story for Stone’s activities in 2016, DOJ isn’t going to release any more details about the Mueller investigation.

But the heavily redacted 302s are actually of significant interest. That’s because between the time these 302s were first released in January 2020 and now, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its own Russian investigation report, in August 2020. That report relied heavily on the 302s that remain so heavily redacted.

In fact, the declassification of the SSCI Report conducted by ODNI under John Ratcliffe at a time he was declassifying a slew of other documents to help Trump disclosed a great deal of material that, given the recent DOJ release, DOJ claims remain sensitive. The great majority of these passages — and indeed the majority of what remains redacted — were redacted in part using a b7A redaction, indicating an ongoing investigation. I’ve put in the materials that appear in the SSCI Report that remain redacted in this week’s release below, marking with italics what DOJ has released in the 302s.

Effectively, then, this structures the information already released by SSCI in such a way to show how the investigation of Patten — and through him, Manafort and Kilimnik progressed. It also shows what DOJ claims remains sensitive.

Patten interviewed in January 2018 with SSCI and lied to hide that he had used a straw donor to buy Inauguration tickets for Kilimnik and one of the Ukrainian oligarchs who was paying Manafort. Patten seems to have admitted his error as soon as Mueller got involved, because his first Mueller interview, on May 22, 2018, effectively truthfully admits to the crime he would eventually plead guilty to. But that 302 also describes what he learned of Kilimnik’s two trips to the US during the campaign (most of the details about the first one remain redacted). It describes how Patten let himself discount warnings that Kilimnik was a Russian spook, and also reveals how he continued to keep Kilimnik in the loop about the FBI investigation of him.

Heavily redacted passages seem to describe the relationship between Oleg Deripaska and Kilimnik, as well as Deripaska’s business in other countries.

A description of what bloggers and journalists Patten paid remains heavily redacted; the implication is that these are overseas, but given the career track of certain American journalists, the notion that Kilimnik or his bosses would buy off the press remain of interest. Discussions of Patten’s communications — many of which are surely included in unredacted form in the SSCI Report — remains entirely redacted.

Patten’s second interview, on May 30, 2018, provides a lot more details that would be pertinent to Manafort. Of particular interest, Kilimnik made a real effort to get Patten a job in the Trump Administration, an offer that Patten declined (he has publicly said he voted for Hillary in 2016). And Kilimnik pressed similar Ukrainian policies with Patten as he did with Manafort. His efforts to cultivate the two of them, it seems clear, was significantly an effort to carve up Ukraine for Russia.

A September meeting would have been prep for the Manafort trial that was due to start the next week.

And then after Mueller declared that Manafort had lied while he pretended to cooperate, Mueller brought Patten back — with a non-Mueller AUSA — for a substantive interview, much of which remains redacted. It’s clear that even then, Mueller was still trying to figure all that Kilimnik had done during his May 2016 trip to the US.

On the day Patten first appeared before the grand jury, Kilimnik texted him to try to get him to lie about the Inauguration tickets. And after Patten’s guilty plea was made public, Kilimnik offered to get one of the oligarchs to pay his bills. Parts of these documents that remain redacted show how Kilimnik was attempting to undermine the Russian investigation in other ways.

Among the things the 302s show is how Kilimnik was handling Patten — and presumably was also handling Manafort. For example, Patten used some of the same operational security that Manafort did with Kilimnik. Of particular interest, through at least the Inauguration, Kilimnik was lying to Patten about remaining in touch with Manafort. He was keeping his efforts with these two men compartmented.

The government’s sentencing memo in this case describes that, in addition to Manafort, Patten cooperated in “a number of other criminal investigations.”

Specifically, Patten was a potential witness in the case of United States v. Manafort, No. 17-cr-201 (ABJ), and he was willing and able to testify about Paul Manafort’s work in Ukraine for the Opposition Bloc and related matters. To prepare for his anticipated testimony, Patten met with prosecutors before trial and he provided documentary evidence supporting his expected testimony. Ultimately, because Manafort pled guilty in that case, Patten’s testimony was not needed. In addition, due to his prior work and experience as a political consultant overseas, Patten has served as a valuable resource for the government in a number of other criminal investigations, providing helpful information about additional individuals and entities

Between the sentencing memo and a May 2020 memo in support for early termination of his probation, the government referred to at least two meetings are not included in these 302s, with one taking place on April 17, 2020, not long before the FBI offered a $250,000 reward for Kilimnik in June 2020 and just a few months before Amy Berman Jackson first moved towards unsealing the Manafort breach documents in July 2020.

So one of those other investigations was likely into Kilimnik, suggesting the government conducted not just a counterintelligence investigation into him, but a criminal investigation into his role in 2016. But there’s virtually no chance that Kilimnik will ever wander into a country where the US can extradite him. Which will make for an interesting explanation when BuzzFeed asks why its reprocessed 302s continue to redact information that was declassified last year.

January 5, 2018: Patten SSCI interview

March 20, 2018: Attempted FBI interview

[release]

May 22, 2018 Mueller interview

Weissmann present

[first release]

[second release]

Presidential Inaugural Committee

In early January 2017, Kilimnik asked Patten to obtain tickets to the inauguration through the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC). According to Patten, Kilimnik made this request on behalf of Lyovochkin.623 Patten eventually obtained tickets through a straw purchaser, intended for Kilimnik, Lyovochkin, and Vadim Novinsky, a Ukrainian businessman and politician affiliated with the OB.

[snip]

Patten eventually obtained tickets through a straw · purchaser, intended for Kilimnik, Lyovochkin, and Vadim Novinsky, a Ukrainian business man and politician affiliated with the OB.6

[snip]

That evening [January 19], Patten, Kilimnik, Lyovochkin, and a pollster who had worked with Kilimnik and Patten in Ukraine had dinner together

On January 19, Patten, Kilimnik, Lyovochkin, and a pollster had dinner together.

That evening, Patten, Kilimnik, Lyovochkin, and a pollster who had worked with Kilimnik and Patten in Ukraine had dinner together.6

FARA

Some discussion of work in Ukraine. Heavily redacted, including b7A.

Konstantin Kilimnik

Background on ties at IRI.

Patten told the SCO that after he had left IRI, an IRI employee who worked at IRI’s Belarus desk, Trig Olson, made a claim that Kilimnik leaked information to Russian intelligence.1061 Olson based his assessment on a situation where information provided in a meeting that Kilimnik had attended was leaked to Russian intelligence.1062 Patten ultimately confronted Kilimnik about Olson’s allegation, and Kilimnik denied he was the source of the leak.1063

Patten said he was skeptical of Olson’s allegations about Kilimnik’s ties.to Russian intelligence in part because he believed Olson had a score to settle with Manafort because Olson had been fired from the McCain Campaign by Rick Davis, Manafort’s former business partner.

Kilimnik’s two trips to the US during the campaign

Patten wrongly believed that Kilimnik had flown to NY to meet with Manafort.

Patten was under the impression that Kilimnik may have traveled using private air travel arranged by Manafort, potentially on the Trump-owned plane.

Kilimnik told Patten that John Kerry’s Chief of Staff, Jonathan Finer, was “in space” at a meeting on May 6, 2016

Kilimnik was frustrated by this meeting, stating that he met “Finer or whatever the fuck is his. name. In total space.”

Patten said he understood “[i]n total space” to mean “in outer space” and.therefore not well informed on issues involving Ukraine.

August 2

At the meeting, Manafort walked Kilimnik through the state of the Trump Campaign, including its internal polling data, and Manafort’s plan to win

[snip]

This polling data included internal Trump Campaign polling data from Trump Campaign pollster and longtime Manafort associate Anthony Fabrizio.

[snip]

Kilimnik told Patten that at the New York cigar bar meeting, Manafort stated that they have a plan to beat Hillary Clinton which included Manafort bringing discipline and an organized strategy to the campaign. Moreover, because Clinton’s negatives were so low [sic]-if they could focus on her negatives they could win the election. Manafort discussed the Fabrizio internal Trump polling data with Kilimnik, and explained that Fabrizio ‘s polling numbers showed that the Clinton negatives, referred to as a ‘therm poll, ‘ were high. Thus, bas~d on this polling there was a chance Trump could win..

SSCI interview

Unredacted includes lies about FARA and PIC.

Additionally, Sam Patten, another key witness in the investigation due to his close relationship with Kilimnik, similarly engaged in conduct designed to obfuscate his relationship with Kilimnik. Patten withheld and deleted documents related to Kilimnik that were relevant to the Committee’s investigation.

Oleg Deripaska

Boyarkin

According to Patten, Kilimnik has met with Deripaska and Deripaska associates, including Boyarkin. Patten understood that Kilimnik was in continuous contact with Deripaska and his inner circle. FBI, FD-302, Patten 5/22/2018.

[snip]

Patten told the FBI that he recalled having a Skype call with Boyarkin and Kilimnik on May 24, 2015, about the Guinea project.1004 Patten told the Committee during his interview that he did not know a “Viktor Boyarkin.”1005 Patten later told the SCO that he did not lie to the Committee because at the time he only knew Boyarkin as “Viktor,” a Russian associate of Kilimnik’s who worked for Deripaska.1006

FBI, FD-302, Patten 5/22/2018. As noted above, Patten told the SCO that the proposals he worked on with Kilimnik related to Guinea, Kazakhstan, and others were for Deripaska. FBI, FD-302, Patten 5/22/2018

Viktor Yanukovych

Payments to Journalists/Bloggers

Largely b7A

Specific communications

Largely b7A

Steve Bannon (including advance knowledge of DNC release)

Largely unredacted

FBI visits

Some unredacted, including Patten telling others of FBI

During the execution of a search warrant on Patten’s home, Patten used his wife’s phone to send a text message to Kilimnik and then deleted the message:

[snip]

Patten told the FBI that after an initial visit to his home by what Patten believed to be FBI agents, he deleted emails, some of which pertained to work he had performed for Cambridge Analytica in Mexico because he had been told that his work there was “off the books.” FBI, FD-302, Patten 5/22/2018.

[Redacted (Kilimnik undermining RU investigation)]

One long B7A paragraph

Patten used foldering with Kilimnik.

Patten also engaged in foldering with Kilimnik.

May 30, 2018 Mueller interview

[first release]

[second release]

Andrew Weissmann present

2007

Half unredacted, discussion of rumors that Akhmetov was providing funding to Yushenko

Patten’s first engagement in Ukraine

Partially redacted, discussion of what Manafort was doing at same time

Patten wasn’t sure how all the bills got paid.

Patten, whom Kilimnik recruited to come to Ukraine in 2014 to assist the OB and who reported to Kilimnik, recalled that although Kilimnik worked from an office in Manafort’s firm in Kyiv, it was unclear to Patten whether Lyovochkin or Manafort was paying Kilimnik.213

213 Patten stated that he was hired by, paid by, and reported to Lyovochkin through Kilimnik for his 2014 work in Ukraine.

[snip]

Patten recalled one occasion during his first meeting with Manafort in Kyiv where Manafort had spoken highly of Kilimnik and called Kilimnik a “powerful little dude.”

2015

Patten described some contention over whether he worked for Lyovochkin or for Vitali Klitschko.

Patten’s Ukraine work with Kilimnik in support of Lyovochkin is consistent with Gates’s characterization. In early 2015, Vitali Klitschko, a former opposition leader during the Maydan protests, hired Patten to assist in his Kyiv mayoral campaign. Kilimnik arranged the meeting where Klitschko hired Patten. Lyovochkin, who was ostensibly not a part of Klitschko’s campaign or political party, paid Patten from an offshore account Lyovochkin controlled. Patten recalled one 2015 meeting with Klitschko and Kilimnik in which Klitschko kicked Kilimnik out of the meeting and told Patten that Patten worked for him (Klitschko) and not Lyovochkin. Klitschko told Patten that he kicked Kilimnik out because Kilimnik was too close to Lyovochkin. Patten, who worked in support of Klitschko for approximately a year, was paid $800,000—solely by Lyovochkin.

[redacted information about scope of work, including Guinea]

Redacted

Redacted

Redacted

2016 Current US policy to the Ukraine and Russia

Unredacted discussion of recent work

Manafort remained in the background of the campaign after being fired.

Kilimnik told Patten that Manafort stayed in the background, but still maintained contact and stayed close to Trump.

Kilimnik tried to convince Patten to get Manafort to get him an Admin job

Patten said he declined Kilimnik’s offer

[snip]

Kilimnik specifically sought to leverage Manafort’s contacts with the incoming Trump administration to advance Kilimnik’s agenda, particularly with regard to the Ukraine plan. Kilimnik thought that Trump could solve Ukraine’s problems because of Manafort’ s connection to Trump.

[snip]

After the U.S. presidential election, Kilimnik and Patten began developing ideas for peaceful settlement to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Kilimnik and Patten drafted a paper outlining the plan, which was to decentralize power, limit Kyiv’s role in running the country, engage in direct bilateral talks between Poroshenko and Putin, and focus on local elections.763 The plan included having the United States serve as an honest broker and work directly with Russia at the highest levels to resolve the conflict.764

[snip]

Kilimnik used his work with Patten to test the viability of a Yanukovych return. Patten recalled conducting at least one poll with Kilimnik in 2017 as part of their ongoing work for the OB.767 In mid-2017, Kilimnik and Patten organized a survey at Kilimnik’s urging to, in part, discreetly measure voters’ openness to Yanukovych’s return768 According to Patten, Kilimnik thought that if Yanukovych returned to politics in eastern Ukraine, it would help the OB because Yanukovych would bring strong leadership back to the OB.769

Patten recalled that the poll tested a wide variety of issues, but included questions designed to test voters’ sentiment ofYanukovych. FBI, FD-302, Patten 5/30/2018. See also Email; Kilimnik to Patten and Garrett, July 11, 2017 (SSC! 2017-4885-3-000054) (responding to focus group testing, Kilimnik asked if respondents were “open to Yanuk return” which he believed was an “important question.”).

2017

Privacy-related redactions on recent work

Presidential Inaugural Committee

About half redacted

This section includes reference to “VY” having a Brussels office, which a later question makes clear he didn’t know was the Hapsburg Group

Hapsburg Group

Patten unfamiliar

Alex Van Der Zwaan

redacted

May 31, 2018 Grand Jury appearance

Kilimnik texts Patten about his grand jury testimony

[first release]

[second release]

FBI Agent takes pictures of something on Patten’s phone, almost certainly texts from Kilimnik about the grand jury testimony.

Texts from Kilimnik

On May 31, 2018, the day Patten was scheduled to testify before a grand jury, Kilimnik asked Patten if there was “anything I can help you with on the GJ [grand jury].”1095 Patten expressed concern to Kilimnik about his testimony related to purchasing inauguration tickets for Lyovochkin and money from Lyovochkin transferred to Patten for that purpose. 1096 Kilimnik offered Patten an “explanation,” suggesting to Patten a fabrication he could offer to the grand jury:

How about they sent it to us for a poll they wanted to do, and because they (as they typically do) canceled the poll you decided to use it for inauguration tickets. Do your client a favor. One failed to come, no one actually attended other than you and SL. Business development for us. 1097

June 6, 2018 Mueller interview

[first release]

[second release]

Weissmann present

[Redacted (consulting and FARA)]

Largely b7A

Department of State

Short section, b7A

June 12, 2018 Mueller interview

[first release]

[second release]

Weissmann present

Short FBI phone interview, redacted topic.

Patten and Kilimnik exchanged a December email after the one Kilimnik sent to Manafort

Patten may have written a one page Iraq solution proposal and provided it to Kilimnik, which Patten assumed would be provided to Manafort. At the time of the December email, Patten knew that Kilimnik was in Moscow and it was possible that Kilimnik shared this email with someone in Russia, but Patten did not know if Kilimnik did share it

August 31, 2018 Guilty plea

Guilty plea

September 6, 2018 Mueller interview

[first release]

[second release]

Weissman and Rhee present

Public update on restricted Facebook page

Review of

  • A document on travel information; Patten describes that someone called and informed him all his work had been for Opposition Block
  • A document about a parallel campaign to one Manafort and Gates had been running in Ukraine
  • A document pertaining to Petro Poroshenko
  • A document showing someone editing a document Patten had written
  • Possibly another document
  • A document about the political persecution of the Party of Regions members for advice on media campaign
  • Another document on work that was not reported under FARA
  • A response to a news article Patten sent
  • A 2017 BGR email on which he had put a FARA notice

Somewhere Lyovochkin get mentioned:

Patten further noted that Lyovochkin had previously managed Manafort’s account for Yanukovych.

September 19, 2018

[first release]

[second release]

Attorney proffer of screenshots of a PDF, almost certainly of Kilimnik’s offer to pay Patten’s legal fees.

In September 2018, Kilimnik offered to arrange for Patten to receive money from Lyovochkin even after Patten’s work for Lyovochkin had ceased and Patten’s cooperation with the Government was public. Kilimnik asked Patten about the possibility of”sending a post-factum invoice for lobbying to SL.” Kilimnik further stated that SL is “ready to do it” as compensation for Patten’s legal costs. Text Message, Klimnik to Patten, September 16,201

November 27, 2018 Mueller interview

[first release]

[second release]

Weissmann and anon AUSA present

Redacted

Redacted

Outreach to Mike Flynn

Patten’s latest contact with redacted

Ukraine

Miscellaneous

7 redacted questions (possibly whether he knew someone or specific documents), all but one b7A

Patten explained that he was unaware of any wedding, which is what Kilimnik said he was doing on his trip to the US in May 2016.

Patten, who was in contact with Kilimnik during his trip and met with him while he was in the United States, was unaware of any wedding.

[snip]

Patten understood that the main purpose of Kilimnik’s trip was to meet with Manafort.

[snip]

Patten recalled that Kilimnik stayed with him for one night during one of his trips to the United States, and later believed it might have been this trip.

More details around the inauguration.

The day of the inauguration, Patten, Lyovochkin, and Kilimnik had lunch in Alexandria, Virginia.627 Kilimnik told Patten that he was nervous that he would see Manafort because Kilimnik knew that Manafort resided in Alexandria.628 Patten believed Kilimnik was trying to distance himself from Manafort in furtherance of his work in Ukraine.629 Unbeknownst to Patten, Kilimnik and Lyovochkin met with Manafort at the Westin in Alexandria during this trip.630

[snip]

According to Patten, he and Kilimnik watched the inauguration in the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Washington; D.C., where Patten understood Kilimnik was staying.632 That evening, Patten and Lyovochkin briefly attended an inaugural ball .. Kilimnik told Patten that he was staying in his hotel room.633

Ukrainian peace plan

Patten recalled Kilimnik discussing exiled former PoR members living in Moscow-including Yanukovych-whom Kilimnik collectively called “the refugees.”765 Kilimnik was interested in these refugees and their possible return to politics in Ukraine.766

[snip]

The poll revealed that Yanukovych was not viable at that time.770 While Patten was.aware thatKilimnik would periodically mention Y anukovych, Patten claimed he never got the sense that Kilimnik was trying to push Yanukovych’s retum.771 Patten also believed that Kilimnik was attempting to distance himself from Manafort in furtherance ofKilimnik’s own ongoing work in Ukraine.772

April 17, 2020 post-Mueller DOJ interview

Later meeting with DOJ.

The Significance of Tom Barrack’s Obstruction and False Statements Charges

I want to expand on something I said in this post about Tom Barrack’s charges: the obstruction and false statements charges against Trump’s big fundraiser make this case much more solid than many in the press (usually the same people claiming it’s a FARA case) are suggesting.

 In a June 20, 2019 interview with the FBI, the indictment alleges that Barrack lied about whether:

  1. Al Malik asked Barrack to do things for UAE
  2. Barrack downloaded an encrypted app to use to communicate with MbZ and other Emirati officials
  3. Barrack set up a meeting between MbZ and Trump and, generally, whether he had a role in facilitating communications between them
  4. He had a role in prepping MbZ for a September 2017 meeting with Trump

Curiously, the detention memo mentions two more lies that aren’t included in the indictment:

(1) writing a draft of a speech to be delivered by the Candidate in May 2016; (2) reviewing a PowerPoint presentation to be delivered to senior UAE officials on how to increase the UAE’s influence in the United States with his assistance;

In any case, this structure makes it easy to hold Barrack accountable at least via his lies to the FBI, and that he allegedly lied is powerful evidence that the full scope of the relationship was meant to be secret.

The headline charges are the foreign agent and conspiracy charges. But in addition to those charges, Barrack is also charged with obstruction and false statements. Most likely, if he were found guilty only on those charges, he’d face less time than from the foreign agent charge, but he’d still face prison.

Here’s what we know of the timeline: According to the Rashid Al Malik complaint, he was interviewed by the FBI on April 5, 2018. If the Intercept’s report that Mueller’s team conducted this interview is correct, this is likely his almost entirely redacted 302 (for an investigation that was ongoing in September 2020). Three days earlier, someone represented (as Barrack was) by Steptoe and Johnson had a pre-grand jury interview led by Zainab Ahmad that Andrew Weissmann joined while in progress. On April 8, three days after his own interview, Al Malik left the country and has been gone ever since.

In early 2019, Mueller’s team started handing off referrals, which may be why, in February 2019, the FBI sent subpoenas to Colony Capital.

In or about February 2019, Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) special agents served federal grand jury subpoenas on several individuals employed by or associated with Company A, including individuals that reported directly to the defendant THOMAS JOSEPH BARACK, in connection with the criminal investigation of the activities of the defendants RASHID SULTAN AL MALIK ALSHAHHI, BARRACK, and MATTHEW GRIMES.

Following the service of these federal grand jury subpoenas, the defendant THOMAS JOSEPH BARRACK volunteered to speak with FBI special agents. On or about June 20, 2019, FBI special agents interviewed BARRACK, in the presence of counsel, regarding the activities of the defendant RASHID SULTAN AL MALIK ALSHAHHI, BARRACK, and the defendant MATTHEW GRIMES. At the outset of the interview, United States government officials advised BARRACK, and confirmed that he understood, that lying to federal agents is a federal crime. Thereafter, during the course of the interview, BARRACK knowingly made numerous materially false statements relating to the activities of ALSHAHHI, BARRACK, and GRIMES.

At the time, of course, Barrack’s close ally was still President and Bill Barr was newly installed at the helm of DOJ, working hard to cover up the true results of the Mueller investigation and even beginning to take steps to protect Rudy Giuliani from his own foreign agent charges. Why wouldn’t Barrack lie?

Interestingly, the obstruction charge against Barrack suggests others were part of this.

On or about June 20, 2019, within the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere, the defendant THOMAS JOSEPH BARRACK, together with others, did knowingly, intentionally and corruptly obstruct, influence and impede, and attempt to obstruction, influence and impede, an official proceeding, to wit: a Federal Grand Jury.

In any case, Barrack is well-resourced and he’ll no doubt offer some solid defenses here, possibly including that he had earlier told the truth about some of this stuff, and so, any inaccuracies in his 2019 interview weren’t material.

But assuming the FBI didn’t charge a billionaire with false statements without having him dead to rights on the charges, by June 2019, the FBI foreclosed several of the defenses that Barrack might offer going forward: that he was doing all this as a legal commercial transaction (which is exempt from the foreign agent charges) or that he wasn’t really working for UAE, he just thought the alliance really served US interests and indulged the Emiratis by referring to MbZ asboss.” By denying very basic things that the FBI appears to have records for, then, Barrack made it a lot harder to argue — in 2021 — that’s there’s an innocent explanation for all this.

Five days after Barrack’s interview, the FBI obtained an arrest warrant for Al Malik, one that made Al Malik look like the bad guy here, taking advantage of poor Tom Barrack and poor Paulie Manafort.

But then DOJ kept investigating Barrack’s role in all this. According to CNN, before this time last year, EDNY prosecutors believed they had enough to add Barrack to the charges, but the appointed US Attorney “expressed misgivings.”

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn investigating Tom Barrack, a prominent ally to former President Donald Trump, for allegedly violating foreign lobbying laws had enough evidence to bring charges last year, but held off doing so until the arrival of the new presidential administration, according to people briefed on the matter.

Prosecutors wanted to move forward on the case and believed they could obtain an indictment, one source familiar with the matter said. The source said the investigation was mostly done well before the time period when prosecutors are discouraged from advancing politically sensitive matters ahead of an election.

But two sources tell CNN the US attorney in Brooklyn at the time, Richard Donoghue, expressed misgivings about the case. It’s unclear if he delayed the case outright or if prosecutors chose not to move forward at the time knowing the US attorney would not support it.

Then-Attorney General William Barr was also known inside the department to have reservations, in general, about foreign lobbying cases, which the Justice Department has struggled to prosecute in the past.

A spokesman for the Brooklyn US attorney’s office declined to comment. [my emphasis]

This is a hugely important report, but it also lets the Barr DOJ off easy. That’s true, first of all, because this is not a foreign lobbying case (this is one of the many reasons I harp on the import of getting the charge right here). DOJ hasn’t struggled to prosecute 951 cases, though at the time prosecutors deferred these charges, Barr was busy letting Mike Flynn blow up the Bijan Kian case, which included both FARA and 951 in the conspiracy charge, along with 951 separately, but which charged only Ekim Alptekin with false statements. Had Mike Flynn held to the terms of his plea agreement, that case likely would have been a far easier guilty verdict.

What happened last year, though, is that after EDNY prosecutors had continued to investigate for a year after discovering that Barrack was in no way the innocent victim of accused foreign agent Rashid Al Malik and were prepared to try to hold Barrack, as well, accountable for a pretty dramatic undisclosed role in setting a pro-UAE foreign policy, Richard Donoghue, faced with evidence that one of Trump’s closest advisors wasn’t telling the truth about why he was doing the things he was doing (or even, that he was doing them), “had misgivings.”

Or maybe he had misgivings about how Trump and Barr would respond if he approved this.

In fact, all this must have happened more than a year ago, because on July 10, 2020, Barr announced he was swapping Donoghue for Seth DuCharme, his DOJ fixer. This CNN report doesn’t explain why this didn’t get charged under DuCharme, but maybe that’s the point.

So Donoghue — or maybe DuCharme — left all the repercussions to US foreign policy of Barrack’s undisclosed actions earlier in the Trump Administration remain in place.

Frankly, it’s not surprising that Donoghue and DuCharme — who were, at the time, also in charge of limiting any damage to Rudy for his undisclosed influence-peddling — didn’t approve this prosecution. That’s their job.

What may be the most interesting detail is that whereas Lisa Monaco approved the raid on Rudy on her first day in office, this prosecution has taken three more months to charge.

This case will sink or swim on the strength of the false statements charges, because if Barrack’s alleged lies in June 2019 were clearcut, when he presumably believed he would be protected by Barr and Trump, then it makes several likely defenses a lot harder to pull off now. It’s possible there’s some complicating factor (again, I think it possible that he told the truth about some of these questions when interviewed by Mueller in December 2017). But if not, then the alleged lies become the building blocks to proving the Foreign Agent charges.

In any case, the alleged false statements charges make the questions about why Barr’s DOJ thought it was okay to keep these secrets all the more important.

Paul Manafort Knew Tom Barrack Was Working with “Our Friends”

As I noted yesterday, Tom Barrack’s (known — there may have been a second) Mueller interview revealed what his indictment didn’t say explicitly: Paul Manafort was working with Barrack on a Trump energy speech at issue in the indictment. That suggests that one thing Manafort did for one of the guys that got him hired (the other was Roger Stone) was to cater campaign policy to him.

The complaint originally charged against alleged Barrack co-conspirator Rashid Al Malik on June 25, 2019 (obtained just five days after the FBI interviewed Barrack on these issues, which — according to the new indictment — would have alerted them that Barrack was trying to hide this relationship) provides more detail on Manafort’s role in that energy speech and other events relating to Barrack’s ties to UAE.

Even before the energy speech, for example, on May 1, 2016 Barrack emailed Manafort from Abu Dhabi where he was meeting with Mohamed bin Zayed.

On or about May 1, 2016, [Barrack] emailed a senior member of the Campaign ([Manafort]): “I am in Abu Dhabi with [MbZ]. Call if u can.” Later that day, [Barrack] emailed [Manafort] with an upbeat assessment of the meeting and mentioned the possibility of a meeting in the United States between the UAE leaders and [Trump].

Once Trump wrapped up his primary win on May 4, Barrack wrote Al Malik and told him to tell MbZ to “Pack his bags,” presumably for a visit to the US to meet with Trump (which may suggest that on this matter, as with the Russian one, Trump’s handlers tried to delay controversial meetings until after he sealed the nomination). Al Malik said that MbZ would meet with the two of them the next month when — he incorrectly anticipated — MbZ would be in the US to meet with Trump. The day Al Malik made that prediction, Barrack, “met with several senior members of the Campaign that same day in New York City.” Given Barrack’s past and future relationship with Jared Kushner, his meetings with people beyond Manafort (if even he met with Manafort) are of interest.

In the complaint, the language on the draft speech is far more detailed than in the indictment, possibly even consistent with Barrack writing the entire first draft of the speech, then sharing it with “him” (the complaint isn’t sure whether that’s a reference to Trump or Manafort).

The next day, May 14, 2016, after Al Malik asked for a specific mention of MbZ in it, Barrack and Manafort discussed whether to keep specific mention of MbZ and a Saudi (probably Mohammed bin Salman) in the speech.

[Barrack] wrote to [Manafort]: “How did you like the energy paper[?] I thought I did a really good job. The only sensitive part is whether you want to name [the senior UAE and KSA government officials] by name. But I think it would be a good idea.” [Manafort] replied: “I left their names in the draft.” [italicized brackets original, the others mine]

Six days later, Manafort wrote back complaining that, “It has become a more political speech but there is reference to working with our allies regarding energy policy.” After reading the “America First” speech as written, Barrack described it as “novice and imbecilic,” then said, “[H]e better figure out a way to get one paragraph to balance foreign-policy concerns for energy dependent allies in the gulf.” Later that day, Manafort wrote Barrack, “Send me an insert that works for our friends. I will push to get it included.” Barrack did send language, to which Manafort responded, “I am working to have paragraph added.”

When Barrack sent Al Malik the speech without the specific mention of MbZ the next day and Al Malik complained that it had been pulled, Barrack explained, “Delicate time. [MbZ] should have come!”

On May 26, Manafort sent Barrack the speech calling it the likely final version, and assuring Barrack that, “It has the language you want.”

To be clear, Manafort has not been charged and there’s no reason to believe he will be. But it shows he both knew what Barrack was up to, and was happy to use his position to facilitate foreign influence peddling.

Paul Manafort Shared the Trump Energy Speech with Tom Barrack

One of the earliest exchanges with the guy described as his handler, Rashid Al Malik, in the indictment against Tom Barrack involved his success at editing a Trump speech otherwise calling for energy independence to include a commitment to “work together with our supportive allies in the Gulf.” Karen DeYoung described the resulting effect as a “jarring” conflict with the rest of the speech.

When, as a candidate, Trump was preparing an early 2016 speech outlining his energy policy, Barrack allegedly prepared a draft for the campaign including a favorable mention of bin Zayed.

The proposal seemed jarring, since the speech was to outline Trump’s plans to build domestic energy production and end oil imports from countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, both leading members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

When he delivered the address, Trump confusingly followed a vow to “become, and stay, totally independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel” with a promise to “work with our gulf allies to develop a positive energy relationship.”

The indictment doesn’t make clear which “senior member of the Campaign” Barrack worked with to include the language.

But Barrack’s December 12, 2017 interview with Mueller does. Close to the end of a long interview that focused closely on Barrack’s role in getting Manafort the job and his own role leading the Inauguration Committee (in which Barrack focused on his efforts to peddle influence with other countries besides UAE), Barrack described that he worked directly with Manafort on the speech (which makes sense, because he did not yet know Rick Gates).

BARRACK stated he contributed to portions of TRUMP’s energy policy. BARRACK’s idea was to create a broad energy policy. MANAFORT had sent BARRACK a draft of a speech TRUMP was to give on energy. BARRACK made notes on the speech and returned his comments to MANAFORT. BARRACK contended, however, his notes to the speech were ultimately thrown out. BARRACK added during this time the TRUMP campaign’s view on Muslims was challenging. Moreover, the campaign seemed to have a negative view toward Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. BARRACK suggested the campaign needed to divide radical Islam from modern Islam. Before providing comments on the draft energy speech back to MANAFORT, BARRACK shared the draft with [line redacted]. BARRACK asked each about the tone and technical aspects of the draft speech. [four lines redacted]

Barrack’s description that he moderated Trump’s anti-Muslim bias is consistent with actions described later in his indictment, including his effort to distinguish Saudi Arabia and UAE from the countries banned by Trump. Depending on what appears behind those redactions, this explanation for his role in the speech might explain an oddity about the indictment.

The discussion of the speech is included in the section titled, “The Defendants’ Actions in the United States as Agents of the United Arab Emirates,” effectively showing evidence to support the charge that Barrack worked as a Foreign Agent for UAE. But the communications surrounding the speech do not appear in the Overt Acts section describing the acts the defendants took as part of a conspiracy. And, as I noted yesterday, while DOJ included the speech in a list of lies Barrack allegedly told the FBI on June 20, 2019 in a detention memo (and vastly overstated the extent of Barrack’s described edits), those lies are not charged as false statements in the indictment.

(1) writing a draft of a speech to be delivered by the Candidate in May 2016; (2) reviewing a PowerPoint presentation to be delivered to senior UAE officials on how to increase the UAE’s influence in the United States with his assistance;

There may be good reason for this. It may well be that Barrack denied any role in editing Trump’s speech in 2019, after Al Malik had been interviewed by Mueller’s team and subsequently fled the country. He certainly downplayed his role in his own interview with Mueller’s team, which took place five months before Al Malik’s own interview. But he did acknowledge that he attempted to draft the speech.

That is, Barrack may have told the truth in December 2017, when the issue was Manafort’s foreign influence-peddling with Russia, but did not in June 2019, when the issue had become his own with UAE.

The “Big Boss” Directing Tom Barrack’s Actions

There’s something almost entirely missing from the Tom Barrack indictment charging him with acting as an Emirate Agent. The money.

The indictment invokes forfeiture law, suggesting that someone profited from all of this or there’s some other loot the government wants to seize (but it lists none specifically; a memo requesting detention until a bail hearing requests that Barrack be made to identify all his financial assets to get bail).

But other than that, the sole mention of money describes that, on July 14, 2016 (months after this relationship started), Barrack pitched a “guidance board” that would tie UAE’s investments with strategic goals.

The presentation proposed the creation of a guidance board “through which all [UAE] investments are intertwined with the strategic vision of the country’s foreign and domestic policies as well as economic goals,” with the guidance board mandating “that all investments in operating companies use the resources at their disposal to influence [UAE’s interests] abroad … and partner with leading [UAE] friendly-influential figures to do so.” The presentation further proposed that the defendant THOMAS JOSEPH BARRACK work directly with Emirati Official 2 to execute the proposed strategy.

Then, months later on December 14, after Trump’s victory, this proposal assumed continued influence over Trump’s actions.

While the primary purpose of the platform [will be] to achieve outsized financial returns, it will also accomplish a secondary mandate to garner political credibility for its contributions to the policies of [Trump] … We will do so by sourcing investing, financing, operationally improving, and harvesting assets in those industries which will benefit most from a [Trump] Presidency.”

This suggests that Barrack and Colony Capital would be expected to direct UAE’s Sovereign Funds in such a way as to implement their policy goals. A 2018 NYT story described how Barrack’s investment firm raised $7 billion in the time after Trump got the nomination, almost a quarter of it from Saudi and Emirate sources — but none of that appears in the indictment.

Mr. Barrack’s company, known as Colony NorthStar since a merger last year, has raised more than $7 billion in investments since Mr. Trump won the nomination, and 24 percent of that money has come from the Persian Gulf — all from either the U.A.E. or Saudi Arabia, according to an executive familiar with the figures.

These financial relationships will face a great deal of scrutiny as this case goes forward because a Foreign Agent cannot be someone “engaged in a legal commercial transaction.” One defense Barrack might try to make is that this was all about obtaining customers for his investment fund. But if no money changed hands, Barrack might suggest he sincerely believed in the import of fostering better ties between the Emirates and the US.

A Foreign Agent, not a lobbyist

Contrary to what you might have read, this is not a FARA case, which is generally treated as a regulation covering certain kinds of lobbying for foreign (including non-governmental, like the political party Paul Manafort hid his work for) entities. Barrack was charged under 18 USC 951, which is about working for a foreign government directly. The statute is sometimes referred to as Espionage Lite, and in this case, the government might believe at least some of the people involved — perhaps Al Malik, who fled the country days after the FBI interviewed him in April 2018 — are spies. By charging 951, though, the government only has to show that the team was ultimately working on orders from government officials without registering, not that someone was secretly reporting to another country’s spying agencies.

And this is pretty clearly about a relationship directly with UAE. In addition to Barrack and his employee Matthew Grimes, the indictment describes a chain of command in which several senior Emirati officials convey requests through Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi (referred to as Alshahhi in the indictment and as Al Malik here and elsewhere) to Barrack. On the Emirati side, Emirati Official 1 (EO1), is described as someone who, “held a high-ranking position in its armed forces,” but who, given events described in the indictment, must be Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed. Emirati Official 2 (EO2) is described as a “high-ranking official with responsibilities related to national security,” but appears to be National Security Advisor Tahnoun Bin Zayed. Emirati Official 3 (EO3) is described as a member of UAE’s National Security Council. Their orders often get delivered to Al Malik through Emirati Official 4 (EO4), who is described as a government official who reports to EO 2 and EO3. There’s also a diplomat, Emirati Official 5, who asked Barrack to provide insight into the top national security appointments Trump was planning. Basically, this amounts to MbZ tasking EO4 to instruct Al Malik to provide instructions in turn to Barrack. This structure is important, because it demonstrates that Barrack was being directed directly by the UAE government and, starting in October 2016, directly by MbZ himself.

A secret agent hiding the direct orders he was following

Aside from this reporting structure, two things will help the government make the case that Barrack was working as an Agent of UAE. Officials from the Emirates explicitly said that they wanted to use Barrack to represent their policy interests in the US rather than relying on their ambassador. For example, EO2 explains why he prefers to work through Barrack than UAE’s ambassador because he, “knows ambassadors can’t do much and they are limited even if they’re active.” After Barrack started doing TV appearances where he pitched the UAE, Al Malik told him that EO1 had said, “you are the new trusted friend!” And after Grimes submitted a Barrack op-ed for advance review by Emirate officials, Al Malik responded that, “Big boss loved it.” Then after the op-ed came out (having had a reference to dictatorships that the Emiratis found objectionable removed), Barrack asked through Al Malik “how Boss liked the article?” The indictment further describes how, in December, the Emirates directed Barrack and Grimes to put together a set of plans — “100 days/6 months/year/4 years” — of what they wanted to accomplish along with the Saudis; on that plan Barrack, Al Malik affirmed in Arabic, would “be with the Arabs.” Then, when Al Malik wrote Grimes and suggested the US should list the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, Grimes responded, “At your direction.” This is the language of clear direction, channeled right from the top of the UAE government.

And while not required (remember that Maria Butina didn’t really hide what she was up to or even her ties to Aleksander Torshin), the indictment describes several ways that those involved tried to keep this relationship secret. As Barrack shared a Trump speech in advance, he described that it was “Totally Confidential.” In September, just as Barrack would start dealing directly with MbZ and two days before he’d call out MbZ in a Bloomberg interview, the go-betweens instructed Barrack to download the encrypted messaging app that MbZ uses. Barrack seems to have gotten a text directly from MbZ on September 29. And then in October, Grimes arranged to get both Barrack and himself dedicated phones to use to communicate with MbZ and others via the encrypted app.

While not included in the indictment, the detention memo also describes that Barrack downplayed his ties with Al Malik in a filing to the State Department.

Indeed, in June 2017, the defendant completed and submitted paperwork to the U.S. Department of State in connection with his efforts to secure an official position in the Administration. In his submissions, the defendant materially misrepresented his connection to Al Malik, falsely claiming to have had only infrequent contact with Al Malik and further claiming that he did not know Al Malik’s citizenship or whether Al Malik was affiliated with a foreign government, despite describing Al Malik in private communications as the UAE’s “secret weapon.” Further, in his submissions to the U.S. Department of State, the defendant was required to report any occasions when he had been asked to provide advice, serve as a consultant, even informally, or otherwise work on behalf of a foreign government. The defendant failed to disclose his extensive activities on behalf of the UAE.

It’s partly all this secrecy that will help the government prove their case.

But the way the government uses additional charges to show that Barrack tried to hide all this will help. In addition to 951 and Conspiracy to violate 951 charges (the latter of which was likely included because it’s easier to prove and to provide defendants, particularly Grimes, with a charge that has less onerous penalties to plead to), the government charged Barrack with obstruction of justice and four counts of false statements for attempting to lie about this. In a June 20, 2019 interview with the FBI, the indictment alleges that Barrack lied about whether:

  1. Al Malik asked Barrack to do things for UAE
  2. Barrack downloaded an encrypted app to use to communicate with MbZ and other Emirati officials
  3. Barrack set up a meeting between MbZ and Trump and, generally, whether he had a role in facilitating communications between them
  4. He had a role in prepping MbZ for a September 2017 meeting with Trump

Curiously, the detention memo mentions two more lies that aren’t included in the indictment:

(1) writing a draft of a speech to be delivered by the Candidate in May 2016; (2) reviewing a PowerPoint presentation to be delivered to senior UAE officials on how to increase the UAE’s influence in the United States with his assistance;

In any case, this structure makes it easy to hold Barrack accountable at least via his lies to the FBI, and that he allegedly lied is powerful evidence that the full scope of the relationship was meant to be secret.

The key Trump world figures and the black box White House

Over coming days, we’ll learn who all the Trump officials named in the indictment are, but a key, unstated part of it all is Barrack’s success at placing Paul Manafort on Trump’s campaign. The indictment dates Barrack’s role as an “informal” advisor to Trump’s campaign to “approximately April 2016,” one month after Barrack had a key role in installing Manafort on Trump’s campaign.  It describes how Al Malik set up a meeting on April 24, in advance of which Barrack boasted that he had a 30-year relationship with Trump and had “staffed the Campaign.” After a meeting in the Emirates, EO 4 confirmed to Alshahhi that Barrack would be “the only channel” to Trump for UAE. Days later, Barrack sent Alshahhi a draft Trump energy speech and asked for feedback. Ultimately, Barrack succeeded in getting a promise to “work with our Gulf allies” into a May 26 Trump speech.

It’s not really clear with whom Barrack was working on the campaign. The indictment describes that “a senior member of the Campaign” emailed Barrack with a revision of the Energy speech, in response to which, Barrack instructed the “senior member” that they needed “one paragraph to balance foreign-policy concerns for energy dependent allies in the gulf.” ¶22 It’s likely that this is either Manafort himself (who had not yet fully pushed out Corey Lewandowski but was well on his way) or Rick Gates, the latter of whom played a similar role when Roger Stone wanted to script Trump’s foreign policy statements at that stage of the campaign.

Barrack’s role as Chair of Trump’s Inauguration Committee is minimal to the crimes in this indictment (meaning double jeopardy would not prevent him from being charged in that, too). But one paragraph does describe how Barrack agreed when Al Malik offered to “take care of ME side” of the the Inauguration. And the indictment describes that when Al Malik attended the Inauguration, he did so as Barrack’s personal guest.

Similarly, there’s no mention of December and January meetings involving Jared Kushner and others, even though the December 12, 2016 meeting happened right after Barrack was in UAE on December 2.

One thing the indictment may have tried to do is insulate the indictment from any Executive Privilege concerns. Its narrative stops at the White House door. The indictment describes Al Malik asking Grimes to get the Administration to list the Muslim Brotherhood as an FTO and describes a public report shortly thereafter describing that it was under consideration, but it doesn’t describe who or even whether Barrack talked to to make that happen. It describes that Al Malik asked Grimes to set up a phone call between MbZ and Trump, describes Grimes observing that it got set up “right after I spoke to [Barrack] about it,” and quotes Grimes saying, “We can take credit for phone call.” But the overt acts of the indictment don’t actually say whether they deserved credit, or whether someone else had picked up the influence racket. The government must know he did, because they charge him for lying about setting up this meeting but it, by itself, is not an overt act. The day after MbZ met with Trump, Barrack wrote Al Malik describing that he had “lots of info on [the White House] meeting!” without describing Barrack’s source for that information. In an exception that proves the rule, the indictment describes how, as part of an effort to kill plans for a meeting at Camp David to mediate tensions in the Gulf, Barrack left a message with Trump’s Executive Assistant saying he had “something very important to share [using an ellipsis rather than naming Trump or anyone else] about the Middle East,” followed by Al Malik, two days later, offering “very special thanks and appreciations from the big guy.”

In other words, even though two of the charged lies pertain to Barrack’s role in shaping US policy in events that directly involved Trump, and even though comments suggest Barrack successfully interceded, the White House is treated as a black box; no discussions within the White House or between Barrack and Trump appear in the indictment, but they are implied in many places.

Where this came from where it will go

This investigation started well before 2018, because that’s when Al Malik fled the country just days after an FBI interview. That means it could have been a referral from the Mueller investigation (though given that Barrack lives in Los Angeles, it’s not clear why Mueller would have referred it to EDNY rather than CDCA). DOJ conducted other investigations into UAE’s foreign influence peddling there (as well as some investigations into Jared), so it’s possible this arose out of those investigations.

One thing that’s curiously missing from this indictment, though (along with references to the December 2016 or January 2017 meetings) is any reference to George Nader, who also was operating on instructions direct from MbZ and who provided extensive grand jury testimony as part of that investigation. When Nader tried to obtain a copy of his grand jury transcript as part of his defense in other influence peddling crimes in November 2019, it was revealed there were still multiple ongoing investigations referenced in it. There’s good reason to believe that Nader was not entirely forthcoming with Mueller though, in which case DOJ may not want to invoke him at all.

It’s equally interesting where this might go, which is part of the reason I find the different treatment of Candidate Trump from President Trump in the indictment really notable. This is an investigation that Billy Barr didn’t kill and that survived any pardon attempt, which suggests that Barr and Trump didn’t entirely kill all investigations implicating Trump (though the Rudy Giuliani investigation already showed that). But there are a number of things — most notably, the Inauguration — that might be implicated here but really isn’t part of the indictment.

Merrick Garland’s DOJ is not shying away from crimes that directly implicate Donald Trump. But the way they treated the White House as a black box in this indictment suggests significant deference to things Trump did while President.

Update: This Intercept story from June 2019 strongly suggests that this Barrack investigation arose out of the Mueller investigation.

Al-Malik’s name later surfaced in connection with a federal probe into potential illegal donations to Trump’s inaugural fund and a pro-Trump Super PAC by Middle Eastern donors. Al-Malik was interviewed by members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and was “cooperating” with prosecutors, his lawyer told The Intercept last year. The New York Times recently reported that investigators are looking into “whether Mr. al-Malik was part of an illegal influence scheme,” although no details of that potential scheme have been made public.

In fact, the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that al-Malik served as a paid intelligence source for the UAE throughout 2017, The Intercept has learned.

[snip]

After he was interviewed as part of the Mueller investigation, al-Malik left Los Angeles, where he’d been based for several years, and went back to the UAE.

And the story describes Al Malik’s handler as the Director of UAE’s National Intelligence Service, Ali al-Shamsi.

Among the Emirati government officials overseeing al-Malik was Ali al-Shamsi, director of the Emirati National Intelligence Service, according to The Intercept’s sources. A source who knows al-Shamsi described him as “more than just a spy. He’s also a discreet messenger” for Mohammed bin Zayed, known as MBZ, and his brother Tahnoun bin Zayed, the UAE’s national security adviser.

This description is perfectly consistent with the description of EO 4 from the indictment.

The Viral Twitter Thread in Which Darrell Cooper Confesses Republicans Were Pawns of Russian Disinformation

For some reason, this Twitter thread by a guy named Darrell Cooper, purporting to explain why Trumpsters came to attack the US Capitol, went viral.

I resisted several requests to fact check it. Now, after it has gone even more viral (including on Tucker Carlson’s show), Phil Bump has done a good fact check. As Bump notes, while Cooper accurately lays out that Trump supporters have lost confidence in institutions, Cooper offers an explanation that relies on a series of false claims so as to put the blame on Democrats.

It is indisputably the case that Trump supporters accept claims about election fraud in part because of their diminished confidence in institutions such as government and the media. What is subject to dispute, though, is the cause of that lack of confidence. While Cooper suggests that it’s emergent, it isn’t. While Cooper argues that it’s a function of investigations into Trump, it’s actually a function of partisan responses — largely but not entirely on the right — driven by Trump himself. And, most important, what Cooper presents as the indisputable facts undergirding his argument are often misleading or false and a function of partisan defenses of Trump that are common in conservative media.

Bump then debunks Cooper’s claims that:

  • The FBI spied on the Trump campaign using evidence manufactured by the Clinton campaign
  • We now know that all involved knew it was fake from Day 1 (see: Brennan’s July 2016 memo, etc)
  • The Steele dossier was the sole evidence used to justify spying on the Trump campaign
  • The entire Russian investigation stemmed from the Page investigation and not George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort
  • Protests planned in case Trump overturned the election were a plan for violence
  • There were legitimate concerns about the election

Bump is absolutely right that Cooper makes false claims to be able to blame Democrats and Bump’s fact checks are sound (and really exhausting that they’re still required). Bump is likewise correct that a false claim about the Steele dossier is central to Cooper’s story.

I’d add that Cooper doesn’t mention that his claims about the problems with the Steele dossier matter primarily to the third and fourth FISA orders against Carter Page, and so happened under the Trump Administration and in three cases, were signed by people Trump either kept (in the case of Jim Comey) or put in place (in the case of Dana Boente and Rod Rosenstein).

But according to Cooper’s logic, if the dossier hadn’t existed, a series of events that followed wouldn’t have happened, and so Republicans wouldn’t have attacked their own government. Thus far it’s a typical right wing attempt to disclaim responsibility for their own actions.

What Bump doesn’t mention, though, is that it is now almost universally agreed upon on among Trumpsters that the dossier was the product of Russian disinformation. Lindsey Graham — who conducted an investigation into the circumstances of the Carter Page FISA — thinks it is. Chuck Grassley — who led the investigation into the dossier — thinks it is. Ron Johnson — who also made a show of investigating these things — thinks it is. Chuck Ross — the chief scribe of the dossier on the right — thinks it is. The high gaslighter Catherine Herridge thinks it is. Fox News and all their favorite sources think it is. WSJ’s editorial page thinks it is. None of these people have thought through the implications of that, but they do all appear to believe that the Russians fed disinformation through the Democratic-funded dossier to the FBI.

So, even setting aside the implications of the possibility that the dossier was Russian disinformation, according to Cooper’s narrative, Trump’s supporters wouldn’t have attacked their own government if it weren’t for Russian disinformation that set off a chain of events that led them to lose confidence in American institutions.

But consider the implications of the dossier as disinformation, implications that are evident largely thanks to sources that right wing figures have made great effort to liberate.

In response to a Trey Gowdy question at an interview by a GOP-led investigation into the dossier, Bruce Ohr explained that on July 30, 2016, Christopher Steele shared three pieces of information with him (later in his interview he would add a fourth, Russian doping): Two details from what we now know to be the dossier, as well as a third — that Oleg Deripaska’s attorney had information about Paul Manafort stealing money from Deripaska.

And then the third item he mentioned was that Paul Hauser, who was an attorney working for Oleg Deripaska, had information about Paul Manafort, that Paul Manafort had entered into some kind of business deal with Oleg Deripaska, had stolen a large amount of money from Oleg Deripaska, and that Paul Hauser was trying to gather information that would show that, you know, or give more detail about what Paul Manafort had done with respect to Deripaska.

Byron York provided more background on Steele’s efforts to share information from Deripaska with Bruce Ohr. The IG Report done in response to GOP requests provided still more. For example, the IG Report revealed that Steele had set up a meeting between Ohr and Oligarch 1, whom we know to be Deripaska, in September 2015 (these claims are consistent with the heavily redacted Ohr 302s liberated by Judicial Watch).

Handling Agent 1 told the OIG that Steele facilitated meetings in a European city that included Handling Agent 1, Ohr, an attorney of Russian Oligarch 1, and a representative of another Russian oligarch. 209 Russian Oligarch 1 subsequently met with Ohr as well as other representatives of the U.S. government at a different location.

[snip]

Ohr and Steele also communicated frequently over the years regarding Russian Oligarch 1, including in 2016 during the time period before and after Steele was closed as an FBI CHS.409 Steele told us his communications with Ohr concerning Russian Oligarch 1 were the result of an outreach effort started in 2014 with Ohr and Handling Agent 1, to approach oligarchs about cooperating with the U.S. government. Ohr confirmed that he and Handling Agent 1 asked Steele to contact Russian oligarchs for this purpose. This effort resulted in Ohr meeting with Russian Oligarch 1 and an FBI agent in September 2015.

The IG Report also revealed that in September 23 (around the same time Deripaska was interviewed by the FBI), Steele passed on a claim that Deripaska wanted to share information about Manafort.

On September 23, 2016, at Steele’s request, Steele met with Ohr in Washington, D.C. Ohr told us they spoke about various topics related to Russia, including information regarding Russian Oligarch 1 ‘s willingness to talk with the U.S. government about Manafort.

Far more consistently than using Ohr as a channel for dossier reports (and for a longer period of time), Steele used his ties with Ohr to advance Oleg Deripaska’s interests. And for the entirety of the time that Steele was feeding the FBI dossier reports, that meant Steele was feeding Ohr claims that not only presented Deripaska as a trustworthy actor, but did so in part by promising Deripaska’s cooperation in a criminal investigation of Paul Manafort. The FBI (and Mueller after that) didn’t investigate Manafort primarily for the stuff Deripaska was trying to feed the FBI, but Deripaska was making great efforts to ensure that the FBI would investigate Manafort. In the aftermath of all this, Trump and Manafort blamed Democrats for all this, but in fact, Deripaska was at least as responsible.

According to footnotes that Graham, Grassley, and Johnson had declassified, before Deripaska first started offering to help DOJ criminally investigate Manafort — before that July 30, 2016 meeting between Steele and Ohr — a Deripaska associate likely learned about the dossier project (the same declassification revealed that two Russian intelligence officers had learned of the project before that meeting which, given the belief that several of Deripaska’s associates were Russian intelligence officers, may be the same report).

Ohr told the OIG that, based on information that Steele told him about Russian Oligarch 1, such as when Russian Oligarch 1 would be visiting the United States or applying for a visa, and based on Steele at times seeming to be speaking on Russian Oligarch l’s behalf, Ohr said he had the impression that Russian Oligarch 1 was a client of Steele. 210 We asked Steele about whether he had a relationship with Russian Oligarch 1. Steele stated that he did not have a relationship and indicated that he had met Russian Oligarch 1 one time. He explained that he worked for Russian Oligarch l’s attorney on litigation matters that involved Russian Oligarch 1 but that he could not provide “specifics” about them for confidentiality reasons. Steele stated that Russian Oligarch 1 had no influence on the substance of his election reporting and no contact with any of his sources. He also stated that he was not aware of any information indicating that Russian Oligarch 1 knew of his investigation relating to the 2016 U.S. elections. 211

210 As we discuss in Chapter Six, members of the Crossfire Hurricane team were unaware of Steele’s connections to Russian Oligarch 1. [redacted]

211 Sensitive source reporting from June 2017 indicated that a [person affiliated] to Russian Oligarch 1 was [possibly aware] of Steele’s election investigation as of early July 2016.

In fact, the IG Report completed in response to Republicans’ requests makes it clear: if the dossier was disinformation, that disinformation most likely involved Oleg Deripaska, with whom Manafort was using his position on the Trump campaign in an attempt to patch up financial and legal relations.

Priestap told us that the FBI “didn’t have any indication whatsoever” by May 2017 that the Russians were running a disinformation campaign through the Steele election reporting. Priestap explained, however, that if the Russians, in fact, were attempting to funnel disinformation through Steele to the FBI using Russian Oligarch 1, he did not understand the goal. Priestap told us that

what he has tried to explain to anybody who will listen is if that’s the theory [that Russian Oligarch 1 ran a disinformation campaign through [Steele] to the FBI], then I’m struggling with what the goal was. So, because, obviously, what [Steele] reported was not helpful, you could argue, to then [candidate] Trump. And if you guys recall, nobody thought then candidate Trump was going to win the election. Why the Russians, and [Russian Oligarch 1] is supposed to be close, very close to the Kremlin, why the Russians would try to denigrate an opponent that the intel community later said they were in favor of who didn’t really have a chance at winning, I’m struggling, with, when you know the Russians, and this I know from my Intelligence Community work: they favored Trump, they’re trying to denigrate Clinton, and they wanted to sow chaos. I don’t know why you’d run a disinformation campaign to denigrate Trump on the side. [brackets original]

Of course, for months before Deripaska first started offering (through Steele) to cooperate with the FBI against Manafort, Manafort had been trying to exploit his position on Trump’s campaign to ingratiate himself with (among others) Deripaska, in part in hopes to paper over precisely the financial dispute that Deripaska was, through Steele, trying to use to increase Manafort’s legal exposure. Weeks before the July 30 Steele-Ohr meeting, for example, Manafort had offered to brief Deripaska on the Trump campaign.

Immediately upon joining the Campaign, Manafort directed Gates to prepare for his review separate memoranda addressed to Deripaska, Akhmetov, Serhiy Lyovochkin, and Boris Kolesnikov,879 the last three being Ukrainian oligarchs who were senior Opposition Bloc officials. 880 The memoranda described Manafort’ s appointment to the Trump Campaign and indicated his willingness to consult on Ukrainian politics in the future. On March 30, 2016, Gates emailed the memoranda and a press release announcing Manafort’ s appointment to Kilimnik for translation and dissemination.881 Manafort later followed up with Kilimnik to ensure his messages had been delivered, emailing on April 11, 2016 to ask whether Kilimnik had shown “our friends” the media coverage of his new role. 882 Kilimnik replied, “Absolutely. Every article.” Manafort further asked: “How do we use to get whole. Has Ovd [Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska] operation seen?” Kilimnik wrote back the same day, “Yes, I have been sending everything to Victor [Boyarkin, Deripaska’s deputy], who has been forwarding the coverage directly to OVD.”883

[snip]

The Office also obtained contemporaneous emails that shed light on the purpose of the communications with Deripaska and that are consistent with Gates’s account. For example, in response to a July 7, 20 I 6, email from a Ukrainian reporter about Manafort’ s failed Deripaskabacked investment, Manafort asked Kilimnik whether there had been any movement on “this issue with our friend.”897 Gates stated that “our friend” likely referred to Deripaska,898 and Manafort told the Office that the “issue” (and “our biggest interest,” as stated below) was a solution to the Deripaska-Pericles issue.899 Kilimnik replied:

I am carefully optimistic on the question of our biggest interest. Our friend [Boyarkin] said there is lately significantly more attention to the campaign in his boss’ [Deripaska’s] mind, and he will be most likely looking for ways to reach out to you pretty soon, understanding all the time sensitivity. I am more than sure that it will be resolved and we will get back to the original relationship with V. ‘s boss [Deripaska].900

Eight minutes later, Manafort replied that Kilimnik should tell Boyarkin’s “boss,” a reference to Deripaska, “that if he needs private briefings we can accommodate.”901

That is, per both Rick Gates and Manafort himself, how Manafort came to meet with Deripaska aide Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, just three days after Deripaska tried to increase Manafort’s legal exposure via Steele. That’s how — and why! — he provided a briefing on campaign strategy amid a discussion of resolving the debt to Deripaska (as well as a plan to carve up Ukraine), as described by the SSCI Report completed under Chairs Richard Burr and Marco Rubio.

(U) At the meeting, Manafort walked Kilimnik through the internal polling data from Fabrizio in detail.453 According to Gates, Kilimnik wanted to know how Trump could win.454 Manafort explained his strategy in the battleground states and told Kilimnik about polls that identified voter bases in blue-collar, democratic-leaning states which Trump could swing.455 Manafort said these voters could be reached by Trump on issues like economics, but the Campaign needed to implement a ground game.456 Gates recalled that Manafort further discussed the “battleground” states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.457 (U) The Committee sought to determine with specificity what information Kilimnik actually gleaned from Manafort on August 2, 2016. Information suggests Kilimnik understood that some of the polling data showed that Clinton’s negatives were particularly high; that Manafort’s plan for victory called for focusing on Clinton’s negatives as much as possible; and that given Clinton’s high negatives, there was a chance that Trump could win. (U) Patten’s debriefing with the SCO provides the most granular account of what information Kilimnik obtained at the August 2, 2016 meeting:

Kilimnik told Patten that at the New York cigar bar meeting, Manafort stated that they have a plan to beat Hillary Clinton which included Manafort bringing discipline and an organized strategy to the campaign. Moreover, because Clinton’s negatives were so low [sic]-if they could focus on her negatives they could win the election. Manafort discussed the Fabrizio internal Trump polling data with Kilimnik, and explained that Fabrizio ‘s polling numbers showed that the Clinton negatives, referred to as a ‘therm poll,’ were high. Thus, based on this polling there was a chance Trump could win. 458

(U) Patten relayed similar information to the Committee. In particular, he told the Committee that Kilimnik mentioned Manafort’s belief that “because or Clinton’s high negatives, there was a chance, only because her negatives were so astronomically high, that it was possible . to win.”459

[snip]

(U) In addition to Campaign strategy involving polling data and the Ukraine plan, Manafort and Kilimnik also discussed two financial disputes and debts at the meeting. (U) The first dispute involved Deripaska and Pericles.477 Gates recalled that Kilimnik relayed at the meeting that Deripaska’s lawsuit ha’d been dismissed.478 Gates also recalled that Kilimnik was trying to obtain documentation showing the dismissal.479

In short, even without confirmation the dossier was disinformation, it’s clear that Deripaska was playing a vicious double game, using Steele as a channel to increase Manafort’s legal exposure even while using that legal exposure as a way to get an inside track to Trump’s campaign. But if the dossier is disinformation (as Trumpsters seem to universally agree now), it might help explain the dodgy content of the dossier in ways that aren’t important to this post (for example, it might explain why Steele’s sources falsely claimed that Carter Page was Manafort’s liaison with Russia in the same days when Kilimnik flew to the US to offer a pitch to Manafort on Ukraine involving senior Russians).

Now consider one more detail, given that Trumpsters seem to universally agree the dossier was disinformation and the IG Report’s suggestion that the most likely architect of that disinformation was Oleg Deripaska.

On January 8, 2017, Manafort flew to Madrid to meet with a different Deripaska deputy, Georgiy Oganov. As the SSCI Report explained, while Manafort told investigators they discussed the Pericles lawsuit — the same lawsuit Deripaska was using to make Manafort legally insecure — they also discussed stuff that remains almost entirely redacted, but stuff that includes recreating their “old friendship” which (also per the SSCI Report) involved Manafort conducting influence campaigns for Deripaska.

On January 8, 2017, hours after returning to the United States from a trip to ~ to Madrid, Spain.598 Manafort met with Oganov in Madrid during what he claimed was a one-hour breakfast meeting.599 Manafort told the FBI that, at the meeting, Oganov told him that he needed to meet with Deripaska in person to resolve the Pericles matter.600 Manafort agreed but said he would not travel to Ukraine or Russia for the meeting.601

(U) Manafort provided false and misleading information about the purpose, content, and follow-up to the meeting with Oganov to both the Committee and the SCO. In particular, Manafort told the Committee in a written response through counsel that he attended a meeting on or around January 17, 2017, in Madrid with “Georgy Organov.”602 The written response claimed that the meeting was “regarding a private litigation matter involving Oleg Deripaska.”603 Despite admitting his attendance at the meeting to the Committee in May 2017, Manafort initially denied attending the meeting in his interviews with the SCO in the fall of 2018.604 He eventually admitted to attending the meeting with Oganov, and then repeated what he described in his letter to the Committee-that the meeting had been arranged by his lawyers and concerned only the Pericles lawsuit.605

Manafort’s claims about the meeting were false. As the above messages show, the meeting was not designed to be about Pericles, but was also about recreating the “old friendship” and “global politics.”

Manafort returned to the US on January 12 and, three days later, tried to set up an in-person meeting with KT McFarland.

She checked with Mike Flynn, who told her that the “perception” of meeting with Manafort, “especially now” (this was after Flynn’s own back channels with Russia were beginning to become public) would not be good, so to hold off until they were in the hot seats.

Manafort didn’t meet with Trump’s national security team, but around the same time, per reporting from Ken Vogel, he reached out to Reince Priebus and suggested the errors in the dossier not only discredited it, but also the FBI investigation.

It was about a week before Trump’s inauguration, and Manafort wanted to brief Trump’s team on alleged inaccuracies in a recently released dossier of memos written by a former British spy for Trump’s opponents that alleged compromising ties among Russia, Trump and Trump’s associates, including Manafort.

“On the day that the dossier came out in the press, Paul called Reince, as a responsible ally of the president would do, and said this story about me is garbage, and a bunch of the other stuff in there seems implausible,” said a person close to Manafort.

[snip]

According to a GOP operative familiar with Manafort’s conversation with Priebus, Manafort suggested the errors in the dossier discredited it, as well as the FBI investigation, since the bureau had reached a tentative (but later aborted) agreement to pay the former British spy to continue his research and had briefed both Trump and then-President Barack Obama on the dossier.

Manafort told Priebus that the dossier was tainted by inaccuracies and by the motivations of the people who initiated it, whom he alleged were Democratic activists and donors working in cahoots with Ukrainian government officials, according to the operative. [my emphasis]

According to Rick Gates, at some point Manafort asked Kilimnik to obtain more information from his sources about it, including from Deripaska.

Since that suggestion to Priebus — which he made days after his return from a meeting with Deripaska’s associate — Trump has pursued precisely the strategy laid out by Manafort, using the errors in the dossier — the dossier that all Trumpsters now seem to believe was filled with errors by Russian intelligence and possibly by Deripaska associates — to discredit it and with it, the Russian investigation.

That’s the strategy that led Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller to report on the dossier full time — including forcing the opinion editor at the time to publish a Deripaska column attacking the dossier.

Fusion GPS’s Simpson, in a New York Times op-ed describing his own Judiciary Committee testimony, claimed a neoconservative website “and the Clinton campaign” were “the Republican and Democratic funders of our Trump research.” The Judiciary Committee’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) then unilaterally released, over the objection of committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Simpson’s testimony to “set the record straight.” Fusion GPS “commended Senator Feinstein for her courage.”

Yet on March 16, 2017, Daniel Jones — himself a team member of Fusion GPS, self-described former FBI agent and, as we now know from the media, an ex-Feinstein staffer — met with my lawyer, Adam Waldman, and described Fusion as a “shadow media organization helping the government,” funded by a “group of Silicon Valley billionaires and George Soros.” My lawyer testified these facts to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Nov. 3. Mr. Soros is, not coincidentally, also the funder of two “ethics watchdog” NGOs (Democracy 21 and CREW) attacking Rep. Nunes’ committee memo.

A former Obama State Department official, Nuland, has been recently outed as another shadow player, reviewing and disseminating Fusion’s dossier, and reportedly, hundreds of other dossiers over a period of years. “Deep State-proud loyalists” apparently was a Freudian slip, not a joke.

Invented narratives — not “of the people, by the people, for the people,” but rather just from a couple of people, cloaked in the very same hypocritical rhetoric of “freedom” and “democracy” that those are actively undermining — impede internationally shared efforts on the world’s most pressing, real issues, like global health, climate change and the future of energy. My own “Mother Russia” has many problems and challenges, and my country is still in transition from the Soviet regime — a transition some clearly wish us to remain in indefinitely.

And that’s the strategy that led Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham, and Ron Johnson to spend their time discrediting the dossier rather than conducting oversight of Donald Trump.

That’s the strategy that led Darrell Cooper to believe (or claim to believe) several false claims about the dossier and then use those false claims to excuse the way Trumpsters lost faith in institutions and so attacked the Capitol. In short, the likelihood that the dossier is disinformation — indeed, the likelihood that the guy twisting the nuts of Trump’s campaign manager fed the dossier full of disinformation even while using that pressure to obtain his cooperation — means that (at least if you believe Cooper’s narrative) that disinformation led, through a series of steps, Americans to attack the American Capitol.

Trumpsters appear to love Cooper’s narrative, I guess because it doesn’t hold them responsible for their own gullibility or betrayal of the country. There are other problems with it (including the replication of other claims that Republicans have agreed is Russian disinformation). But ultimately, even with Cooper’s errors, what his narrative amounts to (at least for all the Trumpsters who believe the dossier was disinformation) is a claim that Russia’s 2016 disinformation campaign led Trump supporters to attack the US Capitol.

Update: After I posted some folks in the thread questioned what the point of the disinformation would be. This post lays out a possible logic to it all.

Guccifer 20uble Entendre

As people continue to unravel the various parties involved in the January 6 insurrection, including Roger Stone and his repurposed group, Stop the Steal, I want to finish unpacking the Mueller-related files liberated by BuzzFeed last month.

Before I do that though, I want to lay out one potential implication of some things I said as part of my Rat-Fucker Rashomon series on Roger Stone’s prosecution.

In the post from that series on Jerome Corsi’s prescience that WikiLeaks would dump John Podesta’s emails, I showed that Ted Malloch, Rick Gates, and Paul Manafort all testified that Stone had advance knowledge of the Podesta drop in August — and according to Gates, he had that knowledge before August 14.

According to the SSCI Report, in part of Rick Gates’ October 25, 2018 interview that remains redacted,

Gates recalled Stone advising him, prior to the release of an August 14 article in The New York Times about Paul Manafort’s “secret ledger,” that damaging information was going to be released about Podesta. 1579 Gates understood that Stone was referring to nonpublic information. Gates further recalled later conversations with Stone about how to save Manafort’s role on the Campaign, and that Stone was focused on getting information about John Podesta, but said that Stone did not reveal the “inner workings” of that plan to Gates. 1580

An unredacted part of that 302 — which is likely the continuation of the discussion cited in SSCI — explains,

Gates said there was a strategy to defend Manafort by attacking Podesta. The idea was that Podesta had baggage as well. Gates said it was unfortunate the information did not come out in time to defend Manafort from his ultimate departure from the campaign.

In a September 27, 2018 interview, Manafort provided details of two conversations that he placed in August 2016, one of which provided specific details (which remain redacted, purportedly to protect Podesta’s privacy!) about John Podesta’s alleged ties with Russia.

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.

Roger Stone’s longtime friend Paul Manafort, at a time when he lying to protect key details about what happened in 2016, nevertheless confirmed that Stone had detailed knowledge not just that the Podesta files would drop, but what Russian-based attacks they would make of them.

In the piece arguing that Guccifer 2.0, not Julian Assange, was Roger Stone’s go-between with the Russian operation, I noted that SSCI believes Roger Stone had obtained his advance knowledge that WikiLeaks would later release John Podesta files by mid-day August 15, 2016.

Indeed, the Mueller Report describes that Corsi told Ted Malloch later in August that, “Stone had made a connection to Assange and that the hacked emails of John Podesta would be released prior to Election Day,” not that he himself had.

[snip]

At 8:16AM on August 15, Corsi texted and then at 8:17 AM Corsi emailed Stone the same message, telling him there was “more to come than anyone realizes”:

Appearing in the midst of a story about Stone’s lies about his go-between with WikiLeaks, the texts and emails are fairly innocuous. Though the SSCI Report does seem to believe Corsi’s story that this moment — and the 24 minute call between Corsi and Stone at 12:14PM on August 15 — is when Corsi told Stone about what the Podesta files would include.

(U) The Committee is uncertain how Corsi determined that Assange had John Podesta’s emails. Corsi initially explained in an interview with the SCO that during his trip to Italy, someone told him Assange had the Podesta emails. Corsi also recalled learning that Assange was going to “release the emails seriatim and not all at once.”1572 However, Corsi claimed not to remember who provided him with this information, saying he could only recall that “it feels like a man” who told him.1573

(U) Corsi further recalled that on August 15, after he returned from Italy, he conveyed this information to Stone by phone.1574 According to Corsi, the information was new to Stone. Stone seemed “happy to hear it,” and the two of them “discussed how the emails would be very damaging” to Clinton. 1575 Corsi also reiterated by both text and email to Stone on August 15 that there was “[m]ore to come than anyone realizes. Won’t really get started until after Labor Day.”1576

So three witnesses sympathetic to Stone say he had advance knowledge of the Podesta dump, and the neutral observers at SSCI believe that happened by mid-day on August 15, 2016.

If that’s the case, I pointed out in the Guccifer 2.0 post, then it means when the persona asked the rat-fucker whether Stone had found anything interesting in the documents he posted, it would appear to be a reference to the DCCC documents released days earlier, but would actually be reference to the Podesta files.

August 15, 2016 (unknown time): Guccifer 2.0 DMs Stone: “thank u for writing back . . . do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?”

So long as the WikiLeaks story is kept separate from the Guccifer 2.0 one, that August 15 DM from Guccifer 2.0 to Stone appears to be a question about the DCCC emails posted on August 12, and so, as Stone claimed, totally innocuous. But given the evidence that Corsi and Stone acquired advance knowledge of the content of select Podesta emails by August 15 — particularly given Stone’s claim, reportedly made before July 22, to have been in touch with Guccifer 2.0 and his apparent foreknowledge of the GRU personas — that August 15 DM appears to be a comment on the Podesta files.

That is, that August 15 was not innocuous at all. It appears to have been, rather, the GRU’s persona asking Stone whether he liked what he had received in advance.

That is, it would be a kind of double entendre, a comment that seemed to have an innocuous public meaning, but in fact was a public marker of direct coordination between the Russian operation and the Trump campaign.

Consider the implications if that were true of the other comments from Guccifer 2.0 to Roger Stone. There were two such comments that have been made public. On August 16, Roger Stone linked a piece of his, talking about “How the election can be rigged against Donald Trump,” part of Stone’s Stop the Steal campaign that would eventually morph into the January 6 insurrection. Via DM, Stone asked G2 to RT it, which the persona did, saying he was “paying u back.”

Then on August 17, G2 buttered Stone up a bit, then offered to help him.

Starting at 1AM on August 18, Roger Stone himself buttered up the new replacement campaign manager for Donald Trump, offering him some way to win the election. “I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty,” a similar pitch as Stone made to Paul Manfort just weeks earlier.

Affidavits show that Stone and Bannon continued to talk.

On August 19, 2016, Bannon sent Stone a text message asking if he could talk that morning. On August 20, 2016, Stone replied, “when can u talk???”

Bannon testified under oath at Stone’s trial that this conversation might have pertained to “the tougher side of politics” that the Trump campaign might use to “make up some ground,” possibly relating to Stone’s role as envoy to WikiLeaks.

Q. When Mr. Stone wrote to you, “I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty,” what in your mind did you understand that to mean?

A. Well, Roger is an agent provocateur, he’s an expert in opposition research. He’s an expert in the tougher side of politics. And when you’re this far behind, you have to use every tool in the toolbox.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. Well, opposition research, dirty tricks, the types of things that campaigns use when they have got to make up some ground.

Q. Did you view that as sort of value added that Mr. Stone could add to the campaign?

A. Potentially value added, yes.

Q. Was one of the ways that Mr. Stone could add value to the campaign his relationship with WikiLeaks or Julian Assange?

A. I don’t know if I thought it at the time, but he could — you know, I was led to believe that he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

This is the testimony Stone is threatening to sue Bannon over.

The next day, Stone tweeted his famous “Podesta time in the barrel” tweet.

The communication between Stone and Bannon continued; I’ll return to it in a follow-up post. But first, there was one more DM exchange between G2 and Stone: When, on September 9, G2 wrote Stone seemingly out of the blue and asked, “what do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign”?

Stone did’t respond at first. G2 probed again: “?” Then G2 sent HelloFL’s post on the Florida turnout model that G2 had sent Aaron Nevins. And G2 lectured the rat-fucker about a topic on which Stone is an expert: the import of voter turnout.

“Pretty standard,” Stone correctly said of the base level oppo research that G2 had sent Nevins.

And for years, that exchange made perfect sense. The Nevins data was the only publicly known turnout data that G2 might have had (indeed, it’s still the only data that most people know about). And so it made sense: G2 was just trying to fluff up his value with the candidate’s rat-fucker by pointing to data the quality of which the rat-fucker already had easy access.

Except, that data was not — as G2 referenced — “the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign.” It pertained only to Florida.

But GRU had obtained data that may have provided a way to reconstruct the turnout model for the Democrats’ entire Presidential campaign: starting on September 5, they started hacking Hillary’s analytics, hosted on AWS. As the DNC described it in their lawsuit targeting (among others) Stone, this data was among the most valuable for the campaign. The hackers made several snapshots of the testing clusters the DNC used to test their analytics program.

On September 20, 2016, CrowdStrike’s monitoring service discovered that unauthorized users—later discovered to be GRU officers—had accessed the DNC’s cloud-computing service. The cloud-computing service housed test applications related to the DNC’s analytics. The DNC’s analytics are its most important, valuable, and highly confidential tools. While the DNC did not detect unauthorized access to its voter file, access to these test applications could have provided the GRU with the ability to see how the DNC was evaluating and processing data critical to its principal goal of winning elections. Forensic analysis showed that the unauthorized users had stolen the contents of these virtual servers by making exact duplicates (“snapshots”) of them and moving those snapshots to other accounts they owned on the same service. The GRU stole multiple snapshots of these virtual servers between September 5, 2016 and September 22, 2016. The U.S. government later concluded that this cyberattack had been executed by the GRU as part of its broader campaign to damage to the Democratic party.

In 2016, the DNC used Amazon Web Services (“AWS”), an Amazon-owned company that provides cloud computing space for businesses, as its “data warehouse” for storing and analyzing almost all of its data.

To store and analyze the data, the DNC used a software program called Vertica, which was run on the AWS servers. Vertica is a Hewlett Packard program, which the DNC licensed. The data stored on Vertica included voter contact information, such as the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of voters, and notes from the DNC’s prior contacts with these voters. The DNC also stored “digital information” on AWS servers. “Digital information” included data about the DNC’s online engagement, such as DNC email lists, the number of times internet users click on DNC advertisements (or “click rates”), and the number of times internet users click on links embedded in DNC emails (or “engagement rates”). The DNC also used AWS to store volunteer information—such as the list of people who have signed up for DNC-sponsored events and the number of people who attended those events.

[snip]

The DNC’s Vertica queries and Tableau Queries that allow DNC staff to analyze their data and measure their progress toward their strategic goals—collectively, the DNC’s “analytics,”—are its most important, valuable, and highly confidential tools. Because these tools were so essential, the DNC would often test them before they were used broadly.

The tests were conducted using “testing clusters”—designated portions of the AWS servers where the DNC tests new pieces of software, including new Tableau and Vertica Queries. To test a new query, a DNC engineer could use the query on a “synthetic” data set—mock-up data generated for the purpose of testing new software—or a small set of real data. For example, the DNC might test a Tableau query by applying the software to a set of information from a specific state or in a specific age range. Thus, the testing clusters housed sensitive, proprietary pieces of software under development. As described above, the DNC derives significant value from its proprietary software by virtue of its secrecy: if made public, it would reveal critical insights into the DNC’s political, financial, and voter engagement strategies and services, many of which are used or intended for use in interstate commerce.

[snip]

On September 20, 2016, CrowdStrike’s monitoring service discovered that unauthorized users had breached DNC AWS servers that contained testing clusters. Further forensic analysis showed that the unauthorized users had stolen the contents of these DNC AWS servers by taking snapshots of the virtual servers, and had moved those replicas to other AWS accounts they controlled. The GRU stole multiple snapshots of these servers between September 5, 2016 and September 22, 2016. The U.S. later concluded that this cyberattack had been executed by the GRU as part of its broader campaign to damage to the Democratic party. The GRU could have derived significant economic value from the theft of the DNC’s data by, among other possibilities, selling the data to the highest bidder.

The software would also be usable as executable code by DNC opponents, who could attempt to re-create DNC data visualizations or derive DNC strategy decisions by analyzing the tools the DNC uses to analyze its data.

So by the time G2 asked Stone what he thought of “the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign” on September 9, three weeks after having offered to help Stone, the GRU had started stealing snapshots relating to Hillary’s analytics four days earlier. If, as seems may have been the case with G2’s August 15 question, this question was meant to be a double entendre with a  hidden meaning, it might suggest that GRU had shared this, a way to reconstruct Hillary’s crown jewels, with Trump’s rat-fucker (and in any case would have provided incredibly valuable information for whomever received the campaign strategy information that Konstantin Kilimnik was passing on).

Which is even more interesting given the conversations about data that Stone and Bannon were having at the time.