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In His 302, William Barnett Admitted to Saving Trump [While Ignoring at Least Four Pieces of Evidence Implicating Him]

I didn’t even unpack all the glaring inconsistencies in William Barnett’s 302 in this post. But given that his statement does contradict both itself and the public record, I want to examine the story that it tells from a different view.

His 302 shows that an FBI Agent was retained on the investigation even after DOJ IG investigated Mueller team texts that — I’ve been told — should have shown he sent pro-Trump texts from his FBI phone (DOJ IG has declined to comment about this). It shows that he remained on the case even after claiming on at least three occasions to want off the case. He remained on, he explains, to prevent “group think” about Mike Flynn’s guilt (even though his own 302 professes to be unaware of several key pieces of evidence, and the 302 redacts at least one other piece of evidence he dismissed). And by remaining on the case, his testimony reveals but does not admit explicitly, he prevented the Mueller team from reaching a conclusion that might have supported a quid pro quo charge.

It has always been inexplicable why Mike Flynn got the sweet plea deal he did, a False Statements charge letting him off for secretly working for a foreign government while getting classified briefings with the candidate, particularly given that — unlike Rick Gates — it was always clear Flynn didn’t want to fully cooperate (and did not fully cooperate, professing not to remember key repeated contacts regarding a back channel with Russia that the White House tried to cover up in other ways).

And now William Barnett is taking credit for all that.

Barnett remained on the Mike Flynn case after trying four times to stay off it

Not explained in Barnett’s 302 is how he ended up investigating Mike Flynn through to prosecution when he repeatedly expressed a disinterest in doing so.

Barnett started, in August 2016, tasked to investigate both Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn. He describes any actions he took early on in the Flynn investigation to be an effort to clear the investigation (and he spoke of it, at all times, in terms of criminal activity, not threats to national security, in spite of his own closing memo admitting that the investigation also investigated the latter). A possible interview in the post-election period, the interview that happened on January 24, the review of call records that would disclose further lies from Flynn, and other evidence that remained redacted — all that was, in Barnett’s mind, just box-checking in advance of closing the investigation. At numerous times in his 302, he seems to suggest he would have been happy to continue on the Manafort investigation, but wanted off the Flynn one.

His 302 describes how, in early 2017 (when false allegations about Andrew McCabe were beginning to be floated, but before an FBI Investigation Division into them started), he asked to be taken off the case.

In or about early February 2017, BARNETT discussed his wish to be removed from the RAZOR investigation with FBI Unit Chief [Unit Chief] and [Special Agent]. [Unit Chief and Special Agent] asked why BARNETT wished to be removed from the investigation. BARNETT said the Inspector General (IG) was looking at the Clinton Case and BARNETT believed the RAZOR investigation was problematic and could result in an IG investigation. FBI policy does not allow for an agent to pick and choose his/her cases. An agent can request to be removed from a case. If an agent is not removed but wanted to leave, they could do a “sit down strike,” meaning the agent asks for approval to do everything and creates enough problems to have them removed from the case.

In spite of providing an explanation of how Barnett could have gotten off the case if he really wanted to, he did not do so (even though it’s possible that the delay in obtaining call records reflects such a sit down strike).

Then, again in April, Barnett exchanged notes with an analyst who wanted off the case. In his testimony, he described that he believed the “collusion” theory that the call records would have supported, “did not make sense.”

BARNET was asked about a Lync message on 04/06/2017 from [Analyst 1] to BARNETT regarding [Analyst 1] being removed from the RAZOR investigation. BARNETT said [Analyst 1] was very skeptical of the FLYNN collusion [sic] investigation. BARNETT also thought it was a “dumb theory” that did not make sense.

Then, apparently after the appointment of Mueller in May, Barnett tried to undermine any investigation into Flynn by not briefing on it, at a briefing specifically called to review Flynn. This is the passage taken by credulous readers as damning to Jeannie Rhee, when it in fact shows that Barnett was insubordinate and rude.

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

After this briefing, Barnett told someone — almost certainly Brandon Van Grack — that he didn’t like Rhee and didn’t want to be on the Flynn investigation.

BARNETT expressed his concern about RHEE to [SCO Atty 1, probably Van Grack]. BARNETT told [probably Van Grack] that he wanted nothing to do with the RAZOR investigation.

In spite of saying, repeatedly, that he didn’t want to work on the Flynn case, Barnett affirmatively chose to continue on it, to prevent others from “group think.”

On the day following the brief that BARNETT provided to RHEE, BARNETT was contacted by STRZOK. STRZOK said he (STRZOK) really wanted BARNETT to work with the SCO. STRZOK said he (STRZOK) knew BARNETT had a problem with RHEE. BARNETT told STRZOK that he (BARNETT) wanted to work [redacted–probably Manafort] and did not wish to pursue the collusion investigation as it was “not there.” STRZOK said he (STRZOK) would run interference between BARNETT and RHEE. [Probably Van Grack] and STRZOK told BARNETT he (STRZOK) could work on things other than what RHEE was looking into. BARNETT decided to work at the SCO hoping his perspective would keep them from “group think.”

So: Barnett expresses a wish to get off the Flynn case in February, he expresses a wish to get off the Flynn case in April, in May, he says he wants nothing to do with the Flynn case while refusing to brief on it, and then he affirmatively chose to stay on the Flynn case, in hopes of preventing others from “group think.”

There’s some real proof that Robert Mueller (and Peter Strzok!!) sought out people who had it in for Trump!

I actually think it was a good thing that Mueller included skeptics. But Barnett is not just a skeptic; in his 302 he misstated what the evidence showed.

Barnett ignores or dismisses at least four pieces of evidence implicating Flynn

Barnett’s 302 records him claiming that there was “no” evidence showing Trump directed Flynn, even calling such a suspicion “astro projection.”

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

Ultimately, Barnett offered a different reason why Flynn (and KT McFarland) told what he admits were clear lies: they were just trying to keep — or get — a job.

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

Barnett’s stated opinion is, like most things pertaining to Flynn, precisely the conclusion drawn institutionally by the Mueller team, best expressed in Flynn’s sentencing memo: Flynn started telling lies in response to the Ignatius report, and then just kept lying.

Except Barnett repeatedly dismisses evidence that makes it clear that’s not true.

Barnett describes FBI responding to the David Ignatius article revealing Flynn’s calls with Sergey Kislyak, and not Flynn’s public lies about them. Every single other witness asked about this investigation and abundant contemporaneous evidence has said the lies, not the article, were the motivating factor behind FBI’s increased attention. Barnett’s testimony doesn’t even admit they exist.

Then Barnett was asked about — something — that remains redacted.

Clearly, whatever this was, other witnesses seem to have believed it cause cause for concern. Barnett doesn’t agree.

Then Barnett describes what might have been call records showing that Mike Flynn’s lies had served to cover up his coordination with Mar-a-Lago in advance of his calls to Sergey Kislyak, disclosing another lie (and probably the point of his other lies) to the FBI.

BARNETT said the information gathered was what was expected to be found and there was, in BARNETT’s opinion, no evidence of criminal activity and no information that would start a new investigative direction.

Later, he says that the NSL returns, which would have disclosed call records that show further lies on Flynn’s part were not evidence that Flynn was working with the Russian government.

The information obtained through the NSLs did not change BARNETT’s mind that FLYNN was not working with the Russian government.

This answer is a tell, both about Barnett and those interviewing him. When the FBI obtained call records that showed that Mike Flynn’s lies served to cover up his consultation with Mar-a-Lago before calling Kislyak, it would have raised questions about the White House. That is, those call records made it clear that there might be another suspect reason for Flynn’s activities, because he was directed by Trump to pay off a quid pro quo (which is the reason a Main DOJ-approved sentencing memo argued might have been the explanation).

Then, not mentioned here at all, is the Flynn testimony that he and KT McFarland wrote a cover email to hide that he had spoken about sanctions with Kislyak.

After the briefing, Flynn and McFarland spoke over the phone. 1258 Flynn reported on the substance of his call with Kislyak, including their discussion of the sanctions. 1259 According to McFarland, Flynn mentioned that the Russian response to the sanctions was not going to be escalatory because they wanted a good relationship with the incoming Administration.1260 McFarland also gave Flynn a summary of her recent briefing with President-Elect Trump. 1261

The next day, December 30, 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov remarked that Russia would respond in kind to the sanctions. 1262 Putin superseded that comment two hours later, releasing a statement that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time. 1263 Hours later President-Elect Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin).” 1264 Shortly thereafter, Flynn sent a text message to McFarland summarizing his call with Kislyak from the day before, which she emailed to Kushner, Bannon, Priebus, and other Transition Team members. 1265 The text message and email did not include sanctions as one of the topics discussed with Kislyak. 1266 Flynn told the Office that he did not document his discussion of sanctions because it could be perceived as getting in the way of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.1267 [my emphasis]

Nor does Barnett mention that — at a time when the only known communications to Trump were through McFarland — Flynn told Kislyak that Trump was aware of their conversation.

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

KISLYAK: yeah.

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

KISLYAK: You’re absolutely right.

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

While that’s not proof that Trump ordered Flynn to undermine sanctions, it is clear Flynn told Russia that Trump had been apprised about the content of their calls before the last call with Kislyak.

Of the evidence that is public, then, Barnett claims the following does not exist:

  1. Flynn publicly lied in response to the Ignatius story, creating a counterintelligence risk
  2. Call records showed that, on top of all his other lies about the substance of his calls with Sergey Kislyak, Flynn lied about coordinating with Mar-a-Lago before making those calls
  3. Flynn testified that he wrote an email summarizing his call so as to hide that he and Kislyak had discussed sanctions
  4. Flynn told Kislyak — at a time when his only known communications with Trump went through McFarland — that Trump was aware of the calls by December 31

In fact, Barnett doesn’t even mention a fifth piece of evidence: Steve Bannon’s testimony.

While the testimony of Steve Bannon described in the Mueller Report (which may post-date Barnett’s involvement on the Mueller team) disclaims knowledge of any discussions of sanctions in advance, in the the HPSCI transcripts, Bannon revealed that the White House had scripted him to provide a bunch of no answers to HPSCI.

MR. SCHIFF: Mr. Bannon, who wrote these questions?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: My understanding, Mr. Schiff, is that these came from the transcript.

MR. SCHIFF: No, no, no. The questions that Mr. Conaway just asked you the questions. I asked you earlier if you had been authorized by the White House to answer all in the negative. Who wrote these questions?

MR. BANNON: Same answer.

MR. SCHIFF: What’s the same answer? Who wrote the questions?

MR. BANNON: My understanding is they came from the transcript.

MR. SCHIFF: What transcript are you talking about?

MR. BANNON: This transcript of my first interview.

[snip]

MR. SCHIFF: Well, how were they produced? How do you know that the White House has authorized you to answer them? [Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: My counsel informed me that these were the questions the White House authorized me to answer.

MR. SCHIFF: But you didn’t write these questions?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. SCHIFF: And your counsel didn’t write these questions?

MR. BANNON: No.

MR. SCHIFF: So these questions were supplied to you by the White House?

[Discussion off the record.]

MR. BANNON: As far as I know.

One of the questions that Bannon described — shortly before his first interview by the Mueller team — being scripted by the White House to answer no to was any discussion about sanctions after inauguration.

MR. CONAWAY: Once you were part of the administration, were you a part of any discussions about how to approach the Russian, vis-à-vis the sanctions, whether to do away with them or in any way minimize the effects of the sanctions?

MR. BANNON: No.

The scripted answer pointedly did not ask whether Bannon discussed them beforehand, one he may not have been able to answer in the same way.

Barnett describes undermining the quid pro quo case against Donald Trump

Particularly given that Barnett may not have been around anymore when Bannon started testifying, much less started testifying honestly (which didn’t start until much later), the KT McFarland testimony is particularly important to this narrative.

Barnett describes that he was the only one who believed that KT McFarland was telling the truth when she said that she did not remember Trump directing Flynn’s efforts to undermine sanctions. Significantly, he describes this question as — in Mueller’s view — “key to everything.”

Many at the SCO had the opinion that MCFARLAND had knowledge TRUMP was directing [sanction discussions] between FLYNN and the Russian Ambassador. When MCFARLAND did not provide the information sought, it was assumed she was lying. When BARNETT suggested it was very possible MCFARLAND was providing truthful information, one of the SCO attorneys participating in the interview said BARNETT was the only person who believed MCFARLAND was not holding back the information about TRUMP’s knowledge of [the sanction discussions]. MUELLER described MCFARLAND as the “key to everything” because MCFARLAND was the link between TRUMP, who was at Mar-a-Lago with MCFARLAND, and FLYNN, who was in the Dominican Republic on vacation, when [the calls] were made.

Again, it is stunning that Barnett was permitted to give this answer without being asked about the call records, which showed Flynn lied about consulting with Mar-a-Lago, to say nothing about the way that McFarland’s forgetfulness matched Flynn’s and then her unforgetting similarly matched Flynn’s. It’s not a credible answer, but Jeffrey Jensen doesn’t need credible answers.

Then, having made it clear that he believed that Mueller treated McFarland as the “key to everything,” BARNETT described how he single-handedly managed to prevent the entire team from concluding that Trump was in the loop.

BARNETT was told at one point he was being taken off the MCFARLAND proffer interview because SCO attorneys thought would be easier for MCFARLAND to talk without BARNETT there, due to her attitude toward BARNETT during past interviews.

McFarland has complained publicly about being caught in a perjury trap by the FBI agents who first interviewed her (and the 302s show a continuity among the FBI agents), so Fox viewers have actually seen evidence that McFarland had a gripe with Barnett.

BARNETT insisted he be on the interview. When BARNETT was told he would not be allowed on the interview, BARNETT suggested he might take the matter to the Inspectors General or to “11.” BARNETT believed some at SCO were trying to get MCFARLAND to change her story to fit the TRUMP collusion [sic] theory. [Probably Van Grack] later contacted BARNETT and said BARNETT would be part of the MCFARLAND interview.

During the proffer interview with MCFARLAND, the “obstruction team” was leading the interview. BARNETT described the “obstruction team’s” questions as general. They did not ask follow-up or clarifying questions. BARNETT was perplexed by their lack of asking follow-up questions. BARNETT began asking MCFARLAND follow-up questions and direct questions. BARNETT was trying to “cut to the chase” and obtain the facts. BARNETT asked questions such as “Do you know that as a fact or are you speculating?” and “Did you pass information from TRUMP to FLYNN?” Andrew Goldstein (GOLDSTEIN), a SCO Attorney, called “time-out” and cautioned BARNETT by saying, “If you keep asking these questions, we will be here all day.”

It’s unclear whether Barnett’s depiction is correct or not. The 302 of that interview is heavily redacted, but doesn’t show a “time out” in it. What matters for the purposes of this post is that Barnett is claiming he singlehandedly prevented McFarland from implicating the President. And the conclusions of the Report on this point adopt Barnett’s view, so he may be right.

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

[snip]

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

What this 302 does, then, is show that:

  • Barnett joined Mueller’s team solely to avoid concluding that Mike Flynn was involved in “collusion”
  • He claims to be unaware of at least four pieces of evidence showing the contrary
  • Having disclaimed knowledge of evidence that is public, he takes credit for the conclusion that there was no quid pro quo

For what its worth, Jerome Corsi — in language that is hilariously close to Barnett’s — claimed to have prevented Mueller from obtaining “the key” piece of evidence, an explanation of how Stone got foreknowledge of the WikiLeaks releases. And Andrew Weissmann’s book apparently describes the sharing of poll data as another such “key” piece of evidence. So it’s not the case that Barnett singlehandedly prevented Mueller from showing a quid pro quo or some other kind of conspiracy. But he did prevent two key witnesses from being more aggressively questioned about it.

Barnett’s shit-show 302 may have been really poorly timed

This 302 — and the witness that gave it — would not do well under competent cross-examination. There are just too many internal contradictions, too many instances where Barnett professes to be unaware of public evidence, too many times that Barnett’s current claims conflict with his past actions taken as an FBI Agent, too many times his claims conflict with the public record.

Which is why it’s interesting that (as Adam Goldman has pointed out), Barnett is not among those witnesses demanded in an investigation at Senate Judiciary Committee led by Flynn associate Barbara Ledeen. Lindsey Graham’s subpoena request asks for documents and testimony from virtually everyone else in this investigation, but not Barnett.

Trisha Anderson, Brian Auten, James Baker, William Barr, Dana Boente, Jennifer Boone, John Brennan, James Clapper, Kevin Clinesmith, James Comey, Patrick Conlon, Michael Dempsey, Stuart Evans, Tashina Gauhar, Carl Ghattas, Curtis Heide, Kathleen Kavalec, David Laufman, Stephen Laycock, Jacob Lew, Loretta Lynch, Andrew McCabe, Mary McCord, Denis McDonough, Arthur McGlynn, Jonathan Moffa, Sally Moyer, Mike Neufield, Sean Newell, Victoria Nuland, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Stephanie L. O’Sullivan, Lisa Page, Joseph Pientka, John Podesta, Samantha Power, E.W. “Bill” Priestap, Sarah Raskin, Steve Ricchetti, Susan Rice, Rod Rosenstein, Gabriel Sanz-Rexach, Nathan Sheets, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Glenn Simpson, Steve Somma, Peter Strzok, Michael Sussman, Adam Szubin, Jonathan Winer, Christopher Wray, and Sally Yates

After the WaPo released an unbelievably credulous article on Barnett’s testimony the other day, SJC tweeted it out as a Committee press release.

Apparently, Lindsey and Barbara Ledeen (who served as a channel in efforts to discredit the investigation) don’t think Barnett could withstand competent cross-examination on these issues, either.

As it happens, though, the interview was done before — but released after — two key decisions, which will give Lisa Page, Peter Strzok, and Andrew McCabe discovery into the events that led to the public disclosure of their texts (in the first two cases) or their firing (in the latter two).

While not originally included in the discovery requests in this case, against the background of the claims he made in his 302, Barnett’s testimony would be relevant to numerous inquiries pertinent to one or several of these lawsuits, including:

  • Why Barnett wasn’t removed from the Mueller team when his texts exhibited (as I’ve been told they would have) pro-Trump bias
  • If Barnett’s texts indeed exhibited a pro-Trump bias, why his texts weren’t also made public when Page and Strzok’s were
  • Whether Barnett was the source behind two claims sourced by right wing propagandists who first floated the claims to Agents involved in the Mike Flynn case, but always debunked by actual firsthand witnesses, that Andrew McCabe had it in for Mike Flynn

The latter is a particularly important point. The McCabe IG investigation that ultimately led to his firing stemmed from attempts to understand who sourced that right wing propaganda about McCabe, claims that started by May 2017, not long after the time Barnett claims he knew there would be an IG Investigation of the Flynn investigation, claims that continued through the time that Barnett threatened to launch the IG investigation that he once claimed he wanted no part of.

Barnett is now on the record with testimony that conflicts with the public record, including with regards to McCabe’s micro-management of the investigation. Particularly given the hints that he has an ongoing relationship with staffers in Congress who floated these claims, it seems at least plausible he was the source for one or both of those investigations, investigations he seemingly predicted before anyone else did.

At the very least, Barnett’s easily falsifiable claims — including about McCabe’s actions themselves — in this 302 would seem to give McCabe reason to ask for Barnett’s phone records and witness testimony to DOJ IG, if not a deposition.

So while SJC doesn’t seem to think Barnett could withstand cross-examination on these claims, by releasing this 302 in advance of potential discovery (which will take forever), DOJ may have made that more likely.

Update: Fixed the description about the “boss” comment.

The Jeffrey Jensen “Investigation:” Post-It Notes and Other Irregularities

I noted the other day that Jeffrey Jensen had not asked William Barnett some basic questions (such as the import of Mike Flynn’s lies to the decision to interview Flynn or the names of colleagues who had purportedly joked about “wiping” their phones) that you would expect from a half-serious investigation. That’s ironic, since one of Barnett’s allegations about Mueller’s investigators is that they didn’t ask basic follow-up questions (the public record conflicts with a number of Barnett’s claims about the Mueller investigation).

Given my discovery about differences between two versions of Peter Srtzok’s notes purportedly “discovered” in the Jensen investigation, I want to look more closely at what the Bates stamps and Post-It note practices of the investigation suggest about it. I believe I have put all the documents released under the guise of the Jensen investigation here (though have not finished annotating them). I’ve put what delivery correspondence got released explaining those documents below.

Both Bates series are labeled SCO documents even when they’re not SCO documents

There are actually two sets of Bates stamps among the exhibits submitted in an effort to blow up the Flynn prosecution.

One series includes Bates stamps DOJSCO700021192-21198 (Joe Pientka and Peter Strzok’s notes from Flynn’s interview), DOJSCO700021201-21205 (Peter Strzok’s July 19, 2017 302). and DOJSCO 700022308-12 (a version of the January 24, 2017 Flynn 302). Here’s what the typeface of that Bates stamp looks like:

These reflect documents turned over to Flynn in discovery before Barr started blowing up the prosecution (see this Strzok 302 and his notes included as part of this exhibit). These were all submitted with the Motion to Dismiss on May 7, 2020. The inclusion of documents with an earlier stamp is not at all nefarious. Indeed, it helps to distinguish three different types of documents submitted with the Motion to Dismiss:

  • Documents already turned over to Flynn, which were submitted accompanying the MTD with their original Bates stamp
  • Documents Sidney Powell had asked for but which Emmet Sullivan rejected as Brady discovery; these have no Bates stamp (though Sullivan has reviewed some of these documents)
  • Documents that were “discovered” as “new” to justify the Motion to Dismiss; they have the later Bates stamp

Here’s an example of the Jensen typeface:

Remember: these weren’t new to the FBI Agents or prosecutors on the team. They were just “new” to Jeffrey Jensen, who was brought in from St. Louis just to provide the documents a virgin birth.

The one “tell” about this Bates stamp is that it incorporates documents that well precede the Mueller investigation, and probably weren’t part of the Mueller investigation, under an SCO stamp.

I guess “BillyBarrBlowsUpBobby3Sticks” would be too obvious.

Bill Priestap’s original notes, with sticky note, has two Bates numbers

Once you get into the Jensen Bates stamp, documents often get submitted over and over. The most remarkable example of that are Bill Priestap’s notes from a January 24, 2017 meeting prior to the Flynn interview. Bates DOJSCO 700023464 was submitted twice (because Flynn’s lawyers screwed up the upload), once as part of Docket #188 and again as part of Docket #190. Then, the exact same document was submitted as DOJSCO 700022702 as part of the Motion to Dismiss.

This is interesting for two reasons. It’s common to find the same document with two different Bates stamp numbers. For example, if four people have received the same email, it may show up in discovery four times, with four different Bates stamps. But that’s more common with electronic files, for obvious reasons.

But this is not multiple digital versions of the same document. Both copies have the same blue sticky note on it, meaning both exhibits were scanned (or were from the same scan).

That wouldn’t be all that weird if the digital exhibits submitted with the Motion to Dismiss had different Bates numbers. But they generally don’t. For example, William Barnett’s draft Closing Communication has Bates stamp DOJ SCO 700023466 in both the exhibit Flynn’s team released on April 30 and the version submitted with the Motion to Dismiss.

The most curious detail of the two instances of the original copy of Priestap’s notes is that the one submitted later, with the Motion to Dismiss, has a much earlier (762 pages) Bates stamp. My eyes are beginning to blur, but I think the one other instance of this involves three documents involving Peter Strzok in advance of the Mike Flynn interview.

The earlier Bates notes might suggest that those select documents from January 23 and 24 were found — perhaps even before Jensen began work — and the disclosure theater in service of the Motion to Dismiss all followed it.

If that’s true, DOJ’s failure to release Priestap’s 302 explaining all this is fairly damning, given that DOJ is suppressing his explanation even while re-releasing the same documents.

DOJ falsely presents annotations as unaltered hand-written notes, misleadingly so with one set of Strzok notes

Which brings me to where I started this rabbit hole: with Jensen’s treatment of hand-written notes. I’ll probably miss something but I think the hand-written notes released by Jensen include:

The interview notes are a different animal (though remember that FBI got the mixed up and no one figured it out for months, possibly until I pointed it out).

Whoever took the Boente notes added a date in real time. That’s likely, though not certain, in the case of Gauhar. Priestap almost certainly dated his own notes (though it’s unclear who put that blue sticky on them).

In the unredacted bits, there is no date on Strzok’s January 25 notes. As noted, the originally released version of Strzok’s notes, which is a scan of the original, has no date (and Jeffrey Jensen provided Sidney Powell a range rather than the obvious date of January 5 for them, so she could make a false claim about Joe Biden).

The copy of Strzok’s March 28, 2017 notes, Bates Stamp 700023501 has the date added. It appears to have been added with a Post-It (annotated in yellow). It also appears that you can see Post-It note tabs (annotated in red) picked up on the copy, some with notes on them.

It appears, then, that someone simply made a copy of the notes without taking them out of a notebook. I have no reason to believe the date is inaccurate, though I am intrigued by the way the redaction obscures what would be the edges of the date Post-It.

The date on Andrew McCabe’s notes, with a Bates stamp 700023502, the next in the series, appears to have been added after the fact by someone other than the person who took the notes. While it has some similarities with the date on the Strzok notes, it doesn’t cross the 7 as one of the two Strzok annotations did, and could easily have been added by whoever filed the notes in real time.

 

Finally, the new version of Strzok’s January 5, 2017 notes, with a Bates stamp 700023503 and so the next in a series, include the added date and some newly unredacted content (inside the red rectangle).

As noted, there is absolutely no doubt that these notes were written on January 5, 2017 (indeed, the newly unredacted details match other versions of this meeting). But after having released an unannotated version of this document, Jensen (or whoever is running this rodeo) decided to release another version that affirmatively misleads about that certainty.

The other instances of these date annotations are not nefarious, as far as I understand it. But pretending there was confusion about the date of these notes served to support an attack on Joe Biden. And rather than clearing all that up, DOJ has done what Kevin Clinesmith faces prison time for having done: alter a record.

It is inaccurate to say these are “Peter Strzok’s hand-written notes” (and, if the McCabe date was added after the fact, those too). Rather, this is a copy of Strzok’s hand-written notes that appear as a page in someone’s investigative notebook, and the date reflects an alteration — not identified to the court — to Strzok’s notes, an alteration that introduces an error.

Let me clear: I don’t think the dates change the investigative significance of these notes. I believe the January 5 notes have zero investigative significance, taken in context. I think the redaction of Brandon Van Grack’s name — if that’s what happened in William Barnett’s 302 — is a far graver example of abuse, because it serves to hide the baselessness of DOJ and Flynn’s complaints.

Rather, all these details reflect what an amateur effort Barr’s effort to blow up Flynn’s prosecution is. These irregularities, while not dramatically affecting the underlying evidentiary claim (excepting Powell’s attack on Joe Biden), suggest that no one is conducting a real investigation that would have to sustain future judicial review. They’re doing nothing except producing propaganda.


April 24: Jocelyn Ballantine files notice of discovery correspondence along with that correspondence.

Beginning in January 2020, at the direction of Attorney General William P. Barr, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri (“USA EDMO”) has been conducting a review of the Michael T. Flynn investigation. The review by USA EDMO has involved the analysis of reports related to the investigation along with communications and notes by Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) personnel associated with the investigation.

The enclosed documents were obtained and analyzed by USA EDMO in March and April 2020 and are provided to you as a result of this ongoing review; additional documents may be forthcoming. These materials are covered by the Protective Order entered by the Court on February 21, 2018.

April 24: Powell submits two documents obtained from Covington & Burling, a Rob Kelner email indicating that C&B has an understanding that Mueller is unlikely to charge Jr, and another letter making it quite clear that Mueller did not make promises.

April 29: Ballantine files notice of discovery correspondence along with that correspondence.

As we disclosed by letter dated April 24, 2020, beginning in January 2020, at the direction of Attorney General William P. Barr, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri (“USA EDMO”) has been conducting a review of the Michael T. Flynn investigation. The enclosed documents were obtained and analyzed by USA EDMO in March and April 2020, and are provided to you as a result of this ongoing review; additional documents may be forthcoming.1 These materials are covered by the Protective Order entered by the Court on February 21, 2018.

1 Note that the enclosed spreadsheet (DOJSCO-700023473 – DOJSCO700023475), which contains messages between and among various Bureau personnel, is an index and another detailed version of these messages is forthcoming.

May 5: Ballantine files notice of discovery correspondence along with that correspondence.

 As we disclosed by letter dated April 24, 2020, beginning in January 2020, at the direction of Attorney General William P. Barr, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri (“USA EDMO”) has been conducting a review of the Michael T. Flynn investigation. The enclosed documents were obtained and analyzed by USA EDMO in March, April and May 2020; additional documents may be forthcoming. These materials are covered by the Protective Order entered by the Court on February 21, 2018.

May 18: Ballantine files notice of discovery correspondence along with that correspondence.

As we disclosed by letter dated April 24, 2020, beginning in January 2020, at the direction of Attorney General William P. Barr, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri (“USA EDMO”) has been conducting a review of the Michael T. Flynn investigation. The enclosed documents were obtained and analyzed by USA EDMO in March, April and May 2020; additional documents may be forthcoming. These materials are covered by the Protective Order entered by the Court on February 21, 2018.

June 23: Ballantine files notice of discovery correspondence along with that correspondence.

As we have previously disclosed, beginning in January 2020, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri has been conducting a review of the Michael T. Flynn investigation. The enclosed document was obtained and analyzed by USA EDMO during the course of its review. This page of notes was taken by former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. While the page itself is undated; we believe that the notes were taken in early January 2017, possibly between January 3 and January 5. These materials are covered by the Protective Order entered by the Court on February 21, 2018; additional documents may be forthcoming.

June 24: Powell accuses Biden of starting the Logan Act investigation based off false date on Strzok notes.

July 7: Ballantine files notice of discovery correspondence along with that correspondence.

As we have previously disclosed, beginning in January 2020, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri has been conducting a review of the Michael T. Flynn investigation. The enclosed documents were obtained and analyzed by USAO EDMO during the course of its review. The documents include handwritten notes of former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Tashina Gauhar from a January 25, 2017 meeting (23487-80), notes of former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok from that same meeting (23491-92), an internal DOJ document dated January 30, 2017 (23493-97), and handwritten notes of then Acting Attorney General Dana Boente, dated March 30, 2017 (23498-500). These materials are covered by the Protective Order entered by the Court on February 21, 2018; additional documents may be forthcoming.

September 24: Powell files supplement quoting notice.

The documents include handwritten notes of former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok (23501 & 23503) and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (23502); and internal text messages between FBI analysts who worked on the Flynn matter (23504- 23516); . . . additional text messages between former DAD Strzok and Lisa Page (23516-23540).

Sidney Powell Accuses William Barnett of Committing “Outrageous, Deliberate Misconduct” and Kenneth Kohl Hides Evidence that Brandon Van Grack Did Not

I want to pause for a moment and look at the maneuvers that Billy Barr pulled last night to try to substantiate a reason to blow up the Mike Flynn case.

First, on Wednesday, the less crazy attorneys on Mike Flynn’s team, William Hodes and Lindsay McKesson, moved to withdraw. It’s an awfully weird time for lawyers to withdraw from a case, unless they’re trying to leave town before the shit starts hitting the fan.

Unless I’m missing something, Sullivan has not approved their motion.

Then, last night, Sidney Powell submitted a memo with a bunch of exhibits, every single one of which have Bates stamps reflecting these are SCO documents:

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

Exhibit D:

Exhibit E:

That means that Mueller team members involved in Flynn’s case would have had access to these documents.

In her memo, Powell argues that the exhibits “establish[] misconduct” and are proof of Brady violations. She emphasizes that these documents were “long concealed by the Special Counsel and FBI.”

On May 7, 2020, the Government moved to dismiss with prejudice the prosecution of General Flynn. ECF No. 198. Until this case is dismissed with prejudice, the Government has a continuing obligation to provide to the defense all evidence that is exculpatory of General Flynn, establishes misconduct by the Government in its many capacities that contributed to this wrongful prosecution, or otherwise is favorable to the defense. Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The defense has a continuing obligation to make a record that mandates this dismissal— especially in view of this court’s unprecedented procedures and position.

[snip]

These documents provide information long known to the agents and others at the highest levels of the Department of Justice and the FBI; information long concealed by the Special Counsel and FBI. This evidence shows outrageous, deliberate misconduct by FBI and DOJ—playing games with the life of a national hero.

Then, later in the night, DOJ released a 302 memorializing a recent interview with William Barnett which I showed  was a self-contradictory shitshow. In the accompanying memo, Kenneth Kohl, Acting Principal Assistant US Attorney in DC, noted that Barnett, “handled the counterintelligence investigation of Mr. Flynn, and was thereafter assigned to the Special Counsel’s Office.”

Pursuant to that continuing review, an interview was recently conducted of the former case agent, SA William Barnett, who handled the counterintelligence investigation of Mr. Flynn, and was thereafter assigned to the Special Counsel’s Office investigating Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Which is to say that yesterday, Sidney Powell submitted a brief arguing that William Barnett — her new star witness — engaged in “outrageous, deliberate misconduct,” and then later in the day, DOJ submitted a contradiction-riddled interview with that Agent that Powell had earlier accused of engaging in “outrageous, deliberate misconduct.”

Things get stranger.

In her filing, Powell claims that she has included Exhibits D and C as proof that Flynn satisfied the registration obligation.

Newly produced notes of Peter Strzok show: Strzok met with Bruce Schwartz, Lisa, and George at DOJ on March 28, 2017, where he noted Flynn Intel Group “satisfied the registration obligation” and “no evidence of any willfulness.” Nonetheless, “Bruce” decided to issue subpoenas to Flynn Intel Group “and more.” Exhibits C, D.

Exhibit D seems to show something dramatically different. It seems to show that the AG (that is, Jeff Sessions) met with Turkish Ministers and tried to vouch for Flynn about the secret work that Turkey was doing.

It seems odd to go to the guys who were hoping to keep their relationship with Flynn secret to ask them whether it was secret. Moreover, if they’re the ones vouching for it — and not Flynn’s cut-out, Ekim Alptekin — it would seem to suggest Flynn was working for Turkey, which is what he testified to under oath but not what he wrote on his delayed FARA filing. If so, this doesn’t help Flynn at all. It only serves to hurt him.

Things get stranger still.

Contrary to Powell’s claim, Exhibit C has nothing to do with Turkey. Instead, it’s a set of Peter Strzok’s notes from Jim Comey’s debrief of a meeting at the White House on January 5, 2017.

 

We’ve seen these notes before. They are a copy of notes submitted in June (which also have a — different — SCO Bates stamp on them, indicating that Barnett, the man Powell has accused of “outrageous, deliberate misconduct,” had access to those too).

 

The primary difference, aside from DOJ’s decision to newly release notes indicating that President Obama said to put the right people on this, is that the version submitted last night, the version that Powell claims to be about a March 28, 2017 meeting on Turkey is dated, “1/4-5/17.”

When Powell submitted the notes in June, she said they were proof that Vice President Biden “personally raised the idea of the Logan Act.”

Strzok’s notes believed to be of January 4, 2017, reveal that former President Obama, James Comey, Sally Yates, Joe Biden, and apparently Susan Rice discussed the transcripts of Flynn’s calls and how to proceed against him. Mr. Obama himself directed that “the right people” investigate General Flynn. This caused former FBI Director Comey to acknowledge the obvious: General Flynn’s phone calls with Ambassador Kislyak “appear legit.” According to Strzok’s notes, it appears that Vice President Biden personally raised the idea of the Logan Act.

I noted then that there was no question about date the notes were written, because they obviously describe a meeting that multiple documents (including one that has been public since February 2018, long before Flynn allocuted his guilt a second time) make clear happened on January 5, 2017. Nevertheless, Powell claimed (and set off a predictable resulting frenzy, which was probably the point) that they were proof that Biden had it in for Mike Flynn.

Now, normally, when you make an accusation to a court that later gets debunked, you make a filing with the court admitting you were wrong. In this case, Powell would have also had to admit that anyone who believed these notes were from January 3 — as Jeffrey Jensen had suggested they might be — provably knew fuckall about what he was looking at.

But if Powell were to do that, she’d be admitting that Jensen doesn’t know fuckall about what he is investigating on the same day she accused Barnett to have engaged in “outrageous, deliberate misconduct.” So instead, Powell just slipped the exhibit in with her filing without calling attention to her prior false claims.

But wait. Things get still stranger.

Finally, Kohl submitted the 302 with redactions of the name of an “SCO Atty 1.” Now, it has been the standing rule in DOJ that the AUSAs who worked for Mueller are public. That way Trump can rant about their political leanings at rallies.

Last night, for the first time ever, DOJ has decided that these attorneys are not senior enough to have their names released.

Several of those redactions of “SCO Atty 1’s” name, however, make it clear that the person has a two part last name, one that wraps at the end of a line.

Just one of Mueller’s attorneys has such a name (Adam Jed is the only one whose last name is short enough to fit in the first part of those redactions). That attorney is Brandon Van Grack. Indeed, the 302 from an interview that Barnett discussed in his interview makes it clear that Van Grack was the one Barnett is working with. So along with submitting proof that Barnett engaged in “outrageous, deliberate misconduct” as well as providing proof that Jensen led others to make a material misrepresentation to Emmet Sullivan, Kohl just submitted proof that Van Grack routinely took the side of Barnett. And that he, Kohl, was hiding that.

Call me crazy, but John Gleeson can just look at yesterday’s filings to show that Sidney Powell and Kenneth Kohl are accusing each other and Jeffrey Jensen of misconduct, at the same time that they’re hiding evidence that Van Grack did not engage in misconduct. That’s the the kind of misconduct that Emmet Sullivan might use to justify refusing to dismiss the prosecution.

Update: It’s not really clear whether the Bates reflects documents obtained by SCO or those investigating SCO. If it’s the latter, it raises real questions about whether Strzok’s notes are one or two copies.

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KISLYAK: yeah.

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

KISLYAK: You’re absolutely right.

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

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

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

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

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

Barnett’s testimony substantially shows five things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barnett claims that,

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

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

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

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

The appointment of the SCO changed “everything.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all they have.


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

Bill Barr’s Screed Is About Mike Flynn, Nora Dannehy, and Robert Mueller

Bill Barr delivered a remarkable screed last night at the radical right Hillsdale College. Numerous people have and will unpack both the glaring contradictions and the dangerous assertions in it.

But I want to point out that it is quite obviously about Barr’s attempts to overturn the prosecutions of Trump’s flunkies for covering up their efforts to help Russia interfere in the election.

A big part of it is targeted towards independent counsels (though, tellingly, Barr assails the independent counsel statute that used to be, not the one that left Robert Mueller closely supervised by Rod Rosenstein).

As Justice Scalia observed in perhaps his most admired judicial opinion, his dissent in Morrison v. Olson: “Almost all investigative and prosecutorial decisions—including the ultimate decision whether, after a technical violation of the law has been found, prosecution is warranted—involve the balancing of innumerable legal and practical considerations.”

And those considerations do need to be balanced in each and every case.  As Justice Scalia also pointed out, it is nice to say “Fiat justitia, ruat coelum. Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall.”  But it does not comport with reality.  It would do far more harm than good to abandon all perspective and proportion in an attempt to ensure that every technical violation of criminal law by every person is tracked down, investigated, and prosecuted to the Nth degree.

[snip]

This was of course the central problem with the independent-counsel statute that Justice Scalia criticized in Morrison v. Olson.  Indeed, creating an unaccountable headhunter was not some unfortunate byproduct of that statute; it was the stated purpose of that statute.  That was what Justice Scalia meant by his famous line, “this wolf comes as a wolf.”  As he went on to explain:  “How frightening it must be to have your own independent counsel and staff appointed, with nothing else to do but to investigate you until investigation is no longer worthwhile—with whether it is worthwhile not depending upon what such judgments usually hinge on, competing responsibilities.  And to have that counsel and staff decide, with no basis for comparison, whether what you have done is bad enough, willful enough, and provable enough, to warrant an indictment.  How admirable the constitutional system that provides the means to avoid such a distortion.  And how unfortunate the judicial decision that has permitted it.”

Justice Jackson understood this too.  As he explained in his speech:  “If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants. Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted.”  Any erosion in prosecutorial detachment is extraordinarily perilous.  For, “it is in this realm—in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies. It is here that law enforcement becomes personal, and the real crime becomes that of being unpopular with the predominant or governing group, being attached to the wrong political views, or being personally obnoxious to or in the way of the prosecutor himself.”

And part of it is a restatement of the arguments Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall made before the DC Circuit, arguing that even bribery was not reason for a judge to override DOJ’s decisions on prosecutions.

I want to focus today on the power that the Constitution allocates to the Executive, particularly in the area of criminal justice.  The Supreme Court has correctly held that, under Article II of the Constitution, the Executive has virtually unchecked discretion to decide whether to prosecute individuals for suspected federal crimes.  The only significant limitation on that discretion comes from other provisions of the Constitution.  Thus, for example, a United States Attorney could not decide to prosecute only people of a particular race or religion.  But aside from that limitation — which thankfully has remained a true hypothetical at the Department of Justice — the Executive has broad discretion to decide whether to bring criminal prosecutions in particular cases.

And the rest suggests that career prosecutors have been putting targets on the heads of politically prominent people and pursuing them relentlessly.

Once the criminal process starts rolling, it is very difficult to slow it down or knock it off course.  And that means federal prosecutors possess tremendous power — power that is necessary to enforce our laws and punish wrongdoing, but power that, like any power, carries inherent potential for abuse or misuse.

[snip]

Line prosecutors, by contrast, are generally part of the permanent bureaucracy.  They do not have the political legitimacy to be the public face of tough decisions and they lack the political buy-in necessary to publicly defend those decisions.  Nor can the public and its representatives hold civil servants accountable in the same way as appointed officials.  Indeed, the public’s only tool to hold the government accountable is an election — and the bureaucracy is neither elected nor easily replaced by those who are.

[snip]

We want our prosecutors to be aggressive and tenacious in their pursuit of justice, but we also want to ensure that justice is ultimately administered dispassionately.

We are all human.  Like any person, a prosecutor can become overly invested in a particular goal.  Prosecutors who devote months or years of their lives to investigating a particular target may become deeply invested in their case and assured of the rightness of their cause.

When a prosecution becomes “your prosecution”—particularly if the investigation is highly public, or has been acrimonious, or if you are confident early on that the target committed serious crimes—there is always a temptation to will a prosecution into existence even when the facts, the law, or the fair-handed administration of justice do not support bringing charges.

[snip]

That is yet another reason that having layers of supervision is so important.  Individual prosecutors can sometimes become headhunters, consumed with taking down their target.  Subjecting their decisions to review by detached supervisors ensures the involvement of dispassionate decision-makers in the process.

And it excuses, in one sentence, calling for probation even after a just prosecution.

Other times it will mean aggressively prosecuting a person through trial and then recommending a lenient sentence, perhaps even one with no incarceration.

Of course, none of this makes sense, and Barr’s own behavior — from removing Senate confirmed US Attorneys to put in people accountable only to him, from seeking prosecution of Democratic officials, and from launching the Durham investigation because he was just certain there was criminal wrong-doing in the Russian investigation — belies his words.

Perhaps it does so in the most basic way. If we hold our Attorney General politically accountable through elections, then we need to make sure elections are fair. We definitely need to make sure that elections are not influenced by hostile foreign powers cooperating with one candidate. The 2016 election wasn’t fair, and Bill Barr is doing his damndest to make sure the voters won’t be able to use the 2020 election to hold him politically accountable for interfering with the punishment of those who worked to cheat.

Because of Barr’s corrupt view on cheating at elections, he ensures that Vladimir Putin has more say over who gets prosecuted than experienced American prosecutors.

Aaron Zelinsky

Beware DOJ Inspectors General Bearing Investigations, Aaron Zelinsky Edition

When DOJ IG got evidence, in the form of Jim Comey’s memos documenting that every safeguard against White House interference in DOJ and FBI investigations had broken down, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz instead investigated whether Comey had mishandled classified information, ultimately referring Comey for prosecution.

When FBI Inspection Division got evidence that someone kept leaking false information to Sara Carter claiming Andrew McCabe had promised to “fuck Trump,” it turned into a DOJ IG investigation into whether McCabe had lied. After withholding the evidence of a key witness, Michael Kortan, the IG Report was used to justify the firing of McCabe.

When DOJ IG conducted an investigation into the leaks and conduct of various FBI Agents, it ended up being a report that exclusively reported on anti-Trump texts from Agents, and not pro-Trump leaks and texts — it even provided misleading graphics that falsely suggested only anti-Trump leaks happened. That led to the disclosure, during an investigation, of those texts, and ultimately to Peter Strzok’s firing.

That’s why I’m wary about the NBC report today that DOJ’s Inspector General is investigating the Roger Stone sentencing.

The Justice Department inspector general’s office has begun investigating the circumstances surrounding the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump’s, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The investigation is focused on events in February, according to the two sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Stone’s prosecutors have said that is when they were told to seek a lighter sentence than they had previously considered.

[snip]

A source familiar with the matter said comments Zelinsky made during his testimony triggered the inspector general’s office to open an investigation. It is not known how far the office has proceeded in its investigation, whom it has interviewed or whether it has found any evidence of wrongdoing.

That’s particularly true given Kerri Kupec’s confidence — in a statement to Politico’s Josh Gerstein — that Billy Barr’s DOJ welcomes this review.

A Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed that the agency’s Office of Inspector General is looking into Barr’s move in February to seek a lighter sentence for Stone after rank-and-file prosecutors and an acting U.S. attorney hand-picked by Barr had already submitted a recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for the conservative provocateur, who has been a political sounding board for Trump for more than two decades.

“We welcome the review,” a department spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said on Monday evening.

Gerstein further notes that this probe did not come with an announcement to HJC.

In the past, Horowitz has written to members of Congress to confirm that he has launched inquiries in high-profile cases in which lawmakers demanded a review. It was not immediately clear why Horowitz was being more tight-lipped about the investigation into the Stone sentencing decision.

Even aside from past history and the warning sign that Gerstein notes, there’s one more reason to believe that Horowitz’ IG Report will once against serve to damage — if not provide an excuse to fire — someone who investigated Trump.

DOJ IG cannot investigate the actions lawyers take as lawyers. And virtually everything Aaron Zelinsky testified to in the House Judiciary Committee hearing pertains to actions Barr flunky Timothy Shea and others took as lawyers. Moreover, during the hearing, Jim Jordan made a point to get Zelinsky to name precisely who he claimed had accused Barr of politicized decisions. By the end of the hearing, Republicans were claiming that those people had not said what Zelinsky claimed.

DOJ IG can’t investigate why Timothy Shea engaged in unprecedented interference in sentencing. It can, however, investigate whether Zelinsky’s testimony matches that of more complicit supervisors in the DC US Attorney Office. And that’s what’s likely to happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strzok was not interviewed by HPSCI.

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strzok, UNSUB, and his packed bags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

When are we leaving? he asked me.

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

How long are we going for? he asked.

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it’s a compelling description.

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

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

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

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

“Was Wiped:” A Grammar Lesson for the Frothers

The frothy right is in a tizzy again.

Judicial Watch got a FOIA response that the frothers are reading out of context — without even reading the existing public record much less asking the question they now claim to want to answer — and claiming that Mueller’s attorneys kept wiping their phones.

The FOIA was for records pertaining to Lisa Page and Peter Strzok’s use of DOJ-issued mobile phones while assigned to Mueller’s team. The FOIA was not for a description of the record-keeping in the Mueller office. The FOIA was not for a final accounting of every text that every Mueller team member sent while working for Mueller. If a document mentions Page or Strzok’s phones, it is included here; if it does not, it was withheld.

That said, the frothy right is largely ignoring what the documents show, and instead referring to a single tracking sheet in isolation from the rest, to conclude that multiple Mueller officials wiped their own phones.

To understand what the documents show, it’s best to separate it into what the documents show about Page and Strzok, and then what they show about everyone else.

Mueller’s Office discovered too late that Page and Strzok’s phones had been reset according to standard procedure

The documents show, first of all, that the available paper trail backs the explanations around what happened to Page and Strzok’s Mueller iPhones, which both used for less than 3 months in 2017 while they also used (and sent damning texts on) their FBI issue Samsung phones.

The documents show that Lisa Page was among the first people assigned a Mueller iPhone. Justice Management Department’s Christopher Greer asked for iPhones specifically to deploy a standard mobile technology (though a later document reflects Adam Jed appears to have gotten an Android). Then, after a 45-day assignment, Page left. As the first person to leave the team, she left before processes were put into place to document all that; Page is actually the one who initiated the bureaucratic process of leaving. “Since we have our first detail employee leaving us, it is time to roll out our first form/policy,” Mueller’s administrative officer explained. Mueller’s Records Officer noted she didn’t have to be at the meeting, but provided an Exit Checklist to use on Page’s out-processing. The Records Officer further directed, weeks before anyone discovered Page’s damning texts with Strzok,

Please make sure [Page] doesn’t delete any text messages off her DOJ iPhone, if any.

Everything else should be saved on her H drive on JCON and in her email. This will be good for me as the RSO to go behind and see how that function works.

Mueller’s Administrative Officer also couldn’t make the meeting. But he noted that Page had a laptop “which may already been in [redacted] area, a DOJ cell phone & charger” and noted that “All equipment that I need will be covered as you go through the form.”

The FOIAed documents don’t reveal this, but a DOJ IG Report released in December 2018 reveal that Page left her devices on a shelf in the office she was using.

The SCO Executive Officer completed Page’s Exit Clearance Certification, but said that she did not physically receive Page’s issued iPhone and laptop. During a phone call, Page indicated to SCO that she had left her assigned cell phone and laptop on a bookshelf at the office on her final day there.

On July 17, two days after she left, that Administrative Officer confirmed that, “I have her phone and laptop.”

That is, everyone involved was trying to do it right, but Page was the first person put through this process so everyone admitted they were instituting procedures as they went.

Out-processing of Peter Strzok in August, in the wake of the discovery of Strzok’s texts with Page, was a good deal more terse. That said, the Records Officer did review his phone for anything that had to be saved on September 6, 2017, and found nothing of interest.

Still, their Exit Forms show both returned their iPhone. (Strzok; Page)

It’s only in January 2018, as DOJ IG started to look into their texts, that Mueller’s office discovered they couldn’t account for Page’s iPhone. JMD ultimately found it, but not until September 2018. The phone showed that it had been reset to factory settings, which was standard DOJ policy, on July 31, 2017, two weeks after Page turned it over and left SCO.

In fall 2018 and again in January 2019, numerous people at DOJ tried to find alternative ways to reconstruct any texts Page and Strzok sent on their Mueller iPhones. Because the effort started over a year after they had stopped using the phones, neither DOJ nor Verizon had even log files from the texts anymore. So a DOJ official reviewed Strzok’s phone and found nothing, may not have reviewed Page’s phone, but nevertheless found no evidence Page tried to evade review.

That is, for the subject Judicial Watch was pursuing, the FOIA was a bust.

In response to the Page-Strzok scandal, Mueller appears to have adopted a standard higher than DOJ generally

The Page-Strzok files also suggest certain things about what Mueller did as his investigation was roiled by claims focusing on the two former FBIers.

  • It appears that, after the shit started hitting the fan, Mueller engaged in record-keeping above-and-beyond that required by DOJ guidelines (that’s what the frothers are complaining about)
  • When things started hitting the fan, Mueller’s Chief of Staff Aaron Zebley seems to have started taking a very active role in the response
  • FBI continued to issue Page and Strzok updated phones even while they had Mueller iPhones, which is probably the case for at least the FBI employees on Mueller’s team, making confusion about phones more likely
  • Both DOJ and Verizon would have some ability to reconstruct any texts for phones with problems identified in real time, as opposed to the year it took with Page and Strzok

Here’s the standard DOJ adopts with regards to the use of texts on DOJ-issued phones. DOJ guidelines for retaining texts all stem from discovery obligations — and DOJ, unlike FBI, puts the onus on the user to retain texts.

The OIG reviewed DOJ Policy Statement 0801.04, approved September 21, 2016, which establishes DOJ retention policy for email and other types of electronic messaging, to include text messages. Policy 0801.04 states that electronic messages related to criminal or civil investigations sent or received by DOJ employees engaged in those investigations must be retained in accordance with the retention requirements applicable to the investigation and component specific policies on retention of those messages.

OIG also reviewed DOJ Instruction 0801.04.02, approved November 22, 2016, which provides guidance and best practices on component use of electronic messaging tools and applications for component business purposes.

Section C of 0801.04.02 (Recordkeeping Guidance for Electronic Messaging Tools in Use in the DOJ) subsection 9 (Text Messaging), states that text messaging may be used by staff only if it has been approved by the Head of the Component and in the manner specifically permitted by written component policies. Additional guidance was provided in a memo from the Deputy Attorney General dated March 30, 20 I I, titled ‘Guidance on the Use, Preservation, and Disclosure of Electronic Communications in Federal Criminal Cases.’ The memo states that electronic communications should be preserved if they are deemed substantive. Substantive communications include:

    • Factual information about investigative activity
    • Factual information obtained during interviews or interactions with witnesses (including victims), potential witnesses, experts, informants, or cooperators
    • Factual discussions related to the merits of evidence
    • Factual information or opinions relating to the credibility or bias of witnesses, informants and potential witnesses; and
    • Other factual information that is potentially discoverable under Brady, Giglio, Rule 16 or Rule 26.2 (Jencks Act).

So people using DOJ phones are only required to keep stuff that is case related. DOJ IG had, in 2015, complained about DOJ’s retention of texts, but the standard remained unchanged in 2018.

In January 2018, after someone had leaked news of the Page-Strzok texts to the NYT and after DOJ released their texts to the press (possibly constituting a privacy violation and definitely deviating from the norm of not releasing anything still under investigation by DOJ IG) and after Senator Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson started making unsubstantiated claims about the texts, Mueller’s Chief of Staff, Aaron Zebley appears to have taken a very active role in the response. That’s when Mueller Executive Officer Beth McGarry Mueller’s Chief of Staff sent Page and Strzok’s Exit Paperwork to Zebley. And that’s when Mueller and DOJ IG discovered no one could find Page’s phone.

Not said in any of these documents, but revealed in the DOJ IG Report, is that Page and Strzok continued to use their FBI Samsung phones, and indeed were issued updated Samsungs after being assigned to Mueller’s team.

Based on OIG’s examination of their FBI mobile devices, Page and Strzok also retained and continued to use their FBI mobile devices. Specifically, on or about May 18, 2017, Page received an FBI-issued Samsung Galaxy S7 mobile device to replace her previously-issued FBI Samsung Galaxy SS. On or about July 5, 2017, Strzok received an FBl-issued Samsung Galaxy S7 mobile device to replace his previously-issued FBI Samsung Galaxy S5.

This was already known, because that’s where all their compromising texts were. But among other things, it makes it clear that some Mueller team members (especially the FBI employees, virtually all of whose names are redacted), may also have continued to use their existing FBI issue phone even while using the Mueller iPhone. With the exception of the 70-something year old James Quarles, whose phone “wiped itself without intervention from him” in April 2018 and who did not use text or have any photos on it when it was wiped, the suspicious events Republicans are complaining about came from DOJ employees, who might be most likely to juggle multiple phones and passwords.

Finally, one more detail of note in the Page and Strzok documents pertains to the other revelations. As noted, as part of the effort to find any texts they might have sent, DOJ reached out to Verizon, to try to figure out what kind of text traffic had been on their phones. Verizon responded that it only keeps texting metadata for 365 days, with rolling age-off, so it couldn’t help (in fall 2018 and January 2019) to access what Page and Strzok had done with their phones in summer 2017. As part of that discussion, however, JMD’s Greer noted that “our airwatch logs may only go back 1 year.” Airwatch is the portal via which corporate users of iPhones track the usage of their employees. It means that so long as something happens with a phone within a year, some data should be available on Airwatch. That is to say, DOJ had two means by which to reconstruct the content of a phone with a problem discovered in real time, means not available given the delay in looking for Page and Strzok’s phones.

The log of phone reviews covering all Mueller personnel

Ultimately, Judicial Watch’s FOIA showed that the documents they were after — the paper trail on the Page and Strzok phones — backs up what has always been claimed about the phones. They were treated via routine process, but as a result there were no texts to review when DOJ IG got around to review them.

So they instead made a stink about just four pages in the release, what appears to be a log — probably started in January 2018, as the Page and Strzok issues continued to roil — of every instance where a Mueller staff phone got reviewed.

The log starts with Page, Strzok, and two other people whose identities are redacted. It has an additional number of entries interspersed with ones from January 2018 which may be those out-processed under DOJ’s normal terms, prior to the initiation of this log. After that, though, the log seems to show meticulous record-keeping both as people were out-processed and any time something went haywire with a phone.

Here, for example, is the entry showing that Kevin Clinesmith’s phone was reviewed on March 5, 2018, and two texts and three photos that were not required to be kept as a DOJ record were emailed to him.

Here, for example, is a record showing that the phone of Uzo Asonye, a local prosecutor added to Manafort’s tax cheat trial in EDVA, got cleared of ten voice mails that pre-dated his involvement with the Mueller team when he was out-processed from the Mueller team.

In other words, Mueller’s team made sure phones were clean, even if they hadn’t been when the came into the team.

Some of what the frothers are pointing to as suspicious is someone wiping their phone when they get it — good security practice and, since the phone is new to them, nothing that will endanger records.

In others of the instances the frothers are complaining about, the log shows that someone immediately alerted record-keepers when they wiped their phone, which (if there were a concern) would provide DOJ an opportunity to check Airwatch.

One thing Republicans are focusing most closely on is that Andrew Weissmann twice “accidentally” wiped his phone, having done so on March 8 and September 27, 2018.

Note, both these instances involve the same phone, and also the same phone he had in what appears to be the final inventory. So while this is not entirely above suspicion, it’s not the case that Weissmann kept wiping phones before DOJ had a chance to check what he had on there before he got a new one. Rather, it appears he wiped the same phone twice and told the record-keepers about it in real time. Moreover, the wipes do not correlate to one possible damning explanation of them, that Weissmann was trying to cover up leaks to the press that Manafort would later accuse him and the Mueller team generally of.

There appears to have been nothing unusual about Weissmann’s out-processing review in March 2019.

So when DOJ had a chance to look at how Weissmann had used his phone for the last six months he used a Mueller phone, it found nothing.

Another of the things Republicans find particularly suspicious is that the phones of Kyle Freeny and Rush Atkinson were both wiped within days of each other (Freeny is a woman, which some of the self-described experts on the Mueller investigation got wrong in their stories on this). For Freeny and one other person (likely an FBI agent), this appears to have been an out-processing review.

Note that here and in many other cases, the description uses the passive voice. “Was [accidentally] wiped,” with no subject identified. There’s good reason to believe — based on the Records Officer retroactive descriptions about Strzok’s phone, the occasional use of the first person, and multiple references to the Administrative Officer — that these are written from the voice of the Records Officer, not the lawyer or agent in question. That is, many of the incidences of descriptions that a phone “was wiped” in no way suggest the person used the phone wiped it. Rather, it seems to be the Records Officer or someone else in the review process. And for a number of those instances there’s a clear explanation why the phone was wiped, which would be normal process for most DOJ transitions in any case.

It does appear Atkinson’s phone was wiped just days after Freeny’s phone, though it was identified in plenty of time to obtain the metadata, if needed.

But like Weissmann, Atkinson’s out-processing review (curiously, the very last one from the entire Mueller team) showed nothing unusual.

In short, what the frothy right appears to have worked themselves up about is that after the conduct of Page and Strzok raised concerns, Mueller imposed record-keeping that DOJ would not otherwise have done, record-keeping that attempted (even though it is not required by DOJ policy) to track every single personal text sent on those phones. And for many of the instances that frothers look at with suspicion, they’re actually seeing, instead, a normal DOJ treatment of a phone.

Timeline

May 20, 2017: Add four accounts, give them iPhones, including Lisa Page and Brandon Van Grack.

May 31, 2017: Page and Strzok first logged into SCO laptops.

June 15, 2017: What kind of tracking do we need for phones? Answer: IMEI. [Includes non-exempt team through that date.]

July 13, 2017: Out-processing of Lisa Page, for whom the process was invented. [Includes list of admin personnel.]

July 17, 2017: Page had handed over her devices, SCO still working with JMD to figure out how to back up common drive.

July 27, 2017: Michael Horowitz tells Mueller of Page-Strzok texts he discovered.

July 31, 2017: Page phone reset to factory settings.

August 9, 2017: Strzok sends exit checklists.

August 10, 2017: Strzok separates from office.

September 6, 2017: Records Officer reviews Strzok’s phone.

November 30, 2017: Mike Flynn informed of Strzok’s texts.

December 2, 2017: NYT reports on Strzok’s texts.

December 13, 2017: DOJ releases first batch of Page-Strzok texts, while trying to hide they were the source.

January 19, 2018: Stephen Boyd informs Chuck Grassley of archiving problems.

January 22, 2018: Strzok’s Mueller iPhone located.

January 23, 2018: Attempt to get texts from Verizon, but both content and metadata no longer stored.

January 25, 2018: Beth McGarry sends Aaron Zebley exit forms from Strzok and Page.

January 26, 2018: LFW notes that they’ve lost Page’s phone, but hands the search off to JMD. Greer notes, specifically, however, that “SCO policy was to reuse them and not hold.”

Late January 2018: FBI Inspection Division finds FBI Samsung phones, provide to DOJ IG.

February 8, 2018: Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc starts plotting attack on Strzok and others.

March 5, 2018: Kevin Clinesmith’s out-processing shows nothing unusual.

March 8, 2018: Andrew Weissmann wipes his phone.

May 4, 2018: Page resigns from FBI.

June 2018: DOJ IG discovers more texts, changes conclusion of Midyear Exam report.

June 14, 2018: Release of Midyear Exam report.

August 10, 2018: Strzok fired from FBI.

Early September 2018: Justice Management Division finds Page’s Mueller iPhone, provides to DOJ IG.

September 13, 2018: SCO Records Officer contacts DOJ IG about what status they got Page’s phone in.

September 21, 2018: Draft language between records officer and Aaron Zebley for DOJ IG Report. Also an attempt to check Airwatch for backups to the phones, but they only go back one year.

September 27, 2018: Andrew Weissmann wipes his phone.

October 17, 2018: DOJ IG informs SCO Records Officer that they have the phone, but that it had been reset to factory settings.

October 22, 2018: DOJ IG Cyber Agent follows up about DOJ IG Report language.

November 15, 2018: FBI Data Collection tool not archiving texts reliably.

November 27, 2018: Kyle Freeny’s phone wiped as part of out-processing.

November 29, 2018: Rush Atkinson’s phone accidentally wiped.

Late December 2018: DOJ IG releases report on archiving of DOJ phones.

December 27, 2018: Zebley responds to Rudy Giuliani claim about destruction of evidence.

January 18, 2019: JMD asks Verizon for texting data for Page and Strzok’s phones, but Verizon’s metadata records only go back 365 days.

January 30-31, 2019: LFW asks to cancel Strzok’s phone.

March 28, 2019: Andrew Weissmann’s out-processing review shows nothing unusual.

June 11, 2019: Rush Atkinson’s out-processing review shows nothing unusual.

December 9, 2019: DOJ IG releases Carter Page IG Report.

Unclear date: Inventory of all phones.

Jeff Wall: It Would Cause Attorney General Barr Irreparable Harm If He Had to Reveal His Secret Reason He Moved to Dismiss Flynn’s Prosecution

Before I explain the most important takeaway from the Mike Flynn hearing, let me note two points.

First, the Department of Justice is quite clear that none of the materials turned over recently to Mike Flynn were Brady material showing exculpatory evidence. DOJ has disclaimed any prosecutorial misconduct in Judge Sullivan’s courtroom. Bill Barr even said as much, under oath, before the House Judiciary Committee. DOJ has falsely claimed they were “new,” but some of the actual details weren’t even new to Flynn, much less new to DOJ, even if some of the documents were. That’s important because a number of the judges today seem to believe that DOJ wants to dismiss this case because they believe there was misconduct.

Nope.

The government disclosed approximately 25 pages of documents in April and May 2020 as the result of an independent review of this case by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. While those documents, along with other recently available information, see, e.g., Doc. 198-6, are relevant to the government’s discretionary decision to dismiss this case, the government’s motion is not based on defendant Flynn’s broad allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Flynn’s allegations are unfounded and provide no basis for impugning the prosecutors from the D.C. United States Attorney’s Office.

They want to dismiss the case because they don’t believe calling up the country that just attacked us and secretly undermining the punishment on them, then lying about it, is any big thing.

Second, in the second-to-last release to Flynn of materials that aren’t new but that Billy Barr used to invent a reason to dismiss the prosecution, DOJ either betrayed breathtaking ignorance of the investigation into Flynn, or they lied. In turning over notes from Peter Strzok that clearly memorialize a January 5, 2017 meeting that has been the subject of public disclosure going back years (well before Flynn reallocuted his plea deal), DOJ claimed not to know their date.

The enclosed document was obtained and analyzed by USA EDMO during the course of its review. This page of notes was taken by former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. While the page itself is undated; we believe that the notes were taken in early January 2017, possibly between January 3 and January 5.

That professed uncertainty led the frothy right to claim that Joe Biden suggested Flynn be prosecuted for the Logan Act, which led to FBI reopening the investigation, which led to his prosecution. It was obvious the notes were from January 5, and I’ve since confirmed that. That DOJ claimed not to know the date of these notes is either evidence that they’re using this process to invent campaign dirt, or evidence that all the people reviewing this material have no grasp on the facts.

Which is to say, the judges have the very mistaken impression that DOJ withheld material they should have turned over, and that DOJ itself has suggested (in the less damning reading of their actions) to have no grasp of basic facts about the investigation into Flynn or even basic physics about time. No. Both claims are, at best, reason to further scrutinize this case.

Even ignoring the fact that DOJ has presented two different explanations for why they want to dismiss a case that they, months earlier, argued merited prison time, taking just the original motion to dismiss on its face value (ignoring the obvious lies in it), three months later, no one understands why DOJ moved to dismiss the case.

That’s important, because Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall claims it would cause irreparable harm to the Executive Branch if DOJ had to answer any questions about why they dismissed the case.

That matters for two reasons. First, as the attorney representing Judge Emmet Sullivan, Beth Wilkinson, pointed out, what distinguishes this case from a Dick Cheney case that SCOTUS has said threatened the prerogatives of the Executive branch, DOJ has already proven willing to offer up reasons for their motion to dismiss, even if they are, partly, transparently false. DOJ is not claiming that they can’t respond to these questions, they’re offering up explanations unasked, and then objecting aggressively when asked question about those claims.

Indeed, Wall offered up a crazy new detail in this hearing: He implied that, in addition to believing that material lies are not the same for Flynn as other people and that secretly calling up the country that just attacked us to say, “no big deal,” is not alarming, there is also non-public information from other investigations that led Billy Barr to tank the Flynn prosecution.

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

[snip]

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

[snip]

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

[snip]

If all we had to do was show up and stand on our motion, no, we’ve already said that to the District Court.

Billy Barr has a secret. And that, Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall suggested, is why a mere hearing on this motion to dismiss would irreparably harm DOJ (even while Wall alluded to the information without being asked).

Wow.

The revised explanation why DOJ can’t prosecute Flynn that Flynn prosecutor Jocelyn Ballantine has offered (one in which the Solicitor General’s Office has also participated) is that DOJ can’t “prosecute” Mike Flynn because DOJ has collected so much impeaching evidence against those who investigated Flynn that they can’t prove the case he has twice pled guilty to even though witnesses like KT McFarland and Mike Pence support their case.

Furthermore, since the time of the plea, extensive impeaching materials had emerged about key witnesses the government would need to prove its case. Strzok was fired from the FBI, in part because his text messages with Page revealed political bias against the current administration and “implie[d] a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.” U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election xii (December 2018). The second interviewing agent has been accused of acting improperly in connection with the broader investigation. McCabe, who authorized Flynn’s interview without notifying either the Department of Justice or the White House Counsel, was fired for conduct that included lying to the FBI and lying under oath. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, A Report of Investigation of Certain Allegations Relating to Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe 2 (February 2018). In addition, significant witnesses have pending investigations or lawsuits against the Department of Justice, which could create further questions about their testimony at trial. See Strzok v. Barr, Civ. No. 19-2367 (D.D.C. Aug. 6, 2019); McCabe v. Barr, Civ. No. 19-2399 (D.D.C. Aug. 8, 2019); Page v. Dep’t of Justice, Civ. No. 19-3675 (D.D.C. Dec. 10, 2019). Those developments further support the government’s assessment about the difficulty it would have in proving its case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

That is, Ballantine says DOJ can’t sentence Flynn for his admitted crimes because they’ve also laid out how DOJ has trumped up investigations against all the people who investigated Flynn, and at least three of those people have credible legal claims against DOJ for those trumped up investigations.

That suggests one of several things.

It’s possible the secret Billy Barr doesn’t want to reveal deals with how 30-year intelligence veteran Mike Flynn sold his services to the government of Turkey while working for Trump, while trying to hide that fact, all without knowing why that’d be a problem. DOJ has not yet backed off the facts Flynn gave the grand jury (another basis for perjury charges against him, in addition to his plea allocutions, which the Circuit judges appeared to miss), and indeed has doubled down on the Bijan Kian investigation. So maybe DOJ is claiming that poor Mike Flynn was compromised by his non-professional partner out of naiveté?

Another possibility is that there are other secret investigations ongoing, whereby poor 30-year defense intelligence veteran General Flynn was targeted by Russian intelligence but was helpless to rebuff their entreaties and so must be forgiven for lying about all that.

A third possibility is that DOJ has been ordered by the President to make sure none of the people who protected him do prison time. Secret reason. Can’t be shared with judges. Checks out!

The most likely secret information Billy Barr is hiding — particularly given Wall’s reference to other investigations — is the Durham investigation, the possibility that John Durham will find something in his investigation into  Trump’s people where DOJ IG found nothing. That means either that Billy Barr took actions in May that John Durham has not charged in the interim three months. Or, that Billy Barr is trying to pre-empt Flynn’s prosecution believing — or expecting — that an investigation that has not yet completed will end up in criminal charges.

If that’s what’s happening, it would suggest that Barr has already decided what the outcome of the Durham investigation will be, prejudging its outcome and effectively neutering Durham, making his prosecutorial decision an afterthought.

Which is why I focused on DOJ’s false claim — possibly attributed to Jeffrey Jensen, the US Attorney Billy Barr directed to find reasons to blow up the Flynn prosecution while Durham continued to work — that Joe Biden raised the Logan Act before the FBI (and ODNI) raised it themselves. In that case, at least, Barr’s selected flunkies have proven themselves to either be willing to misrepresent evidence or to be painfully stupid about it. In that case, a US Attorney deputized into Billy Barr’s projects has admitted to either knowing fuckall or inventing facts for political purpose. That, by itself, raises questions about the presumption of regularity that Barr might otherwise be afforded.

DOJ claims they’ve given abundant reason why they wanted to dismiss the prosecution against Flynn, even though their reasons conflict with all precedent and the record that Bill Barr’s DOJ has established in this case.

But today we learned there’s another, secret, reason why Billy Barr wanted to dismiss the case against Flynn. Even while DOJ has made it clear they are either misrepresenting the record or unfamiliar with it.

Which is all the more reason why Judge Sullivan should have a hearing, and which likely explains why DOJ has claimed, multiple times now, that that would do irreparable harm to DOJ.

Lindsey Graham Provides Yet More Proof that Peter Strzok Didn’t Have It In for Trump

Lindsey Graham just released two more documents that don’t show what [his personally implicated staffer Barbara Ledeen] claims they show.

The more important is the Electronic Communication memorializing FBI’s 3-day interview with Christopher Steele’s primary subsource for the dossier. It’ll take me much of tomorrow to write it up, but suffice it to say that, as an utterly committed Steele skeptic, the EC is actually far more supportive of the dossier than I thought it’d be or than the DOJ IG Report claimed it was. Though it also provides tons of details of how it might have gone haywire, if it did.

More briefly, Lindsey also released an annotation Peter Strzok did (probably as part of his job hunting down leaks) of the February 14, 2017 NYT story alleging Trump’s flunkies had close ties with Russian intelligence.

The annotation shows that Strozk found multiple problems with the NYT story. Strozk’s corrections explain that,

  • None of Trump’s flunkies were known to have ties directly with Russian intelligence but:
    • While Carter Page had extensive ties with SVR, that wasn’t during his time on the campaign
    • At least one of Paul Manafort’s contacts had contact with Russian intelligence
    • Sergey Kislyak had contact with three people — Mike Flynn, Jeff Sessions, and one other person (probably JD Gordon)
  • The FBI didn’t have intercepts on people; while it had given names — that explicitly include Manafort’s Ukrainian colleagues — to CIA and NSA, but did not ask for close scrutiny of them
  • The counterintelligence case in which Manafort was a subject was not opened until 2016, although FBI may have had an earlier kleptocracy investigation earlier
  • In February 2017, the FBI did not have an investigation into Roger Stone
  • While Christopher Steele might have credibility, he didn’t have much insight into the reliability of his subsources

Strzok also inadvertently revealed (by debunking claims in the story) that by February 2017, the FBI had sent out call log and credit report NSLs on Manafort, Page, and Flynn, but hadn’t gotten many of those back, and had not gotten detailed banking records. The investigation was barely begun in February 2017.

To be fair, these details were largely known, though the specificity about the NSLs is not only welcome, but unprecedented and unnecessary.

Ultimately, though, this is yet another piece of evidence — like Strzok’s observations that Flynn didn’t betray he was lying and his judgment that the Russian investigation would amount to little — that Strzok didn’t have it in for Trump or his flunkies, but instead assessed the case in real time.

Nevertheless, Strzok remains the big villain in this story.

Update: I inadvertently left off the Steele judgment above.

Update: Strzok’s Steele judgment actually shows up in the DOJ IG Report on Carter Page.

Following the January interview with the Primary Sub-source, on February 15, 2017, Strzok forwarded by email to Priestap and others a news article referencing the Steele election reporting; Strzok commented that “recent interviews and investigation, however, reveal [Steele] may not be in a position to judge the reliability of his sub-source network.”

The IG did not, however, note that this is one of several moments where Strzok clearly expressed skepticism, no matter his views about Trump, nor did it describe the other critiques he made.