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The Desperation of the Jeffrey Jensen Investigation Already Made Clear that John Durham Won’t Indict

Yesterday, a sick man called into Maria Bartiromo’s show and wailed that his opponents had not been indicted.

Bartiromo: Mr. President. We now know from these documents that John Ratcliffe unveiled that it was Hilary Clinton’s idea to tie you to Russia in some way. It was successful. The whole country was talking about it for two and a half years. But what comes next, Mr. President? We can have all of these documents, we can see exactly what happened but unless John [Durham] comes out with a report or indictments unless Bill Barr comes out with a — a — some kind of a ruling here, do you think this is resonating on the American people?

Trump: Unless Bill Barr indicts these people for crimes, the greatest political crime in the history of our country, then we’re going to get little satisfaction unless I win and we’ll just have to go, because I won’t forget it. But these people should be indicted, this was the greatest political crime in the history of our country and that includes Obama and it includes Biden. These are people that spied on my campaign and we have everything. Now they say they have much more, OK? And I say, Bill, we’ve got plenty, you don’t need any more. We’ve got so much, Maria, even — just take a look at the Comey report, 78 pages of kill, done by Horowitz, and I have a lot of respect for Horowitz, and he said prosecute. He recommended prosecute and they didn’t prosecute. I was — I couldn’t believe it, but they didn’t do it, because they said we have much bigger fish to fry. Well, that’s OK, they indicted Flynn for lying and he didn’t lie. They destroyed many lives, Roger Stone, over nothing. They destroyed lives. Look at Manafort, they sent in a black book, it was a phony black book, phony, they made up a black book of cash that he got from Ukraine or someplace and he didn’t get any cash.

In the comment, he described speaking directly to Billy Barr about the urgency of prosecuting his political opponents.

In response to this attack, Billy Barr has started telling Republican members of Congress that John Durham isn’t going to indict before the election.

Attorney General Bill Barr has begun telling top Republicans that the Justice Department’s sweeping review into the origins of the Russia investigation will not be released before the election, a senior White House official and a congressional aide briefed on the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans had long hoped the report, led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, would be a bombshell containing revelations about what they allege were serious abuses by the Obama administration and intelligence community probing for connections between President Trump and Russia.

  • “This is the nightmare scenario. Essentially, the year and a half of arguably the number one issue for the Republican base is virtually meaningless if this doesn’t happen before the election,” a GOP congressional aide told Axios.
  • Barr has made clear that they should not expect any further indictments or a comprehensive report before Nov. 3, our sources say.

Barr is excusing the delay by saying that Durham is only going to prosecute stuff he can win.

What we’re hearing: Barr is communicating that Durham is taking his investigation extremely seriously and is focused on winning prosecutions.

  • According to one of the sources briefed on the conversations Barr said Durham is working in a deliberate and calculated fashion, and they need to be patient.
  • The general sense of the talks, the source says, is that Durham is not preoccupied with completing his probe by a certain deadline for political purposes.

This back and forth represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what must be going on.

The Durham investigation should not, at this point, be considered separately from the Jeffrey Jensen investigation attempting to invent a reason to blow up the Flynn prosecution. That’s been true since Barr appointed Jensen because Durham hadn’t yet discovered anything to dig Sidney Powell out of the hole she had dug Flynn. But it’s especially true now that documents that would be central to the Durham inquiry are being leaked left and right — whether it’s the report that the FBI knew that Igor Danchenko had been investigated (like Carter Page and Mike Flynn) as a possible Russian agent, or specific details about when the FBI obtained NSLs on Mike Flynn.

The investigative integrity of the Durham investigation has been shot beyond recovery.

Plus, the sheer desperation of the Jensen investigation raises real questions about whether a credible investigation could ever find anything that could sustain a prosecution, in any case. That’s because:

  • Jensen has repeatedly provided evidence that proves the opposite of what DOJ claims. For example, the Bill Priestap notes that DOJ claimed were a smoking gun actually show contemporaneous proof for the explanation that every single witness has offered for Mike Flynn’s interview — that they needed to see whether Flynn would tell the truth about his calls with Sergey Kisklyak. Plus, now there’s a Priestap 302, one DOJ is hiding, that further corroborates that point. That evidence blows all the claims about the centrality of the Logan Act to interviewing Flynn out of the water, and it’s already public.
  • Jensen’s investigators submitted altered exhibits to sustain easily disprovable claims. DOJ has claimed that this tampering with evidence was inadvertent — they simply forgot to take sticky notes off their files. That doesn’t explain all the added dates, however, undermining their excuse. Moreover, if they didn’t intentionally tamper with evidence, they’re left claiming either that they haven’t read the exhibits they’ve relied on thus far in this litigation, or that they’re so fucking stupid that they don’t realize they’ve already disproven their own assumptions about dates. Add in the way their “errors” got mainlined to the President via a lawyer meeting with Trump’s campaign lawyer, and the whole explanation gets so wobbly no prosecutor would want to proceed toward prosecution with problems that could so easily be discoverable (or already public).
  • Jensen’s investigators got star witness William Barnett to expose himself as a partisan willing to forget details to help Trump. Along with an analyst that was skeptical of the Flynn case (but who was moved off before the most damning evidence came in), Barnett would need to be the star witness in any case alleging impropriety in the investigation. But rather than hiding Barnett’s testimony and protecting his credibility, Jensen made a desperate bid to get his claims on the record and make it public. And what the 302 actually shows — even without a subpoena of Barnett’s personal ties and texts sent on FBI phones — is that in his interview, Barnett claimed not to understand the case (even though documents he filed show that he did, contemporaneously), and either did not remember or deliberately suppressed key evidence (not least that Flynn told Kislyak that Trump had been informed of his calls).  The 302 further showed Barnett presenting as “truth” of bias claims that instead show his willingness to make accusations about people he didn’t work with, even going so far as to repackage his own dickish behavior as an attempt to discredit Jeannie Rhee. Finally, by hiding how many good things Barnett had to say about Brandon Van Grack, DOJ has made it clear that the only thing Barnett can be used for is to admit that he, too, believes Flynn lied, didn’t have a problem with one of the key investigators in the case, and that his views held sway on the final Mueller Report. Had Durham managed this witness, Barnett might have been dynamite. Now, he would be, at best, an easily discredited partisan.

Jensen is working from the same evidence that Durham is. And what the Jensen investigation has shown is that it takes either willful ignorance or deliberate manipulation to spin this stuff as damning. And in the process, Jensen has destroyed the viability of a witness and possibly other pieces of evidence that any credible prosecution would use.

DOJ might make one last bid in giving Trump what he wants, allegations against his adversaries, by using the initial response in the McCabe and Strzok lawsuits as a platform to make unsubstantiated attacks on them (DOJ got an extension in both cases, but one that is still before the election). But those attacks will crumble just like the Jeffrey Jensen case has, and do so in a way that may make it easier for McCabe and Strzok to get expansive discovery at the underlying actions of people like Barnett.

Billy Barr has largely shot his wad in drumming up accusations against Trump’s critics. And along the way, he has proven how flimsy any such claims were in the first place.

Sidney Powell Switches Her FARA Villain Mid-Stream

In a still pending motion to withdraw Mike Flynn’s guilty plea submitted in January, Sidney Powell told this story about how the baddies in DOJ’s FARA unit — led by David Laufman — entrapped the General in lies.

I’ve linked to the exhibits where Powell claims her arguments are supported, though in places, they show the opposite — for example, Flynn lying to his lawyers claiming that he came up with the idea to write the op-ed himself — and in at least one case, the page Powell cites doesn’t exist.

The next day—Mr. Flynn’s first day out of the White House, with media camped around his house 24/7—Rob Kelner and Brian Smith of Covington, and Kristen Verderame, called Mr. Flynn to give him a status update on the FARA issues. Mr. Flynn accepted their recommendation that it was better to file, and he instructed the lawyers to “be precise.”11

On February 21, 2017, David Laufman, Heather Hunt, Tim Pugh, and multiple others from the FARA Unit telephone-conferenced with Covington. Ex. 8. Laufman directed the content, scope, and duration of the call. In this lengthy conversation, Kelner exacerbated his prior mistake, stating that “Flynn wrote [the op-ed],” and that Mr. Rafiekian, Mr. Flynn’s former business partner, provided “input.” Ex. 8 at 2. Kelner apparently misremembered or misspoke, but the SCO parlayed the description in the FARA form into a felony attributable to Mr. Flynn. Meanwhile, Covington—instead of owning any error and correcting it—began a campaign of obfuscation that deepened the conflicts, created Mr. Flynn’s criminal exposure, and led to repeated instances of ineffective assistance of counsel.12

That evening, Heather Hunt requested a meeting the next day at Covington’s offices to review the draft FARA filing in person. She and several others from the FARA unit, arrived and reviewed the FARA draft and discussed logistics. Mr. Smith made notes of matters to include in the filing, such as the New York meeting with Turkish officials, payments to Inovo, specifics of the Sphere contract, and Sphere’s budget (if established). The team noted that if Turkey was involved, it must be listed on the filing, and they created various reminders. Finally, Ms. Hunt reminded the Covington team to file by email and send a check to cover filing fees by a courier. 13 Ex. 9.

Covington filed the forms on March 7, 2017. Hunt acknowledged receipt at 10:50 p.m., prompting Smith to remark to his colleagues, “They are working late at the FARA Unit.” Ex.12.

Hardly had the FARA registration been uploaded on the FARA website when the onslaught of subpoenas began.14 On May 17, 2017, Special Counsel was appointed, and the much-massaged “final” Flynn 302 was reentered for use by the SCO. Soon thereafter, the SCO issued a search warrant for all Flynn’s electronic devices. Meanwhile, Covington’s August 14, 2017, invoice alone was $726,000, having written off 10% of its actual time. Ex. 13 at 3.

11 Ex. 7: Smith Notes of 2/14/17 call.

12 Covington lawyer Brian Smith’s notes of January 2, 2017, and reconfirmed in his 302 of June 21, 2018, show that Mr. Flynn stated Rafiekian wrote the first draft. ECF No. 151-12 at 17. ECF No. 150-5 at 7. Rafiekian told Covington this also, and the emails confirmed it. Ex. 10.

13 On March 3, 2017, Kelner emailed Hunt to tell her “we are not quite ready to file, but close.” Hunt wanted more detail and demanded to know, “close as in later today, or close as in next week?” Kelner responded, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Ex. 11.

14 Covington received multiple subpoenas from the DOJ FARA unit, as well as subpoenas from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and then Special Counsel Office. In response to these subpoenas, Covington provided many thousands of documents in sixteen productions from April 2017 through October 2017 alone, and Mr. Flynn’s legal fees exceeded two million dollars.

Powell is shading here, covering up the fact that Flynn told Covington & Burling he was writing his Fethullah Gulen op-ed to benefit the Trump campaign rather than entirely for the benefit of clients he knew to be Turkish government ministers. The claim by itself demonstrates how Powell provides evidence that her client lied, even while wailing about unfair prosecution.

But for my purposes, I’m primarily interested in the villains of this story: Flynn’s Covington lawyers who repeated Flynn’s lies, FARA Unit lawyer Heather Hunt who promptly confirmed receipt of a filing, and David Laufman.

Laufman, then Chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section at DOJ, was an early villain in the evolving conspiracies about the investigation into Trump and his flunkies, even while he is the hero of the Trump flunky’s complaints that Jim Comey didn’t let Julian Assange extort the US government with Vault 7 files.

I raise all this because I’m trying to determine whether the other two documents that Jeffrey Jensen’s team decided to date (notes from an ODAG meeting that Jensen purports took place on March 6, 2017 and notes from a meeting involving Bruce Swartz that Jensen purports took place on March 28, 2017) have affirmatively incorrect dates. Here are the notes “inadvertently” dated March 28:

In her filing accompanying the latter, Powell ignores that the notes show that Jeff Sessions asked two Turkish ministers what Flynn had been doing for them in an engagement that — Flynn’s official filing submitted on March 7, 2017 claimed — he wasn’t actually sure whether he had been working for Turkey. Rather than puzzling through why the Turkish foreign ministers would know the answer to that if Flynn was instead working for Ekim Alptekin, Powell instead complains that on March 28, 2017, Swartz “decided” to subpoena Flynn’s company even though (she claims) he had just been told that Flynn had 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.

Whereas Laufman had been her villain, now Bruce Swartz is.

The thing is, that claim seems to be inconsistent with what her star witness, pro-Trump FBI Agent Bill Barnett, had to say in his interview with Jensen’s team (though since they’ve redacted Brandon Van Grack’s name it’s hard to tell). He seems to have said the Turkish case “was far stronger than the [Russian] investigation, in that there was specific information that could be investigated. BARNETT was working closely with [Van Grack]. BARNETT had worked with VAN GRACK on other matters.

In any case, the actual subpoena shows that it didn’t happen in March (as the purported date might suggest) but instead on April 5, a week later. And it wasn’t Swartz who filed it, nor even Van Grack, but EDVA AUSA William Sloan.

That doesn’t mean the date that Jensen’s team “inadvertently” applied to Strzok’s notes is wrong. It certainly may have taken a week to put together the subpoena.

But it does show that Powell’s current story doesn’t cohere with her past (still-pending) one.

Sidney Powell Falsely Claims All Jeffrey Jensen’s Errors Have Been Corrected

Sidney Powell doesn’t want anyone writing Judge Sullivan correcting the erroneous record that she and DOJ have entered in the Mike Flynn case. She wrote a letter asking him to strike the letters from lawyers for Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe informing him that exhibits Powell received via Jeffrey Jensen’s review and uploaded to the docket and integrated into her accusations against others were false.

I guess she realizes there are additional errors that need to be fixed.

More remarkably, after taking a swipe at Strzok and McCabe in her letter (sounding like President Trump wailing for indictments), she claims that the Jensen “errors” have been corrected.

When Mr. Strzok and Mr. McCabe become parties to criminal proceedings, they are welcome to file objections in their own cases. Until then, they are free to write directly to the Department of Justice with their concerns, but they may not engage in ex parte or extrajudicial communications with the judge in this case, nor insert themselves into proceedings in which they have no standing. The Department of Justice has already taken appropriate action to correct the unintentional error. The defense only filed what it had been provided by the government.

This is, of course, false. The original claim not to know when the January 5, 2017 meeting was remains, as does Powell’s own attack on Joe Biden based off that false claim.

This ought to draw more, not less, attention to how Judge Sullivan’s docket has become a seeding ground for false campaign attacks.

The “Scanned” Andrew McCabe Notes Weren’t [Just] “Scanned”

The story DOJ offered yesterday to explain why they had altered several exhibits of undated notes raise more questions then they answered. In both cases where DOJ has admitted the exhibits had added dates — Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe — those dates are problematic.

Plus, the excuse offered for those dates — that someone forgot to take off a clear sticky and post-it notes before copying the exhibit — can’t explain the third instance where DOJ added a date, where they incorporated it into the redaction of notes taken from a meeting involving ODAG’s office.

Indeed, the redaction may even cover an existing date (see what look like the slashes of a date, outlined in red, though that could also record the names of other attendees), with a date added in the redaction (outlined in yellow).

Moreover, there’s a problem with the excuse DOJ offered about the McCabe notes, which went as follows:

Similarly, the government has learned that, at some point during the review of the McCabe notes, someone placed a blue “flag” with clear adhesive to the McCabe notes with an estimated date (the notes themselves are also undated). Again, the flag was inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters, before they were forwarded to our office for production.

That is, DOJ is claiming that “someone” missed a blue “flag” when they were “scanning” McCabe’s notes and so inadvertently left a date — the wrong date, probably — on the exhibit, without leaving any sign on the exhibit itself.

The problem with this explanation is that we know precisely what a blue sticky left on an actual “scan” looks like. It looks just like what we say in the Bill Priestap notes submitted three times under two different Bates stamp numbers.

That is, if the document were just scanned, it would show up quite obviously, as it does here, and would be impossible to miss.

And yet this “scan” attributed to “somebody” doesn’t show up, possibly because the redaction covers it.

 

Sidney Powell Submits Evidence Proving Materiality of Flynn’s Lies

In my third post about how stupid Sidney Powell is, I present this exhibit, which DOJ thinks helps Mike Flynn. These are hand-written notes of an FBI attorney recording a meeting talking about Flynn’s interview the earlier day. Powell thinks this exhibit helps her because people at the meeting thought the Logan Act — which was never the key point of investigating Flynn — would be an “uphill battle.” She also focuses on FBI GC Jim Baker’s question about how you’d prosecute false statements when you wouldn’t prosecute the underlying crime — which, on January 25, 2017, might have been the Logan Act.

Still, the notes point out what a glaring counterintelligence problem Flynn was because of his overt lies about what he said to Russia.

For years Flynn’s boosters have claimed that FBI and DOJ didn’t recognize his lies as lies. Here they are doing so.

But one of the first things on the page (after a discussion of Flynn’s trip to Dominican Republic) — one of the first things these FBI lawyers discussed when trying to make sense of the National Security Advisor lying his ass off about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador is this:

Toll records. Did Flynn “talk to admin first”?

As I have noted repeatedly, Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka knew when they interviewed Flynn that he was lying about having raised sanctions with Sergey Kislyak.

What they didn’t know — because they hadn’t gotten National Security Letters on Flynn earlier in the investigation, as they normally would have — was whether or not Flynn’s claims not to have spoken to anyone in advance of his call, and not to have known about Obama’s sanctions, were true.

The way they planned to figure that out was to obtain Flynn’s toll records, which they did, in February and March. That showed, not only, that he was using a whole slew of phones. But that in addition to the lies the FBI identified immediately, he told other lies, lies to hide that he had consulted with Mar-a-Lago.

And Sidney Powell, bless her soul, has just provided proof that that was virtually the first thing FBI turned to try and figure out.

Once the FBI obtained proof that Flynn had consulted with those attending Donald Trump, the entire meaning of his lies would change. As would the Administration’s willingness to fight to reverse the investigation back to before the moment when Flynn’s consultations with Mar-a-Lago — the possibility he undermined sanctions on orders from Donald Trump — became the entire point.

DOJ Admits Jeffrey Jensen’s Team Added Erroneous Date to Peter Strzok’s Notes, Asks for Mulligan

In a filing in the Mike Flynn case, DOJ has explained why an erroneous date was added to Peter Strzok’s notes from what DOJ has already submitted evidence happened on January 5, 2017.

In response to the Court and counsel’s questions, the government has learned that, during the review of the Strzok notes, FBI agents assigned to the EDMO review placed a single yellow sticky note on each page of the Strzok notes with estimated dates (the notes themselves are undated). Those two sticky notes were inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters, before they were forwarded to our office for production. The government has also confirmed with Mr. Goelman and can represent that the content of the notes was not otherwise altered.

Similarly, the government has learned that, at some point during the review of the McCabe notes, someone placed a blue “flag” with clear adhesive to the McCabe notes with an estimated date (the notes themselves are also undated). Again, the flag was inadvertently not removed when the notes were scanned by FBI Headquarters, before they were forwarded to our office for production. Again, the content of the notes was not otherwise altered.

Along with the filing, they’ve included the three exhibits they added dates to (there’s a third where they added a date in a redaction covering over something that could be a date), asking that they be replaced.

DOJ offered no explanation about why they added an erroneous date that they’ve provided proof they know is erroneous to a filing that they had previously submitted without the erroneous date. Nor have they explained why this erroneous date range differs from the previous erroneous date range they gave to Sidney Powell that she used to launch an attack on Joe Biden.

I guess they’re hoping that Judge Sullivan was too tired after the long hearing last week to notice that that erroneous date had been worked into an attack by President Trump on Joe Biden just hours after the hearing.

Whatever they’re hoping, they’ve now admitted that Jeffrey Jensen’s team is either unbelievably incompetent, hasn’t read the evidence they claim they used to convince Billy Barr to dismiss the case, or simply tampering with the evidence to set up attacks from Sidney Powell and Donald Trump.

DOJ Decides Leaked, Inaccurate DOJ IG Materials Are Awful

The NYT has a story–on which Michael Shear, who is home in quarantine with his spouse after catching COVID in the White House’s superspreader cluster, has the lead byline–on DOJ’s complicit role in separating children from their parents.

It describes how five border-state US Attorneys tried to avoid imposing the draconian policies masterminded by Stephen Miller (who, like Shear, got infected in Trump’s super-spreader event). But those US Attorneys were overruled by Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein. Those findings appear in a draft DOJ IG Report, which has been sent to DOJ for comment, but not yet published.

The five U.S. attorneys along the border with Mexico, including three appointed by President Trump, recoiled in May 2018 against an order to prosecute all undocumented immigrants even if it meant separating children from their parents. They told top Justice Department officials they were “deeply concerned” about the children’s welfare.

But the attorney general at the time, Jeff Sessions, made it clear what Mr. Trump wanted on a conference call later that afternoon, according to a two-year inquiry by the Justice Department’s inspector general into Mr. Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy.

“We need to take away children,” Mr. Sessions told the prosecutors, according to participants’ notes. One added in shorthand: “If care about kids, don’t bring them in. Won’t give amnesty to people with kids.”

Rod J. Rosenstein, then the deputy attorney general, went even further in a second call about a week later, telling the five prosecutors that it did not matter how young the children were. He said that government lawyers should not have refused to prosecute two cases simply because the children were barely more than infants.

Passages of the report citing John Bash, who recently resigned his position as US Attorney for WD TX only to be replaced by a Billy Barr flunky, are quoted twice.

“Those two cases should not have been declined,” John Bash, the departing U.S. attorney in western Texas, wrote to his staff immediately after the call. Mr. Bash had declined the cases, but Mr. Rosenstein “instructed that, per the A.G.’s policy, we should NOT be categorically declining immigration prosecutions of adults in family units because of the age of a child.”

[snip]

In a briefing two days after Christmas in 2017, top Justice Department officials asked Mr. Bash for statistics from the pilot program, conducted by his predecessor, that could be used to develop “nationwide prosecution guidelines.” Mr. Bash, a former White House adviser, did not receive a follow-up request for the information. Thinking that the idea had been abandoned, he did not provide it.

And there’s at least one other prosecutor quoted — revealing that the no-tolerance policy targeting children let some far more serious criminals go free — who could be him.

Border Patrol officers missed serious felony cases because they were stretched too thin by the zero-tolerance policy requiring them to detain and prosecute all of the misdemeanor illegal entry cases. One Texas prosecutor warned top Justice Department officials in 2018 that “sex offenders were released” as a result.

The article itself is based off a draft copy of the report and interviews with three anonymous officials.

This article is based on a review of the 86-page draft report and interviews with three government officials who read it in recent months and described its conclusions and many of the details in it.

Bash should not have had access to this entire report to review his own role in it. Past practice would have suggested he get just those passages that pertain to him directly (though this report appears to cover his time both at Main DOJ and as a US Attorney). But he would have access to the passages that quote him directly.

The article is most amusing, however, for the response from DOJ, which complains about an inaccurate DOJ IG Report and improper leaks.

Alexa Vance, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, disputed the draft report and said the Homeland Security Department referred cases for prosecution.

“The draft report relied on for this article contains numerous factual errors and inaccuracies,” she said. “While D.O.J. is responsible for the prosecutions of defendants, it had no role in tracking or providing custodial care to the children of defendants. Finally, both the timing and misleading content of this leak raise troubling questions about the motivations of those responsible for it.”

As I have laid out, the DOJ IG Report on Carter Page has numerous factual errors, just some of which they’ve corrected. The central complaint in the parallel Lisa Page and Peter Strzok Privacy Act lawsuits about the release of their texts is that those were released improperly, both as to timing and legality, and led to misleading interpretations of what the texts mean. Both of those lawsuits implicate a sworn declaration made by Rod Rosenstein (who is badly implicated by this report and who issued a statement to the NYT, suggesting he could be one of the anonymous sources as well). The Rosenstein statement in the Page and Strzok lawsuits will test how credible his claims are about his own actions in response to illegal requests from the President.

In other words, the entire article is thick with irony and revenge. And it will surely focus more scrutiny on the denials that DOJ issues once it is released after the election.

But none of that helps the infants who got separated from their parents.

DOJ Has Submitted Proof They Knew the January 5, 2017 Meeting Took Place on January 5, 2017

I’ve been harping on the process that facilitated Sidney Powell — and then President Trump — falsely blaming Joe Biden for raising the Logan Act in the context of the government’s response to Mike Flynn’s attempts to secretly undermine sanctions on Russia.

That process started on June 23, when prosecutor Jocelyn Ballantine sent an undated copy of Peter Strzok’s notes to Sidney Powell, explaining that they had been found as part of Jeffrey Jensen’s review. Using the royal “we,” she professed uncertainty about when those notes were written.

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.

Sidney Powell, referencing those notes, claimed they were believed to date from January 4 and asserted that they showed Joe Biden raising 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.

Then, on September 23, Ballantine sent Powell a set of Strzok’s notes with a different Bates stamp than the first. When it was submitted — by Powell — to the docket, it had a date on it that did not appear on the earlier set: 1/4-5/17.

Then, five days after Powell (who has had multiple conversations with Trump’s campaign lawyer, Jenna Ellis, including about this case) loaded the now-dated notes onto the docket, President Trump publicly accused Joe Biden of giving “the idea for the Logan Act against General Flynn” in their first debate.

President Donald J. Trump: (01:02:22)
We’ve caught them all. We’ve got it all on tape. We’ve caught them all. And by the way, you gave the idea for the Logan Act against General Flynn. You better take a look at that, because we caught you in a sense, and President Obama was sitting in the office.

Thus it happened that an error introduced into the Flynn proceeding got turned into a campaign prop.

The thing is, DOJ has abundant proof that Jeffrey Jensen knew (or should have known) there was no uncertainty about the date when those notes were handed over to Powell. Indeed, if he did not know, then the entire premise of their motion to dismiss falls apart.

In Timothy Shea’s motion to dismiss, he obliquely attributed the radical change in DOJ’s view of Mike Flynn’s prosecution to Jeffrey Jensen’s review of the case, citing three dockets where Powell uploaded information that Ballantine had shared with the explanation (one, two) that the material came out of Jeffrey Jensen’s review.

After a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information appended to the defendant’s supplemental pleadings, ECF Nos. 181, 188-190,1 the Government has concluded that the interview of Mr. Flynn was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn—a no longer justifiably predicated investigation that the FBI had, in the Bureau’s own words, prepared to close because it had yielded an “absence of any derogatory information.”

1 This review not only included newly discovered and disclosed information, but also recently declassified information as well.

All the purportedly “newly discovered” information, then, comes from Jensen.

Bill Barr cited Jensen’s review even more explicitly in an interview with Catherine Herridge.

What action has the Justice Department taken today in the Michael Flynn case?

We dismissed or are moving to dismiss the charges against General Flynn. At any stage during a proceeding, even after indictment or a conviction or a guilty plea, the Department can move to dismiss the charges if we determine that our standards of prosecution have not been met.

As you recall, in January, General Flynn moved to withdraw his plea, and also alleged misconduct by the government. And at that time, I asked a very seasoned U.S. attorney, who had spent ten years as an FBI agent and ten years as a career prosecutor, Jeff Jensen, from St. Louis, to come in and take a fresh look at this whole case. And he found some additional material. And last week, he came in and briefed me and made a recommendation that we dismiss the case, which I fully agreed with, as did the U.S. attorney in D.C. So we’ve moved to dismiss the case.

So this decision to dismiss by the Justice Department, this all came together really within the last week, based on new evidence?

Right. Well U.S. Attorney Jensen since January has been investigating this. And he reported to me last week.

In other words, both Shea and Barr represented that the case laid out in the motion to dismiss is the case that Jensen made that persuaded Barr to drop the prosecution.

That means we should expect Jensen to have deep familiarity with all the documents that — the motion to dismiss claims — formed the basis of his review.

I put a list of those exhibits here (along with an explanation that virtually everything cited in it was already known when DOJ first charged Flynn, when Michael Horowitz concluded the investigation was properly predicated, and when Bill Barr’s DOJ called for prison time in January).

Among those documents that Timothy Shea — and before him, Jeffrey Jensen — relied on to claim that DOJ should drop Flynn’s prosecution is the 302 from Mary McCord’s July 17, 2017 interview with Mueller’s team. The motion to dismiss cites McCord at least 26 times, relying on her interview to understand details of what happened in early January 2017, after the government discovered Flynn’s calls that explained why Russia didn’t retaliate for sanctions. Of particular note, the motion to dismiss that arose from Jensen’s analysis cites McCord’s interview regarding the discussion about the Logan Act — including that the investigation remained a counterintelligence one after discussing the Kislyak description. McCord’s description of the Logan Acti discussion reveals precisely who first raised it: ODNI GC Bob Litt.

General Counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Bob Litt raised the issue of a possible Logan Act violation. McCord was not familiar with the Logan Act at the time and made a note to herself to look it up later.

DOJ should never have let Powell form the conclusion that Joe Biden first suggested the Logan Act, because they were relying on a document that made it clear that Litt had already raised it. That’s where Jim Comey got the idea, before he went into that January 5, 2017 meeting.

Another document Shea and Jensen relied on in arguing that DOJ should end the Flynn prosecution is the 302 from Sally Yates’ August 15, 2017 interview with Mueller’s team. Shea’s motion to dismiss — based off Jensen’s analysis — cites Yates’ 302 at least 20 times, including in its discussion of the Logan Act. What Shea didn’t cite, but what shows up in the first substantive paragraph of the 302, is a description of how Yates first learned of the Flynn-Kislyak calls at a meeting at the White House on January 5, 2017.

Yates first learned of the December 2016 calls between (LTG Michael) Flynn and (Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey) Kislyak on January 5, 2017, while in the Oval Office. Yates, along with then-FBI Director James Comey, then-CIA Director John Brennan, and the-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, were at the White House to brief members of the Obama Administration on the classified Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian Activities in Recent U.S. Elections. President Obama was joined by his National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, and others from the National Security Council. After the briefing, Obama dismissed the group but asked Yates and Comey to stay behind. Obama started by saying he had “learned of the information about Flynn” and his conversation with Kislyak about sanctions. Obama specified he did not want additional information on the matter, but was seeking information on whether the White House should be treating Flynn any differently, given the information. At that point, Yates had no idea what the President was talking about, but figured it out based on the conversation. Yates recalled Comey mentioning the Logan Act, but can’t recall if he specified there was an “investigation.” Comey did not talk about prosecution in the meeting. It was not clear to Yates from where the President first received the information. Yates did not recall Comey’s response to the President’s question about how to treat Flynn. She was so surprised by the information she was hearing that she was having a hard time processing it and listening to the conversation at the same time.

That long paragraph that very clearly describes the meeting at the White House captured in Peter Strzok’s notes directly precedes one that Shea (and so by association, Jensen) rely on heavily. According to Yates, Jim Comey was the one who raised the Logan Act in that meeting, not Joe Biden. And McCord, which they also rely on, makes it clear Comey got the idea from Litt.

Finally, the Shea motion to dismiss based on Jensen’s analysis relies on Jim Comey’s HPSCI testimony — one of just two documents that DOJ may not already have reviewed before Mike Flynn’s guilty plea. It cites the Comey transcript 16 times, including for a paragraph on the Logan Act.

As Sally Yates did, Comey described that the meeting at the White House involving the two of them took place on January 5.

I had not briefed the Department of Justice about this, and found myself at the Oval Office on the 5th of January to brief the President on the separate effort that you all are aware of by the Intelligence Community to report on what the Russians had done during the election. And in the course of that conversation, the President mentioned this [redacted] And that was the first time the Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, had heard about it.

In no place does the Timothy Shea motion to dismiss, based off Jeffrey Jensen’s analysis, raise any questions about the veracity of these witnesses. Indeed, the motion relies on those documents as reliable descriptions of what happened in January 2017.

That means that either the DC US Attorney’s Office and Jeffrey Jensen are very familiar with the documents they rely on heavily to argue that Judge Sullivan must dismiss Flynn’s prosecution, in which case they affirmatively misled the court when they claimed to have no idea on what date the meeting described by both Yates and Comey occurred. That would mean, though, that Jensen affirmatively misled the court about a detail three months before the President used that error to make a campaign attack. And somehow an exhibit got altered to match that affirmative misinformation.

Alternately, none of the people claiming that these documents justify dismissing Flynn’s prosecution really know what these documents say.

Certainly, all parties should be on the hook for an exhibit that got altered to suggest the meeting could have taken place on January 4.

DOJ Hid Material Comments about Brandon Van Grack from Judge Sullivan in the William Barnett 302

The redactions on the 302 of William Barnett — the pro-Trump FBI Agent who recently gave an interview riddled with contradictions that Republicans have tried to use to undermine the Mike Flynn case — look like they were done by a five year old with finger paint.

It appears there were at least two and possibly three passes on redactions. There are redactions with rounded edges that appear to redact information that is actually classified. There may be more substantive redactions done of full sentences, including a passage marked to be “pending unsealing” by the court. There’s information on the investigation into Mike Flynn’s secret work for Turkey that is redacted, too, which is problematic, given that Judge Emmet Sullivan asked about that investigation into Flynn in Tuesday’s hearing. It’s clear from the unredacted bits of the 302 that Barnett had fewer problems, if any, with that investigation than he did with Flynn’s cover-up of his calls to Sergey Kislyak, so by redacting those discussions, the FBI is hiding Barnett making positive comments about part of the investigation into Flynn.

Then there’s a bunch of stuff — that includes names but also material that appears to be unflattering to General Flynn — that appears to have been redacted with block redactions after the fact, such as this redaction that seems to fade away to nowhere.

The redactions of names are a mess too, with irregular box redactions and in a few places, different typeface sizes.

That’s mostly aesthetics. But it suggests that — in spite of an FBI declassification stamp applied on September 24 — some or all of these redactions weren’t done by the people who normally do such things.

It’s the treatment of names where things delve into legally suspect area. The name of Barnett, Peter Strzok, and Andrew McCabe are not redacted. The names of other FBI and DOJ personnel generally are, though some have labels so you can follow repeated discussions of those people.

It’s in the treatment of Robert Mueller’s lawyers where things get inexcusable.

DOJ has a general rule that all Mueller AUSAs are public (as seen in the Mueller 302s released under FOIA, as well as phone records FOIAed by Judicial Watch), but all FBI personnel are not. Here, however, FBI left the name of some Mueller prosecutors unredacted, and redacted others. The unredacted names are those the GOP would like to spin as biased (including with an attack on Jeannie Rhee which actually shows Barnett being an abusive dick simply because Rhee tried to do her job):

Meanwhile there are at least two Mueller prosecutors whose names are redacted:

The FBI might be excusing this disparate treatment by making a distinction between lawyers who’ve left DOJ and those who haven’t.

Except that raises questions about whether there are unmarked references to Zainab Ahmad who, as the second prosecutor on the Flynn case, should show up in any interview of Barnett’s work with Mueller, but who has also left DOJ (and so would be unredacted if that’s the rule purportedly adopted here).

I have made several inquiries at DOJ for an explanation but gotten no response. But we know that someone at DOJ did these redactions, because Jocelyn Ballantine shared an unredacted copy of the 302 with Flynn’s lawyers, explaining that DOJ would submit the redacted copy to the docket themselves. Ken Kohl, who (multiple people have described) has a history of problematic actions, is the one who actually signed the filing uploading the 302 to the docket.

If I were Ballatine, I’d think very seriously about whether I wanted to remain silent after having witnessed how this 302 was submitted.

The result of redacting Van Grack’s name is that it hides from Judge Sullivan (and Amicus John Gleeson) many complimentary things that Barnett had to say about Van Grack:

DOJ’s star witness purportedly backing its claim that the investigation into Mike Flynn was abusive had a number of good things to say about the prosecutor that purportedly committed some of the abuse. Significantly, DOJ’s star witness, Barnett, claims that Van Grack agreed with Barnett in viewing KT McFarland’s lies in the least incriminating light.

And DOJ redacted Van Grack’s name, thereby obscuring that.

Sidney Powell made a number of allegations about Van Grack on Tuesday, including that Van Grack demanded Mike Flynn lie in the Bijan Kian case, something sharply at odds with Barnett’s claim that Van Grack interpreted McFarland’s answers in the least damning light. And Judge Sullivan asked about the significance of Van Grack’s withdrawal from the case Tuesday, something DOJ dismissed as irrelevant even while they were hiding material details about Van Grack.

So Brandon Van Grack’s conduct is central to the matter before Judge Sullivan. And DOJ is withholding favorable information about Van Grack by redacting his name in this 302, even while relying on the 302 for what DOJ claims is damning information elsewhere.

It would be clear legal misconduct to hide that information, effectively hiding evidence that debunks DOJ’s claims of abuse with a treatment of redactions that is plainly inconsistent with past DOJ practice (including on the release of a 302 discussed in Barnett’s own 302).

And yet that’s what DOJ has done.

Over 72 Hours, Trump and Chuck Grassley Provide Emmet Sullivan Proof that Peter Strzok’s Notes Were Altered for Political Reasons

Over the past 72 hours, the following events have proven not just that Peter Strzok’s notes were altered, but that that was done for political purpose.

It started on Monday, when Strzok lawyer Aitan Goelman sent Judge Emmet Sullivan a letter confirming that the handwritten dates on two sets of his notes were, “not written by Mr. Strzok.”

That the notes memorializing what Jim Comey briefed others about a January 5, 2017 meeting were altered is not in doubt. Sidney Powell and DOJ have already provided the original notes (which I’ve annotated to show that the notes did not originally have a date) and the altered ones (which I’ve annotated to note where a date has been added).

The second set of notes were provided to Flynn’s lawyers on September 23 and submitted to the docket on September 24. It’s not clear whether they were altered before or after they got sent from DOJ. I hope Judge Sullivan gets to the bottom of that question.

Then, in Tuesday’s hearing, Sidney Powell admitted not just that she has spoken with the President about this case (insanely asking him not to pardon her client), but also that she speaks — apparently regularly — with President Trump’s campaign lawyer, Jenna Ellis, betraying that Flynn’s efforts to blow up his prosecution are a matter of interest to Trump’s campaign.

Then, hours later, on Tuesday night, the President made this prepared attack on Joe Biden during the first debate.

President Donald J. Trump: (01:02:22)
We’ve caught them all. We’ve got it all on tape. We’ve caught them all. And by the way, you gave the idea for the Logan Act against General Flynn. You better take a look at that, because we caught you in a sense, and President Obama was sitting in the office.

As I noted when Jeffrey Jensen handed over the first set of notes pretending to be uncertain about what date they were from, by altering the date about a meeting that has been publicly dated as January 5, 2017 for over two years, it presented a false chronology whereby Joe Biden suggested the FBI investigate Flynn for the Logan Act (which is what DOJ is falsely claiming was the only basis for investigating Flynn, even though every single witness and every single contemporaneous record has said Flynn was interviewed under an 18 USC 951 predication to see if he would tell the truth about his calls with Sergey Kislyak), and then Jim Comey returned to the FBI and ordered his minions to do just that.  That is, it would create the (false) possibility that the meeting at the White House happened, and then a discussion between Strzok and Page discussing the Logan Act started. The reality is that Strzok and Page were talking about it the day before the meeting.

From that false appearance, Powell asserted in a representation to Emmet Sullivan that the meeting was believed to have happened on January 4 and Biden apparently had been the one to suggest Logan Act, thereby suggesting (falsely) that Biden was the one who raised 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. That became an admitted pretext to investigate General Flynn.

That transparently false accusation that Sidney Powell (who has been speaking with Trump’s campaign lawyer) made on June 24 then showed up as a prepared attack in President Trump’s very first campaign debate on September 29. The altered notes appeared in the docket on September 24, and then five days later the President of the United States made a false claim that depends on the alteration.

Sidney Powell is using her purported defense of Mike Flynn as a campaign prop.

Yesterday, Chuck Grassley — who has been chasing all matter of conspiracy in the service of President Trump and is staffed by diehard Republicans — gave up the game. At the Jim Comey hearing, this exchange occurred.

Grassley: Did you ever speak with President Obama or Vice President Biden about any aspect of the Flynn case. If so, what did you discuss?

Comey: I remember the Flynn investigation coming up once. I think it was January the Fifth, when President Obama held me back to urge me to do the case in the normal way, and to let him know if there was any reason that he should not be sharing sensitive information about Russia with the Trump transition. I assured him that I would keep him informed and that I would conduct the investigation in that way.

Grassley [reading a prepared question]: During the January 5, 2017 meeting between you, President Obama, Vice President Biden, Sally Yates, and Susan Rice, did you mention that Flynn’s calls with the Russian Ambassador appear, quote unquote, “appear legit”?

Comey: I don’t remember using that word. If I used it I would have meant “authentic” and “not fabricated.” I wouldn’t have meant appropriate. But I don’t remember using that word.

It’s clear, from the way Grassley is reading a prepared question and the way he provides details about that January 5 meeting that he already knew of the meeting, and that that’s why he asked Comey the initial question in the first place.

Critically, an 87-year old Senator reading from notes his staffers — whose portfolios include many other tasks in addition to writing imagined gotcha questions based off Peter Strzok’s notes — stated as unquestionable fact that the meeting occurred on January 5. Unlike Jeffrey Jensen, they have no doubt about the date.

That’s not at all surprising. After all, Chuck Grassley first started pursuing this question around August 2017, when he obtained Susan Rice’s notes to the file recording the meeting (from unknown sources, but I find it interesting that Barbara Ledeen obtained it as if receiving it directly in discovery even as Robert Mueller got it).

But the question Grassley read came straight from Strzok’s notes, the ones that got altered. And even he knows — with access to far less evidence than Jeffrey Jensen — that the meeting happened on January 5.

Again, it’s not clear who altered the notes — DOJ or Flynn’s lawyers. But in a sense, it doesn’t matter. The first fraud on the court came when Jeffrey Jensen claimed there was any doubt about what date the meeting occurred. Yesterday, Chuck Grassley just made it clear that no credible person could believe that.