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Rat-Fucker Rashomon: Roger Stone’s Mid-Burglary Foreknowledge

This post showed that the SSCI Report ignored a lot of evidence (laid out in the affidavits) that Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone had specific details — possibly even the John Podesta emails themselves — pertaining to Joule Holdings, which they tried to use to claim he was as corrupt as (!!!) Paul Manafort. This post showed how, rather than actually explaining what the investigation learned about whether, how, and why Stone optimized the release of the Podesta files, the Mueller Report instead gave us a comedy routine starring Jerome Corsi.

Both public reports, then, presented the question, what did the candidate’s rat-fucker know and when did he know it, exclusively in terms of what Stone knew about the Podesta release. Indeed, the SSCI Report treats this as a question exclusively about what Stone knew of WikiLeaks’ plans.

The Committee could not reliably trace the provision of non-public information from WikiLeaks to Stone, and as a result. could not evaluate the full scope of Stone’s non-public knowledge of WikiLeaks’s activities.

The investigation, however, examined evidence Stone knew what was coming much earlier.

Rick Gates testified at Stone’s trial, for example, that Stone was predicting new releases in April and May of 2016. A previously redacted passage from the Mueller Report echoes that testimony.

In debriefings with the Office, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates said that, before Assange’s June 12 announcement, Gates and Stone had a phone conversation in which Stone said something “big” was coming and had to do with a leak of information. Stone also said to Gates that he thought Assange had Clinton emails.

SSCI reasonably reads those claims to relate to the uproar over Hillary’s “missing” State Department emails.

(U) In the spring of 2016, the Trump Campaign’s opposition research team primarily focused on Clinton’s “missing” emails, and financial contributions to the Clinton Foundation. 1437

1437 (U) FBI, FD-302, Gates 4/10/2018. The Committee assesses that, at this time, the references to Clinton’s “emails” reflected a focus on allegedly missing or deleted.emails from Clinton’s personal server during her tenure as Secretary of State.

But that’s not the only proof that Stone had advance knowledge earlier than August 2016.

There’s also the testimony from Stone aide Andrew Miller, testimony pursued for an entire year and the last bit of work completed by the Mueller team. Miller was subpoenaed for information about what he learned while scheduling Stone’s time at the RNC, the days before the DNC emails dropped. While Miller was subpoenaed for Stone’s trial and kept in DC for days awaiting possible testimony, he never did testify, so we don’t know what he might have said.

Still, Miller’s testimony might reveal that Stone learned of the impending DNC release, by WikiLeaks, days before it happened, as testimony from Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort supports.

All of those earlier claims, however, are presented in terms of what Stone knew about WikiLeaks’ plans. The affidavits tell a very different, albeit inconclusive story.

The FBI believed in 2018 that Stone had foreknowledge of Russia’s plans.

Two affidavits obtained in summer 2018 reveal that FBI had reason to believe that Stone was Googling the names of Russia’s personas, dcleaks and Guccifer 2.0, before they had been publicly unveiled. One of those affidavits described searches occurring starting on May 17, 2016.

93. During the course of its investigation, the FBI has also identified a series of searches that appear to relate to the personas Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, which predate the public unveiling of those two personas. In particular, between May 17, 2016, and June 15, 2016 (prior to the publication of the Guccifer 2.0 WordPress blog), records from Google show that searches were conducted for the terms “dcleaks,” “guccifer,” and ”guccifer june,” from IP addresses within one of two ranges: 172.56.26.0/24, 107.77.216.0/24.3 These IP ranges are assigned to T-Mobile USA, Inc., and AT&T Mobility LLC, respectively, and, according to Google, the searches were all conducted from Florida. On or about June 13, 2018, this Court issued a search warrant for information associated with these searches and, in particular, for the full search histories associated with the CookieIDs that conducted the search. 4 As set forth in the affidavit submitted in support of that search warrant, IP logs obtained from Twitter showed that STONE used multiple IP addresses within the ranges 172.56.26.0/24 and 107.77.216.0/24 to log into his Twitter account @RogerJStoneJr. A Facebook account controlled by STONE also used an IP address within the range 172.56.26.0/24 on or about June 13, 2016, to purchase a Facebook advertisement.

Another affidavit more specifically focused on searches on Guccifer (but not, at least by this description, Guccifer 2.0) on June 15, 2016, before the WordPress site for Guccifer 2.0 was unveiled.

22. During the course of its investigation, the FBI has identified a series of searches that appear to relate to the persona Guccifer 2.0, which predate the public unveiling of that persona. In particular, on or about June 15, 2016 (prior to the publication of the Guccifer 2.0 WordPress blog), records from Google show that searches were conducted for the terms “guccifer” and “guccifer june,” from an IP address within the range 107. 77 .216.0/24. 1 This IP range is assigned to AT&T Mobility LLC, and, according to Google, the searches were all conducted from Florida.

Without seeing the FBI’s forensics, there might be explanations for both these searches. Some journalists, for example, got advance or private alerts on some of this activity, and searches on “Guccifer” in 2016 might be focused on Marcel Lazar, the hacker who first used the moniker Guccifer, who was sentenced in that period.

But in July and August 2018, just as the Mueller team was beginning to pursue the obstruction charges against Stone that focused everyone’s attention on how Stone learned that WikiLeaks was going to release stolen Podesta emails, the FBI had, in hand, data that strongly suggested that Stone, virtually alone in the country, had non-public information about the Russian hack-and-leak campaign in advance.

They believed he had it in May, while Russian hackers were still in the process of stealing the DNC emails.

If FBI were to — if they did — validate those searches (particularly the May search on dcleaks), it would provide independent evidence making it clear Stone’s claims of foreknowledge to Gates weren’t just confused boasts about Hillary’s missing State emails, as the SSCI Report concludes, but instead knowledge of the Russian operation akin to that George Papadopoulos obtained.

If the FBI had proof that Stone knew of the hack-and-leak while the Russians continued hacking, then the drama over whether Randy Credico or Jerome Corsi was Stone’s source would just be theater. Corsi’s August 2, 2016 boasting of foreknowledge of the schedule of upcoming WikiLeaks leaks would be just a distraction.

Roger Stone spoke to Donald Trump at least 13 times in May 2016, a month when (the FBI suspected) the rat-fucker had foreknowledge of the Russian theft of Democratic emails. The Watergate investigation, with far more authority and a successful subpoena of the President, never proved that Richard Nixon had foreknowledge of that burglary. Here, though, the FBI got far closer to that proof.


The movie Rashomon demonstrated that any given narrative tells just one version of events, but that by listening to all available narratives, you might identify gaps and biases that get you closer to the truth.

I’m hoping that principle works even for squalid stories like the investigation into Roger Stone’s cheating in the 2016 election. This series will examine the differences between four stories about Roger Stone’s actions in 2016:

As I noted in the introductory post (which lays out how I generally understand the story each tells), each story has real gaps in one or more of these areas:

My hope is that by identifying these gaps and unpacking what they might say about the choices made in crafting each of these stories, we can get a better understanding of what actually happened — both in 2016 and in the investigations. The gaps will serve as a framework for this series.

Rat-Fucker Rashomon: Jerome Corsi’s Prescience about the Content of John Podesta’s Emails

In the previous installment of this series, I showed that rather than describing the conclusions of the Mueller team’s investigation into whether, how, and why Roger Stone optimized the release of the John Podesta emails on October 7, 2016, the Mueller Report instead plopped a comedy routine showing how Jerome Corsi changed his story from minute to minute on the topic.

The choice is all the more interesting given that the affidavits used in the Stone investigation — to say nothing of witness testimony — makes it increasingly certain that Stone got advance notice, and probably advance copies, of the stolen emails that pertained to an attack regarding Podesta’s ties to a company with Russian ties, Joule Holdings, that the frothy right had been chasing for months before mid-August 2016.

Jerome Corsi’s Podesta email was actually about timing

The email that Jerome Corsi sent Roger Stone on August 2, 2016 has been widely misunderstood, including by the SSCI Report.

“Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps,” Corsi explained after informing Stone he hadn’t called him back, as Stone requested the day before, because he was in Italy. “One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct.” This language about timing is what Aaron Zelinsky focused on when introducing the email at Stone’s trial. It’s the language that Jonathan Kravis highlighted in his closing argument. In neither prosecutors’ description of the email do they mention John Podesta (though later in Zelinsky’s opening, he describes that, “Roger Stone promised … a massive amount of hacked emails belonging to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta” would be dropped on October 7).

Nevertheless this email has been taken as the means by which Corsi informed Stone that the upcoming WikiLeaks dump involved files stolen from John Podesta.

It’s only much later in the email when Corsi says, “Time to let more than Podesta to be exposed as in bed w enemy.” The reference to Podesta would be incomprehensible to Stone if it were his first notice that WikiLeaks was going to drop emails stolen from Hillary’s campaign manager. Moreover, Corsi wouldn’t bury it in the sixth paragraph if it were new news, particularly not given that the right wing oppo researchers Steve Bannon paid, the Government Accountability Institute, had just days earlier released a report that focused on John Podesta. Indeed, it’s even possible that the email doesn’t reflect advance knowledge of the Podesta emails, but was instead a reference to that report.

There’s no reason to believe that the Podesta reference in this email was news to Stone.

Corsi put the new news — that the dumps were coming shortly after he was scheduled to return from Italy on August 12, and then again in October — in the second paragraph. And as some of the affidavits described obliquely — but which did not get mentioned in any of the other three Roger Stone stories — the timing of both those predictions was absolutely correct.

Based on my training, experience, and review of materials in this case, it appears that CORSI’s reference to a “friend in embassy [who] plans 2 more dumps” refers to Julian ASSANGE; the founder of Wikileaks, who resided in Ecuador’s London Embassy in2016. As discussed above, Guccifer released information hacked from the DCCC on August 12,2016 (the date CORSI identified as when he would “return home.”)

FBI Agent Amy Anderson mentions, but does not explain, that Corsi did not correctly predict who would release these files.

Two releases, one from Guccifer and the other from Wikileaks, occurred at the times predicted by CORSI.

In fact, as Raffi Khatchadourian was the first to explain publicly (but as would have been clear to investigators once they obtained the relevant Twitter content), Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks engaged in a series of very theatrical DM conversations with Emma Best over that weekend in August 2016 about whether Best would publish the DCCC emails; even after WikiLeaks convinced Best to hold off so it could have exclusivity, WikiLeaks never did publish any DCCC documents. At the time Corsi learned that “friend in embassy” would have two upcoming drops, WikiLeaks was still demanding exclusivity before it would deliver the first one.

In the August 2 email, then, Corsi provided new news to Stone about what the Russians were planning, but (if the theatrical DMs are to be believed, which they shouldn’t necessarily be) Assange had yet to buy into the plan. That makes Corsi’s description of “the game hackers are now about” all the more intriguing.

There’s no reason to believe, from this email, that Corsi was newly informing Stone that WikiLeaks would eventually dump the Podesta emails. There’s not even any reason to be sure that Corsi informed Stone of that fact and not vice versa. Indeed, the Mueller Report describes that Corsi told Ted Malloch later in August that, “Stone had made a connection to Assange and that the hacked emails of John Podesta would be released prior to Election Day,” not that he himself had. The email is indication (though in no way, by itself, proof, especially given the possibility it referenced the GAI report) that both believed by August 2 that WikiLeaks would drop the Podesta emails. It is not proof that Corsi told Stone of that fact.

Rick Gates and Paul Manafort testified that Stone knew Podesta emails were coming

We can get a lot closer to proof that Stone had advance knowledge of the Podesta drop, though.

First of all, it’s not just Malloch who testified to having conversations about Podesta’s emails in August. According to the SSCI Report, in part of Rick Gates’ October 25, 2018 interview that remains redacted,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The government almost certainly has proof Stone and Corsi had advance copies of the Podesta files

More importantly, there’s evidence that Corsi had copies of some of the Podesta emails by August 14, and had pre-written attacks on Podesta already drafted when the files came out in October.

On March 23, 2017, Corsi published what he claimed was an explanation for Stone’s August 21, 2016 “time in the barrel” tweet. In it, he explained that in response to the August 14, 2016 NYT story exposing Paul Manafort’s Ukraine corruption, Corsi started a memo for Stone on Podesta.

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

On August 15 at 1:33 AM, Stone tweeted about Podesta for the first time ever,

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

At 8:16AM on August 15, Corsi texted and then at 8:17 AM Corsi emailed Stone the same message:

Give me a call today if you can. Despite MSM drumroll that HRC is already elected, it’s not over yet. More to come than anyone realizes.

According to the SSCI Report, at 12:14PM on August 15, Corsi and Stone spoke by phone for 24 minutes.

The implication in Corsi’s March 2017 post was that he spent the next two weeks writing the memo that he started on August 14 and that the report reflects “several detailed conversations” Corsi had with Stone.

I completed that memo on Aug. 31, 2016, and is embedded here in its entirety.

Between Aug. 14 and Aug. 31, 2016, Roger Stone and I had several detailed conversations about the Podesta research.

Except that prosecutors obtained several kinds of proof that Corsi only started writing the memo he published in that March 2017 column (which Stone submitted to HPSCI — starting at PDF 39 — as part of his prepared statement) on that same day, on August 31. Corsi started writing it after Stone called him on August 30 and asked him to do so. This would have started to become clear to prosecutors when they first obtained email returns, since Corsi sent a copy of the report to Stone via email. But according to Corsi, prosecutors found forensic evidence to confirm that.

In his book, Corsi even admitted that the document was a cover story that he didn’t start until August 30 (Stone sued Corsi about this claim).

Next, Zelinsky focused on the email Roger Stone sent me on August 30, 2016, asking me to call him. As we discussed earlier, that led me to write a “cover-up memo” for him on John Podesta, suggesting that Roger’s infamous Twitter post about “Podesta’s time in the barrel” was a reference to my research about John and Tony Podesta’s money dealings with Russia. Roger wanted to disguise his tweet, suggesting “Podesta’s time in the barrel” was not a reference to any advanced knowledge Stone may have had from me, when I began telling Stone from Italy in emails dated earlier in August 2016 that I believed Assange had Podesta emails. “We’ve examined your computer Doctor Corsi,” Zelinsky grilled me. “And we know that the next day, August 31, 2016, your birthday, you began at 7:30 a.m. to write that memo for Stone.”

Before returning to Washington to appear before the grand jury, I had taken the time to research the file of my 2016 writing drafts that I had restored to my laptop from the Time Machine. I found that the file that I labeled, “ROGER STONE background PODESTA version 1.0 Aug. 31, 2016” was time-stamped for 12:17 p.m. that day. But I decided not to quibble with Zelinsky, so I agreed. “Then, Doctor Corsi, we find from your computer that the first thing you did was to find a series of open source articles on Podesta and Russia that you could use in writing your memo for Roger Stone,” Zelinsky said, pressing forward. “Is that correct?”

That said, Corsi may well have another report he started on August 14. In his March 2017 piece, Corsi claims that he wrote a series of articles based on that original report, one installment of which Stone would publish under his own name on October 13.

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

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

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

To the extent that Corsi wrote a series of articles, it would include the following:

In a November 1, 2018 interview, Corsi explained that he had published the October 6 one (as noted, it was based off the earlier GAI/Breitbart attack), in an effort to force Assange to release the Podesta emails.

Corsi published the August 31, 2016 memo on October 6, 2016. At that time, he still held himself out as the connection to WikiLeaks. The trigger for the release of the article was the publication of an article about [Paul] Manafort and [Viktor] Yanukovych. Corsi wanted to counter it with a story about Podesta, but he really wanted to provide stimulus to Assange to release whatever he had on Podesta. Corsi was angry with Assange for not releasing emails on October 4, 2016.

The claim would only make sense (to the extent that Jerome Corsi can ever be said to “make sense”) if Corsi could threaten to pre-empt what WikiLeaks was about to publish: the Podesta file pertaining to Joule Holdings.

As for the October 13 piece Stone adopted as his own, the affidavits targeting Corsi and Stone provided extensive details on how that got published.

First thing in the morning on October 12, Stone wrote Corsi and asked for his “best podesta links.” (The SSCI Report reveals that Stone and Manafort spoke that day, but does not say what time.) Corsi responded that he would send them on Monday — which would have been on October 17. “The remaining stuff on Podesta,” Corsi said, “is complicated.” That seems to comport with Corsi’s later representation he did a series, of which the October 13 one was part. But it also seems to suggest that the remaining stuff was already written at 8:54 AM on October 12.

75. On or about October 8, 2016, STONE messaged CORSI at Target Account 2, “Lunch postponed- have to go see T.” CORSI responded to STONE, “Ok. I understand.” Approximately twenty minutes later, CORSI texted, “Clintons know they will lose a week of Paula Jones media with T attacking Foundation, using Wikileaks Goldman Sachs speech comments, attacking bad job numbers.”

76. On or about Wednesday, October 12, 2016, at approximately 8:17 EDT, STONE emailed CORSI at Target Account 1, asking him to “send me your best podesta links.” STONE emailed CORSI at approximately 8:$$ [sic] EDT, “need your BEST podesta pieces.” CORSI wrote back at approximately 8:54AM EDT, “Ok. Monday. The remaining stuff on Podesta is complicated. Two articles in length. I can give you in raw form the stuff I got in Russian translated but to write it up so it’s easy to understand will take weekend. Your choice?”

77. On or about that same day October 12, 2016, Podesta accused STONE of having advance knowledge of the publication of his emails. At approximately 3:25PM EDT, CORSI, using Target Account 1, emailed STONE with a subject line “Podesta talking points.” Attached to the email was a file labeled, “ROGER STONE podesta talking points Oct 12 2016.docx.” The “talking points” included the statement that “Podesta is at the heart of a Russian-govermnent money laundering operation that benefits financially Podesta personally and the Clintons through the Clinton Foundation.”

78. CORSI followed up several minutes later with another email titled, “Podesta talking points,” with the text “sent a second time just to be sure you got it.” STONE emailed CORSI back via the Hotmail Account, “Got them and used them.”

79. On or about Thursday, October 13, 2016, CORSI, using Target Account 3, emailed STONE: “PODESTA — Joule & ties to RUSSIA MONEY LAUNDERING to CLINTON FOUNDATION.” STONE responded, “Nice but I was hoping for a piece I could post under my by-line since I am the one under attack by Podesta and now Mook.” CORSI wrote back to STONE, “I’ll give you one more -NOBODY YET HAS THIS[:] It looks to me like [redacted–Vekselberg] skimmed maybe billions off Skolkovo – Skolkovo kept their money with Metcombank[.] The Russians launched a criminal investigation[.] [web link] Once [redacted–Vekselberg] had the channel open from Metcombank to Deutsche Bank America to Ban[k] of America’s Clinton Fund account, there’s no telling how much money he laundered, or where it ended up. Nothing in Clinton Foundation audited financials or IRS Form 990s about $$$ received via Russia & Metcombank[.] I’m working on that angle now.” STONE replied, “Ok Give me SOMETHING to post on Podesta since I have now promised it to a dozen MSM reporters[.]”

80. On or about Thursday, October 13, 2016 at approximately 6:30PM EDT, CORSI sent STONE an email with the Subject, “ROGER STONE article RUSSIAN MAFIA STYLE MONEY-LAUNDERING, the CLINTON FOUNDATION, and JOHN PODESTA.” The text stated: “Roger[,] You are free to publish this under your own name.” That same day, STONE posted a blog post with the title, “Russian Mafia money laundering, the Clinton Foundation and John Podesta.” In that post, STONE wrote, “although I have had some back-channel communications with Wikileaks I had no advance notice about the hacking of Mr. Podesta nor I have I ever received documents or data from Wikileaks.” The post then asked, “Just how much money did, a controversial Russian billionaire investor with ties to the Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, launder through Metcombank, a Russian regional bank owned 99 .978 percent by with the money transferred via Deutsche Bank and Trust Company Americas in New York City, with the money ending up in a private bank account in the Bank of America that is operated by the Clinton Foundation?”

81. On or about October 14, 2016, CORSI sent a message using Target Account 2 to STONE, “i’m in NYC. Thinking about writing piece attacking Leer and other women. It’s basically a rewrite of what’s out there. Going through new Wikileaks drop on Podesta.” [my emphasis]

It turns out the post Stone ultimately posted had no links to the WikiLeaks releases it relied on (remember, he asked Corsi for links and pieces), but it does reference a file that had been released on October 11, hours before Corsi seemed to speak of the post as already completed.

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

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

A parallel post covering the same material posted by Corsi does have links to the emails that support the disposition of the 75,000 shares and other claims made in it. But that one was updated about six hours after it was first posted, and the first Internet Archive capture postdates that update.

Investigators seem to have found some significance, too, in the Metcombank reference that Corsi got and had to translate from Russian, a significance I don’t understand. But Stone dropped part of that attack when he revived the Vekselberg attack to use against Cohen in 2018.

Remember: Investigators would have had the forensics for the documents Corsi and Stone were sending back and forth by email, and probably would have communications about all this between August 14 and August 31, when (according to Corsi), Stone asked him to write a cover story. They would know if the story Stone posted under his own name was drafted before the public release of the emails it relied on.

But even on its face, Corsi’s comments suggest that these documents were a series started by October 6, of which some parts “were remaining” on the morning of October 12, one day after the email it relied on got released. Remember, too, that Corsi claims Stone told him to delete his email (which he did) on October 11, which would hide any knowledge of that WikiLeaks file before it came out.

Paul Manafort and Rick Gates both testified that Roger Stone had a plan, hatched before Paul Manafort resigned on August 19, to save his job by claiming that Podesta was just as bad as Manafort. Manafort even described the specific nature of the Russian-based attack on Podesta they had planned (though Bill Barr’s DOJ redacted it to protect Podesta’s privacy!).

And then, when Roger Stone asked Corsi for “links” as well as “pieces” on October 12, Corsi sent him a document that, by reference, had already been written, one that didn’t have links but that integrated information that wasn’t public until October 11.

That doesn’t prove that Stone and Corsi had those files in mid-August. But it does explain why Stone might have wanted a cover story denying they did after he boasted that it would soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel on August 21.


The movie Rashomon demonstrated that any given narrative tells just one version of events, but that by listening to all available narratives, you might identify gaps and biases that get you closer to the truth.

I’m hoping that principle works even for squalid stories like the investigation into Roger Stone’s cheating in the 2016 election. This series will examine the differences between four stories about Roger Stone’s actions in 2016:

As I noted in the introductory post (which lays out how I generally understand the story each tells), each story has real gaps in one or more of these areas:

My hope is that by identifying these gaps and unpacking what they might say about the choices made in crafting each of these stories, we can get a better understanding of what actually happened — both in 2016 and in the investigations. The gaps will serve as a framework for this series.

Roger Stone’s Remarkable Interest in Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It turns out, the night before the speech, the campaign announced a venue change, to the Mayflower Hotel, a decision that has attracted a great deal of scrutiny since because of the way the venue set up an opportunity (among other things) for the Russian Ambassador to hob-nob with Trump’s people.

The Mueller Report describes that Jared Kushner directed CNI to change the venue and reveals that the actual venue change was made on April 25, two days after Stone’s angry texts.

Kushner later requested that the event be moved to the Mayflower Hotel, which was another venue that Simes had mentioned during initial discussions with the Campaign, in order to address concerns about security and capacity.618

[snip]

On April 25, 2016, Saunders booked event rooms at the Mayflower to host both the speech and a VIP reception that was to be held beforehand.619 Saunders understood that the receptionat which invitees would have the chance to meet· candidate Trump–would be a small event.620 Saunders decided who would attend by looking at the list of CNI’ s invitees to the speech itself and then choosing a subset for the reception.621 CNI’s invitees to the reception included Sessions and Kislyak.622 The week before the speech Simes had informed Kislyak that he would be invited to the speech, and that he would have the opportunity to meet Trump.623

616 Simes 3/8/18 302, at 13; Saunders 2/15/18 302, at 7-8.

619 Saunders 2/15/18 302, at 11-12; C00006651-57 (Mayflower Group Sales Agreement).

620 Saunders 2/15/18 302, at 12-13.

621 Saunders 2/15/18 302, at 12.

622 C00002575 (Attendee List); C00008536 (4/25/16 Email, Simes to Kushner (4:53:45 p.m.)).

623 Simes 3/8/18 302, at 19-20.

But the interviews explaining why Kushner asked for the change and how the Mayflower got booked remain heavily redacted in the 302s released under the BuzzFeed FOIA, even after part of one got reprocessed.

The texts and the timing at least suggest that Stone may have had some influence over the change — and, since he complained about the content of the speech, even the content.

That’s not the only moment when Roger Stone, far better known for his domestic rat-fucking and policy interest in racism and decriminalization, tried to play a direct role in Trump’s foreign policy stance.

The SSCI Report provides a really remarkable description that — during the key period when Stone was pitching Manafort on what was happening with further releases of stolen documents in July and August 2016 — Stone was scripting pro-Russian Tweets for the candidate.

(U) On Sunday July 31, at 9:15 p.m., the day after speaking at length with Manafort, Stone called Gates.1550 Ten minutes later, Stone had two phone calls with Trump that lasted over ten minutes. 1551 Stone then emailed Jessica Macchia, one of Trump’s assistants, eight draft tweets for Trump, under the subject line “Tweets Mr. Trump requested last night.”1552 Many of the draft tweets attacked Clinton for her adversarial posture toward Russia and mentioned a new peace deal with Putin, such as “I want a new detente with Russia under Putin.”1553

(U) At 10:45 p.m. that same evening, Stone emailed Corsi again with the subject line “Call me MON[day]” and writing that “Malloch should see Assange.”1554

(U) The next morning, August 1, Stone again spoke twice with Trump. 1555 Stone later informed Gates of these calls. 1556 According to an email that morning from Stone to Macchia, Trump had “asked [Stone] for some other things” that Stone said he was “writing now.”1557

Four days after Trump appeared to ad lib a request for Russia to dump more emails, “Russia are you listening?” Trump’s rat-fucker left a digital trail showing himself scripting tweets for Trump to adopt a pro-Russian stance.

While most witnesses couldn’t explain why Trump asked Russia to find Hillary’s emails, Gates said in very ambiguous testimony the most damning part of which remains redacted that knowledge that Russia was behind the hack might have come from Stone (which is far different than actually scripting Trump’s comments).

Senior Campaign officials believed that the statement was unscripted. 1518 However, Gates also recalled Stone mentioning that Russia was probably the source of the materials, and Gates also acknowledged there were public indications at the time that Russia was responsible. 1519

1518 (U) See FBI, FD-302, Gates 4/11/2018; FBI, FD-302, Manafort 9/13/2018; Bannon Tr., pp. 173-174. 1519

(U) FBI, FD-302, Gates, 10/25/2018.

The SSCI Report is silent about whether Trump actually used any of those draft tweets, though the three Russian or Ukrainian tweets Trump did post in this period (one, two, three) were clean-up from the “Russia are you listening” comment, suggesting that Trump did not use what Stone drafted.

Stone, however, appears to have used the tweets he drafted himself. On July 27 (after Trump’s “Russia are you listening” comment), he affirmed that,

Of course the Russians hacked @HillaryClinton’s e-mail- Putin doesn’t want the WAR with Russia neo-con Hillary’s donors have paid for

And Stone sent three tweets that appear similar, if not identical, to the ones he drafted for Trump to send out (he appears to have posted them before sending them to Trump’s assistant).

HYPOCRISY ! @HillaryClinton attacks Trump for non-relationship with Putin when she and Bill have taken millions from Russians oligarchs

Trump wants to end the cold war and defuse out tensions with Russia. Hillary ,neocon wants war. Putin gets it. @smerconish @realDonaldTrump

,@RealDonaldTrump wants to end new cold war tensions with Russia-thru tough negotiation- #detente #NYTimes

Days later, Stone would flip-flop on the certainty, expressed on July 27, that Russia had hacked Hillary, linking to an Assange denial made to RT and repackaged at Breitbart and two different versions of his post claiming that Guccifer 2.0 was not Russian.

Aug 5, 2016 09:18:08 PMHillary lies about Russian Involvement in DNC hack -Julian Assange is a hero. https://t.co/0oxP32I3Fz [Twitter Web Client]

Aug 6, 2016 10:17:07 AMRussians had nothing to do with Hillary Hack https://t.co/OHQvbKrxBt 

Aug 6, 2016 10:55:14 PMRoger Stone shows Russians didn’t hack Hillary https://t.co/o3WfbQFPwH https://t.co/bkqgEjvXMC 

Aug 8, 2016 12:43:27 AM[email protected] lies about Russians hacking DNC e-mail https://t.co/OHQvbKrxBt

At two key moments in Trump’s first election campaign, a guy with no known foreign policy chops sure seemed to have an acute interest in dictating the candidate’s foreign policy views.

Robert Mueller Insinuates Andrew Weissmann Had Incomplete Information

I’ve started reading Andrew Weissmann’s book.

I’m sure I’ll have a review of it one day, like I one day will finally do the post explaining why I think Peter Strzok’s book came 6 months or maybe a year too late.

But for the moment, I want to talk about this Robert Mueller comment obliquely pushing back on Weissmann’s book.

Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III pushed back Tuesday against a prosecutor in his office who says in a tell-all book that investigators should have done more to hold President Trump accountable, suggesting that the account is “based on incomplete information” and asserting that he stands by his decisions in the case.

The rare public statement from Mueller came on the day Andrew Weissmann, a former prosecutor in the special counsel’s office, released a book alleging that the group did not fully investigate Trump’s financial ties and should have stated explicitly that it believed he obstructed justice.

Although Mueller’s statement did not name Weissmann or the book, “Where Law Ends,” it seemed clearly designed to address some of his complaints — particularly those directed at Aaron Zebley, Mueller’s top deputy, whom Weissmann said was not sufficiently aggressive.

“It is not surprising that members of the Special Counsel’s Office did not always agree, but it is disappointing to hear criticism of our team based on incomplete information,” Mueller said.

Weissmann’s book bills itself as the tell-all from the investigation. But it’s generally not. It’s the tell-all of one-third of the investigation, the Manafort team. The book will tell how they got Rick Gates to flip and thought they got Manafort to cooperate but in the end Manafort just used that as an opportunity to find out what prosecutors knew, so he could report back to Trump. There are interesting details in that. But the interesting details cover just a third of the investigation.

Just as a metric of what I mean, the name Stone shows up 18 times in his book, and a number of those contextualize the rat-fucker’s decades-old relationship with Manafort.

I think Mueller’s comment suggesting that Weissmann had “incomplete information” is particularly salient, given what is public with regards to the obstruction investigation, another third of the investigation.

That’s because the way the Mueller Report is built, it lays out predicate such that when Trump commutes Stone’s sentence or when Trump causes his Attorney General to move Manafort to home confinement or when Trump gets Barr to use throw multiple different flunkies to blow up the Mike Flynn prosecution — all in an effort to get Roger Stone and Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn to continue to cover up what really happened in 2016 — that only builds on the obstruction volume. Those efforts become part of a continuing conspiracy to cover all this up. So, short of the increasing likelihood that Trump pardons himself and/or refuses to cede power, the Mueller investigation is preserved, the obstruction charges are preserved. They’re even preserved given Billy Barr’s judgement that the facts, on March 22, 2019 did not yet merit obstruction charges, because after that time, Trump would have done what it was obvious he would do as laid out in Volume II, in fact what Billy Barr said was a crime three times in his confirmation hearing.

The way in which the Mueller Report is drafted, it takes the rule that you cannot charge the President for anything, and preserves the obstruction charges that everyone agrees he should be charged with. It not only does that, but it lays out evidence that if Trump uses his pardon power to reward his flunkies for covering up his actions — something even Billy Barr has said is a crime — then it will amount to completing the criminal act of obstruction. The Mueller Report lays out the evidence why the actions that Trump will eventually take (and to a significant extent, has already taken) amount to a crime.

That’s a still-imperfect solution, given that Congress didn’t do what Mueller seems to have expected (impeach) and given that Trump looks increasingly likely to refuse to leave. It doesn’t negate what Weissmann argues about the rule of law.

But it does make Mueller’s public but oblique rebuke of Weissmann far more interesting.

Roger Stone Demanded Lists from Rick Gates at Least Nine Times During the 2016 Election

For a whole slew of reasons, I want to point out a detail in an exhibit released in Roger Stone’s trial: He asked for “lists” — once explicitly described as donor lists, but described as voter registration lists by Stone’s attorney, Bruce Rogow, at trial — from Rick Gates at least nine times:

4/30/16, 2:37:22 PM [Stone to Gates]: Obtain the donor list- I Need it soon to effect [sic] California!!

5/11/16, 7:16:14 AM [Stone to Gates]: Get the list. I don’t care about anything else.

5/11/16, 1:08:05 PM [Stone to Gates]: Get the list !!!!!!!

5/13/16, 1:52:51 AM [Stone to Gates]: Tried – corey trying desperately to tie me to New PAC and Trump seems to be unaware that this PA

5/13/16, 1:15:31 AM [Gates to Stone]: New updates.

5/13/16, 1:32:00 PM [Stone to Gates]: Can make sure Manafort makes sure Trump knows about Sovereignty PAC-???

5/15/16, 2:36:32 PM [Gates to Stone]: Did you see the positive press o. AS PAC? Hope it holds.

5/17/16, 3:54:53 PM [Stone to Gates]: Get the list.

5/17/16, 7:19:20 PM[Stone to Gates]: Get the list – “u need to reconcile against FEC report” crucial

6/21/16, 3:54:40 PM [Stone to Gates]: Lists Friday ??? please

7/2/16, 5:59:17 PM [Stone to Gates]: Lists? You said last weds

9/21/16, 10:30:25 PM [Stone to Gates]: Please get me lists – please.

9/26/16, 8:30:22 PM [Stone to Gates]: Lists????

9/28/16, 1:43:14 AM [Stone to Gates]: Are u going to send me the lists in time for me to use? do me no good after the election

10/19/16, 5:00:14 PM [Stone to Gates]: Lists…..pls

It’s not entirely clear why they were included at trial. The government had talked about introducing 404b information showing Stone illegally coordinating with the campaign, but there was more focus, on that point, on Stone’s discussions with Steve Bannon about obtaining funding from Rebekah Mercer while the latter was campaign manager.

Perhaps the defense wanted to include these exchanges as proof that Stone’s conversations with Gates focused more often on lists than on WikiLeaks. In his cross examination of Gates, Rogow got Trump’s former Deputy Campaign Manager to confirm that Stone, “continually asked questions about voter registration lists.”

Q. Mr. Stone’s role in the campaign dealt with voter registration lists, primarily, didn’t it?

A. I didn’t know what Mr. Stone was responsible for prior to when I arrived. When I arrived, Mr. Stone had already left the campaign.

Q. Did Mr. Stone continually ask questions about voter registration lists?

A. He did.

To be clear: I’m completely agnostic what Stone’s requests were about. But there are a slew of possibilities.

One reason I raise it — given a Campaign Legal Center complaint to the FEC, alleging that Trump laundered $170 million in campaign funding through Brad Parscale’s firms and news today of Parscale’s attempt at self-harm yesterday — pertains to some comments that Paul Manafort made in a September 27, 2016 interview:

Stone had a PAC that was not well funded and he wanted Manafort to designate it as the favored PAC for the campaign, but Manafort did not want to. Lewandowski also had a PAC and wanted the same thing, and Manafort did not want to deal with internal politics related to their PACs. He thought it was a good idea to have a designated PAC, he just did not want it to be either Stone’s or Lewandowski’s.

[snip]

Manafort was not sure how Stone made his money. Manafort knew Stone wrote books and gave speeches and did some consulting. Manafort knew Stone was working on a book about the Trump campaign and consulted with different candidates and on various referenda. Manafort did not know Stone’s client base. Manafort was not familiar with the company Citroen.

Manafort’s comments are positively hilarious. He presents this as a battle between Stone and Corey Lewandowski over who could make the most profit off of illegally coordinating with the campaign. That battle was real, and cut throat.

But at the time Stone and Lewandowski were fighting that out, Manafort’s allies had their own PAC that prosecutors at least suspected that Manafort used as a kick back system to get paid. Manafort didn’t want anyone else to be the official illegally coordinating campaign, presumably, because he wanted his PAC to have that role. And at the time Manafort made this comment in September 2018, he was pretty aggressively trying to hide how his own PAC worked.

The investigation into Manafort’s PAC has been closed, whether because Bill Barr shut it down or prosecutors gave up trying to untangle it.

But the CLC complaint into Trump’s current campaign alleges that one of Parscale’s firms, American Made Media Holding Corporation, serves as a pass through for campaign vendor services that are therefore improperly shielded from campaign finance reporting.

Approximately one month after AMMC’s formation, the Trump campaign began reporting sizable payments to AMMC, and AMMC soon became the Trump campaign’s largest vendor. Since 2019, the Trump campaign has reported paying $106 million to AMMC for an array of general purposes, including placed media, consulting, online advertising, SMS advertising, and more; the Trump Make America Great Again Committee has reported over $61 million in payments to AMMC, largely for online advertising.

Available evidence indicates that AMMC is not directly providing those services to the Trump campaign, but instead is acting as a “clearinghouse”10 that disburses Trump campaign funds to other vendors, “effectively shielding the identities of the underlying contractors being paid for Trump campaign work.”11 In several instances, Trump campaign officials and public reports have described other firms as major contractors providing services to the Trump campaign, yet those contractors’ names do not appear on the Trump campaign’s reports filed with the Commission; instead, it appears that the Trump campaign reports payments to AMMC, which then passes on the funds to the intended payees.

For example, Trump campaign officials have spoken publicly about directing and managing the development of a mobile app produced by the software company Phunware, yet the Trump campaign has not reported direct payments to the company. Other public records suggest that the Trump campaign is contracting with Realtime Media and Opn Sesame— firms headed by the Trump campaign’s digital director, Gary Coby12—yet neither firm has appeared on the campaign’s reports filed with the FEC. Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) records show that the Trump campaign’s ads are placed by the firm Harris Sikes Media, but the campaign has not reported payments to that firm during the 2019-20 election cycle. Available evidence indicates that the Trump campaign is selecting, directing, and controlling these vendors and their work, yet is failing to report payments to the firms and is instead using AMMC as a conduit for its payments to the firms. Other possible vendors that the campaign may be paying through AMMC, such as those providing services for direct mail, software, subscriptions, or video production—all services for which the campaign has also described paying AMMC this cycle—are not ascertainable through public records.

In addition, CLC reviews some of the reporting that Parscale pays a number of people — notably Don Jr’s girlfriend and Eric Trump’s wife — for their work on the campaign.

Additionally, the Trump campaign is currently paying Parscale Strategy, the consulting firm of former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, approximately $48,000 a month for “strategy consulting,” and, according to multiple media reports, using Parscale Strategy as a conduit for salary payments to particular campaign staff.13

[snip]

Similarly, in a July 15, 2020 article reporting on Parscale’s change of position within the campaign, the Washington Post reported that Parscale’s “firm, Parscale Strategy, bills for the campaign salaries of Lara Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the wife and girlfriend respectively of Trump’s two oldest sons, Eric and Donald Jr.”93

In the 2020 cycle, the Trump campaign has not directly reported making any salary payments to campaign manager Brad Parscale, nor has it reported any salary payments to Kimberly Guilfoyle or Lara Trump.94

This is the kind of scheme that the NYT described in its blockbuster report on Trump’s tax returns, though in that case the “consultant” was Ivanka.

Examining the Trump Organization’s tax records, a curious pattern emerges: Between 2010 and 2018, Mr. Trump wrote off some $26 million in unexplained “consulting fees” as a business expense across nearly all of his projects.

In most cases the fees were roughly one-fifth of his income: In Azerbaijan, Mr. Trump collected $5 million on a hotel deal and reported $1.1 million in consulting fees, while in Dubai it was $3 million with a $630,000 fee, and so on.

Mysterious big payments in business deals can raise red flags, particularly in places where bribes or kickbacks to middlemen are routine. But there is no evidence that Mr. Trump, who mostly licenses his name to other people’s projects and is not involved in securing government approvals, has engaged in such practices.

Rather, there appears to be a closer-to-home explanation for at least some of the fees: Mr. Trump reduced his taxable income by treating a family member as a consultant, and then deducting the fee as a cost of doing business.

The “consultants” are not identified in the tax records. But evidence of this arrangement was gleaned by comparing the confidential tax records to the financial disclosures Ivanka Trump filed when she joined the White House staff in 2017. Ms. Trump reported receiving payments from a consulting company she co-owned, totaling $747,622, that exactly matched consulting fees claimed as tax deductions by the Trump Organization for hotel projects in Vancouver and Hawaii.

When CLC filed an FEC complaint against the grift of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman in 2018, they shared the complaint with SDNY, which is what led to the prosecution of Rudy’s grifters. Here, the appropriate venue would likely be FL or TX (so less likely to pursue a vigorous investigation), but given CLC’s past practice, one should assume it’s likely the information was shared.

In 2016, Trump engaged in all sorts of dodgy campaign financing. But possibly because his key advisors were in such a cutthroat competition with each other, only the now-closed Manafort investigation and the inauguration funding got much scrutiny.

But now, with everything centralized in Parscale’s sports cars, it may be easier to see the grift.

Then there’s what Cambridge Analytica did, some independently and some with the campaign. Channel 4 in the UK has a story today on how aggressively Trump suppressed the black vote.

Finally, I think it’s also important to note that Trump’s Deputy Campaign Manager was being asked (there’s only one indication, May 13, 2016, that Gates delivered, and even that’s not definite) to provide Trump’s rat-fucker with voting lists in a parallel time table as he was providing Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik polling data. In September, Russian hackers would spend much of the month making copies of Hillary’s analytics on AWS.

In any case, Trump continues to be surrounded by people who are clearly grifting off their work with him, without much clarity on how they’re doing so and what the implications of all that are.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rudy Giuliani’s Actions Remain Under Investigation

Update: This post explains why the premise of the post below is wrong. Because the George Nader referral was not revealed in the reprocessed report, we can be sure that DOJ is improperly claiming b7A redactions for investigations that have closed.

Last night, DOJ released a “reprocessed” Mueller Report in the BuzzFeed/CNN FOIA of it. (one, two, three)

I’m driving most of the day today, so probably won’t be able to comment on how little genuinely “new” it shows. But I stand by my prediction that the warrants in the Stone case are far more damning than anything released yesterday.

That said, given Billy Barr’s attempt to fire Geoff Berman as US Attorney for Southern District of New York, it’s worth noting the referrals portion of the report. That shows, among other things, that a referral from the Paul Manafort and Rick Gates influence-peddling — which could be Rudy’s grifters — is still redacted as an ongoing investigation.

In addition — as Katelyn Polantz noted on Twitter — the references to Rudy’s attempts to broker a pardon for Michael Cohen remain redacted.

SDNY is due to supersede the indictment for Rudy’s grifters, and we know from the Schulte case there is a working grand jury (albeit in White Plains, not Manhattan). So Rudy may well be in Berman’s crosshairs.

 

Bill Barr Needs to Soften Roger Stone’s Sentence to Prevent Him from Talking

As noted, after DOJ recommended what Roger Stone’s own memo makes clear is a a guidelines sentence yesterday, top DOJ officials almost certainly named Bill Barr have objected and announced they’re going to lower the recommendation.

I believe the brazenness of this fight may be a reflection of the damaging information Roger Stone may have about Trump’s own conduct.

The trial itself provided ample evidence of what Mark Meadows considers “collusion” involving Donald Trump personally. It showed the campaign — and probably Trump personally — were working through Stone to optimize the WikiLeaks releases from the very day they came out on June 14, 2016. It showed that Stone was informing Trump personally about his efforts to optimize the releases. After some arm-twisting to adhere to his grand jury testimony, Steve Bannon testified he knew of all this, contrary to some of what he had said in earlier testimony that Trump would learn about. Erik Prince was in the loop. Gates testified that Stone was strategizing with Jared Kushner on all this. And it appears that Paul Manafort was in the loop, too.

But all that really damning evidence came out in a trial that only had to prove that Stone had lied to cover up the actions he took to optimize the release of the WikiLeaks emails. The trial did not need to explain what Stone’s actual back channel was, what he had to do to obtain it, and how involved Trump was in that process. And the trial did not explain it.

Indeed, there’s evidence I’ll lay out at more length in a follow-up that the government chose not to lay out all it knew. That is, it appears the government came to trial prepared to present evidence about the underlying “collusion,” but ultimately decided to hold it back for now.

At multiple times during the trial, however, the prosecution pointed to suspiciously timed phone calls, right before or after Stone discussed WikiLeaks with Gates, Manafort, or Jerome Corsi. Only Stone or Trump can tell us what happened between the two men, what Trump’s actual role in maximizing the degree to which his campaign benefitted from Russia’s theft of his opponent’s email.

Immediately after the trial, Stone made an intense effort to get Trump to pardon him, with his wife Nydia appearing on Tucker Carlson’s show to ask directly and a man with a vuvuzela inside the White House calling for a pardon gates.

Since that time, Stone was silent, until the time that the Probation Office provided the sentencing range for the crimes that was built in to the way that Mueller charged this just over a year ago. That is, by charging Stone with witness tampering, Mueller built in the possibility that Stone would be facing the steep sentence recommended yesterday. And that steep sentence may have been envisioned not as the sum of what Stone’s actual actions entailed — certainly every single warrant save the last four showed probable cause that Stone had done far more — but rather as leverage to get Stone to tell what he knows about Trump’s involvement in all this.

Bill Barr was brought in as AG to bury abundant evidence that Trump was personally involved in efforts to maximize the Russian operation, to deny all the ways that Trump did cheat to win. From his initial misleading claims in the wake of the report’s release, he was always suppressing the centrality of Roger Stone in all this.

So it’s fairly safe to conclude that DOJ’s reversal today is not just an effort to prevent a rich white man, Roger Stone, from facing the full consequences of his actions, but to prevent voters from learning what another rich white man did to cheat to get elected.

Yes, ultimately Trump will commute what is left of Roger Stone’s sentence, probably on November 4, just like he fired Jeff Sessions the day after the 2018 election. But I suspect that Roger Stone, rightly, isn’t going to leave anything to chance. And so neither can Bill Barr.

Update: Aaron Zelinsky just quit his position as Special Assistant USA, providing notice to ABJ he’s withdrawing from the case immediately. This likely gives her the opportunity to hear from him, but also frees him up to testify before HJC. And these several steps — the harsh sentence in witness tampering and the possibility that Zelinsky would quit, creating the opportunity for transparency about the case in one or another place, probably has been built in from Barr’s first efforts to shut down this investigation.

Update: Now all four prosecutors are off the Stone team, with Acting DC Criminal Division Chief John Crabb Jr (who replaced the existing CD Chief yesterday) signing a memo that makes a flaccid case that Stone’s guidelines were totally out of whack. Of the four, it appears that Jonathan Kravis left DOJ entirely.

Manafort’s Efforts to Insinuate Himself into Trump’s Campaign Earlier Than Previously Known

The Mueller Report describes Trump’s decision to hire Paul Manafort this way.

Manafort served on the Trump Campaign from late March to August 19, 2016. On March 29, 2016, the Campaign announced that Manafort would serve as the Campaign’s “Convention Manager.”871 On May 19, 2016, Manafort was promoted to campaign chairman and chief strategist, and Gates, who had been assisting Manafort on the Campaign, was appointed deputy campaign chairman.872 Thomas Barrack and Roger Stone both recommended Manafort to candidate Trump.873

In early 2016, at Manafort’s request, Barrack suggested to Trump that Manafort join the Campaign to manage the Republican Convention.874 Stone had worked with Manafort from approximately 1980 until the mid-1990s through various consulting and lobbying firms. Manafort met Trump in 1982 when Trump hired the Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly lobbying firm.875 Over the years, Manafort saw Trump at political and social events in New York City and at Stone’s wedding, and Trump requested VIP status at the 1988 and 1996 Republican conventions worked by Manafort.876

According to Gates, in March 2016, Manafort traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to meet with Trump. Trump hired him at that time.877 Manafort agreed to work on the Campaign without pay. Manafort had no meaningful income at this point in time, but resuscitating his domestic political campaign career could be financially beneficial in the future. Gates reported that Manafort intended, if Trump won the Presidency, to remain outside the Administration and monetize his relationship with the Administration. 878

Gates’ description for some of this (two of the cited Gates 302s and all of the Manafort ones have not been released yet) is fairly anodyne:

Thomas Barrack and Roger Stone acted as liaisons between Manafort and the Trump Campaign prior to Manafort’s hiring. Trump had just lost the primary in Wisconsin and then won the primary in Louisiana, but the delegates refused to support him. Trump did not understand the mechanics of delegates and the way the system worked. Barrack and Stone had been lobbying for Trump to hire Manafort for some time and it wasn’t until after the Wisconsin and Louisiana primaries that Trump agreed. Barrack was the person who set up Manafort’s first meeting with Trump, Hicks and Lewandowski in Mar a Lago.

The bolded footnotes in the Mueller passage above derive, at least in part, from Tom Barrack’s 302, which was released yesterday.

That 302 describes the background in more interesting fashion:

In January 2016, knowing of BARRACK’s close association with then U.S. Presidential candidate TRUMP, MANAFORT asked BARRACK to intervene on his behalf to become the convention manager for the TRUMP Presidential Campaign. BARRACK initially thought this was MANAFORT being MANAFORT. In other words, BARRACK described MANAFORT as an opportunist. MANAFORT was a good political strategist and had good ideas. But MANAFORT’s relationship with [redacted] would make it difficult for BARRACK to intervene on his behalf. BARRACK stated MANAFORT’s biggest impediment to joining the campaign was [redacted] who BARRACK described as someone with brilliance and bizarreness all wrapped up into one. Nonetheless, BARRACK met MANAFORT for coffee in Los Angeles, California to discuss the concept. MANAFORT told him TRUMP needed help and MANAFORT was the person who could help TRUMP. At this coffee meeting, MANAFORT also asked BARRACK whether he could do him a favor and give [redacted] a job interview with BARRACK’s company.

BARRACK eventually approached TRUMP with the idea of MANAFORT helping the Presidential campaign but TRUMP dismissed the idea because of MANAFORT’s connection to [redacted]

MANAFORT followed up their coffee meeting with a briefing paper about why the Republican Convention and its delegates were so important to the TRUMP campaign. In February or the beginning of March 2016, BARRACK again approached TRUMP about MANAFORT’s involvement with the Convention, which TRUMP eventually agreed. MANAFORT stated he did not need to be paid by the campaign for his work on the convention, which TRUMP liked because he was paying for the campaign out of his own pocket.

[snip]

BARRACK stated the TRUMP campaign did not conduct any due diligence into MANAFORT’s background before bringing him on to be the Convention Manager. BARRACK described the campaign at the time as amateur, which is why bringing on an experienced political professional like MANAFORT was important. BARRACK also stated STONE, who had a continuing and intermittent relationship with TRUMP, weight in on supporting MANAFORT as the Convention Manager.

Those redactions in bold appear to be 5-characters long, so could well be Stone. The convention in 302s is to introduce someone’s full name then include it in parentheses, but Stone would have been introduced pages earlier when Barrack described meeting Manafort’s business partners from when Stone was a named partner. As noted, Stone shows up a paragraph later in the 302 in the same kind of context.

Whoever it is, the exemptions in that paragraph include b7A, ongoing investigation.

Whoever the redacted name, that Manafort was affirmatively asking for the Convention Manager job as soon as January is of particular interest. That’s when DOJ opened the money laundering investigation into Manafort, after all. That was after the time when Felix Sater was pitching the Trump Tower deal.

And significantly, it raised the stakes on Trump’s failure to manage his delegates before Manafort came in, something that Manafort buddy Roger Stone was closely involved with in his initial Stop the Steal effort. It also makes Manafort’s second offer — to work for free — appear even more desperate (though he was financially desperate at the time).

Update: Added the follow-on language referencing Stone.

Deza: Oleg Deripaska’s Double Game

Oleg Deripaska was working to weaken Manafort even as he was pushing him to help carve up Ukraine

On July 30, 2016, as explained by the DOJ IG Report on Carter Page, Christopher Steele met with Bruce Ohr in DC. They discussed several things: reporting, paid for by an unknown source, about Russian doping; Steele’s reporting, paid for by Fusion GPS, about Carter Page’s travel to Russia and a claim that Russia had Trump over a barrel; and Steele’s work for one or several Oleg Deripaska attorneys digging up evidence in support of the aluminum oligarch’s lawsuit against Paul Manafort.

Three days later on August 2, 2016, as explained by the Mueller Report, Konstantin Kilimnik met with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates in NYC. They discussed several things: how Manafort planned to win the election by winning PA, MI, WI, and MN; what role Manafort might play in a Russian-backed plan to put Viktor Yanukovych in charge of an autonomous Donbas region that Manafort recognized was a back door effort to carve up Ukraine to Russia’s liking; and how Manafort could fix his urgent financial woes by getting his Ukrainian paymasters to pay money due him and by getting Deripaska to dismiss that lawsuit.

That is just one of the temporal overlaps that make it clear Oleg Deripaska was playing a brutal double game in 2016, pitching a renewed relationship with a financially desperate Manafort via Konstantin Kilimnik at the same time — sometimes even on the same days — when he was offering to provide evidence to the FBI on Manafort’s corruption via Christopher Steele.

Another such overlap came in December, 2016. On December 7, in an interagency meeting, Bruce Ohr suggested the US government engage with Deripaska to learn about corruption — “all the way to the President” — alleged by Steele. The next day, December 8, Kilimnik sent Manafort an email (probably using foldering in a failed attempt to hide it from surveillance) where he pitched Manafort on leading the Ukraine peace deal again. “All that is required to start the process is a very minor ‘wink’ (or slight push) from [Trump] and a decision to authorize you to be a ‘special representative’ and manage this process.” (See the timeline below for the chilling way this double game played out over the course of 2016.)

The double game that Deripaska was playing — making Manafort more vulnerable with threats of legal trouble even while pushing him to lead an effort to carve up Ukraine to Russia’s liking — may be a far more consequential question for American security than the Steele dossier itself is, particularly given how Trump’s efforts to undermine the Russian investigation have led him to undercut Volodymyr Zelensky as he tries to negotiate a peace deal with Russia. If Manafort, out of financial and possibly even electoral desperation, made commitments in August 2016 — and whether he did or not was a question Mueller was unable to answer, in part because Manafort risked more prison time to hide the answer — it would compromise Trump as well, even if he didn’t know of or approve Manafort’s efforts in advance.

Bill Priestap underestimated Vladimir Putin’s strategy

The outline of this double game provides a ready answer to a question that Bill Priestap — the top FBI counterintelligence person at the time he oversaw the Russia investigation — posed when asked whether the FBI had considered that the dossier might be disinformation.

Priestap told us that he recognized that the Russians are “masters at disinformation” and that the Crossfire Hurricane team was aware of the potential for Russian disinformation to influence Steele’s reporting. According to Priestap:

[W]e had a lot of concurrent efforts to try to understand, is [the reporting] true or not, and if it’s not, you know, why is it not? Is it the motivation of [Steele] or one of his sources, meaning [Steele’s] sources?… [Or were they] flipped, they’re actually working for the Russians, and providing disinformation? We considered all of that. …

[snip]

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

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

Priestap convinced himself this was not disinformation based on three assumptions:

  • Nobody thought Trump would win at the time
  • The Russians favored Trump
  • To help Trump, the Russians were trying to hurt Hillary and sow chaos

Those assumptions led Priestap to believe Russia would, therefore, never do anything to harm Trump, and so concluded this dossier could not be a Russian disinformation effort. But, with the benefit of three years of hindsight, I think we can restate these assumptions such that filling the dossier with disinformation makes perfect sense. Yes, Russia preferred Trump and yes, few people believed Trump could win. But the Russians stood to optimize the chances that Trump would defy expectations by preventing the FBI from thwarting their ongoing operation. And sowing chaos was a goal independent of the hope that Trump might win. Indeed, while Trump would have been preferable for Russia based on policy stances alone, Russia would prefer a weak Trump they could manipulate over a strong Trump any day. By the time of the 2016 operation, Vladimir Putin had already exhibited a willingness to take huge risks to pursue Russian resurgence. Given that audacity, Trump was more useful to Putin not as an equal partner with whom he could negotiate, but as a venal incompetent who could be pushed to dismantle the American security apparatus by playing on his sense of victimhood. Putin likely believed Russia benefitted whether a President Trump voluntarily agreed to Russia’s policy goals or whether Putin took them by immobilizing the US with chaos, and the dossier protected parts of the ongoing Russian operation while making Trump easier to manipulate.

How the dossier might work as disinformation tactically

With that as background, I’d like to repeat an exercise I’ve done before: show how the dossier, as disinformation, would work to Russia’s advantage. Note, this is speculative, based on an assumption the dossier is disinformation, but I’m not accusing anyone of seeding that disinformation. Indeed, the dossier would work as disinformation whether or not Deripaska was the one feeding it, and whether or not Manafort was a willing participant in the Russian operation.

This section will lay out how each of the Steele reports would serve Russia’s interest tactically. These descriptions treat all of the dossier is disinformation, an assumption I don’t believe to be true; I’m just treating them as such to show how they could fit into this frame. I’ve marked the ones that I think would be most useful for these purposes with ⇒ arrows.

Below, I’ll show how it would serve Russia’s larger goals. As background, this spreadsheet lists all reports with the dates they got shared with the FBI.

⇒Report 80, June 20, 2016: Steele’s first report came out on June 20, after several parts of the Russian operation had already been rolled out, privately and publicly. On June 9, Don Jr had listened to a pitch to eliminate the Magnitsky sanctions (possibly as a part of a quid pro quo offering dirt on Hillary in exchange), then expressed a willingness to lift sanctions but not to make any commitments until after the election. On June 14, the Democrats unexpectedly announced the hack and attributed it to Russia. That same day, Michael Cohen decided against attending the St. Petersburg Economic Forum to pursue the Trump Tower Moscow deal (where Deripaska would meet Sergei Millian), possibly in part because the DNC hack revelation would make the Trump Tower deal more controversial.

Steele’s first report would include the pee tape, kompromat that Michael Cohen had known about since 2013 and that, therefore, would not be terrifically effective leverage over Trump in practice (as Cohen’s exchange with Giorgi Rtskhiladze would bear out). But it would likely be news to Hillary and would hold out promise of the kind of scandal that might make Democrats believe Steele’s project would swing the election. The first report would also include a claim that Trump had declined real estate deals with Russia, even though he was, at that moment, still pursuing the Trump Tower Moscow one. And, as noted, this report would tell the Democrats that the Guccifer 2.0 releases were not the kompromat described in the dossier — dated FSB intercepts — which might lead them to be complacent about further dumps from the hack.

Report 94, July 19, 2016: This report came after public reporting of Carter Page’s trip to Moscow, just before which Dmitry Peskov responded to an email that included US-based Dmitri Klimentov on July 6 by judging he should not arrange a meeting for Page at the Kremlin: “I have read about [Page]. Specialists say that he is far from being the main one. So I better not initiate a meeting in the Kremlin.” It also came out days before the dump of the DNC emails. It would have had the effect of leading Democrats to believe that Page had had the meeting at the Presidential Administration, with Divyekin, that Peskov had pointedly decided not to schedule because Page wasn’t the key Trump person Russia wanted to influence. And it would have repeated the earlier suggestion that the anticipated Hillary kompromat consisted of dated FSB intercepts rather than recently stolen emails.

⇒Report 86, July 26, 2015: Steele’s third report came out in the wake of the WikiLeaks’ release of the DNC emails (though this report is one that only got shared with the FBI much later). It made ridiculous claims that Russia hadn’t had success hacking G7 and NATO targets, even though anyone following Russia’s hacking would have known they had compromised several American targets the previous year. It also said that the FSB had the lead on such hacking, which might have led the Democrats to ignore the more immediate threat from GRU. Both might have been intended to support Russia’s unsuccessful efforts at denying responsibility. And if the report had leaked in detail, the focus on FSB would have minimized the political damage of all the people with GRU ties reaching out to Trump’s people (including Mike Flynn’s past relationship with Igor Sergun, Cohen’s willingness to rely on former GRU general Evgeny Shmykov to broker the Trump Tower deal, and Deripaska’s aides), had those contacts ever became public.

⇒Report 95, July 28, 2016: Report 95 alleged a well-developed conspiracy between Trump and Russia just as the public was raising questions about it (literally, the day after Trump had made his “Russia if you’re listening” comment). It would also have invoked Sergei Millian (as Source E) admitting that there was an active conspiracy days before he would first meet Papadopoulos. This report raised the prospect that DNC insiders were part of the operation on a day when the first Seth Rich conspiracies were starting. It described the import of Russia’s diplomatic facilities to the 2016 operation, but focused on pension payments and the (in the case of Miami, non-existent) consulates rather than the overt involvement of Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. And it suggested that Trump’s ties to China were more corrupt than his Russian ties, something not without basis that might have distracted attention from Russia.

Perhaps most interesting, given Deripaska’s double game, is the allegation that Manafort “was using foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE and others as intermediaries.” This report came out between the day Manafort accepted Kilimnik’s request for an in-person meeting in NYC and the date of that meeting on August 2. Focusing on Page might have had the effect of providing Kilimnik cover.

Report 97, July 30, 2016: This report came out in the wake of Trump’s “Russia if you’re listening” comment, the day after Roger Stone emailed Manafort promising “Good shit happening” as he was trying to figure out what WikiLeaks had coming, and in between when Manafort had agreed to meet with Kilimnik in NYC and the day they would meet on August 2, and as reporters were working on the stories that would make Manafort’s Russian ties toxic. While junior level Trump aides (including both Papadopoulos and JD Gordan) were being instructed to avoid any outreach involving Russia, both Manafort and Stone were aggressively taking steps to foster outreach. Report 97 suggested that both sides, Russia and Trump, were operating cautiously in the wake of the DNC release, when in fact the outreach was ratcheting up among key players.

⇒Report 100, August 5, 2016; Report 101 August 10, 2016: These two reports offer similar claims about Russia regretting the operation and worrying about releasing any further documents. They came out, however, at a time when Roger Stone was openly claiming that WikiLeaks would release more and he knew what it would be, and just days before Guccifer 2.0 started releasing the DCCC documents. Not only might these reports have further led the DNC to be complacent before more of their files got released, but it helped provide more plausible deniability to active efforts at the time to magnify the benefit of the leaks. (Note, these reports also came out during the period when the Seth Rich conspiracy started forming part of Russia and WikiLeaks’ denials.)

Report 102, August 10, 2016: Days before stories on Manafort’s Russian ties would create new problems for the campaign, this report claimed that the Trump campaign was planning on turning the tables on Hillary (they would, in fact, do so, but with a delayed effort to maximize the Podesta emails). This report also claimed that Trump’s campaign would focus on TV when the campaign was prepping to maximize Facebook and social media backed disinformation, assisted by the Internet Research Agency efforts. The report came long enough after the August 2 meeting between Manafort and Kilimnik that it could have reflected Kilimnik’s briefing on how Manafort planned to win swing states.

⇒Report 105, August 22, 2016: Particularly given Deripaska’s double game, this report focusing on Manafort is of particular interest. It falsely suggests there was no record of Manafort’s kickbacks from Yanukovych and other Ukrainian backers. Moreover, it suggests that Putin was worried that Manafort’s Yanukovych graft would become public, when the reality was that Deripaska was using the vulnerability created by the scandal to push Manafort to lead an effort, headed by Yanukovych, to carve up Ukraine. This report feels really consistent with Deripaska’s double game, both emphasizing Manafort’s corruption, but obscuring the real details of it.

Report 111, September 14, 2016: This report suggests that the decision to release more emails wasn’t made in August, as by all reports it was (indeed, Craig Murray would be involved in some kind of handoff in DC just 11 days later). This would have, again, placated Democratic concerns about still more email dumps. Note, too, that even in September, this suggests the 2016 operation consisted solely of kompromot and not also social media disinformation and probes of voting facilities.

Report 112, September 14, 2016: The IG Report makes clear that Steele and Glenn Simpson were pushing the Alfa Bank story via more channels (including Report 132, which never got released publicly, but which per the IG Report pertained to both Alfa and Manafort). That makes this report, confirming that “Alpha” [sic] was close to Putin, mildly interesting. The Alfa story, as packaged, is interesting for a number of reasons, not least that the Spectrum Health angle, which purported to show a secret tie between Erik Prince and Trump, came at the same time Prince was interacting with Stone (partly on WhatsApp), including funding him. The Alfa story also served to get Petr Aven to be more responsive to Putin’s order to reach out to Trump to push back against sanctions than he otherwise might have been.

Report 113, September 14, 2016: This report is yet another offering conflicting information about Trump’s success in real estate. The reference to Agalarov would have raised the stakes for any discovery of the June 9 meeting. And the allegation of sexual scandal came as Trump’s hush payments were bubbling up in the press.

Report 130, October 12, 2016: After reporting repeatedly that Russia was getting cold feet on more releases, this report claims that Russia was pissed the releases hadn’t had more effect. It also “predicts” the WikiLeaks Podesta releases that had started the previous week. This report includes a credible explanation of why Russia did this (including a focus on Ukraine), but seems to blame FSB for things GRU did (Note: I half wonder whether much of this dossier, including the focus on Millian, arose out of the intra-spook competition in Russia, in which blaming FSB for things GRU had done would serve several purposes).

⇒Report 134 October 18, 2016; Report 135 October 19, 2016; Report 136, October 20, 2016: In three October Reports that would be the last of the publicly released reports before the election, Steele reported that Michael Cohen was trying to clean up after Russian-related scandals. The series came at a time when Cohen was making real attempts to clean up after Trump’s hush payment scandals (including at least one call while he was visiting his daughter in London) and Hope Hicks asked him to address pee tape rumors that TMZ was chasing. The series also came during the Kilimnik-Gates-Manafort crime spree attempting to cover up their Ukrainian graft. It came during a period when the campaign — according to a Mike Flynn reference that has yet to be fully explained — was talking about reaching out to WikiLeaks. And it came during a period when — according to a Trump confession — Cohen’s earlier attempts to chase the Trump Tower deal remained ongoing. (This post shows that the things Cohen was alleged to have done in the dossier were all accounted for in other indictments.) In short, there was a lot of secret stuff going on in October, a month when the Russians might actually have begun to believe that Trump could pull off the win. Some of it even involved Cohen. None of it took place in Prague, and to the extent that anyone looked for it there, they’d be looking in the wrong place for the wrong cover-up.

The other content on this is more interesting. Report 134, mentioning Page, came after Page had told Stefan Halper he believed he had an “open checkbook” to form a pro-Russian think tank. This report suggests his monetary incentive to work with Russia was instead brokerage fees tied to the Rosneft sale. Returning to Carter Page at this point would have been useful for Deripaska given Kilimnik’s personal involvement in attempting to cover up the Ukrainian graft.

Report 135 is the only one that mentions something that could be construed as Manafort’s Deripaska-related scandals, which he and Kilimnik were trying hard to minimize.

Non-titled, non-dated: Bruce Ohr passed on a Steele report that has never been released publicly, suggesting that Russia delayed the selection of Secretary of State to ensure there’d be a pro-Russian person. Once Trump did nominate Rex Tillerson, seeding such a story would let Russia claim credit, whether or not it was true.

⇒Report 166, December 13, 2016: The final report in what BuzzFeed would publish as the dossier came at a time when it was clear there would be a vigorous investigation into Russia that could, if it discovered his embarrassing ties to Russia, discredit Trump. This report is by far the most incendiary one, alleging (among other things) that Cohen paid Russia’s hackers. It also blames the two key parts of the Russian operation on others, blaming Webzilla for activities that sound vaguely like what Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s trolls did, and blaming “Romanian hackers” for what GRU did (effectively doubling down on the Guccifer 2.0 persona). This report was never directly shared with the FBI. It got published after John McCain had shared a set of the dossier reports directly with Jim Comey, at a time when the FBI was fighting with CIA and NSA over whether to include Steele’s intelligence in the Intelligence Community Assessment report on Russia.

How the dossier might serve Russia’s larger goals

The final dossier report (as published in BuzzFeed) seems perfectly suited for what would come next. On January 6, 2017, Jim Comey would brief Trump on the existence of the dossier, focusing in particular on the pee tape allegation that, according to Cohen, Trump should have known about since 2013. The FBI did not yet have, and so could not have briefed Trump, on the last, most inflammatory, report. At least one part of that last report — the claim there were hackers in Romania — would contradict the finding in the ICA  that Guccifer 2.0 was just a persona run by the GRU.

Around January 12, 2017, Manafort attended a meeting with a Deripaska executive, Georgiy Oganov. They discussed “recreating [the] old friendship” between Manafort and Deripaska. Manafort also pushed to resolve the Pericles lawsuit before inauguration day. Either while at that meeting or immediately on his return, Manafort started advising Reince Priebus on how Trump allies could discredit the Russian investigation — which was not predicated on the Steele dossier — by discrediting the Steele dossier. It was a superb strategy! Even in spite of that last, inflammatory report and other sketchy details, even in spite of warnings from the press that they had not been able to corroborate the dossier, it nevertheless was taken as confirmation of the worst accusations against Trump, and served as the focal point of such claims until the June 9 meeting broke in July.

For two years, for many commentators on both sides of the political aisle — up to and including the first journalist to rely on it publicly, Michael Isikoff — the dossier became the measure of whether Trump had conspired with Russia, even as direct evidence of his ties to Russia piled up. The right believed that if it could prove Cohen didn’t go to Prague, it would prove Trump’s innocence of other equally incendiary claims. The left believed if it could prove that Page met with people vaguely like those described in the dossier, it would prove Trump was working with Russia from the start. And just as Paul Manafort, fresh off a meeting to discuss how to return to Deripaska’s good graces, advised, Republicans capitalized on that, using attacks on the dossier as a way to discredit the counterintelligence investigation into Manafort and others that was predicated almost two months before the core investigators first got the dossier (and in Manafort’s case, an investigation that had started a year earlier).

Even before the Republican effort got started in earnest, then, the dossier served to emphasize already toxic political polarization and gave Trump a basis to claim victimhood around which Republicans could rally.

Then there’s the way in which it could discredit Russia’s adversaries.

Christopher Steele. First, consider what an attractive target Steele would be for the Russians. If Russia had identified Steele as one source of the investigation into their sports cheating, on top of pinning former Alexander Litvinienko’s murder on Russia, they’d have real reason to take him out. And he and his business were vulnerable, too. In his meeting with the Crossfire Hurricane team, he accused the FBI of leaks that had led his source network to dry up, something that understandably pissed off the FBI team when they finally acknowledged that Steele had been sharing his intelligence with the press.

that due to leaks, his source network was “drying up.” According to Case Agent 2, Steele complained to the FBI during the meeting about these leaks.

[snip]

Handling Agent 1 added that it “blew his mind” that, given Steele’s intelligence background, Steele was meeting with the press and taking actions that endangered the safety of those in his source network. Case Agent 2 told the OIG that he thought it was “terrible” for Steele to complain to the FBI about leaks during the early October meeting given that he had been meeting with media outlets in September and had provided information that was used in the Yahoo News article.

Steele’s conversations with Bruce Ohr in 2017 also seem to reflect growing concern for his business. Any financial vulnerabilities would make him all the more intent (in an odd mirror image of Manafort’s own desperation) to keep Deripaska’s business. Ultimately, though, the dossier project ended Steele’s relationship with the FBI, publicly exposed his intelligence collection efforts, and damaged his reputation.

Democrats. I’ve written before about how mind-numbingly stupid it was for the Democrats to dig in, not just in hiding their own role in funding the dossier, but also in insisting it remained credible. Had they simply said, early in 2017, “we shared our oppo research with the FBI, just like Steve Bannon did with Clinton Cash, and both led to investigations during the Presidential campaign,” we might be having a bipartisan discussion about the FBI’s use of oppo research during election years. But because Democrats didn’t do that, and because they dug in on the credibility of the dossier even as abundant evidence of other Trump ties to Russia became public, it put them on the defensive and embroiled them in several damaging lawsuits. Now, no one remembers that the Clinton Cash-predicated investigation leaked during the election, but they do think Democrats played dirty for doing precisely what Trump’s team did and, like Trump’s team, succeeding in interesting the FBI in their opposition claims.

The FBI. The FBI took reporting from someone who — compared to the other kinds of sources they rely on for counterintelligence investigations (and the DOJ IG Report admits this) — looked like Prince Charming. They used it to advance the one of four individualized investigations into Trump associates on which they had crystal clear direct involvement of sustained attempted recruitment by Russian intelligence. The first two FISA applications against Page probably would have been approved even if FBI had fully declared all the derogatory information they knew, and the key details Devin Nunes complained about (as part of the Manafort-launched attempt to discredit the Russian investigation by discrediting the dossier) really don’t hold up, because DOJ complied with normal bias reporting on the source of funding for the dossier (and even blamed the Isikoff story on Glenn Simpson). Yes, FBI should have integrated the derogatory information on Steele as they discovered it for later applications. Better yet, they should have stopped relying on the dossier and instead used the intelligence they collected to establish probable cause for ongoing surveillance of Carter Page, or dropped the surveillance altogether as it became clear Page was no longer a key player in Trump’s world. But they didn’t. And now the FBI’s use of intelligence from a credible source, akin to the kind of intelligence they have to rely on every day, has become the excuse for the everyone from the President to DOJ’s Inspector General to former tough on crime Republicans to claim FBI’s counterintelligence experts are corrupt for pursuing counterintelligence investigations against Russian organized crime and election tampering that showed every subject was lying about damning ties to Russia. Along the way, FBI was investigating Manafort without fully realizing that Deripaska was engaged in this double game — something probably alluded to in two key redactions in the IG Report.

[Steele] explained that he worked for Russian Oligarch l’s attorney on litigation matters that involved Russian Oligarch 1 but that he could not provide “specifics” about them for confidentiality reasons. Steele stated that Russian Oligarch 1 had no influence on the substance of his election reporting and no contact with any of his sources. He also stated that he was not aware of any information indicating that Russian Oligarch 1 knew of his investigation relating to the 2016 U.S. elections. 211

While Steele did not get a fuller picture of the FBI’s investigation until early October (generally, the FBI seems to have been pretty good about avoiding telling Ohr anything he might share with Steele, but they did tell Steele the four people who were being investigated in a misguided belief they were tasking him to collect on those people), when the FBI interviewed Deripaska sometime in September 2016, they would not have known that someone separately working for his lawyers was, for a different customer, feeding and directing some of the understanding of Trump’s ties to Russia. (Note, I suspect that, because DOJ IG conflated Steele’s Deripaska work for his Fusion work, reports in it claiming that Steele’s dossier work arose out of his Manafort work may be based on a misunderstanding.)

Bruce Ohr and other experts on Russian organized crime. But it’s not just FBI’s counterintelligence investigators (though it does include people like Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok, who both had had success pursuing Russian organized crime earlier in their career). Because Steele shared his dossier with those he knew to have an interest and expertise in Russian organized crime — including Bruce Ohr, Kathleen Kavalec, and Jonathan Winer, to say nothing of Fusion GPS and Nellie Ohr — they were implicated as the dossier became a political target, even those like Ohr and Kavalec who raised questions about it in real time. Indeed, DOJ’s IG reversed almost 20 years of recommendations that DOJ and FBI share more information to insinuate that Bruce Ohr should be disciplined or even fired because of his justifiable ties to Steele. And Deripaska would have known this would happen, because he met Ohr through Steele, and knew they continued to share information (additionally, the IG Report describes McCabe explaining that he and Ohr, “spoke periodically between 2003 and 2016 regarding” Deripaska). Effectively, this dossier gave many of America’s top experts on Russian organized crime a kind of Cooties, at precisely the time the country needs experts.

Oleg Deripaska. Donald Trump should be absolutely furious at his campaign manager, who knew months before it broke publicly that he — and with it, Trump’s campaign — would be publicly implicated in Yanukovych’s corruption. Trump should be livid that Manafort’s offer to work for “free” came with tremendous strings attached, largely in the form of Oleg Deripaska leveraging his feud against Manafort all through the campaign (this double game makes sense of Rick Gates’ testimony that Manafort shared polling data to stave off Deripaska; effectively so long as it looked like he might help Trump win, Manafort believed, erroneously, Deripaska wouldn’t press the Pericles lawsuit). Deripaska is the one, via Christopher Steele, who focused some of the FBI’s attention onto Manafort and therefore onto Trump. But because of the way the dossier triggered all the partisan bickering Russia had already stoked during the election, and helped along by Rusal’s investment in the Senate Majority Leader’s state, the opposite has occurred. Trump’s Treasury Department used shell games to permit Rusal to evade the sanctions imposed on Deripaska. And key Republican propaganda outlets — including John Solomon and The Daily Caller — have embraced Deripaska as some kind of truth teller about 2016. This is Reagan rolling over in his grave kind of stuff. But a remarkable coup on Deripaska’s part. And even while Republicans have embraced the possibility that the dossier included disinformation, they don’t, at the same time, realize how that disinformation has made them the playthings of a Russian oligarch who was playing a brutal double game, stoking the investigation into Trump while hard balling his campaign manager, all through the election.

Timeline

2005-2009: Manafort works for Deripaska

2007: Manafort founds Pericles with Deripaska as the sole investor

2012: Orbis hired as a subcontractor by Deripaska lawyer

February 22, 2014: Yanukovych flees Ukraine

December 4, 2014: Deripaska sues Manafort for $18.9 million

September 2015: Ohr meets with Deripaska

January 11, 2016: Steele writes Ohr about Deripaska seeking a visa to attend APEC (many of these 2016 contacts rely on Byron York’s description)

February 8, 2016: Steele writes Ohr to tell him Deripaska has been given an official visa to the US

February 21, 2016: Steele writes Ohr to say there would be a US government meeting on Deripaska, claims he had some Orbis reporting showing that Deripaska was not a “tool” of the Kremlin, says he’ll send it to (probably) Gaeta

March 17, 2016: Steele asks Ohr if he has any travel to Europe planned

March 28, 2016: Manafort hired as Convention Manager

March 30, 2016: Manafort sends Deripaska, Rinat Akhmetov, Serhiy Lyovochkin, and Boris Kelesnikov memos announcing his appointment to the Trump campaign and indicating his willingness to consult on Ukrainian politics in the future

April 11, 2016: Manafort asks Kilimnik if “our friends” had seen the media coverage of his new role, specifically asking about Deripaska:

Manafort: How do we use to get whole. Has [Deripaska] operation seen?

Kilimnik: Yes. I have been sending everything to Victor [Boyarkin], who has been forwarding the coverage directly to OVD.

April to May 2016: On Manafort’s instructions, Gates starts sending the Ukrainian oligarchs and Deripaska internal polling data via WhatsApp

May 7, 2016: Kilimnik and Manafort meet for breakfast in NYC; they discuss Ukrainian events and the Trump campaign

May 19, 2016: Manafort promoted to Campaign Manager

July 1, 2016: Steele says he’s going to meet someone (possibly Gaeta) to discuss ongoing business, then says he wants “to discuss with you informally and separately. It concerns our favourite business tycoon!,” meaning Deripaska

July 7, 2016: Steele and Ohr speak by Skype

July 7, 2016: Manafort asks Kilimnik if there has been any movement on the Pericles lawsuit; Kilimnik replies with optimism they can return to “the original relationship” with Deripaska

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

Manafort: if [Deripaska] needs private briefings we can accommodate.

July 28, 2016: Kilimnik flies from Kyiv to Moscow

July 29, 2016: Kilimnik pitches a meeting to talk about Yanukovych

Kilimnik: I met today with the guy who gave you your biggest black caviar jar several years ago. We spent about 5 hours talking about his story, and I have several important messages from him to you. He asked me to go and brief you on our conversation. I said I have to run it by you first, but in principle I am prepared to do it. … It has to do about the future of his country, and is quite interesting.

Manafort: Tuesday [August 2] is best . .. Tues or weds in NYC.

July 30, 2016: Steele meets with Bruce and Nellie Ohr in DC and tells them, among other things, about Deripaska’s allegations of corruption against Manafort

July 31, 2016: Kilimnik tells Manafort he needs two hours for the meeting

August 2, 2016: Kilimnik and Manafort (and, for part of the meeting, Gates) meet in NYC and discuss how to win Rust Belt swing states, how to carve up Ukraine to Russia’s liking, and how to get back on the Ukrainian-Deripaska gravy train

August 10, 2016: Manafort books $2.4M in revenue from his Ukrainian paymasters

August 18, 2016: Manafort tells NBC he hasn’t had dealings with Deripaska in four years

September 2016: FBI Agents interview Deripaska, with no notice, about whether Manafort was working with Russia (per John Solomon)

September 23, 2016: Steele tells Ohr that Deripasksa would be willing to share information on Manafort with FBI

October 18, 2016: Steele calls Ohr in a panic because Ukraine has sanctioned Deripaska

December 7, 2016: Interagency strategy meeting including Ohr and FBI on whether and how to engage with Deripaska

December 8, 2016: Kilimnik emails (probably using foldering) Manafort about Ukraine “peace” plan

January 12, 2017: Manafort meeting in Madrid with Deripaska executive Georgiy Oganov

Janaury 19-22, 2017: Manafort meets Kilimnik and Ukrainian oligarch Serhiy Lyovochkin at the Westin Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia; Ukraine “peace” plan comes up again

February 26, 2017: Manafort and Kilimnik meet in Madrid, ostensibly for update on Black Ledger investigation

January 10, 2018: Deripaska sues Manafort and Gates in NYS

OTHER POSTS ON THE DOJ IG REPORT

DOJ IG Report on Carter Page and Related Issues: Mega Summary Post

Timeline of Key Events in DOJ IG Carter Page Report

Crossfire Hurricane Glossary (by bmaz)

Facts appearing in the Carter Page FISA applications

The Inspector General Report on Carter Page Fails to Meet the Standard It Applies to the FBI

“Fact Witness:” How Rod Rosenstein Got DOJ IG To Land a Plane on Bruce Ohr

Eleven Days after Releasing Their Report, DOJ IG Clarified What Crimes FBI Investigated

The Damning Revelations about George Papadopoulos in a DOJ IG Report Claiming Exculpatory Evidence

A Biased FBI Agent Was Running an Informant on an Oppo-Research Predicated Investigation–into Hillary–in 2016

The Carter Page IG Report Debunks a Key [Impeachment-Related] Conspiracy about Paul Manafort

Rosemary Collyer Responds to the DOJ IG Report in Fairly Blasé Fashion

The Flynn Predication

Sam Clovis Responded to a Question about Russia Interfering in the Election by Raising Voter ID

As I disclosed in 2018, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation.