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The Ongoing Proceeding into Paul Manafort’s Kevin Downing-Related Texts

Yesterday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson finally released texts between Paul Manafort and Sean Hannity that she first considered releasing on April 29. While lots of people are looking at the texts, I haven’t seen any reporting on why we got them — or the significance of the texts we didn’t get.

ABJ received those texts on February 26 of this year as Attachment F to the government’s sentencing memorandum. They are one of at least seven attachments to an attachment to the memorandum objecting to the probation office’s presentence investigation report into Manafort — presumably making an argument noting that he contemptuously violated ABJ’s gag order. The government appears to have first objected to the PSR on February 14.

Importantly, there’s another set of communications, Attachment 7, that ABJ didn’t release yesterday that are the subject of an ongoing proceeding of some sort.

Amy Berman Jackson considered referring Kevin Downing for criminal contempt

On the same day as Manafort’s sentencing (where the government objection did not come up), on March 13, ABJ issued an order for a hearing on March 22 to explain why she, “should not institute proceedings against [Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing] under Fed. R. Crim. Pro. 42 alleging a past violation of this Court’s” gag order. She also instructed both sides to tell her by March 19 whether the texts — Attachments 6 and 7 — should be filed on the public docket or not. The hearing on whether Downing should be sanctioned was postponed and ultimately held on April 2; a transcript of that hearing, with grand jury and privilege information redacted, should be released imminently. After the hearing, on April 25, ABJ asked both sides, again, if she should release Attachments 6 and 7. The government responded by May 17. Manafort’s lawyers only responded, in two separate filings, sometime after June 12. Which is what led ABJ to finally issue her order yesterday ordering that her March 13 order reviewing Downing’s behavior be released, the April 2 transcript be released in redacted form, and Attachment 6 — the texts released yesterday — be released with privacy redactions.

But ABJ did not release Attachment 7, the other set of texts (or some other kind of communication), because “Attachment 7 is covered by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 6(e) and relates to ongoing matters, and therefore, it shall remain under seal.” That is, Attachment 6 — yesterday’s release — is neither covered by grand jury rules nor part of an ongoing matter. But Attachment 7 is.

Which raises questions about how the two sets of texts were obtained and what they show.

Manafort’s witness tampering probably retroactively disclosed his gag violation

It’s almost certain that the Manafort-Hannity texts weren’t discovered in real time. Had they been, it would have been Manafort’s second violation of his gag order, and a much more severe violation than his first (where he helped draft an op-ed defending himself that was published in Ukraine). Had the government found these in real time, it’s likely Manafort would have been jailed six months earlier than he ultimately was (as Manafort’s lifelong friend Roger Stone might be next week for second violation of ABJ’s gag order).

They probably, instead, were discovered as part of the government’s investigation into Manafort’s witness tampering last spring. The texts released yesterday span from July 14, 2017 to June 5, 2018. They appear to have been obtained via cell phone extraction of a phone owned by Manafort (note, too, that the time shown on the texts is UTC, not ET, something a lot of the commentary suggesting these are middle of the night chats gets wrong).

On May 25, 2018, just as ABJ was about to reconsider Manafort’s final attempt to show adequate liquid assets to get out of house arrest on bail, the government filed a sealed notice of the witness tampering Manafort and Kilimnik engaged in starting immediately after the Hapsburg project was first charged on February 23, 2018. That witness tampering was charged in a second superseding indictment obtained June 8, 2018. In a declaration submitted with the May 25 filing, FBI Agent Brock Domin noted that,

The government is actively investigating the evidence regarding Manafort and obstruction of justice while under home confinement, in violation of title 18, U.S.C. section 1512. I submit that there are pending investigative inquiries whose completion could be jeopardized by disclosure, and the outcome of which could be relevant to the Court’s determination regarding bail herein.

And prosecutors informed ABJ that,

During the next ten days, the government anticipates taking additional investigative steps pertinent to the investigation.

The cell phone extraction of these texts was likely one result of the pending investigative inquiries described on May 25.

One possible explanation for a cell phone extraction on June 5, 2018 is that, as a result of being informed by Manafort’s former consultants that Manafort and Kilimnik were trying to persuade them to lie, the government identified another cell phone Manafort was using and got a warrant to obtain that in advance of the June 8 superseding indictment. Indeed, among the very last texts are two where Manafort tries to convince Hannity that the witness tampering allegations — which he calls “jury tampering” — were bullshit.

Manafort may have thought they were bullshit (or, just as likely, was lying to Hannity about it). But they appear to have given the government probable cause to obtain a new copy of the contents of his phone, which would lead to the discovery of these texts, including abundant evidence that Manafort was violating his gag order, continually, from the time it was imposed.

To obtain these texts, the government likely obtained a new search warrant. But the other set of communications may have been obtained with some kind of grand jury process — perhaps a grand jury subpoena requiring that, in addition to testifying, a witness turn over all the texts he had with Manafort. That would be one reason why ABJ could not release that second set of texts (or whatever they are): if they were obtained through grand jury process, they would be (and are) protected by grand jury secrecy rules.

The Downing-Hannity outreach took place not long after Manafort learned he’d be facing tax charges

The Hannity-Manafort texts show that in the days before the latter was first indicted, the two had a plan to pre-empt the indictment with a media campaign. Because ABJ imposed a gag right away, that effort kept getting delayed, with Hannity asking for Manafort or his lawyer to go on his shows over and over, and with Manafort deferring first because of his gag order and his first violation of it (the publication in Ukraine of an op-ed defending him) and then by his ultimately futile efforts to get out of house arrest. On January 3, 2018, Manafort suggested that the filing of a civil complaint might give Downing a way around the gag order. On January 17, Manafort said he’d connect Downing with Greg Jarrett on background. On January 24, 2018, Manafort told Hannity he needed to brief him on something. So even before January 25, the texts make it clear that both Manafort and one of his lawyers were violating ABJ’s gag.

But in threatening a criminal contempt referral, ABJ pointed, “in particular, [to] the communications dated January 25, 2018, found on pages 26-27 of Attachment 6.” Those are the texts that make it clear — because Manafort referred to Downing ahead of time and discussed their call after the fact — that Downing was the Manafort lawyer who violated the gag.

On January 24, 2018, after telling Hannity he needed to brief him on something, Manafort confirmed that Downing would speak with Hannity the next day, on January 25 at 11:30 AM. The next morning, Manafort reminded Hannity again. Later that day, Manafort asked Hannity how the call went, and Hannity said that Downing needed to send him stuff every day.

Something happened that made Manafort willing to violate his gag order (and ask his lawyer to violate his gag) where beforehand he had some hesitation.

One of the things that likely happened is that, sometime in the days leading up to January 16, the government informed Manafort and Gates they were filing new (tax) charges within a month.

GREG ANDRES: We’ve notified both defendants of our intention to bring additional charges. Those charges — the venue for those charges don’t lie in this district. So we asked each of the defendants whether they would be willing to waive venue so that those charges could be brought before Your Honor and all of those issues be tried together. One defendant agreed to waive venue, the other defendant did not.

So our intention is to move forward in a separate district with those separate charges. We just wanted the Court to be aware of that. The government’s view is that shouldn’t prevent the Court from setting a trial date because those issues will all be before a different court in a different district and not before Your Honor. And again, we’re asking for a trial date so that we can get this case moving and scheduled. But we certainly wanted the Court to be aware of that additional fact.

THE COURT: All right. Do you have a sense of the timing of that?

MR. ANDRES: You know, there are different variables, but we’re hoping within the next 30 days to have that indictment returned.

Among the things Hannity and Manafort discussed later in the day after Hannity spoke with Downing were the new charges Manafort had learned about prior to the January 16 hearing.

Manafort may also have had a sense that Gates was considering flipping. After all, at some point in January, he and Gates discussed pardons, but Manafort was unable to promise Gates that he would get one.

In January 2018, Manafort told Gates that he had talked to the President’s personal counsel and they were “going to take care of us.”848 Manafort told Gates it was stupid to plead, saying that he had been in touch with the President’s personal counsel and repeating that they should ” sit tight” and “we’ll be taken care of.”849 Gates asked Manafort outright if anyone mentioned pardons and Manafort said no one used that word.850

In the days after Downing and Hannity first spoke — on January 29, 30, and 31, 2018 — Gates would have his first known proffer discussions with Mueller’s team, discussions that likely led to the Hapsburg charges filed the same day the new tax charges were filed.

When Gates flipped, a month later, Hannity asked Manafort if Gates had given him a heads up. Manafort never responded.

That suggests he may not have been honest with Hannity in real time about his risks.

Also of note, the first thing Hannity raised in the same conversation after he and Manafort spoke was Jared Kushner.

In other words, the Downing contact with Hannity happened at a time when Manafort had to have realized he was in much deeper shit than he was telling Hannity. He likely realize that the new charges — cut-and-dry tax charges — were far more likely than the untested FARA charges to land him in prison, where he would have to trust Trump to bail him out with a pardon.

What are the ongoing matters that prevent disclosure of the second set of texts?

All that provides one possible explanation for why Manafort decided it’d be a good idea to put his lawyer directly in touch with Hannity, in violation of her gag order. But that doesn’t explain the other reason ABJ decided not to release the second sent of texts: some “ongoing matters” that require the communications remain secret.

It’s possible that she did refer Downing, as she threatened to do, for criminal contempt (!!!). [See update: she did not.] Except if that were the case, both sets of texts would pertain to an ongoing matter. It appears that Attachment 7 is more important to those ongoing matters than Attachment 6, which we got yesterday.

There’s one other notable date in that time period. As I’ve noted, the Downing – Hannity discussions came just before Howard Fineman reported, on January 30, 3018, not only that Trump planned to beat Mueller by having Sessions investigate him…

Instead, as is now becoming plain, the Trump strategy is to discredit the investigation and the FBI without officially removing the leadership. Trump is even talking to friends about the possibility of asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to consider prosecuting Mueller and his team.

… But also reported that Trump was confident that Manafort would not flip on him.

He’s decided that a key witness in the Russia probe, Paul Manafort, isn’t going to “flip” and sell him out, friends and aides say.

Chris Ruddy was one source for the Fineman story. And Ruddy was interviewed by the FBI about his knowledge of Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice on June 6, 2018, the day after the FBI extracted the Hannity texts from Manafort’s phone.

On Monday, June 12, 2017, Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive ofNewsmax Media and a longtime friend of the President’s, met at the White House with Priebus and Bannon.547 Ruddy recalled that they told him the President was strongly considering firing the Special Counsel and that he would do so precipitously, without vetting the decision through Administration officials.548 Ruddy asked Priebus if Ruddy could talk publicly about the discussion they had about the Special Counsel, and Priebus said he could.549 Priebus told Ruddy he hoped another blow up like the one that followed the termination of Corney did not happen.550 Later that day, Ruddy stated in a televised interview that the President was “considering perhaps terminating the Special Counsel” based on purported conflicts of interest.551 Ruddy later told another news outlet that “Trump is definitely considering” terminating the Special Counsel and “it’s not something that’s being dismissed.”552 Ruddy’s comments led to extensive coverage in the media that the President was considering firing the Special Counsel.553

547 Ruddy 6/6/18 302, at 5.

548 Ruddy 6/6/18 302, at 5-6.

549 Ruddy 6/6/ l 8 302, at 6.

550 Ruddy 6/6/18 302, at 6.

551 Trump Confidant Christopher Ruddy says Mueller has “real conflicts” as special counsel, PBS (June 12, 2017); Michael D. Shear & Maggie Haberman, Friend Says Trump ls Considering Firing Mueller as Special Counsel, New York Times (June 12, 2017).

If you’re going to contact one of Trump’s close media allies — Hannity — to send Trump an ultimatum about Manafort and get the media person on board for a plan to undercut Mueller, you’re likely to contact Trump’s other closest media ally, Chris Ruddy.

None of that answers what Downing had to explain to Hannity and what the ongoing proceeding might be. But it does suggest that Ruddy was in the same kind of discussion circle in January 2018 as Hannity was.

ABJ’s timing

I’m particularly curious about ABJ’s persistent interest in releasing these Attachments and her timing. Here’s what the docket for the month of June looks like:

599 (June 6): Unrelated order on encumbered property

[June 6: first John Solomon report]

600: Sealed filing

601 (June 12): ABJ Order unsealing the April 2 hearing transcript

602: Manafort

603: Manafort

604: Sealed filing, with Sealed copy of Attachment 6

[June 19: second John Solomon report]

605 (June 21): Order releasing materials

606 (June 21): Docketed copy of Attachment 6

As noted in bold, there’s still two sealed filings, dockets #600 and #604 (though 604, which includes a sealed copy of Attachment 6, must relate to this issue). Some time since June 6 — perhaps not coincidentally the first of two John Solomon reports that appear to be based off Manafort discovery — Manafort finally responded to ABJ’s order on unsealing.

In other words, this publication of Downing’s contempt for ABJ’s gag order comes as some other reporting seems to align not just with the narrative that Manafort was pushing for the entirety of his chats with Hannity, but seems to rely on perspective that Manafort’s lawyers seem uniquely well suited to have.

But it also comes as ABJ prepares to deal with Manafort’s lifelong friend Roger Stone latest violation of her gag order, who seems to be showing similar signs of contempt for Judge Jackson.

Update: While it’s almost certainly a coincidence, the Manafort outreach to Hannity happened just days before, on January 27, someone impersonating Hannity got Julian Assange to respond to her DM and direct her to a different communications channel. Assange was dealing Hannity information on Mark Warner (probably about his discussions with Adam Waldman).

Also, CNN (which appears to have paid for the newly unredacted transcript, which will otherwise become available July 2) notes that ABJ decided not to do anything with the texts unless prosecutors showed more of a pattern.

The texts were released along with the transcript of an April hearing where Judge Amy Berman Jackson was considering whether Manafort or his attorney Kevin Downing had violated a gag order through the communications.

Jackson decided to have the lawyers involved in the case determine what, “if any,” portions of the texts and hearing transcript should be publicly released once “some portion of the Mueller Report becomes publicly available.”

In the transcript of the April 2 hearing, Jackson says she is unlikely to do anything more with the texts.

“And absent further information from the government that there were more communications, I’m unlikely to do anything beyond today,” she said.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Manafort Told Hannity Gates Was in for the Long Haul after Discussing Pardons with Him

As you’ve likely heard, Amy Berman Jackson just released almost a year of texts between Sean Hannity and Paul Manafort, which I’m sure will end up in a series of posts.

In one exchange, Hannity asked Manafort why Rick Gates was hiring a new lawyer. Manafort promised Hannity that Gates was “totalky united with trump and m.”

Days later, of course, Gates would sign a plea deal.

These texts take place against the background of a conversation Manafort had a month earlier in which he told Gates that Trump would take care of them.

In January 2018, Manafort told Gates that he had talked to the President’s personal counsel and they were “going to take care of us.”848 Mana fort told Gates it was stupid to plead, saying that he had been in touch with the President’s personal counsel and repeating that they should ” sit tight” and “we’ll be taken care of.”849 Gates asked Manafort outright if anyone mentioned pardons and Manafort said no one used that word.850

That is, Manafort was likely certain that Gates wouldn’t flip because he had implied that he would get a pardon.

Rick Gates’ first proffers in Mueller Report took place on January 29, 30, 31, and continued into early February.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Donald Trump Has a Roger Stone Problem

By all appearances, the investigation into whether Roger Stone bears some liability for the 2016 Russian hacks is ongoing, with new evidence available from the search of his homes, a February search following that, Andrew Miller’s testimony, and anything Ecuador turns over to the US government.

But even without any further charges against Stone, Donald Trump has a Roger Stone problem, one he may not be able to dispense with by pardoning his rat-fucker before Stone’s November trial.

That’s because he could be a lynch pin in the DNC lawsuit against Trump’s campaign and associates, and no one is actually contesting that.

The lawsuit has been inching along with updates after each new batch of evidence. Earlier this week, everyone but WikiLeaks submitted their reply in support of a motion to dismiss (WikiLeaks’ response, which has always been premised on claiming that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are not the same thing, has gotten more difficult in the wake of Assange’s arrest).

Along with all the replies, the Trump campaign (represented by Jones Day, which has an incentive to bill liberally while the White House tries to prevent partner Don McGahn from testifying to Congress) submitted a motion for sanctions on the DNC for continuing to claim a conspiracy after the Mueller Report made clear there was evidence of a — or several — conspiracies, but nothing for which he had proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Of course, the standard for a civil case is lower than it is for a criminal one, and to survive the motion to dismiss the DNC doesn’t even have to get that far, which is one of the things the DNC argued when the Trump campaign first threatened sanctions.

In arguing to the contrary, the Trump Campaign commits a logical error that the Report warned readers not to make. Specifically, the Campaign assumes that there were only two possible outcomes from the Special Counsel’s investigation: (1) it would conclusively establish the Trump Campaign’s guilt; or (2) it would conclusively establish the Trump Campaign’s innocence. And because the investigation did not conclusively prove that the Trump Campaign conspired with Russia, the Campaign insists that investigation proved their innocence. By creating a false choice between these two extremes, the Trump Campaign leaves no room for the Report’s actual findings: there was evidence of the Trump Campaign’s guilt, but not enough to establish that guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. On page 2 of the Report, the Special Counsel warned readers not to make that mistake, explaining: “A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” Report at 2 (emphasis added). Nevertheless, the Trump Campaign’s letter repeatedly and falsely suggests that, if the Special Counsel’s investigation “did not establish” a particular fact, then the investigation refuted that fact. 3. The Campaign’s Letter Overlooks the Differences Between Civil and Criminal Actions

The Campaign’s May 13 letter also overlooks the crucial differences between civil and criminal cases. It is axiomatic that an “acquittal in [a] criminal action does not bar civil suit based on the same facts.” 2A Charles Wright et al, Federal Practice & Procedure § 468 (4th ed. 2013); see also Purdy v. Zeldes, 337 F.3d 253, 259 (2d Cir. 2003). Similarly, the government’s decision not to press criminal charges against a defendant has no effect on civil proceedings. Indeed, civil plaintiffs routinely prevail in cases where the government has declined to prosecute the defendants. See, e.g., In re: Urethanes Antitrust Litigation, No. 04-1616 (D. Kan.) (after the government determined there was not enough evidence to prosecute the defendants, civil plaintiffs took the case to trial and secured a judgment of approximately $1.06 billion). This is not surprising in light of the different standards of proof in civil and criminal cases and the additional sources of evidence available to civil plaintiffs.

First, a civil plaintiff’s burden of proof is much lighter than the government’s burden of proof in a criminal case. See Sedima, S.P.R.L. v. Imrex Co., 473 U.S. 479, 491 (1985) (noting that a civil plaintiff only needs to show that it is more likely than not that the defendants violated the law, while criminal prosecutors must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt”). Thus, while the information available in the Special Counsel’s Report may be insufficient to sustain a criminal conviction, a civil jury could find the same information more than sufficient to hold Defendants civilly liable.

[snip]

Moreover, a civil plaintiff can pursue evidentiary avenues unavailable to prosecutors. For example, unlike in a criminal proceeding, where a defendant has no obligation to speak to government investigators regarding her own illegal conduct, a civil plaintiff can compel a defendant to attend a deposition, and if the defendant refuses, she can be held in contempt of court or otherwise sanctioned. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b). Similarly, if a defendant invokes her Fifth Amendment right not to answer specific questions during a deposition or at trial, a civil jury— unlike a criminal jury—can infer that the defendant invoked her rights because she violated the law. See, e.g., See Mitchell v. United States, 526 U.S. 314, 328 (1999); Woods v. START Treatment & Recovery Centers, Inc., 864 F.3d 158, 170 (2d Cir. 2017). Thus, in this case, Trump, Jr., Assange, and the Agalarovs—whom the Special Counsel did not interview—can be compelled to attend depositions, where they will have an incentive to answer the DNC’s questions truthfully (rather than invoking their Fifth Amendment rights).

More interestingly, the motion for sanctions remains utterly silent about one of DNC’s key allegations: Roger Stone’s seemingly successful effort to optimize the WikiLeaks releases.

Admittedly, so is the DNC in its response to the Trump campaign letter, when it points to all the new details in the Mueller Report that supports their suit. But there’s good reason for it: Most of the Roger Stone stuff is redacted.

But the Trump campaign’s silence on Roger Stone is particularly damning because Stone has never address a key observation the DNC has made: that after Stone dismissed the value of leaked DCCC oppo research in a DM with Guccifer 2.0, the GRU went on to hack Democratic data that was quite valuable: their AWS-hosted analytics.

On September 9, 2016, GRU operatives contacted Stone, writing him “please tell me if I can help u anyhow[,]” and adding “it would be a great pleasure to me.” ¶ 179. The operatives then asked Stone for his reaction to a stolen “turnout model for the Democrats’ entire presidential campaign.” Id. Stone replied, “[p]retty standard.” See id.

Throughout September 2016, Russian intelligence agents illegally gained access to DNC computers hosted on a third-party cloud computing service, stole large amounts of the DNC’s private data and proprietary computer code, and exfiltrated the stolen materials to their own cloud-based accounts registered with same service. ¶ 180.

[snip]

Moreover, GRU officers using the screenname Guccifer 2.0 stayed in close contact with Stone, asking for feedback on how they could be most helpful, after Russia had been publicly linked to the theft of Democratic documents. See ¶¶ 167, 177-79. In September 2016, the GRU operatives asked Stone for his reaction to a “turnout model” that the GRU had stolen from another Democratic Party target. ¶ 179. After Stone suggested that he was not impressed, see id., Russia took snapshots of the virtual servers that housed key pieces of the DNC’s analytics infrastructure— its “most, important, valuable, and highly confidential tools,” which could have “provided the GRU with the ability to see how the DNC was evaluating and processing data critical to its principal goal of winning elections,” ¶ 180.

Not only does this put Stone’s interaction with GRU prior to some of the hacking it did, but it undercuts Stone’s entire defense (which is mostly to claim his involvement extends only to John Podesta emails, which he distinguishes from DNC).

The DNC’s second amended complaint does not overcome the lack of standing argument and that it does not allege Roger Stone conspired to damage the DNC; rather, the allegations are only inferences of another conspiracy against John Podesta whose emails were on a Google server – i.e. “gmail.com.” Furthermore, it has no standing against Roger Stone because Plaintiff did not sufficiently allege that he participated in the conspiracy against it.

The DNC keeps raising the September hack — which was clearly a DNC target — and Stone keeps just blowing that allegation off.

As noted above: the Stone material in the Mueller Report is currently redacted. But it’s there, showing that Stone provided Trump non-public details ahead of time (which Michael Cohen has described under oath and Rick Gates apparently has also described) and also showing that Trump wanted the emails and his top aides — including Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Mike Flynn, and Steve Bannon — made sure he got them.

It is still a very high bar for the DNC to win this suit.

But Roger Stone is a very weak point in the Republican attempt to defeat it. And neither he nor the Trump campaign seem to want to address that fact head on.

Trump Claims He Was Joking When He Gave Russian Hackers a Wish List to Hack Hillary, But His Senior Aides Disagree

Like a child whose mother catches him saying something improper, Trump claimed — in his responses to Robert Mueller — that he was joking when he asked Russia to find Hillary’s missing 30,000 emails (a claim he repeated on March 2).

d. On July 27, 2016, you stated at a press conference: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

i. Why did you make that request of Russia, as opposed to any other country, entity, or individual?

ii. In advance of making that statement, what discussions, if any, did you have with anyone else about the substance of the statement?

iii. Were you told at any time before or after you made that statement that Russia was attempting to infiltrate or hack computer systems or email accounts of Hillary Clinton or her campaign? If yes, describe who provided this information, when, and what you were told.

Response to Question II, Part (d)

I made the statement quoted in Question II (d) in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer. The context of the statement is evident in the full reading or viewing of the July 27, 2016 press conference, and I refer you to the publicly available transcript and video of that press conference. I do not recall having any discussion about the substance of the statement in advance of the press conference. I do not recall being told during the campaign of any efforts by Russia to infiltrate or hack the computer systems or email accounts of Hillary Clinton or her campaign prior to them becoming the subject of media repo11ing and I have no recollection of any particular conversation in that regard.

Since Trump directed Mueller to a transcript of the press conference, I’ve put excerpts below. They’re a good reminder that at the same press conference where Trump asked Russia to find Hillary’s emails (and in seeming response to which, GRU officers targeted Hillary’s personal office just five hours later), Trump suggested any efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow were years in the past, not ongoing. After the press conference, Michael Cohen asked about that false denial, and Trump “told Cohen that Trump Tower Moscow was not a deal yet and said, ‘Why mention it if it is not a deal?'” He also said they’d consider recognizing Russia’s seizure of Crimea, which makes Konstantin Kilimnik’s travel — to Moscow the next day, then to New York for the August 2 meeting at which he and Paul Manafort discussed carving up Ukraine at the same meeting where they discussed how to win Michigan — all the more striking. Trump’s odd answer to whether his campaign “had any conversations with foreign leaders” to “hit the ground running” may reflect Mike Flynn’s meetings with Sergei Kislyak to do just that. In other words, even on top of that request of the Russians for more hacking, that press conference seems to tie to all the other things Trump was trying to hide when he obstructed Mueller’s investigation.

But it’s also worth looking at the abundant evidence that Trump wasn’t joking about his request that Russians find Hillary’s emails, particularly now that, with the superseding Julian Assange indictment, Trump’s DOJ considers the theft of documents in response to someone wishing they’ll be stolen tantamount to complicity in that theft.

Immediately after Trump asked Russia to find Hillary’s emails, the Mueller Report describes, he started asking Mike Flynn to go find them.

After candidate Trump stated on July 27, 2016, that he hoped Russia would “find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump asked individuals affiliated with his Campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails.264 Michael Flynn-who would later serve as National Security Advisor in the Trump Administration- recalled that Trump made this request repeatedly, and Flynn subsequently contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails.265

Heavily redacted passages also tie the request to Roger Stone to find out what WikiLeaks started around the same time.

Earlier the report quotes Gates describing how “frustrated” Trump was that the emails had not been found.

Gates recalled candidate Trump being generally frustrated that the Clinton emails had not been found. 196

A passage describing Trump’s motive for obstructing justice from Volume II refers back to these passages, describing Trump’s awareness of something about the hack-and-leak even while public reports tied the hacks to Russia, and in turn tying that to Roger Stone’s efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks.

Stone’s indictment describes how, days before that press conference, “a senior Trump Campaign official was directed” (probably a reference to Manafort’s request to Gates) to ask him to find out about upcoming releases, which is what led Stone to start pushing Jerome Corsi to find out what was coming.

12. After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1.

13. STONE also corresponded with associates about contacting Organization 1 in order to obtain additional emails damaging to the Clinton Campaign.

a. On or about July 25, 2016, STONE sent an email to Person 1 with the subject line, “Get to [the head of Organization 1].” The body of the message read, “Get to [the head of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” On or about the same day, Person 1 forwarded STONE’s email to an associate who lived in the United Kingdom and was a supporter of the Trump Campaign.

b. On or about July 31, 2016, STONE emailed Person 1 with the subject line, “Call me MON.” The body of the email read in part that Person 1’s associate in the United Kingdom “should see [the head of Organization 1].”

c. On or about August 2, 2016, Person 1 emailed STONE. Person 1 wrote that he was currently in Europe and planned to return in or around mid-August. Person 1 stated in part, “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.” The phrase “friend in embassy” referred to the head of Organization 1. Person 1 added in the same email, “Time to let more than [the Clinton Campaign chairman] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke – neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.”

Mike Flynn, Rick Gates, and Paul Manafort all testified how serious Trump was about finding these emails. And while Stone would probably lie about the content of his calls with the candidate, there are two witnesses (Michael Cohen and Gates) to Stone’s calls with him on the topic.

This was Trump’s wish list, just the same as WikiLeaks had a wish list that DOJ is now using to charge Julian Assange with Espionage.

If a wish list is enough to get Assange charged with conspiring to steal the documents on the wish list, then DOJ should treat Trump’s wish list for stolen documents with equal gravity.

Update: Harpie makes a good point in comments. The end of Trump’s “Russia, if you’re listening” comment is “That’ll be next.” That likely means he has already heard from Roger Stone, who had been told by James Rosen on July 25 that the Clinton Foundation emails would be next.


TRUMP: It’s just a total deflection, this whole thing with Russia. In fact, I saw her campaign manager I don’t know his title, Mook. I saw him on television and they asked him about Russia and the hacking.

By the way, they hacked — they probably have her 33,000 e-mails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 e-mails that she lost and deleted because you’d see some beauties there. So let’s see.

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

[snip]

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

[snip]

TRUMP: Why do I have to (ph) get involved with Putin? I have nothing to do with Putin. I’ve never spoken to him. I don’t know anything about him other than he will respect me. He doesn’t respect our president. And if it is Russia — which it’s probably not, nobody knows who it is — but if it is Russia, it’s really bad for a different reason, because it shows how little respect they have for our country, when they would hack into a major party and get everything. But it would be interesting to see — I will tell you this — Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be next. Yes, sir…

[snip]

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

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

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

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

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

[snip]

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

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

[snip]

QUESTION: Do you have any pause (ph) about asking a foreign government — Russia, China, anybody — to interfere, to hack into the system of anybody’s in this country…

TRUMP: That’s up to the President. Let the President talk to them. Look, here’s the problem. Here’s the problem, Katy (ph). Katy, here’s the problem, very simple. He has no respect…

QUESTION: (inaudible) 30,000 e-mails…

TRUMP: Well, they probably have them. I’d like to have them released.

QUESTION: Does that not give you pause?

TRUMP: No, it gives me no pause. If they have them, they have them. We might as well — hey, you know what gives me more pause? That a person in our government, crooked Hillary Clinton — here’s what gives me pause. Be quiet. I know you want to save her. That a person in our government, Katy, would delete or get rid of 33,000 e- mails. That gives me a big problem. After she gets a subpoena! She gets subpoenaed, and she gets rid of 33,000 e-mails? That gives me a problem (ph). Now, if Russia or China or any other country has those e-mails, I mean, to be honest with you, I’d love to see them.

[snip]

QUESTION: Did Don Jr. say back in 2008 that there was Russian money pouring into the top organizations…

TRUMP: We wanted to, yeah, I don’t know what he said. But we wanted…

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Excuse me, listen. We wanted to; we were doing Miss Universe 4 or 5 years ago in Russia. It was a tremendous success. Very, very successful. And there were developers in Russia that wanted to put a lot of money into developments in Russia. And they wanted us to do it. But it never worked out.

Frankly I didn’t want to do it for a couple of different reasons. But we had a major developer, particular, but numerous developers that wanted to develop property in Moscow and other places. But we decided not to do it.

[snip]

QUESTION: (inaudible) you are the nominee. Has you or your campaign had any conversations with foreign leaders trying to build up a relationship should you win in November, that you don’t have to hit the ground running (inaudible)?

TRUMP: No, I think we — it’s possible we have. But I’m not — I’m only interested in winning. Once I win, I’ll get along great with foreign leaders, but they won’t be taking advantage. I mean, the problem we have with foreign leaders, whether it’s China, Russia, or anybody, they don’t respect our leadership. And certainly in the case of China, they take tremendous economic advantage of us — tremendous, to a point that is hard to believe.

I’ll get along great with the leadership. And we’ll do well.

Yes, ma’am, in the back?

QUESTION: Mr. Trump, (inaudible)

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: No, no. Excuse me. In the back?

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

TRUMP: We’ll be looking at that. Yeah, we’ll be looking. [my emphasis]

The Mueller Report Redactions and the Claims about “Collusion”

On Volume II page 121 of the Mueller Report, a partial transcript of the call Trump’s lawyer (WaPo says this is John Dowd) placed to Mike Flynn’s lawyer on November 22, 2017 appears, along with even more damning details about a follow-up call from the following day.

In late November 2017, Flynn began to cooperate with this Office. On November 22, 2017, Flynn withdrew from a joint defense agreement he had with the President.833 Flynn’s counsel told the President’s personal counsel and counsel for the White House that Flynn could no longer have confidential communications with the White House or the President.834 Later that night, the President’s personal counsel left a voicemail for Flynn’s counsel that said:

I understand your situation, but let me see if I can’t state it in starker terms. . . . [I]t wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve gone on to make a deal with … the government. … [I]f . .. there’s information that implicates the President, then we’ve got a national security issue, . . . so, you know, . . . we need some kind of heads up. Um, just for the sake of protecting all our interests ifwe can …. [R]emember what we’ve always said about the ‘ President and his feelings toward Flynn and, that still remains …. 835

On November 23, 2017, Flynn’s attorneys returned the call from the President’s personal counsel to acknowledge receipt of the voicemail.836 Flynn ‘s attorneys reiterated that they were no longer in a position to share information under any sort of privilege.837 According to Flynn’s attorneys, the President’s personal counsel was indignant and vocal in his disagreement.838 The President’s personal counsel said that he interpreted what they said to him as a reflection of Flynn’s hostility towards the President and that he planned to inform his client of that interpretation.839 Flynn’s attorneys understood that statement to be an attempt to make them reconsider their position because the President’s personal counsel believed that Flynn would be disturbed to know that such a message would be conveyed to the President.840

This is, of course, the call referenced in Flynn’s less redacted cooperation addendum released last week. A whole slew of reporters who have claimed to have read the Mueller Report over the last month claimed that this passage had been redacted in the report, which is something that Quinta Jurecic and I had a bit of a laugh about on Chris Hayes’ show Friday night.

In fact, there’s likely to be very little of great interest submitted when the government complies with Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to submit an unclassified version of the Flynn passages of the report by May 31.

The revelation in Flynn’s cooperation addendum that he provided information on close-hold discussions about WikiLeaks means some of those conversations may be unsealed in that production. But aside from that, this redaction on Volume I page 183 — footnoting a discussion of the consideration of whether Flynn was a foreign agent and probably discussing an ongoing counterintelligence investigation into Russians, not Flynn — is the one of the only Flynn-related passages that might be of any interest that is not otherwise grand jury material.

With just a few notable exceptions, the redactions aren’t that nefarious.

Using Grand Jury redactions to protect the President from political pressure

I’ve noted two exceptions to that. One is the way DOJ used grand jury redactions to hide the details of how both Donald Trumps refused to testify (even while Jr continues to be willing to testify before congressional committees that don’t have all the evidence against him).

There are two redactions hiding details of what happened when Jr was subpoenaed.

Volume I page 117 on the June 9 meeting:

Volume II page 105 on President Trump’s involvement in writing the June 9 statement.

And there are two redactions hiding the discussion of subpoenaing Trump.

Volume II page 12 introducing the obstruction of justice analysis.

Appendix C introducing Trump’s non-responsive answers.

These redactions are all ones that Congress should ask more about. If Don Jr told Mueller he would invoke the Fifth, we deserve to know that (particularly given his willingness to appear with less informed committees). More importantly, the role of Trump’s refusal to answer questions (as well as any concerns he had about Don Jr’s jeopardy) are necessary parts to any discussion of obstruction of justice.

Plus, the President of the United States should not be able to hide his unwillingness to cooperate with an investigation into his own wrong-doing by claiming it’s grand jury material.

The use of “Personal Privacy” to hide central players

In his description of the four types of redactions in the report, Bill Barr described the fourth — “personal privacy” — as relating to “peripheral third parties.”

As I explained in my letter of April 18, 2019, the redactions in the public report fall into four categories: (1) grand-jury information, the disclosure of which is prohibited by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e); (2) investigative techniques, which reflect material identified by the intelligence and law enforcement communities as potentially compromising sensitive sources, methods, or techniques, as well as information that could harm ongoing intelligence or law enforcement activities; (3) information that, if released, could harm ongoing law enforcement matters, including charged cases where court rules and orders bar public disclosure by the parties of case information; and (4) information that would unduly infringe upon the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties, which includes deliberation about decisions not to recommend prosecution of such parties.

Some of the PP redactions do pertain to genuinely peripheral players.

For example, sometimes they hide the random people with whom Russian trolls communicated.

In others, they hide the names of other victims of GRU hacking (including Colin Powell, who is not a private person but is peripheral to this discussion).

In other places, they hide the names of genuinely unrelated people or businesses.

But as I have noted, Mueller treated this category as a declinations decision, not a privacy one.

I previously sent you a letter dated March 25, 2019, that enclosed the introduction and executive summary for each volume of the Special Counsel’s report marked with redactions to remove any information that potentially could be protected by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e); that concerned declination decisions; or that related to a charged case. [my emphasis]

Among the people Barr claims are “peripheral” players who have been investigated but not charged are Don Jr in the second redaction in this passage:

Carter Page on page 183.

And KT McFarland and several other key players on page 199.

Don’t get me wrong: I think these redactions are absolutely proper. The description of them, however, is not. Barr is pretending these people are “peripheral” to avoid having to admit, “in addition to Trump’s Campaign Manager, Deputy Campaign Manager, Personal Lawyer, Life-Long Rat-Fucker, National Security Advisor, and Foreign Policy Advisor who have either pled guilty to, been found by a judge to have, or been indicted for lying in an official proceeding, Mueller seriously considered charging at least three other Trump associates with lying.”

The expansive redactions pertaining to WikiLeaks and Roger Stone

So aside from the grand jury redactions hiding how Trump Sr and Jr dodged testifying and the way Barr describes the declinations redactions, I think the redactions are generally pretty judicious. I’m less certain, though, about the redactions pertaining to Roger Stone, the bulk of which appear in Volume I pages 51 to 59, 188 to 191, 196 to 197. and Volume II, pages 17 to 18 and 128 to 130.

There are two reasons to redact this information: most importantly, to comply with the gag order imposed by Amy Berman Jackson that prohibits lawyers on either side from making statements that “pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice” to Stone’s case, or to hide information from Stone that he doesn’t otherwise know.

Except that we know he has already gotten the latter category of information in discovery. In a filing opposing Stone’s bid to get an unredacted copy of the Mueller Report, prosecutors noted that “disclosable information that may have been redacted from the public version of the Special Counsel’s report to the Attorney General is already being provided to the defendant in discovery.”

And it seems highly likely that some of the information in these redacted passages is stuff that would only prejudice Stone’s case by raising the import of it to Trump.

Consider, for starters, that (unless I’m mistaken) not a word from Stone’s indictment appears in this Report. For example, the descriptions of how Stone asked Jerome Corsi to ask Ted Malloch to find out what WikiLeaks had coming and a follow-up email reflecting knowledge that John Podesta would be targeted must be reflected on pages 55 and 56.

On or about July 25, 2016, STONE sent an email to Person 1 with the subject line, “Get to [the head of Organization 1].” The body of the message read, “Get to [the head of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” On or about the same day, Person 1 forwarded STONE’s email to an associate who lived in the United Kingdom and was a supporter of the Trump Campaign.

On or about July 31, 2016, STONE emailed Person 1 with the subject line, “Call me MON.” The body of the email read in part that Person 1’s associate in the United Kingdom “should see [the head of Organization 1].”

On or about August 2, 2016, Person 1 emailed STONE. Person 1 wrote that he was currently in Europe and planned to return in or around mid-August. Person 1 stated in part, “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.” The phrase “friend in embassy” referred to the head of Organization 1. Person 1 added in the same email, “Time to let more than [the Clinton Campaign chairman] to be exposed as in bed wenemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke – neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.”

Page 56 actually includes new proof that Stone and Corsi had confirmed that Podesta’s emails were coming. Malloch describes Corsi telling him about Podesta’s emails, not vice versa.

Malloch stated to investigators that beginnin in or about Au ust 2016, he and Corsi had multiple Face Time discussions about WikiLeaks [redacted] had made a connection to Assange and that the hacked emails of John Podesta would be released prior to Election Day and would be helpful to the Trump Campaign. In one conversation in or around August or September 2016, Corsi told Malloch that the release of the Podesta emails was coming, after which “we” were going to be in the driver’s seat.221

Likewise, the indictment makes it clear that Stone was talking to the campaign about WikiLeaks releases.

ROGER JASON STONE, JR. was a political consultant who worked for decades in U.S. politics and on U.S. political campaigns. STONE was an official on the U.S. presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) until in or around August 2015, and maintained regular contact with and publicly supported the Trump Campaign through the 2016 election.

During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about Organization 1 and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. STONE was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organization 1.

[snip]

By in or around June and July 2016, STONE informed senior Trump Campaign officials that he had information indicating Organization 1 had documents whose release would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. The head of Organization 1 was located at all relevant times at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, United Kingdom.

After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1.

We see outlines of precisely who those references are to in the report.

Most notably, after describing Trump’s enthusiasm after Stone told Trump while Michael Cohen was listening on the speaker phone that the DNC emails would drop in a few days just before they did (which Cohen described in his testimony to Oversight), these two paragraphs, appear to to describe Manafort and Trump’s enthusiasm after the DNC release, with Manafort telling both Stone directly and Gates that he wanted to be kept informed via Stone of what was coming. And having gotten some indication of what was coming, the campaign started making plans to optimize those releases. It appears that Gates, like Cohen before him, witnessed a Stone-Trump call where the rat-fucker told the candidate what was coming.

These pages also have more background about how important all this was to Trump, who was frustrated that Hillary’s deleted emails hadn’t been found (something also told, in Flynn’s voice, in the Peter Smith section).

The references to Stone in these passages may well be appropriately redacted. But the descriptions of conversations between Trump and Manafort or Gates should not impact Stone’s defense — unless you want to argue that Trump’s personal involvement in Stone’s rat-fucking might change the deliberations for a jury. They don’t serve to hide Stone’s actions. They hide Trump’s enthusiasm for using materials stolen by Russia to win.

This affects the “collusion” discussion

All of this has particular import given the basis on which Attorney General Bill Barr tried to exonerate the President for obstruction. In Barr’s 4-page summary of the report, Barr emphasized that Trump did not conspire or coordinate with the Russian government, even going so far as to suggest that no Trump associate “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government on these efforts,” efforts which in context include, “publicly disseminat[ing hacked] materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks.”

As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

[snip]

In assessing potential conspiracy charges, the Special Counsel also considered whether members of the Trump campaign “coordinated” with Russian election interference activities. The Special Counsel defined “coordinated” as an “agreement–tacit or express–between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.”

[snip]

The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.

Of course, that leaves off coordinating with WikiLeaks because WikiLeaks is not the Russian government, even while in context it would be included.

Similarly, in Barr’s “no collusion” press conference, he again emphasized that Trump’s people were not involved in the hacking. Then he made a remarkable rhetorical move [I’ve numbered the key sentences].

But again, the Special Counsel’s report did not find any evidence that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with the campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its hacking operations.  In other words, there was no evidence of Trump campaign “collusion” with the Russian government’s hacking.

The Special Counsel’s investigation also examined Russian efforts to publish stolen emails and documents on the internet.  The Special Counsel found that, after the GRU disseminated some of the stolen materials through its own controlled entities, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, the GRU transferred some of the stolen materials to Wikileaks for publication.  Wikileaks then made a series of document dumps.  [1] The Special Counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts.  [2] Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy.  [3] Here too, the Special Counsel’s report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials.

Given what we know to be in the report, those three sentences look like this:

  1. Mueller asked, did any Trump affiliate encourage or otherwise play a role in WikiLeaks’ dissemination?
  2. By the way, if a Trump affiliate had played a role in the dissemination it wouldn’t be illegal unless the Trump affiliate had also helped Russia do the hacking.
  3. After finding that a Trump affiliate had played a role in the dissemination, Mueller then determined that that role was not illegal.

Again, “collusion” is not a legal term. It describes coordination — legal or not — in sordid activities. What these three sentences would say, if Barr had been honest, is that Mueller did find coordination, but because Stone (via yet unidentified means) coordinated with WikiLeaks, not Russia itself, Mueller didn’t find that the coordination was illegal.

Note that even Bill Barr, who’s a pretty shameless hack, still qualified the “no collusion” judgment on which he presents his obstruction analysis as pertaining to Russia.

After finding no underlying collusion with Russia, the Special Counsel’s report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the President could amount to obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation.  As I addressed in my March 24th letter, the Special Counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding this allegation.  Instead, the report recounts ten episodes involving the President and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense.

After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.

Barr bases his obstruction analysis on “collusion,” not conspiracy. But his 1-2-3 gimmick above lays out that non-criminal “collusion” did happen, only that it happened with WikiLeaks.

For his part, Mueller points to those same passages that get redacted in the first discussion in his background discussion for the obstruction volume.

Importantly, the redaction in this footnote makes it clear that the campaign was relying on what they were learning from Stone to plan their communication strategy for upcoming releases.

Remember, in his charging decisions on campaign finance, Mueller didn’t actually say no crime had been committed. He said the evidence was not sufficient to obtain and sustain a criminal conviction.

The Office similarly determined that the contacts between Campaign officials and Russia-linked individuals either did not involve the commission of a federal crime or, in the case of campaign-finance offenses, that our evidence was not sufficient to obtain and sustain a criminal conviction.

There are multiple places where the report makes it clear that, in addition to the June 9 meeting, the campaign finance crimes reviewed included the WikiLeaks releases, including the Table of Contents.

Indeed, the paragraph describing why Trump may have wanted to fire Jim Comey focuses closely on the campaign’s response to the WikiLeaks releases.

In addition, the President had a motive to put the FBI’s Russia investigation behind him. The evidence does not establish that the termination of Comey was designed to cover up a conspiracy between the Trump Campaign and Russia: As described in Volume I, the evidence uncovered in the investigation did not establish that the President or those close to him were involved in the charged Russian computer-hacking or active-measure conspiracies, or that the President otherwise had an unlawful relationship with any Russian official. But the evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns. Although the President publicly stated during and after the election that he had no connection to Russia, the Trump Organization, through Michael Cohen, was pursuing the proposed Trump Tower Moscow project through June 2016 and candidate Trump was repeatedly briefed on the progress of those efforts.498 In addition, some witnesses said that Trump was aware that [redacted] at a time when public reports stated that Russian intelligence officials were behind the hacks, and that Trump privately sought information about future WikiLeaks releases.499 More broadly, multiple witnesses described the President’s preoccupation with press coverage of the Russia investigation and his persistent concern that it raised questions about the legitimacy of his election.500 [my emphasis]

And a more general discussion of Trump’s motives later in the obstruction discussion raises it — and the possibility that it would be judged to be criminal — explicitly.

In this investigation, the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference. But the evidence does point to a range of other possible personal motives animating the President’s conduct. These include concerns that continued investigation would call into question the legitimacy of his election and potential uncertainty about whether certain events–such as advance notice of WikiLeaks’s release of hacked information or the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and Russians–could be seen as criminal activity by the President, his campaign, or his family. [my emphasis]

The most damning revelations about the President’s own actions during the campaign in this report pertain to his exploitation of the WikiLeaks releases. They go directly to the question of criminal liability (which Mueller says he couldn’t charge for evidentiary reasons, not because he didn’t think it was a crime), and if you want to talk “collusion” as opposed to “conspiracy” — as the President does — it goes to “collusion.”

And in the guise of protecting Roger Stone’s right to a fair trial — and possibly with an eye towards preserving the President’s ability to pardon Stone before a trial reveals even more of these details — DOJ used a heavy hand on the redactions pertaining to Trump’s own personal involvement in exploiting the benefit his campaign received from WikiLeaks releasing emails that Russia stole from Hillary. These details are the bulk of what DOJ is hiding by offering just a small number of members of Congress to review the less-redacted version of the report.

Perhaps Mueller agreed with all these redactions; it’s a question I hope he gets asked when he finally testifies. But the redactions serve to hide what was clearly a close call on prosecution and one of the most damning explanations for Trump’s obstruction, an explanation that involved his own actions on the campaign.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

“I Have Been Sending Everything to Victor:” On Paul Manafort’s Treasury-Sanctioned Meeting Planner, Viktor Boyarkin

Because the Mueller Report is a prosecutions and declinations report, it’s pretty circumspect in its suggestions that someone might be a spy. Admittedly, it makes an exception for Konstantin Kilimnik, about whom it provides five pieces of evidence and a comment redacted for sources and methods reasons — on top of repeating the FBI’s assessment — that he’s spooked up.

Manafort told the Office that he did not believe Kilimnik was working as a Russian “spy.”859 The FBI, however, assesses that Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence.860 Several pieces of the Office’s evidence-including witness interviews and emails obtained through court-authorized search warrants-support that assessment:

  • Kilimnik was born on April 27, 1970, in Dnipropetrovsk Ob last, then of the Soviet Union, and attended the Military Institute of the Ministry of Defense from 1987 until 1992.861 Sam Patten, a business partner to Kilimnik,862 stated that Kilimnik told him that he was a translator in the Russian army for seven years and that he later worked in the Russian armament industry selling arms and military equipment. 863
  • U.S. government visa records reveal that Kilimnik obtained a visa to travel to the United States with a Russian diplomatic passport in 1997. 864
  • Kilimnik worked for the International Republican Institute’ s (IRI) Moscow office, where he did translation work and general office management from 1998 to 2005.865 While another official recalled the incident differently,866 one former associate of Kilimnik’s at TRI told the FBI that Kilimnik was fired from his post because his links to Russian intelligence were too strong. The same individual stated that it was well known at IRI that Kilimnik had links to the Russian government.867
  • Jonathan Hawker, a British national who was a public relations consultant at FTI Consulting, worked with DMI on a public relations campaign for Yanukovych. After Hawker’s work for DMI ended, Kilimnik contacted Hawker about working for a Russian government entity on a public-relations project that would promote, in Western and Ukrainian media, Russia’s position on its 2014 invasion of Crimea. 868
  • Gates suspected that Kilimnik was a “spy,” a view that he shared with Manafort, Hawker, and Alexander van der Zwaan,869 an attorney who had worked with DMI on a report for the Ukrainian Ministry of ForeignAffairs.870

[Investigative Technique Redaction]

For others, they simply note — as they do here for Kilimnik — that a non-diplomat came to the US on a diplomatic or military visa. That’s what they do for Viktor Boyarkin, another close Deripaska aide: they just casually mention that he was in the US on a visa that doesn’t match the rest of his biography.

Kilimnik also maintained a relationship with Deripaska’s deputy, Viktor Boyarkin,857 a Russian national who previously served in the defense attache office of the Russian Embassy to the United States.858

For some reason, Mueller doesn’t invoke another description of Boyarkin in his report: That Trump’s own Treasury Department sanctioned him in December.

OLEG DERIPASKA RELATED DESIGNATION

Victor Alekseyevich Boyarkin (Boyarkin) is a former GRU officer who reports directly to Deripaska and has led business negotiations on Deripaska’s behalf.  Deripaska and Boyarkin were involved in providing Russian financial support to a Montenegrin political party ahead of Montenegro’s 2016 elections.  Boyarkin was designated pursuant to Executive Orders (E.O.) 13661 and 13662 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Oleg Deripaska, who was previously designated pursuant to E.O. 13661 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of a senior Russian government official, as well as pursuant to E.O. 13662 for operating in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy, as well as with entities 50 percent or more owned by designated persons.

And while that sanction description is itself fairly coy, Boyarkin’s company in that batch of sanctions is telling: It includes several entities related to the Internet Research Agency’s trolling project, nine of the GRU officers indicted in the DNC hack, some of the related GRU officers who hacked the World Anti-Doping Federation, and the two GRU officers who tried to kill Sergei Skripal.

I guess noting that Kilimnik has ties to a guy who got sanctioned with all the other key players in the election year interference would be too obvious?

In an interview with Time last fall, Boyarkin boasted that Manafort spent his time running Trump’s campaign “offering ways to pay [the money he owed Oleg Deripaska] back.

Boyarkin told TIME this fall that he was in touch with Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in the heat of the presidential race on behalf of the Russian oligarch. “He owed us a lot of money,” Boyarkin says. “And he was offering ways to pay it back.”

That same Time article suggests that Manafort may have been involved, through Deripaska, in Montenegro’s 2016 election that resulted in a coup attempt, which is what Boyarkin got sanctioned for.

Boyarkin, you see, is the guy through whom Kilimnik was sending the stuff ultimately designated for Deripaska. The Mueller Report notes that explicitly with regards to the reporting Manafort did on his role in the campaign to his paymasters.

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

Manafort’s July offer for briefings for Deripaska also went through Boyarkin.

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

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

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

Presumably, if Kilimnik sent everything designated for Deripaska to Boyarkin, that would include polling data and the campaign’s plans on how to win Michigan (indeed, there’s a redaction in the breach hearing that likely refers to Boyarkin) shared in that meeting on August 2, 2016 where Manafort and Kilimnik also discussed how to carve up Ukraine and how to get his debts forgiven by Deripaska.

That’s what makes a second meeting in Madrid (there’s a February one that Kilimnik also attended, which was included among the lies reviewed in Manafort’s breach determination) so interesting. In January, Manafort met with yet another Deripaska guy who once had an inexplicable diplomatic visa for the US, Georgiy Oganov.

Manafort’s activities in early 2017 included meetings relating to Ukraine and Russia. The first meeting, which took place in Madrid, Spain in January 2017, was with Georgiy Oganov. Oganov, who had previously worked at the Russian Embassy in the United States, was a senior executive at a Deripaska company and was believed to report directly to Deripaska.940 Manafort initially denied attending the meeting. When he later acknowledged it, he claimed that the meeting had been arranged by his lawyers and concerned only the Pericles lawsuit.941 Other evidence, however, provides reason to doubt Manafort’s statement that the sole topic of the meeting was the Pericles lawsuit. In particular, text messages to Manafort from a number associated with Kilimnik suggest that Kilimnik and Boyarkin-not Manafort’s counsel-had arranged the meeting between Manafort and Oganov.942 Kilimnik’s message states that the meeting was supposed to be “not about money or Pericles” but instead “about recreating [the] old friendship”-ostensibly between Manafort and Deripaska-“and talking about global politics.”943 Manafort also replied by text that he “need[s] this finished before Jan. 20,”944 which appears to be a reference to resolving Pericles before the inauguration.

While this wasn’t detailed in discernible way in Manafort’s breach determination, according to the report, he nevertheless lied about this meeting, too, in particular that it was not primarily about debt relief, but was instead about setting up his old relationship with Deripaska, which Rick Gates explained, “Deripaska used Manafort to install friendly political officials in countries where Deripaska had business interests.”

Boyarkin — the guy whom Treasury sanctioned along with a bunch of other key players in the election year operation — set up that meeting to “recreate the old friendship.”

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

The Scope and Results of the Mueller Report

There’s a Twitter account, TrumpHop, that tweets out Donald Trump’s tweets from years earlier, which is a really disorienting way to remind yourself how crazy he’s been since he’s been on Twitter. This morning, it recalled that two years ago today, Trump was inventing excuses for having shared highly classified Israeli intelligence at the same meeting where he boasted to Sergei Lavrov that he fired Jim Comey a week earlier because of the Russian investigation.

Two years ago, Rod Rosenstein — the same guy who stood, mostly stoically, as a prop for Bill Barr’s deceitful press conference spinning the Mueller Report one last time before releasing it — was in a panic, trying to decide what to do about a President who had fired the FBI Director to end an investigation into what might be real counterintelligence compromise on his part by a hostile foreign country and then went on to share intelligence with that same hostile foreign country. Tomorrow is the two year anniversary of Mueller’s appointment.

As I noted days after the Mueller Report was released, it is utterly silent on that sharing of information and two of the other most alarming incidents between Trump and Russia (though that may be for sound constitutional, rather than scope reasons) — Trump’s conversation with Putin about the subject of his own June 9 false statement even as he was drafting that statement, and the Helsinki meeting. That said, it cannot be true that Mueller didn’t consider those counterintelligence issues, because his treatment of Mike Flynn would have been far different if he didn’t have good reason to be sure — even if he deliberately obscures the reasons why he’s sure in the report — that Flynn, at the time under active counterintelligence investigation for his suspect ties to Russia, wasn’t entirely freelancing when he undermined US policy to offer sanctions considerations to Russia on December 29, 2016.

Nevertheless, a rising cry of people are suggesting that because we weren’t told the results of the counterintelligence investigation (whether it included the President or, because of constitutional reasons, did not), Mueller did not conduct a counterintelligence investigation. He (and, especially, FBI Agents working alongside him) did. Here’s what the report says, specifically, about the FBI writing up CI and Foreign Intelligence reports to share with the rest of FBI.

From its inception, the Office recognized that its investigation could identify foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information relevant to the FBI’s broader national security mission. FBI personnel who assisted the Office established procedures to identify and convey such information to the FBI. The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division met with the Office regularly for that purpose for most of the Office’s tenure. For more than the past year, the FBI also embedded personnel at the Office who did not work on the Special Counsel’s investigation, but whose purpose was to review the results of the investigation and to send-in writing-summaries of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information to FBIHQ and FBI Field Offices. Those communications and other correspondence between the Office and the FBI contain information derived from the investigation, not all of which is contained in this Volume. This Volume is a summary. It contains, in the Office’s judgment, that information necessary to account for the Special Counsel’s prosecution and declination decisions and to describe the investigation’s main factual results.

Mueller didn’t report on it, as he states explicitly, because that’s outside the scope of what he was required and permitted to report under the regulations governing his appointment, which call for a prosecutions and declinations report.

That’s just one of the misconceptions of the scope, intent, and results of the Mueller Report that persists (and not just among the denialist crowd), almost a month after its release.

The Mueller Report does not purport to tell us what happened — that would be a violation of the regulations establishing the Special Counsel. It only describes the prosecutorial and declination decisions. The scope of those decisions includes:

  • Who criminally conspired in two Russian election interference efforts (just one American was charged, but he did not know he was helping Russians troll the US)
  • Whether Trump’s associates were agents of a foreign power in violation of FARA or 18 USC 951, including whether they were agents of Ukraine (as Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were before the election), Israel (as lots of evidence suggested George Papadopoulos might have been), Turkey (as Mike Flynn admitted he had been during and for a short while after the election), as well as Russia
  • Whether Trump’s associates conspired with Russia in some way; Mueller’s review included a quid pro quo, but his prosecutorial decisions did not include things unrelated to Russia’s election interference (which might, for example, include pure graft, including during the Transition period or related to the inauguration)
  • Which of Trump’s associates got charged with lying (Flynn, Papadopoulos, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone), were ruled by a judge to have lied (Paul Manafort), and which lied but were not charged (at least three others, including KT McFarland) in an effort to obstruct the investigation
  • Whether accepting a meeting offering dirt as part of the Russian government’s assistance to Trump or optimizing WikiLeaks’ release of emails stolen by Russia to help Trump’s campaign amount to accepting illegal donations from foreigners
  • Whether Trump’s numerous efforts to undermine the investigation amount to obstruction

Two facts necessarily follow from Mueller’s limit in his report to prosecutorial decisions rather than describing what happened, both of which are explained on page 2 of the report (though even the Attorney General, to say nothing of the denialist crowd, appears not to have read that far). First, Mueller did not weigh whether Trump “colluded” with Russia, because that’s not a crime that could be prosecuted or declined.

In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of “collusion.” In so doing, the Office recognized that the word “collud[e]” was used in communications with the Acting Attorney General confirming certain aspects of the investigation’s scope and that the term has frequently been invoked in public reporting about the investigation. But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law.

Because “collusion” is not a crime, Mueller could not weigh in one way or another without being in violation of the regulations underlying his appointment. Mind you, Bill Barr could have changed these reporting requirements if he wanted and asked Mueller to comment on “collusion.” He did not.

In addition, Mueller’s measure was always whether his investigation “established” one or another crime. But stating that he did not establish a crime is not the same as saying there was no evidence of that crime.

A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.

Mueller describes in very general way that he didn’t get all the information he’d have liked to weigh whether or not conspiracy was committed.

The investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken by subjects of the investigation. Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination and were not, in the Office’s judgment, appropriate candidates for grants of immunity. The Office limited its pursuit of other witnesses and information–such as information known to attorneys or individuals claiming to be members of the media–in light of internal Department of Justice policies. See, e.g. , Justice Manual §§ 9-13.400, 13.410. Some of the information obtained via court process, moreover, was presumptively covered by legal privilege and was screened from investigators by a filter (or “taint”) team. Even when individuals testified or agreed to be interviewed, they sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete, leading to some of the false-statements charges described above. And the Office faced practical limits on its ability to access relevant evidence as well-numerous witnesses and subjects lived abroad, and documents were held outside the United States.

Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated–including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.

More specifically, we know this language covers at least the following limits on the investigation:

  • Encryption or evidence destruction prevented Mueller from clarifying details of the handoff to WikiLeaks, Gates’ sharing (on Manafort’s orders) of polling data with Russia, Manafort’s communications with various people, and Erik Prince and Steve Bannon’s communications about the Seychelles meeting with Kirill Dmitriev
  • Mueller did not pursue the role of Trump and other associates’ lawyers’ substantial, known role in obstruction
  • Mueller likely did not pursue an interview with Julian Assange (and other media figures), because that would violate US Attorney Handbook warnings against compelling the sharing of journalism work product to investigate a crime related to that work product
  • Some foreigners avoided cooperating with the investigation by staying out of the country; Emin Agalarov canceled an entire US tour to avoid testifying about what kind of dirt he offered Don Jr
  • Both Donald Trumps refused to be interviewed
  • President Trump refused to answer all questions pertaining to his actions after inauguration, all but one question about the Transition, and all questions about sanctions; his other answers were largely contemptuous and in a number of cases conflict with his own public statements or the testimony of his associates

Finally a more subtle point about the results, which will set up my next post. Mueller clearly states that he did not establish a conspiracy between Trump’s people and the Russian government on election interference. By definition, that excludes whatever coordination Roger Stone had with WikiLeaks (and even with the extensive redactions, it’s clear Mueller had real First Amendment concerns with charging that coordination). But whereas Mueller said that the contacts between Trump’s associates and Russians did not amount to a crime, he suggested that the two campaign finance issues he explored — the June 9 meeting and the release of stolen emails — were crimes but not ones he could sustain a conviction for.

The Office similarly determined that the contacts between Campaign officials and Russia-linked individuals either did not involve the commission of a federal crime or, in the case of campaign-finance offenses, that our evidence was not sufficient to obtain and sustain a criminal conviction.

The gaps in evidence that Mueller was able to collect strongly impact this last judgment: as he laid out, he needed to know what Don Jr understood when he accepted the June 9 meeting, and without interviewing either Emin Agalarov and/or Jr, he couldn’t get at Jr’s understanding of the dirt offered.

As I’ve noted repeatedly, it is absolutely false to claim –as Attorney General Barr did — that Mueller’s report says there was no underlying crime to cover up with Trump’s obstruction. Mueller specifically mentions SDNY’s prosecution of Trump’s hush payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, a crime which was charged, and which was one of the explicit purposes behind the raid on Cohen’s home and office. And as such, that crime is pertinent to the pardon dangle for Cohen.

In January 2018, the media reported that Cohen had arranged a $130,000 payment during the campaign to prevent a woman from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter she had with the President before he ran for office.1007 This Office did not investigate Cohen’s campaign period payments to women. 1008 However, those events, as described here, are potentially relevant to the President’s and his personal counsel’s interactions with Cohen as a witness who later began to cooperate with the government.

But with regards to the Russian-related campaign finance investigation, Mueller describes that Trump may have believed those would be criminal.

[T]he evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns.

The distinction about whether a crime was committed versus whether it was charged may be subtle. But it is an important one for the obstruction investigation. And as I’ll show, that may have interesting repercussions going forward.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Rick Gates’ Status Report Suggests Trump Will Be a Focus of Roger Stone’s Trial

As I noted yesterday, the government submitted a status report in Rick Gates’ case yesterday — the first since Mueller submitted his report. In the past several prior reports, the government had asked for sixty day extensions, but here, the government is asking for over three months.

The prosecutors who submitted the report — who are both on the Greg Craig prosecution team — make one reason for the longer extension clear: they’re scheduling the next status report for after Craig’s trial is expected to finish.

To date: (1) defendant Gates continues to cooperate with the government as required by his Plea Agreement, and (2) this Court has scheduled a trial in United States v. Craig, 19-CR-125 (ABJ), to begin on August 12, 2019,

Gates is not obviously mentioned in Craig’s indictment, but Paul Manafort is central to it, so presumably prosecutors want to have Gates explain why Manafort thought it so important that Craig hide the source of the funding for the Skadden Arps payment, Victor Pinchuk, which parallels the reasons why Manafort wanted everyone else who worked for him to keep their Ukrainian paymasters secret.

But prosecutors also mention Roger Stone’s November trial (though none of Stone’s prosecutors are on this filing).

another trial, United States v. Stone, 19-CR-18 (ABJ), to begin November 5, 2019

That’s interesting given the way the very redacted passages treating Stone’s charges in the Mueller Report flesh out Gates’ role as a liaison between Trump and Stone in the effort to optimize the WikiLeaks releases. Stone’s indictment had been coy on this point (so much so, I’ve wondered whether Big Dick Toilet Salesman told Mueller to stop mentioning Trump in charging documents after the Michael Cohen plea). It describes senior members of the campaign contacting Stone to find out what WikiLeaks had coming.

During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about Organization 1 and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. STONE was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organization 1.

[snip]

By in or around June and July 2016, STONE informed senior Trump Campaign officials that he had information indicating Organization 1 had documents whose release would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign.

And there’s this very pregnant passage using the passive voice to describe someone — the indictment doesn’t name who — directing a senior campaign official to contact Stone about further releases, which would lead to Stone’s efforts to find out, in part via Jerome Corsi, what was coming in late July and early August.

After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1.

Stone has denied it happened but said if it did, Gates would have been the one who reached out to him.

And while the passage of the Mueller Report describing all this is heavily redacted, it does seem to confirm that — after Trump and Manafort both showed great interest in the WikiLeaks releases, at least Manafort and probably both (given the reference to Manafort “separately” telling Gates to stay in touch with Stone) told Gates to reach out to Stone.

[snip]

In addition, Gates seems to have witnessed Trump take a call from Stone at which the then candidate’s rat-fucker informed him about the upcoming WikiLeaks releases.

Given all the documentary evidence the government has against Stone, Gates’ testimony is probably not necessary to prove that Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee about his efforts to optimize the WikiLeaks releases. But it may serve several prosecutorial roles.

First, given that Stone was interacting with Trump directly on the WikiLeaks releases, Gates’ (as well as Michael Cohen and even Manafort’s, the latter of whom seems to have uncharacteristically told the truth on this to the grand jury) confirmation that such contacts occurred could easily explain Stone’s motive to lie to HPSCI — which would serve to protect Trump. This is all the more true given how brazenly Trump lied about this point in his sworn answers to Mueller.

I recall that in the months leading up to the election there was considerable media reporting about the possible hacking and release of campaign-related information and there was a lot of talk about this matter. At the time, I was generally aware of these media reports and may have discussed these issues with my campaign staff or others, but at this point in time – more than two years later – I have no recollection of any particular conversation, when it occurred, or who the participants were.

I do not recall being aware during the campaign of any communications between [Stone, Donald Trump, Jr., Manafort, or Gates] and anyone I understood to be a representative of WikiLeaks or any of the other individuals or entities referred to in the question.

[snip]

I was in Trump Tower in New York City on October 7, 2016. I have no recollection of being told that WikiLeaks possessed or might possess emails related to John Podesta before the release of Mr. Podesta’s emails was reported by the media. Likewise, I have no recollection of being told that Roger Stone, anyone acting as an intermediary for Roger Stone, or anyone associated with my campaign had communicated with WikiLeaks on October 7, 2016.

I do not recall being told during the campaign that Roger Stone or anyone associated with my campaign had discussions with [WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0, or DCLeaks] regarding the content or timing of release of hacked emails.

I spoke by telephone with Roger Stone from time to time during the campaign. I have no recollection of the specifics of any conversations I had with Mr. Stone between June 1.2016 and November 8, 2016. I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with him, nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign, although I was aware that WikiLeaks was the subject of media reporting and campaign-related discussion at the time.

Gates will not only help to prove that Trump knew all this was going on, but that the campaign had dedicated resources to make use of Stone’s disclosures.

In addition, the government’s ability to tie the President directly to this part of the operation will make it harder (though nothing is beyond Trump) to pardon Stone before the trial, even while it will provide incentive to Trump to do so. Trump’s centrality in all this may be one reason William Barr is so aggressively protecting the Stone related disclosures, including with his refusals to share unredacted copies of the report with Congress: because Trump’s documented role in encouraging Stone’s efforts is far stronger than it is in any of the other potential incidences of election tampering.

Finally, all this may change the calculus if and when Julian Assange gets extradited to the US. Trump was asked about — but refused to answer — whether he considered a pardon for Assange.

Trump’s lies to Mueller are perhaps best documented as they pertain to WikiLeaks. Using Gates as a witness at Stone’s trial will make the trial an exhibition of the President’s lies as much as those of his rat-fucker.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Trump’s Excuse for His Promised Speech on Hillary Clinton

On June 21, 2016, the day after Christopher Steele submitted the first installment in his dossier, Guccifer 2.0 published what the persona deemed a dossier on Hillary Clinton. It included a bunch of files — many dating to April 2015 — that summarized potential attacks on Hillary, often providing rebuttals. These documents appear to be the kind of reports campaigns do to prepare for attacks they expect to be hit with.

The “dossier” included four files relating to the Clinton Foundation (two of which were responses to the Peter Schweizer book Clinton Cash), one on defenses to attacks on her email server, another on attacks on Bill and Chelsea, and a summary of the attacks GOP primary candidates had made on her, a number of which focused on national security. While the files were definitely dated (and the financial records, in particular, worthless), it is the closest thing to a “dossier” of “kompromat” released during the entire Russian operation.

The timing of that release and its focus — including on Schweizer’s book — is worth revisiting given the explanation Trump gave Mueller (starting on PDF 427) for his aborted promise, on June 7, 2016 to, “give a major speech on probably Monday of next week and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.”

g. On June 7, 2016, you gave a speech in which you said, in part, “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.”

i. Why did you make that statement?

ii. What information did you plan to share with respect to the Clintons?

iii. What did you believe the source(s) of that information would be?

iv. Did you expect any of the information to have come from the June 9 meeting?

v. Did anyone help draft the speech that you were referring to? If so, who?

v. Why did you ultimately not give the speech you referenced on June 7, 2016?

[snip]

In remarks I delivered the night I won the California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, and South Dakota Republican primaries, I said, “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.” In general, l expected to give a speech referencing the publicly available, negative information about the Clintons, including, for example, Mrs. Clinton’s failed policies, the Clintons’ use of the State Department to further their interests and the interests of the Clinton Foundation, Mrs. Clinton’s improper use of a private server for State Department business, the destruction of 33,000 emails on that server, and Mrs. Clinton’s temperamental unsuitability for the office of President.

In the course of preparing to respond to your questions, I have become aware that the Campaign documents already produced to you reflect the drafting, evolution, and sources of information for the speech I expected to give “probably” on the Monday following my June 7, 2016 comments. These documents generally show that the text of the speech was initially drafted by Campaign staff with input from various outside advisors and was based on publicly available material, including, in particular, information from the book Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer.

The Pulse Nightclub terrorist attack took place in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016. In light of that tragedy, I gave a speech directed more specifically to national security and terrorism than to the Clintons. That speech was delivered at the Saint Anselm College Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire, and, as reported, opened with the following:

This was going to be a speech on Hillary Clinton and how bad a President, especially in these times of Radical Islamic Terrorism, she would be. Even her former Secret Service Agent, who has seen her under pressure and in times of stress, has stated that she lacks the temperament and integrity to be president. There will be plenty of opportunity to discuss these important issues at a later time, and I will deliver that speech soon. But today there is only one thing to discuss: the growing threat of terrorism inside of our borders.

I continued to speak about Mrs. Clinton’s failings throughout the campaign, using the information prepared for inclusion in the speech to which I referred on June 7, 2016.

If the documents submitted to Mueller do back his claims that the speech was in preparation ahead of time, then Trump’s answer is one of the most responsive ones he gave Mueller. But we’ve already seen one instance — whether Trump ever declined an invitation to St. Petersburg from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko (if footnotes are understood to be comprehensive, Trump submitted an unsigned letter, but not a signed copy or the emails that supposedly extended the invitation) — where Trump’s written responses claimed that documentation submitted to Mueller substantiated more than they appear to have.

And Trump didn’t really answer the question why he didn’t give a designated speech focused on those topics; he instead simply suggested he covered those topics along the way, generally.

Elsewhere, the report describes a discussion at a meeting that Mueller believes happened on June 6 relayed by Rick Gates at which Don Jr promised damaging information about the Clinton Foundation which — though vague — appears to reference an upcoming meeting.

Rick Gates, who was the deputy campaign chairman, stated during interviews with the Office that in the days before June 9, 2016 Trump Jr. announced at a regular morning meeting of senior campaign staff and Trump family members that he had a lead on negative information about the Clinton Foundation.703 Gates believed that Trump Jr. said the information was coming from a group in Kyrgyzstan and that he was introduced to the group by a friend. 704 Gates recalled that the meeting was attended by Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Paul Manafort, Hope Hicks, and, joining late, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. According to Gates, Manafort warned the group that the meeting likely would not yield vital information and they should be careful.705 Hicks denied any knowledge of the June 9 meeting before 2017,706 and Kushner did not recall if the planned June 9 meeting came up at all earlier that week.707 [my emphasis]

Which is why I find it interesting that Guccifer 2.0 released a set of documents that — while not all that exciting, were nevertheless directly on point regarding the topics Trump claimed were already being drafted into a speech he’d give.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

How to Read the Mueller Report

Politico has a piece describing how key players will read the Mueller report that starts by admitting the usual workaround — reading the index — won’t work.

The capital has already evolved one model for processing a big tell-all book: “the Washington read,” where you scan the index (assuming there is one) to find everything it says about you, your boss and your enemies and then fake like you’ve read the rest. But this time that won’t be enough. The goods might not come easily. They might be buried in an obscure subsection. And there’s way more at stake than in the typical gossipy memoir.

Further down, David Litt graciously included me on a list of legal and analytical voices he’ll turn to to help understand the report.

Former Obama White House speechwriter David Litt will have Twitter open while he’s making his way through the report, watching in particular for posts from several of the more prominent legal and analytical voices who have narrated the story’s plot twists as it evolved: Ken White (@popehat), Mimi Rocah (@Mimirocah1), Renato Mariotti (@Renato_Mariotti), Marcy Wheeler (@emptywheel), Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) “for the definitive word on special-counsel regs” and Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight “to think through the political implications.”

Since most of the methods described by Politico’s sources actually will be counterproductive for anything but rushing a self-serving message to the press, I thought I’d lay out some tips for how I’ll read it.

Understand what the report is and is not

Even before Barr releases the report, those planning on reading it would do well to reflect on what it is — and what it is not. It is, by regulation, a report on the prosecutions and declinations the Mueller team took during their tenure.

It is not supposed to be, contrary to many claims, a report on everything that Mueller discovered. Already there have been hints that it will not include the second half of Rod Rosenstein’s mandate to Mueller — to figure out the nature of links between Trump’s team and Russia. If that stuff is excluded, then it probably will get reported, secretly, to the Intelligence Committees and no further. That’s important because the stuff that would compromise Trump — but would not necessarily implicate him in a crime — may by definition not show up in this report (though the stuff specifically relating to Trump may show up in the obstruction case).

Finally, it’s unclear how much Mueller will include about referrals and ongoing investigations. I expect he’ll include descriptions of the things he and Rosenstein decided deserved further prosecutorial scrutiny but did not fit under the narrow rubric of whether Trump’s team coordinated or conspired with the Russian government on the hack-and-leak. But with the sole exception of three known referrals: the hush payments negotiated by Michael Cohen, the prosecution of Mike Flynn partner Bijan Kian, and the prosecution of Sam Patten, I expect any discussion of these matters to be redacted — appropriately so.

Map out what we already know about prosecutorial decisions

Since the report is by regulation supposed to describe the prosecutorial and declination decisions, we already know much of what will show up in the report, because Mueller has helpfully showed his prosecutorial decisions right here on his webpage. Here are some questions we should expect the report to answer (working from the bottom):

Papadopoulos

  • Why did Mueller consider George Papadopoulos’ lies to the FBI material to the investigation? [Note, Mueller has already answered this in Papadopoulos’ sentencing memo.]
  • Did Mueller find any evidence that Papadopoulos had passed on news that Russia was planning to dump emails pertaining to Hillary in an effort to help Trump? What did those people do with that information?
  • What did the investigation of Sergei Millian, who started pitching a Trump Tower deal and other seeming intelligence dangles to Papadopoulos in July 2016 reveal? [This is a subject that may either be redacted, referred, or treated as counterintelligence saved for the Intelligence Committees.]

Mike Flynn

  • Why were Flynn’s lies about assuring Sergey Kislyak that Trump would revisit sanctions deemed material to the investigation? [Note, Mueller has already answered this in Flynn’s sentencing memo, but it is significantly redacted]
  • Why did Mueller give Flynn such a sweet plea deal, as compared to his partner Bijan Kian, who was named a foreign agent? What information did he trade to get it? [Some of this is included in his sentencing memo — because he flipped early, it led others to correct their lies — but key parts of it remain redacted.]
  • What other Trump aides (like KT McFarland) lied about the same topics, and why were their attempts to clean that up before being charged deemed sufficient to avoid prosecution?

There’s likely a great deal pertaining to Flynn — likely including the third topic on which he cooperated — that will be deemed counterintelligence information that will be briefed to the Intelligence Committees.

Richard Pinedo

  • Why did Mueller prosecute Pinedo as part of his investigation?
  • How did Mueller determine that Pinedo had not wittingly worked with Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s trolls?

There’s likely some counterintelligence information about how the trolls duped Pinedo and how the US might shore up that vulnerability, but given the focus on the trolls, I expect FBI has already briefed that to the Intelligence Committees in substantial part.

The Internet Research Agency

  • Given that Russia’s activities weren’t under the original scope of Mueller’s investigation; why did the trolls get moved under him? [The answer may be because of the Trump people found to have interacted with the trolls.]
  • Why did Mueller consider prosecuting Concord Management worth the headache?
  • How much of the relationship between Yevgeniy Prigozhin and Putin impacted this prosecution?
  • What did the three Trump campaign officials in Florida described in the indictment do after being contacted by the trolls about events in August 2016? Did any other people in the campaign join in the efforts to coordinate with the trolls? Why weren’t they prosecuted? [Whether the names of these three people are unredacted will be one of the more interesting redaction questions.]
  • Why weren’t the Trump and other political activists prosecuted?

We already know the answer to why Americans (save Richard Pinedo) were not prosecuted in this indictment: because they did not realize they were coordinating with Russian-operated trolls, and because, unlike Pinedo, nothing about their activities was by itself illegal.

There’s likely to be a lot of counterintelligence information on this effort that has been shared with the Intelligence Committees in ongoing fashion.

Alex van der Zwaan

  • Why did Mueller prosecute van der Zwaan himself, rather than referring it (as he did with Greg Craig and the other Manafort-related corruption)? Did that have to do with van der Zwaan’s independent ties with either Konstantin Kilimnik or his father in law, German Khan?

Rick Gates and Paul Manafort

  • Why did Mueller keep both Gates and Manafort prosecutions (the tax fraud prosecuted in EDVA and the FARA and money laundering violations in DC) himself? Was this just an effort to flip both of them, or did it pertain to an effort to understand the nature of their relationship with Kilimnik and a bunch of Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs?
  • What continuity is there between the methods and relationships involved in Manafort’s work in Ukraine with that he did for Trump?
  • What did Mueller get out of the cooperation agreements with Gates? This will be extensive! But a lot of it may be redacted because it pertains to counterintelligence or ongoing investigations.
  • What did Mueller get out of the failed cooperation agreement with Manafort? Part of this, too, is counterintelligence, plus Manafort appears to have made it through one grand jury appearance on November 2 without lying. But that topic may be redacted as either as part of either counterintelligence or ongoing investigations.

Konstantin Kilimnik

Because he charged Kilimnik and Kilimnik was so central to so much of his investigation, Mueller could describe why the government believes Kilimnik has a tie with the GRU. He likely won’t.

GRU hack indictment

  • Russia’s activities weren’t under the original scope of Mueller’s investigation; why did the GRU hack get moved under him? [The answer may be because Roger Stone and Lee Stranahan and Trump — in his encouragement — were implicated.]
  • Why weren’t WikiLeaks and/or Assange charged in the indictment?
  • What was the nature of Stone’s ties to Guccifer 2.0?
  • Was there reason to believe Trump knew GRU would respond to his encouragement?
  • How did the GRU operation link up with the activities of other people suspected to have ties to GRU, like the broker on the Trump Tower deal, Kilimnik, and a Mike Flynn interlocutor?
  • How did Mueller assess whether and how Russia used the data stolen from the Democrats, especially the analytics data stolen in September?
  • Did the data Kilimnik received from Manafort and shared with others make its way into GRU’s hands?

Michael Cohen

  • Why were Cohen’s lies about the Trump Tower deal deemed material to the investigation? [Unlike with Flynn and Papadopoulos, Mueller didn’t really explain this in the sentencing memo.]
  • Why was Cohen charged with lying, but not those he conspired to lie with, including Jay Sekulow, Don Jr,  and the President?
  • What other details of Trump’s business dealings did Cohen share?

Roger Stone

  • Why were Roger Stone’s lies to Congress deemed material to the Mueller investigation?
  • From whom did Stone and Jerome Corsi learn what GRU and WikiLeaks were planning to release?
  • Did Stone succeed in holding the release of the Podesta emails to dampen the Access Hollywood video release, as Corsi alleges?
  • What was Stone trying to hide when he had Corsi write a cover story for him on August 30, 2016?
  • Why didn’t Stone’s coordination to optimize WikiLeaks’ releases amount to coordination with Russia?
  • Why weren’t Corsi and Randy Credico (the latter of whom Stone accuses of lying to the grand jury) charged?
  • Why wasn’t Assange charged in conjunction with Stone?

Stone is still awaiting trial and prosecutors have just told the press that Stone remains under active investigation. So I expect virtually all the Stone section to be redacted.

Map out the big questions about declinations

Mueller will also need to explain why he didn’t charge people he investigated closely. This is another section where the fight over redactions is likely to be really heated.

Trump on obstruction and conspiracy

  • Did Mueller consider Trump’s enthusiastic encouragement of Russia’s operation and his move to offer Russia sanctions relief from a prosecutorial standpoint (that is, a quid pro quo trading the Trump Tower deal and election assistance for sanctions relief)? If so, what were the considerations about potential criminality of it, including considerations of presidential power? If not, was any part of this referred?
  • What was the consideration on Trump and obstruction? Did Mueller intend to leave this decision to Congress? [The report will not answer the second question; if Mueller did intend to leave the decision to Congress, as his predecessors Leon Jaworski and Ken Starr did for good Constitutional reasons, he will not have said so in the report.]

Paul Manafort on quid pro quo

  • Was Mueller able to determine why Manafort shared polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, 2016? Did he know it would be shared with Russians close to the election interference operation? Did he agree to a quid pro quo involving the Ukrainian peace deal as sanctions relief he pursued for another 20 months? Did Manafort’s lies prevent Mueller from answering these questions?
  • What was the nature of and what was ultimately done with that polling data?
  • Why didn’t Mueller charge this as conspiracy or coordination? Did it have to do with Manafort’s lies and Gates’ limited credibility?

The June 9 meeting and follow-up

  • What consideration did prosecutors give to charging this as an instance of conspiracy or coordination?
  • What consideration did prosecutors give to charging the public claims about this meeting as an instance of false statements?
  • Did Trump know about this meeting and if so did that change the calculus (because of presidential equities) on a quid pro quo?
  • Did Mueller decide Don Jr is simply too stupid to enter into a conspiracy?
  • Did Mueller consider (and is DOJ still pursuing) prosecutions of some of the members of the Russian side of this meeting? [Note that Barr did not clear all US persons of conspiracy on the hack-and-leak; Emin Agalarov canceled his concert tour this year because his lawyer said he’d be detained, SDNY’s indictment of Natalia Veselnitskaya treats her as a Russian agent, and Rinat Akhmetshin and Ike Kaveladze may both have exposure that the Trump flunkies would not.]

The Seychelles meeting and related graft

  • Did Mueller decide the graft he uncovered was not criminal, not prosecutable, or did he refer it?

Carter Page

I, frankly, am not that interested in why Mueller didn’t prosecute Carter Page, and this section might be redacted for his privacy. But I am interested in whether leaks played a part of it, or whether Russians used him as a decoy to distract from where the really interesting conversations were happening.

Understand referrals and ongoing investigations, to the extent they’re included

As noted above, Mueller may have included a description of the referrals he made and the ongoing investigations that reside with some of his prosecutors and/or the DC AUSAs brought in to pick up his work. This includes, at a minimum:

  • Inauguration graft
  • Potential Don Jr and Jared Kushner graft
  • Mystery Appellant
  • Ongoing Stone investigations
  • The Cohen hush payments
  • Bijan Kian’s prosecution
  • Sam Patten’s prosecution
  • Other Manafort graft, including potential coordination with states
  • Tom Barrack’s graft
  • Greg Craig, Tony Podesta, Vin Weber, Steve Calk
  • Konstantin Kilimnik (which is likely a counterintelligence investigation, not a criminal one)

One big question I have is whether any criminal conduct with Russia that doesn’t involve the election would be covered by this report, referred, or considered an ongoing investigation??

While we should expect details of the decision to refer the Cohen, Bijan Kian, and Sam Patten prosecutions, most of the rest of this would likely be redacted (including the Craig prosecution, since it only just got indicted).

Understand the structure of the report

Having prepped yourself for what to expect in the report (and what won’t be there, like the counterintelligence stuff), you can now start by reviewing the structure of the report. Bill Barr claims the report is split into two sections, the Russian interference and Mueller’s thinking on obstruction. That may or may not be true — it’s one thing to assess when first reviewing the report.

One particularly interesting question will be the extent to which Mueller included stuff that might otherwise be counterintelligence information — things Russia did that would compromise or embarrass Trump — in the obstruction section.

Another thing to do while understanding the structure of the report is to see where all the things that must be in there appear. This will be particularly helpful, for example, in figuring out where what is sure to be a lot of redacted content on Roger Stone appears.

Do a first read of the report, paying particular attention to the footnotes

I find it really useful to share screen caps of what I’m finding in a first read, either on Twitter (for crowd sourcing) or in a working thread. The press flacks will do the work of finding the key takeaways and running to the cable news about them. Better to spend the time finding the details that add nuance to claimed takeaways, if only because adding nuance to claimed takeaways quickly helps avoid an erroneous conventional wisdom from forming.

Develop theories for redacted content

You’re not going to be able to prove what lies behind a redaction unless Mueller and DOJ commit redaction fail (they’re not Paul Manafort trying to signal to co-conspirators, so that won’t happen) or unless they accidentally leave one reference out. But based on the grammar of sentences and the structure of the report and — hopefully — Barr’s promised color coding of redactions, you should be able to develop theories about what generally is behind a redaction.

Identify big redacted sections

There may be sections that are both entirely redacted about which no clues as to the content exist. At the very least, identify these, and at least note where, structurally, they appear, as that may help to explain what big questions about the Mueller report are outstanding.

Read it again

I know most editors in DC won’t pay for this, which is why reporting on documents is often less rigorous than journalism involving talking to people. But for documents like this, you really need to read iteratively, in part because you won’t fully understand what you’re looking at until reading the whole thing a first time. So after you read it the first time, read it again.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post.