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Roger Stone Takes Georgia, and the Senate, Hostage

As far as I know, virtually no one else has accurately reported on the significance of this footnote in the Mueller Report, liberated by BuzzFeed hours before election day.

1279 Some of the factual uncertainties are the subject of ongoing investigations that have been referred by this Office to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The footnote explains why, on March 22, 2019, the Mueller team had not yet charged Roger Stone for conspiring with Russian intelligence officers to steal files from Democrats that could be leaked to help Donald Trump get elected President: because DOJ was still investigating it. The footnote — and the entire public record since then — make it clear that that investigation into Stone on CFAA conspiracy charges was ongoing. Indeed, I have shown that the Stone trial for lying to Congress to cover up the identity of his claimed go-between with WikiLeaks strongly suggests that his go-between was neither Jerome Corsi nor Randy Credico, but Guccifer 2.0, quite possibly an American cut-out working with the Russians.

While there are signs that Bill Barr effectively shut down that ongoing investigation by forcing the four Stone prosecutors to withdraw from the case, an investigation into whether Stone conspired with Russia would neither be tolled nor precluded on double jeopardy grounds. Nor would such crimes be covered by Trump’s commutation of Stone’s sentence for covering up who his go-between with WikiLeaks was, which appears to have been an effort to distract from his ties directly to the Russian operation. They are entirely different crimes. To pardon Stone for conspiring with Russia, Trump might well have to specify that Stone did conspire with Russia, something that would not only create legal jeopardy for himself, but would require admitting what he has tried to deny for four straight years, that his campaign “colluded” — conspired even! — with Russia to win.

It would be uncontroversial for Joe Biden’s Attorney General to reopen a case against Roger Stone for conspiring with Russia.

That may be useful background to the news that, after remaining relatively quiet for much of the 2020 election (or at least fronted by Steve Bannon), Stone is now threatening to hold Georgia’s Senate seats — and with it, GOP control of the Senate — hostage.

Conservative operatives and a super PAC with ties to infamous GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone are calling for Trump supporters to punish Republicans by sitting out Georgia’s crucial Senate runoffs or writing in Trump’s name instead. And though their efforts remains on the party’s fringes, the trajectory of the movement has Republicans fearful that it could cost the GOP control of the Senate.

The most aggressive call to boycott or cast protest ballots in the two runoff races has, so far, come from a dormant pro-Trump super PAC with ties to Stone, which unveiled a new initiative to retaliate against the Republican Party’s supposed turncoats by handing Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.

The group, dubbed the Committee for American Sovereignty, unveiled a new website encouraging Georgia Republicans to write in Trump’s name in both of the upcoming Senate runoff elections, which could determine the party that controls the upper chamber during President-elect Joe Biden’s first two years in office. The PAC argued that doing so will show support for the president in addition to forcing Republicans to address the wild election-fraud conspiracy theories floated by Trump supporters and members of his own legal team.

The effort uses some of the same infrastructure that the Mueller team scrutinized as part of its investigation of Stone.

The Committee for American Sovereignty and a sister nonprofit group were set up in 2016 as vehicles for prominent pro-Trump operatives—most notably Stone and former Blackwater chief Erik Prince—to attempt to suppress the Black vote by amplifying claims that Bill Clinton had an illegitimate biracial son. It’s been mostly quiet since then. The PAC’s recent filings with the Federal Election Commission disclose nothing but outstanding federal and state tax liabilities, and its new effort in Georgia doesn’t appear to have received much pickup yet.

A request for comment sent to the Committee for American Sovereignty email address on file with the FEC was not returned. Efforts to reach Pamela Jensen, a California political activist who leads the group, were not successful. Her husband, an attorney named Paul Jensen who describes Stone as a “long time client,” told The Daily Beast in an email his wife “has no comment, and nor do I.” Stone did not respond to inquiries about his present involvement with the group.

Stone made fairly naked threats in the days leading up to Trump’s commutation of his sentence, in that case to share information with prosecutors about Trump’s knowledge of his 2016 activities. The threats worked. This time around, Trump may not have the power to respond to Stone’s threats.

But Stone has proven in the past he’s willing to take reckless actions when he is cornered.

Rudy the Dripper: The Vicious Cycle of Dead-Ender Propagandists Feeding Bullshit to Tribalist Republicans

Not long after the former US Attorney of the Southern District of New York headlined a press conference where he and other lawyers presented insane conspiracy theories to claim that Donald Trump had been robbed of his victory, CNN reported that the FBI continues to investigate Rudy Giuliani for his ties to Russian Agents.

Complicating matters is that Giuliani’s post-election swirl of activity comes as federal investigators renewed their investigative interest into his work that is already the subject of a New York-based investigation.

In recent weeks, FBI agents in New York contacted witnesses and asked new questions about Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine and possible connections to Russian intelligence, according to a person briefed on the matter. The FBI investigators, who have spoken to at least one witness previously months ago, came back to ask new questions recently about possible origins of emails and documents related to Hunter Biden that appear similar to those that the New York Post reported that Giuliani and others helped provide. CNN has previously reported that the ongoing probe is examining whether Giuliani is wittingly or unwittingly part of a Russian influence operation, according to people briefed on the matter.

But questions about that probe have been out of the spotlight as Giuliani stepped into focus as the campaign’s chief post-election lawyer. One source close to the Trump campaign countered that Giuliani is an overzealous defender of the president.

Meanwhile, the same propagandists who’ve helped Trump survive in recent years — on the left and the right — are claiming that because Democrats and others backed the investigation of Russian efforts to get Trump elected in 2016 (an investigation that attempted to understand why Trump fired Jim Comey, the person most Democrats chiefly blame for Hillary’s loss), it is precedent for Trump’s efforts to disclaim Joe Biden’s resounding win.

This exemplifies the vicious cycle we’ve been on since since August 2016, when Donald Trump authorized his rat-fucker to take desperate measures to find bullshit stories to tell to try to win an election.

After WikiLeaks released the first set of files Russia had stolen as part of its plot to help Trump get elected in July 2016 and someone — it’s not clear who — released damning information about Paul Manafort’s corrupt ties with Russian-backed Ukrainian oligarchs, Donald Trump doubled down. Rat-fucker Roger Stone, desperate to save Trump’s campaign and maybe even the job of his lifetime buddy, made a Faustian bargain for advance access to fairly innocuous John Podesta emails that Stone believed would provide the smoking gun for a conspiracy his allies had been chasing since March. The Faustian deal, by itself, exposed Stone as a co-conspirator in a hack-and-leak operation led by a hostile foreign agency. But the deal also brought ongoing exposure: at least as soon as he was elected, Trump’s rat-fucker (and maybe his eldest son!) started pursuing an effort to pay off Julian Assange with a pardon or some other way out of the Ecuadorian Embassy, thereby implicating Trump in a quid pro quo. After Trump assumed the Presidency, his own exposure through Stone gave him reason to want to shut down the investigation, even the investigation into the hack-and-leak itself. As a result, from very early in his presidency, Trump had obstructed justice to hide the quid pro quo and conspiracy his rat-fucker (and possibly he and his son) had joined to help him get there.

Meanwhile, early on in the investigation, acting on advice that Paul Manafort gave after returning from a meeting with one of Oleg Deripaska’s key deputies, the Republicans defended their President by attacking the credibility of the Steele dossier — one that Deripaska himself likely ensured was filled with disinformation — as a stand-in for the larger investigation itself. Deripaska even has apparent sway at one of the outlets that most relentlessly pursued that synecdoche, the dossier as the Russian investigation. Former hawks on Russia, like Trey Gowdy, were lured into fiercely defending Trump even in the face of overwhelming proof of his compromise by the able gate-keeping of Kash Patel and the discovery of how the use of informants can implicate members of your own tribe, as it did with Carter Page. By the time Billy Barr deceived the nation with his roll-out of a very damning Mueller Report, almost every single Republican member of Congress was susceptible to ignoring damning evidence that their President treated both the pursuit of the presidency and his office as a means for self-benefit, no matter what that did to US interests.

Key to the process of co-opting virtually all Republican members of Congress was the process of villainizing the people who had tried to keep the country safe from Russian compromise, starting with Peter Strzok but also including Andy McCabe. That process easily exploited the same apparatus of Congress’ “oversight” powers — and the same susceptibility to heated rants over logic — that had been used to turn a tragic incident in Libya into a multi-year investigation of Hillary Clinton. Also key to that process were certain propagandists on Fox News, including three of the lawyers that stood with Rudy yesterday: DiGenova and Toensing and Sidney Powell.

The day after Mueller closed up shop, those same propagandists joined with Rudy to pursue a revenge plot for the investigation — they started pursuing a way to frame Joe Biden in anticipation of the 2020 election. Most Democrats didn’t believe that Hillary lost because of Russia, but Trump and his conspiratorially-minded advisors believed they did. And so Rudy, relying on advice Manafort offered from prison, used the same networks of influence to try to frame Biden in a Ukrainian plot that, at the same time, might provide an alternative explanation for the Russian crimes Trump was personally implicated in.

Once again, Trump got personally involved, extorting the Ukrainian president over a series of months, “I’d like you to do us a favor, though.”

There’s no doubt that Trump’s abuse of Congress’ power of the purse in an effort to extort a campaign benefit from a foreign country merited impeachment. There’s also no doubt that it served to heighten the tribalism — and ranting illogic — of Republican members of Congress.

Things snowballed further.

That tribalism, by itself, might have gotten Trump re-elected. But it wasn’t enough for Trump. Instead, the President prepared an attack on the integrity of the vote by dissuading his own supporters from using mail-in ballots, setting up the Equal Protection hoaxes that Rudy has pushed in recent days. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger claims that, by itself, the effort to discredit mail-in voting cost Trump the state of Georgia. But partisan attacks are what got Trump where he is, and partisan attacks are what he knows.

Trump also doubled down on what had gotten him elected in 2016: overblown attacks sourced to stolen emails, Hunter Biden’s laptop, in this case rolled out by one guy at legal risk for his ties to Fraud Guarantee, and another under indictment for exploiting the tribalism of Trump’s supporters to commit fraud. According to CNN, the FBI believes these emails may have been packaged up by the Russian agents that have been buying access through Rudy and DiGenova and Toensing.

Trump’s DOJ, working with Sidney Powell, even tried to invent an attack on Joe Biden by altering exhibits in a court proceeding. In that case, the overblown attack was sourced to real notes, albeit notes that actual law enforcement officials had packaged in such a way as to tell a false story. Yet again, however, this was a false story that scapegoated those who’ve protected the interests of the country — adding Joe Biden to the targets along with McCabe and Strzok — to try to cover-up unbelievably damning evidence about Trump’s coziness with Russia. The effort to deny that Mike Flynn was secretly working for Turkey while claiming to work for Trump and to deny that Mike Flynn repeatedly called up the country that had just attacked us to try to obtain further benefits turned into an attack on those who tried to keep the country safe from sell-outs like Mike Flynn.

It’s a false story. But Republicans in Congress believe it with all their being. And so it has succeeded in convincing those Republicans they need to redouble their efforts to defend Trump.

So, yesterday, Rudy and the other propagandists gave a press conference that was, for the first time, broadly labeled as a coup attempt and roundly mocked, even by otherwise true believers. Trump, Rudy, Republicans, they’re all victims of an international plot launched by George Soros, Cuba, China, Venezuela, according to Rudy and the lawyers who spun the last several conspiracy theories on Fox News.

And this propaganda, an attempt to set aside the clear will of the voters, derives its strength not from any basis in fact. Rather, it derives its power from the fact that Republicans have gotten so tribally defensive of Trump, they will set aside the clear good of the country to back him.

Donald Trump, if he leaves office, may face legal consequences for what he did in 2016 to get elected. If Trump leaves office, Rudy may face consequences for the things he has done since to keep Trump in office.

To save themselves, they’re pursuing the same strategy they’ve pursued since 2016: telling bullshit stories by waving documents around and lying about what they say, relying on tribalism and raw power rather than reason to persuade their fellow Republicans. It just so happens that several of these stories got told with the help of Russian foreign agents (though some got told with the help of a corrupted law enforcement). It just so happens that Trump and Rudy (and Stone’s) willingness to rely on Russian help to tell these stories has greatly exacerbated their legal risk, and therefore made the spewing of bullshit stories more urgent.

But the Russian role mostly serves to magnify the desperation of this gambit.

Mostly, this is about weaponizing the tribalism of the Republican party that puts party loyalty over loyalty to the country or Constitution. And while there have been a few defectors from this dangerous tribalism in recent days, for the most part, Republicans in Congress don’t care that Trump is exploiting them like this or even — in some cases — don’t understand that this is all a shoddy set of lies.

“Looking Forward” Will Be Harder for President Biden than It Was for President Obama

NBC has a story that has caused a bit of panic, reporting that “Biden hopes to avoid divisive Trump investigations, preferring unity.”

The panic is overblown, given that the main point of the story is that Biden is hoping that DOJ will resume a more independent stance than that taken, especially, by Billy Barr.

Biden wants his Justice Department to function independently from the White House, aides said, and Biden isn’t going to tell federal law enforcement officials whom or what to investigate or not to investigate.

“His overarching view is that we need to move the country forward,” an adviser said. “But the most important thing on this is that he will not interfere with his Justice Department and not politicize his Justice Department.”

If there were to be investigations of Trump, everyone should want them to be completely insulated from the White House.

The story raises two more specific types of investigations which are both likely moot.

They said he has specifically told advisers that he is wary of federal tax investigations of Trump or of challenging any orders Trump may issue granting immunity to members of his staff before he leaves office. One adviser said Biden has made it clear that he “just wants to move on.”

Another Biden adviser said, “He’s going to be more oriented toward fixing the problems and moving forward than prosecuting them.”

New York state already has a tax investigation into Trump, so a federal one would be duplicative. And the pardon power is absolute; there’s little likelihood DOJ could investigate the pardons that Trump grants, because doing so would be constitutionally suspect.

All that said, attempting to move forward may not be as easy for President Biden as it was for President Obama.

That’s because there are a number of investigations that implicate Trump that are either pending (as of right now, but I don’t rule out Trump trying to kill them in the interim) or were shut down corruptly, to say nothing of the obstruction charges Mueller effectively recommended (which aforementioned pardons would renew, even in spite of DOJ’s declination prior to pardons). At a minimum, those include:

  • The Build the Wall fraud case against Steve Bannon and others that might, eventually, implicate the failson or his close buddies
  • The Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas graft which clearly implicates Rudy Giuliani and by all rights should always have included Trump’s extortion of Volodymyr Zelensky; given the timing of David Correia’s plea, it’s likely there will be grand jury testimony from him banked
  • Other foreign agent charges against Rudy
  • The investigation into Erik Prince for selling his private mercenary services to China
  • False statements charges against Ryan Zinke that Jeffrey Rosen attempted to kill
  • Various campaign finance and grift charges implicating Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Brad Parscale, to say nothing of the hush payments involving Trump personally
  • Possible hack-and-leak charges against Roger Stone from 2016, as well as the related pardon quid pro quo for Julian Assange implicating Trump himself
  • The possible aftermath of Judge Sullivan’s decisions in the Mike Flynn case, which could include perjury referrals or an invitation for DOJ to prosecute Flynn on the foreign agent charges he pled out of

All of these investigations still do or were known to exist, and if they no longer exist when Biden’s Attorney General arrives at DOJ, it will be because of improper interference from Barr.

The last of these might get particularly awkward given that multiple people at Billy Barr’s DOJ, possibly in conjunction with Sidney Powell and Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis, altered documents to concoct a smear targeting Joe Biden in a false claim that he invented a rationale to investigate Flynn for undermining sanctions on Russia. You cannot have an independent DOJ if the people who weaponized it in such a way go unpunished. Except investigating such actions would immediately devolve into a partisan fight, particularly if Republicans retain control of the Senate. (This particular issue will most easily be addressed, and I suspect already is being addressed, via a DOJ IG investigation.)

Still, in the other cases, DOJ may need to decide what to do with investigations improperly closed by Barr, or what to do with investigations where just some of the defendants (such as Fruman and Bannon) get pardons.

And all this will undoubtedly play against the background of the confirmation battle for whomever Biden nominates. I would be shocked if Mitch McConnell (especially if he remains Majority Leader) didn’t demand certain promises before an Attorney General nominee got approved.

So none of this will be easy.

A far more interesting question will pertain to what President Biden does about the ICC investigation into US war crimes in Afghanistan, crimes that occurred during both the Bush and Obama Administrations. Mike Pompeo launched an indefensible assault against the ICC in an attempt to block this investigation, sanctioning ICC officials leading the investigation. Biden’s Secretary of State will have to decide whether to reverse those sanctions, effectively making a decision about whether to look forward to ignore crimes committed (in part) under Barack Obama.

Trump’s Pardon Jenga, Starting with the Julian Assange Building Block

I was going to wait to address Trump’s likely use of his power of clemency in the days ahead until it was clear he was going to leave without a fight and I will return to it once that’s clear. But there have already been a slew of pieces on the likely upcoming pardons:

None of them mentions Julian Assange (though Graff does consider the possibility of a Snowden pardon, which I consider related, not least for the terms on which Glenn Greenwald is pitching a package deal as a way for Trump to damage the Deep State).

I would argue that unless a piece considers an Assange pardon, it cannot capture the complexity facing Trump as he tries to negotiate a way to use pardons (and other clemency) to eliminate his legal exposure itself.

I’m not saying Trump’s decision on whether to give Assange a pardon is his hardest decision. But it may be one a few that could bring any hope of protecting himself falling down.

Trump has talked about pardons, generally, covering a number of crimes in which he himself (or a family member) is implicated:

  • Asking DHS officials to violate the law in order to build the wall
  • Working with the National Enquirer to capture and kill damaging stories during the 2016 election
  • Dodging impeachment
  • Steve Bannon’s Build the Wall grift (which likely implicates Jr)

There are others whom Trump would give a pardon because they’re loyal criminals, like Ryan Zinke or Commerce Officials and others who’ve lied in court. There are hybrid cases; in addition to Bannon, Erik Prince has legal exposure both for his own lies that protected Trump, but also for his efforts to sell mercenary services to hostile foreign governments. And Rudy Giuliani has committed his own crimes as well as possible crimes to protect the President. With the possible exception of Rudy (who still might claim attorney client privilege to refuse to testify about Trump), those pardons create challenges, but they’re highly likely (unless Trump made some pardons contingent on remaining in power).

Then there’s the Mueller Report. In 2019 testimony to HPSCI, Michael Cohen credibly described Jay Sekulow considering mass “pre-pardons” in the summer of 2017 in an attempt to make the Russian investigation go away. But the Mueller Report itself only obviously talks about five pardons:

  • An extensive discussion of the reasons why pardons for Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone would amount to obstruction (a sentiment with which Billy Barr once agreed)
  • A discussion of Robert Costello’s efforts to broker silence from Cohen in exchange for a pardon and almost certainly a still-redacted referral of Costello for the same; Costello is currently Rudy Giuliani’s attorney
  • A question about discussions of a Julian Assange pardon, even while the report did not mention or obscured the tie with underlying evidence proving such an effort occurred, possibly as a part of a quid pro quo to optimize the WikiLeaks releases

There are difficulties — albeit surmountable ones — for pardons of Flynn and Manafort, not least because Billy Barr has found other ways for Trump to keep them out of jail (so far), even while issuing a DOJ ruling that his prior pardon dangles are not obstruction. Costello is someone who has no privilege directly with Trump and so might implicate him personally in trading pardons for silence if Trump himself is not pardoned.

But Stone (and quite possibly Don Jr) is indelibly tied to an Assange pardon.

It’s possible something might make this easier between now and January 20. If British Judge Vanessa Baraister rules on January 4, 2021 in favor of Julian Assange’s Lauri Love gambit, arguing that American prisons are not humane for those on the autism spectrum, then there’s a decent chance he’ll beat extradition. If not, his chances are slim. And even if he beats extradition the UK could choose to prosecute him on Official Secrets Act charges tied to Vault 7.

That presents Trump limited choices. He could pardon just Stone (and Don Jr, who will undoubtedly get a broad pardon in any case). But then both could be coerced to testify against Assange under threat of contempt or perjury from a Biden DOJ.

He could pardon all three, including a broad pardon (including Vault 7) for Assange. But if he did that, it could complete the conspiracy, a quid pro quo tied to Russian interference in 2016. That would make a Pence pardon of Trump much more politically costly; it would likewise make a Trump self-pardon much more toxic for even a very partisan SCOTUS to rubber stamp.

But if he doesn’t pardon Assange, he risks pissing of those who helped him in 2016, with whatever repercussions that would have for Trump Organization funding going forward. To sum up:

  • Pardoning just Stone and Jr would expose them to coercion to testify against Assange and maybe others
  • Pardoning all three would make Trump’s own pardons much less defensible to those who would have to ensure he himself got immunity
  • Pardoning Assange at all would complete the conspiracy Mueller never charged
  • Not pardoning Assange might risk ire from Russia

I’m not saying he can’t find a way out of this dilemma. But it is one of the reasons why Trump’s pardon gambit is far more complex than others are accounting for.

Roger Stone’s 2016 “Stop the Steal” Effort May Have Been Coordinated with Russia

CNN has traced out in detail what I’ve been noting for some time: the “Stop the Steal” effort ginning up disinformation and threats of violence in the wake of Donald Trump’s loss is a repackaged version of an effort that Roger Stone rolled out in 2016.

[W]hile Stop the Steal may sound like a new 2020 political slogan to many, it did not emerge organically over widespread concerns about voting fraud in President Donald Trump’s race against Joe Biden. It has been in the works for years.

Its origin traces to Roger Stone, a veteran Republican operative and self-described “dirty trickster” whose 40-month prison sentence for seven felonies was cut short by Trump’s commutation in July.

Stone’s political action committee launched a “Stop the Steal” website in 2016 to fundraise ahead of that election, asking for $10,000 donations by saying, “If this election is close, THEY WILL STEAL IT.”

But CNN — with four journalists bylined — misses several important parts of that earlier story, parts that are critical to understanding the stakes for Steve Bannon and Stone now.

Stone may have mixed his political fundraising

First, there’s good reason to believe that Stone was not segregating the different kinds of campaign finance organizations he was using for his 2016 rat-fucking. Even from what remained of his public infrastructure when I wrote this post, it showed that fundraising for one kind of dark money group went to links associated with a PAC.

[I]t’s clear he wasn’t segregating the fundraising for them, and I wonder whether some of his email fundraising involved other possible campaign finance violations. For example, here’s the Stop the Steal site as it existed on March 10, 2016. It was clearly trying to track fundraising, carefully instructing people to respond to emails if they received one. But it claimed to be TCTRAG (what I call CRAG), even though the incoming URL was for Stop the Steal.

That remained true even after Stop the Steal was formally created, on April 10. Even after the website changed language to disavow Stop the Steal being a PAC by April 23, the fundraising form still went to TCTRAG (what I call CRAG), a PAC.

In other words, people would click a link thinking it would fund one effort (and one kind of legal entity) and any money donated would instead go to another effort (and another kind of legal entity). Since then, we’ve learned more about how everyone associated with Trump — Corey Lewandowski, Paul Manafort, and Brad Parscale, in addition to Stone — set up these entities to get rich off of Trump. It’s one reason the rivalry between Lewandowski and Manafort was so heated: because one’s relative prominence in Trump’s campaign effort was directly related to the amount of money that one could grift from it.

But as Bannon’s indictment for fraud makes clear, telling people they’re donating money for one purpose (to build a wall) but using the money for other purposes (to support Bannon’s pricey lifestyle) can be prosecuted as fraud.

When Andrew Miller was negotiating testimony about Stone, he specifically asked for immunity relating to Stone’s PACs and his texts with Stone that the government subpoenaed after his grand jury appearance overlapped with that campaign slush.

In 2016, Stone was (illegally) coordinating with the campaign

As appears to have been the case for all these efforts to grift off the campaign, Stone was coordinating his PAC and dark money efforts with the campaign.

We learned that, in Stone’s case, starting with a legal debate in the lead-up to Stone’s trial about 404(b) information, which is information about other bad actions (including crimes) that prosecutors are permitted to introduce during a trial to prove something like motive or consistent behavior.

In advance of Stone’s trial prosecutors got permission to introduce evidence that Stone lied about something in his HPSCI testimony, on top of all the lies about who his go-between with WikiLeaks was, only that other lie wasn’t charged.

At the pretrial conference held on September 25, 2019, the Court deferred ruling on that portion of the Government’s Notice of Intention to Introduce Rule 404(b) evidence [Dkt. # 140] that sought the introduction of evidence related to another alleged false statement to the HPSCI, which, like the statement charged in Count Six, relates to the defendant’s communications with the Trump campaign. After further review of the arguments made by the parties and the relevant authorities, and considering both the fact that the defendant has stated publicly that his alleged false statements were merely accidental, and that he is charged not only with making individual false statements, but also with corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the proceedings in general, the evidence will be admitted, with an appropriate limiting instruction. See Lavelle v. United States, 751 F.2d 1266, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1985), citing United States v. DeLoach, 654 F.2d 763 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (given the defendant’s claim that she was simply confused and did not intend to deceive Congress, evidence of false testimony in other instances was relevant to her intent and passed the threshold under Rule 404(b)). The Court further finds that the probative value of the evidence is not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson permitted prosecutors to include it because it showed that Stone was trying to cover up all of his coordination with the campaign.

A September hearing about this topic made clear that it pertained to what Stone’s PACs were doing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Marando argued that Stone falsely denied communicating with Trump’s campaign about his political-action-committee-related activities, and that the lie revealed his calculated plan to cover up his ties to the campaign and obstruct the committee’s work.

This debate suggested prosecutors could present the information via just one witness, but unless I’m misunderstanding, it actually came in via two witnesses: There were a number of texts between Rick Gates and Stone where Stone kept demanding lists from the campaign (indeed, this is something that Stone’s lawyers actually emphasized!). And during the period when Bannon was campaign manager, Stone asked him to get Rebekah Mercer to support some of his other activities, designed to suppress the black vote.

Both of these communications show that Stone was at least attempting to coordinate his efforts with the campaign (it’s not clear to what degree Gates responded to Stone’s demands), and the second detail shows that he was coordinating with Bannon, the guy who took over the Stop the Steal effort this year.

This kind of coordination is illegal (albeit common), though Billy Barr’s DOJ refused to prosecute Trump for any of it (and he even appears to have shut down an investigation into what appeared to be a kickback system Manafort used to get paid).

Stone’s Stop the Steal efforts paralleled the voter suppression efforts of the Russian operation

Even back when I examined Stone’s Stop the Steal efforts in 2018 (when I was skeptical about his legal liability with respect to WikiLeaks), it was clear that the steps Stone took happened to coincide with Russia’s efforts.

Stone’s voter suppression effort is not surprising. It’s the kind of thing the rat-fucker has been doing his entire life.

Except it’s of particular interest in 2016 because of the specific form it took. That’s because two aspects of Stone’s voter suppression efforts paralleled Russian efforts. For example, even as Stone was recruiting thousands of “exit pollers” to intimidate people of color, Guccifer 2.0 was promising to register as an election observer, in part because of the “holes and vulnerabilities” in the software of the machines.

INFO FROM INSIDE THE FEC: THE DEMOCRATS MAY RIG THE ELECTIONS

I’d like to warn you that the Democrats may rig the elections on November 8. This may be possible because of the software installed in the FEC networks by the large IT companies.

As I’ve already said, their software is of poor quality, with many holes and vulnerabilities.

I have registered in the FEC electronic system as an independent election observer; so I will monitor that the elections are held honestly.

I also call on other hackers to join me, monitor the elections from inside and inform the U.S. society about the facts of electoral fraud.

More interesting still, the GRU indictment makes it clear that GRU’s information operation hackers were probing county electoral websites in swing states as late as October 28.

In or around October 2016, KOVALEV and his co-conspirators further targeted state and county offices responsible for administering the 2016 U.S. elections. For example, on or about October 28, 2016, KOVALEV and his co-conspirators visited the websites of certain counties in Georgia, Iowa, and Florida to identify vulnerabilities.

Whether or not GRU ever intended to alter the vote, Russia’s propagandists were providing the digital “proof” that Republicans might point to to sustain their claims that Democrats had rigged the election.

This is a line that Wikileaks also parroted, DMing Don Jr that if Hillary won his pop should not concede.

Hi Don if your father ‘loses’ we think it is much more interesting if he DOES NOT conceed [sic] and spends time CHALLENGING the media and other types of rigging that occurred—as he has implied that he might do.

Since that time, we’ve learned that Maria Butina and Sergey Kislyak were also aiming to focus on observing polls in 2016. We’ve learned that the GRU hackers were actually targeting conservative Florida counties in 2016 (including Matt Gaetz’s district), meaning that had Trump lost he might have turned to the hacking of GOP strongholds to claim that that hacking had undermined his vote totals in Florida.

There are also indications that Mueller was pursuing evidence that not only Stone, but also Paul Manafort, had advance notice of all this. For example, Manafort got asked about Russians hacking voting machines in regards to a November 5, 2016 note he sent to the campaign regarding “Securing the Victory” (which admittedly is a slightly different topic but one that might have elicited an answer about hacking the Boards of Election if Manafort were at all inclined to tell the truth, which he was not).

All of which is to say that, had Hillary won narrowly (as Biden won by close margins in enough states to amount to a resounding victory), we probably would have seen Stone’s Stop the Steal effort to be doing precisely what Bannon’s Stop the Steal has been doing this year, both delegitimizing the outcome and sowing violence. But in that case, the effort may have been accompanied by possible foreknowledge that a close investigation of certain GOP strongholds would disclose proof of tampering in the election.

Stone pitched Bannon on a way to win ugly the day he became Campaign Manager

At this point, I’ve come to believe that prosecutors used their live witnesses at Stone’s trial (aside from former FBI Agent Michelle Taylor, who introduced most of the evidence) to make certain testimony public regarding other investigative prongs. For example, prosecutors got Gates to testify publicly that Stone claimed involvement in the release of stolen emails at a time when only Guccifer 2.0 was releasing them, not WikiLeaks. Prosecutors got Randy Credico to confirm publicly that shortly after the election, he helped Stone try to pay off his election debt by pardoning Julian Assange.

And prosecutors got Steve Bannon to — very reluctantly — repeat grand jury testimony that he regarded a pitch that Stone made to him the day after he became campaign manager to be related to dirty tricks and WikiLeaks.

Prosecutors introduced a similar exchange with Steve Bannon, the guy who took over from Manafort weeks later: an August 18, 2016 email exchange  where Stone claimed Trump could “still win” … “but it ain’t pretty,” and Bannon responded by asking to talk ASAP.

Manafort didn’t testify at Stone’s trial. But Bannon did. Prosecutors had Bannon sitting there on the stand, forcing him to repeat what he had said to a grand jury earlier in the year, yet they only asked him to say this much about what all this means, in which he begrudgingly admitted he believed this discussion about using social media to win was about WikiLeaks:

Q. At the bottom of this email Mr. Stone states, “Trump can still win, but time is running out. Early voting begins in six weeks. I do know how to win this, but it ain’t pretty. Campaign has never been good at playing the new media. Lots to do, let me know when you can talk, R.” Did I read that correctly?

A. That’s correct.

Q. Then you respond, “Let’s talk ASAP”; am I correct?

A. That’s correct.

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

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

Q. What do you mean by that?

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

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

A. Potentially value added, yes.

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

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

Even though prosecutors didn’t lay out precisely what happened next — something that other evidence suggests may have implicated Jared Kushner — Stone’s team never challenged the prosecution claim that this email and the subsequent exchanges did pertain to WikiLeaks. Perhaps, because they had reviewed Bannon’s grand jury and more recent testimony, they knew how he would respond and thought better off leaving it unchallenged.

Perhaps, too, they didn’t want to have to explain how long this exchange persisted. For example, the Stone affidavits — starting with one obtained after Bannon’s first testimony — showed this particular email exchange lasted two more days, through August 19 and 20 (the day before the Podesta “time in the barrel” tweet).

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

And those discussions may have continued into face-to-face meetings in September.

On September 4, 2016, Stone texted Bannon that he was in New York City for a few more days, and asked if Bannon was able to talk.

[snip]

On September 7, 2016, Stone and Bannon texted to arrange a meeting on September 8, 2016 at the Warner Center in New York.

On September 7, 2016, Bannon texted Stone asking him if he could “come by trump tower now???”

On September 8, 2016, Stone and Bannon texted about arranging a meeting in New York.

This is a lot of back-and-forth to discuss the “the tougher side of politics.”

Even though they had Bannon there on the stand, prosecutors did not get him to explain what this plan to win ugly entailed. So we don’t know whether it pertained to Stone’s efforts to suppress the black vote, his Stop the Steal effort to discredit a potential Hillary win, or something more (I’ll eventually get around to what that something more might be). But we do know that when Bannon enthusiastically responded to those pitches, he expected Stone’s plan to win ugly would involve dirty tricks and WikiLeaks.

Stone’s real go-between with WikiLeaks was likely Guccifer 2.0

No one involved with the Trump campaign — at least as far as is public — claims to have known who Stone’s claimed tie to WikiLeaks was.

But Rick Gates apparently did testify that Stone claimed to have a tie to Guccifer 2.0 well before the time he was DMing with the persona on Twitter. The FBI had evidence (though how good it is remains inconclusive) that he was searching on both Guccifer 2.0 and dcleaks before those sites went live. When prosecutors wrote the Mueller Report in March 2019, they still had not determined whether any proof they had of Stone’s awareness of Russia’s ongoing hacking — which extended until November 2016 — was sufficient proof beyond reasonable doubt to charge him as part of the hack-and-leak conspiracy.

As I have argued, there is evidence, albeit not conclusive, that Stone’s go-between with WikiLeaks was Guccifer 2.0.

If that’s right, it suggests that Stone’s parallel efforts with Guccifer 2.0’s, efforts that seemingly anticipated hacks that might have served to discredit the vote in 2016, may not have been coincidence or even just a result of the seeming dance via which Trump’s team and Russia followed the same path without any coordination. It may have reflected coordination.

Let me very clear: I’m not making any claims that happened this year. There’s no evidence of it, and those who tracked election tampering efforts have said they found none.

But until Billy Barr intervened in Stone’s sentencing, all this was (at least per FOIA redactions) an ongoing investigation, the investigation that Stone’s prosecution served, in part, as an investigative step in. If you put that together with Bannon’s own legal exposure in the Build the Wall fraud indictment, it changes the stakes on these men’s efforts to curry Trump’s favor (and to ensure he remains in power, via whatever means).

If Trump remains in charge of DOJ, these men will stay out of prison. If he doesn’t, they may not. And for Stone, especially, a Joe Biden DOJ (or a Democratic Congress, with DOJ’s help) may reveal what he has been denying for years, that Stone willingly coordinated during the 2016 election with someone whose ties to Russia were only thinly hidden.

Some Details of Mueller’s GRU Indictment You Probably Missed

When the Mueller team wrote the GRU indictment, they were hiding that Roger Stone might one day be included in it.

Last week,  DOJ unsealed language making it clear that, when Mueller closed up shop in March 2019, they were still investigating whether Roger Stone was part of a conspiracy with Russia’s GRU to hack-and-leak documents stolen from the Democrats in 2016.

The Office determined that it could not pursue a Section 1030 conspiracy charge against Stone for some of the same legal reasons. The most fundamental hurdles, though, are factual ones.1279 As explained in Volume I, Section III.D.1, supra, Corsi’s accounts of his interactions with Stone on October 7, 2016 are not fully consistent or corroborated. Even if they were, neither Corsi’s testimony nor other evidence currently available to the Office is sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stone knew or believed that the computer intrusions were ongoing at the time he ostensibly encouraged or coordinated the publication of the Podesta emails. Stone’s actions would thus be consistent with (among other things) a belief that he was aiding in the dissemination of the fruits of an already completed hacking operation perpetrated by a third party, which would be a level of knowledge insufficient to establish conspiracy liability. See State v. Phillips, 82 S.E.2d 762, 766 (N.C. 1954) (“In the very nature of things, persons cannot retroactively conspire to commit a previously consummated crime.”) (quoted in Model Penal Code and Commentaries § 5.03, at 442 (1985)).

1279 Some of the factual uncertainties are the subject of ongoing investigations that have been referred by this Office to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office.

That means, eight months after they charged a bunch of GRU officers for the hack-and-leak, DOJ still hadn’t decided whether Stone had criminally participated in that very same conspiracy.

That raises questions about why they obtained the indictment before deciding whether to include Stone in it.

In his book, Andrew Weissmann provides an explanation for the timing of it.

A problem arose, however, when it came to the timing of this indictment. Having secured the Intelligence Community’s and Justice Department’s go-ahead, Jeannie aimed to have the indictment completed by July 2018. However, Team M’s first case against Manafort was scheduled to go to trial in Virginia in mid-July and, with Manafort showing little sign of wanting to plead, much less cooperate, with our office, we had few doubts that the trial would go forward. If we brought Team R’s indictment just before the trial, the judge in the Manafort case would go bonkers, justifiably concerned that such an indictment from the Special Counsel’s Office could generate adverse pretrial publicity, even if it didn’t relate directly to the Manafort charges.

But we couldn’t afford to wait to bring the hacking indictment until after both of Manafort’s trials concluded—the trial in Virginia was slated to start in July and the trial in Washington in early September. By then, we would be running up on the midterms, and we would not announce any new charges that close to the election (consistent with Department policy). But waiting until mid-November would be intolerable to Mueller. I told Jeannie I thought we could safely defend ourselves from any objections from the Virginia judge if she brought her case at least two weeks before the start of our July trial—that, I hoped, would give us a reasonable buffer.

Jeannie said she could manage that, then quickly noted that the new timetable created yet another problem: Two weeks before our trial, the president was scheduled to be in Helsinki, where he would be meeting privately with Vladimir Putin. Our indictment would require alerting the State Department, given their diplomatic concerns in preparing for and running a summit, as the indictment would accuse the Russians explicitly of election interference. That was standard operating procedure, but there was also the real perception issue that the indictment could look like a commentary on Trump’s decision to meet alone with Putin, which we did not intend.

We brought the dilemma to Mueller. He suggested we determine whether the White House would take issue with our proceeding just before the president’s trip—would it pose any diplomatic issues? The answer we got back was no: The administration would not object to the timing. I suspect the White House Counsel’s Office did not want to be perceived as dictating to us how or when to bring our indictment, or as hiding evidence of Russian election interference. In retrospect, a less generous interpretation of their blessing to move forward was that they knew dropping the indictment just before the trip would provide Trump and Putin an opportunity to jointly deny the attack on a global stage—that they were playing us, as Barr would later on. [my emphasis]

The indictment was ready in July. If it wasn’t announced then and if both Manafort trials went forward, then prohibitions on pre-election indictments would kick in, meaning the indictment wouldn’t be released in mid-November. That would have been “intolerable” for Mueller’s purposes. Weissmann doesn’t note that mid-November would also be after the election, meaning that the indictment might not get released before a hypothetical post-election Mueller firing and so might not get released at all. That may be what intolerable means.

Other possible factors on the GRU indictment timing

One thing that almost certainly played a factor in DOJ obtaining the indictment before they decided whether to include Stone in it, however, was Andrew Miller’s appeal.

Stone’s former aide Andrew Miller was interviewed for two hours at his home on May 9, 2018; this is almost certainly the 302 from the interview. Assuming that is his 302, Miller was asked about his relationship with Stone, Stone’s relationship with Trump, a bunch of Stone’s right wing nut-job friends, and someone whom Miller knew under a different name. Nothing in the unredacted passages of the interview reflects Miller’s role coordinating Stone’s schedule at the RNC, even though that was the focus of a follow-up subpoena after Miller testified to the grand jury. At the end of the interview, Miller agreed to appear voluntarily for a follow-up and grand jury testimony.

But then Stone learned about the interview.

We know that from the description of a pen register Mueller obtained on Stone a week later, described in affidavits. The PRTT showed that Miller had called Stone twice in the days after his interview with the FBI. On May 11, 2018, Miller lawyered up and his new lawyer, Alicia Dearn, told Mueller that Miller would no longer appear voluntarily (remember that Stone had offered to get a lawyer who would help Randy Credico refuse to testify).

This timeline lays out the early part of Miller’s subpoena challenge.

Miller emailed Stone over a hundred times over the month after his FBI interview. Miller did schedule a grand jury appearance, but then blew it off. Mueller started moving to hold Miller in contempt on June 11. In the days between then and a hearing on the subpoena, Miller and Stone exchanged five more emails. Then, in late June, Miller added another lawyer, Paul Kamenar (whom Stone would add to his team after his sentencing, presumably to allow Kamenar to access the evidence against him under the protective order). Kamenar made it clear he would appeal Miller’s subpoena.

In other words, in late June, the Mueller team learned that they would have to wait a while to get Miller before the grand jury (it ultimately took until the moment Mueller closed up shop on May 29, 2019). All the back and forth also would have made it clear how damaging Stone believed Miller’s testimony against him to be. When Mueller obtained a second warrant for Stone’s emails in early August 2018, the team would have gotten the content of those emails to learn precisely what Stone had to say to Miller about his testimony.

So Miller’s challenge to his subpoena meant that Mueller’s team would not obtain testimony that — it seems clear — they knew went to the heart of whether Stone was conspiring with Russia until well after the midterm election.

If my concerns that “Phil” had a role in the Guccifer 2.0 operation were correct, there’s a chance my big mouth had a role in the timing, too. Starting on June 28, I started considering revealing that I had gone to the FBI in what would eventually become this post. Contrary to the invented rants of people like Glenn Greenwald and Eli Lake, even a year into an investigation into what I had shared with the FBI, long after the time they would have been able to dismiss my concerns if they had no merit, prosecutors did not blow me off.

My interaction with Mueller’s press person in advance of going forward extended over five days. I emailed the press person on June 28 and said I wanted to run something by him. He blew it off for a day (there was a Manafort hearing), then on Friday I wrote again saying I run my decision by my lawyer, and was still planning on going forward. He still blew it off. The next day, I suggested he go check with a particular prosecutor; while the prosecutor hadn’t been in my interview, he was involved in setting it up. The press guy called back within an hour, far more interested in the discussion, and chatty about the fact that I live(d) in Michigan. He asked me to explain the threats I believed I had gotten after I went to the FBI. He asked me generally what I wanted to say. I noted that I believed if people guessed why I had gone to the FBI, they would guess the Shadow Brokers side of it, since TSB had dedicated its last words to a tribute to me, but probably not the Guccifer 2.0 side.

He told me “some people” needed to discuss it. Early on Monday July 1, we spoke again first thing in the morning. He asked me to describe more specifically what I would say. I described the select parts of my post that I suspected would be most sensitive, and read the text that I planned to publish. He said some people needed to discuss it and I would hear by the end of the day. At the end of the workday, he apologized for a further delay. After some more back-and-forth, he told me, around 10PM, that my post would not damage the investigation. The Special Counsel’s Office took no view on whether it was a stupid idea or not (it probably was, not least because one can never understand the moving parts in an investigation like this).

I posted the next day, part of a mostly-failed attempt to get Republicans to care about the non-partisan sides of this investigation. That was 11 days before the actual indictment.

I didn’t know then and frankly I still can’t rule out whether, over those two days, when “some people” discussed my plans, they reached a final conclusion that my concerns about an American who might have a role in the Guccifer 2.0 operation were either baseless or could not be proven.

But the aftermath shows they were still investigating Stone’s ties to Guccifer 2.0, whether not I was right about an American involved in it. Later in July, after the GRU indictment was released, prosecutors would obtain a warrant on several of Stone’s Google accounts in an attempt to determine whether he was the person looking up dcleaks and Guccifer 2.0 before the sites went live. A month and a half later, they would get two warrants, two minutes apart, one for Stone’s cell site location, and another for a Guccifer 2.0 email account, possibly an attempt to co-locate Stone and someone using the Guccifer account. That was the beginning of the period when Mueller’s team would start gagging warrant applications to hide the scope of the investigation from Stone.

For several months after releasing an indictment that made it appear as if all the answers about the hack-and-leak were answered, then, Mueller’s team took a number of steps that aimed to understand any tie between Stone and Guccifer 2.0. Even sixteen months after the GRU indictment, the Guccifer 2.0 persona ended up being an unstated focus of Stone’s trial — a trial about his lies to hide his true go-between with WikiLeaks — too.

Whatever the reason for the timing of the GRU indictment, given the confirmation that Mueller’s team was still investigating whether Stone had foreknowledge of ongoing GRU hacks that would merit including him in the hack-and-leak conspiracy when they closed up shop in March 2019, it’s worth revisiting the GRU indictment. At the time Mueller’s team wrote it, they knew at a minimum they were killing time to get Miller’s testimony, and subsequent steps they took show they they continued to pursue a prong of the investigation pertaining to Guccifer 2.0 that they planned to hide from Stone. So it’s worth seeing how they wrote the indictment to allow for the possibility of later including Stone in it, without telegraphing that that was a still open part of the investigation.

The Stone investigation parallels several of the counts charged in Mueller’s GRU indictment

The indictment charges 12 GRU officers for several intersecting conspiracies: Conspiracy against the US by hacking to interfere in the 2016 election (incorporating various CFAA charges and 18 USC §371), conspiracy to commit wire fraud for using false domain names (18 USC §3559(g)(1)), aggravated identity theft for stealing the credentials of victims (18 USC 1028A(a)(1)), conspiracy to launder money for using bitcoin to hide who was funding the hacking infrastructure (18 USC §1956(h)), and conspiracy against the US for tampering with election infrastructure (18 USC §371). In addition there’s an abetting charge (18 USC §2). Those charges are similar to, but do not exactly line up with, the other GRU indictment obtained in 2018, for hacking international doping agencies, which I’ll call the WADA indictment. The WADA indictment includes hacking, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracies, along with identity theft, as well. But it doesn’t include the abetting charge. And as described below, it deals with the leaking part of the operation differently.

DOJ used the abetting charge in Julian Assange’s indictments, a way to try to hold him accountable for the theft of documents by Chelsea Manning. Given the mention of Company 1, WikiLeaks, in the indictment, that may be why the abetting charge is there.

But the charges in the Mueller GRU indictment also parallel those for which the office was investigating Stone: he was investigated for CFAA charges from the start (that first affidavit focused exclusively on Guccifer 2.0), 371 was added in the next affidavit, aiding and abetting a conspiracy was added in the third affidavit, and wire fraud was added in March 2018 (the campaign finance charges that would be declined in the Mueller Report were added in November 2017). While the wire fraud investigation might be tied to Stone’s own disinformation on social media, the rest all stems from the charges eventually filed against the GRU in July 2018. Those same charges remained in Stone’s affidavits through 2018 (though did not appear in the early 2019 warrants used to search his houses and devices).

Mueller charged Unit 74455 officers for “assisting” in the DNC leak, without describing whom they assisted

Given the overlap on charges between those for which Mueller investigated Stone and those that appeared in the indictment, the treatment of the information operation in the GRU indictment — particularly when compared with the WADA indictment — is of particular interest. In both cases, the indictment described the InfoOps side to be conducted by Russian military intelligence GRU Unit 74455, as distinct from Unit 26165, which did most (but not all, in the case of the election operation) of the hacking.

In the WADA indictment, none of the personnel involved in the hack-and-leak at Unit 74455 are named or charged. Instead the indictment explains that, “these [Fancy Bears Hack Team social media accounts] were acquired and maintained by GRU Unit 74455.” Later, the indictment describes these accounts as being “managed, at least in part, by conspirators in GRU 74455,” notably allowing for the possibility that someone else may have been involved as well. The actions associated with that infrastructure are generally described in the passive voice: “were registered,” “were released” (several times). For other actions, the personas were the subject of the action: “”@fancybears and @fancybearHT Twitter accounts sent direct messages…”

The Mueller indictment, however, names three Unit 74455 officers: It charges Aleksandr Osadchuk and Anatoliy Kovalev in the hack of the election infrastructure (Kovalev got charged in the recent GRU indictment covering the Seoul Olympics and NotPetya, as well).

And it charges Osadchuk and the improbably named Aleksey Potemkin in the hack-and-leak conspiracy. The Mueller indictment describes that those two Unit 74455 officers set up the infrastructure for the leaking part of the operation. Significantly, it describes that these officers “assisted” in the release of the stolen documents.

Unit 74455 assisted in the release of stolen documents through the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 personas, the promotion of those releases, and the publication of anti-Clinton content on social media accounts operated by the GRU.

[snip]

Infrastructure and social media accounts administered by POTEMKIN’s department were used, among other things, to assist in the release of stolen documents through the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 personas.

The indictment doesn’t describe whom these officers assisted in releasing the documents.

Unlike the WADA indictment, the Mueller indictment also includes specific details proving that GRU did control the social media infrastructure. It describes how the conspirators used the same cryptocurrency account to register “dcleaks.com” as they used in the spear-phishing operation, and the same email used to register the server was also used in the spear-phishing effort.

The funds used to pay for the dcleaks.com domain originated from an account at an online cryptocurrency service that the Conspirators also used to fund the lease of a virtual private server registered with the operational email account [email protected] The dirbinsaabol email account was also used to register the john356gh URL-shortening account used by LUKASHEV to spearphish the Clinton Campaign chairman and other campaign-related individuals.

[snip]

For example, between on or about March 14, 2016 and April 28, 2016, the Conspirators used the same pool of bitcoin funds to purchase a virtual private network (“VPN”) account and to lease a server in Malaysia. In or around June 2016, the Conspirators used the Malaysian server to host the dcleaks.com website. On or about July 6, 2016, the Conspirators used the VPN to log into the @Guccifer_2 Twitter account. The Conspirators opened that VPN account from the same server that was also used to register malicious domains for the hacking of the DCCC and DNC networks.

(Note, this is some of the evidence collected via subpoenas to tech companies that the denialists ignore when they claim that CrowdStrike was the only entity to attribute the effort to Russia.)

The Mueller indictment describes how Potemkin controlled the computers used to launch the dcleaks Facebook account.

On or about June 8, 2016, and at approximately the same time that the dcleaks.com website was launched, the Conspirators created a DCLeaks Facebook page using a preexisting social media account under the fictitious name “Alice Donovan.” In addition to the DCLeaks Facebook page, the Conspirators used other social media accounts in the names of fictitious U.S. persons such as “Jason Scott” and “Richard Gingrey” to promote the DCLeaks website. The Conspirators accessed these accounts from computers managed by POTEMKIN and his co-conspirators.

Finally, there’s the most compelling evidence, that some conspirators logged into a Unit 74455-controlled server in Moscow hours before the initial Guccifer 2.0 post went up and searched for the phrases that would be used in the first post.

On or about June 15, 2016, the Conspirators logged into a Moscow-based server used and managed by Unit 74455 and, between 4:19 PM and 4:56 PM Moscow Standard Time, searched for certain words and phrases, including:

Search Term(s)

“some hundred sheets”

“some hundreds of sheets”

dcleaks

illuminati

широко известный перевод [widely known translation]

“worldwide known”

“think twice about”

“company’s competence”

Later that day, at 7:02 PM Moscow Standard Time, the online persona Guccifer 2.0 published its first post on a blog site created through WordPress. Titled “DNC’s servers hacked by a lone hacker,” the post used numerous English words and phrases that the Conspirators had searched for earlier that day (bolded below):

Worldwide known cyber security company [Company 1] announced that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers had been hacked by “sophisticated” hacker groups.

I’m very pleased the company appreciated my skills so highly))) [. . .]

Here are just a few docs from many thousands I extracted when hacking into DNC’s network. [. . .]

Some hundred sheets! This’s a serious case, isn’t it? [. . .] I guess [Company 1] customers should think twice about company’s competence.

F[***] the Illuminati and their conspiracies!!!!!!!!! F[***] [Company 1]!!!!!!!!! [emphasis original]

Remember: in the weeks after DOJ released this indictment, Mueller’s team took steps to try to obtain proof of whether Roger Stone was the person in Florida searching on Guccifer’s moniker on June 15, 2016, before the initial post was published. If Stone did learn about this effort in advance, it would suggest he learned about Guccifer 2.0 operation around the same time as someone was searching on these phrases in a GRU server located in Moscow. It would mean Stone learned about the upcoming Guccifer post in the same timeframe as these GRU officers were reviewing it.

It’s not really clear what was going on here. The assumption has always been that GRU officers were looking for translations into English from a post they drafted in Russian, even though the quotation marks suggests the Russian officers were searching on English phrases.

The one exception to that seems to confirm that. Those conducting these searches appear to have searched on a Russian phrase, a phrase they would have easily understood.

широко известный перевод

Moreover, it would take a shitty-ass translation application to come up with the stilted English used in the post. Plus, “illuminati,” at least, is an easily recognized cognate, even for someone (me!) whose Russian is surely worse than the English of any one of these Russian intelligence officers.

Still, proof of this  activity — obtained via undescribed means — clearly ties the Guccifer operation to the GRU. It’s just not clear what to make of it. And the possibility that there’s an American component to the Guccifer 2.0 operation — whether “Phil” or someone else — one that may have alerted Stone to what was going on, provides explanations other than straight up translation. Indeed, it may be that GRU officers were approving the content that someone else wrote, originally in English. Which might also explain why Stone may have known about it in advance.

Whatever else, the GRU indictment only claims that these GRU officers “assisted” this effort. It doesn’t claim they wrote this post.

The Stone-adjacent Guccifer 2.0 activity

One other detail of Mueller’s GRU indictment of interest pertains to which Stone-adjacent activity it chose to highlight.

Stone had first made his DMs with Guccifer 2.0 public himself, in March 2017. They were covered in his House Intelligence Committee testimony. But when Mueller included them in the GRU indictment, Stone first denied, and then sort of conceded the reference to them might be him.  His initial denial was an attempt to deny he had spoken with people in the campaign other than Trump himself, even though he had released the communications himself over a year earlier.

Remember — Mueller was still weighing whether Stone was criminally involved in this conspiracy when Stone issued the initial denial!

But that’s not the most interesting detail of the part of the indictment that lays out with whom Guccifer 2.0 shared stolen documents (even ignoring one or two tidbits I’m still working on).

Mueller’s GRU indictment included — along with the reference to the Roger Stone DMs they still hadn’t determined whether reflected part of a criminal conspiracy or not — the Lee Stranahan exchange with Guccifer 2.0 that ended in Stranahan, a Breitbart employee who would later move to Sputnik, obtaining early copies of a document purportedly about Black Lives Matter.

On or about August 22, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, sent a reporter stolen documents pertaining to the Black Lives Matter movement. The reporter responded by discussing when to release the documents and offering to write an article about their release.

These Stranahan exchanges are really worth attention, not just for the way they prove that Stone-adjacent people got early releases on request (which, lots of evidence suggests, also happened with Stone with respect to the Podesta files pertaining to Joule Holdings), but also for the way Guccifer 2.0 ignored Stranahan’s claim in early August 2016 to have convinced Stone that Guccifer 2.0 was not Russian.

Note what this indictment didn’t mention, though: Guccifer 2.0’s outreach to Alex Jones (about whom, unlike Stranahan, the FBI questioned Andrew Miller).

As I’ve pointed out, in the SSCI Report, there’s a long section on Jones that remains almost entirely redacted. Citing to five pages of a report the title of which is also redacted, the four paragraphs appear between the discussions of Guccifer 2.0’s outreach to then-InfoWars affiliate Roger Stone and Guccifer 2.0 and dcleaks’ communication with each other.

According to Thomas Rid’s book, Active Measures, both dcleaks and Guccifer 2.0 tried to reach out to Jones on October 18, 2016.

On October 18, for example, as the election campaign was white hot and during the daily onslaught of Podesta leaks, both GRU fronts attempted to reach out to Alex Jones, a then-prominent conspiracy theorist who ran a far-right media organization called Infowars. The fronts contacted two reporters at Infowars, offered exclusive material, and asked to be put in touch with the boss directly. One of the reporters was Mikael Thalen, who then covered computer security. First it was DCleaks that contacted Thalen. Then, the following day, Guccifer 2.0 contacted him in a similar fashion. Thalen, however, saw through the ruse and was determined not to “become a pawn” of the Russian disinformation operation; after all, he worked at Infowars. So Thalen waited until his boss was live on a show and distracted, then proceeded to impersonate Jones vis-à-vis the Russian intelligence fronts.23

“Hey, Alex here. What can I do for you?” the faux Alex Jones privately messaged to the faux Guccifer 2.0 on Twitter, later on October 18.

“hi,” the Guccifer 2.0 account responded, “how r u?”

“Good. Just in between breaks on the show,” said the Jones account. “did u see my last twit about taxes?”

Thalen, pretending to be Jones, said he didn’t, and kept responses short. The officers manning the Guccifer 2.0 account, meanwhile, displayed how bad they were at media outreach work, and consequently how much value Julian Assange added to their campaign. “do u remember story about manafort?” they asked Jones in butchered English, referring to Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager. But Thalen no longer responded. “dems prepared to attack him earlier. I found out it from the docs. is it interesting for u?”24

Rid describes just one of two outreaches to Jones (through his IC sources, he may know of the report the SSCI relies on). But a key detail is that this outreach used as entrée some stolen documents from May 2016 showing that the Democrats were doing basic campaign research on Trump’s financials. It then purports to offer “Alex Jones” information on early Democratic attacks on Paul Manafort’s substantial Ukrainian graft, possibly part of the larger GRU effort to claim that Ukraine had planned an election year attack on Trump.

That is, unlike Stranahan’s request for advance documents, this discussion intended for “Alex Jones,” ties directly to Stone’s efforts to optimize the Podesta release. And it’s something that some entity prevented SSCI from publishing.

It’s also something Mueller’s team left out of an indictment aiming to lay out the hack-and-leak case before they might get fired, but in such a way as to hide the then-current state of the investigation from Roger Stone.

There were actually a number of Stone-adjacent associates in contact with GRU’s personas. And as recently as just a few months ago, the government wanted to hide the nature of those ties.

Palace Intrigue: Trump Prepares His Consolation Prize for Vladimir Putin

In the last two days, Trump has prepared a coup of sorts. First, he fired Mike Esper and replaced him with Christopher Miller; several of Esper’s top deputies went with him. Then, Trump installed three different Devin Nunes flunkies at several places in the DOD bureaucracy:

  • Mike Ellis — the guy who hid the Ukraine transcript and one source for the unmasking hoax — to NSA as General Counsel
  • Ezra Cohen-Watnick — a key Mike Flynn loyalist and another source for the unmasking hoax — to DOD Undersecretary of Intelligence
  • Kash Patel — who ensured that no HPSCI Republicans got sound intelligence during their Russian investigation, then pretended to be a Ukraine expert during impeachment, and then served to conduct a purge in the Office of Director of National Intelligence — to DOD Chief of Staff

To be clear, unlike these others, Christopher Miller, the Acting Secretary of Defense, reportedly does care about US security, even if he’s several ranks too junior for the job and got appointed over a Senate confirmed Deputy.

But the Nunes flunkies are there, serving as gate-keepers for the hoaxes favored by Trump and Nunes, as they have done so successfully throughout Trump’s term.

Spook-whisperer David Ignatius reports that these changes come amidst a sustained debate about what to do with a piece of likely Russian disinformation that — Trump and feeble-minded partisans like Lindsey Graham believe — will prove that Russia didn’t prefer Trump over Hillary.

President Trump’s senior military and intelligence officials have been warning him strongly against declassifying information about Russia that his advisers say would compromise sensitive collection methods and anger key allies.

An intense battle over this issue has raged within the administration in the days before and after the Nov. 3 presidential election. Trump and his allies want the information public because they believe it would rebut claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin supported Trump in 2016. That may sound like ancient history, but for Trump it remains ground zero — the moment when his political problems began.

CIA Director Gina Haspel last month argued strongly at a White House meeting against disclosing the information, because she believed that doing so would violate her pledge to protect sources and methods, a senior congressional source said. This official said a bipartisan group of Republican and Democratic senators has been trying to protect Haspel, though some fear that Trump may yet oust her.

Rumors have been flying this week about Haspel’s tenure, but a source familiar with her standing as CIA director said Tuesday that national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had both “assured her that she’s good,” meaning she wouldn’t be removed. Haspel also met personally with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Tuesday. She sees him regularly as a member of the “Gang of Eight” senior congressional leaders. But Tuesday’s visit was another sign of GOP support.

Haspel’s most unlikely defender has been Attorney General William P. Barr, who opposed a pre-election push to declassify the sensitive material, according to three current and former officials. At a showdown meeting at the White House, Barr pushed back against revealing the secret information.

Gen. Paul Nakasone, who heads U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, has also argued vehemently against disclosure, according to a senior defense official and the senior congressional source. Like Haspel, Nakasone took the unusual step of directly opposing White House efforts to release the intelligence, because he feared the damage that disclosure would cause.

With the new changes, General Nakasone reports through Cohen-Watnick and Patel and will have to rely on the legal “advice” of Ellis. So not only does this move put more senior votes in favor of declassifying this intelligence, but it puts them in places where Nakasone might be forced to accede to these demands.

Reporting suggests that Trump is seeking to make the full intelligence behind the reports described here available. Fundamentally, the intelligence shows that the US government obtained a Russian intelligence report that stated in late July 2016 — John Ratcliffe says it was July 26 but by handwriting it appears to be July 28 — Hillary approved of a plan to vilify Trump for his dalliance with Russian intelligence.

Already, this is a stupid hoax from the Republicans. It is public that, in the wake of the DNC release on July 22 — and particularly after Trump’s “Russia are you listening” comment on July 27 — Hillary started focusing on Trump’s coziness with Russia. In other words, the crack Russian analysts would have to do no more than read the paper to come to this conclusion. Nor would there be anything scandalous about Hillary trying to hold Trump accountable for capitalizing on an attack on her by a hostile foreign country.

I think Republicans are trying to suggest — by altering a date (July 26 instead of July 28) again and breathing heavy — that former government official Hillary Clinton was the reason why the FBI opened an investigation into Trump, rather than the Australians informing the US about Coffee Boy George Papadopoulos bragging about Russia offering help back in May. There’s not a shred of evidence for it, of course, but that has never stopped the frothy right.

The far more interesting part of this intelligence comes in the report that Peter Strzok wrote up, which is dated September 7. It makes it clear that Hillary’s alleged attack pertained to Russian hackers, notably Guccifer 2.0.

So a Russian intelligence report the US stole from Russia in late July 2016 claimed that, on July 26 0r 28, Hillary approved an attack on Trump pertaining to having help from Russian hackers, a report that did not get formally shared with the FBI until September 7. And either the report itself or FBI’s interpretation of it focuses on Guccifer 2.0.

Somehow this is the smoking gun — that over a month after opening up Crossfire Hurricane the FBI started investigating a claim that, starting on July 26 or 28, Hillary thought Trump was cuddling up with Russian hackers, interpreted by someone to be Guccifer 2.0 — the FBI learned that fact.

When I first wrote this up, I hadn’t started my Rashomon Rat-Fucker series, to say nothing of my report to the FBI that an American I knew may have served as an American cut-out for the Guccifer 2.0 operation (I’m jumping ahead of myself, but I’m certain the FBI investigated that claim for at least a year). At the time, I focused on how prescient the frothers were making Hillary look for anticipating that Roger Stone would first start doing propaganda for Guccifer 2.0 on August 5; best case for the frothers in this situation is that Stone somehow learned of the Russian report before the FBI did.

But now that I’ve written those posts, it’s clear that not only did the FBI have strong circumstantial evidence that Stone knew of the Guccifer 2.0 operation even before the first Guccifer 2.0 post, because he was searching for it on June 15 before the WordPress site went public, but that Stone probably had a face-to-face meeting with someone at the RNC from whom he got advance notice of the DNC drop.

In July 2016, this report is only mildly interesting, amounting to showing that the Russians read the newspaper like everyone else.

In 2020, after details from the Mueller investigation have become public, the Russian report makes far more sense as deliberate disinformation, an attempt to turn a direct contact with Stone into a hoax about Hillary.

Which makes Trump’s apparent determination to liberate this document all the more telling. It suggests that he wants to make public something, anything, he can use to counter what will be very damning allegations when this all becomes clear.

And, given how shoddy the actual intelligence itself is (at best showing that Russian intelligence officers read public sources and more credibly showing that Russia was building plausible deniability for contacts with Roger Stone in real time), Trump’s insistence on it, whether intentional or not, would serve to blow highly sensitive collection for a third-rate hoax.

I can see why Trump would prioritize this intelligence on his way out that the door. It comes at a time when he can be easily manipulated to burn the IC in ways that can only serve Russian interests.

In other words, one of Trump’s top priorities for the Lame Duck period is to give Vladimir Putin a consolation prize.

The Mueller Charging Decisions Through Ratfucker Rashomon’s Eyes

As noted, late Monday night, DOJ released a newly unredacted version of the Mueller Report that disclosed that, when Mueller shut down in March 2019, there were ongoing investigations, plural, into Stone’s role in the hack-and-leak. This all accords with what I laid out in my Ratfucker Rashomon series, which read the four different stories of the Stone investigation so as to explain that the Stone prosecution was partly an effort to collect further information in the investigation.

I’d like to look at the newly unsealed charging language through the lens of that series. The introduction to the discussion of the hack-and-leak notes (unlike the IRA indictment) that in addition to those charged in the conspiracy, there were other co-conspirators, defining the conspiracy to include the staged releases of the documents.

On July 13, 2018, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment charging Russian military intelligence officers from the GRU with conspiring to hack into various U.S. computers used by the Clinton Campaign, DNC, DCCC, and other U.S. persons, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030 and 371 (Count One); committing identity theft and conspiring to commit money laundering in furtherance of that hacking conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1028A and 1956(h) (Counts Two through Ten); and a separate conspiracy to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities responsible for the administration of the 2016 U.S. election, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030 and 371 (Count Eleven). Netyksho Indictment.1277 As of this writing, all 12 defendants remain at large.

The Netyksho indictment alleges that the defendants conspired with one another and with others to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere in the election. [my emphasis]

In a curious phrase, the introduction describes the co-conspirators using Guccifer 2.0 to stage releases through WikiLeaks, thereby emphasizing the role of Guccifer 2.0 as middle-man.

The indictment also describes how, in staging the releases, the defendants used the Guccifer 2.0 persona to disseminate documents through WikiLeaks.

As I’ve noted, there’s good reason to suspect that Stone’s tie to WikiLeaks was via Guccifer 2.0.

In a previously unredacted passage, it then describes Jerome Corsi’s claims that Stone had optimized the WikiLeaks release on October 7, 2016.

One witness told the Office at one point that the initial release of Podesta emails on October 7 may have come at the behest of, or in coordination with, Roger Stone, an associate of candidate Trump. As explained in Volume I, Section III.D.1.d, supra, phone records show that Stone called Jerome Corsi on October 7, after Stone received a call from the Washington Post. The Washington Post broke a story later that day about a video recording of Trump speaking about women in graphic terms. According to some of Corsi’s statements to the Office [grand jury redaction] Stone said that he had learned about the imminent release of that tape recording, and it was expected to generate significant negative media attention for the Campaign. Corsi told investigators that Stone may have believed from their prior dealings that Corsi had connections to Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’s founder, and that Stone therefore asked Corsi to tell Assange to start releasing the Podesta emails immediately to shift the news cycle away from the damaging Trump recording. Although Corsi denies that he actually had access to Assange, he told the Office at one point that he tried to bring the request to Assange’s attention via public Twitter posts and by asking other contacts to get in touch with Assange. The investigation did not establish that Corsi actually took those steps, but WikiLeaks did release the first batch of Podesta emails later on the afternoon of October 7, within an hour of the publication of the Washington Post’s story on the Trump tape.

As I laid out in this post from the Rashomon series, the focus on Corsi later in this section — while not inappropriate from the viewpoint of the prosecutorial memo that the Mueller Report served as — appears to have been a head fake, a way to explain why the Report addressed the Podesta emails without ever addressing the substantive evidence that showed Stone did optimize the Podesta release. This passage is the same: a way to explain the focus on the Podesta emails without revealing what prosecutors actually knew, including (as laid out in this post), pretty compelling evidence that Stone and Corsi had the content of some of the Podesta emails by August 15, 2016, ones related to an attack on Podesta that right wingers were pushing even as Stone was working to optimize the release.

Having used the Corsi head fake to introduce the topic, then, the discussion of the charging decision starts by generally nodding to “some evidence that Stone played a role in coordinating the October 7 release of the Podesta materials” and — through that — focusing on WikiLeaks.

Given WikiLeaks’s role in disseminating the hacked materials, and the existence of some evidence that Stone played a role in coordinating the October 7 release of the Podesta materials, this Office considered whether to charge WikiLeaks, Assange, or Stone as conspirators in the computer-intrusion conspiracy under Sections 1030 and 371.1278 The theory of prosecution would be that these actors were liable as late joiners in an already existing conspiracy.

It lays out that two things would be necessary to charge either WikiLeaks or Stone under this theory: proof they agreed to enter into the conspiracy and that they knew about ongoing hacking. It envisions WikiLeaks might have served as a “fence,” marketing goods it knew to be stolen.

In particular, although it did not participate in the hacking itself, WikiLeaks would be liable for ensuring a market for and maximizing the value of the stolen materials—much as someone who holds himself out as a “fence” may be found to have joined a conspiracy to traffic in stolen goods, see United States v. Hess, 691 F.2d 984, 988 (11th Cir. 1982), and an individual who launders drug money can be a member of a drug-trafficking conspiracy when such laundering activities are “integral to the success” of the overall trafficking venture,

This language is interesting not just in this context. The expanded CFAA charge in the second superseding Assange indictment describes how Assange had Siggi reach out to Gnosis and LulzSec and then later, some of those same people were involved in hacking Stratfor. While they were doing so, Assange helped them sort through the stolen emails, and — ultimately — WikiLeaks published them. In that case, then, the government is effectively claiming that Assange did agree to the hack before it happened, and then guaranteed the access to the files once they were hacked. Here, though, the Mueller Report concluded it didn’t have admissible evidence to charge WikiLeaks, in part because the key communications were encrypted.

The Office determined, however, that it did not have admissible evidence that was probably sufficient to obtain and sustain a Section 1030 conspiracy conviction of WikiLeaks, Assange, or Stone.

[snip]

With respect to WikiLeaks and Assange, this Office determined the admissible evidence to be insufficient on both the agreement and knowledge prongs. As to agreement, many of the communications between the GRU officers and WikiLeaks-affiliated actors occurred via encrypted chats. Although a conspiracy is often inferred from the circumstances, see Iannelli, 420 U.S. at 777 n.10, the lack of visibility into the contents of these communications would hinder the Office’s ability to prove that WikiLeaks was aware of and intended to join the criminal venture comprised of the GRU hackers.

I get the feeling the US government has evidence — just not evidence they would want to submit at trial, something from a foreign partner or collection targeted on Russians (temporally, this would not be anything collected via UC Global, which is one of the reasons why the UC Global surveillance is probably not what WikiLeaks supporters claim it is).

The Report also explains that it did not have evidence that Assange knew of the ongoing hacks.

Here, a late-joiner theory would require that the conspirator knew that the computer intrusions that comprise the Section 1030 violation were ongoing, or expected to continue, at the time that he or she joined the conspiracy.

[snip]

Similar problems of proof existed as to knowledge. While the investigation developed evidence that the GRU’s hacking efforts in fact were continuing at least at the time of the July 2016 WikiLeaks dissemination, see Netyksho Indictment ¶¶ 32, 34, the Office did not develop sufficient admissible evidence that WikiLeaks knew of—or even was willfully blind to—that fact. Cf. Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A., 563 U.S. 754, 769-70 (2011) (recognizing that willful blindness can be used to prove the knowledge element of an offense). And absent sufficient evidence of such knowledge, the government could not prove that WikiLeaks (or Assange) joined an ongoing hacking conspiracy intending to further or facilitate additional computer intrusions.

Note the timing: the Report is saying that WikiLeaks would have had to know that GRU was still hacking Democratic targets when it released the first dump in July 2016. It is silent about ongoing after that, even though the hacking did continue through the election.

It then says the legal analysis is similar for Stone. But it doesn’t conduct that analysis in the way it does for WikiLeaks. Instead, it says it still has factual questions about Stone’s knowledge of ongoing hacks, returning to that Jerome Corsi head fake, rather than discussing the actual evidence prosecutors did have.

The Office determined that it could not pursue a Section 1030 conspiracy charge against Stone for some of the same legal reasons. The most fundamental hurdles, though, are factual ones.1279 As explained in Volume I, Section III.D.1, supra, Corsi’s accounts of his interactions with Stone on October 7, 2016 are not fully consistent or corroborated. Even if they were, neither Corsi’s testimony nor other evidence currently available to the Office is sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stone knew or believed that the computer intrusions were ongoing at the time he ostensibly encouraged or coordinated the publication of the Podesta emails. Stone’s actions would thus be consistent with (among other things) a belief that he was aiding in the dissemination of the fruits of an already completed hacking operation perpetrated by a third party, which would be a level of knowledge insufficient to establish conspiracy liability. See State v. Phillips, 82 S.E.2d 762, 766 (N.C. 1954) (“In the very nature of things, persons cannot retroactively conspire to commit a previously consummated crime.”) (quoted in Model Penal Code and Commentaries § 5.03, at 442 (1985)).

1279 Some of the factual uncertainties are the subject of ongoing investigations that have been referred by this Office to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The question of Stone’s foreknowledge is actually quite different than Assange’s. That’s because (as the Mueller Report barely mentions but affidavits lay out in detail), he seems to have had knowledge from Guccifer 2.0, possibly as early as April and reportedly as early as May, when hackers were still in the DNC servers. The SSCI Report lays out (but the Mueller Report did not) that Stone was scripting pro-Russian Tweets for Trump in the days after he made his “Russia are you listening” comment. If prosecutors found proof that Stone scripted the “Are you listening” quote, then he could be directly tied to the attempted hacking of Hillary that immediately followed. And Manafort, at least, was asked whether he knew that Russian hackers were probing state election infrastructure in the days before the election, so prosecutors may have reason to believe Stone knew of that (certainly, his voter suppression efforts paralleled Russia’s). This is one reason why it was so curious that prosecutors laid out how Stone pitched both Manafort and Steve Bannon on a way to win ugly during the same period he was optimizing the Podesta emails; it’s possible he pitched them on the later Russian voter suppression and. not just the Podesta emails.

Still, aside from the question to Manafort (which he denied) and some suggestions from his contemporaneous writings, there’s no public evidence of that.

Nevertheless and perhaps counterintuitively, there’s more evidence that Stone knew of ongoing hacking than that Assange did (and when Stone has denied such knowledge in the past, the timeline he uses is always bolloxed all to hell, ignoring key parts of the hacking).

That’s most (not not all) of the CFAA decision. But there’s a second passage, one focused on whether WikiLeaks provided an illegal campaign donation to Trump (one that parallels the similar discussion of whether the June 9 meeting amounted to an illegal offer and solicitation of foreign assistance).

Much of this discussion focuses on campaign finance law — whether the stolen emails represented something of value and how foreigners are covered by campaign finance law. I may return to it. The analysis in this section, plus an earlier one of the Bartnicki precedent that says it’s usually not criminal to publish illegally obtained information, could now have dramatically changed given a SCOTUS decision eliminating any claim for foreigners like Julian Assange to rely on a First Amendment defense. Given the other First Amendment issues, I doubt prosecutors would ever revisit this decision, but prosecutors in Assange’s existing indictment may already be planning to rely on that precedent. (I hope to return to the irony that a Trump judge may fuck up Assange’s defense after Assange helped Trump get elected.)

But not all of it.

There’s also a discussion about whether Stone would have criminal liability. It’s particularly interesting not least because it invokes others on the campaign too (in a prosecutorial memo that considers whether Don Jr committed a CFAA crime by using a password he got from WikiLeaks to access a non-public website).

There is also insufficient evidence at the present time to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Roger Stone or any other persons associated with the Campaign coordinated with WikiLeaks on the release of the emails, which alone would preclude prosecution of them for the WikiLeaks-related conduct even if WikiLeaks had violated campaign-finance law.

[snip]

The Office also considered whether Roger Stone could be prosecuted for any direct or indirect contacts with WikiLeaks about its release of hacked emails for the purpose of influencing the presidential election, and whether any coordination between Stone and WikiLeaks would affect WikiLeaks’s criminal exposure. If WikiLeaks’s release of documents were conducted in coordination with Stone (or others associated with the Trump Campaign), the activity would arguably constitute a “contribution,” rather than an “expenditure.” [my emphasis]

I’ll just leave that repeated invocation of others associated with the Trump campaign for now.

Importantly, though, this section comes as close as any other passage in the Mueller Report does — far closer than the Jerome Corsi head fake sections do — to saying Stone didn’t coordinate with WikiLeaks.

The Office did not pursue that theory [that Stone might be liable], however, because the investigation did not identify sufficient credible evidence that would establish that Stone coordinated with WikiLeaks or that any contacts with WikiLeaks were attributable to the Campaign. See Volume I, Section III.D.1, supra. While the Office cannot exclude the possibility of coordination between Stone and WikiLeaks or that additional evidence could come to light on that issue, the investigation did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government’s burden to prove facts establishing such coordination beyond a reasonable doubt.

Note the reference to “credible evidence,” which I take to be a reference to Corsi.

Two key things about this though: This is all about WikiLeaks. There’s not a word about criminal liability if Stone can be shown to have coordinated with Guccifer 2.0 (Stone, of course, would say he believed Guccifer 2.0 was not Russian, even though prior to August 5, he had said he did believe the persona was Russian). I laid out evidence that that seems to have been the case — that Stone’s go-between was actually Guccifer 2.0, not Corsi or Credico or anyone else. And there’s good reason to believe Mueller expected to find that at the time (which I’ll return to).

The other thing is this WikiLeaks related analysis is all campaign finance related. It doesn’t consider a pardon, about which there was communication between Stone and WikiLeaks, possibly even Don Jr or Paul Manafort and WikiLeaks. There, the question has to do with the terms, whether prosecutors have proof it was part of a quid pro quo. And, as I said before, at least as of early October, that investigation remained open.

As I laid out in my Ratfucker Rashomon series, the Mueller Report has always been misread as a summary of all the things Mueller found. It’s not. It’s the explanation of charging decisions. But the footnote unsealed on Monday confirms that there were multiple charging decisions that Mueller did not make with respect to Stone — he sent those ongoing investigations to DC. And so the story told here, with significant gaps about Guccifer 2.0 and post-election, doesn’t tell the most interesting part of the story.

Unsealed Mueller Report Passages Confirm the Then-Ongoing Investigation into Roger Stone

BuzzFeed released the last bits of the Mueller Report that Judge Reggie Walton ordered released late last night. I will have far more to say about them between meetings later today.

But for now, I want to point to the key paragraph on why Mueller didn’t charge Roger Stone in the hack-and-leak case. Basically, it says that neither Corsi’s testimony nor “other evidence currently available to the Office” is sufficient to prove that when Stone was coordinating the Podesta file dump, he knew that Russians continued to hack Democratic targets.

But then it includes a footnote that says there are “ongoing investigations” (plural) that the DC US Attorney’s Office will continue to pursue to try to address these factual uncertainties.

The Office determined that it could not pursue a Section 1030 conspiracy charge against Stone for some of the same legal reasons. The most fundamental hurdles, though, are factual ones.1279 As explained in Volume I, Section III.D.1, supra, Corsi’s accounts of his interactions with Stone on October 7, 2016 are not fully consistent or corroborated. Even if they were, neither Corsi’s testimony nor other evidence currently available to the Office is sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stone knew or believed that the computer intrusions were ongoing at the time he ostensibly encouraged or coordinated the publication of the Podesta emails. Stone’s actions would thus be consistent with (among other things) a belief that he was aiding in the dissemination of the fruits of an already completed hacking operation perpetrated by a third party, which would be a level of knowledge insufficient to establish conspiracy liability. See State v. Phillips, 82 S.E.2d 762, 766 (N.C. 1954) (“In the very nature of things, persons cannot retroactively conspire to commit a previously consummated crime.”) (quoted in Model Penal Code and Commentaries § 5.03, at 442 (1985)).

1279 Some of the factual uncertainties are the subject of ongoing investigations that have been referred by this Office to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office.

As I described in May, in fall 2018, Mueller’s team took a bunch of investigative steps that they kept under seal. Then, they used the witness tampering case to obtain more information.

It’s unclear how much closer prosecutors got to proving the hack-and-leak case (though they obviously obtained Andrew Miller’s testimony, which was evidence not “currently available” when the Mueller Report was written). But there also appears to be evidence that, by intervening in the Stone sentencing, leading all the prosecutors to drop off the case, Bill Barr killed that part of the investigation.

Prosecutors were still working on proving Stone’s role in the hack-and-leak in March 2019. What’s unclear is how much closer they had since gotten to charging it before Barr intervened.

“Show Me the Metadata:” A Forensic Tie Between Shadow Brokers and Guccifer 2.0

On October 16, 2017, some of the last words the persona Shadow Brokers (TSB) ever wrote hailed my journalism.

TSB special shouts outs to Marcy “EmptyWheel” Wheeler, is being what true journalist and journalism is looking like thepeoples!

TheShadowBrokers, brokers of shadows.

As I noted at the time, I really didn’t need or appreciate the shout-out. I wrote a serious post analyzing that TSB post, but mostly I was trying to tell TSB to fuck off and leave me alone.

That was months after I told the FBI that I thought that someone I knew, whom I will refer by the pseudonym “Phil,” might be the voice of TSB, and less than a week after I got a Psycho-themed threat I deemed worthy of calling the cops.

As I laid out here, I told the FBI that months before Phil had left a comment on my site on July 28, 2016, signed [email protected], he had done some paranoid things starting on June 14, 2016, including making multiple references to ties he claimed to have with Russia. He then attended a Trump rally on August 13, 2016, taking pictures he would later suggest were really sensitive.

In addition to my suspicions about Guccifer 2.0, I also told the FBI that I suspected Phil was part of the operation that had been dumping NSA exploits and other records on the Internet starting in August 2016.

Unlike with Guccifer 2.0, Phil never signed a comment at the site under the name TSB — though on September 21, 2017, someone left a comment asking for my opinion about the ways the government was pursuing TSB.

‘Merican

September 21, 2017 at 1:58 am

Is what you say easier get FISA than Criminal warrant or FISA keep secret from rest of government, but Criminal warrant maybe not? FBI is not intelligence agency is law enforcement agency why have access FISA? You write many articles about the shadow brokers, what you think FISA or Criminal for the shadow brokers? You thinking anyone in US government is looking for the shadow brokers? US government not even say name “name that shall never be spoken”. What is best way discover national security letter sent to your service provider? …asking for a friend!

I thought Phil might be TSB, in part, because Phil had said almost identical things to me in private that TSB said publicly months later. There were other things in TSB’s writing that resonated with stuff I knew about Phil. And while Phil and I never (as far as I recall) talked about TSB, at least once he did say some other things that went a long way to convincing me he could be TSB; I thought he was seeking my approval for what TSB was doing, approval I was unwilling to give.

There are, however, public exchanges between the persona TSB and me, in addition to that shout out in what turned out to be TSB’s swan song.

For example, after I wrote a post on January 5, 2017 wondering why the government hadn’t included TSB in any of its discussions of election year hacking, TSB tweeted to me, complaining that I had described TSB as “bitching” about the coverage, rather than calling it “trolling.” (Note, the language in these screen caps reflects the language used by the people who first archived these tweets, so don’t go nuts about the Russian.)

TSB then RTed my article, suggesting other outlets were complicit for not asking the same questions.

The first tweet, at least, didn’t adopt the fake Borat voice that TSB used to mask a very fluent English, though I think there were some other tweets TSB sent that day where that may be true as well. In neither of these tweets did TSB mock me for misspelling “Whither” (the post’s title originally spelled it “Wither”); that’s a bit odd, because TSB rarely passed up any opportunity to be an asshole on Twitter.

Then, on July 18, 2018, after I had revealed I had shared information with the FBI, someone started a Twitter account under the name LexingtonAl that ultimately claimed to be — and was largely viewed as, by those who followed it — TSB (the persona deleted most tweets in February 2019, but many are saved here). Starting in December 2018, Lex and I had several exchanges about what TSB had actually done. 

Here’s my side of one from that month where I pointed out a problem with Lex’s claim that TSB consisted of just three contractors who leaked the files to reveal US complicity with tech companies to other Americans. The claim didn’t accord with having sent the files to WikiLeaks (as both WikiLeaks and TSB claimed in real time).

At the time, Lex went on an anti-Semitic rant about things he hated. Assuming that Lex is TSB (as he claimed), I got demoted from being TSB’s favorite journalist to third on the list of things Lex hated.

Note: when I interacted with Phil, he was never anti-Semitic (though he was a raging asshole when angry), but Lex was clearly even more disturbed than Phil was in the period when I interacted with him.

Then, in January, Lex bitched (again, in anti-Semitic terms) about a post I had done noting that, given Twitter’s poor security at the time, the Twitter DMs that Hal Martin allegedly sent Kaspersky might have served to frame him.

The post had noted that the early TSB posts — including a number sent after Martin was arrested — had relied on similar cultural allusions as the DMs sent from Martin’s Twitter account. Shortly thereafter the FBI arrested Martin in a guns-wagging raid on his home in Maryland. Per this Kim Zetter story, the Tweets had mentioned the 2016 version of Jason Bourne and Inception. I reiterated that on Twitter.

It was a factual observation supported by the content of the earlier TSB posts, not a comment about any spookiness behind the release of the files.

I asked why TSB was so defensive about having those cultural allusions called out.

Lex responded with another anti-Semitic rant.

I responded,

Finally, in February 2019, Lex invoked me — including that I had “had a breakdown and outed her source” — sort of out of the blue in the middle of what might be called his claimed doctrine behind the leaks.

I noted that if his claimed doctrinal explanation were true, then TSB would have done a victory lap (and stopped dropping files) when Microsoft President Brad Smith started advocating for a Digital Geneva Convention in February 2017, which would have brought about an end to the practice that, Lex claimed, was his reason for dumping the files.

Not only didn’t TSB mention that in real time (instead choosing to exacerbate the tensions between the US and Microsoft), but TSB kept dropping files for six months after that.

Lex responded with another attack.

I have far less evidence that I could share to prove that TSB or Lex are Phil. But little noticed in the midst of TSB’s widely-discussed obsession with Jake Williams, a former NSA hacker whom TSB probably tried to frame as the source of the files, TSB also had an obsession with me — and certainly took notice when I revealed that I had gone to the FBI.

All that said, virtually all of these communications post-dated the time when I went to the FBI.

I went to the FBI in the wake of the WannaCry attack. The attack, reportedly a North Korean effort to make use of the tools dropped by TSB that went haywire, ended up causing a global worm attack that shut down hospitals and caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damage. When I have alluded to the ongoing damage I was trying to prevent, that’s what I mean: the indiscriminate release of NSA exploits to the public which, in that case, literally shut down hospitals on the other side of the world. 

There’s no defense for that.

While I had been trying to find some way to share my concerns long before that, I may never have met directly with the FBI about any of my suspicions except for another detail: I learned that there was a forensic tie between the Guccifer 2.0 and TSB personas. While, at the time, I had moderate confidence about both my belief that Phil had a role in the Guccifer operation and moderate confidence that he was TSB, when I learned there was a forensic tie between the two of them, it increased my confidence in both. 

A strong caveat is in order: the forensic tie isn’t decisive; it could be insignificant, or untrue.

The forensic tie is that someone logged into one of the Guccifer 2.0 accounts — I think the WordPress account — using the same IP address as someone who logged into the early staging sites — either Pastebin or GitHub — for the TSB operation.

If someone using the same IP address accessed both sites — probably using a VPN — it could mean either that the same person was involved, or whoever staged these things was doing little to cover their tracks and outsiders were accessing their infrastructure. One of the people who told me about this forensic tie interpreted it as a deliberate attempt to tie the two operations together, sort of yanking the government’s chain.

I learned of this forensic tie from multiple people, all of whom are credible. That said, I can’t rule out that they learned it from the same person. No one has reported on this in the years since these operations, even though I’ve tried to get better sourced journalists to go chase it down. Indeed, I recently learned that a top outside expert on issues related to TSB did not know this forensic detail.

The FBI had to chase down a lot of weird forensic shit pertaining to these influence operations, because that’s how this kind of operation works. I have noted in the past, for example, that some script kiddies tried to hijack an early Guccifer 2.0 email account; that was investigated by a Philadelphia grand jury in spring of 2017. So this forensic tidbit could be similarly unrelated to the people behind the operation.

So I don’t want to oversell this forensic tie. I do want to encourage others to try to chase it down. 

But it was something that significantly influenced my understanding of all this in 2017, when files released by TSB had just caused the worst damage of any cyber attack in history, to date.

When I mentioned the forensic tie during my FBI interview, the lead agent responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny anything during the interview. I wasn’t there to get confirmation.

Still, if it’s true — given what we’ve learned since about the Guccifer 2.0 operation — it is hugely significant.

TSB started staging its release — per this really helpful SwitHak timeline — on July 25, the same day Trump directed people to get Roger Stone to chase down the next WikiLeaks releases. The first files were encrypted on August 1, after Stone had already pitched Paul Manafort on a way to “save Trump’s ass.” TSB loaded the NSA files on GitHub just after Stone published a piece suggesting that Guccifer 2.0, and not Russia, had hacked the DNC. TSB went live overnight on August 12-13, not long after Guccifer 2.0 publicly tweeted to Stone, “Thanks that u believe in the real #Guccifer2.” WikiLeaks publicized the effort on August 15, after some private back and forth between Guccifer 2.0 and Stone, including Guccifer 2.0’s question, “thank u for writing back . . . do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?” And, per the SSCI analysis and my own, WikiLeaks helped to boost TSB the same day Jerome Corsi may have started giving Roger Stone advance information about the content of the John Podesta emails that wouldn’t be dropped for another two months (SSCI appears not to have considered, much less concluded, that Guccifer 2.0 might be Stone’s source).

If the forensic tie between Guccifer 2.0 and TSB is real, it means that during precisely the same period when Roger Stone was desperately trying to optimize the release of the John Podesta files to save his buddies Paul Manafort and Donald Trump, related actor TSB was beginning a year-long effort to burn the NSA to the ground.