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Yes, DOJ Is Reportedly Investigating the 2018 Election that Trump Just Invoked with Ron DeSantis

In the wake of Tuesday’s shellacking of Democrats in Florida and the losses of winnable seats by Trump endorsees, Republicans are explicitly discussing Ron DeSantis as if he is the head of the party, in lieu of Trump. That set off a temper tantrum on the second shittiest social media site run by a narcissistic billionaire [sic] in which Trump:

  • Accused Fox of fighting him and likened the focus on DeSantis to the 2016 election
  • Claimed his endorsement of DeSantis in 2018 was a “nuclear weapon” that took out Adam Putnam
  • Took credit for DeSantis’s victory over Andrew Gillum
  • Claimed he “sent in the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys, and the ballot theft immediately ended, just prior to them running out of the votes necessary to win”

This last bullet, which seems to claim that Trump deployed DOJ resources to help DeSantis win, has attracted a great of attention.

It would be utterly corrupt to imagine that Trump used DOJ resources to help in an election — though there is evidence he did in 2020: when Bill Barr’s efforts to undermine the Mike Flynn prosecution released altered Peter Strzok notes that Trump used in an attack on Joe Biden. He of course tried to do far more, going so far as attempting to replace Jay Rosen with Jeffrey Clark to give DOJ sanction to frivolous lawsuits.

Plus, people are far too quickly suggesting this claim is made up entirely, and that there’s no evidence of misconduct in 2018. That’s true not just because Trump’s lies generally have some basis, albeit really tenuous, in reality.

Just ten days ago, after all, the NYT reported that prosecutors on at least two investigative teams (which might actually be prosecutors bringing together networked conspiracies as seemed likely for 14 months), implicitly boosted by cooperation from Joel Greenberg, are investigating the 2018 Stop the Steal effort in Broward County.

The NYT article focused on efforts by Trump’s rat-fucker and friends to shut down challenges to the vote count: a Jacob Engels/Proud Boy mob in Broward County.

President Donald J. Trump and other top Republicans were stoking claims that the election had been stolen, and their supporters were protesting in the streets. Members of the far-right group the Proud Boys and people close to Roger J. Stone Jr., including Representative Matt Gaetz, took part in the action as the crowd was chanting “Stop the Steal.”

The time was 2018, the setting was southern Florida, and the election in question was for governor and a hotly contested race that would help determine who controlled the United States Senate.

Now, four years later, the Justice Department is examining whether the tactics used then served as a model for the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

In recent months, prosecutors overseeing the seditious conspiracy case of five members of the Proud Boys have expanded their investigation to examine the role that Jacob Engels — a Florida Proud Boy who accompanied Mr. Stone to Washington for Jan. 6 — played in the 2018 protests, according to a person briefed on the matter.

[snip]

The 2018 protests were triggered by the tight outcome of the races for United States Senate and Florida governor. On election night, the Republican Senate candidate, Rick Scott, declared victory over the Democrat, Bill Nelson, but the race was close enough that local officials were set to hold recounts in key locations like Broward County.

Prominent Republicans, including Mr. Trump and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, suggested on social media that the Democrats were trying to steal the election. Mr. Engels promoted an event in Broward County, writing on Twitter that he was headed there “to handle this situation” and was going to “STOP THE STEAL.”

On Nov. 9, a group of about 100 angry protesters, including members of the Proud Boys, descended on the Broward County elections office, carrying pro-Scott and pro-Trump signs and protesting the recount.

The event drew support from several far-right activists in Florida linked to Mr. Stone — among them, Ali Alexander, who later organized Stop the Steal events around the 2020 election, and Joseph Biggs, a leader of the Proud Boys who has since been charged alongside Mr. Tarrio in the Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case.

Undoubtedly, the Proud Boys are not the FBI (though the FBI in this phase was far too credulous of the Proud Boys). But given the NYT report, it is nevertheless the case that Trump-related Broward County rat-fuckery in 2018 not only happened but is already under investigation.

It may even be the case that DOJ collected information about such things in near real time. DOJ obtained renewed warrants on three Roger Stone accounts on August 3, 2018. It continued to investigate Stone and associates at least through October 2018. And an investigation into the rat-fucker remained ongoing through his November 2019 trial and into at least April 2020.

Again, that doesn’t mean that Trump’s specific claim — that DOJ was involved in all this — is specifically true. It means that before you dismiss it out of hand, you should ask what bread crumbs of reality this probable lie is based on.

When Trump started threatening DeSantis, I immediately thought of Roger Stone, because collecting dirt with which to exert political pressure is what Trump’s rat-fucker does and because Stone was always active in these same circles. And the Broward County Stop the Steal effort may be the least of it.

As Pre-Election Pause Comes to an End, Look First to Arizona (and Nevada and Georgia)

Three times — with the Russian investigation, the Ukraine impeachment, and the January 6 insurrection — the GOP had a ready-made opportunity to distance the party from Donald Trump’s corruption. Each time, they not only declined to take that opportunity, but instead consolidated as a party behind Trump.

Given the swirl of investigations around Trump, Republicans will likely will have a fourth opportunity, this time at a moment when Ron DeSantis’ fortunes look more promising than Trump’s own.

That doesn’t mean Republicans will take it. Indeed, there are some Republicans — people like Jim Jordan — whose electoral future remains yoked to Trump’s. There are a even few members of Congress — Scott Perry, above all — whose legal future may lie with Trump.

But the possibility that yesterday’s results will change the Republican commitment to defending Trump at all cost will be an important dynamic in the face of any prosecutorial steps that DOJ takes now that the pre-election pause on such steps is over.

An indictment of Trump is not going to happen today. In the stolen document case, that’s likely true because DOJ will first want to ensure access to the unclassified documents seized in August, something that won’t happen until either the 11th Circuit decision reverses Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision to appoint a Special Master (that will be ripe for a hearing after November 17) or after a judgement from Special Master Raymond Dearie on December 16 that Cannon chooses to affirm. It’s not impossible, however, that DOJ will take significant actions before then — perhaps by arresting one or more of Trump’s suspected co-conspirators in hoarding the documents, or by executing warrants at other Trump properties to find the documents still believed to be missing.

In the January 6 case, DOJ’s unlikely to take action against Trump himself anytime soon because — by my read at least — there’s still a layer of charges DOJ would have to solidify before charging Trump, both in the prong working up from the crime scene (Roger Stone’s name continues to come up regularly in both the Oath Keeper and Proud Boys cases), and in the fake elector plot. With the testimony of Pence’s key aides secured before the election, Trump’s targeting of his Vice President may be the part of the investigation closest to fruition. There are probably phones — like those of Boris Epshteyn and John Eastman — that DOJ has not finished exploiting, which would have to happen before any charges.

Remember that the phone of Scott Perry — one member of that closely divided House — is among those being exploited right now.

In fact, particularly given the outstanding vote, a more interesting step DOJ might soon take would affect Arizona, even as the close election is settling out. There were several states where DOJ subpoenaed the bulk of those involved in the fake elector plot (here are two summary posts — one, two — of the most recent overt investigative steps). There’s one state, and I think it is Arizona (I’m still looking for the report), where everyone blew off these subpoenas. Mark Finchem is one of the people named on the subpoenas (though he appears to have clearly lost his bid to become Secretary of State).

In other words, in several states (NV, GA, and PA are others), DOJ was preparing the work to unpack the role of key Republicans in both states. Unpacking that role almost necessarily precedes a Trump indictment. But it will also significantly affect the electoral aftermath of these close states.

And all that’s before you consider that Fani Willis’ own pre-election pause will also end. Indeed, Newt Gingrich lost a bid to kill a subpoena in that investigation today.

As noted, the GOP calculus on how to respond to these investigations could change now that Trump has proven a loser once again (or maybe not!). But it’s worth remembering that top Republicans in at least four swing states — swing states that are still counting votes — are implicated in that investigation.

The Roger Stone Convergence at the Winter Palace

There was a status hearing in the Owen Shroyer case last week that was so short it was over by the time I had entered the dial-in code. Shroyer, you’ll recall, is the Alex Jones sidekick who was charged for violating his specific prohibition on being an asshole at the Capitol. His lawyer, Norm Pattis, happens to be the lawyer who sent a large swath of Alex Jones’ data to the Texas Sandy Hook plaintiffs, and then presided over the $1 billion judgement in the Connecticut Sandy Hook lawsuit. On June 14, Pattis noticed his appearance on Joe Biggs’ legal team, effectively giving him visibility on how badly the discovery in the Proud Boy case implicates Shroyer and Jones and Ali Alexander. Shroyer appears to be stalling on his decision about whether he wants to enter a plea agreement — one that would presumably require some cooperation — or whether he wants to stick around and be charged in a superseding indictment along with everyone else.

Shroyer has until November 29 to make that decision, around which time I expect a Roger Stone convergence to become more clear.

The Roger Stone convergence has been coming for some time (I’ve been pointing to it for at 14 months). Yesterday, NYT reported that one means by which it is coming is in the dissemination of the We the People document laying out plans to occupy buildings — under the code “Winter Palace” — which the FBI found on the Enrique Tarrio phone it took over a year to exploit.

As I laid out here, the document is important because it shows Tarrio’s motive on January 6 in his assertion that “every waking moment consists of” planning for revolution.

41. Between December 30 and December 31, 2020, TARRIO communicated multiple times with an individual whose identity is known to the grand jury. On December 30, 2020, this individual sent TARRIO a nine-page document tiled, “1776 Returns.” The document set forth a plan to occupy a few “crucial buildings” in Washington, D.C., on January 6, including House and Senate office buildings around the Capitol, with as “many people as possible” to “show our politicians We the People are in charge.” After sending the document, the individual stated, “The revolution is important than anything.” TARRIO responded, “That’s what every waking moment consists of… I’m not playing games.”

And an exchange he had with now-cooperating witness Jeremy Bertino that they had succeeded in implementing the Winter Palace plan shows that Tarrio recognized that occupying buildings was part of his plan.

107. At 7:39 pm, PERSON-1 sent two text messages to TARRIO that read, “Brother. ‘You know we made this happen,” and “I’m so proud of my country today.” TARRIO responded, “I know” At 7:44 pm. the conversation continued, with PERSON-1 texting, “1776 motherfuckers.” TARRIO responded, “The Winter Palace.” PERSON-1 texted, “Dude. Did we just influence history?” TARRIO responded, “Let’s first see how this plays out.” PERSON-1 stated, “They HAVE to certify today! Or it’s invalid.” These messages were exchanged before the Senate returned to its chamber at approximately 8:00 p.m. to resume certifying the Electoral College vote.

The NYT story reveals that Eryka Gemma is the person who sent the document to Tarrio, but she was not its author.

As a part of the investigation, prosecutors are seeking to understand whether Mr. Engels has ties to a little-known Miami-based cryptocurrency promoter who may have played a role in the Capitol attack.

A week before the building was stormed, the promoter, Eryka Gemma, gave Mr. Tarrio a document titled “1776 Returns,” according to several people familiar with the matter. The document laid out a detailed plan to surveil and storm government buildings around the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a pressure campaign to demand a new election.

[snip]

The federal indictment of Mr. Tarrio says that the person who provided him with “1776 Returns” told him, shortly after it was sent, “The revolution is more important than anything.” That person was Ms. Gemma, according to several people familiar with the matter.

But Ms. Gemma was not the author of “1776 Returns,” which was written by others, first as a shared document on Google, the people said.

It remains unclear who the original authors were.

It may be unclear or detrimental to the sources for this story who originally wrote the document; it’s probably not to investigators who can simply send a warrant to Google.

And whether because investigators know who wrote the document or for some other reason (such as that they have just a few more weeks of pre-sentencing cooperation with Joel Greenberg), they’re trying to understand whether this document, laying out a plan to occupy buildings, had an analogue in the Florida-based riots that key Roger Stone associate, Jacob Engels, staged in 2018 in an attempt to thwart any delays in certification for Rick Scott (and Ron DeSantis, who gets a positive shout out by name in the Winter Palace document).

On Nov. 9, [2018] a group of about 100 angry protesters, including members of the Proud Boys, descended on the Broward County elections office, carrying pro-Scott and pro-Trump signs and protesting the recount.

The event drew support from several far-right activists in Florida linked to Mr. Stone — among them, Ali Alexander, who later organized Stop the Steal events around the 2020 election, and Joseph Biggs, a leader of the Proud Boys who has since been charged alongside Mr. Tarrio in the Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case.

The NYT describes this line of inquiry as happening via two different sets of prosecutors, which is a sign of either convergence or simply the networked structure that DOJ’s approach, using parallel and (through Stone) intersecting, conspiracy indictments clearly facilitated (Shroyer’s prosecution team, incidentally, features an Oath Keeper prosecutor and a key assault prosecutor).

In recent months, prosecutors overseeing the seditious conspiracy case of five members of the Proud Boys have expanded their investigation to examine the role that Jacob Engels — a Florida Proud Boy who accompanied Mr. Stone to Washington for Jan. 6 — played in the 2018 protests, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The prosecutors want to know whether Mr. Engels received any payments or drew up any plans for the Florida demonstration, and whether he has ties to other people connected to the Proud Boys’ activities in the run-up to the storming of the Capitol.

Different prosecutors connected to the Jan. 6 investigation have also been asking questions about efforts by Mr. Stone — a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump — to stave off a recount in the 2018 Senate race in Florida, according to other people familiar with the matter.

While the NYT describes (breaking news!) that Engels was one of the people who in 2019, along with Tarrio, crafted an attack on the judge presiding over Roger Stone’s case, Amy Berman Jackson, it does not note that the Stop the Steal effort dates back two years earlier than the 2018 riot, to voter intimidation efforts that Stone pursued that look similar to the current drop box intimidation effort being disseminated via Trump’s shitty social media website (NYT does mention the Brooks Brothers riots in 2000 and notes the participants “apparently work[ed] with Mr. Stone” — more breaking news).

Nor does it describe the backstory to how Biggs showed up in Florida in 2018, fresh off his ouster from InfoWars after playing a key role in both the PizzaGate and Seth Rich hoaxes, both part of a Russian info-op that Stone played a key role in. But it’s part of the prehistory of the Proud Boys that prosecutors are now tracing.

I have no idea whether the very clear 2016 precedent is part of this. DOJ wouldn’t need to do (much) fresh investigation of it because Mueller and DC USAO did quite a bit of investigation before Bill Barr torched the investigation all to hell and then Trump pardoned Stone to avoid being implicated himself. But if it was part of this, no one who would share those details with NYT would know about it unless and until it was indicted. That’s even true of the 2019 incident; DOJ did at least some investigative work into the funding of that, the same questions being asked now about how Engels organized the 2018 riot.

But whether this investigative prong extends no further back than 2018 or whether it includes the Stone Stop the Steal activity that demonstrably paralleled a Russian effort, it does seem that DOJ is investigating how the prior history of the Proud Boys parallels these efforts to undermine democracy and did so in the place — Miami — where the Proud Boys, schooled by the master rat-fucker, are increasingly taking on an official role.

That may not be an investigation about Engels’ actions, directly (though he has long been in the thick of things). Rather, it may be an investigation into resources that were consistent throughout these developments.

Friends of Sedition: The Networked January 6 Conspiracy

I’d like to look at several developments in recent days in the interlocking January 6 investigations.

First, as I noted Friday, the January 6 Committee subpoena to the former President focuses closely on communications with or on behalf of him via Signal. It specifically asks for communications with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers (including on Signal). And Roger Stone is the first person named on the list of people all of whose post-election communication with Trump (including on Signal) the Committee wants. Clearly, the Committee has obtained Signal texts from others that reflect inclusion of the then-President and expects they might find more such communications, including some involving Stone and the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

Then, on Friday, one of the the main Proud Boy prosecutors, Erik Kenerson, asked to continue Matthew Greene’s cooperation for another 120 days, which would put the next status update in late February, over a month after the Proud Boy leader’s trial should be done. There are, admittedly, a great number of Proud Boy defendants who will go to trial long after that, but Greene doesn’t know many of them (he had just joined the Proud Boys and mostly interacted with other New York members like Dominic Pezzola). Nevertheless, prosecutors seem to think he may still be cooperating after the first big trial.

Those details become more interesting given how DOJ is presenting the Oath Keeper conspiracy at trial. Last Thursday, DOJ added the various communication channels each participant was subscribed to on their visual guide of the various co-conspirators.

It’s not surprising they would do that. To prove the three conspiracies these defendants are charged with, DOJ needs to prove each entered into an agreement to obstruct the vote certification, obstruct Congress, and attack the government. DOJ is relying on the various statements in advance of (and, for sedition, after) January 6 to show such intent. The fact that an intersecting collection of Signal channels incorporated most of the charged defendants will go a long way to show they were all willfully part of these three conspiracies.

But as you can see with Elmer Stewart Rhodes and Kellye SoRelle (circled in pink), DOJ has included Stone’s Signal channel — Friends of Stone — along with the Oath Keeper ones. As DOJ laid out last week, in addition to Rhodes and SoRelle, Enrique Tarrio, Alex Jones, and Ali Alexander were on the FOS channels, in addition to Stone himself.

DOJ has included things Rhodes said on the FOS chat in its timeline leading up to and on January 6. Significantly, at 2:28 on January 6, Rhodes informed the FOS chat that they were at “the back door of the Capitol.” (See the context in Brandi Buchman and Roger Parloff live threads.)

The thing is, many of the participants in FOS that prosecutors have, thus far, identified as participating in the chat (SoRelle, Ali Alexander, and Alex Jones) and most of the Oath Keepers were there on the East side of the Capitol or had only recently left. So was Owen Shroyer, who was also on FOS; he had been on the top of the stairs with Alexander and Jones.

Enrique Tarrio is one exception. He wasn’t present at the East side of the Capitol, but he was following along closely on social media — and likely already knew what was happening on the East side of the Capitol from Joe Biggs, who went through the East doors right along with the Oath Keepers.

Which means the only person mentioned so far who now needed to be told where the Oath Keepers were was Stone, back at the Willard.

We learned one more thing recently, at the last January 6 Committee hearing.

At 1:25PM — after the attack on the Capitol had started — Trump’s Secret Service detail was still planning on bringing him to the Capitol two hours later, around 3:30. That was after, per a video clip in which Nancy Pelosi said she would punch Trump if he showed up, Secret Service told Pelosi they had talked him out of coming.

But 18 minutes after Rhodes told the Friends of Stone list where the Oath Keepers were, at 2:46, Joseph Hackett came out of the Capitol and looked around, as if he was expecting someone to show up.

The fact that Rhodes was updating the FOS list from the Capitol suggests he may have been getting feedback from Stone and whoever else was on the list, including those who may have been coordinating with the then-President.

And whatever else DOJ’s use of the FOS list as part of this conspiracy does, it establishes the basis to argue that those coordinating on the FOS list were, themselves, in a conspiracy together: Rhodes and SoRelle with Tarrio (whom both met in the parking garage) and Alex Jones and Ali Alexander and Stone.

Just as importantly, it would network the conspiracies. That would put all the various Proud Boys taking orders from Tarrio in a conspiracy with those on the FOS list. It would put all the Oath Keepers conspiring with Rhodes and SoRelle in a conspiracy with those on the FOS list.

And it would put those on the FOS list in a conspiracy with those directing the attack on the Capitol.

I laid out over 14 months ago that, if DOJ were to charge Trump in conjunction with the attack on the Capitol, it would likely be part of an intersecting conspiracy with those already being charged.

Finally, if DOJ were to charge Trump, they would charge him in a conspiracy to obstruct the vote count that intersected with some of the other conspiracies to obstruct the vote count, possibly with obstruction charges against him personally. In general, I don’t think DOJ would charge most of Trump’s discrete acts, at least those conducted before January 20, as a crime. There are two possible exceptions, however. His call to Brad Raffensperger, particularly in the context of all his other efforts to tamper in the Georgia election, would have been conducted as part of campaigning (and therefore would not have been conducted as President). It seems a clearcut case of using threats to get a desired electoral outcome. It’s unclear whether Trump’s request that Mike Pence to commit the unconstitutional action — that is, refusing to certify the winning electoral votes — would be treated as Presidential or electoral. But that demand, followed closely with Trump’s public statements that had the effect of making Pence a target for assassination threats, seems like it could be charged on its own. Both of those actions, however, could and would, in the way DOJ is approaching this, also be overt acts in the conspiracy charged against Trump.

In the last two weeks, DOJ has started to show how those conspiracies intersect.

Unsurprisingly, they intersect right through the former President’s rat-fucker.

Update; Corrected Pelosi timing, per Nadezhda.

Update: Tried to clarify that Tarrio was on the chat but was not (as the Oath Keepers, Jones, and Alexander were) on the East side of the Capitol.

Trump Subpoena: The Revolution Will Not Be Signaled

The January 6 Committee has released the subpoena it sent to the former President.

It requires document production by November 4 and a deposition starting on November 14. Notably, the first deadline is before the election.

It focuses not just on Trump’s attempt to overturn the election, summon mobsters, and raise money off of it. There are several questions focused on obstruction: both document destruction and witness tampering.

The witness tampering one reads:

All documents, including communications sent or received through Signal or any other means, from July 1, 2021, to the present, relating or referring in any way to the investigation by the Select Committee and involving contacts with, or efforts to contact: (1) witnesses who appeared or who were or might be expected to appear before the Select Committee, including witnesses who served as White House staff during your administration, who served as staff for your 2020 campaign, and who served or currently serve in the United States Secret Service; or (2) counsel who represented such witnesses. The documents referenced in (1) and (2) include but are not limited to any communications regarding directly or indirectly paying the legal fees for any such witnesses, or finding, offering, or discussing employment for any such witnesses, and any communications with your former Deputy Chief of Staff Anthony Ornato or any employee of the Secret Service with whom you interacted on January 6, 2021.

The subpoena mentions Signal at least 13 times. Which strongly suggests the President was in direct communication with some of the coup plotters via the mobile app.

The Trump associates named in the subpoena include:

  • Roger Stone
  • Steve Bannon
  • Mike Flynn
  • Jeffrey Clark
  • John Eastman
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • Jenna Ellis
  • Sidney Powell
  • Kenneth Chesebro
  • Boris Epshteyn
  • Christina Bobb
  • Cleta Mitchell
  • Patrick Byrne

The subpoena even asks him for communications involving the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, “or any other similar militia group or its members” from September 1, 2020 to the present.

The subpoena also asks the former President for all communications devices he used between November 3, 2020 and January 20, 2021. In the Stone trial, there were about nine devices identified on which he may have received a call during the 2016 election, and there are several others — such as that of his then bodyguard Keith Schiller — who weren’t discussed in the trial. Tony Ornato also receives a close focus in this subpoena; I wonder if he was receiving calls for the then-President on the Secret Service phone that has since been wiped.

 

Bill Barr Complains that His Special Counsel Was Unable to Match Robert Mueller’s Record of Success

Even before the Igor Danchenko trial, Billy Barr declared victory in defeat — arguing that if John Durham could just “fill in a lot of the blanks as to what was really happening,” the inevitable acquittal would still give Durham an opportunity to spin fairy tales about what Durham imagines happened.

“What these cases show is that these are difficult cases to win,” Barr said. “There’s a reason it takes so long, and you have to build up the evidence because at the end of the day, you’re going before these juries that aren’t going to be disposed to side with the people they view as supporting Trump.”

Danchenko is slated to go on trial next month on charges of lying to the FBI about the Steele dossier, for which he was the main source. The dossier claimed that Trump and members of his campaign and company had established extensive ties to the Russian government and had colluded during the 2016 election.

The trial is widely expected to be the final criminal prosecution from Durham’s investigation before he submits a report of his findings to Attorney General Merrick Garland.

But despite Durham’s limited success in the courtroom, Barr defended the investigation he ordered, saying the courtroom was allowing Durham to establish a record of what had occurred with the so-called Russiagate investigation.

“I think Durham got out a lot of important facts that fill in a lot of the blanks as to what was really happening,” Barr said. “My expectation is … the Danchenko trial will also allow for a lot of this story to be told, whether or not he’s ultimately convicted. I hope he’s convicted, but if he isn’t, I still think it provides an avenue to tell the story of what happened.”

Like an obedient puppy, Durham did use the trial as an opportunity to get extraneous details into the public record. On top of the $1 million dollar offer that Brian Auten said, vaguely, Christopher Steele might have gotten if he had corroborated the dosser — which has been treated like an FBI attempt to bribe a source for dirt on Trump and as the most exonerating possible detail, rather than an effort to investigate a real threat to the country — Durham went out of his way to give the full names of people at various meetings so Carter Page and Donald Trump can add them to lawsuits.

Mind you, along the way, the trial also revealed the FBI’s own assessment of Danchenko’s cooperation, which contributed to 25 investigations and which Barr burned to a crisp by exposing him, with Lindsey Graham’s help, as a source in 2020.

Q. And you were concerned, in July of 2020, when you became aware that Attorney General Barr was going to release a redacted version of Mr. Danchenko’s interview in January of 2017?

A. Yes.

Q. You were upset about that?

A. I was.

Q. You found out about that during a telephone conference, right?

A. I did.

Q. And you disagreed with that decision?

A. I did.

Q. The OIG had already completed a report on that investigation, correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And you thought that the release of that document was dangerous?

A. Yes.

Q. You even wrote up a memo of that phone call you were on in July of 2020 where you learned that they were going to publish a redacted version of his interview, correct?

A. I did.

[snip]

Q. And within an hour of Mr. Danchenko’s January interview being released to the senate judiciary committee, the senate judiciary committee, I won’t say who, released it to the public?

A. They did.

[snip]

Q. So, Agent Helson, you wrote in October of 2020 that from 2017 until present day, Mr. Danchenko had provided information on at least 25 FBI investigations assigned to at least six field offices?

A. Correct.

Q. In addition, he aided the United States Government by introducing the United States Government to a sub-source who had provided additional information separate to his report, correct?

A. Correct.

[snip]

Q. And it’s noted that he — his reporting contributed to at least 25 active FBI investigations.

[snip]

Q. In July of 2020 his identity became public after the release of the redacted version of his interview in January of 2017. Since that public disclosure, he has received threatening messages via social media and email. It’s resulted in significant damage to his reputation from false and baseless claims aimed to undermine his credibility. Those are your words, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. The Washington Field Office had assessed that this will have negative ramifications with respect to his ability to provide for his family via personal income for the foreseeable future, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. And while the FBI cannot promise complete anonymity to anyone who provides information, his identity became public only after the decision was made to release the redacted version of his interview, correct?

A. Correct.

Q. As a result of that act, his ability to continue to provide information viable to the FBI is diminished as is his ability to provide financial support to his family.

After the trial, Barr has been spending time on Fox News declaring — as much of the frothy right has — that this record, of how he deliberately harmed national security for revenge, exposed the corruption of what Barr calls “Russiagate,” the moniker frothers use to distract from the real substance of the Russian investigation.

I was disappointed, obviously. I think they did a good job prosecuting the case. Their ability to put evidence on, in a very difficult case, was limited by some rulings, and they weren’t able to get access to some witnesses overseas. So it was a tough — it was a tough case, so this should show people that it’s hard to win these cases, and sometimes it takes time to … to achieve justice. But as people say — I think Andy McCarthy said — the real public interest being served here was exposing the full extent of the corruption that was involved in Russiagate [sic] and the abuse by the FBI in that whole episode. And I think Durham is going to get a report out that’s gonna lay out all the facts.

Barr and everyone else are pointing to the exposures they and Durham made to justify their actions because they didn’t have evidence to support their claims.

Barr is whining that getting false statements convictions is hard. But Robert Mueller was able to prove that:

  • Alex Van der Zwaan lied to cover up his efforts, in conjunction with Konstantin Kilimnik and Rick Gates, to cover up Manafort’s effort to spin Ukraine’s politicized Yulia Tymoshenko prosecution during the 2016 election
  • George Papadopoulos lied to cover up his advance knowledge of the Russian effort to help Trump
  • Mike Flynn lied to cover up his back channel calls with Sergei Kislyak to undermine Obama Administration policy (and also that he was a paid agent of Turkey during the campaign)
  • Michael Cohen lied to hide the secret negotiations he had directly with the Kremlin about an impossibly lucrative real estate deal
  • Paul Manafort conspired to cover up a front organization he set up with Konstantin Kilimnik and (at a preponderance of the evidence standard) lied to cover up his August 2016 meeting with Kilimnik
  • Roger Stone lied and intimidated Randy Credico to cover up his real back channel to the Russian operation

I mean, Robert Mueller had no problem getting convictions, whether from guilty pleas, jury verdicts, or (in the case of Manafort’s lies about the August 2, 2016 meeting) a judge’s ruling.

One reason he had no problem was that these defendants were generally guilty of a lot more than just lying. It’s a lot easier to get Flynn to admit he lied about his back channel discussions with the Russian Ambassador, after all, when he was also on the hook for secretly being an agent of Turkey. It’s lot easier to get Papadopoulos to admit he lied about his advance warning of the Russian operation when he’s trying to stave off foreign agent charges tied to Israel. It’s a lot easier to get a jury verdict against Stone when he spent months plotting out his lies with multiple people on emails.

Mueller wasn’t able to get false statement verdicts from everyone, mind you. For example, because Steve Bannon and Erik Prince deleted their texts from early January 2017, Mueller did not charge them for false statements made to cover up meetings to set up a back channel with UAE and Russia. That’s one lesson that Durham should have taken to heart: Absent the mobile app records from Sergei Millian and Igor Danchenko, he had no way of knowing whether Millian called Danchenko on July 26, 2016.

That’s not the only evidentiary complaint Barr makes here. He’s complaining that Durham was unable to get hearsay admitted against Danchenko. He’s angry that Durham was not permitted to introduce Millian’s wild Twitter boasts as evidence without requiring Millian to show up and make those claims under oath. And he’s complaining that Durham wasn’t able to introduce his pee tape conspiracies without charging it.

But the most alarming of the former Attorney General’s statements — before and after the trial — embrace the notion that it is a proper goal of failed prosecutions to expose information that does not rise to the level of criminality.

As I’ll show in a follow-up, the Durham fiasco is part of a piece of Barr’s larger actions, both his other failed prosecutions — most notably, that of Greg Craig — but also his efforts to undo the convictions for which there was no reasonable doubt of guilt.

It’s not enough to talk about Durham’s unprecedented failure … it’s not enough to note that Durham and his prosecutors repeatedly failed to take basic investigative steps before embracing and charging conspiracy theories that juries didn’t buy … it’s not enough to note how, in an attempt to prove those conspiracy theories, Durham and his prosecutors and abused the prosecutorial system.

Durham’s entire project is a continuation of Barr’s unprecedented politicization of DOJ, one that not only places Republicans attempting to secretly work for hostile nations above the law, but that has made the country far less safe in many other ways.

It’s not just Durham prosecuted two men without any real hope of winning conviction, all to expose things that aren’t crimes. It’s that Billy Barr hired him to do just that.

Return to Sender: DOJ Seized Evidence that Up to 90 Highly Sensitive Documents May Have Disappeared

As you read the more detailed inventory unsealed by Judge Aileen Cannon, keep in mind that Trump is under investigation not just for unlawful retention of classified documents, but also under both 18 USC 2071 and 18 USC 1519, for concealing documents and (under just 2071) for removing them.

And one of the most notable details about the inventory (aside from the fact that the Roger Stone pardon is classified Secret) is the number of empty folders:

  • Item 2: The leatherbound box, containing news clippings dated 1/2017 to 10/2018
    • 43 empty folders with CLASSIFIED banners
    • 28 empty folders labeled Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide
  • Item 15: Box A-28, containing news clippings dated 10/2016 to 11/2018
    • 2 empty folders with CLASSIFIED banners
    • 2 empty folders labeled Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide
  • Item 18: Box A-35, containing news clippings dated 1/2018 to 12/2019
    • 2 empty folders labeled Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide
  • Item 23: Box A-39, containing clippings dated 11/2016 to 6/2018
    • 8 empty folders labeled Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide
  • Item 25: Box A-41, containing clippings dated 10/2016 to 11/2017
    • 1 empty folder with CLASSIFIED banners
  • Item 33: Box A-33 (includes potentially privileged documents), containing clippings dated 2/2017 to 2/2018
    • 2 empty folders with CLASSIFIED banners
    • 2 empty folders labeled Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide

All told, then, there are 48 empty CLASSIFIED document folders and 42 empty “Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide” folders. Each of those is a highly sensitive — and now potentially missing — document.

Update: I’ve added the two empty CLASSIFIED folders in Item 15 and adjusted the headline.

Update: Here’s my initial pass at the inventory (I need to proof the numbers; my missing Secret document happened to be Roger Stone!). An important point: Every one of the boxes seized had at least 2 government documents in it. Altogether, the FBI seized over 11,000 documents without classification markings.

 

No One Puts Roger Stone in a Box

As I noted in my first post on Wednesday’s DOJ response to Trump’s bid to get a Special Master, the filing provides more details about what the FBI found where.

I’ve updated my nifty graphic accordingly.

As a reminder, this graphic attempts to show with horizontal boxes where things were seized, and with vertical boxes, to show where they were cataloged. The original search inventory was catalogued on two different receipts: one — which I refer to as the CLASS receipt — on which all boxes described to contain documents marked as classified were listed, and another — which I refer to as the SSA receipt because the Supervisory Special Agent signed it — which Fox News subsequently reported was where all the potentially privileged materials were catalogued. Once emptywheel gets a graphics department, I’ll update this to reflect 22 boxes were found in the storage room.

While we can’t be entirely certain, it appears that further sorting of the items on the SSA receipt of potentially privileged items has identified two more boxes and 3 additional documents marked as classified.

Another thing I think we can say is that the FBI found Roger Stone in Trump’s desk drawer, not some dusty box stored in a converted bomb shelter.

According to the filing, FBI seized classified materials from just two rooms: Trump’s office and a storage closet.

[C]lassified documents were found in both the Storage Room and in the former President’s office.

The filing also makes clear that the TS/SCI documents in the picture included as an appendix came from a container seized from Trump’s office.

See, e.g., Attachment F (redacted FBI photograph of certain documents and classified cover sheets recovered from a container in the “45 office”).

That helps us sort out the locations of the items seized in the search. The label “2A” in the picture confirms the container in question is item 2 on the inventory, the leatherbound box, which is further confirmed because that box was the only one in the entire inventory described to enclose TS/SCI documents. So that also makes clear (as I suspected) that the leatherbound box was seized in Trump’s office.

In part based on known FBI search processes and the role of proximity in this search protocol, we can surmise that the other items lacking an A-prefix were also seized in Trump’s office (items 1 through 7 here, plus item 4, described only as “documents,” on the SSA receipt that we know lists the items originally identified as potentially including privileged material). It’s hypothetically possible that some of those items were seized in Trump’s residence, but in part because the filter team only searched Trump’s office and in part because there’s not a second series of numbers from a room identified as “B,” I think it more likely this stuff was in Trump’s office.

Given that the only other location from which classified documents were seized was the storage room, it suggests all the A-prefix boxes were seized there. Again, that makes sense given what we know of FBI processes: they label a room with a letter, then label the items in that room by letter and number. There were at least 73 boxes or other items searched in that storage room.

So the first page of what I call the CLASS receipt, the items outlined in red would have been found in Trump’s office, and the items outlined in purple would have been found in the storage room. Everything else on the CLASS receipt, too, would have been seized from the storage room.

And the SSA receipt included some number of documents seized from Trump’s office that filter agents wanted to review some more, as well as five boxes that, for some reason, investigative agents stopped searching and brought to the filter team to handle.

If all that’s right, it means that DOJ seized 26 (out of at least 73) boxes from the storage room, and seven items total (one of which was described as “documents,” plural, on the SSA privileged receipt) from Trump’s office, for a total of 33.

I’ll come back to that number, 33.

From that inventory, according to DOJ’s filing, 13 boxes include documents marked as classified, and all told, the FBI collected over 100 documents marked classified on August 8.

Of the Seized Evidence, thirteen boxes or containers contained documents with classification markings, and in all, over one hundred unique documents with classification markings—that is, more than twice the amount produced on June 3, 2022, in response to the grand jury subpoena—were seized.

Those over 100 break down this way, by location:

  • 76 documents found in boxes in the storage room
  • 3 documents (individually) found in desk drawer(s) in Trump’s office
  • At least 22 documents in the leatherbound box (I count around 23 from the picture)

It’s the number of total boxes with documents marked as classified, 13, that can’t be reliably broken down.

That’s because DOJ’s filing describes two more boxes that contain documents marked as classified, 13, than are reflected on the receipts, which show 11. They’ve found two more since August 8. The extra two boxes may come from one of two places: either boxes on the CLASS receipt that were not previously identified to include documents marked as classified but in which one or two classified documents were discovered on closer inspection, or boxes among the five originally on the SSA receipt that, after further filter review, were subsequently discovered to have classified documents.

It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things — two boxes post-privilege review or two boxes in which there’s a stray classified document shorn of its cover sheet.

But it may reflect further processing of materials on the SSA receipt.

The government’s language on this is a bit confusing. In one place, the government seems to suggest the case agents have not reviewed anything in the containers originally designated to include potentially privileged documents (though this may simply mean the investigative team has finished its scrutiny of all boxes known not to contain privileged documents, without commenting on the rest).

The investigative team has reviewed all the materials in the containers that the privilege review team did not segregate as potentially attorney-client privileged.

In another place the government filing seems to suggest that since seizing the documents, a subsequent privilege review may have freed up materials — like some of the contents of those five boxes and documents, plural, from Trump’s office — for subsequent review or, in the case of Trump’s passports, return to the subject of the investigation.

[T]he government’s filter team has already completed its work of segregating any seized materials that are potentially subject to attorney-client privilege, and the government’s investigative team has already reviewed all of the remaining materials, including any that are potentially subject to claims of executive privilege.

In a third place, the government’s filing seems to suggest that DOJ has freed up everything not identified as potentially privileged, resulting in a much smaller possible universe of potentially privileged documents than the original five boxes plus “documents” laid out on the SSA receipt.

The privilege review team has completed its review of the materials in its custody and control that were identified as potentially privileged. The privilege review team identified only a limited subset of potentially attorney-client privileged documents.

I don’t so much care about the uncertainty except insofar as the small number might thwart Trump’s efforts to stall things with a Special Master review.

But several other things suggest that after pulling six items (five boxes from the storage room and “documents” from Trump’s office) for closer review on August 8, it has since freed up things that are clearly not privileged, and along the way identified some number of documents marked as classified.

One reason that almost has to be the case is that DOJ has segregated all classified documents because it has to do so to keep them secure (which will also help prove any eventual charges against Trump).

All of the classified documents seized in the August 8 search have been segregated from the rest of the seized documents and are being separately maintained and stored in accordance with appropriate procedures for handling and storing classified information.

This seems to suggest that even for the potentially privileged documents, the filter team has at least identified if they’re classified, so they can be stored someplace more secure than a hotel safe.

Another reason that seems, necessarily, to be true is that DOJ talks about documents marked as classified. While the FBI seized three individual documents from what appears to be Trump’s desk drawer — the Roger Stone clemency, a potential Presidential Record, and a handwritten note — none of those were described as classified, which would be easy to note. They might be classified, but they are not marked as such.

Which is to say that the two boxes not identified on the CLASS receipt that, per DOJ’s filing had classified documents, may be two that also contain potentially privileged documents. And the three documents from the desk drawer that are marked as classified were among those the filter team thought might be privileged. And in fact, Trump seems to know there are potentially privileged documents that are also classified. About the only thing Trump’s lawyers agree with DOJ about, regarding a hypothetical Special Master, is that that person should have TS/SCI clearance. (Which seems to be a confession that Trump broke the law, but Trump and his lawyers are doing that a lot of late.)

That also seems to be the only way to explain the treatment of items from Trump’s office: the filter team identified things that clearly weren’t privileged — such as the leatherbound box and all its contents and two binders of photos — then seized the rest as a category, documents, that they they have since done a more attentive privilege review on.

Three classified documents that were not located in boxes, but rather were located in the desks in the “45 Office,” were also seized. Per the search warrant protocols discussed above, the seized documents included documents that were collectively stored or found together with documents with classification markings.6

6 Plaintiff repeatedly claims that his passports were outside the scope of the warrant and improperly seized, and that the government, in returning them, has admitted as much. See D.E. 1 at 2 & n.2; D.E. 28 at 3, 8, 9. These claims are incorrect. Consistent with Attachment B to the search warrant, the government seized the contents of a desk drawer that contained classified documents and governmental records commingled with other documents. The other documents included two official passports, one of which was expired, and one personal passport, which was expired. The location of the passports is relevant evidence in an investigation of unauthorized retention and mishandling of national defense information; nonetheless, the government decided to return those passports in its discretion.

That’s how it was possible to seize three passports but not have them show up on the original receipt. They were included along with those documents, plural, on the SSA receipt. But then further review made it clear that Trump’s visa stamps are not classified, and Jay Bratt returned them to Evan Corcoran.

In my nifty graphic above, I’ve put the passports where they belong, in a desk drawer in Trump’s office.

Now let’s return to DOJ’s affirmation that the total number of items seized were 33.

Remember when I wrote an entire post, based on the FBI’s Borgesian counting methods, arguing that others were making a big mistake by assuming there was one item, Roger Stone clemency for things we know about — his lying to cover up how he coordinated with Russia in 2016 — listed as item 1, and another separate item, information about a French President, listed as item 1A?

Well, the people who filed Wednesday’s filing — who presumably have DOJ’s detailed inventory in hand — tell us that the number of items seized equals 33.

During the August 8 Execution of the Search Warrant at the Premises, the Government Seized Thirty-Three Boxes, Containers, or Items of Evidence, Which Contained over a Hundred Classified Records, Including Information Classified at the Highest Levels

Pursuant to the above-described search protocols, the government seized thirty-three items of evidence, mostly boxes (hereinafter, the “Seized Evidence”), falling within the scope of Attachment B to the search warrant because they contained documents with classification markings or what otherwise appeared to be government records.

That’s precisely the number recorded on the inventory. 33.

The only way the people in possession of that more detailed inventory would assert, still, that there were 33 items on the original inventory is if item 1, Executive Grant of Clemency for Roger Jason Stone, Jr., and item 1A, info re: President of France, are the same object.

If there are 33 items, Trump granted clemency to Stone for something to do with a French President.

Let me repeat that: If the people who wrote this filing, who unlike you and I are privy to the detailed inventory of what was taken, say there were 33 items taken, then the Stone clemency itemized as item 1 in the inventory we do have contains — within it — information about a French President.

This is a pardon or some other kind of clemency that, rather than giving it to DOJ for publication, Trump stuck in a desk drawer. Not a box in a storage room. Trump had a pardon (or some other clemency) for his rat-fucker about an unknown subject relating to a French President, stashed in his desk drawer, apparently right next to his passports and three documents marked as classified that may be privileged.

And that’s one of the reasons I found DOJ’s generous offer to unseal the more detailed receipt, in the guise of sharing it with Trump, to be rather delicious.

1 Plaintiff also sought a more detailed receipt for the property seized during the August 8, 2022 execution of the search warrant. D.E. 1 at 19-21; see generally D.E. 28. The Court ordered the government to file under seal “[a] more detailed Receipt for Property specifying all property seized pursuant to the search warrant.” D.E. 29 at 2. The government filed today under seal, in accordance with the Court’s order, the more detailed receipt. Although the receipt of property already provided to Plaintiff at the time of the search, see In Re Sealed Search Warrant, No. 22-MJ-8332 (S.D. Fla.) (hereinafter, “MJ Docket”), D.E. 17 at 5-7, is sufficient under Fed. R. Crim. P. 41, the government is prepared, given the extraordinary circumstances, to unseal the more detailed receipt and provide it immediately to Plaintiff. [my emphasis]

Be careful of what you wish for, Donny, especially with the press coalition already asking Judge Cannon to unseal these sealed materials.

If Trump pardoned Roger Stone for something to do with — say — a hack-and-leak campaign, conducted in coordination with the GRU, targeting Emmanuel Macron, but then stuck the pardon in his desk drawer rather than sending it to DOJ to be published along with all his other utterly corrupt pardons, it’s not something he wants to be public. My guess is the potential Presidential Record and the handwritten note, also apparently found in his desk drawer, are similarly things Trump wouldn’t like to be public. Likewise the three classified, potentially privileged documents found in the same desk drawer, which he agrees would require a TS/SCI clearance to review.

Trump stuck his rat-fucker in his desk drawer. And now his efforts to gum up this investigation may make that public.

Update: Judge Cannon has thwarted live coverage of the hearing on this today. But NBC reported that she will not order the release of the more detailed inventory, which may suggest she recognizes it doesn’t help Trump.

The Word “Pardon” Doesn’t Appear in the Barr Memo

As I noted in this post, there’s something missing in this passage — indeed, in the entirety of — the Barr Memo declining prosecution of former President Trump.

We likewise do not believe that the President’s public statements exhorting witnesses like Flynn, Manafort, Stone, or Cohen, not to “flip” should be viewed as obstruction of justice. The Report makes clear that the President equated a witness’s decision to “flip” with being induced by prosecutors to manufacture false evidence against others. We cannot say that the evidence would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the President’s statements, most of which were made publicly, were intended to induce any of those witnesses to conceal truthful evidence or to provide false evidence. Once again, this conclusion is buttressed by the absence of any clear evidence that these witnesses had information that would prove the President had committed a crime. The President’s public statements could be viewed as efforts to defend himself from public criticism related to the Special Counsel’s investigation or to discourage the witnesses from making what the President believed might be false statements in exchange for a lesser sentence. Those statements do not warrant a prosecution for obstruction of justice.

The word “pardon.”

That’s important for two reasons. First, Barr said repeatedly, under oath, as part of his confirmation hearing, that trading false testimony for a pardon would be obstruction. Here’s what he said, for example, in response to a question from Lindsey Graham.

Lindsey: So if there was some reason to believe that the President tried to coach somebody not to testify or testify falsely, that could be obstruction of justice?

Barr: Yes, under that, under an obstruction statute, yes.

Here’s what he said to Patrick Leahy.

Leahy: Do you believe a president could lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise to not incriminate him?

Barr: No, that would be a crime.

And pardons are a critical part of the discussion in the Mueller Report to substantiate obstruction. The word pardon appears 67 times. Indeed, contrary to the discussion in the Barr Memo that claimed most of Trump’s witness-tampering happened in public, several of the discussions of pardons described in the Mueller Report involved non-public communication.

A voicemail that John Dowd left for Rob Kelner in November 2017 was presented as background to Trump’s public discussion of a pardon for Mike Flynn.

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

[snip]

On December 1, 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements pursuant to a cooperation agreement.841 The next day, the President told the press that he was not concerned about what Flynn might tell the Special Counsel.842 In response to a question about whether the President still stood behind Flynn, the President responded, “We’ll see what happens.”843 Over the next several days, the President made public statements expressing sympathy for Flynn and indicating he had not been treated fairly.844 On December 15, 2017, the President responded to a press inquiry about whether he was considering a pardon for Flynn by saying, “I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We’ll see what happens. Let’s see. I can say this: When you look at what’s gone on with the FBI and with the Justice Department, people are very, very angry.”845

Paul Manafort told Rick Gates that Trump was “going to take care of us,” which Gates took to suggest a pardon.

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

And the private comments Robert Costello made to Michael Cohen — again in the context of Trump’s public comments about Cohen not flipping — led him to believe Trump would, at least, pay his defense fees.

In an email that day to Cohen, Costello wrote that he had spoken with Giuliani.1026 Costello told Cohen the conversation was “Very Very Positive[.] You are ‘loved’. . . they are in our corner. . . . Sleep well tonight[], you have friends in high places.”1027

By issuing his prosecution declination while Trump’s attempted witness tampering was still in progress, Barr ensured that the corrupt trade-off would and could  be completed, at least with Flynn, Stone, and Manafort.

And in doing so, he ensured that ongoing investigations wouldn’t find precisely the evidence he was sure didn’t exist.

Bill Barr Performed the Corruption He Was Trying To Deny

Perhaps I have a perverse sense of humor.

But between bouts of yelling about the Barr Memo, I’ve been laughing my ass off.

There are a number of reasons I’m laughing, some that I won’t share because I don’t want to spoil what I expect to be the punchline. But one reason I can’t stop laughing is that Robert Mueller managed to get Barr to perform — and put down in writing!! — precisely the corruption Mueller was trying to document: corrupt interference in a criminal prosecution.

I can’t imagine that Robert Mueller intended to elicit this response from Billy Barr and the lawyers who had been overseeing Mueller’s work for almost two years. But because they made the corrupt decision to override Mueller’s studied refusal to made a final conclusion about whether Trump committed obstruction (in my opinion, Mueller viewed Volume II of the Report as an impeachment referral and so did this for separation of powers reasons), they ended up putting together a shoddy memo justifying their decision.

One reason it worked out that way was because Barr and his flunkies were working quickly: a rushed effort over the course of the weekend to substantiate false claims to share with Congress.

According to Barr’s book, he remembers getting the Mueller Report around 1:30PM on March 22, 2019.

As Amy Berman Jackson laid out in a timeline accompanying her decision ordering the release of the memo, starting with a draft of the letter to Congress by Steven Engel at 8:36PM on March 22, 2019 and working through the weekend, five men including Engel (according to some emails quoted by ABJ, Barr was present as well) drafted both the letter to Congress and the declination memo in parallel.

As ABJ pointed out (this was a second basis on which she ruled that DOJ had to release the memo, one the DC Circuit said it didn’t need to consider given all the other reasons it had laid out to uphold her decision), the drafting of the letter to Congress — which she showed in the left column — actually preceded the memo — in the right column — advising Barr that because one goal under the Justice Manual is to,

promot[e] confidence on the part of the public and individual defendants that important prosecutorial decisions will be made rationally and objectively on the merits of each case,

Barr should,

examine the Report to determine whether prosecution would be appropriate given the evidence recounted in the Special Counsel’s Report, the underlying law, and traditional principles of federal prosecution.

The public record, then, shows Barr telling Congress about his prosecution declination before he decided to read the Report or even accept the recommendation of people who claimed to have read the Report. It was all completed over a weekend in which the people supposedly advising him were at the same time being directed by him, everyone together in the Attorney General’s conference room for the weekend.

The men finished their letter to Congress announcing that Trump had not committed any crime just after 4:30PM on Sunday and then finalized the declination memo first thing Monday morning.

These men weren’t reading the 400-page Report to figure out what it said (and there’s evidence that neither Rod Rosenstein nor Barr ever read it closely). They were instead trying to figure out how to debunk a Report they had skimmed over the course of seven hours.

And that haste showed up in several places in the memo.

There’s the admission that their recommendations were largely the part of earlier discussions, including from before Barr was hired (as Barr described it, one of the lawyers, Henry Whitaker got pulled in for the first time over the weekend), and therefore only partly about the Report itself.

Over the course of the Special Counsel’s investigation, we have previously discussed these issues within the Department among ourselves, with the Deputy Attorney General, and with you since your appointment, as well as with the Special Counsel and his staff. Our conclusions are the product of those discussions, as well as our review of the Report.

They repeat that admission to explain why they dedicate fully a third of the single page discussing legal precedents to a discussion that happened on July 3, 2018, before the evidence about the Stone interactions with Russia, Paul Manafort’s ties with Konstantin Kilimnik, and Michael Cohen’s interactions with the Kremlin were fully developed.

In our prior discussions, the Special Counsel has acknowledged that “we have not uncovered reported cases that involve precisely analogous conduct.” See Special Counsel’s Office Memorandum to the 600.4 File, Preliminary Assessment of Obstruction Evidence, at 12 (July 3, 2018).

And there’s the footnote explaining that they just weren’t going to cite any facts.

  1. Given the length and detail of the Special Counsel’s Report, we do not recount the relevant facts here. Our discussion and analysis assumes familiarity with the Report as well as much of the background surrounding the Special Counsel’s investigation.

The other reason this memo embodies corruption is that corruption lays at the core of the statute Mueller rested his obstruction analysis on: 18 USC 1512(c)(2) — the same statute DOJ is using in the January 6 prosecutions. So Barr’s 9-page memo had to find a way to claim those actions weren’t corrupt, without entirely parroting the analysis he did in the audition memo he used to get the job, and without acknowledging Barr’s three statements — made under oath during his confirmation hearing — that trading pardons for false testimony would be obstruction (the word “pardon” does not appear in this memo).

Predictably, that discussion was really shoddy. In a key passage, for example, they adopt just one possible measure of corrupt intent, personal embarrassment, something that is only mentioned four times in the Report, always in conjunction with a discussion of at least marginal criminal exposure. Then they use that as a straw man central to their dismissal of Mueller’s lengthy analysis and their decision not to actually engage with Mueller’s analysis.

The Report thus suggests that the President’s exercise of executive discretion for any improper reason, including the prevention of personal embarrassment, could constitute obstruction of justice if it impeded a pending investigation. As we have discussed with you, we do not subscribe to such a reading of the obstruction-of-justice statutes. No reported case comes close to upholding a conviction of such breadth, and a line of Supreme Court precedent, including Arthur Anderson, weighs heavily in favor of objectivity and certainty in the federal criminal law. In order to reach the conclusions in this memorandum, however, we do not believe it necessary to address this disagreement further, because in our view, Volume II of the Report does not establish offenses that would warrant prosecution, even under such a broad legal framework.

Much of their subsequent analysis, dismissing the ten possible examples of obstruction in the Report, was simply factually inaccurate (and in once case, conflicted with something Barr’s own DOJ said a year later). It was not just the then-ongoing Roger Stone conspiracy investigation that refuted the claims Barr had rubber-stamped in secret, and it was not just the ongoing Roger Stone investigation that Barr later took unprecedented steps to thwart so as to protect his basis for exonerating the President. They made claim after claim that wasn’t even an accurate representation of the Report. Just as one measure, as noted, the memo doesn’t use the word pardon at all; the Mueller Report uses it 67 times.

It was only the expectation that all this would remain secret that let Barr and his flunkies entertain the fantasy that any of this could, “promot[e] confidence on the part of the public and individual defendants that important prosecutorial decisions will be made rationally and objectively on the merits of each case.” So they had to keep it secret.

And so, after it was written, a snowball of additional corruption followed, with DOJ making false claims about what was in the memo, and DOJ making more false claims, and Barr taking extraordinary steps to try to ensure that later facts didn’t prove him wrong.

But you don’t have to go further than these nine pages to see that this intervention just dripped with the corruption they were trying to deny.