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About the Two Investigations into Donald Trump

I’m still pretty cranky about the timing and form of Andrew McCabe’s publicity tour.

But since it’s out there, I’d like to comment on three details, two of which have gotten significant comment elsewhere.

Trump wanted Rod Rosenstein to include Russia in the reasons he should fire Comey

The first is that Trump specifically asked Rosenstein to include Russia — McCabe doesn’t further specify what he meant — in the letter recommending he fire Jim Comey.

McCabe says that the basis for both investigations was in Mr. Trump’s own statements. First, Mr. Trump had asked FBI Director Comey to drop the investigation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.  Then, to justify firing Comey, Mr. Trump asked his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, to write a memo listing the reasons Comey had to go. And according to McCabe, Mr. Trump made a request for that memo that came as a surprise.

Andrew McCabe: Rod was concerned by his interactions with the president, who seemed to be very focused on firing the director and saying things like, “Make sure you put Russia in your memo.” That concerned Rod in the same way that it concerned me and the FBI investigators on the Russia case.

If Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein listed the Russia investigation in his memo to the White House, it could look like he was obstructing the Russia probe by suggesting Comey’s firing. And by implication, it would give the president cover.

Scott Pelley: He didn’t wanna put Russia in his memo.

Andrew McCabe: He did not. He explained to the president that he did not need Russia in his memo. And the president responded, “I understand that, I am asking you to put Russia in the memo anyway.”

When the memo justifying Comey’s firing was made public, Russia was not in it. But, Mr. Trump made the connection anyway, telling NBC, then, Russian diplomats that the Russian investigation was among the reasons he fired Comey.

The most obvious explanation for this is that Trump wanted to box DOJ in, to prevent them from expanding their investigative focus from one campaign foreign policy advisor, a second campaign foreign policy advisor, his former campaign manager, his National Security Advisor, and his lifelong political advisor to the one thing those five men had in common, Trump.

But it’s also possible that Trump wanted Rosenstein to do what Don McGahn had narrowly prevented Trump from doing, effectively shifting the obstruction to Rosenstein. That seems like what Rosenstein was worried about, an impression he may have gotten from his instructions from McGahn, laying out the case that investigating Russia would get you fired.

It’s possible, too, that Trump was particularly interested in the public statement for the benefit of the Russians, a view supported by the fact that Trump made sure he fired Comey before his meeting with Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak, and then stated that he had more freedom with Comey gone. That is, it’s possible he needed to prove to the Russians that he could control his own DOJ.

The order to Rosenstein was one of the predications for the investigation into Trump

McCabe elaborates on a story told at least partly by the Peter Strzok-Lisa Page texts: that the day after Trump fired Comey, FBI moved to open two investigations into Trump. A number of people have suggested McCabe just vaguely pointed to Trump’s statements, but he’s more specific than that. One of the statements was that order to Rosenstein to include Russia in the firing memo.

Scott Pelley: How long was it after that that you decided to start the obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations involving the president?

Andrew McCabe: I think the next day, I met with the team investigating the Russia cases. And I asked the team to go back and conduct an assessment to determine where are we with these efforts and what steps do we need to take going forward. I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground in an indelible fashion that were I removed quickly or reassigned or fired that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.

[snip]

Andrew McCabe: There were a number of things that caused us to believe that we had adequate predication or adequate reason and facts, to open the investigation. The president had been speaking in a derogatory way about our investigative efforts for weeks, describing it as a witch hunt…

President Trump on Feb. 16, 2017: Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years.

Andrew McCabe: …publicly undermining the effort of the investigation. The president had gone to Jim Comey and specifically asked him to discontinue the investigation of Mike Flynn which was a part of our Russia case. The president, then, fired the director. In the firing of the director, the president specifically asked Rod Rosenstein to write the memo justifying the firing and told Rod to include Russia in the memo. Rod, of course, did not do that. That was on the president’s mind. Then, the president made those public comments that you’ve referenced both on NBC and to the Russians which was captured in the Oval Office. Put together, these circumstances were articulable facts that indicated that a crime may have been committed. The president may have been engaged in obstruction of justice in the firing of Jim Comey.

As McCabe describes it, the other things are obstruction-related: Trump’s attacks on the Russian investigation.

But remember, McCabe had heard the substance of Mike Flynn’s comments to Sergei Kislyak. The rest of us have seen just outlines of it. In some way, Mike Flynn convinced Sergei Kislyak on December 29, 2016, that Russia had Trump’s assurances on sanctions relief. Trump may well have come up specifically. In any case, the FBI would have had good reason — from Flynn’s lies, and his call records showing his consultations before he lied — to suspect Trump had ordered Flynn’s statements to Kislyak.

McCabe describes the genesis of the obstruction and the counterintelligence investigation

Finally, McCabe provides additional details to the dual investigation into Trump: the obstruction one arising out of Trump’s efforts to kill the Russian investigation, and the counterintelligence one into whether Trump was doing that at Russia’s behest (which goes back to my initial point, that Trump may have wanted Russia included in the firing memos as a signal to Russia he could kill the investigation).

Andrew McCabe: …publicly undermining the effort of the investigation. The president had gone to Jim Comey and specifically asked him to discontinue the investigation of Mike Flynn which was a part of our Russia case. The president, then, fired the director. In the firing of the director, the president specifically asked Rod Rosenstein to write the memo justifying the firing and told Rod to include Russia in the memo. Rod, of course, did not do that. That was on the president’s mind. Then, the president made those public comments that you’ve referenced both on NBC and to the Russians which was captured in the Oval Office. Put together, these circumstances were articulable facts that indicated that a crime may have been committed. The president may have been engaged in obstruction of justice in the firing of Jim Comey.

Scott Pelley: What was it specifically that caused you to launch the counterintelligence investigation?

Andrew McCabe: It’s many of those same concerns that cause us to be concerned about a national security threat. And the idea is, if the president committed obstruction of justice, fired the director of the of the FBI to negatively impact or to shut down our investigation of Russia’s malign activity and possibly in support of his campaign, as a counterintelligence investigator you have to ask yourself, “Why would a president of the United States do that?” So all those same sorts of facts cause us to wonder is there an inappropriate relationship, a connection between this president and our most fearsome enemy, the government of Russia?

Scott Pelley: Are you saying that the president is in league with the Russians?

Andrew McCabe: I’m saying that the FBI had reason to investigate that. Right, to investigate the existence of an investigation doesn’t mean someone is guilty. I would say, Scott, if we failed to open an investigation under those circumstances, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs.

With that laid out, I’d like to look at Rod Rosenstein’s August 2 memo laying out precisely what Mueller was — and had, from the start — been authorized to investigate, which both Paul Manafort and the President’s flunkies in Congress spent a great deal of effort trying to unseal. Knowing as we now do that the redacted passages include at least one and probably two bullet points relating to Trump himself, it seems more clear than every that once you lay out the investigations into Trump’s flunkies known to have been predicated at the time, that’s all that would have been included in the memo:

  • Obstruction investigation into Trump
  • Counterintelligence investigation into Trump
  • Election conspiracy investigation into Manafort
  • Ukrainian influence peddling investigation into Manafort
  • Transition conspiracy investigation into Flynn
  • Turkish influence peddling investigation into Flynn
  • Counterintelligence investigation into Carter Page
  • Election conspiracy investigation into George Papadopoulos
  • Election conspiracy investigation into Roger Stone

At that point, there wouldn’t have been space for at least two of the three bullets that now exist on a scope memo, as laid out by Jerome Corsi’s draft plea (though “c” may have been there in conjunction with Stone).

At the time of the interview, the Special Counsel’s Office was investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including:

a. the theft of campaign-related emails and other documents by the Russian government’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (“GRU”);

b. the GRU’s provision of certain of those documents to an organization (“Organization 1”) for public release in order to expand the GRU’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign; and

c. the nature of any connections between individuals associated with the U.S. presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) and the Russian government or Organization 1.

That’s another to believe — as I have long argued — that bullets a and b got moved under Mueller at a later time, probably around November 2017. After Flynn flipped, the Middle Eastern pass-through corruption would likely have been added, and inauguration graft probably got added after Rick Gates flipped (before the non-Russian parts of both got spun off).

One thing that means, if I’m correct, is that at the time Mueller was hired, the investigation consisted of predicated investigations into probably six individuals. While there would have been a counterintelligence and criminal aspect to both, there was a criminal aspect to each of the investigations, with specific possible crimes envisioned. If that’s right, it means a lot of hot air about Mueller’s appointment simply misunderstood what part of Comey’s confirmed investigation got put under Mueller at first.

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

In any case, the certainty that there are at least one and probably two bullets pertaining to Trump in that August 2 memo is interesting for a few more reasons.

It makes it far more likely that the Strzok 302 — based on a July 19, 2017 interview, drafted the following day, and finalized August 22 — was an effort to formalize Mueller’s authorization to investigate the President. The part of the 302 that pertains to Mike Flynn’s interview takes up the middle third of the report. The rest must lay out the larger investigations, how the FBI found the intercepts between Flynn and Kislyak, and what the response to the interview was at DOJ.

The 302 is sandwiched between two events. First, it follows by just a few weeks the release of the June 9 meeting emails. Indeed, the interview itself took place on the day the NYT published the interview where Trump admits he and Putin spoke about adoptions — effectively making it clear that Putin, not Trump, drafted a statement downplaying that the meeting had established a dirt-for-sanctions relief quid pro quo.

The 302 was also drafted the day before Mueller started pursuing the transition emails and other comms from GSA that would have made it clear that Trump ordered Flynn’s statements and key members of the transition team knew that.

Specifically, on August 23, 2017, the FBI sent a letter (i.e., not a subpoena) to career GSA staff requesting copies of the emails, laptops, cell phones, and other materials associated with nine PTT members responsible for national security and policy matters. On August 30, 2017, the FBI sent a letter (again, not a subpoena) to career GSA staff requesting such materials for four additional senior PTT members.

It also happens to precede, by days, when Michael Horowitz would inform Christopher Wray and then Mueller about the Page-Strzok texts, though that is almost certainly an almost unbelievable coincidence.

In any case, as I’ve noted, unsealing that August 2 memo has been like a crown jewel for the obstructionists, as if they knew that it laid out the investigation into Donald Trump. That effort has been part of a strategy to suggest any investigation into Trump had to be improper, even one investigating whether he engaged in a quid pro quo even before the General Election started, trading US policy considerations — starting with, but not limited to, sanctions relief — in exchange for help getting elected.

The obstructionists want to claim that an investigation that started with George Papadopoulos and then Carter Page and then Mike Flynn (the obstructionists always seem to be silent about Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, as if they knew who engaged in substantive conspiracy with the Russians) should not end up with Donald Trump. And they do so, I think, to suggest that at the moment it discovered that quid pro quo in July 2017, it was already illegitimate.

But as McCabe said, “the FBI had reason to investigate that. Right, to investigate the existence of an investigation doesn’t mean someone is guilty. I would say, Scott, if we failed to open an investigation under those circumstances, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs.”

It just turned out that Trump was guilty.

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

Roger Stone and the Dozens of Search Warrants on Accounts Used to Facilitate the Transfer and Promotion of Stolen Democratic Emails

In response to Roger Stone’s bid to get a new judge, the government has submitted a filing explaining why his case is related to the GRU indictment. It explains that Stone’s alleged false statements pertained to an investigation into links between the Russians who stole Democratic emails, entities who dumped them, and US persons like Stone:

The defendant’s false statements did not arise in a vacuum: they were made in the course of an investigation into possible links between Russian individuals (including the Netyksho defendants), individuals associated with the dumping of materials (including Organization 1), and U.S. persons (including the defendant).

More interestingly, it makes clear that Stone’s communications “with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1” were found in some of the accounts used to transfer and promote the stolen emails.

In the course of investigating that activity, the government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release. Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1.

To be clear: We know that Stone had (innocuous) DMs with both Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks. So this passage is not necessarily saying anything new. But given that Stone’s indictment obscures precisely who his and Jerome Corsi’s go-between with WikiLeaks is, it suggests there may be more direct Stone communications of interest.

Stone will get a sealed description of what those warrants are and — eventually — get the warrants themselves in discovery.

The relevant search warrants, which are being produced to the defendant in discovery in this case, are discussed further in a sealed addendum to this filing.

Meanwhile, Amy Berman Jackson has issued a very limited gag in Stone’s case, prohibiting lawyers from material comments on the case, but gagging Stone only at the courthouse. That said, her gag includes lawyers for witnesses, which would seem to include Jerome Corsi lawyer Larry Klayman.

Counsel for the parties and the witnesses must refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case

ABJ does give Stone the following warnings to shut up, however.

This order should not be interpreted as modifying or superseding the condition of the defendant’s release that absolutely prohibits him from communicating with any witness in the case, either directly or indirectly. Nor does this order permit the defendant to intimidate or threaten any witness, or to engage or attempt to engage in any conduct in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1512.

Finally, while it is not up to the Court to advise the defendant as to whether a succession of public statements would be in his best interest at this time, it notes that one factor that will be considered in the evaluation of any future request for relief based on pretrial publicity will be the extent to which the publicity was engendered by the defendant himself.

So the biggest news here might be that Larry Klayman has to shut up.

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

The Unseen Aspects of Paul Manafort’s Lies and Truth-Telling Are as Telling as the Ones We’ve Seen

As noted, yesterday Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Mueller’s team had proven Paul Manafort lied in three of the five areas they accused him of lying about:

  • The kickback scheme via which he got paid
  • Meetings with Konstantin Kilimnik to share polling data and discuss a “peace” deal with Ukraine
  • The role of a 7-character named person in an attempt to salvage Trump’s campaign being investigated in another district

The ruling is damning, and Manafort now may face what amounts to a life sentence (though, in her order ABJ noted that whether she’ll give him credit for acceptance of responsibility at sentencing depends “on a number of additional factors”).

Yet, in spite of the mounting evidence that Manafort shared polling data at a meeting where he also discussed a Ukrainian peace deal (a backdoor way of giving Russia sanctions relief), in spite of how damning this breach discussion has been, ABJ’s ruling is still just one step in an ongoing process.

I say that for several reasons that have to do with what we didn’t see as part of this breach determination.

We’re only seeing half of Manafort’s cooperation

First, we’re only seeing material relating to half of Manafort’s cooperation. In his declaration on the breach determination, FBI Agent Jeffrey Weiland described Manafort’s cooperation to include 14 sessions:

  • 3 pre-plea proffer sessions: September 11, 12, and 13
  • 9 debriefing sessions: September 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, October 1, October 5, October 11, and October 16
  • 2 grand jury appearances: October 26 and November 2

If I’ve tracked everything properly, the descriptions of Manafort’s lies only include material from some of those sessions:

  • 3 pre-plea proffer sessions: September 11, 12, and 13
  • 5 debriefing sessions: September 20, 21, October 1, October 5, and October 16
  • 1 grand jury appearance: October 26

That means there are three debriefing sessions and a grand jury appearance we haven’t heard anything about yet:

  • 3 debriefing sessions: September 25, 26, 27, and October 11
  • 1 grand jury appearance: November 2

In the breach hearing, Richard Westling claimed that the material we’ve seen constitutes just a “small set” of the topics covered in Manafort’s cooperation and he says some of the other topics were “more sensitive topics.”

WESTLING: And I think, you know, the last point that I would make is that given that relatively small set of areas where this occurred, whether even the allegations are being made, you know, we note that there’s not really a lot to explain. There’s no pattern, there’s no clear motive that would suggest someone who was trying to intentionally not share information. And many of the more sensitive topics that we’re aware of from a — all of us paying attention to what’s gone in the news cycle over the last many months, you know, are things where these issues didn’t come up, where there wasn’t a complaint about the information Mr. Manafort provided. And so we think that’s important context as we get started here today.

THE COURT: Do I have — and I don’t think I need them for today, but I’m certain that what you just said is also going to be a part of your acceptance of responsibility argument and argument at sentencing. Do I have the 302s from 12 days of interviews? Do I have everything, or do I only have what was given to me because it bore on the particular issues that I’m being asked to rule on today?

MR. WEISSMANN: Judge, you do not have everything. We are happy to give you the — all of the 302s. We just gave you — you have, I think, the majority of them, but not all of them.

THE COURT: Okay. And I don’t know that — if I need them. But, it’s hard to assess — and I certainly don’t think they should be a public part of any sentencing submission. But, if you want me to put this in context of more that was said, it helps to have it.

Now, it’s possible that Manafort did tell the truth about these more sensitive topics. It’s possible that (for example, with regards to Trump’s foreknowledge of the June 9 meeting), Manafort lied but prosecutors don’t have proof he did. Or it’s possible they know he lied about other issues but for investigative reasons, don’t want to share the proof they know he lied.

One of the other topics Manafort would have been asked about — which Westling’s reference to “what’s gone in the news cycle over the last many months” may reference — pertains to Roger Stone’s actions.

ABJ asked for — and presumably has or will obtain — the rest of the 302s from Manafort’s cooperation, so she may end up agreeing with Manafort’s lawyers that some of his cooperation was quite valuable.

Mueller was interested in Manafort’s cooperation, in part, to obtain intelligence

As I’ve noted before, Andrew Weissmann described Manafort’s cooperation to be somewhat unusual for the extent to which Mueller was seeking intelligence, rather than criminal evidence. Though he makes clear that that was true, as well, of Rick Gates’ early cooperation.

[T]here’s enormous interest in what I will call — for lack of a better term — the intelligence that could be gathered from having a cooperating witness in this particular investigation

[snip]

And with Mr. Gates, we also wanted to make sure that we could get information, and we thought that there was — I think there was certainly a significant issue. And we dealt with it by having the defendant plead to something in addition to take — to have the ramification for it. But that is to show, I think, an example of wanting the intelligence, but dealing with what we considered to be, you know, unacceptable behavior from the Government, particularly from somebody whose information we would rely on, and potentially ask the jury to rely on.

So we may never see a great deal of what Manafort was asked about.

Mueller is still protecting an ongoing investigation

That said, Mueller is still protecting both his and the other DOJ ongoing investigation. We know what Mueller is protecting from the redactions in the transcript.

ABJ noted that much of what they discussed at the breach hearing could be unsealed, while noting that Mueller felt more strongly about keeping some things secret.

I think a large portion of what we discussed could be public. I think there are certain issues where you probably only need to redact out names and turn them back into entities. And then there are may be one or two issues where we’re really talking about something that was completely redacted at every point prior to this and will continue to be. And, hopefully, you’ll both be on the same page about that with respect to what of the investigation is not yet public. I think the Office of Special Counsel has the stronger point of view about that.

Certainly, all the names had to be redacted, under DOJ guidelines prohibiting the publication of anyone’s name who has not been charged. Likewise, the other investigation is not Mueller’s to reveal (in any case, it seems to be still active, even if Manafort’s refusal to cooperate may have protected the target of it).

But more of the rest of the discussion could have been unsealed if Mueller didn’t have ongoing interests in the topics. Those topics include Manafort’s ongoing communications with the Administration, Ukrainian peace deal/sanctions relief, and his sharing of polling data (though there’s one reference to sharing polling data on page 19 that may have gotten missed by the censors). Mueller redacted those things even though Weissmann makes clear that they believe the polling data goes to the core of what they are investigating.

MR. WEISSMANN: So — so, first, in terms of the what it is that the special counsel is tasked with doing, as the Court knows from having that case litigated before you, is that there are different aspects to what we have to look at, and one is Russian efforts to interfere with the election, and the other is contacts, witting or unwitting, by Americans with Russia, and then whether there was — those contacts were more intentional or not. And for us, the issue of [2 lines redacted] is in the core of what it is that the special counsel is supposed to be investigating.

Note his use of the present progressive. They’re still trying to answer the question about whether that August 2 amounts to witting conspiracy with Russia.

Mueller is still sitting on information about the shared polling data

It may well be that, given Manafort’s refusal to cooperate on this issue, Mueller will never be able to charge Trump’s campaign for sharing polling data with Russia in the context of sanctions relief.

But they are sitting on more information than came out publicly in this breach discussion. Starting on page 93 of the transcript, ABJ, on her own, brings up other information she has seen, that pertains to the topic.

THE COURT: I need to ask the Office of Special Counsel about something ex parte because — and so I apologize for that, but I need to do that. And it may be after I talk to them, they tell me there’s no problem with sharing it with you. But I have received information in this case, in this binder, and in other means, and I just want to make sure I understand something. And so, I can’t — I need to ask —

MR. DOWNING: We would object. But we don’t know he —

THE COURT: I note your objection. And I will deem your objection also to be a request that what we’re about to discuss be revealed to you. And that will be the first thing I’m going to ask. And we can do it at the end, after we’re done, or you can just have him come to the bench for a minute.

The ex parte discussion on this topic is fairly short. But after the lunch break, Weissmann tells ABJ that the material she was thinking of remains redacted. But he does point her to two Gates 302s from early in his cooperation that seem to provide some of the same information.

THE COURT: All right. Let me start with you, Mr. Weissmann. Is there anything further you can add to what we talked about, that you can add publicly?

MR. WEISSMANN: Yes. Yes, Your Honor. So, we haven’t finished our review, but we believe that the material that you asked about was redacted.

THE COURT: Okay.

MR. WEISSMANN: However, I would like to direct your attention to two exhibits in the record. If you recall, I mentioned that I recalled that Mr. Gates had, very early on in his cooperation, given us information about [redacted]. And there are two 302s that are dated in, I believe, both in January of 2018. So before he actually pled guilty, so in connection with his proffers. So, the first one is Exhibit 222. And if you look at page 17 of that exhibit, there’s a long explanation of communications with [redacted] that refer to [redacted] at the direction of Mr. Manafort. And then if you look — and that is dated January 31st, 2018. And that was, of course, provided to counsel in connection with the Eastern District of Virginia trial. And Exhibit 236, and I believe I referred you previously to page 3, and I would also refer you to page 5. Both of those refer to [redacted] and also refer to the discussions of the — discussions of [redacted] at the August 2nd, 2016 meeting.

THE COURT: All right. I will look at all of that. So for right now, I’m going to leave the little conversation that we had ex parte, ex parte with your objection noted.

MR. WEISSMANN: Judge, we will continue to look to see if there is any portion that was unredacted to confirm that.

Given the issues she has presided over, this may pertain to one of the search warrant affidavits that Manafort tried to get completely unsealed last year, but which ABJ suggested pertained to other people.

In any case, there’s more on the sharing of polling data that ABJ knows about, this is relevant to its importance, but that does not appear in the unsealed transcript.

Mueller didn’t reveal all the evidence of Manafort’s attempts to contact the Administration

Finally, there appear to be communications between Manafort and Administration officials that Mueller did not release as part of this process. The government stated that clearly in a footnote (on page 27) of its breach declaration.

This is not a complete listing of such contacts Manafort had with Administration officials. Further, for the purpose of proving the falsity of Manafort’s assertions in this section, the government is not relying on communications that may have taken place, with Manafort’s consent, through his legal counsel.

And, in a bid to refute Manafort’s claim, in the redaction fail filing, that, “Mr. Manafort was well aware that the Special Counsel’s attorneys and investigators had scrutinized all of his electronic communications” because “Mr. Manafort voluntarily produced numerous electronic devices and passwords at the request of the Government,” Agent Weiland states that the FBI had found more than 10 devices or documents for which Manafort hadn’t shared a password.

Defendant said in his pleading that he has provided electronic to the government. However, although he has provided some electronic data, passwords, and documents, in more than ten instances he did not provide passwords to access his electronic communications, thumb drives, or documents.

Mueller’s team remains coy about how many of those 10 accounts, thumb drives, or documents they’ve been able to access without his assistance.

And Greg Andres provides some hints about what those other conversations involve: Manafort providing information about the investigation.

MR. ANDRES: Sure. Judge, throughout the interviews with Mr. Manafort and some of the issues we’ve discussed today, you see that he constantly either minimizes the information he has about the administration or any contact with the administration. So there’s an issue whether or not during his cooperation he’s communicating with [15 character redaction] or providing information about the questions or other things that are happening in the special counsel investigation, whether he’s sharing that with other people. And this is another example of Mr. Manafort —

THE COURT: That hasn’t been given to me as we’re troubled by this or he wasn’t truthful about that, so I don’t see how to put this in the context of that because I don’t know about that.

MR. ANDRES: Well, so for example, in the No. 4, the one that Mr. Manafort — that Mr. Weissmann just talked about with respect to the [redacted, other investigation], you see Mr. Manafort changing his story so as not to implicate either [redacted] or someone in [redacted]. I think, with respect to this issue, again, Mr. Manafort is trying to distance himself from the administration and saying he’s not having contact with the administration at a time when he’s under at least one indictment.

THE COURT: But you’re not suggesting right now that there’s more information in here about other efforts to distance himself from the administration or to deny a relationship or to deny reporting back to them?

MR. ANDRES: We’re not relying on any other evidence of that issue.

Particularly given that Manafort, between his early September proffers and his October 5 lies about the other investigation, managed to match his own testimony to that of the Trump associate being targeted in it, those communications may even date as recently as last fall (though that would mean he was communicating with the Administration from jail).

The fact that Mueller has other communications between Manafort and the Administration — but chose not to bolster their argument that Manafort lied about ongoing communications with the White House — suggests protecting what he wants to do with those communications is more valuable than convincing ABJ that Manafort lied about this topic (and, indeed, this is one of the two topics where she did not rule for the government).

For all the debate about whether Mueller is almost done or not, the things we didn’t learn about during this breach discussion are just as interesting as the things we did learn about. They suggest that all the discussion about cooperation deals (including my own) often forgets that Mueller is seeking both criminal evidence and intelligence on what the Russians were doing. They also suggest that Manafort may have provided testimony that bears on other parts of the investigation we’ve recently learned about (which might include Stone, or the Trump Tower deal) — but we can’t be sure whether Manafort told the truth, or whether he lied but Mueller either can’t prove or doesn’t want to reveal that he knows Manafort lied. They suggest that Mueller would still like to make the case, in whatever form, that Manafort intentionally gave the Russians polling data with the understanding that he’d push a Ukrainian peace deal that amounted to sanctions relief — but Manafort’s refusal to cooperate on this point might thwart that effort. Finally, they make it clear that Manafort remained a part of an effort to obstruct this investigation, including via means that bypassed the Joint Defense Agreement Trump has exploited.

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

Roger Stone Adopts the Russian Troll Evidence-Phishing Technique

Roger Stone submitted two motions in his defense today. The first, opposing a gag in the case, is rigorous and will make for an interesting legal battle (until such time as Stone violates the protective order in the case, in which case it’ll become a no-brainer; here’s the government’s motion supporting a limited gag). The second, objecting to the designation of Stone’s case as “related to” the GRU indictment, is a frivolous attempt to force evidence into the public realm, similar to the way Yevgeniy Prigozhin is using a defense of Concord Management in an attempt to obtain the intelligence that went into that investigation.

As I noted in this post, the local DC rules deem a case to be related in three cases, the third of which says that cases are related if they arise from a common wiretap, search warrant, or the same alleged criminal event.

A related case for the purpose of this Rule means as follows:

(1) Criminal cases are deemed related when

(i) a superseding indictment has been filed, or

(ii) more than one indictment is filed or pending against the same defendant or defendants, or

(iii) prosecution against different defendants arises from a common wiretap, search warrant, or activities which are a part of the same alleged criminal event or transaction. A case is considered pending until a defendant has been sentenced.

With his filing, Stone includes the form prosecutors used to lay out why his case related to that of the GRU officers who hacked the election.

The form makes it clear that the cases are related both because there’s a common search warrant and because both cases arise from “activities which are part of the same alleged criminal event or transaction.” Not only that, it explains why that’s the case:

In particular, certain evidence that is relevant to this case was derived from search warrants executed in Netyksho et al., and the alleged obstructive conduct in this cases arises from claimed and then disputed advance knowledge about the dissemination of stolen document during the 2016 presidential campaign that forms, in part, the basis for the criminal charges against Netkysho et al.

Stone’s lawyers don’t mention that explanation at all in their motion. Instead, they argue (fairly, as far as this cynical move goes) that because they need to object to the designation within 10 days but they haven’t obtained discovery yet to understand this, they need to register this objection now. Rather than asking for that an explanation or due consideration of the explanation included on the form, though, they instead demand all the evidence and reasoning used to support the designation.

At first blush and without the benefit of discovery, there is nothing about these cases that suggests they are suitably related, other than they are both brought by the Office of Special Counsel. The notice served on defense counsel requires an objection to the designation be filed within ten days of the arraignment. As a result of this constraint of a timely objection, the government should be required to disclose all evidence and reasoning used to support its requested designation since the goal of the local rule is to safeguard the honor of the district court and protect the rights of defendants like Roger Stone. [my emphasis]

The motion then goes on to make a series of contradictory claims. For example, he claims,

Defendant Stone has been charged with lying to Congress and witness tampering under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1505, 1001, 1512(b)(1), 2. There is no mention of hacking, stealing, or involvement with Russia or the Netyksho defendants

Just a few paragraphs before he cites his own indictment mentioning that very same hack.

The indictment in the Stone case alleges that the servers of the Democratic National Committee were hacked by unspecified “Russian government actors”

Ultimately, he gets around to admitting it is the same alleged hack.

There is not one single fact alleged in either indictment about the facts in the other indictment, other than that the Russians stole emails that Stone, a year later, allegedly lied to Congress about regarding his failed efforts to find out about them. Thus not a single one of the three criteria exists that is necessary for relatedness to be found.

Similarly, he notes how the GRU indictment describes him,

The Office of Special Counsel further alleged that “on or about August 15, 2016, the [Russian defendants] posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, ‘thank u for writing back…do u find anyt[h]ing interesting the docs I posted? … The person responded, ‘[p]retty standard’.”

Just a few paragraphs before he cites similar language from his own indictment.

It also claims that Defendant Stone was a political consultant employed by the Trump campaign until August 2015 (Id. ¶ 4), and that “[d]uring the summer of 2016. . .[he] spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about Organization 1 and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign.”

Most interesting is the way Stone acknowledges that the GRU indictment alleges that Guccifer 2.0 sent 20,000 emails to WikiLeaks,

Later, it was also alleged that some 20,000 stolen emails were transmitted by Guccifer 2.0 to “Organization 1.”

Just a few paragraphs before he admits his own indictment describes him bragging about communicating with WikiLeaks.

The indictment further alleges that Defendant Stone was “claiming both publicly and privately to have communicated with Organization 1″ (Id. ¶ 6),

That said, Stone doesn’t consider the commonality of WikiLeaks’ actions in this motion, which is probably the point.

Understand, Stone is trying to figure out several things with his demand to receive the evidence underlying it immediately. He’s trying to figure out what search warrants targeting him, going back almost a year, look like. He’s trying to figure out whether the communications between whoever his intermediary to WikiLeaks was got picked up discussing his outreach and if so in what granularity. He’s trying to figure out what kind of evidence Mueller has to indict WikiLeaks (which Stone would surely use, as he already has, to make a First Amendment defense of WikiLeaks’ role in the operation). And he’s trying to figure out whether Mueller has the good to name him as a co-conspirator, a move that might or might not go through WikiLeaks alone (though not exclusively — as I note, he discusses analytics with Guccifer 2.0 at a time when GRU was actively stealing the Democrats’ analytics).

In any case, Stone likely already has some of this information; it’s likely that the various conspiracies he’s at risk for being charged with were on his search warrant.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty interested in why these cases are deemed related and (just as an example) the GRU indictment was not deemed related to George Papadopoulos’ case, which was still pending at the time of the indictment (the answer is probably that none of the Papadopoulos investigation implicated WikiLeaks directly).

But once the government claimed there were common search warrants, plural, used in both these cases, it became really easy to make sense of why: WikiLeaks, the Guccifer Twitter account, and Stone’s own warrants would be common to both of the indictments.

Roger Stone was, thus far, just charged with false statements. But it’s clear the government is still entertaining other charges against him and others. So Stone is using this related designation as a way to fish for how close any further charges might be.

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

A Focus on Florida: What Happened to the Three Campaign Officials Chatting with Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s Trolls?

I want to go back to something I’ve been uniquely obsessed about for almost an entire year. As I’ve noted, the Internet Research Agency indictment describes the IRA trolls interacting with three Trump campaign officials that it describes in the manner used with possible co-conspirators.

74. On or about August 15, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators received an email at one of their false U.S. persona accounts from a real U.S. person, a Florida-based political activist identified as the “Chair for the Trump Campaign” in a particular Florida county. The activist identified two additional sites in Florida for possible rallies. Defendants and their co-conspirators subsequently used their false U.S. persona accounts to communicate with the activist about logistics and an additional rally in Florida.

75. On or about August 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used a false U.S. persona Instagram account connected to the ORGANIZATION-created group “Tea Party News” to purchase advertisements for the “Florida Goes Trump” rally.

76. On or about August 18, 2016, the real “Florida for Trump” Facebook account responded to the false U.S. persona “Matt Skiber” account with instructions to contact a member of the Trump Campaign (“Campaign Official 1”) involved in the campaign’s Florida operations and provided Campaign Official 1’s email address at the campaign domain donaldtrump.com. On approximately the same day, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the email address of a false U.S. persona, [email protected], to send an email to Campaign Official 1 at that donaldtrump.com email account, which read in part:

Hello [Campaign Official 1], [w]e are organizing a state-wide event in Florida on August, 20 to support Mr. Trump. Let us introduce ourselves first. “Being Patriotic” is a grassroots conservative online movement trying to unite people offline. . . . [W]e gained a huge lot of followers and decided to somehow help Mr. Trump get elected. You know, simple yelling on the Internet is not enough. There should be real action. We organized rallies in New York before. Now we’re focusing on purple states such as Florida.

The email also identified thirteen “confirmed locations” in Florida for the rallies and requested the campaign provide “assistance in each location.”

77. On or about August 18, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators sent money via interstate wire to another real U.S. person recruited by the ORGANIZATION, using one of their false U.S. personas, to build a cage large enough to hold an actress depicting Clinton in a prison uniform.

78. On or about August 19, 2016, a supporter of the Trump Campaign sent a message to the ORGANIZATION-controlled “March for Trump” Twitter account about a member of the Trump Campaign (“Campaign Official 2”) who was involved in the campaign’s Florida operations and provided Campaign Official 2’s email address at the domain donaldtrump.com. On or about the same day, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the false U.S. persona [email protected] account to send an email to Campaign Official 2 at that donaldtrump.com email account.

79. On or about August 19, 2016, the real “Florida for Trump” Facebook account sent another message to the false U.S. persona “Matt Skiber” account to contact a member of the Trump Campaign (“Campaign Official 3”) involved in the campaign’s Florida operations. On or about August 20, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the “Matt Skiber” Facebook account to contact Campaign Official 3.

Since this indictment was rolled out last February, no one has identified these three Trump campaign officials nor what they did in response to dangles from Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s trolls.

That said, contrary to the assumption made when a DC-based team of US Attorneys joined the IRA prosecution team, DOJ’s investigation on this front has continued. Not only was IRA accountant Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova charged in EDVA last September (the complaint was unsealed in October, during a pre-election disinformation campaign involving IRA trolls), but in August, Mueller prosecutor Rush Atkinson was still pursuing investigative action in the IRA case (this means it’s possible that the involvement of a DC prosecutor in Roger Stone’s prosecution serves largely to keep the Mueller team targeting him focused on other aspects of their investigation of him).

In any case, since the mention of three different campaign officials interacting with Prigozhin’s trolls, we’ve gotten a number of other reasons to be interested in what happened in Florida in 2016.

Obviously, there’s Roger Stone. The actions laid out in his existing indictment largely take place in DC and NY, but we know Mueller has pursued (and continues to pursue, with Andrew Miller) testimony from aides working for Stone elsewhere, including in Florida. We know in May 2016, for example, Stone met in Florida with a Russian using the name Henry Greenberg offering dirt on Hillary. In principle, his denials on that should be taken no more seriously than his denials pertaining to WikiLeaks, but he was willing to correct his testimony on that point, unlike his testimony on WikiLeaks.

And there are other connections in Florida of interest. In a piece adding to stuff we already knew about Sergei Millian (which bizarrely remains silent about Ivan Timofeev and Oleg Deripaska’s ties to him, or his promise to build a Trump Tower), the WaPo describes how Millian worked with a Florida-based Russian named Mikhail Morgulis to build support in Florida.

As he was working to build a relationship with Papadopoulos in 2016, Millian also offered to serve as a conduit to the Trump campaign for a Belarusan author in Florida with connections to the Russian government, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.

The author, Mikhail Morgulis, who said he never ended up hearing from anyone in the campaign, later claimed that he rallied Russian Americans to back Trump.

[snip]

Morgulis took credit in interviews with Russian media for helping to elect Trump by organizing Russian-speaking voters.

“I personally visited 11 cities in Florida, where I said that if you want our new president to be a homosexual . . . vote for Hillary,” he said a July 2017 interview with the Russian government-funded outlet Sputnik, touting a false claim popular among some conservative conspiracy theorists. In the interview, he also said he had briefly met both Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Then consider this detail from BuzzFeed’s report on what Suspicious Activity Reports say about Rinat Akhmetshin’s finances. Rather than getting paid by Lanny Wiles — as had previously been portrayed — Akhmetshin was in fact paying Wiles.

Akhmetshin continued receiving checks and wires from Wiles Consulting, a Florida-based company controlled by Lanny Wiles, a longtime Republican operator. Those payments, which began in January 2016, extended to April 2017, and totaled $72,500.

Investigators at Akhmetshin’s bank said the direction of the payments — from Wiles to Akhmetshin — contrasted with how their working relationship had been portrayed publicly. Investigators, citing unspecified public information, said Wiles claimed he was paid by Akhmetshin to work on the Magnitsky lobbying issue, not the other way around. The investigators did not cite their source, but a 2016 Politico article quoted Wiles saying he had been paid by Akhmetshin. Investigators at Bank of America did find that the foundation had issued checks to Wiles, but the amount is unclear. Wiles, whose wife was the chair of Trump’s Florida campaign, did not return messages seeking comment.

In the same Politico article, Wiles said he didn’t want to register as a foreign agent, but that Akhmetshin had told him it wouldn’t be necessary, as he would be working for BakerHostetler.

In the wake of the Natalia Veselnitskaya indictment in December, the government will have an easy time arguing that Akhmetshin and Wiles’ lobbying will easily be demonstrated to be work on behalf of Russia.

As noted, Wiles’ wife, Susie, was Trump’s Florida campaign chair, and the woman who got Veselnitskaya a seat in a hearing on Magnitsky sanctions.

Update: The Wiles’ daughter, Caroline Wiles, quit her White House job as director of scheduling after it became clear she’d fail a background check. (h/t LR)

Among those who won’t be working at the White House was President Donald Trump’s director of scheduling, Caroline Wiles, the daughter of Susan Wiles, Trump’s Florida campaign director and former campaign manager for Governor Rick Scott. Wiles, who resigned Friday before the background check was completed, was appointed deputy assistant secretary before the inauguration in January. Two sources close to Wiles said she will get another job in Treasury.

There seems to be a lot more that happened with Trump’s campaign in Florida in 2016 than we currently know about. Including the three campaign officials mentioned in the still active investigation into Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s trolls.

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

Fun with Dr. Corsi’s “Forensics”!

By far the most ridiculous part of Jerome Corsi’s book is where he spends an entire chapter pretending that he figured out on his own that WikiLeaks had John Podesta’s emails rather than being told that by someone whose identity he’s trying to avoid sharing with Mueller’s team.

The chapter is one of three in the book that he presents as having been written in real time, effectively as diary entries. Corsi presents it as the fevered narrative he writes on November 18, 2018, at a time when Mueller’s team was cracking down on him for his continued lies but before he refused the plea deal, after a night of nightmares.

Last night, I was plagued by nightmares that caused me to sleep very poorly.

His change in voice is followed with an even more direct address to readers, which he returns to as an interjection in the middle of his crazed explanation.

I am going to write this chapter to explain to you, the reader, how I used my basic intuitive skills as a reporter to figure out in August 2016 that Assange had Podesta’s emails, that Assange planned to start making the Podesta file public in October 2016, and that Assange would release the emails in a serial, day-by-day fashion, right up to election day.

[snip]

Now, I know this is tedious and will tax many readers, so I’ve decided here to take a break. You have to understand what I am going through is a roller-coaster. Sometimes I feel like everything is normal and that the federal government will understand that I am a reporter and should be protected by the First Amendment. Then, I realize that the next ring of the doorbell could be the FBI seeking to handcuff me and arrest me in full view of my family.

Resuming after a much-needed break, we need only a few more dates to complete the analysis.

The chapter consists of three things, none of which even remotely presents a case for how he could have concluded WikiLeaks was sitting on John Podesta’s emails:

  • An argument that claims he simply reasoned it all out, without proof
  • A chronology that makes no sense given the July and August 2016 emails he’s trying to explain away
  • Other crap theories designed to undermine Mueller’s argument about Russian involvement, most of which post-date the date when Corsi claims to have figured out the Podesta emails were coming

Corsi’s “argument”

Corsi’s main argument is this:

Clearly, I reasoned there had to have been Podesta emails on that server that would have discussed the Clinton/DNC plot to deny Bernie Sanders the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2016. Where were these Podesta emails, I wondered?

[snip]

I felt certain that if Assange had Podesta’s emails he would wait to drop them in October 2016, capturing the chance to stage the 2016 “October Surprise,” a term that had been in vogue in U.S. presidential politics since 1980 when Jimmy Carter lost re-election to Ronald Reagan, largely because the Reagan camp finessed Ayatollah Khomeini to postpone the release of the hostages from the American embassy in Tehran until after that year’s November election. I also figured that Assange would release the Podesta emails in drip-drip fashion, serially, over a number of days, stretching right up to the Election Day. In presidential politics, the news cycle speeds up, such that what might take a month or a week to play out in a normal news cycle might take only a day or two in the heightened intensity of a presidential news cycle—especially a presidential news cycle in October, right at Election Day is nearing.

In spite of his claims, elsewhere, to have done forensic analysis that told him John Podesta’s emails were coming, ultimately his argument boils down to this: he figured out that Podesta’s emails (which he purportedly hadn’t read) would be the most damning possible thing and therefore WikiLeaks must have and intend to release them in a serial release because it made sense.

Corsi’s chronology

From there, Corsi proceeds to spin out the following bullshit about how he came to that conclusion:

  • Starting in February 2016, a woman named LH whose ex-husband was a former top NSA figure told him [why?] incorrect things about how the Democrats organize their servers. This information seems to be inflected by the flap over VAN space the previous December, but Corsi doesn’t mention that. This information is wrong in many of the ways later skeptics of the Russian hack would be wrong, but Corsi claims he had that wrong understanding well in advance of the crowd.
  • When Assange announced on June 12 that he had upcoming Hillary leaks, Corsi was “alerted to the possibility Assange had obtained emails from the DNC email server,” which he took to mean VAN.
  • When the WaPo reported on the DNC hack on June 14, 2016, Corsi took Democrats’ (false) reassurances about financial data to be true, matched it to his incorrect claimed understanding of how the Democrats organized their data, and assumed VAN had been hacked (this is the day before Guccifer 2.0 would claim he got in through VAN, remember). Corsi also claims to have noted from the WaPo story that Perkins Coie and Crowdstrike were involved, the latter of which he tied to Google’s Eric Schmidt (who was helping Dems on tech), which together he used to suggest that in real time he believed the Democrats had “manufactured” evidence to pin the hack on the Russians. Again, Corsi is suggesting he got to the conspiracy theories it took the rest of Republicans a year to get to, but in real time.
  • Corsi incorrectly read the Crowdstrike white paper (on which the WaPo story was obviously based and which Ellen Nakashima had had for about a week, and which includes an update written in response to the appearance of Guccifer 2.0) as a response to Guccifer 2.0’s post on June 15 and — in spite of the WaPo report that Cozy Bear had been “monitoring DNC’s email and chat communications” — concluded that the hackers had not taken email.
  • After the DNC emails were released, Corsi had what he claims was his big insight: that these emails largely came from DNC’s Comms Director and their finance staffers, which meant Podesta’s (and DWS’, which he logically should but did not, pursue) had to be what was left. Mind you, the former point is something WikiLeaks made clear on its website:

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks began releasing over two days a total of 44,053 emails and17,761 email attachments from key figures in the DNC. What I noticed immediately was that the largest number of emails by far came from DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda (10,520 emails), who had approximately three-times the emails released for the next highest on the list, National Finance Director Jordon Kaplan (3,799 emails) and Finance Chief of Staff Scott Corner (3,095 emails). What I noticed immediately was that emails from Debbie Wasserman Schultz and John Podesta were missing. Yet, by analyzing the addresses in the emails, it was clear the “From,” “To,” and or “CC” listings indicate the email was sent by or to an addressee using the DNC email server, identified as @dnc.org.

  • In his narrative of how he “figured out” there must be Podesta emails, he relies not on the July 25 NBC story he cites earlier in his book, quoting Assange saying there was “no proof” the emails came from Russia (and suggesting his set were a different one than the ones analyzed by cybersecurity experts), but a CNN story he dates to July 26 but which got updated early morning July 27, citing Assange saying, “Perhaps one day the source or sources will step forward and that might be an interesting moment some people may have egg on their faces. But to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are;” Corsi also cites a July 27 NYMag story citing the CNN one. Corsi claims that as he was listening to this interview, he realized that Assange had Podesta emails “lifted from the DNC server,” which would be incorrect even if it were true, given that Podesta’s emails were from his Gmail account.

Listening to this interview on CNN, all the pieces fit in place for me. Assange had Podesta emails that were also lifted from the DNC server and these were the emails he was holding to drop later in the campaign.

  • Corsi describes “the last piece of the puzzle” to be Seth Rich’s death on July 10, 2016, but which occurred before Assange’s post DNC release interviews, in one of which Assange suggested his sources were still alive to “step forward,” then points to Assange’s offer of a reward for information leading to a conviction on August 9. This happened after he had already suggested to Stone that Podesta’s emails were coming.

None of this explains how Corsi would not have decided that Clinton Foundation emails were what was missing, which is what Stone believed when he instructed Corsi to reach out to Ted Malloch on July 25, the day before the Assange interviews Corsi says led him to conclude WikiLeaks instead had Podesta’s emails. And much of it assumes that a unified hack occurred (otherwise it would be impossible to decide what was coming from what had already been released), an assumption he claims not to believe in much of the rest of his crap.

Corsi’s crap

In addition to that chronology, though, Corsi throws in a bunch of crap meant to discredit the evidence laid out in the Mueller GRU indictment. Much of this evidence post-dates the moment he claims he figured out that WikiLeaks had Podesta’s emails, which makes it irrelevant to his theory, nevertheless Corsi throws it out there.

  • Corsi takes the Guccifer 2.0 leak of DCCC files to Aaron Nevins — which didn’t happen until over a month after he told Stone that WikiLeaks had Podesta emails — to be “proof” not just that Guccifer 2.0 only hacked DNC files, which he again asserts incorrectly came from VAN, but also that Guccifer 2.0 had not hacked emails.
  • Corsi claims that Guccifer 2.0 “never bragged that he hacked the DNC email server that contained the Podesta emails,” even though Guccifer 2.0 did brag that WikiLeaks had published documents he gave them after the DNC leak.
  • Corsi claims that Guccifer 2.0 published donor lists and voter analysis at DCLeaks, which is generally inaccurate (indeed, some Podesta files came out via DCLeaks!), but also admits a tie between Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks that would either rely on contemporary reporting that asserted a tie, the GRU indictment, or some personal knowledge not otherwise explained.
  • Corsi claims that, unlike Marcel Lazar, “Guccifer 2.0 has never been positively identified let alone arrested,” without explaining how he’s sure that the 12 GRU officers Mueller indicted don’t amount to positively identifying the people running Guccifer 2.0. Indeed, rather than addressing that indictment, Corsi instead tries to rebut the Intelligence Community Assessment’s “high confidence” attribution of Guccifer 2.0 to GRU, which he claims relies on ‘tradecraft’ that relies on circumstantial evidence at best, presuming a hacker leaves a signature.” In the ICA, that discussion appears in a section that also notes that “Some analytic judgments are based directly on collected information,” as the Mueller indictment makes clear the GRU one was.
  • Corsi claims the Vault 7 release suggesting the CIA has a tool to falsely attribute its own hacks “undermined” the IC’s attribution of Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, without realizing that’s a different issue from whether the CIA, NSA, and FBI can correctly attribute the hack (though if the Russians obtained those files in the weeks after Joshua Schulte allegedly stole them in 2016, it would have made it harder for CIA to chase down the Russians).
  • Corsi initially argues, providing no evidence except that he’s sure the DNC emails come from the DNC email server and not NGP-VAN or Hillary’s private server, that, “While the DNC email server could have been hacked by an outside agent, what is equally plausible is that the emails could have been stolen by someone on the inside of the DNC, perhaps an employee with their own @dnc.org email address.” He then feeds the Seth Rich conspiracy.
  • Corsi uses what he claims to have learned about serialization in a college course covering Dickens (but details of which, regarding the history of Dickens’ serialization, he gets entirely wrong) to explain how he knew the Podesta emails would come out in a serialized release.
  • Corsi dismisses the possibility the Russians used a cut-out with this garble:

The attempt to distinguish is disingenuous, suggesting the Russians may have been responsible for the hack, turning the information to a third party, not the Russians or a state actor, who handed WikiLeaks the emails and thus became “the source.”

  • Corsi cites the Nation’s August 9, 2017 version of the Bill Binney theory purportedly proving that a set of files purporting to be from the DNC — which were never released by WikiLeaks — were copied inside the US and also noting that the Russian metadata in the first Guccifer 2.0 documents was placed there intentionally. As I noted at the time, the two theories actually don’t — at all — disprove the claim that Russia hacked the DNC. But they’re even worse for Corsi’s claims, because (even though the set of files were called NGP/VAN) they undermine his false claim about the Democrats’ servers and they acknowledge that the files he said disproved that Guccifer 2.0 had Podesta files actually were Podesta files.

These things are utterly irrelevant to the soundness of Corsi’s own claim to have been able to guess that the Podesta emails were coming and — as I note — a number of them sharply contradict what he claims to believe.

Corsi’s mistaken notion of his role in proving “collusion”

But the crap does serve Corsi’s larger point, which is to undermine what he imagines Mueller’s theory of “collusion” to be.

Mueller & Company had decided the Trump campaign somehow encouraged Russia to steal the DNC emails and give them to Assange, so WikiLeaks could publish them. Then to establish “Russian collusion” with the Trump campaign, Mueller was out to connect his own dots. The Mueller prosecutors had been charged with the mission to grill me until

I would “give up” my source to Assange. I was their critical “missing link.” If Rhee, Zelinsky, and Goldstein only got me to confess, Mueller figured he could connect the dots from Roger Stone to me to Assange, and from Assange back again to me, and from me to Roger Stone, who would feed the information to Steve Bannon, then chairing the Trump campaign.

The final dots, the Mueller prosecutors assumed, would connect Bannon to Trump and the “Russian collusion” chain of communication would be complete. The only problem was that I did not have a source connecting me to Assange, so Mueller’s chain-link narrative does not connect.

While I actually think it possible that Corsi’s shenanigans may have harmed the neatness of Mueller’s case against Stone, perhaps even leading Mueller to charge Stone only with the obstruction charges rather than in a larger conspiracy, it doesn’t affect the understanding with which Mueller seems to be approaching the Don Jr side of any conspiracy, in which Trump’s son accepted a meeting offering dirt, thinking the family might make $300 million off it, and promised policy considerations that — even before he was sworn into office — his father took steps to pay off.

That conspiracy remains, even if Mueller can’t show that at the same time, Trump was maximizing the advantage of the WikiLeaks releases via his old political advisor Roger Stone.

But who knows? Perhaps Mueller may one day prove that, too?

One other thing that’s worth noting, however: As I laid out above, Corsi doesn’t just attempt to explain how he came to guess that WikiLeaks would release John Podesta’s emails. In the guise of doing that, he lays out what amounts to the Greatest Hits of the Denialist Conspiracies, throwing every possible claim mobilized to undermine the conclusion that Russia hacked the Democrats out there, even the ones that undermine Corsi’s own claimed beliefs.

And, as Corsi himself notes, Mueller has Corsi’s Google searches.

Truthfully, I was astounded because it seemed as if the FBI had studied me down to knowing the key strokes that I had used on my computer to do Google searches for articles. I realized my Google file would have much information about my locations and my Internet searches, but the way Zelinsky drilled down on how I wrote this article was shocking.

Repeatedly Zelinsky had warned me that I had no idea how truly extensive the Special Counselor’s investigation had been. Now, I imagined an army of FBI computer specialists at Quantico mapping out my every electronic communication in 2016, including my emails, my cellphone calls, and my use of the laptop and the Internet to conduct my research and write my various articles and memos.

They actually know whether he read this stuff (notably, the NBC, CNN, and NYMag articles he cites from late July 2016) in real time or only after the fact. They know when Corsi downloaded a bunch of other things (including the Guccifer 2.0 releases), and they know whether he read the GRU indictment. The FBI has also likely obtained what he was doing in November, 2018, as he was writing this stuff.

So it may be that when Corsi’s book comes out in hard cover on March 12, Mueller’s team will  already have put together the forensic evidence to prove that Corsi’s claims about how he came by his own forensic analysis — and the rest of these conspiracies — are absolute bullshit. It is, admittedly, frightening how much the government can obtain about our contemporaneous thinking.

But it would be an ironic and just outcome for Corsi if Mueller’s best demonstration about the power of FBI’s forensic analysis comes not in the GRU indictment Corsi so studiously avoided mentioning in the entire book attempting to discredit it, but in proving Corsi’s own claims about forensics to be utterly false.

Corsi’s Timeline

March 16, 2016: WikiLeaks indexes FOIAed Hillary emails

June 12, 2016: Assange announces he has more information on Hillary

In that interview, Assange disclosed that WikiLeaks has “upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton,” though Assange distinguished the Hillary Clinton emails WikiLeaks possessed pending publication came from a different source than the emails from Hillary’s private email server. This alerted me to the possibility Assange had obtained emails from the DNC email server.

June 14, 2016: WaPo announces the DNC hack

June 15, 2016: Crowdstrike publicly releases white paper on DNC hack and Guccifer 2.0 first posts

July 10, 2016: Seth Rich’s murder

July 22, 2016: WikiLeaks releases the DNC emails

July 25, 2016: Stone emails Corsi asking him to Get to Assange to “get the pending WikiLeaks emails;” Corsi forwards the email to Ted Malloch

July 26, 2016: Assange tells CNN a lot more material is coming and refuses to exclude Russia as a source because “to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are”

July 28, 2016: Corsi and his wife leave for Italy

July 31, 2016: Stone emails Corsi to “call me MON” instructing him to get Malloch to see Assange

August 2, 2016: Corsi emails Stone,

Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.… Time to let more than Podesta to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke — neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.

August 9, 2016: WikiLeaks offers $20,000 reward for information leading to conviction for murder of Seth Rich

August 12, 2016: Corsi returns from Italy

March 7, 2017: WikiLeaks starts to release Vault 7 documents, including an Umbrage file showing that CIA uses disinformation to hide which attacks it launches

May 25, 2017: WSJ reports on Aaron Nevins files that Guccifer 2.0 noted in real time; Corsi deems this (in a Murdoch paper) to be part of the anti-Stone narrative

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

Jerome Corsi’s Theory of Roger the Rat-Fucker’s Mule Prosecution

I did something rash recently. I bought Jerome Corsi’s book, Silent No More.

It’s a … remarkable work of autobiographical fiction. It has two unbelievable chapters — one on how he met Stone and one claiming to describe how he figured out WikiLeaks had John Podesta’s emails; I’ll deal with the former in this post, and do a follow-up on the latter.

The rest of the book is a narrative of Corsi’s botched cooperation that is fairly clearly designed to provide all the details of his interactions with Mueller’s team to others, without, however, even clarifying details about events that should be central to the story.

Corsi continues to hide details of his Strip House trip with Stone

One of those missing details is what date Corsi introduced Stone to Ted Malloch over dinner at the Strip House in NYC. After that dinner, Stone had Corsi email two requests to Malloch, one of which is the email that appears in Corsi’s botched plea:

a. On or about July 25, 2016, Person 1 sent an email to CORSI with the subject line, “Get to [the founder of Organization 1].” The body of the message read: “Get to [the founder of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” On or about the same day, CORSI forwarded Person 1’s email to the overseas individual.

b. On or about July 31, 2016, Person 1 emailed CORSI with the subject line, “Call me MON.” The body of the email read in part that the overseas individual “should see [the founder of Organization 1].”

c. On or about August 2, 2016, CORSI responded to Person 1 by email. CORSI wrote that he was currently in Europe and planned to return in mid-August. CORSI stated: “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.… Time to let more than [the Clinton Campaign chairman] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton]. That appears to be the game hackers

A second request from Stone — which Corsi says was sent August 16 — Corsi describes as being limited to Bernie Sanders’ brother, but at least one other description I’ve heard about may also include a reference to WikiLeaks.

Here’s the context of Corsi’s two references to that dinner and his description of the August 16 email:

After meeting Roger Stone in February 2016, I arranged a dinner in New York City with Roger and Ted Malloch, a strong supporter of Donald Trump, for the next time both were in New York City at the same time. Malloch was anxious to assist the Trump campaign and he hoped Malloch [sic] could arrange to have him appointed to Trump’s presidential advisory staff—a hope that never materialized.

[snip]

On Tuesday, August 16, 2016, I sent Ted Malloch an email in the U.K., asking Ted if he could find Bernie Sanders’ brother who was in the U.K. at that time. My email to Malloch continued: “He (Bernie Sanders brother) is on the record of saying he plans to vote for Trump. Roger Stone suggested you might track down Sanders’ brother.” This was the third request Stone made of Malloch. At the dinner in New York City when I introduced Roger to Ted, Roger asked Ted to research Bill Clinton’s time as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Roger believed Bill Clinton had been dismissed from the program because Clinton had raped a female graduate student at Oxford. Then, on July 25, 2016, I passed Roger’s email onto Ted, asking Ted to go see Assange in London. Ted waned [sic] an advisory position with the Trump campaign and Stone believed Malloch could improve his chances by scoring on one of these three requests. To the best of my recollection, Ted never said anything to me to suggest he had succeeded on any of the three requests.

One published version of the dinner puts it in late February or March, almost immediately after Corsi met Stone.

Corsi told the Guardian he introduced Malloch to Stone over steaks at the Strip House in midtown Manhattan in late February or March 2016. Mueller’s investigators “wanted to know about the dinner”, he said. When asked if Assange was discussed during the meal, Corsi said he was not a “human tape recorder”.

I think the actual date of the meeting is later, but if that date is right — given the possibility that WikiLeaks came up at the meeting — it would have Stone pursuing information about what WikiLeaks had around the same time as (possibly even before) the Russians first hacked John Podesta on March 19.

Update: One other detail of Corsi’s suppression of details about Malloch. In the book, he describes the only time he met with Trump during the campaign.

During the campaign, I only recall seeing Trump once up close, and that was as Trump was entering the elevator at Trump Tower. On that occasion, Trump jokingly pointed at me and said, “That’s trouble there.” The last time I recall having a telephone conversation with Trump was in 2011.

Elsewhere, however, he made it clear that that exchange happened with Malloch.

Corsi said he spoke to Trump only once during the 2016 presidential campaign. It happened when he brought London-based conservative author Ted Malloch to Trump Tower to show him the campaign headquarters and possibly meet Trump. Corsi said Malloch was interested in potentially doing policy work for the campaign.

Shortly after Corsi and Malloch entered the lobby, Trump happened to be getting into the elevator, Corsi said.

“We said hello. Trump points to me and he points to Malloch and he says, ‘There’s trouble there,'” Corsi said. “And he laughs, we laugh, and that’s the only time I spoke to Donald Trump [during the campaign].”

Corsi never explains what crime he stopped short of committing with Stone

The book is also entirely inconsistent with the fact that before Corsi first lied to Mueller’s prosecutors, his lawyer, David Gray, suggested that Corsi had had the opportunity to engage in, but stopped short of, committing some crime.

Gray said he was confident that Corsi has done nothing wrong. “Jerry Corsi made decisions that he would not take actions that would give him criminal liability,” he added, declining to elaborate.

Asked if Corsi had opportunities to take such actions, Gray said, “I wouldn’t say he was offered those opportunities. I would say he had communications with Roger Stone. We’ll supply those communications and be cooperative. My client didn’t act further that would give rise to any criminal liability.”

As I note here, Gray’s pre-interview comments make it really hard for Corsi to claim faulty memory.

Corsi emphasizes Stone’s ongoing, yet deniable, role in Trump’s campaign

I raise those two details as background to what Corsi lays out in the chapter called, Meet Roger Stone. It describes:

  • Meeting Stone for the first time on February 22, 2016
  • Claiming that Stone’s campaign role as an “outside adviser” was intentionally designed to give Trump plausible deniability regarding Stone’s “various maneuvers”
  • Learning that — at least in February 2016 — Stone spoke to Trump every day and got him to adopt about 70% of his suggestions
  • Giving Stone the credit for getting Paul Manafort hired

And then it goes into a theory of Stone’s crime, real or imagined, I’m not sure which.

Corsi avoids the GRU indictment like the plague but nevertheless suggests Stone could be the mule

Mind you, I’m not sure if this is Corsi’s theory about what Stone actually did or what he thinks Mueller thinks Stone did (the theory is somewhat inconsistent with what Corsi suggests Mueller thinks Stone did as presented later in the book, which is more focused on Julian Assange). In part, it addresses what he seems to think Democrats suspect about Stone.

Democratic opponents of Trump raised the question that if Roger Stone had known in advance that Assange was holding the Podesta emails, as evidenced by his tweet on August 21, was it possible Stone had colluded with the Russians and with WikiLeaks? Had all this happened by accident or were the WikiLeaks DNC email drops just Roger Stone’s crowning achievement in a career distinguished by dirty tricks. Put simply: Did Roger Stone coordinate with Russia to steal the DNC emails and give them to WikiLeaks, having having arranged with Assange in advance a strategy to use the hacked DNC emails to prevent Hillary from achieving the White House?

But it ends by suggesting that when he was first subpoenaed, he “suspected immediately” that he was a key link in a theory that (bizarrely) had Stone serving as a mule between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks (it’s worth noting that Corsi claims to believe, erroneously, that the Podesta emails came from a DNC server, in which case the reference could be about the Podesta emails).

On August 28, 2018, when I was served the subpoena from the Mueller grand jury, I suspected immediately the prosecutors in the Special Counsel office were in possession of evidence that suggested I might have been the link between Stone and Assange. As David Gray and I prepared to go to Washington, we speculated Mueller may have targeted me as the link who provided Stone his advance knowledge in August 2016 that Assange possessed DNC emails from John Podesta that WikiLeaks planned to release serially over a number of days as the 2016 “October Surprise,” designed to deal a knock-out punch to the Clinton campaign. If I was Stone’s link to Assange, was this the connection with WikiLeaks that Stone used to get WikiLeaks the Guccifer 2.0 hacks of the DNC computers?

The theory relies on a really weird timeline of the relevant events, which I’ve reproduced below. Several things stick out about the timeline. First, Corsi dates WikiLeaks’ indexing of Hillary’s FOIAed emails as part of WikiLeaks’ election year activities (something he continues later in the book). That’s interesting because of Cambridge Analytica’s related efforts in that early period (not to mention the funding of an attack on Hillary as being close to Russia), as well as the way a WikiLeaks’ request for Hillary’s speech transcripts precedes the John Podesta hack. If Corsi knows that that indexing was part of a larger campaign (and as I’ll show in the follow-up post, he does know stuff about WikiLeaks he should not), then it suggests that he knows that WikiLeaks knew the hacks were coming.

The timeline is also weird for the way it jumps over all the exchanges between Stone and Corsi in the aftermath of the DNC email release, details that are absolutely central to the rest of the narrative in the book.

It’s oddest, however, in the way this chapter makes no mention of the initial Guccifer 2.0 posts, even though in his chapter purporting to explain how he knew Podesta’s emails were coming, Corsi admits to having tracked those releases very closely (and links two of the posts). Just as notably, Corsi’s narrative only mentions Mueller’s GRU indictment indirectly (an odd habit he continues in his Podesta explanation), instead relying on the 2018 coverage of the indictment for his claims about what’s in it. Even there, however, Corsi doesn’t link the coverage (not even Fox!) where Stone admitted he’s the person cited in the GRU indictment. This leads Corsi to treat the mention of Stone in the GRU indictment to be merely “suspect” rather than confirmed.

Clearly, Stone’s tweets with Guccifer 2.0 target him as a likely suspect for that person, especially given that Stone remained in regular contact with Trump even after Stone resigned as Trump’s political advisor.

Perhaps both those choices are just attempts to avoid acknowledging familiarity with the evidence that would utterly disprove his later whack theories about the Podesta emails (which go well beyond the Podesta emails). But it seems to adopt a very indirect method to avoid admitting that, yes, Stone was DMing with  Guccifer 2.0, but that nothing in the public record suggests those DMs were criminal in any way.

Let me be clear: There’s nothing in the public record that suggests Stone had a role in getting any files from the Russians to WikiLeaks (though I considered the possibility Guccifer 2.0 was a source for the men here). But the handoff of the Podesta emails is part of the operation that remains unexplained. And even while Corsi goes to great lengths to spin up this theory of Stone’s prosecution, he (a guy who puts his PhD in his Twitter handle) studiously avoids the primary sources that make this case.

Timeline

February 22, 2016: Stone and Corsi first meet

March 16, 2016: First WikiLeaks drop (in reality, indexing of documents obtained via FOIA)

July 13, 2016: Guccifer 2.0, a hacker who previously claimed to have breached the computers of the DNC, released a cache of purported DNC documents to The Hill

July 14, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 sends WikiLeaks link to archive of DNC documents [Corsi botches this section badly, in part by getting the year of the GRU indictment wrong]

July 22, 2016: DNC release “Julian Assange timed the release of the DNC emails to be the Friday before the DNC National Nominating Convention”

July 24, 2016: DWS resigns

July 24, 2016: Robby Mook announces Russia hacked emails “for the purpose of helping Donald Trump”

July 25, 2016: Assange tells NBC “there is no proof whatsoever” he got emails from Russia

August 21, 2016: Stone tweets “Podesta’s time in the barrel”

October 7, 2016: WikiLeaks starts dumping Podesta files

November 7, 2016: “final WikiLeaks post … dropped by WikiLeaks on November 7, 2016, three days after the presidential election was held.”

March 10, 2017: Stone post Corsi relies on to describes his DMs with Guccifer 2.0

July 13, 2018: WaPo story on Stone and the GRU indictment

July 15, 2018: NYT story on GRU indictment

August 28, 2018: Corsi subpoena

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

NYT’s Trump Interview: Money for Nothing and Clicks for Free

The NYT has an article this morning it purports to be from an interview with the President.

Here’s what it says about the Russian investigation:

Addressing a wide range of subjects, Mr. Trump brushed off the investigations that have consumed so much of his presidency, saying that his lawyers have been reassured by the departing deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, that the president himself was not a target. “He told the attorneys that I’m not a subject, I’m not a target,” Mr. Trump said. But even if that is the case, it remains unknown whether the matter would be referred to the House for possible impeachment hearings.

[snip]

Mr. Trump said he has likewise received reassurances from Mr. Rosenstein, who until Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired in November was overseeing the Russia investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

“Rod told me I’m not a target of the investigation,” he said at one point, but then later suggested he had not talked with him directly. “The lawyers ask him. They say, ‘He’s not a target of the investigation.’” Asked if that also covered the separate investigation by federal prosecutors in New York, he said, “I don’t know about that.”

Neither Mr. Rosenstein nor Mr. Mueller has said whether Mr. Trump is a target, and the president could not recall when Mr. Rosenstein would have assured him. Mr. Mueller has been known to explore whether the president’s actions amounted to obstruction of justice. But since Justice Department policy bars indicting a sitting president, it is unclear whether the term “target” would apply.

Mr. Trump denied having anything to do with Mr. Stone’s involvement with WikiLeaks, which during the 2016 campaign posted Democratic emails online that were stolen by Russian intelligence services. He expressed sympathy for Mr. Stone for his arrest at the hands of heavily armed F.B.I. agents.

“I’ve always liked — I like Roger, he’s a character,” Mr. Trump said, insisting that the F.B.I. agents charging “a house like they did at six o’clock in the morning. I think that was a very sad thing for this country.”

Mr. Trump offered a vague account of his involvement in the proposed Moscow project. Michael D. Cohen, his former personal lawyer, has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the project and told the authorities that talks continued into the summer of 2016, even as Mr. Trump was securing the Republican nomination.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s current lawyer, said recently that talks went all the way through the November election, only to later claim that he was mistaken and speaking only hypothetically.

“He was wrong,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday. “Rudy has been wrong a little bit. But what has happened is this: I didn’t care. That deal was not important. It was essentially a letter of intent or an option.”

Asked when in 2016 the last conversation he had about the project was, he said, “I would say it was early to middle of the year. Now, I don’t know that Cohen didn’t go a little bit longer than that. I don’t think it would be much longer.” He added: “I was running for president; I was doing really well. The last thing I cared about was building a building.” [my emphasis]

Already in that excerpt, NYT gets something that Maggie is obstinately wrong about wrong: not only is Mueller obviously investigating Trump in the conspiracy in chief (which is all Mueller has asked him about), but he is or was investigating him as part of a counterintelligence investigation. The obstruction is the chump change of the investigation, yet the only thing the NYT mentions here.

But NYT posted an excerpted transcript–which takes out both off the record comments, including this one on Roger Stone where Trump goes from suggesting “we’ll do something” about Roger Stone being treated very badly and then bridging, in off the record content, to Stone’s claim he would never testify against Trump.

HABERMAN: Who else has been treated very badly, in your opinion?

TRUMP: Well, I’d rather save it for later. We’ll do something on it at the right time, but I did think this. When Roger Stone, who all of us know, I mean everybody knows Roger.

______________

TRUMP: He was not my consultant. But if you read the papers you know it’s like — the media, it’s like — but I’ve always liked him. He’s a character, and I’ll tell you what people respect what he said. Bearing false witness, etc. But yeah, people do respect what he said.

HABERMAN: What he said about what?

TRUMP: Bear false witness. I will never testify against the president.

It also removes “asides,” which for a verbal logorrhean like Trump are among the most important things he says.

But the other details in the transcript reveal how much the NYT spun what they got. First, as a number of people have noted, Trump corrected himself, repeatedly to make it clear that the only denial he got was about being a target — “target … target … target … target” — not a subject. NYT shouldn’t have included the mention of being a “subject,” at all.

NYT also doesn’t reveal that Maggie herself laid out the timing — “over the course of the last year” — on such reassurances, before complaining that Trump wasn’t more specific about the timing, when in fact he simply blew off the question.

HABERMAN: Has Rod Rosenstein given you any sense over the course of the last year about whether you have any exposure, either in — or there’s any concerns, or whether you’re a target of the Mueller report?

TRUMP: Well he told the attorneys that I’m not a subject, I’m not a target.

HABERMAN: He told your attorneys?

TRUMP: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

[snip]

HABERMAN: Do you remember how long ago he said that?

TRUMP: I think the lawyers would speak to him a lot about that. Not a lot. But a number of times. He never said — I never asked him that question.

HABERMAN: But your lawyers have?

TRUMP: The lawyers ask him. They say, “He’s not a target of the investigation.”

Then, Maggie gets something subtly wrong about Trump’s denials of any ties to Stone’s efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks.

HABERMAN: Did you ever tell him to — or other people to get in touch with them?

TRUMP: Never did.

HABERMAN: You saw that was in the indictment.

TRUMP: Can I tell you? I didn’t see it.

The indictment doesn’t say that Trump directed specific people to get in touch, themselves, with WikiLeaks. Rather, it says that someone “was directed” to contact Stone.

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

It’s a subtle difference, but one important given that we know Stone was using cut-outs himself, and used cut-outs in his phone calls to Trump during the campaign.

Finally, Peter Baker gets Trump to admit something amazing over and over, but it doesn’t make the final argument. Trump says the Trump Tower deal was no big deal because he didn’t have to put any money up.

BAKER: But you told people that you didn’t have any business there. People might have misunderstood.

TRUMP: That wasn’t business. Peter, that wasn’t business.

BAKER: Isn’t that misleading to say you weren’t pursuing business there, right?

[Crosstalk]

TRUMP: I had no money invested. It was a letter of intent, or option. It was a free option. It was a nothing. And I wasn’t doing anything. I don’t consider that even business. And frankly, that wasn’t even on my radar. If you take a look at that, take a look at the deal. There was no money put up. There was no transfer. I don’t think they had a location. I’m not even sure if they had a location.

[snip]

BAKER: Clearly there was a hope of having money. That was the reason you were pursuing it, right?

TRUMP: My point is this — It was a free option to look at a deal, to look at deals. That was not like, “I’m going to buy a property in Moscow. I’m going to do — or I’m building a building in Moscow.” Now, I would have had every right to do a deal. That’s what I did. That’s what I did.

[snip]

But the way I view it is early in the year to middle of the year, no interest. I had very little interest in the first place, and again, I viewed it as a free option. [my emphasis]

This is the entire point! Trump was being offered $300 million … for free. Trump uses that to dismiss the import of the deal with respect to his campaign. But a free $300 million is a lot closer to a bribe — and therefore even more inexcusable — that an opportunity to shell out real money for a tower.

Finally, this language deserves more attention. The NYT actually gets a reference Trump makes badly wrong. Trump is not referring to Tony Podesta here. He’s referring to John Podesta.

TRUMP: I have nothing. All I did was be a good candidate. Russia didn’t help me. Russia did not help me. There was no collusion. There was none of that. I was a good candidate. I did a good job. I won’t say whether she was a good candidate or not. I mean, the primary collusion was Hillary Clinton. If you take a look, Peter. I mean, look at that phony dossier. Some of that money, they say, went to Russia. [Tony] Podesta was involved with Russia. [my emphasis]

That was precisely the [Joule Holdings] attack that Stone and Jerome Corsi book-ended their outreach to WikiLeaks over. It seems important to get it correct.

And in such immediate context, the fact that Trump claimed, again, that Russia didn’t help him deserves a fact check.

Of course they did. They may not have delivered on that $300 million “free option,” yet. But they certainly helped with the election, including an attack on John Podesta that the NYT doesn’t even recognize.

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

Terabytes of Rat-Fucker Data Trail

We often talk details about the Mueller investigation that should make Donald Trump worry.

And I think the government’s motion to declare Roger Stone’s prosecution a complex case ought to do that.

According to the filing, Mueller’s team has got “terabytes of electronic records and data” from Stone, including a bunch of stuff that doesn’t look directly pertinent to an obstruction case, but might look more interesting given the hints of campaign finance violations in this investigation. Or worse.

I’m particularly interested in this paragraph:

It is composed of multiple hard drives containing several terabytes of information consisting of, among other things, FBI case reports, search warrant applications and results (e.g., Apple iCloud accounts and email accounts), bank and financial records, and the contents of numerous physical devices (e.g., cellular phones, computers, and hard drives). The communications contained in the iCloud accounts, email accounts, and physical devices span several years. [//] The government also intends to produce to the defense the contents of physical devices recently seized from his home, apartment, and office. Those devices are currently undergoing a filter review by the FBI for potentially privileged communications.

The implication is everything before the bracket — the multiple cell phones, computers, and hard drives, his iCloud and email accounts, and the aforementioned financial records — have already been in Mueller’s possession. It’s just the things after the bracket — more physical devices — that may or may not be new to the FBI. When, in Stone’s indictment, Mueller referred to all the “emails and text messages … STONE was still in possession of” when he lied to the House Intelligence Committee about having any such documents, that’s how prosecutors knew.

For most of the year during which prosecutors have been obtaining testimony from Stone’s associates, one by one, they’ve been been sitting on a mountain of evidence, and evidence not relating exclusively to the obstruction charges against Stone.

This designation as a complex case will give Stone some time to think about that.

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

The Big Dick Toilet Salesman Speaks

Yesterday, Matt Whitaker got asked about the Mueller probe. After saying he wasn’t going to comment about an on-going investigation and mid some hemming and hawing, he suggested his prior comments about the Mueller investigation were wrong and then said the Mueller investigation is “close to being completed.”

You know, I’ve been fully briefed on the investigation. And I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report. And I’m really not going to talk about an open and on-going investigation otherwise. But, you know, sort of the statements that I’ve made were as a private citizen, only with publicly available information. Um, I am comfortable that the decisions that were made are going to be reviewed. You know, either, through the various means we have. But right now the investigation is, I think, close to being completed. And I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as we can–as soon as possible.

Ken Dilanian, who recently had a “scoop” that Mueller may submit his “report” by mid-February, tweeted the comment over and over. Devlin Barrett, who recently suggested the slapdown of the BuzzFeed story reporting that Trump “directed” Michael Cohen to lie to Congress was a complete rebuttal of that story said that, “this has been guessed at, hinted at, and suggested before, but it has not been said by any senior official before. it’s a big deal.”

Mueller is still pursuing information from the Mystery Appellant. He is still pursuing testimony from Roger Stone associate Andrew Miller. Indeed, in the wake of Stone’s indictment, Mueller told Miller’s attorney they still want that testimony to support additional charges.

A defense attorney for Andrew Miller, who’s fighting a subpoena from Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, learned Monday afternoon that the special counsel still wants witness testimony for a federal grand jury.

Paul Kamenar, the defense attorney, says the assertion from Mueller’s team made clear to him that Mueller and the Justice Department are considering an additional indictment of Roger Stone or have plans to charge others.

And, of course, FBI seized a bunch of evidence from Stone on Friday. William Barr will soon be confirmed as Attorney General, alleviating one of the only reasons (because he’s not reporting to a Senate confirmed official) why Mueller’s authority to indict people might not be sound.

I’ve been told by people who have key witnesses as sources that Mueller is close to the end of his investigation. But their reports sound nothing like what the Big Dick Toilet Salesman or reporters relying on him as a source said yesterday.

But even if Mueller is close to being done, reports from a Big Dick Toilet Salesman that this is heading towards a report should be taken as the statements of a man hired to make statements like this. The actual evidence suggests that Mueller is still pursuing damning conspiracy indictments.

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